Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 by Anna Deavere Smith, Gate Theatre, 12 January 2018

I’m so often saying how wonderful The Gate Theatre is under Ellen McDougall’s new regime, I’m starting to bore myself by saying it.

We loved The Unknown Island…

The Unknown Island adapted from a short story by José Saramago, Gate Theatre, 29 September 2017

…we loved Suzy Storck…

Suzy Storck by Magali Mougel, Gate Theatre, 10 November 2017

…and now I’m not going to surprise you by saying that we thought this production of Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 was also superb.

We nearly didn’t book it – we wondered whether this was overly heavy subject matter for us on a Friday evening and whether the 1991/1992 news aspect of it (the aftermath of the Latasha Harlins killing, the Rodney King video/policemen’s trial and the resulting riots) might make this verbatim play seem dated.

But in this post-truth, crazy era of ours the piece seemed eerily topical and prescient.

We arrived to a heaving lobby – there was a large party of Americans on a London Theatre marathon who had virtually bought out the house for the night.

Turned out the Americans were an exceptionally friendly and polite bunch who pretty much pushed us to the front to collect our tickets, apologising for the fact that they were a huge bunch of visitors preventing the locals from getting their tickets. Perhaps Janie and I had “make way/Brexity” expressions on our faces when we came in from the wind-chill-factor-enhanced bitter cold.

When we got to the front, apart from the ticket desk chap, the only faces that looked as though they might not be the American party were Daisy Cooper from the Gate production team (whom I mistook for an actress) and Caoilfhionn Dunne who had played Suzy Storck, but to whom I couldn’t say, “good evening Caoilfhionn” because I couldn’t remember how to pronounce her name; it’s pronounced “kay-lean”, btw. I did get a chance to congratulate her on her stellar Suzy Storck performance just before we all went in.

The ticket man didn’t give us tickets, he gave us badges to wear and a pen with which to label up the badges. I emblazoned mine thus:

At Janie’s request, I emblazoned hers with the name, “Daisy”, plus her talk about topic, “life”.

Daisy Cooper pointed out that her name was Daisy too.

On to the show, which is a one woman performance.

The actress, Nina Bowers, was superb. I have had to do some real detective work to discover her identity, though, as there was no leaflet on the night and at the time of writing (14 January 2018) the Gate website is silent on that matter.

There is an excellent preview piece by Ellen McDougall – click here – which says watch this space for cast…

…but on the main resource for this production – click here – at the time of writing, only the creatives are listed, not poor Nina Bowers, who has to play 20 parts all by herself and plays them brilliantly well. I guess the piece is about injustice and powerlessness in the face of such injustice, so perhaps Nina Bowers will enjoy the irony of her credit’s omission…

…or perhaps the injustice will have been put right by the time you read this Ogblog piece.

Nina even serves intermission drinks and biscuits to the audience – yes really. In fact, this is a performance without a real interval, but for 10 minutes towards the end of the show, the piece itself has a short intermission for tea, biscuits and conversation around the subject matter on our badges.

Janie and I chatted with a charming young American woman who turned out to be one of a handful of the audience who, like us, was not with the large party of New Jersey-folk. She was in fact from Orange County – not too far from the location of the riots but far too young to remember them. She must have been mighty confused when she asked about my fish, because I told her that my pet goldfish, Simon, had died and Daisy told her that my koi carp was named Peter and had gone down the plug hole.

No-one asked Daisy about life, probably because she had put her badge on upside down which made it quite hard to read.

If this all sounds silly and superficial, please do not be deceived by my ramblings and please do not be put off this play/production.

It is seriously well worth seeing – a very well-crafted piece of verbatim theatre about the terrible injustices that played out in Los Angeles in 1991 and 1992 which led to the riots, some further injustices and eventually an element of correcting some of the injustices and reconciliation. The USA has not eradicated the culture that led to those injustices and the subject matter seemed all-too relevant today.

I cooked a pasta dish for Janie after the show, using an excellent Speck sauce. We did not talk about fish and we did not talk about life – we were talking about Twilight: Los Angeles 1992.

Highly recommended, this play/production.

Cast – Nina Bowers – playing all the parts – remember where you read her name first.

Suzy Storck by Magali Mougel, Gate Theatre, 10 November 2017

This was a very affecting piece. An unusual piece of writing; brilliantly acted, directed and produced.

Another mini triumph for The Gate Theatre since Eleen McDougall took over as artistic director recently. We also much enjoyed The Unknown Island – click here – recently – indeed for Suzy Storck we found ourselves again inadvertently at The Gate on a Young People’s night. Must be some sort of type-casting for me and Janie.

The story is a shocking one, about a young woman entirely dissatisfied with her life, suffering from post-natal depression and getting neither help nor sympathy from her man, mother or anyone else.

All of the acting was top notch, but particular praise goes to Caoilfhionn Dunne, who we saw in another stand out performance not so long ago in Wild at The Hampstead – click here.

“Caoilfhionn” is pronounced “kay-lean”, btw, an Irish shibboleth of a name if ever there was one.

The Q&A afterwards was attended by Theo Solomon and Jonah Russell. Young People’s night was not so heavily populated with young people this time. It was a very jolly mixture of people who stayed on for the Q&A and who asked sensible questions of the team, hosted by Daisy Cooper from the Gate’s production team.

Here is a link to The Gate’s on-line resource for this play/production.

Here is a link to a search term for reviews and stuff – the reviews are deservedly very good indeed.

This piece and production really does deserve a wider audience, both for the quality of the drama on show and for the issues covered in a shocking yet subtle way. I do hope it gets a transfer.

Below are links to four YouTubes: the show’s trailer and then a fascinating three-part interview with the extraordinary director Jean-Pierre Baro:

The Unknown Island adapted from a short story by José Saramago, Gate Theatre, 29 September 2017

Ellen McDougall is the new artistic director of The Gate and this production is a great start to her role.

Based on The Tale Of The Unknown Island, an allegorical short story by Portugese writer José Saramago, four actors enact the piece. It is a very simple story with many-layered themes; to some extent the unknown island is an individual’s capacity to explore personal horizons, to some extent it is an allegorical tale about bureaucracy, leadership, power and colonialism.

Sounds heavy but honestly it isn’t. It is a one hour piece full of fun and little coups de theatre. There’s even a tiny bit of audience participation…but not of the “embarrassing pick on one person” kind.

Here is a link to The Gate’s resource on the play/production. The production has deservedly had superb reviews, links to which can be found in this resource, saving me the trouble.

Janie and I thought we were the oldest people in the audience…

…turns out I had inadvertently booked for “Young People’s Night” – it was simply the only Friday evening we were available!

Still, we are young at heart.

There was a short Q&A session after the show for Young People’s Night. As we were honorary young folk by then, Janie and I stayed on, finding the discussion interesting.

But back to the play/production – it is most certainly well worth seeing; for the story, for the production and for the quality of the performances, all four performers being excellent.

At the time of writing (the next morning), this production still has a week to run; Janie and I would thoroughly recommend it. Hopefully the piece will transfer and allow a wider audience to enjoy this thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable production.

Diary Of A Madman by Al Smith after Gogol, Gate Theatre Notting Hill, 29 July 2016

I rather liked the idea of this modern adaptation of Gogol’s magnificent short story, Diary of a Madman, set in modern Scotland.

This show is going to Edinburgh in August and then running at The Gate Theatre in September, but we booked for one of three previews at The Gate, which we thought would be a good way to see the production.

The play and production certainly had its moments, but also had some longueurs. Perhaps these will be ironed out between preview and main show, but the preview ran for some 90 minutes and I suspect that 60 to 70 would work better; there is certainly at least 20 minutes-worth of material, mostly earlier in the piece, that is surplus to requirements and made the play seem slow.

But it was very well acted and there were some lovely ideas in there. The bar scene towards the end was a wonderful mixture of anarchic, comedic and suspenseful drama. Some of the topical humour about referenda should play well, especially in Edinburgh.

Here’s a link to the Gate resource on the production. Too early for reviews at the time of writing, but perhaps not at the time of reading.

Janie particularly enjoyed the pea soup followed by “Big Al” pasta dish at Chez Clanricarde after the show.

 

The Chronicles of Kalki by Aditi Brennan Kapil, Gate Theatre, 9 January 2015

Janie and I went to see this play/production during the hiatus between mum’s death and the funeral. Mum would have wanted us to go ahead with the theatre visit, that’s for sure.

I remember the show being quite magical and fun. Not deep and profound; but a modern telling/adaptation of Indian mythology. It was a good evening at the theatre.

The Gate Theatre has preserved an excellent resource on this production – click here. Why there seems to be an inverse relationship between the ability of arts organisations to put up excellent archive resources on the web compared with their size and scale is a discussion for elsewhere.

Perhaps if we had been more in the mood for challenging theatre we’d have felt more critical too – as it was, Janie and I both enjoyed the escapism of it and some good acting by a young, talented cast.

I think I served up a splendid Big Al pasta dish and salad when we got home, but really my memories of that week are all a bit blurry.

The Edge Of Our Bodies by Adam Rapp, Gate Theatre, 26 September 2014

This was a really special visit to “my local” – a truly gripping short play about a pregnant teenager having to grow up fast.

I realise at the time of writing (February 2018) that Shannon Tarbet might get typecast as the pregnant teenager, having recently played that sort of role again in Yous Two at the Hampstead Downstairs – click here or below:

Yous Two by Georgia Christou, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, 20 January 2018

The Edge Of Our Bodies was a far more sophisticated play and a more challenging piece for the performers. Cast and creatives did a superb job with this one. Especially Shannon Tarbet. We had seen her a few times before, but on the back of this piece we have been looking out for her.

Below is the video trailer:

The reviews were deservedly excellent – pretty much universally. Here is a link to a search term for those. 

etiquette by Ant Hampton & Silvia Mercurliali, Gate Theatre @ Gails Portobello, 19 July 2010

This seemed like a really fun idea.

Autoteatro.

A short two-handed piece set in a cafe, pairs of people go to a cafe to perform the piece themselves, through the use of headphones and props provided.

The Gate Theatre picked up on this piece and arranged for “performances” at Gails in Portobello – click here for Gate resource on this.

Janie and I loved the idea of this. As we had arranged a Z/Yen cricket evening in a North Kensington Park on the Monday evening, it seemed a good idea to have a go that afternoon.

Here’s the “programme”:

We enjoyed the piece.

Here is a search term that digs out more on this piece and on Rotozaza, the production company that does this autoteatro things.

Lulu by Frank Wedekind, Gate Theatre, 18 June 2010

This was a really powerful production of a fascinating but shocking play about a femme-fatale; but is she the abuser or the abused party? Janie and I were both affected by this piece and spent ages debating the play’s points afterwards.

Superb production in our little local gem The Gate. What luxury it is to be able to pop round the corner and see a cast and production of this quality.

Here is a link to The Gate’s resource on this play/production.

Here is a search term that finds you other resources and reviews.

Here is the YouTube trailer for the production:

I think we picked up some Turkish food from Manzara (late lamented by the time of writing in 2017) afterwards and stayed at the flat.

The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy, Adapted by Nancy Harris, Gate Theatre, 5 November 2009

A rare visit to the theatre on my own. I was keen to see this thing and Janie was struggling to find the time for it, so I just went midweek – on the opening night. Hardly a shlep, is it, from the flat to The Gate?

It was very good indeed. More or less a one man show for the excellent Hilton McRae.

The Gate, being a tiny theatre with hardly any money, obviously has a much better online presence than the big boys, so the on-line resource on this play/production covers many of the bases for me – here.

…as was I. A rare miss for Daisy and I could have made her suffer for it but I didn’t. I told her that she probably wouldn’t have liked it as much as I did.

To get an idea of this productions unusual style, here is a rather tasty little promo vid that the Gate put together for this production:

Nocturnal by Juan Mayorga, Translated by David Johnston, Gate Theatre, 8 May 2009

The details for this play/production are set out at OfficialLondonTheatre.co.uk – click here.

I only vaguely remember this creepy play/production. It had a fine cast and I think we felt that it was all very well done but we found the play a bit impenetrable.

It was a shame, really, as it was almost a very good play/production, but there just wasn’t enough to grab hold of in the play.