Albion by Mike Bartlett, Almeida Theatre, 27 October 2017

As  usual for the Almeida, we booked this as soon as it was announced because it sounded very interesting and we normally enjoy the Almeida stuff.

We normally go to a Saturday preview or an early Saturday in the run; this time we couldn’t do those dates, so chose a Friday two or three weeks into the run.

The play/production has had universally good reviews, which sounded like good news, but in truth this play did not really do the business for us. A shame, because the cast were superb, seemed very much a team, the design was stunning and there were some excellent coups de theatre and some very good lines. But the play just didn’t work for us.

To us, the garden was a rather clunky metaphor for that section of the English elite that hankers back to bygone glorious times.  A dramatist’s reaction to David Goodhart’s The Road To Somewhere.  The plot, limited though it was, contained one or two rather predictable twists that were well-signalled in advance and very clumsily explained in arrears.

As King Charles III is Mike Bartlett’s Shakespeare pastiche play, Albion is his Chekhov pastiche. Janie liked neither; I had more time for the Shakespearean style of the King Charles III one (to be Ogblogged in the fullness of time).

We’re not averse to Mike Bartlett – we loved Game and we loved Wild. Bartlett can have such an original voice, I’m not sure why he falls back on pastiche. Janie points out that his pastiche ones seem to be way more successful with critics and the transfer market than the more original ones.

“Most of the theatre audience is naff,” says Janie, with her trademark subtlety and tact.

In truth, the Almeida audience the night we saw Albion was dreadful and irritated us. Older on average than the Saturday night crowd, they seemed especially and unnecessarily elbows-out pushy at the bar and in the queues for tickets/entry. Janie was especially irritated by the woman sitting next to her who took off her shoes and then held us up for five minutes at the start of the interval trying to put her shoes back on her ever so smelly feet.

I had spent an hour before the show saying goodbye (workwise) to Ian Theodoreson at his leaving drinks in The Barley Mow. A shorter play would have probably suited me better on the night. But we have both turned up to theatre after longer, harder days than this; in truth this play/production just wasn’t to my/our taste.

Here is a link to the Almeida information hub on Albion – including links to those rave reviews.

Against by Christopher Shinn, Almeida Theatre, 26 August 2017

Unfortunately, this one didn’t really do the business for us.

I said to Janie at the interval, “if this play manages to pull together all of its big and disparate themes in the second half, we’re in for one cracker of a second half.” I didn’t think it would. It didn’t.

Here is a link to the Almeida resource on the play/production.

Strangely, I don’t think we’d ever seen a Christopher Shinn play before. I say strangely, because he has had so many of his works performed at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, which we frequent a lot. Perhaps the subject matter has never appealed to us before.

This sounded interesting from the Almeida blurb and indeed it was interesting subject matter. Too much of it; violence in society, sexual politics, religion, workers’ increasing sense of powerlessness…

…but the performances were all very good. They seemed, to us, wasted on this play.

Tellingly, the Almeida resource does not link to reviews, so here are a few links:

To help rescue our evening, we ran into Jilly Black sitting, with a friend, a few rows behind us. We chatted with them after the show; indeed Janie dropped them at Baker Street giving us quite a bit of very pleasant post show chat time.

It is not very often that we bemoan the extra few minutes journey time to the Almeida; normally that place is well worth the extra few minutes each way, but this piece left us warm to the interesting topics but decidedly cold to the play,

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, Cottesloe Theatre, 15 January 2011

Janie really isn’t into Shakespeare, but Twelfth Night is a play close to my heart, having “done it” at Alleyn’s for the Dramatic Society in 1978.

Twelfth Night, Alleyn’s School, 12, 14, 15 & 16 December 1978

Ever since, I had been keen to see productions of Twelfth Night when they came around. Further, this production with Rebecca Hall as Viola and possibly a last chance to see a by then 80 year old Peter Hall directing…Janie said yes.

In truth, I don’t think this was the best Twelfth Night I have ever seen. It was of course very well acted, directed and produced, but it was a little old-fashioned in style for my taste; it felt like the sort of Shakespeare production I might have seen at the National 20-25 years earlier. I guess I should have expected.

It certainly didn’t do anything to improve Janie’s view on Shakespeare. I explained how much better it was done in the hands of Alleyn’s schoolkids in 1978 and Janie said she could understand exactly what I must mean.

She wasn’t humouring me, was she?

“After all,” said Janie, you are practically a reincarnation of The Bard, are you not?”


Anyway, here is a link to a search term that finds reviews and other resources on this production. The reviews are a little mixed; mostly suggesting that it was a good, but not great production, which I think sums it up pretty well.

Six Degrees Of Separation, John Guare, The Old Vic, 16 January 2010

Around the time that we booked this play, I was writing the chapter of The Price of Fish, coincidentally Chapter Six, that explains the “shrinking world” theory known as six degrees of separation.

In theory, this play is all about that concept. In practice, I struggled at times to link this social comedy with the theory.

Without the futile search for intellectual insight, it was a reasonably fun evening at the theatre but a rather lightweight one. A super cast for this revival, but I’m not sure this play is worthy of a revival within 20 years, even though the world has/had changed between times.

Here is a link to The Old Vic resource on the production.

Here is a link to a search term that finds plenty of reviews, mostly indifferent ones. The consensus seemed to be that the production was excellent but the play somewhat lacking. Although neither Janie nor I had seen the play first time around, we thought that assessment was right.

Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchill, Almeida Theatre, 10 November 2007

This is a weird play. But then, it is Caryl Churchill. Indeed, by Caryl Churchill standards, it is not that weird a play.

But Janie and I had never seen the play and this, as it turned out, was a good production of this play. Thea Sharrock directed it; we’d been really impressed with her at The Gate and this production no doubt added to her rising stardom.

There’s a good Almeida stub for this production – here, although the reviews are just quotes.

Reviews to be found that can be read in full are as follows:

Enough evidence – this was good. We enjoyed ourselves and felt thoroughly sated with good theatre that weekend, having seen a super short play, Truck Stop, at the Hampstead the night before.