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,

Parlour Song by Jez Butterworth, Almeida Theatre, 11 April 2009

Coincidentally, at the time of writing this (early May 2017) we have just seen a new Jez Butterworth, The Ferryman, which was excellent.

While I remember Parlour Song pretty well, it hadn’t dawned on me that it was also a Jez Butterworth play.

There’s a good trailer and stuff on the Digital Theatre Plus site – click here.

It was a very good, very funny play. All three members of the cast: Amanda Drew, Toby Jones and Andrew Lincoln were terrific.

I don’t think it sent us into quite the level of ecstasy that the critics describe, but we did enjoy this one a lot, without finding much depth; it is basically a slightly quirky, sinister comedy about suburban infidelity.

But it did for sure signal Jez Butterworth on that upward trajectory to playwriting stardom.

The Hothouse by Harold Pinter, Lyttelton Theatre, 28 July 2007

We really enjoyed this play and production. It is a rare example of a Pinter comedy, which he wrote during his heyday in the mid 1950s but I don’t think it got produced until a fair bit later.

Being Pinter, the line between comedy and tense psychodrama is a thin one. Indeed, plays like The Caretaker, The Birthday Party and The Dumb Waiter are sinister yet have plenty of humour in them. The Hothouse has plenty of humour yet is sinister; it is set in an anonymous government run mental institution. Say no more.

This was a superb cast and production. Stephen Moore, Finbar Lynch, Leo Bill and Lia Williams the standouts. For once, the awkward depth/shape of the Lyttelton stage could be used to good effect for an institutional look.

It was pretty well received by the critics on the whole: