Lawrence After Arabia by Howard Brenton, Hampstead Theatre, 21 May 2016

It has been said that his majesty and I bear some slight resemblance…

Oh dear.

It sounded like a good idea when we booked it. Such an interesting period of Middle-Eastern history. Howard Brenton, who did such an interesting job on Ai Weiwei, taking on an interesting character in T. E. Lawrence. Timely, as it is the 100th anniversary of the Sykes-Picot Agreement this year…

The problem is, that period was also a period when English theatre was in its dull Edwardian through 1920s drawing room drama doldrums. Howard Brenton seems to think it a good idea to parody the very worst of that period’s drama for this play. Director John Dove takes the idea further with a staid, static style to the piece. There are some good actors in this play but frankly we couldn’t care less what happened to any of the characters, which doesn’t give the cast much room for manoevre.

Neither Janie nor I could tell you too much detail about the first half; we both slept through much of it. It was a deathly dull hour, even when sleep spares you much of it. It would have been a deathly dull two hours, but we agreed to cut our losses and leave at the interval. So we can’t tell you anything about the second half. I am reliably informed by Grant (someone I know from the gym who did suffer the whole thing) that it gets no better in the second half.

The Hampstead Theatre area for this play has lots of good reviews – here , so it has clearly received good reviews, not least in both of the Telegraphs. The audience certainly looked like they had all been bussed in from Telegraph reader central casting. However:

Congratulations to all of you critics for managing to stay awake sufficiently to review the piece, or alternatively for covering up your lack of wakefulness deftly in your columns.

I did wake up for the bit where Lawrence shows off the thawb, bisht and igal, the garments of a bedouin leader, gifted to him by Prince (later King) Faisal. I liked that bit. Firstly, I am said by some to resemble Faisal (see picture above); I certainly resemble him far more than the actor who plays him in this play.

Secondly I have a fine collection of natty thawbs, bestowed upon me by one of Janie’s wealthy Saudi clients. Indeed I do much of my writing at the flat wearing a thawb; especially in the summer when it is a very sensible way to dress when writing.

But I digress. The play is deathly dull. Did I mention that before? Is irritating when people waste your time simply repeating stuff they have said before? Or is it a quirky, whimsical touch, that could maintain your interest and tickle your sense of humour for a couple of hours.

On a positive note, the programme is a really interesting read. We highly recommend it. The programme is well worth the trip to Swiss Cottage and its £3.50 cover price. Just don’t waste your time and money on this turkey of a play.

I Am The Wind by Jon Fosse, Young Vic, 21 May 2011

This short Norwegian play ticked most if not all of our boxes, in theory.

Adapted by Simon Stephens, whom we very much admire. Two fine actors in Tom Brooke and Jack Laskey. An astonishing, watery set…

…yet somehow the piece failed to move us much. To us, it felt like a slight piece with ideas above its station.

The critics loved it – click here for a search term that provides links to all the right places.

You can see a vid clip if you click through this link from this production at the Festival Avignon.

Paul Taylor in The Independent – click here – claimed not to much like Jon Fosse but found this production one of the best things he’d ever seen.

We didn’t get that “extra something” from the experience, but what do we know?

Sweet Nothings by Arthur Schnitzler, in a new version by David Harrower, Young Vic, 27 March 2010

There’s always something a bit weird about Arthur Schnitzler plays and this one was no exception. All very hedonistic and tragic.

Here is the resource on this Young Vic production.

The Young Vic made a YouTube trailer for this production:

The cast were very good and the production was excellent.

Well received too – this search term – click here – finds many reviews – nearly all good.

There’s just something about fin-de-siecle Austrian plays that doesn’t quite float our boat, however well done they are.

Still, we were pleased to have seen this one – it was one of the best things we had seen so far that year…but then we were having a poor year for theatre up to that point.

The Masque Of The Red Death by Punchdrunk, Battersea Arts Centre, 15 February 2008

Wow and double wow. This was a Friday evening to remember.

There is an excellent Wikipedia entry describing this outstanding immersive theatre / site-specific installation show, saving me the trouble – here.

The references section of that Wikipedia article has links to most of the hot reviews.

Here also is a link to Punchdrunk’s archive piece on this production.

This piece from the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) site is very interesting.

We went on a Friday evening, so we got to enjoy an after-show party as well as the show.

Naturally we lost each other in the first part of the show; the cast and ushers deliberately separate you to add to the sense of discombobulation and to make you wander around in a less-than linear way.

I managed to find my way to the bar a fair bit quicker than Janie did and ran into Richard Russell (who I used to see regularly at Lambton Place back then) and his entourage. Janie eventually joined us; she had met Richard before, not all that long before in fact, at the Cafe Anglais. She wondered afterwards if “that man is everywhere”; turned out soon enough that he was!

Then a bit more wandering around; I wanted to make sure I’d seen all the action from the earlier part of the show. Then the ushers started to steward us into the more climatic scenes and then to the finale and party, where we ran into Richard and Co. again. They stuck around longer than we did. The live band were very good; I remember them playing Swing Swing Swing with great verve.

An especially memorable show and evening.