Anatomy Of A Suicide, Alice Birch, Royal Court Theatre, 3 June 2017

I don’t suppose we booked a play named “Anatomy Of A Suicide” expecting to go to the theatre for a jolly time. Which is just as well.

In any case, the Vicky Featherstone regime at the Royal Court specialises in miserablist theatre, as I have discussed elsewhere, so we knew what to expect.

We chose this play because the synopsis sounded very interesting and because we enjoyed Alice Birch’s play, Little Light, a couple of years ago at the Orange Tree. We also tend to like Katie Mitchell’s work as a director. Rarely conventional, almost always interesting. This piece was no exception.

The play is about three generations of women. As the story starts to unfold, each scene in effect depicts three scenes, one for each of those generations, being shown to the audience at the same time.

If that sounds like information and sensory overload to you, then you are spot on; that is exactly what it is. In truth, most of the time there are two active, dialogue scenes and one less active, minimal or no dialogue scene. But still, a heavy sensory load, if not overload.

Further, the play is two hours long without an interval, which is a heck of a long time for drama without a break, even in the easiest of scenarios. Which this isn’t.

Janie described the experience immediately afterwards as feeling like we’d been put through a mental ringer.

And yet it worked as a play and we were both really pleased we’d seen it.

At first, I’m sure both of us were thinking “what on earth is going on here?”, but as the play pans out, the central device becomes apparent and you do get a good sense of what is happening in each of the three generations and how the earlier generations’ events impact on the later generations and how the later generations’ events echo those of the earlier ones.

The acting is superb. Hattie Morahan we’d seen before – in The City by Martin Crimp alongside Benedict Cumberbatch – that’s two weeks in a row the ubiquitous Cumberbatch has had a mention on Ogblog – I told you he’s everywhere. Mind you, that’s two weeks in a row for Martin Crimp as well.

Paul Hilton is a fine actor who we’ve seen several times – he does a grand job in this play. As does Kate O’Flynn – indeed all of the cast were very good.

It must be fiendishly complicated to direct and perform – like a dramatic symphony with so many different parts which have to time and sound in harmony with each other. In fact, we were at the first preview and Katie Mitchell stood up before the show to address the audience. She warned us that the piece was so complex to perform that they might have to stop and start in places on this first performance – but apart from a couple of stutters which might have passed for deliberate, the whole thing was done with aplomb that night.

So, despite the play being a grim portrayal of depression and suicide, it was gripping and superbly unusual drama. We’ll remember this one for a long time. For people with sufficient attention span and a sense of dramatic adventure, we’d highly recommend this play/production.

Janie and I certainly both enjoyed a glass or two of white wine with our light smoked salmon and salad supper when we got home; we’d recommend that too.

A different recent supper on a different continent, but I’m sure you get the drift

Rapture, Blister, Burn by Gina Gionfriddo, Hampstead Theatre, 17 January 2014

It seemed like only a week since we last went to Harry’s and then The Hampstead…

…but this one did less for us.

I seem to recall finding the whole evening a bit irritating and we really didn’t like this play.

It’s had great reviews so don’t take our word for it.

Emilia Fox doesn’t do much for us and the play seemed very laboured and obvious in places.

The Hampstead resource on the play/production can be found here.

This search term will find you the reviews.

The Village Bike by Penelope Skinner, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 25 June 2011

We really enjoyed this play and production upstairs at the Royal Court.

Here is the Royal Court resource on this play/production.

This was a really entertaining and thought-provoking play by the very promising playwright Penelope Skinner. I think this was our first sight of one of hers; Linda at the Royal Court a few years later – click here or below – confirmed our suspicions that she is a special talent.

Linda by Penelope Skinner, Royal Court Theatre, 28 November 2015

The Village Bike had a very fine cast for an upstairs production, not least Dominic Rowan and Romola Garai, both excellent. Indeed the whole cast was excellent, as was the set, directing, the lot.

Most but not all of the reviews rated it excellent – here is a search term that finds reviews and the other resources you might want.

Wanderlust by Nick Payne, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 25 September 2010

I’m pretty sure this is the first Nick Payne play we saw. I remember little about it, other than the fact that the play was pretty full on about sex and that, despite its unsubtleties, we came away with the impression that we wanted to see more of this writer, which indeed we did.

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

The usual praise for the Royal Court’s production qualities whether upstairs or downstairs. Super cast too.

Here is a search term that will find you the reviews and stuff if you want a deeper dive.

The Dysfunckshonalz by Mike Packer, Bush Theatre, 16 November 2007

This play was good fun. It is basically a comedy about a punk band that fell out in unusual circumstances reforming many years later as Mammon comes calling. It sounds a bot “so what?” and it some ways it was, but it was an entertaining evening at one of our favourite venues.

The Bush has a good stub for this production, as the best theatres now do – see here. The reviews bit doesn’t seem to be working, but there are several reviews still to be found:

It didn’t get a west end transfer, but perhaps that idea was b*llocks, never mind. The Bush was still a room above the pub in those days, which seemed a fitting venue for this piece.

Life After Scandal by Robin Soans, Hampstead Theatre, 21 September 2007

This was a very interesting and entertaining piece of verbatim theatre. Robin Soans is good at this stuff; we’d seen Talking To Terrorists at The Royal Court. It was probably this sole factor which encouraged us to book the play.

We were pretty much out of love with the Hampstead Theatre at this time; during the Anthony Clark era. Clark himself directed this one and did a decent job of it.

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

 

Taking Care of Baby, Dennis Kelly, Hampstead Theatre, 2 June 2007

Friday night at the Hampstead Theatre was our more regular habit, but the Carlos Perez concert had enticed us to the SBC the night before, so we plugged for the Saturday night for this play.

Probably just as well, because this was a truly troubling play that would not have worn well rushing to the theatre at the end of a stressful week.  It poses as a documentary drama about Donna McAuliffe, a woman convicted of murdering her infant children.  The story resembles in many ways the tragic Sally Clark case.

It was extremely well done and I am very glad we saw it.  We had enjoyed Dennis Kelly’s writing before, which was the main reason we booked it.  Hampstead was patchy to say the least in that era but the Dennis Kelly stuff was a rare exception and this one proved no exception to the exception.

Lyn Gardner spoke highly of it in the Guardian – click here.

As did Ian Shuttleworth for the FT – click here.

Philip Fisher in British Theatre Guide was less sure – click here.

Everyone agreed that Abigail Davies was marvellous.

I have the playtext for this one; unusual for the Hampstead but might well be worth a re-read, there was a lot going on in this play.