Becky Shaw by Gina Gionfriddo, Almeida Theatre, 22 January 2011

Janie and I both really enjoyed this play and production. It is an American comedy about disastrous blind dating, with enough issues in it to keep it interesting as well as amusing.

Superbly acted and beautifully directed and produced.

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

Here is the trailer:

Here is a link to a search term that should bring up reviews and other resources on this play/production. The reviews are a bit mixed – everyone seems to praise the production but not all of the reviewers liked the play as much as we did.

The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen, Almeida Theatre, 13 November 2010

We don’t book many classic revivals, but we tend to make an exception for Ibsen if it is a play one or both of us hasn’t seen before. Plus, if it is the Almeida, we tend to trust the place to deliver a classic well and with a modern enough feel.

As was the case with this superb production.

We were a little concerned that it might be a luvvie-fest for Gemma Arterton. But she proved well up to her task and the universally high-quality cast worked extremely well as an ensemble.

It was a well-pacey production; an-hour-and–three-quarters straight through, the extra pace worked well with this play. An object lesson for some of the ponderously long, drawn-out productions of early 20th century plays.

Here is a link to the Almeida resource for The Master Builder.

The reviews were pretty much universally good and most are linked through the above resource, but this search term – click here – should find reviews independently for you.

Rope by Patrick Hamilton, Almeida Theatre, 19 December 2009

We weren’t as keen on this one as we had hoped to be, given the synopsis and the fact that the Almeida was going through a purple patch at that time.

I’m not sure that Patrick Hamilton works for us on the stage – indeed we have recently at the time of writing (May 2017) passed up an opportunity to see one of his in the forthcoming Hampstead Theatre run.

We’re becoming an increasingly picky pair these days. We tend to avoid booking much in that pre-Christmas period also, now, given the nightmare journeys that often ensue at that time of year.

Anyway, here is the Almeida on-line resource about the play and production, which includes information, review links, photos and even a vid from the rehearsals.

It was of course an excellent production and very well acted. I think it was the play that didn’t quite do it for us. Janie and I like 1920’s and 1930’s styles generally, but strangely we don’t tend to like plays/the theatrical style of that era.

The reviews – mostly very good but not great – are mostly linked from the Almeida resource – here’s that link again.

For some reason British Theatre Guide doesn’t usually make it to those links – Philip Fisher makes good points in this review, not least that the play is quite long compared with the much vaunted Hitchcock film version.

Skimming the reviews reminds me how very well acted and produced the piece was, it just wasn’t really our type of piece.

Still, we’re both glad we caught this production; I have little doubt that this production is as good as it gets for Rope.

The Power Of Yes by David Hare, Lyttelton Theatre, 17 October 2009

We were not overly impressed with this play.

David Hare is very good at burrowing around all manner of interesting topics, but I suspect he was too far away from his spheres of knowledge and understanding with the financial crisis.

Hare almost admits as much, as the narrator of the play is a somewhat perplexed author.

So to me, Hare was making the obvious points about the financial crisis well enough, but there was little dramatic tension and no new insight in the piece.

Janie liked it a bit more than i did, but I suspect that she got more out of it, being less steeped in the financial crisis in the first place.

I’m glad we saw it, but this is second division work from a first division playwright. There was little a good cast and production could do to save it.


England People Very Nice by Richard Bean, Olivier Theatre, 7 February 2009

Janie and I really liked this play/production, well summarised on the Official London Theatre site – click here. It is basically about migration to/through London from the late 16th century until today.

It’s a slightly show-bizzy play, with some of the humour being a little obvious, plus some singing and dancing thrown in. Which doesn’t sound like our sort of play. Yet, there was an interesting enough narrative line and some fabulous performances to keep us interested throughout.

We saw a preview, so were unaware, when we discussed the play/production afterwards, how much it would divide the critics.

Quite a mixture of opinions. Mark Espiner’s analysis of the reviews from the Guardian might help – click here.

A very memorable show for me, which is an element of praise indeed. Olivia Coleman and Michelle Terry were standout performances among many good ones.

I wonder how the piece would come across to me now, in our Brexity times (writing in April 2017) – would my sense of humour still be in tune with it, or should I say would the play’s sense of humour now be in tune with mine?

Waste by Harley Granville Barker, Almeida Theatre, 18 October 2008

This one turned out to be a bit of an Alleyn’s alum-fest, with Sam West directing and Nancy Carroll performing. But that won’t be the reason we booked it.

Janie and I have been Almeida members for donkeys yonks – indeed I have been going there fairly regularly since the late 1980s.

This looked like a cracking production on paper, so we’d have had no hesitation in booking it.

The Almeida is great on archiving its productions, so details of the production, some good pictures and extracts from the reviews are all there to be seen – saving me the trouble – click here.

We agree with all of that lot. It was a cracking production of a rather wordy play – Harley Granville Barker was a decent playwright but Ibsen or Strindberg he ain’t.

We were very glad to have picked this production. Seeing a lesser production of this play would have been a bit of a waste.

The Enchantment by Victoria Benedictsson, Cottesloe Theatre, 11 August 2007

My recollection of this one is extremely limited. We saw this on the Saturday evening between my father’s death and the funeral. The programme helps my memory, as does Janie’s recall (also dredged with the help of the programme) and the reviews.

Victoria Benedictsson was a Swedish writer who had a difficult time as a modern woman in the early days of women’s liberation. She killed herself relatively young, but not before writing this loosely autobiographical play in the late 1880s. The play is now seen as a precursor to Scandinavian works such as Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and A Doll’s House.

I note from the programme that Nancy Carroll played the lead; I subsequently discovered that she is an Alleyn’s alum; good for her. She is an excellent actress. I also spotted in the programme that Paul Miller (now taking the Orange Tree Richmond from strength to strength) directed this production. In the round too; good training for the Orange Tree.

It was clearly one of those slow build, late 19th century dramas. Probably just as well given my/our state of mind that weekend; a frantic, high octane play such as Cyprus Avenue – the piece we saw the other night as I write – would not have gone down well in the circumstances.

Clare Bayley, who wrote the version of the play which was performed in this production, has a good page on this project, including interviews and stuff, on her site – here.  She also includes some good quotes from the critics in her piece.

Indeed, it seems to have gone down well enough with the critics that matter:

Big White Fog by Theodore Ward, Almeida Theatre, 12 May 2007

We rounded off a real culture vulture week by going to the Almeida Theatre to see Big White Fog.

The play is about Garveyism in the 1920s and 1930s, a subject about which I knew little and was pleased to learn more.

The Almeida Archive stub, linked above and here, summarises several of the excellent reviews this production justifiably received.  This is Michael Billington’s type of play, so no surprises he loved it, click here.

Michael Attenborough did a great job at the Almeida.  We probably saw at least half of the main theatre productions there during his tenure.