Reasons To Be Happy by Neil Labute, Hampstead Theatre, 8 April 2016

We were really looking forward to this one. We have been fans of Neil Labute’s writing since he first burst onto the theatre scene in London with Bash, all those years ago. We saw Reasons to be Pretty at the Almeida some five years ago and thought it was a very good play and production.

This one, Reasons to be Happy, is a companion piece/sequel with the same characters. Michael Attenborough, now no longer at the Almeida, directing as a guest at the Hampstead. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, the problem with this one is the play. Labute has, for once, written a dull, ordinary play. There are some really sharp dialogue exchanges, as you might expect, but the plot is from “Rom Com Writing 101” and even some of the dialogue drags. The menace that usually underscores a Neil Labute play was there, sort-of, but was more like muzzled poodle menace than the usual unfettered pitbull menace.

In fact, some of the script was so predictably ordinary, I wondered whether Neil Labute has programmed an artificial intelligence version of himself to keep his writing going while he does other things, like crossing the Finchley Road and getting spotted by Ged and Daisy. If so, he hasn’t programmed the machine all that well.

I was well rested, after denying myself a punishing night after the Middlesex AGM Thursday, so I stayed awake throughout, just about. Daisy was not so well rested and had experienced a trying morning of slavery at the hands of her increasingly unreasonably demanding mother. Thus Daisy took full advantage of the opportunity to catch up on her sleep during the play. She didn’t miss much, although she was understandably slightly confused about the outcome at the end of the show.

But she didn’t really care about that outcome. Nor did I.

It’s a shame, because the cast were good, doing their best to get something out of the dull script. The set was interesting enough. Michael Attenborough sure can direct, but you cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

The Knot Of The Heart by David Eldridge, Almeida Theatre, 16 April 2011

This was a challenging play about addiction and the impact of those with addictions/addictive personalities on their loved ones.

Lisa Dillon was superb in the lead; it seems the lead part was pretty-much written for her. As usual at the Almeida, it was a well-chosen play, extremely well acted, directed and produced.

Islington Almeida Theatre 2011
David Eldridge was very much on our watch list as a writer; we’d seen a few of his that we really liked, not least his adaptation of Festen at the Almeida.

I must admit though, we both found this a tough watch. Perhaps it was too soon after Phillie’s passing for us to be suitably sympathetic to a character whose misery and tragedy seemed largely self-inflicted. But it was undeniably an excellent evening’s theatre.

Here is the Almeida resource on this play/production.

Below is a good trailer with quotes David Eldridge and Michael Attenborough commenting:

The play and production were (deservedly) very well received by the critics – here is a search term that finds reviews and other relevant resources.

Extremely powerful stuff.

Through A Glass Darkly by Ingmar Bergman, Almeida Theatre, 10 July 2010

I am a huge fan of Ingmar Bergman films, not least Through A Glass Darkly – click here for IMdB link – so we were very excited about this stage adaptation at the Almeida.

BTW, I reviewed the movie on IMdB down the page here – way back in 2002 (when I saw value in reviewing such movies as so few people did!).

Anyway, we went to the opening Saturday night at the Almeida.

I’m not normally one for stage adaptations, but Bergman himself had granted stage adaptation rights for this film alone, so it is fair to assume that the great man himself could visualise a suitable staging.

Here is a link to the Almeida resource on this production.

This little video about the production is really interesting:

This stage adaptation worked really well at the Almeida. Superb cast, brilliantly staged and directed.

Here is a search term that will find reviews and stuff – click here.

We really enjoyed this production. I can’t honestly say that you get much from the text that goes beyond the movie script, but seeing this chamber piece close up, live, was an unforgettable experience and did add to this great work.

When The Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell, Almeida Theatre, 30 May 2009

Very interesting play, this one.

 

Lots going on, mostly in Australia, spanning eighty years. We saw this play before the Ashes started, so did not breach our “Aussie abstinence vow” during the Ashes, I’m pleased to report.

Andrew Bovell is a very good playwright; worth looking out for. Excellent cast and production too.

Here is the OfficialLondonTheatre.co.uk stub on this play/production.

In A Dark Dark House by Neil LaBute, Almeida Theatre, 29 November 2008

This was a very troubling play by Neil LaBute – as his plays so often are. At the Almeida, as LaBute’s plays so often are.

Here is a link to the Almeida resource on this production.

The acting was terrific but we didn’t get the same wow factor from this one as we sometimes do with LaBute.

Good LaBute but not the very best LaBute was our verdict. But we were still discussing the issues deep into the weekend.

 

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.

 

 

The Changeling by Thomas Middleton & William Rowley, RSC Swan Theatre, 29 October 1992

This was the first of two plays Janie and I went to see on our first long weekend away together in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

I had seen The Changeling before, at the RNT in 1988, thought highly of it as a Jacobean revenge tragedy and thought Janie might like it. I didn’t yet realise that she was not so keen on classics/old plays. I’m not sure she realised it yet either.

My log reports:

Not quite to Janie’s taste – I rather liked it.

It was a superb production. Looking through the cast and creatives list you can see why. Cheryl Campell as Beatrice-Joanna, Malcolm Storry as De Flores, Michael Attenborough directing. Also a stellar list of youngsters who would break through in their own right later; Sophie Okeonedo, Barnaby Kay, Dominic Cooke (assisting Attenborough). Even Tracy-Ann Oberman (prior to her NewsRevue & SportsRevue days) puts in an appearance as an inmate of the asylum.

The Swan is an ideal venue for this type of play, much better than the Lyttleton. Very high production quality both times though – hard for me to rank one production above the other.

There’s a picture from The Swan production in a Guardian Gallery – click here and scroll down – but no on-line reviews of course.