Gloria by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Hampstead Theatre, 24 June 2017

We’re on a bit of a roll at the moment; this was another very interesting piece.

It is a bit difficult to describe this play without spoilers – indeed the Hampstead Theatre staff we spoke to were bemoaning the fact that some of the formal reviews contain spoilers. Janie and I always avoid reading the reviews before we see a play/production, so it wasn’t spoiled for us and I’ll try not to spoil it for you.

The first act is a fairly conventional office politics satire set in a magazine publishing house; well acted and with some delightful vignettes. One ranting speech, towards the end of that act, by the chief fact-checker (played by Bo Poraj) will live long in our memories. Still, such office satires have been done many times and we have seen plenty to know that we are not wild about the genre…

…but…

…there is a pivotal moment at the end of the first act which reassured us that the second half of the play would be quite different.

Indeed, the second half was far more interesting and progresses, through two more, shorter, acts, in intriguing ways from the slow build of the first act.

Here is a link to the Hampstead Theatre’s resource on this play/production. 

Gloria has deservedly had good reviews from all the majors. It was a great success in its native USA and should do well in the UK too – at the time of writing the Hampstead run has already been extended and a West End run surely beckons.

Go see it.

Janie and I rewarded ourselves with some Chinese food from Four Seasons afterwards.

They Drink It In The Congo by Adam Brace, Almeida Theatre, 3 September 2016

Our first visit to the theatre for a wee while, as there tends to be less of the stuff we like to see over the summer.

This play looked very interesting in the Almeida leaflet. Unusually, this was the only play we booked at the Almeida this season; they seem to be doing fewer new plays these days.

It was indeed an interesting play. Mostly set in London, where a do-gooder jolly hockey sticks woman is trying to organise an awareness raising Congo Festival with the consent and co-operation of the local Congolese diaspora community. Funny and sinister in equal measure. But the play doesn’t shy away from also showing us a glimpse into the horrors of life in the war-torn DRC.

Michael Longhurst directed this one, as he did Carmen Disruption last spring. We found that play interesting with some excellent scenes, but a little disjointed. I’d suggest that They Drink It In The Congo is similar in that regard. In particular, some of the festival-organising intrigue was a little drawn out and convoluted, but some of the scenes were superb. Interesting set and scene changes. All performances very good indeed.

The Almeida stub with all the details of They Drink It In The Congo is linked here.

Reviews:

In our household, I’m with the “four stars out of five” reviewers (most of those above), while Daisy would be more with Fiona Mountford and the three stars brigade.

We went home with plenty to think/talk about and nibbled at cold compilations rather than our more regular routine; to take away a hot meal.

 

 

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

We received an e-mail from the Royal Court, fewer than 10 days before going to a preview of this show, to say that Kim Cattrall had withdrawn from the show on doctor’s orders and that Noma Dumezweni would start rehearsing about a week before the first preview.

Truthfully, we had not booked this production to see Kim Cattrall; we had booked it because we had been so impressed by The Village Bike, Penelope Skinner’s previous play at the Royal Court.  We had also previously been hugely impressed by Noma Dumezweni, not least in the lead of A Human Being Died That Night at the Hampstead Theatre in 2013 and more recently cross-dressing in Carmen Disruption at the Almeida earlier this year, so we were really not bothered.

Noma needed to work from book to a greater or lesser extent for most scenes our night, but she was almost there and we could tell that work was in progress for a great performance.  We loved the play and thought the supporting cast were all excellent.  Amazing staging too, so all the creatives have a lot to be proud of.

Perhaps because of the unfortunate circumstances or perhaps because we liked the production so much, we were hoping hard that the show would get great reviews and so, on the whole, it has – five great reviews linked here by the Royal Court.

Our friend (perhaps now former friend) Michael Billington was less sure about the play though generous with his praise of Noma, click here.  Ditto Paul Taylor in the Independent, click here.  

Still, top marks from both me and Janie, plus five out of seven from the critics; it’s a big hit.

Carmen Disruption by Simon Stephens, Almeida Theatre, 11 April 2015

“What was that about” said Janie after the show; proof positive that her review would not be 100% positive. “I liked bits of it but it seemed all over the place at times and I’m not really sure what it was trying to say.”

Janie has a point.

Yet it was a very entertaining play/show in many ways.

Centre stage as we walked in was a dying bull, or rather a moving facsimile of same. It remained pretty much centre stage throughout.

Men were dressed a women, women were dressed as men, it was sort of about an opera singer, sort of about a toy boy…

…read the reviews and figure it out for yourself if you wish.

Excellent Almeida resource including links to several full reviews – click here.

The reviews were more or less universally excellent. It certainly deserved the high praise for an extraordinary production.

We are big fans of Simon Stephens writing, so we delight in this play’s success, but I think we prefer it when his writing is a little more direct.

Still, we enjoyed our evening and had bragging rights for having seen this production early on.

The Blackest Black by Jeremy Brock, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, 10 January 2014

Janie and I really liked this play/production. Another “Hampstead Downstairs special” in our book.

A three-hander about an uber-male astronomer whose space is invaded by an arty female.

Funny and thought-provoking. We thoroughly enjoyed it. The piece deserves a bigger audience.

Here is a link to the Hampstead’s resource on the production.

The author explains some of his thinking in the vid below.

Diary suggests we ate at Harry Morgans before the show. I think we were coming towards the end of the Harry’s pre show era at that time.

On The Beach by Steve Waters, Bush Theatre, 25 April 2009

This play was part of a double bill of plays about climate change known together as The Contingency Plan.

We only fancied the first part; On The Beach.

The Bush was still above the pub on Shepherd’s Bush Green in those days.

It was well acted and produced, but we both found the first play a bit long, ponderous and not entirely plausible. We didn’t seek to book nor did we regret not having booked the second part.

On the whole the double-bill was reviewed jointly, so our take is only partial: