After the previous evening’s debacle at Hampstead…
Ecstasy by Mike Leigh, Hampstead Theatre, 18 March 2011
…it was a very pleasant surprise that Janie felt better and confident enough to try the theatre the very next day.
A very interesting play about climate change, questioning orthodoxies and asking awkward questions about the links between the politics, science and personal beliefs around climate change.
A search term that finds the mostly good reviews and more besides can be found by clicking here.
Not sure what we did afterwards – probably got Janie home to bed pdq.
Janie said she didn’t feel 100% when she turned up at the flat, but I didn’t think too much of it, not even when she ate little at Harry Morgan’s before the show.
But about 40 minutes into the first half, she said to me, “I don’t feel well, I have to go to the cloakroom…you stay here”. So I sat out the first half, not really able to concentrate and dashed out as soon as I could, to find Janie sipping water and attentive staff letting me know that she seemed OK.
It was early in the run and Mike Leigh was there that evening. He kindly came up to us to ask if Janie was OK; I think he was relieved when he learned that she was merely poorly rather than someone who had walked out in shock or horror.
The play is strong stuff and it was a full-on production, but Janie is not the “fit of vapours at the sound of expletives” type.
The staff said we could of course go back in during scene breaks in Act Two if we wished, and/or watch the second act on the screen they use to monitor the show from outside, but frankly we simply wanted to wait until Janie felt well enough to go home and then go home.
I bought a copy of the play text so I could read and find out what happened afterwards.
Here is a link to a search term that finds the almost universally excellent reviews.
It is a real shame that we more or less missed out on it. Still, it could have been much worse. Janie’s indisposition turned out to be slight and temporary – we were back to the theatre the next night.
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.
We are big fans of Mamet and also big fans of the Almeida, so Janie and I were really looking forward to this one.
We indeed got a fabulous production, wonderfully well acted, directed and produced. But we were less sure about the piece itself.
Of course with Mamet you get more twists and turns than a country lane. Of course you get even riper language than an expletive-filled debate at our place after Janie and I have both had a bad day. And of course, with Richard Bean in the driving seat for the play script itself, you get some lovely stage devices and coups de theatre.
But the piece itself, based on a 1980’s Mamet film script, seemed surprisingly slight and it was unusually easy to predict the twists. I suspect the film worked better, but I haven’t seen it.
Still, with Alleyn’s School alum Nancy Carroll heading up a pretty impressive cast, plus Django Bates providing the atmospheric jazz music, it was an entertaining evening to be sure. Janie enjoyed it thoroughly, but also claimed she let the plot wash over her.
Here is a link to the Almeida resource on the play/production.
Sceptics might not trust the above resource to link to all the reviews – quite rightly, as the reviews were mixed. Here’s a helpful search term for your own deep dive – click here.
If you’d like to see the trailer, click below – it’s pretty cool:
I believe we did a date swap for this one. It is in my diary for Saturday 17 October, but I ended up going to see Death And The Maiden with Janie, John and Mandy that night.
I think Bobbie had a problem with that October weekend and we arranged to swap with a friend of hers to see this production midweek, on 30 September.
My production log says:
Went with Bobbie. Very good.
So what else is there to say? I remember it being a very big, busy play, with an enormous cast of courtiers attending to the protagonists. I remember laughing quite a lot. I suspect I would find it a bit cheesy if I saw it again now.
Nigel Hawthorne was very impressive and I suppose it is “quite a thing” that I saw him perform live.
The Wikipedia entry links to rave reviews on both sides of the channel. The subject matter very naturally had appeal for the USA so it is no surprise that it was also a hit there and also made into a film.
I was probably quite tired that evening, as the diary shows I spent a long day flying up to West Lothian the day before on business – that will have been Sky with Michael – a memorable working day.
I suspect that this was the last time I went to the theatre with Bobbie. We probably had a post theatre meal, perhaps at the RNT itself or perhaps somewhere like RSJs or the Archduke.
I have carried a fondness for this play with me for as long as I can remember, despite it not really being my type of play.
Revisiting my first encounter with it for Ogblog, some 25 years later (August 2017) I can understand why. This was one heck of a good production.
The Theatricalia website has recorded all the cast and crew details, mercifully, so I don’t have to – click here – then gasp in awe and wonderment. What a cast, what a production team.
Photostage has some photos, which you can peruse if you wish – here.
All my notes say is that I went with Bobbie Scully and that we thought it was very good.
I remember thinking Ken Stott was superb – I don’t think I had seen him before. It might have been my first encounter with the excellent Alex Jennings. Des Barrit was also a standout performer, as usual. But in truth the whole cast was good and you can see many names on the list who went on to do bigger and bolder things.
There are no on-line reviews to be found – until now – this one – yay!
I’m not sure what Bobbie and I did about eating afterwards, but in those days we would sometimes eat at the RNT itself – we might well have done that – or sometimes we’d go to The Archduke or somewhere of that ilk nearby.