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e-mail from the Royal Court, fewer than 10 days before going to a preview of this show, to say that Kim Cattrall had withdrawn from the show on doctor’s orders and that Noma Dumezweni would start rehearsing about a week before the first preview.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

A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee, Almeida Theatre, 7 May 2011

A stellar cast for this Edward Albee revival.

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

Of course it was wonderfully well acted and the production was excellent, but I recall not being too enamoured of the play. It was quite long and wordy. I think you are supposed to feel trapped by the play, much as the characters are trapped in their circumstances.

On the whole the critics loved it – here is a search term that finds reviews and stuff.

I have also found an interesting vid that shows how the Almeida team transformed the place from The Knot Of The Heart into A Delicate Balance:

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.

Serenading Louie by Lanford Wilson, Donmar Warehouse, 20 February 2010

We had been big fans of the Donmar for some while; sometimes bemoaning the awkwardness of the place for parking/transport but on balance feeling that it was worth it.

Serenading Louie was one of a few less impressive productions that started to put us off the place.

Of course it was well acted and well produced at the Donmar. But what a dud of a play. Why revive such a dull American play from the 1970s?

I think we stuck it out to the bitter end; I vaguely recall feeling that the second half was a mite better than the first half.

It didn’t get good reviews. This search term should find you plenty of reviews and stuff if you remain curious about it.

No doubt we supped on May’s Chinese food or Mohsen’s Persian. No doubt our moods needed lifting after a disappointing visit to the theatre.

 

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 Fever by Wallace Shawn, Royal Court Theatre, 4 April 2009

I saw Wallace Shawn perform this piece in early 1991, I think at the Cottesloe, but perhaps upstairs at the Royal Court…to be Ogblogged (with accurate details) in the fullness of time.

But Janie hadn’t seen it before and Clare Higgins is a cracking good actress.

Also, in the post crash times that were late 2008/early 2009 when we booked to see this production, I thought the piece might have a different, meaningful resonance.

In many ways it did.

Yet it wasn’t quite the same thing as seeing Wallace Shawn perform it himself. How could it be?

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Small Change by Peter Gill, Donmar Warehouse, 12 April 2008

I’m not too sure why we booked this. to be honest.

We had not enjoyed Cardiff East at the National 10+ years earlier, despite the presence of the wonderful (ex NewsRevue) Di Botcher in that play/production.

Small Change is a revival of one of Peter Gill’s earlier plays around similar subject matter. So why we thought we might like another of Peter Gill’s working class Welsh drab-fests I cannot imagine.

Anyway, we didn’t much like it, although it was a less bleak and more lyrical piece than the relentlessly miserable Cardiff East.

…you get the drift. Wonderfully well acted and produced. It was just one of those minimalist pieces that didn’t really float Janie’s or my boat.

 

 

The Man Who Had All the Luck by Arthur Miller, Donmar Warehouse, 1 March 2008

We are both very keen on Arthur Miller and thought we would probably enjoy one of his rarely performed early works.

We went to the second preview of this production, so possibly didn’t get it at its absolute best.

While we enjoyed the play and production, with some of its parable qualities reminding us of great Miller plays, I would suggest that the play is not a great Miller play and the production was not one of the Donmar’s greatest productions. The acting was superb, as we pretty much expect at the Donmar, the cast mostly unfamiliar folk to us.

The critics were somewhat divided in their opinions, even individually in some cases:

There’s a good Wikipedia piece about the play – here – which mentions the Donmar revival and others besides. It also provides a bit more analysis about the play.

We’re very fussy when it comes to the Donmar these days, as we find that Covent Garden location so awkward, but on balance we certainly felt that this was a worthwhile trip.