Nuclear War by Simon Stephens, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 22 April 2017

“I didn’t have a clue what was going on, but still I rather liked that”, was Janie’s unusual verdict. The first phrase would usually precede a phrase such as “what a load of rubbish” or similar.

But in many ways I could see Daisy-do’s point.

Actually, about five minutes into this short (45 minutes in total) piece, I thought I was really going to hate it.

I didn’t have a clue what was going on, it was cold, it felt soulless and some ghastly member of the audience was coughing and spluttering so much I couldn’t concentrate on trying to penetrate the impenetrable. It certainly wasn’t about nuclear war.

But once I realised that Simon Stephens and Imogen Knight had no intention of giving us a clue as to what was going on, I relaxed and went with the flow. The flow was mostly astonishing dance and some poetic words.

I sensed that the central character was bereaved and/or seriously mentally ill. I sensed that the chorus were her inner tormentors/comforters.

In the end, I did, like Daisy, rather like the piece.

I wondered what our friend Michael Billington would make of it all. We ran into him as we entered the Royal Court and had a quick chat with him, realising that we hadn’t seen him for ages.

We also chatted, in the queue, with a nice man who clearly goes to theatre a great deal and whose late partner was a cricketer as well as theatre-lover – a point that came out as I checked the Middlesex v Essex cricket score for the umpteenth time.

Anyway, turns out our friend Michael Billington (as I suspected) didn’t like it at all – a rare two stars, “baffling and obscure”. Other critics agreed with the obscure tag but were kinder on the piece:

We enjoyed a veritable smörgåsbord of nibbles when we got home, for a change.

Low Level Panic by Clare Mcintyre, Orange Tree Theatre, 25 March 2017

This made it two in a row theatre visits to see all female affairs, the previous visit being Scarlett at the Hampstead Downstairs – click here – earlier this month.

Unlike Scarlett, though, this production is a revival of a 1980’s play. Indeed, a quintessentially 1980’s play. It’s a three-hander.  All three actresses performed their roles very well.

Here is a link to the excellent Orange Tree on-line resources about the production, including reviews and stuff.

Lots of excellent reviews up there, mostly four stars. Of course, the Orange Tree only puts up the best ones with stars, so I add these only for balance:

Several of the reviews discuss feminism 1988 style and debate the extent to which things have changed since then – very much the conversation Janie and I had over dinner and the next day.

Anyway, Janie and I both really enjoyed our evening at the theatre and our Don Fernando grubsie afterwards.

 

The Priory by Michael Wynne, Royal Court Theatre, 28 November 2009

I recall this one as being a bit Alan Aykbournish – a gang of thirty-somethings on retreat in the country for New Years eve. What could possibly go wrong?

A slight set of Royal Court details and links about this play/production can be found here.

We quite enjoyed it, while agreeing that we normally seek plays with a bit more oomph and have seen a lot of plays a bit like this one in our time.

Of course it was well acted and well produced – the Royal Court hardly ever misses one of those beats.

Cock by Mike Bartlett, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 14 November 2009

So we saw a young Ben Whishaw as far back as 2009 in this thing – who knew?

Mike Bartlett has also gone on to bigger and bolder pieces than this since.

I seem to recall that it was a fairly slight piece about someone who is confused about his sexuality; I think the modern term is “fluid”.

The Royal Court link is very slight for an archive of this age – click here.

As usual, high quality production and performances upstairs at the Royal; Court – we love that place.

Pains Of Youth by Ferdinand Bruckner, Cottesloe Theatre, 7 November 2009

What a grim evening of theatre this turned out to be.

The only ungrim thing about the evening was bumping into George Littlejohn and his good lady in the foyer before the show and then again in the interval. I have known George since 1994 when we met, for reasons that will only be explained to you if you click here, at the 1994 inaugural Accountancy Awards. Only click if you find pompous awards funny; don’t click if you take them seriously.

The play is about young upwardly mobile Viennese trainee doctors in the 1920’s, who should have been among the most happening people on earth were it not for their unfortunate juxtaposition with time and space (i.e. 1920’s Vienna) and their existential angst.

Janie and I hated the first half of the play and resolved not to stay for the second half. I’m not saying that it was either going to be members of the cast, or us, or a mixture of those two cohorts, but suicide was clearly on the cards during the second half. We made absolutely certain it wasn’t going to be us.

Unfortunately for George and his good lady, they had some sort of connection with someone involved in the production, so they stayed for the second half. We wished them luck as we waved them goodbye.

The irony of the bad straplining of that last piece will not be wasted on George Littlejohn, who was at one time the editor of Accountancy Age, no less, but has since managed to exceed even those giddy heights.

Despite their ordeal, sticking out the whole evening, I am pleasantly surprised, indeed delighted, to report that both the Littlejohns seem hale and hearty at the time of writing (January 2017).  Janie and I ran into them both again at the Curzon Bloomsbury on New Year’s Day 2017 – click here, which triggered this memory and hence this write up.

Mrs Klein by Nicholas Wright, Almeida Theatre, 24 October 2009

We both really enjoyed this play/production about he psychoanalyst Melanie Klein.

I had seen the original production of this play at The Cottesloe back in 1988 and really liked it.

Janie and I are keen Almeida-istas;  I guessed that this would be yet another really good Almeida production and that the play would be to Janie’s taste. Add to that a superb cast – Clare Higgins and Nicola Walker are two of our favourites, plus Thea Sharrock (formerly at The Gate) directing…

…what could go wrong? Nothing. This was a great production and Janie did really like it.

As usual, there is an excellent Almeida resource about the play/production – click here – with information, pictures and reviews.

The reviews were nearly all very good and the very good ones are accessible in full from the above resource.

The Author by Tim Crouch, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 26 September 2009

I only vaguely recall this one. Experimental theatre, with the cast sitting among us as the audience.

The Royal Court has only left scant details up – click here for those.

Tim Crouch himself is a little more forthcoming on his site – here.

Here are some rehearsal and preview extracts from the Royal Court:

Tim took this play to Edinburgh the following year – here is a two minute extract:

Post modern in a “theatre about theatre” way. An attempt to shake up the complacency of audience members like us.

It seems to have worked better on critics than it did on us:

suddenlossofdignity.com by Zawe Ashton, James Graham, Joel Horwood, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Michelle Terry, Bush Theatre, 8 August 2009

I don’t remember a great deal about this one, so perhaps it wasn’t the hilarious romp the Bush production resource suggests that it must have been.

Interesting list of young playwrights collaborated on the piece, though; James Graham in particular having shot to playwright stardom relatively quickly since.

I don’t remember hating it – but I do recall that curates egg feeling about it. “Sounded better as an idea than it turned out to be as a play” was probably Daisy’s verdict.

 

 

The Black Album by Hanif Kureishi, Cottesloe Theatre, 18 July 2009

We saw a preview of this new play/production, as oft we did at the Cottesloe.

There is a strong OfficialLondonTheatre.co.uk resource on this play/production – click here. It is basically a stage adaptation of Kureshi’s novel about anti-racism and radical Islam.

Tanya Franks was in it, which was one for the NewsRevue alumni “where are they now” department.

I don’t remember much about this play, which is not a great sign. Perhaps my mind was on the Ashes match unfolding at Lord’s that weekend, but more likely, if the reviews are anything to go by, this was not a classic.

Oh well.

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.