Detroit by Lisa D’Amour, Cottesloe Theatre, 12 May 2012

I remember we were really looking forward to this play/production.

Transfers from the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in the US are usually top notch, as are Cottesloe productions.

In many ways this was top notch; a well written, well-acted, well-directed piece about suburban America. It just didn’t really light up.

Perhaps we had been spoilt too recently by Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park – another mid-west suburban play…

Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, Royal Court Theatre, 4 September 2010

…or the harder-hitting Neil LaBute’s we’d been enjoying the last few years.

We enjoyed our evening but had been (perhaps unfairly) half-expecting to be wowed, which we were not.

Mixed reviews from the critics – click here for a link.

Below is the RNT trailer – not very revealing…

…this Steppenwolf vid explains more:

Black T-Shirt Collection by Inua Ellams, Cottesloe Theatre, 14 April 2012

I recall Janie and I both really enjoying this short, unusual, imaginative piece, written and performed by Inua Ellams.

I think it pleased us more than it pleased many of the critics, many of whom found the piece lightweight compared with its big themes of globalisation, the fashion industry and anti-gay prejudice in Africa.

Here is a search term that finds the reviews and stuff. 

Below is a link to the trailer:

We found the piece entertaining and thought-provoking. That was enough for us.

Can We Talk About This? by Lloyd Newson, DV8, Lyttelton Theatre, 17 March 2012

Verbatim Theatre and Physical Theatre don’t seem, on the face of it, to be complementary genres.

But this piece, conceived by Lloyd Newson and performed by physical theatre company DV8, tries to combine the two, around the tricky subject of Islamic extremism, Islamophobia, multiculturalism, censorship, freedom of speech and hate crimes.

It sort-of worked, in that it got me and Janie talking about those subjects afterwards, but it didn’t really work for us, in itself, as a piece talking about those tricky subjects.

In truth, verbatim theatre about such tricky subjects would need more words and less dance.

I think the critics pretty much concurred with our view – here is a link to a search term for the reviews.

The vid link below gives you a reasonable idea of what this production looked and sounded like:

Collaborators by John Hodge, Cottesloe Theatre, 7 January 2012

I think I liked this play more than Janie did.

It was a fictionalised…somewhat fantasised account of encounters (which did occur to some extent in real life) between the writer Mikhail Bulgakov and Joseph Stalin.

We were blessed with Alex Jennings as Bulgakov and Simon Russell Beale as Stalin, with Nicholas Hytner in the director’s chair.

In truth, I don’t think it was a great play. It was a very good idea for a play with some very good scenes within it, but as a whole it didn’t quite work for me as an entire play.

But there was enough really good stuff going on to please me plenty, on  balance. Whereas I think Janie found it a little drawn out and confused/confusing.

The reviewers were more with me (on the plus side) than with Janie (on the “a bit muddled) side – click here for a search term that finds the reviews.

Below is a link to the trailer:

…and the following vid is an interview with John Hodge, the playwright:

Grief by Mike Leigh, Cottesloe Theatre, 26 December 2011

I don’t think we’d been to the theatre on Boxing Day before…nor have we (to date) since.

But the timing worked for us and we thought, “why not?”  We are very keen on Mike Leigh’s work generally. Also we wanted to make amends for the involuntary hoo-ha, in front of Mike Leigh’s very eyes, last time we attended one of his plays – a few months ago – especially as he had been so nice about it:

Ecstasy by Mike Leigh, Hampstead Theatre, 18 March 2011

But unfortunately, we didn’t think all that much of Grief.

It had a fine cast including several of Mike Leigh’s regular stars, headed up by Lesley Manville.

The play had been developed in ensemble – the Mike Leigh method if you will. But, to us, it seemed rather dated and lacked sparkle this time.

It got somewhat mixed reviews – click here for a search term that finds them.

Below is a sort of review vid about the play/production:

 

The Veil by Conor McPherson, Lyttelton Theatre, 19 November 2011

Gosh I remember how disappointed we were by this one.

We had loved Conor McPherson’s previous work whenever we had seen it – especially but not only The Weir.

But this play, set in the early 19th century, just left both of us feeling cold.

Super cast, with several of the “usual suspects” for Irish plays, not least Bríd Brennan. Plus an early sighting of Caoilfhionn Dunne.

But for us, nothing could quite save this play.

I remember saying afterwards that it was like “Chekhov had written a ghost story” and I remember smiling when I subsequently saw one of the reviews saying just that.

Here is a link to a term that finds the (mixed/indifferent) reviews.

I think we stuck it out on the strength of the performances and the hope that it would liven up in the second half.

Below is an interview with Conor McPherson about the play…

…and below this is the NT trailer for the production:

Oh well.

The Holy Rosenbergs by Ryan Craig, Cottesloe Theatre, 12 March 2011

We saw this play/production in preview and I clearly remember both of us saying  immediately afterwards how much it reminded us of Arthur Miller’s style. Unsurprisingly, that was also the verdict of the bulk of the critics.

We also thought it was a very good play and an excellent production…the critics were largely still with us on that aspect too.

Here is a search term that should find you all the reviews and other on-line resources you might want for this one.

Here is the trailer and interesting chat about the play/production:

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, Cottesloe Theatre, 15 January 2011

Janie really isn’t into Shakespeare, but Twelfth Night is a play close to my heart, having “done it” at Alleyn’s for the Dramatic Society in 1978.

Twelfth Night, Alleyn’s School, 12, 14, 15 & 16 December 1978

Ever since, I had been keen to see productions of Twelfth Night when they came around. Further, this production with Rebecca Hall as Viola and possibly a last chance to see a by then 80 year old Peter Hall directing…Janie said yes.

In truth, I don’t think this was the best Twelfth Night I have ever seen. It was of course very well acted, directed and produced, but it was a little old-fashioned in style for my taste; it felt like the sort of Shakespeare production I might have seen at the National 20-25 years earlier. I guess I should have expected.

It certainly didn’t do anything to improve Janie’s view on Shakespeare. I explained how much better it was done in the hands of Alleyn’s schoolkids in 1978 and Janie said she could understand exactly what I must mean.

She wasn’t humouring me, was she?

“After all,” said Janie, you are practically a reincarnation of The Bard, are you not?”

 

Anyway, here is a link to a search term that finds reviews and other resources on this production. The reviews are a little mixed; mostly suggesting that it was a good, but not great production, which I think sums it up pretty well.

Fela! by Jim Lewis & Bill T Jones, Olivier Theatre, 11 December 2010

We don’t normally do musicals. But this one sounded interesting and different so we booked it.

Set in Nigeria in the late 1970s, it is basically a tribute to the life, music and politics of Fela Kuti.

It was at the National, so of course no on-line resource to help navigate all the whys and wherefores of the show. This search term – click here – should find the (mostly rave) reviews and other resources you might want.

I’m not sure we need a subsidised National Theatre to import this sort of hit show from Broadway and make a hit of it in London, but anyway I’m glad it was on there and I’m very glad we saw it. This was just the sort of boost we needed so soon after Phillie’s passing. A life-affirming show, but with real grit too.

Here’s the trailer vid:

Or You Could Kiss Me by Neil Bartlett, Cottesloe Theatre, 2 October 2010

Having missed out on War Horse (didn’t fancy it even after the rave reviews) we thought the subject matter of this one might interest us more and is very much up Neil Bartlett’s street.

This interview with Neil Bartlett explains his side of it:

To some extent it worked; the story across the decades was engaging. But the puppets didn’t really work for us. While we can recognise the incredible skill involved, it seemed, to us, to detract from the drama.

This search term should find resources and reviews aplenty for any deep divers who might want to search on from here.

This link takes you to a short film that shows some of the major puppet scenes, to give you an idea.