Bodies by Vivienne Franzmann, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 5 August 2017

This was a highly-charged-emotional play about surrogacy.

We chose it primarily because we had been so impressed previously by Vivienne Franzmann’s writing, when we saw Pests at the same venue in 2014. That was a high-octane play too.

Productions upstairs at The Royal Court are top quality these days and this was no exception. All of the performers put in excellent performances and the set, while simple, was clever and engaging.

The Royal Court resource on this play/production can be found here.

The reviews on the whole were (deservedly) very good,

Susannah Clapp in The Observer is not quite so sure, describing the play and production as “over deliberate”.

Sarah Hemming in the FT goes for four stars, but shares my doubts about some of the fussiness in the potting.

But it was an incredibly powerful, mood-affecting piece. So much so that Janie suggested, after getting uber-strident over shawarmas at home after the show, that perhaps we should skip these very morally-upsetting subjects at the theatre for a while.

The Invisible by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Bush Theatre, 4 July 2015

This was an interesting play about a legal aid lawyer and her cases. It raised a great many issues about that corner of our society.

Click here for the Bush Theatre stub, which explains the play/production well.

I have a playtext for this one; which is a good read.

It worked better as agitprop than as drama, in truth, although there were also some good dramatic moments.

Well written, well acted, well produced.

It got me and Janie talking about the issues anyway. Well worthwhile evening.


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.

Grasses Of A Thousand Colours by Wallace Shawn, Royal Court Theatre, 5 June 2009

A new play by Wallace Shawn. How exciting.

We have long been a fan of Shawn; in my case dating back to seeing the film My Dinner With Andre hundreds of years ago.

Janie and I by chance got to chat with him at the Almeida when he was over for Miranda Richardson’s amazing performance as Aunt Dan in Aunt Dan and Lemon (to be Ogblogged in the fullness of time no doubt)…

…and I had seen him perform The Fever; Janie and I sat behind him at The Designated Mourner at the Cottesloe in 1996; all to be Ogblogged in time.

So here was a new Shawn play with Wallace Shawn himself and Miranda Richardson in it. Plus Andre Gregory directing it. Ahead of the piece we were a little starstruck – a rare emotion for us.

Here is the stub on the production.

In truth, this piece didn’t hit the giddy heights of some of Shawn’s others. The notion of dystopia following scientific tinkering has (in my view) been overdone by others rather more than Shawn’s political and social frets.

The play was more than three hours long, so I suspect we settled for a shawarma supper to take home. The evening certainly kept me and Janie in conversation for the rest of that evening and indeed the rest of the weekend.

Tusk Tusk by Polly Stenham, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 28 March 2009

We enjoyed but were a bit disappointed by this one.

We had absolutely loved That Face, Polly Stenham’s first play, so had eagerly awaited this one for two years.

Tusk Tusk was another play about a dysfunctional family with an addled mother (absentee mother this time) and several wild kids as the result.

It felt a bit like more of the same to us, which was a shame because we (perhaps unreasonably) expected more from Polly Stenham on the back of her stunningly good first play.

Still, some excellent performances from the youngsters (this must have been the first time we saw the excellent Bel Powley, for example) and the usual Royal Court quality of production, even when the play is being done upstairs.

We saw the Saturday preview before press night.

I have found some super Pete Jones Productions photos online – presumably from opening night – click here.

Gethsemane by David Hare, Cottesloe Theatre, 8 November 2008

This one felt like a hot ticket when we booked it months before and also seemed well suited to my mind set just 48 hours after my Gresham Lecture on Commercial Ethics.

But this play was about the arguably thornier topic of political ethics and political pragmatism.

What a posse of cast and creatives for this one – click here for the Official London Theatre information stub.

I recall being most impressed by the performances and the production. Also, the play did its job of getting me and Janie talking about its big issues for the rest of the weekend. Yet this didn’t feel like premier league David Hare to me; I felt there was something lacking in the play.

It was that sort of play/production – influential people were supposed to talk about it but not all that many people got to see it. Janie and I saw a preview, so had every right to wax lyrical from an informed perspective and from the outset.

What good news for everyone that Janie and I tend to keep our counsel to ourselves on such matters.

Well worth seeing.

Waste by Harley Granville Barker, Almeida Theatre, 18 October 2008

This one turned out to be a bit of an Alleyn’s alum-fest, with Sam West directing and Nancy Carroll performing. But that won’t be the reason we booked it.

Janie and I have been Almeida members for donkeys yonks – indeed I have been going there fairly regularly since the late 1980s.

This looked like a cracking production on paper, so we’d have had no hesitation in booking it.

The Almeida is great on archiving its productions, so details of the production, some good pictures and extracts from the reviews are all there to be seen – saving me the trouble – click here.

We agree with all of that lot. It was a cracking production of a rather wordy play – Harley Granville Barker was a decent playwright but Ibsen or Strindberg he ain’t.

We were very glad to have picked this production. Seeing a lesser production of this play would have been a bit of a waste.

Kicking A Dead Horse by Sam Shepard, Almeida Theatre, 7 September 2008

A rare visit to the theatre on a Sunday – rare time for a theatre show too; 18:00.

The Almeida had a short run of this short piece by Sam Shepard – click here for the Almeida resource on this production; yes, Almeida on-line stuff goes back this far!

This was a joint production with The Abbey Theatre in Dublin; hence the excellent Stephen Rea.

Our view; certainly not Shepard at his best but Stephen Rea would probably hold our attention while painting a ceiling.

Fast Labour by Steve Waters, Hampstead Theatre, 20 June 2008

We thought this was a good play and production, a rare hit in our view during the Anthony Clark era. Perhaps the fact that it was a West Yorkshire Playhouse import helped.

Topical then, topical at the time of writing this Ogblog piece (December 2016), the play is the story of a Ukrainian migrant worker and the exploitative gangmasters he comes up against.

Another of those plays and productions that shocked us and got us thinking all weekend. Friday evening again too, making it quite hard work after a week’s work but never mind. Janie and I had taken sustenance at Harry Morgans early evening before the play, as was our wont when going to the Hampstead in those days.

No Hampstead stub to be found from those days, but there is an Official London Theatre stub – click here.

An interesting interview with the playwright Steve Waters is available – click here or below:

We’ve enjoyed his work before, not least World Music at the Donmar, which is probably the main reason why we booked to see Fast Labour.