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.

Carmen Disruption by Simon Stephens, Almeida Theatre, 11 April 2015

“What was that about” said Janie after the show; proof positive that her review would not be 100% positive. “I liked bits of it but it seemed all over the place at times and I’m not really sure what it was trying to say.”

Janie has a point.

Yet it was a very entertaining play/show in many ways.

Centre stage as we walked in was a dying bull, or rather a moving facsimile of same. It remained pretty much centre stage throughout.

Men were dressed a women, women were dressed as men, it was sort of about an opera singer, sort of about a toy boy…

…read the reviews and figure it out for yourself if you wish.

Excellent Almeida resource including links to several full reviews – click here.

The reviews were more or less universally excellent. It certainly deserved the high praise for an extraordinary production.

We are big fans of Simon Stephens writing, so we delight in this play’s success, but I think we prefer it when his writing is a little more direct.

Still, we enjoyed our evening and had bragging rights for having seen this production early on.

Birdland by Simon Stephens, Royal Court Theatre, 12 April 2014

Janie and I both tend to like Simon Stephens plays, so there was little debate about booking an early sighting of this one at the Royal Court.

We enjoyed our evening, but neither of us could honestly say that this was one of Simon Stephen’s best or most memorable plays.

The play is about a rock star at the end of a long tour. The issues covered, while done well, seemed superficial compared with most of Simon Stephens’s plays. The dialogue glistened, but then what do you expect?

Here is a link to the (for some unknown reason) rather limited Royal Court resource on the play/production.

This search term – click here – will find you plenty of the (frankly, mixed) reviews.

Below is the video trailer:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon adapted by Simon Stephens, Cottesloe Theatre, 11 August 2012

I don’t normally go for adaptations of my favourite novels, but something told me this would be well worth seeing and also that Janie would like it. I was right on both counts. It was probably down to the fact that Simon Stephens was adapting it and also the stellar-looking cast and creatives boasted.

It was a fabulous evening of theatre. This adaptation deserved the plaudits it received in the press and the many transfers and re-runs that have followed.

There is even a Wikipedia entry to document the play’s progress – click here.

…and so on.

From our point of view, this was a cracking night at the theatre. It was also darned close to the 20th anniversary of our very first date, in August 1992, which happened to be at the Cottesloe. There’s cute for you.

I Am The Wind by Jon Fosse, Young Vic, 21 May 2011

This short Norwegian play ticked most if not all of our boxes, in theory.

Adapted by Simon Stephens, whom we very much admire. Two fine actors in Tom Brooke and Jack Laskey. An astonishing, watery set…

…yet somehow the piece failed to move us much. To us, it felt like a slight piece with ideas above its station.

The critics loved it – click here for a search term that provides links to all the right places.

You can see a vid clip if you click through this link from this production at the Festival Avignon.

Paul Taylor in The Independent – click here – claimed not to much like Jon Fosse but found this production one of the best things he’d ever seen.

We didn’t get that “extra something” from the experience, but what do we know?

Wastwater by Simon Stephens, Royal Court Theatre, 2 April 2011

We do both like a bit of Simon Stephens. We’re also partial to Linda Basset’s acting. This piece reminded us why on both counts.

We actually thought it was brilliantly acted and produced throughout.

Here is a link to the Royal Court resource on this play/production.

Three seemingly different stories that sort-of overlap and sort-of don’t. It’s hard to explain why, but Simon Stephens has a way with drama that simply keeps you gripped and thinking throughout.

Here is a very interesting behind the scenes short film from Sky Arts, including interviews with Simon Stephens, Linda Basset and several of the other cast and creatives, about Wastwater:

Royal Court – Wastwater from daniel bougourd on Vimeo.

Here is a link to a search term for reviews and other resources. The reviews are not universally great – some rated it very good, some rated it poor and cold-hearted.

We rated it very highly.

Harper Regan by Simon Stephens, Cottesloe Theatre, 19 April 2008

So there’s more to Uxbridge than the cricket ground.

Seriously, Janie and I both really liked this play. Simon Stephens is one of our favourite playwrights these days and this one worked really well in the Cottesloe for us.

The eponymous lead is a big part; Lesley Sharp is a correspondingly big part actress who was able to deliver big time on this play/production.

Very shocking in parts and also very moving.