The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide To Capitalism And Socialism With A Key To The Scriptures by Tony Kushner, Hampstead Theatre, 22 October 2016

I’d forgotten how much Tony Kushner likes to write long plays. Perhaps the unfeasibly long title for this play (which Kushner helpfully abbreviates to an Apple-device-like nickname “iHo”) should have reminded me.

But I did remember how superb Angels in America had been in 1993, even though I only saw the first part of that seven-hour epic as I was so poorly the day Janie and I were supposed to see the second half that Janie went to see it alone while I spent the evening (as indeed I had spent the whole day) on the potty.

It had been a long wait for the next Tony Kushner and I snapped up these Hampstead tickets with relish when I saw the superb-looking cast and creatives list for iHo.

Before I forget, here is a link to the Hampstead’s excellent resource on this production of iHo. 

Still, come the weekend of our visit, when I saw that the production was listed as 3 hours and 30 minutes long, my heart sank a bit and I started to formulate contingency, bail-out plans, just in case it was all going to be too much. Two intervals give you extra scope for polite bail-out, of course.

Neither Janie nor I tend to have as much attention span as we once had. Perhaps it is a sign of the times; younger folk these days hardly ever finish a…or perhaps our increasing age decreases our patience – ’nuff said.

I needn’t have worried. The play has plenty going on to hold my attention for that length of time. Janie was less sure about the play than I was, but she was very taken with the performances, the design and the directing.

We ran into John and Linda – a couple we often see at the theatre and who live near the flat in Notting Hill Gate – for the first time in ages – chatting to them made both intervals whizz by.

The play might pick up some criticism for being a long, meandering ramble through an essentially simple plot about a family and their brownstone homestead in Brooklyn. But of course the play covers more than that; homosexuality, capitalism, socialism (and indeed Marxism) naturally show up; to a greater or lesser extent defining characteristics of the complex personalities of the chaotic protagonists.

Central to the plot is the overt and outspoken desire of the central character, a retired longshoreman/union-leader played excellently by David Calder, voluntarily to commit an act of euthanasia. His bisexual employment-lawyer daughter, the equally excellent Tamsin Greig, an intriguing opponent to the idea, matching the old git with her advocacy and connivances to try to steer the outcome her way, metaphorical punch for metaphorical punch.

The rest of the family and their entourages were also wonderfully depicted by this excellent cast. Family row scenes tended to have several people yelling at the same time, yet, through superb writing/directing, I felt that we were getting to hear and follow everything we were supposed to.

Anyway, we saw this production in preview, so the reviews are yet to show. The good ones will (in the fullness of time) be on the Hampstead resource for this production – here’s the link again. You’ll have to find poor/indifferent ones for yourselves unless I decide to return to this page and add some.

I thought this play/production was great and well worth seeing. Janie, less sure about the play, still thought it worth seeing. We both found a light, shawarma supper afterwards well worth eating.

 

 

You For Me For You by Mia Chung, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 9 January 2016

We attended the last night of this quite remarkable piece at the Royal Court.  It was also the last night downstairs for Linda by Penelope Skinner , so the place was swarming with luvvies, presumably supporting their friends and/or sticking around for an end of run party.

We spotted Sam West (who I knew reasonably well at school) and Laura Wade in the bar.  We also saw Tamsin Greig and Richard Leaf, plus Benedict Wong and his date.  These latter four ended up in our upstairs show sitting close by.

Janie asked, “is that Ai Wei Wei?” just after Benedict Wong  squeezed past us, to which I said “yes,” thinking she meant “is that the bloke who played Ai Wei Wei?” rather than mistaking him for the Chinese artist himself. “Good job I didn’t congratulate him on his exhibition at the Royal Academy,” said Janie later when the confusion came to light, “he’d have taken me for a right divvy”.

As always now with the Royal Court (and many other theatres), the archive contains pretty much everything you want to know about the production including the reviews, which were universally and deservedly very good indeed.

This is not an evening of light entertainment, but it is a wonderful piece of original theatre, with superb acting, stage design, movement and all.  It deserves a transfer and sighting by a much larger and wider audience, but the bleak North Korean subject matter will, sadly, probably prevent that from happening.

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.