Skylight

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Live recording from July 17, 2014 at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London

NTL broadcast Oct 23, Haydn English Cinema Vienna

Written by David Hare

Directed by Stephen Daldry

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bill Nighy, Matthew Beard

Teacher Kyra gets visited by two ‚ghosts‘ from her past in her small east London flat. First Edward Sargeant bursts in, bringing beer and rap CDs and accuses her of leaving his family for no reason. He tells her of the death of his mother and that his father has been impossible to live with since.

Shortly after Edward leaves and Kyra has just started to prepare dinner, Tom Sargeant and his bottle of whisky make an unexpected appearance. In the next hours, while the spaghetti dinner is actually being cooked on stage, Kyra and Tom are not just talking through how they met, became a family and what then happened that tore them apart, but are also throwing a lot of uncomfortable truths at each other. Adding to the already existing conflict is wealthy Tom accusing Kyra of self-punishment and mocking her now unglamorous lifestyle while Kyra is calling him out on being out of touch with reality outside his well-to-do world.

While the production is very 1990s (please don’t bring that kind of jeans jacket back, ever), the play itself is anything but. Even as just a frequent visitor to London who keeps up with the news it is very clear to me that the gap between the Toms and the Kyras is growing bigger every year. Playwright David Hare went into detail regarding the relevance of the play in today’s Britain during the interval interview with Emma Freud and earned applause from the audience for being so frank.

If it sounds like a bleak evening, I can assure you that David Hare didn’t save his humour for interviews; there is also plenty in the play. It’s funny, sad and thought-provoking in equal measure. At one point during the play when Bill Nighy went into one of Tom’s rapid-fire diatribes, I just thought ‘holy ****, that’s a lot of lines there’.

Carey Mulligan (who is on stage the entire time), Bill Nighy and Matthew Beard make their characters believable and real, preventing them from becoming caricatures, which could easily have happened with the two Sargeants who seem to have a knack for drama.

If you have the chance to catch a re-run, go for it and maybe have some spaghetti first.

The Unbelieable Tragedy of Richard III. A Comedy by Michael Niavarani

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Die unglaubliche Tragödie von Richard III.: Eine Komödie von Michael Niavarani

Seen September 17, 2014 at Globe Wien (Marx Halle)

Written by William Shakespeare, Michael Niavarani

Cast: Michael Niavarani, Hemma Clementi, Eva Maria Frank, Susanna Preissl, Pia Strauss, Stefan Altenhofer, Jakob Elsenwenger, Georg Leskovich, Bernhard Murg, Michael Pink, Oliver Rosskopf, Manuel Witting u.a.

Directed by Vicki Schubert

This is an English language review about a Shakespeare(ish) play performed partly in German, partly in Austrian dialect at The Globe. No, not that Globe. Confused yet? Welcome to my world.

What happens when one of Austria’s most beloved comedians suddenly discovers William Shakespeare? He and his manager build a version of the Globe stage (not as a thrust stage however) into Vienna’s historic Marx Halle (formerly Rinderhalle – beef hall – due to its past as part of a slaughterhouse and also Vienna’s first wrought iron building) and include an entire pub while they are at it. I never thought I’d sit in the middle of my home town, half-pint of London Pride in hand and watch Richard III as a comedy.

Michael Niavarani pulled a Blackadder using Shakespeare’s play as background for the shenanigans of two original characters; a cook in York’s army (Bernhard Murg) and a shoemaker (Michael Niavarani) who haven’t seen each other since their shared childhood, run into each other by chance on the battlefield and decide to stick together and try their luck at court displaying flexible allegiances.

Even for those who have never seen or read Richard III before, the distinction between Shakespeare’s characters and Niavarani’s original ones is made very clear in the difference of speech. While the former are using language you would expect watching the original play, the two old friends speak in Austrian (Viennese) dialect and mock the nobles for their parlance.

The actors playing the classic characters, especially Michael Pink in the titular role, are admirably straight men and women to the hilarious and over the top jesters that are William Forrest (probably named thusly in order to include the good old ‘run, Forrest’ joke) and Fredrick Dighton. Adding to the merry cast – most of whom play several characters – is a troupe of parcours and stunt artists called ‘ape connection’.

Just like in the aforementioned Blackadder, there is a lot of license in regards to the story of the original play, so even seasoned Shakespeare enthusiasts don’t really know what’s coming next. It’s bawdy and at times a bit disgusting, but always funny. Probably just like the audience at the original Globe would have wanted it.

The only negative thing about the whole thing was that the stage was built too low. There were seats where the groundlings would have been in The Globe and if something was happening on the floor of the stage, only the front rows and the ascending seats in the back could see it. We were in row 7 and sometimes couldn’t see what was going on despite neither of us being short.

Long story short: If you ever wondered what would happen if you gave CPR to a severed head, this play is for you.