Hamlet (broadcast)


seen 15 October 2015, Haydn English Cinema, Vienna

I never thought I would say this about any play, but I actually liked this production a lot better on the big screen than live in the theatre.

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seen 29 August 2015, Barbican, London

directed by Lyndsey Turner

WARNING: there will be production spoilers!

O horrible, O horrible, most horrible!

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Treasure Island


Seen January 22 2015

Haydn English Cinema, Vienna

By Robert Louis Stevenson, adapted by Bryony Lavery

Directed by Polly Findlay

Cast: Patsy Ferran, Gillian Hanna, Aidan Kelly, Helena Lymbery, Nick Fletcher, Alexandra Maher, Heather Dutton, Raj Bajaj, Lena Kaur, Daniel Coonan, David Sterne, Paul Dodds, Arthur Darvill, Jonathan Livingstone, Clair-Louise Cordwell, Angela De Castro, David Langham, Alastair Parker, Oliver Birch, Tim Samuels, Joshua James, Roger Wilson, Ben Thompson

Girls need adventures too.

Bryony Lavery adapted this classic for the NT. The original only contains one female character; in this version however, Jim is a girl and some household staff as well as pirates were changed to women, so this production wasn’t the sausage fest that can usually be expected of Treasure Island.

Patsy Ferran, who plays Jim, is one to watch. She carries the play seemingly effortless and more than holds her own against the veterans she shares the stage with. There are however two things upstaging even her: Long John Silver’s remote controlled parrot and the stage setting. From building a planetarium into the Olivier to having the ship in all its several decks high glory ascending from underneath the stage – and receiving applause for its appearance – to Silver’s leg (I’m sure Arthur Darvill was glad he was spared the common peg), everything was cleverly executed.

Speaking of the stage: when the Hispaniola made its way up, I thought that without Tyrone Guthrie and Tanya Moiseiwitsch and their vision of bringing thrust stages into modern times, stage settings in Stratford (Ontario) and the National Theatre would be so much more restricted. It’s fascinating to see what stage designers and directors come up with every time.

This was the National Theatre’s Christmas family show and it showed not just in the funniest looking spilled guts I have seen thus far, but also in little things like the discrepancy between kid-friendly sword fights and the accompanying music that would have seemed overly dramatic in other circumstances.

The performances were solid all around, from the main characters to the singer popping up once in a while. Speaking of which, a question for Canadians who have seen this broadcast: did Gordon Pinsent and Alan Doyle get cloned into one person or is it just me? That would also explain The Royal Bank of Canada being the main sponsor of the play. 😉

Watching this broadcast was a few hours well spent and just plain fun after a day at work.

City of Angels


Seen January 3 2015

Donmar Warehouse, London

Book by Larry Gelbart

Music by Cy Coleman

Lyrics by David Zippel

Directed by Josie Rourke

Cast: Sandra Marvin, Jennifer Saayeng, Kadiff Kirwan, Jo Servi, Rebecca Trehearn, Tam Mutu, Katherine Kelly, Hadley Fraser, Peter Polycarpou, Rosalie Craig, Tim Walton, Nick Cavaliere, Adam Fogerty, Marc Elliott, Cameron Cuffe, Mark Penfold, Samantha Barks

On the first Saturday of 2014, we started our theatre year with Josie Rourke’s Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse. The plan was to spend the first week of 2015 in London again anyway, so we decided to start a new tradition. Even if City of Angels turned out to be the second play we saw this year instead of the first, we still happily spent Saturday evening at the Donmar.

I’m not the biggest fan or connoisseur of musicals, but I’m always willing to try something new and in this case I was once again glad I did. I also detected a pattern of liking the ones where someone dies and being the musical version of a film noir, City of Angels ticked that box too.

Josie Rourke’s first musical production is stylish, funny, well acted and even better sung. From the costumes – I had some serious wardrobe envy, especially concerning the green dress, but I digress – to the stage setting that mainly consisted of piles of scripts and easily changeable features that allowed to switch not only to different locations in record time, but also between the world of philandering writer Stine – who has to deal with marital troubles, a movie producer and said producer’s cunning secretary – to the world of his creation Stone, a private eye hired to find an heiress under questionable circumstances with the LAPD on his heels.

The entire musical was a masterclass in lighting design. Stone’s film noir world was lit in black and white, Stine’s Technicolor. When the two men started fighting for dominance on stage during ‘You’re Nothing Without Me’, the colour scheme was a third character on stage that contributed a lot to the scene.

Hadley Fraser seemed a lot more at home as singing writer Stine than as Aufidius last year and Tam Mutu’s Stone brought a Cary Grant like presence as well as a serious set of pipes. In fact, the entire ensemble was fantastic, most  of them playing several roles in the parallel worlds and some of it even in reverse when Stine changed the script. I really would have loved to see rehearsal footage of the rewound scenes.

As for the musical numbers, they are catchy to the point that reading the song titles now when I checked if I had them right, the chorus of each title popped into my head immediately. I have no idea why this gem of a musical isn’t performed more often. Oolie/Donna’s ‘You Can Always Count On Me’, performed tongue-in-cheek by Rebecca Trehearn is another one that stayed in my ears for a few days.

If there was a cast recording and/or DVD of this production, I would buy it in a heartbeat. There might even have been singing and humming on the way back to the hotel.