Ticking

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Seen 3 November 2015, Trafalgar Studio 2, London

Written and directed by Paul Andrew Williams

Last post of the year before we travel to London later this week to start off 2016 with a few days of theatre.

Unfortunately, work was insane in the last months and the one long weekend between the business trip that allowed me to see ‘Ticking’ and Christmas was spent theatre-less in Dublin, so this is extremely late but the play still haunts me after almost two months.

I didn’t know a lot about this beforehand. When I was buying the tickets for my November trip, The Commitments were a last minute decision for sentimental reasons hoping it would be fun and I was planning on seeing Mr. Foote’s Other Leg on the other free evening. While I still would have loved to see it (the continuing slightly gleeful tweets from the actors about fainting audience members are quite intriguing), I am very glad my sister ‘steered’ me towards Ticking. She desperately wanted to see this production and since she couldn’t go herself, at least this way she got a first hand report that consisted of me calling her upon leaving the theatre with the words ‘what the hell did you talk me into?!’.

Trafalgar Studio 2 is tiny, with only 98 seats, so everyone is very close to the action. The entire play takes place in a visitor’s cell of an Asian prison, where young Brit Simon (Tom Hughes) is waiting to learn if his American lawyer Richard (David Michaels) can  obtain  a suspension of his execution, which is planned for midnight. In the meantime, Simon’s parents (Niamh Cusack and Anthony Head) have one hour to say goodbye to their son.

This hour is what the audience get to witness; in this time we learn that Simon has been sentenced to death for murdering a prostitute, but we don’t know if he’s guilty or innocent. There is also no debate or judgement about the death penalty itsef, but something way more complicated: the workings of a family.

The family dynamics were acted extremely well by Hughes, Cusack and Head. Tom Hughes scared an elderly couple right next to his cell bench a couple of times with Simon’s unexpected outbursts. His performance was a tour de force throughout and I can imagine this role to be very emotionally and physically exhausting. Simon is already shaking like a leaf when things start and doesn’t stop; within the next one and a half hours (no intermission), there are not just a lot of lines, but all emotions possible. The play is in turn tragic, funny, touching, heartbreaking and shocking.

And here’s the real beauty of it: this could have been one hell of a tear jerker, milking Simon’s tragic fate for what it’s worth,  but every time the majority of the audience was on the brink of outright bawling, we were pulled back from the brink.

I don’t cry when I watch movies or series (with very few exceptions) and I am still waiting for the horror movie that actually manages to scare me because I know it’s not real. Actually, a co-worker recently asked me if anything scared me at all (clearly forgetting the times he had to heroically rescue me from wasps) and my reply was ‘people’. Having said this, Ticking and its family dynamcis were so realistic, my contact lenses didn’t dry out as they often do in theatres. Of course there is also a big difference between watching something on screen or up close, which made it only more real.

The intimate setting in this tiny studio was at the same time working brilliantly for the play and the only negative thing about it because due to the size of Studio 2, not as many people will get to see it as they should.

This production is definitely in my top 3 of this year, Tom Hughes is one to watch, Niamh Cusack broke my heart and as a fan of almost everything Joss Whedon, it was a great joy to see Anthony Head on stage, even though his character should have been tarred and feathered.

While Ticking’s run at Trafalgar Studios has ended, there is a Twitter account to keep informed about it being staged elsewhere if you are interested.

I’m off to give a piece of lamb a rosemary, thyme and garlic massage in preparation for its big debut (and dernière) as New Year’s Eve dinner tomorrow. May you all have fun journey into the New Year!

 

The Commitments

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Seen 1 November 2015, Palace Theatre London (Dernière)
Written by Roddy Doyle
Directed by Jamie Lloyd

Do you know how sometimes movies, plays or musicals open, you want to see them but can’t make it and suddenly their run is over? When The Commitments opened in 2013, I wanted to see the show, but somehow it never happened. When I noticed the day I was flying to London for a meeting the next morning was also that of the last two performances, I decided  to try my luck. Mixed reviews be damned and dernières are sometimes more fun than regular performances anyway. Continue reading

Henry V

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seen 21 October, Haydn English Cinema Vienna

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Gregory Doran

Having staged both parts of Henry IV last year, the RSC kindly brought us Henry V just in time for the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt with the same company.

Last year, I was fretting about this event in my blog posts about Henry IV part one and two because I couldn’t see Alex Hassell as king Henry V. Continue reading

Hamlet (broadcast)

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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.

Continue reading

The Importance of Being Earnest

Seen October 8 2015, Haydn English Cinema Vienna

Written by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Adrian Noble

This is my shortest review so far: this play was exactly what it said on the tin. The Importance of Being Earnest is always funny. David Suchet was a good Lady Bracknell, all other performances were solid with Michele Dotrice’s Miss Prism stealing the show. If this isn’t your first time seeing this play, it is nothing worth writing home (or online) about though.

To misquote Lady Bracknell (rather badly): one intermission is a necessity, to have two is overindulgence. I’m pretty sure the set designer could have found a way to spare us the second one. The live broadcast already started later than usual, so adding a second intermission meant we got to go home later than we did when they showed Hamlet or Coriolanus which are after all Shakespeare’s longest plays.

Just in case anyone else wondered where they had seen Michael Benz before (we did) and didn’t get around to looking him up: he was The Globe On Tour’s Hamlet a few years back, and a good one at that.

Hamlet

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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!

Continue reading