Review: Misterman by Edna Walsh

If you’re a regular theatre-goer like me, it not very often that you are suddenly re-awakened to that feeling of seeing an amazing piece of theatre for the first time again.

That is precisely what happened at 2pm, on Saturday 21st of April 2012, at the National Theatre.

With roles in big hollywood blockbusters such as Batman Begins and Inception , as well as smaller indie films such as 28 Days Later and Perrier’s Bounty, it isn’t hard to think that recruiting Cillian Murphy to appear in a one-man show in the Theatreland that is London, was nothing more than a solid financial decision for the National. However, it is simply an astonishing return to the home of Cillian’s career (his debut performance in Edna Walsh’s Disco Pigs (1997) put him on the map for stardom). Theatre is what this actor does best, and he demonstrates exactly how during the astonishing 90-minute play, Misterman.

Cillian performing a beating on himself.

We see Cillian emerge as Thomas Magill in this vast empty-looking stage, actually filled with lots of surprises (I shan’t spoil them for you). As he runs around the stage, he takes us through a day in the life of Thomas, embodies all the characters that he meets with heightened sensitivity and meticulous detail. We see him as this God-loving, socially awkward boy trapped in the body of a (rather gorgeous) man, trying to ensure that his hometown of Inishfree stays true to the word of God, but instead remains disgusted by their immoralities.

There is something terribly Beckettian about the performance: the use of tape recorders to voice certain character interactions has the same haunting quality of Krapps Last Tape (1958), and the cyclical feeling we get from Thomas replaying his life in such detail ‘car…. dog…. the door slams behind me…’ has that purgatory nature associated with Waiting For Godot (1953).

The highlight (quite literally) was the wonderful lighting used onstage: the flourescent crosses used to represent the graveyard were simultaneously reminiscent of the red light district/Vegas lights that are representative of everything Thomas truly hated about modern-day society. This wonderful contrast provided the metaphoric representation of the glorification of religion, and worked beautifully within the scene where Thomas visits his father.

It is a must-see piece of theatre: whether you’re an acting fan or a technical geek, this show has so much depth through its simplicity. God damnit I wished I was involved with it.

 

Review: Playhouse/Definitely the Bahamas by Martin Crimp

As a 40th birthday present to the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, a lovely and rare in-the-round space, Martin Crimp decided the direct a double bill of Playhouse (2011) and Definitely the Bahamas (1987). Its always interesting when a writer decides to direct his own plays, because in theory, it is their vision: their words coming to life as they wished them to.

I have a huge love for Crimp, and he is a writer with a unique voice. Not many writers have a term coined for them, such as the ‘Pinter Pause’, but if something is found to be ‘Crimpy’ or ‘Crimp-esque’, it tends to be somewhere between darkly humorous and midly disturbing.This is certainly true of our first of the double bills; Playhouse.

A story of a couple in 13 extracts; each dealing with a different aspect of the couples relationship. We jump from presents of dogshit to swing dancing to accidental drug takings, all whilst they attempt to build themselves the perfect home, filled with Ikea furniture and aspiration to boot. I have to admit that for me, the actors’ (Lily James and Obi Abili) chemistry was very forced, especially after seeing the commitment and believeability of Mil & Richard’s relationship laid out to us in Definitely the Bahamas, played astonishingly by Kate Fahy and Ian Gelder. Also, the transitions were questionable: highlighting the gap where great playwrighting does not ultimately mean great dramaturgy. However, the use of space and props was lovely, and coloured the action just enough without taking away from the magic of the dialouge. Each scene had a different pace, and credit where it’s due, the sensitivity to the ‘realness’ of actions onstage made it all that more believeable.

Definitely the Bahamas, originally a radio play and here presented as a live recording of one, had the right amount of Brecht to make it expectional. Nothing overdone, yet nothing was simple: each line kept us interested and engaged, wondering where the real story of the subtext was going, amidst the middle-class-dinner-part-chat relatable to the typical Orange Tree Theatre goer. What was even more haunting about the production, was the fact that the very people it tried to ridicule were the people that were chuckling along in the audience: I wonder how they felt when they arrived home, and the true story began to dawn on them.

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening. But Crimp, stick to the writing, and leave the directing up to me.

Review: Wasted by Kate Tempest

A talent that is certainly not 'Wasted'.

On Tuesday evening, I found myself on the overground going back to Deptford, a part of London that I have grown to love so much, mainly for the beautiful Albany Theatre & Arts Centre. I was so exited, because of one the most inspiring young voices, who’d already concquered the world of poetry and music, was about to make her playwrighting debut.

Commisioned & directed by Paines Plough’s Co-Artistic Director James Grieve, the play debuted at Lattitude Festival 2011; and since then has gone through countless re-drafts, added and subsequently removed characters and a small tour of local arts centres. However, the dedication and time supplied by PP means that the quality of the work is at a position where every line, every fleeting moment, is beautiful and poignant.

Tempest’s provocative delivery filters through her actors; thoughts we’ve all had about society, and where we’re at in our own lives, are simply and clearly delivered to us all. Its amazing being in an audience when you feel you’re being personally spoken to, but when you look around you realise people of all ages, classes & races are feeling the same thing. She maticulously crafts her words to echo conversations we’ve all had in the middle of a pub or club (I would image the research was particularly fun to do), and through this delivers the low key humour that connects with us all.

However, it isn’t just the words that create this for us. Through the wonderful score written and performed live by Kwake Bass, and the visuals, shot by Mathy & Fran that allow us to see into the very soul of the characters; the words become truly lived.

Cary Crankson (Ted), aka my friend Steven B, finds the rip-roaring hillarity in “that-guy-from-the-office-who-is-always-in-the-pub-after”.

Ashley George (Dan), pictured above, aka my friend Sean L, creates the complex layers of “that-mate-that-never-grew-up”.

Lizzy Watts (Charlotte), aka my friend Catilian H, is that sweet, petite, hardwordking but frustrated “one-that-everyone-wants”.

It is an abolsute must see, for anyone that feels like London is their city. You don’t have to be a ‘theatre’ buff to enjoy this play: just go, enjoy & be inspired.

Review: Il Pixel Rosso – The Great Spavaldos

A flying trapeze artist? Me? Ok...

Last Friday I had the pleasure of going on an incredible journey into the world of circus acts.

Without realising, I had booked to see Il Pixel Rosso’s “The Great Spavaldos” on Friday the 13th… now i’m not supersitious, but I found the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as I stared at my ticket.

At the box office, I am asked to fill out a declaration form, to explain that I do not suffer from a fear of heights, and have no heart issues.

I started to think I might have.

I booked on my own, so as i arrived I was greeted by a friendly face, saying “so… we’re in this together eh?”. I had not realised we went in two at a time.

I felt even more nervous.

However, from the moment the experience began, the supporting artists were warm, friendly and reassuring, making the experience so much greater. I don’t want to give too much away, as so much of the joy comes from immersing yourself in the various tasks asked of you: the attention to detail from the company meant that the experience entices every sense, truly immersing yourself within the character and action.

The technology used throughout is inevitably fiddly, and the artists did their best to make it as simple and clean as possible, however moments of switching headphones and adjusting headsets can take the magic out of the experience.

But why do i find myself wanting to return?

Well, my legs were like jelly as we were thrown out of the world we had invested so much in. I found myself on the tube home before I had even realised I left the Roundhouse. It certainly takes a special kind of theatre to take that long to sink in.