Posts Tagged ‘ Olivier Theatre ’

Theatrigirl’s Weekly Highlights

As the winter chill begins to set in, here’s Theatrigirl’s list of reasons to be cheerful this week. There’s Hamlet at the National, whimsical fun at Upstairs at the Gatehouse and Anthony Sher in Arthur Miller at the Tricycle. Brave the cold and wrap yourself up in a good play…

  • Or You Could Kiss Me, Cottesloe Theatre, National TheatreInteresting new puppetry piece by Neil Bartlett about how to say goodbye: an “intimate history of two very private lives.” The puppets have been created by the same team as War Horse.

    Previews from 28 Sept

  • Burn My Heart, New Diorama TheatreAdapted from Beverley Naidoo’s novel of the same name, this production, by theatre companies Trestle and Blindeye, is part of Black History Month. The play is set during the Mau Mau uprising in 1950s Kenya and focuses on the destruction wrought by the conflict on the lives of two young boys.

    28 Sept-2 Oct

  • Hamlet, Olivier Theatre, National TheatreHamlet is this season’s “must-have” – the Crucible is also staging a production at the moment and the National have commissioned a “prequel” to Shakespeare’s work (The Prince of Denmark) which will open next week. Rory Kinnear takes the title role in Nicholas Hytner’s production in the NT’s Olivier Theatre.

    Previews from 30 Sept

  • Broken Glass, The TricycleAnthony Sher stars in Arthur Miller’s tale of guilt, love and tragedy in 1930s Brooklyn.

    Previews from 30 Sept

  • The Drowsy Chaperone, Upstairs at the GatehouseA musical within a musical. A self-conscious parody. An anonymous narrator introduces and guides the audience through his favourite musical: The Drowsy Chaperone from 1928. Frivolous frippery.

    23 Sept-31 Oct

  • Danton’s Death: review

    Olivier Theatre, National Theatre
    Dir: Michael Grandage

    Georg Büchner’s 1835 play, Danton’s Death, is an emotionally intense and deeply philosophical dissection of the cracks which opened up at the heart of the French Revolution. Georges Danton, a moderate revolutionary, began to speak out against the regime’s reliance on the guillotine and Robespierre’s increasingly tyrannical rule. Robespierre turned on his former ally and sent him to the guillotine.

    In Michael Grandage’s production of this new version of the play, by Howard Brenton, self-destruction is the order of the day. Christopher Oram’s high-walled, hexagonal set becomes a crucible in which language is the catalyst for the events of the play.

    Elliot Levey as Robespierre is reptilianly cold-blooded, manipulating the people with ease. His controlled nasal drawl is in stark contrast to Toby Stephen’s Danton. Occasionally in danger of veering into stereotype, this Danton is a high-minded libertine. Büchner’s bleak philosophy feeds into his every line and Stephens expertly communicates the fatigue and world-weariness behind the darkly comic lines. The night before his execution, sleeping in a lice-ridden cell, for example, Danton quips that it is not the lice but the worms he is worried about.

    Whilst Büchner’s men are masterpieces in psychological credibility, the few women who feature in the play are largely unconvincing. Kirsty Bushell does her best with the difficult role of Danton’s wife and Rebecca O’Mara makes what she can of the mad Lucile.

    The final coup de theatre, though rather different in tone from the rest of the piece, is truly shocking and a wonderful reminder of the power of stage-craft.

    Brenton’s version of Büchner’s classic strips the play down to its core: the people of France are banished from the stage. This is not a study of revolution, but a study of the disintegration of human relationships. In closing down Büchner’s original, Grandage and Brenton have given the text a wider relevance.


    London Assurance

    Olivier Theatre, National Theatre


    Dir: Nicholas Hytner

    Nicholas Hytner’s production of London Assurance is a master-class in frivolity and farce. Irish playwright, Dion Boucicault’s rarely-performed piece may have been written in the era of Dickens, but his characters are more Wodehouse than Bleak House. Ageing fop, Sir Harcourt Courtly (Simon Russell Beale), leaves London and travels to the country in the middle of the season to marry (and indeed meet) his betrothed, Grace Harkaway (Michelle Terry). Whilst there, however, he encounters the hunting-obsessed Lady Gay Spanker (Fiona Shaw): hilarity ensues.

    As the self-professed “weather-vane of the beau-monde”, Simon Russell Beale is delectably grotesque. He prances and poses, en pointe; his face is cartoonishly expressive. Fiona Shaw throws herself into the part of Lady Gay with abandon. She gabbles like a race commentator, slaps her horsewhip against her riding boots and whinnies like one of the mares she so adores. Both Shaw and Beale have impeccable comic timing and their shared scenes are a treat.

    Richard Briers, as Gay’s doddering husband, provides some of the best moments of the production. Michelle Terry and Paul Ready put in solid performances as the improbable young lovers, Grace Harkaway and Charles Harcout. Nick Sampson as Harcourt’s valet, Cool, is the unflustered Jeeves of the play while Tony Jayawardena is suitably annoying as country attorney, Meddle.

    Mark Thompson’s set is magnificent. His design is as much a part of the comedy as the text – from Harcourt’s plush London flat to the rugged interior of Grace’s country house, complete with rickety chandelier and unsteady animal head trophies around the walls.

    If the play has a fault, it is that it feels like a vehicle for the two central performances. But when those performances are this good, one would be a fool to care.