Posts Tagged ‘ Olivier ’

What’s On this week: Highlights

The Road to Mecca, by Athol Fugard, Arcola, Studio 1

Miss Helen is facing the biggest decision of her life. After spending fifteen years transforming her house into a haven of light and colour against the desolate South African plains, a darkness has set in. Rejected by the deeply religious South African community and with only an idealistic young friend to fight for her, will Miss Helen be forced from her personal Mecca?”

Welcome to Thebes, by Moira Buffini, Olivier Theatre, National Theatre

A new play by writer-in-residence at the National Theatre Studio, Moira Buffini (whose play, Handbagged, is currently playing as part of the Tricycle’s Women, Power and Politics season).

“Faced with an impoverished population, a shattered infrastructure and a volatile army, the first democratic president of Thebes, Eurydice, promises peace to her nation. Without the aid of Theseus, the leader of the vastly wealthy state of Athens, she doesn’t stand a chance. But Theseus is arrogant, mercurial and motivated by profit.”

Manon, by Jules Massenet, conducted by Antonio Pappano, Royal Opera House

Director Laurent Pelly (who also oversaw the ROH’s La Fille du Régiment) brings Massenet’s tragic tale to the stage.

“Manon evokes in its designs and action all the colour, the life and the disturbing social underside of Paris in the 1880s, when the opera was written.

The story’s theme is familiar and powerful: a naive young woman is drawn into a world of men, torn between love and luxury, unable to resist the wrong things and paying the ultimate price.”

As You Like It / The Tempest – The Bridge Project, The Old Vic

Sam Mendes cross-Atlantic troupe tackle two of Shakespeare’s most complex plays.

As You Like It, with its pastoral setting and cross-dressing characters, has a healthy dose of mischief and mayhem. The Tempest, one of Shakespeare’s later plays, takes place on an enchanted island and simmers with repressed darkness and disaster.

Sucker Punch, by Roy Williams, The Royal Court Theatre

Roy Williams’ dynamic play about being young and Black in the 80s is getting rave reviews.

back on what it was like to be young and Black in the 80s and asks if the right battles have been fought, let alone won.
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Women Beware Women, review

Olivier Theatre, National Theatre
Dir: Marianne Elliott

Incest, rape and murder: Thomas Middleton’s Women Beware Women ticks all the gruesome boxes of Jacobean tragedy. Marianne Eliott’s production in the National’s Olivier Theatre is a feast for the eyes and gorges on the extravagance of the text. Yet in shifting the action to a more modern era, Elliott loses something of the voyeurism and callousness of Middleton’s work.

Like a seventeenth-century version of ‘Hello’ magazine, Women Beware Women brought Londoners the story of scandalous events in the Florentine Medici household. Spiced up, naturally. The Duke’s lecherous eye is drawn to the beautiful, but recently married, Bianca (Lauren O’Neil), while another young lady – Isabella (played by newcomer Vanessa Kirby) – is torn between an incestuous love for her uncle and the ridiculous buffoon she has to marry. The lynch-pin of the play, and its amoral compass is Livia, a woman who makes Lady Macbeth look docile. The finale – and I trust I am not giving too much away – is a bloodbath.

As said lynch-pin, Harriet Walker is wonderful. Her Livia is part Hedda Gabler, part Cruella de Vil. Walker revels in Livia’s solipsistic manipulations, agonising for barely a second when playing the pandar to an incestuous liaison, and hesitating even less when enabling the Duke’s rape of Bianca, by distracting Bianca’s mother-in-law with a game of chess. Elsewhere, Samuel Barnett is rather miscast as the cuckolded husband but manages wide-eyed naivety well. As Isabella’s over-loving uncle, Raymond Coulthard effortlessly commands the audience’s attention and creates the only real poignancy in this otherwise hollow tragic vision.

Design is key to this production and Lez Brotherston’s set is one of the strengths of the evening: making use of the Olivier’s rotating central disc, the set, built around a classical arch, flips between the splendour of the courts and the grubbiness of Florence’s backstreets. Olly Fox’s music helps conjure an atmosphere of corruption and decadence: sacred chants drown out the sound of screaming and bluesy jazz seduces the audience into complicity. Marianne Elliott’s decision to move the action to the Fellini-inspired 60s, however, results in confusion: the central arch bears the letters COSIMVS MEDICE. Middleton may have embellished events, but the play nevertheless depicts happenings which were all but contemporary. Elliott’s time shift seems unnecessary and detrimental: all that is left of the Medici connection is the seemingly irrelevant engraving on the arch.

During the final scene set, music, costume and dance come together to suck the audience into the gaudy melodrama. As the arch spins hypnotically, the audience catches glimpses of a brutal murder here, a mistaken identity there and the inevitable poisoned chalice. It is only in these final moments, though, that Elliott achieves something of the kitsch of Middleton’s vision.

4/5

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