Posts Tagged ‘ Tricycle theatre ’

A Butcher of Distinction, Cock Tavern Theatre: review

Since I saw this play The Cock Tavern have had to suspend all their shows because of a dispute with the council over their entertainment license. See their website for the latest.

By Rob HayesCock Tavern Theatre Rob Hayes
Directed by Ned Bennett

The Cock Tavern Theatre in Kilburn is getting a bit of a reputation for gore. Barely a moment went by during the recent Edward Bond season without someone being murdered on stage. And there is a touch of the Edward Bond to this new play by Rob Hayes.

The scenario as the lights go up is: two recently orphaned boys sort through their father’s things. Their estranged papa has just killed their mother before killing himself. He has also sold off everything that belonged to this once aristocratic family, “including the art collection”. The twin boys are left with nothing and have come down to London, where their father spent most of his time, to salvage what they can. One is a goatherd and one is the butcher of the title. They have cut-glass accents and say things like “old boy” and wear tweed.

Ned Bennett’s production doesn’t apologise for the absurdist strain in Hayes’ script: in fact Bennett adds pauses to highlight the black humour in lines like “Don’t move Hugo. Stay still and let the man stroke your face.”

“The man” is Teddy, played by a sinister Michael Gould, a gigolo – a fact that becomes clear to the audience long before the boys realise (although they probably don’t know the word).

Sam Swann as the younger of the twins (by 10 minutes) could not be wetter behind the ears. His wide, dark eyes seem to take up half of his face and his snub nose is straight out of Enid Blyton. Ciarán Owens is the older, taller, stronger, more dominating brother, Hartley. He runs his fingers through his greasy hair and is constantly on edge. Swann and Owens both give finely tuned performances and their exchanges capture the contradiction always present in sibling relationships – constant bickering tempered by deep-seated affection.

Both characters appear to have stepped straight out of a Nancy Mitford novel, however, and are entirely unbelievable. No one refers to parties as “hootenannies” anymore or refers to Indian people as “dusky”. But the problem wasn’t that these characters were too absurd but that the rest of the play wasn’t absurd enough.

By far the most captivating scene of the play is the last one, in which Hayes evokes Renaissance writers like Middleton and Ford in the more gruesome touches. And there is more than a whiff of Sweeney Todd. The utterly bizarre but compelling last 10 minutes involve a sheep costume, a walking stick, a meat cleaver and a straw boater. And it is brilliant. Obviously Hayes couldn’t have pitched the whole play at this level and the structure of the work does drive towards the dénouement. But Hugo and Hartley seem to have strolled in to the play from a different universe and the piece would perhaps have had more force if the setting (a London flat), the other characters mentioned and even Teddy, were a touch more ridiculous.

This review originally appeared on The Public Reviews

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Lucrezia Borgia, ENO: review

ENO, Coliseum
Dir: Mike Figgis
ENO Lucrezia

Mike Figgis, who directed the film Leaving Las Vegas, has turned to opera. With mixed results. Donizetti’s, Lucrezia Borgia has everything a director could wish for: rape, murder, incest and tragedy. It’s a gift, in short, and an over-excited Figgis throws everything at this sumptuous production. The evening drips with jewels and velvet, but instead of being elegant and graceful, the production stumbles under its own voluptuousness.

Things get off to a bizarre start, with a film apparently in homage to the Twilight franchise. According to the director’s note in the programme, the footage is supposed to fill in the background details of Lucrezia’s life. The result is an eye-brow raising mixture of budget soft porn and medieval morality play. Such a simplistic “whore-of-Babylon” view of Catholicism has not been expounded since the Mystery plays and such blatant anti-Popery sits awkwardly next to Donizetti’s nuanced work.

Three more films punctuate the evening but they are so different from Donizetti’s version of the story in style and tone that they add nothing but momentary titillation (this production is definitely not for kids). The Lucrezia in the short films, played by Katy Saunders, is so completely two-dimensional and different from Claire Rutter’s brilliant representation on the stage that many of my fellow audience members were utterly confused.

Lucrezia Borgia

Further confusion is caused by Figgis’ decision to turn the male “trouser role” of Orsini into a woman. Traditionally, these parts are male characters but sung by women (like the princes in modern pantomime, for example). Figgis’ clear impatience with this convention means we are presented with a female Orsini – Elizabeth DeShong in the role wears a corset, high heels and has long wavy hair – but who wears men’s clothes, talks like the other men and is supposed to be a soldier. An unnecessary and confusing change.

All that aside, the music is magnificent. Claire Rutter in the lead role is both hateful and tender: she lurks in the shadows like a spectre, aware of her own powerlessness but adept at getting what she wants. Rutter’s Lucrezia is not the caricature villain of Figgis’ film – and thank goodness. She is a complex woman and Rutter’s voice manages to suggest years of repressed emotion much more effectively than tens of Figgis’ background films could have done. Her first aria, as she gazes at her sleeping long-lost son is masterful and her argument with her husband, Alfonso (sung by Alastair Miles), bristles with tension and resentment. Michael Fabiano as her son, Gennaro, is desperate and pleading, jovial and amorous and steals the second Act with his opening aria.

The orchestra, conducted by Paul Daniel, is energetic and bright – just the thing for Donizetti – and the horns are particularly strong. The musical aspects of the evening are brilliant – it’s just a shame the staging lets them down. Figgis is new to opera – and his production reflects this. The set (by Es Devlin) is magnificent and the costumes beautiful but it is as if Figgis has created his idea of opera – all extravagance and gold leaf – rather than looking at the work itself.3 Comedy Masks

Broken Glass, The Tricycle

The Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn
Director: Iqbal Khan

“It’s as if she knows some truth that other people are blind to.” Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass, set in 1938, is a study of race and racism, the Political and the personal. At the heart of it all sits a woman, in seemingly perfect health, paralysed from the waist down because of what she reads in the papers.

The title refers to the infamous Kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass”, in Nazi Germany. After seeing images from that night, Sylvia Gellburg – a jewish woman – becomes paralysed – despite living 3,000 miles awayAntony Sher (Philip Gellburg) and Lucy Cohu (Sylvia Gellburg) photo Tristram Kenton in Brooklyn, New York. She is suffering from “hysterical paralysis” but neither her husband, her doctor, nor her sister are sure why.

Antony Sher takes the central role of Phillip Gellburg – the black-suited, unimaginative mortgage specialist married to Sylvia – in Iqbal Khan’s production. Sher’s voice is full of the emotion that Gellburg is unable to express: it tremors as he tries to find the right words. Hair slicked back, neck stuffed into his shirt, he is every bit the “prune” that his wife describes. Sher makes this play: Gellburg is a bore and yet in Sher’s hands he is brilliantly, endlessly fascinating.

Miller’s play is saturated with Jewish culture – Yiddish words are sprinkled throughout and Khan makes sure all the characters are acutely conscious of their “jewishness”. Not least Gellburg himself, who repeatedly tries to hide his too-obviously-Jewish face. Lucy Cohu, as the paralysed Sylvia Gellburg, could not be more Jewish: her gestures, her softly undulating intonation, her throwaway Yiddish. All these combine to create an ideal: she is the image of a Jewish woman. But, of course, as Miller makes us realise, that’s all it is: an image.

The third character in the play’s central triangle is Dr Harry Hyman. In the role, Nigel Lindsay is a jolly GP, all firm hand-shakes and bed-side manner. By the end of the play, Hyman is well out of his depth: and Lindsay does not shrink from showing this. Emily Bruni is forthright as Sylvia’s even-more-Jewish sister while Madeleine Potter as the doctor’s wife manages to create a complex character from very little material. It’s a pity, though, that we don’t see more of Brian Protheroe – he’s rather wasted in the small part of Gellburg’s boss.

As well as having a simply stellar cast, Khan’s production is brilliantly put together. Mike Britton’s design manages to make the Tricycle’s stage appear both bigger than it actually is and give a sense of Sylvia’s claustrophobia. The peeling walls hint at a mental institution; a cellist (Laura Moody) plays angular melodies while floating ethereally behind a misty screen.

Miller’s premise is brilliant and this cast was never going to let it down. Accents do slip occasionally and undoubtedly the acting is over the top – but then so is the play. Khan’s production leaves you with the somewhat uncomfortable feeling that you’ve looked at your own life through a spotless and powerful lens.

Broken Glass is on at The Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn until 27 November.

This review first appeared in the Willesden and Brent Times on 13 October 2010.

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

  • Educating Rita, Trafalgar Studios, review

    Willy Russell’s Educating Rita is a creature of its time – very much rooted in 1980s Liverpool. Despite this, its central theme – the desire for knowledge and self-improvement – is universal. It’s a pity, then, that Jeremy Sams’ production, which transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory in July, is ultimately unfulfilling.

    The Pygmalion-like story follows Rita as she tries to “learn everything” by enrolling on an Open University course. Frank, her tutor, may be “a crazy mad piss-artist who wants to throw his students out of the window” but nevertheless the two strike up a close friendship.

    All the action takes place in one room and Peter McKintosh’s set is a feast for the eyes. This is the most realistic of dons’ offices: from the stacks of tattered books, to the wonky swivel chair and concealed whisky bottles. Like Rita, the audience can’t help but gaze admiringly from one dusty object to another in awe.

    The inhabitant of this time-capsule of an office is Tim Pigott-Smith’s Frank. Leering at Rita, Pigott-Smith is just the wrong side of creepy uncle. While Frank is an undeniably flawed character, this version elicits no empathy from the audience and with the exception of one wonderfully lit, poignant scene in which he tries to ring Rita at home, he is barely likeable.

    Laura Dos Santos as Rita manages to hold the stage well, though convinces more as the “educated” Rita than the skittish woman we encounter at the beginning. Despite swallowing a couple of punch-lines she does a good line in earnest nervousness, although her friendship with the pathetic Frank is essentially unbelievable. Dos Santos, a relative newcomer, deserves credit for managing to make the role her own – despite the inevitable comparison with Julie Walters’ film portrayal.

    In the end, however, this production fails to meet the demands of the play or transcend the monotony of the one-room setting. Russell’s script trembles with humanity and is capable of moving an audience both to tears of joy and sadness. Sams’ production is a competent rendition but ultimately fails to tug the necessary heartstrings.

    3/5

    What’s On this Week

    Love on the Dole, by Walter Greenwood and Ronald Gow, Finborough Theatre

    Walter Greenwood’s tale of 1930s Salford in the midst of mass unemployment and poverty.

    “With their father out of work, the burden of keeping the family together falls to Sally Hardcastle and her brother, Harry, as they desperately fight to break free from the shackles of poverty.”

    Cosi fan Tutte, by Mozart, Royal Opera House

    Jonathan Miller’s updated production of Mozart’s classic – if rather anti-feminist – tale of the fickle nature of women. This ultra-modern production apparently even involves iphones.

    Blood and Gifts, by J T Rogers, National Theatre

    Originally seen in a shorter version in The Tricycle Theatre’s The Great Game season.

    “1981. As the Soviet army burns its way through Afghanistan and toward the critical Pakistani border, CIA operative Jim Warnock is sent to try and halt its bloody progress. Joining forces with a larger than life Afghan warlord, and with the Pakistani and British secret services, Jim spearheads the covert struggle.”

    House of Games, by David Mamet, adapted by Richard Bean, Almeida Theatre

    David Mamet’s thriller about the con, high-stakes poker and gambling, adapted for the stage by Richard Bean.

    “This is a confidence game, not because you give me your confidence, but because I give you mine.”

    A Disappearing Number, by Complicite, Novello Theatre

    A revival of Complicite’s 2007 play about mathematical patterns and puzzles and the men who spent their lives pondering them. This production will also be broadcast as part of the NT Live season on 14 October.

    Just the ticket: the dizzying world of theatre discounts

    Since moving to London last December I have got to grips with Oyster cards, am au fait with engineering works and know where to buy the best cup of tea.* But one aspect of life in the capital still confounds and frustrates: theatre ticketing.

    Of course, actually getting a ticket couldn’t be simpler – there are countless websites, ticket booths and touts – not to mention the theatre box offices themselves. But for those of us without a considerable disposable income – for those of us who have had to stoop to the level of Sainsbury’s basic curry sauce (9p a jar) – turning up and asking for whatever’s available is not an option.

    And yet, for anyone who knows their Coward from their Chekov, living in London is like being in a giant sweet shop: where all the brightly-coloured goodies are tightly sealed in seemingly impenetrable glass jars.

    And so we enter the dimly lit, badly sign-posted world of cheap theatre tickets. (As a guideline: I aim to spend no more than £10 per ticket.)

    Widening accessibility to the theatre is not a top priority for this government. And given the mammoth task they’ve set themselves of decreasing the deficit by slashing public spending, one can understand, if not support their view.

    But sitting in the audience for Laura Wade’s “Posh” at the Royal Court, I was struck by the uniformity of the audience – in fact, many of them would not have looked out of place in the play itself.

    Theatre is a powerful means of communicating, stimulating debate, arguing a point or simply of stirring the emotions, but its voice is muffled and its effect muted if the audience is drawn from a narrow section of society. Cheap tickets not only broaden audiences but they also serve to give theatre back its voice.

    Since the government announced the “curtailment” of the A Night Less Ordinary scheme, back in June (which offered free theatre tickets to the under 26s), things have become more challenging for the intrepid ticket hunter. But then this scheme always seemed too good to be true and indeed neither the theatres nor the theatregoers seemed to be entirely sure how the thing worked. So, although I mourn its passing, I rarely used it and am not surprised it is winding down (it will close completely in March 2011).

    So where to from here? The good news is that ANLO was only one of several ways of getting into the ticket sweetie jar. The bad news: even Benedict Cumberbatch’s recent suave incarnation of Sherlock Holmes – complete with iPhone – would have difficulty keeping track of the options.

    Charlie's dream come true: £5, non restricted view

    • The National Theatre is one of the best for cheap tickets. Their version of the ANLO scheme is called Entry Pass and once registered 15-25 year olds can get £5 tickets for all shows. The downside: it took them about a month to process my application.
    • More reliable are their day tickets (£10) – released each morning at 9.30am (but people in anoraks start queuing much earlier…). And standing tickets (£5) are usually still available at lunchtime – although the obvious drawback is having to stand, unless you manage to spot a spare seat. (This is technically NOT ALLOWED, but I won’t tell.) The NT’s Travelex tickets for £10 are a nice idea and beloved by their own publicity department but they’re snapped up quickly for most shows.
    • The Globe sells all groundling tickets for £5. Three cheers for simplicity and generosity!
    • Student discounts can get you so far but are sometimes only a matter of a couple of pounds. And many commercial theatres only decide on the day whether to offer these discounts.
    • Almost all theatres, however, have seats they have to sell cheaply because they are “restricted view”. Those two sweet words have served me well in my quest for affordable tickets. Sometimes this is only a matter of a safety rail intruding on your view and in other cases, it means you’re lucky if you glimpse the actors.
    • The Royal Opera House has £7 restricted view tickets but over half of the stage is hidden. At the Almeida on the other hand, my view was more than passable and at the Noël Coward theatre, to watch Enron, I soon forgot about the rail in front of me.
    • My prize for the best offers, however, goes to my local Tricycle theatre, who not only offer student discounts (though only on a Wednesday) but also Pay What you Can performances and discounts for residents. For anyone who qualifies as a concession (student, disabled, unemployed, OAPs), you can go to the theatre first thing on Tuesday and Saturdays and pay – well – whatever you can afford for a ticket.
    • In my experience, any website offering CHEAP THEATRE TICKETS is not worth a second glance and the traditional techniques of booking either well in advance or last minute are not by any means water-tight. You just have to know what is out there and be quick off the mark.
    • The Holy Grail, of course, is to befriend someone ON THE INSIDE. People who work for the theatres and theatre companies may have access to cheap tickets and might be allowed to pass them on. I live in hope.
    • Unfortunately, almost none of the above applies to the West End – despite seeing a show almost every week I rarely make a foray into the commercial theatres because the prices are just too darn high.

    It only remains for me to wish you luck on your explorations and keep spreading the word on those deals…

    *(V&A tea rooms IMHO).