Oh, chums. So much theatre, so little time. Qu’est-ce qui se passe, I hear you ask yourselves, dans la vie de la Squeen? Eh bien, I shall tell all.
Charles III – Almeida; May 2014
Terrible confession to make: I was tired like a zombie and ended up leaving at the interval because I couldn’t concentrate on this at all. I’m sure it was terribly good; I did notice interesting use of language.
The Winter’s Tale – ROH; May 2014
I obsessed and obsessed and was rewarded by the opportunity to spend a hilarious amount of money on a ticket to see this again. Fun fact: seats in the stalls circle are great. I continue to love this; the third act wasn’t as weak as I remembered, though I still think the question of Perdita’s identity was resolved too easily and I found Paulina’s role difficult to entirely figure out.
A View from the Bridge – Young Vic; May 2014
This was an amazingly good production. They maintained so much tension throughout the entire play that I almost died (that is barely an exaggeration). I did actually do it at school about a million years ago, but couldn’t really remember much about it. The design was very minimal, basically just a shower and then, later, a deluge of blood, but it needed nothing more. I loved one scene in particular, where Eddy and his wife and Catherine and the brothers were sitting around, having a superficially innocuous conversation and the tension was unbearable!
Privacy – Donmar Warehouse; May 2014
This was a very inventive, interesting play (from the same playwright as what brought us This House) about internet privacy and Edward Snowden and the uses of meta-data etc. Semi-interactive, great use of screens and the internet, loved the comedy retelling and misinterpreting of Romeo and Juliet via meta-data. I did feel it tailed off a bit at the end, to be honest, which was a shame.
Romeo & Juliet – Sadler’s Wells; May 2014
This was… interesting. It was the Scottish National Ballet, who decided to do a production of R&J set in the early c20th, which is fine. They did good things with the music – a bit of sax amongst the Prokofiev, using trolley bells etc. I really liked that, it was very effective. Sadly, the choreography really didn’t fit the music at all – it was a bit weird. Lady Capulet was kind of crazy. Romeo and Juliet – particularly Romeo – were a bit meh, so I didn’t really give a shit about them. On the other hand, Mercutio and Tybalt were GREAT. Basically, the ballet should have been about them. I feel that’s quite often the case.
Titus Andronicus – Globe; May 2014
Ah, the famous swooning production. And people did swoon. It was very distracting, and other audience members kept using it as an excuse to have a chat. But I loved this, it was great. Ridiculous amounts of drama and gore. Titus was mental. Tamora was great (and also a bit mental). Possibly best of all was Ralph (?) from Knight of the Burning Pestle as the brilliantly barking emperor. This was rather a visceral production – Lavinia’s fate was enough to turn anyone’s stomach; what happened to her was dreadful – but I loved how she completely got on board the Andronici’s revenge boat. The satisfaction of the ending was great.
Serenade | Sweet Violets | DGV – ROH; May 2014
Serenade: to be honest, the one thing’s that remained with me about this was the excellent hairography. I did enjoy it at the time. Sweet Violets: I really wanted to like this, and I did like parts, but I don’t think it really worked as a whole. The narrative was in parts too complex. Whilst I enjoyed Steven McRae leaping around as the spirit of Jack the Ripper, I’m not convinced that that theme really worked. The whole thing left me a bit underwhelmed to be honest. DGV – loved this like pie. The set, the music, the choreography all worked so well together. I can’t work out, though, whether Watson and Osipova just keep dancing things where they’re supposed to look like they’re fighting or they just don’t quite trust each other or what.
The Dream | Connectome | The Concert – ROH; June 2014
Dream: so, on the whole I did really enjoy this. Puck was brilliant – the choreography was great and I think it was performed really well. I also loved Helena’s role, that was funny (though I always feel latent guilt at deriving comedy value from a woman desperately chasing after a man). I did feel it was quite a dated production, though. I mean, it was nice, and one can appreciate the classics, but I don’t think it would hurt to modernise the design a little. Connectome: I really, really enjoyed this. The set was amazing, I liked the choice of music, and I just really enjoyed the ballet as a whole (though that middle section where McRae was like Jesus was a bit weird and I struggled to fit it into the rest of the piece, and I stand by my comment re Watson/Osipova). I hope they put it on again. The Concert – this was so beautifully enjoyable! Really, really funny. I adored the Mistake Waltz, and the guy who kept abandoning his wife to chase after Sarah Lamb’s character, and all the faffing with chairs at the beginning and the ridiculous flights of fantasy! Tip top.
The Last Days of Troy – Globe; June 2014
So, this was a retelling of the siege of Troy based on the Iliad and a bit of the Aeneid, and it really fell a bit flat for me. There was very little dramatic tension (and while it is tempting to attribute this to already knowing the story, that clearly has nothing to do with it) – it was just, in the words of Rudge, one fucking thing after another. The acting was bizarrely amateurish in places, very unlike the Globe’s usual standard, and whilst I enjoyed parts of the text, it generally didn’t do much for me.
Fathers and Sons – Donmar Warehouse; July 2014
I enjoyed this very much, largely for Arkady, played by Ferdinand from last year’s Tempest. He’s a young would-be firebrand and revolutionary who’s just finished university and come home, but he’s really too conventional to be a revolutionary, unlike his friend. One of those plays where not much happens, per se, it’s a character play of people working out what’s important to them. Points also to Tim McMullen’s Uncle Paul, unlucky in love and war, but really rather appealing nonetheless.
Tryst: Devotion and Betrayal – Peacock Theatre; July 2014
You know what, some of these pieces didn’t quite work, and some of the dancing was a bit less than great, but I enjoyed this whole programme. The first piece was a pretty standard pas-de-quatre with two couples and I suspect a bit of infidelity, but it was a nice piece of choreography and there were a few striking moments. Then a thing that was supposed to be based on a story with a man and woman falling in love then realising they were siblings separated at a young age, but you’d never have known that without additional explanation, and I found it quite meh and forgettable. Then there was Orbital by Valentino Zucchetti, which I really enjoyed though the dancing in places wasn’t up to the choreography and I lived in fear that someone was going to get kicked in the head. Overall, I thought this had a lot of promise, and I enjoyed the music (Philip Glass’s violin concerto) and the design. Next up, Kristen McNally’s Mad Women, which was absolutely great, by far the best piece of the evening. Sort of 1950s women wielding their sexual power. It was really, really fab, and I loved the mish-mash of old American adverts etc used as music.
The longer ballet of the evening was the Kreutzer Sonata by Andrew McNicol, based on the story by Tolstoy, based on the music by Beethoven. The music was a sort of mash-up of Janacek’s take on the Tolstoy and the original Beethoven, which I thought was woven in an interesting way. The narrative at the beginning was a bit too involved and fragmented, but when it got to the heart of matters it was better. I want to say it was a bit McMillan-ish, but I don’t think I really know enough about ballet at this point to go round saying things like that. I really enjoyed Hayley Blackburn as the wife, she was very good. (It was also thematically very like Sweet Violets.)
Antony & Cleopatra – Globe; July 2014
I enjoyed this. Eve Best was great as Cleopatra, I really liked her performance. I was in a slightly fraught mood at the beginning though, and actually struggled to understand what was going on, which is not something I’m really used to these days! After a while I managed to focus, and then enjoyed it more. I felt the second half dragged a bit, though. It just seemed to take a very long time for everyone to die. Comedy lols for the messenger who kept bringing Cleopatra bad news, and also for eunuch jokes.