2010’s

Company

Gielgud Theatre, London ****
Review: Carole Woddis of performance seen Oct 17, 2018:

© Brinkhoff-Mogenburg, Rosalie Craig as Bobbie and `friends', so well meaning, gathering for her 35th birthday...

© Brinkhoff-Mogenburg, Rosalie Craig as Bobbie and `friends’, so well meaning, gathering for her 35th birthday…

They don’t come much more glitzy than a new Sondheim production in the West End. That Company is one of Sondheim’s most popular if not THE most popular of his musicals could be gauged by the roar that went up on opening night even before the lights had dimmed. Continue reading

Twelfth Night

Young Vic Theatre, London ****
Review by: Carole Woddis of performance seen Oct 16, 2018:

© Johan Persson, Gabrielle Brooks as Cesario/Viola leading the company in one of the many exuberant ensembles from the community chorus...

© Johan Persson, Gabrielle Brooks as Cesario/Viola leading the company in one of the many exuberant ensembles from the community chorus…

As opening statements go, Kwame Kwei Armah’s musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, imported from New York’s Public Theater is probably as joyous a marker of future intent as you could wish for. Continue reading

Measure for Measure

Donmar Warehouse, London ***
Review by Carole Woddis of performance seen Oct 13, 2018:

© Manuel Harlan, Jack Lowden as Angelo and Hayley Atwell as Isabella in the tables-turned, modern setting second half...

© Manuel Harlan, Jack Lowden as Angelo and Hayley Atwell as Isabella in the tables-turned, modern setting second half…

There’s every reason why Josie Rourke should have chosen Measure for Measure to direct in her final season as the Donmar’s artistic director.

Anyone with half an ear to public events in the arena of gender relations and abuse of power in the past two years would recognise its extraordinary pertinence.

Lines shoot out that could have been new minted just a few months ago. `To whom should I complain? says Isabella after Angelo, the Duke’s deputy offers to commute the life of her brother in exchange for her renunciation of her chastity.

And on protesting that she will make his profane offer public, Angelo’s reply, surely hand written by scribes at the recent Supreme Court hearings in Washington answers:

`Who will believe thee, Isabel? My unsoil’d name, the austereness of my life, My vouch against you, and my place i’ the state, Will so your accusation overweigh
That you shall stifle in your own report. And smell of calumny.’

© Manuel Harlan, Jack Lowden as Angelo, the deputy confessing his forbidden desires...

© Manuel Harlan, Jack Lowden as Angelo, the deputy confessing his forbidden desires…

Goodness gracious. Every accused male in high office must have mouthed these words many times over. And Rourke, ever alive during her tenure at the Donmar to current day political and social currents, makes sure in her production these words carry their full weight particularly with Jack Lowden’s marvellously cool Scottish Presbyterian abuser who delivers  them with all the confidence of the highly privileged.

Lowden’s is one of the high points in production that, however, takes some curious turns on the way to dealing with the play’s other theme – redemption and the role of the Duke.

Always equivocal, is he God incarnate, reclaiming justice and bringing corruption to light? Or a meddling, over-controlling, slightly malevolent, not to say devious manipulator, side-stepping the unpleasant role of retribution and passing it on to a deputy.

In Rourke’s production, Nicholas Burns’ Duke ends up copying Angelo’s attempt at coercive sex with Isabella by flinging himself at Jack Lowden’s Angelo who, in this re-aligned, flip-coined production, becomes the recoiling victim.

© Manuel Harlan, Nicholas Burns as The Duke, disguised as the manipulating friar, and Hayley Atwell as Isabella, taking guidance...

© Manuel Harlan, Nicholas Burns as The Duke, disguised as the manipulating friar, and Hayley Atwell as Isabella, taking guidance…

Hayley Atwell’s modern day Isabella – in the first part looking like a renegade from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale – has now become a smart, high-heeled lawyer aggressor.

It’s a daring reversal but one that, in truth, for all its reframing, actually loses impact by repetition. Lines that resonate so strongly in the male-female equation tend in the second half to be less effective partly to do with hearing the lines for a second time but also partly because Lowden’s stage presence is simply more charismatic than Atwell.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely in whatever hands they tend to be, female or male.

So Rourke’s reappraisal should stand on its own merit. The fact that it fails to do so also has to do with the cuts imposed. Whilst in the first half, her edited version exerts a magnetic hold, in the second half, rather, it gives the impression of just riding rough-shod over large swathes of the play.

© Manuel Harlan, Jackie Clune as Pompey - modern version

© Manuel Harlan, Jackie Clune as Pompey – modern version

There is still much to admire. In its casting, this Measure for Measure wittily reflects our contemporary sensibilities in all its mobile phone, racial and physical guises. Jackie Clune’s female Pompey, Rachel Denning’s Mistress Overdone and Sule Rimi’s Claudio are cases in point as are the trans-gender bawds who line the backstage even if they have hardly more to do than `dress’ the stage.

© Manuel Harlan, Hayley Atwell as Isabella and Sule Rimi as Claudio, her brother, imprisoned for fornication, pleading for his life and the compact she must make to save it...

© Manuel Harlan, Hayley Atwell as Isabella and Sule Rimi as Claudio, her brother, imprisoned for fornication, pleading for his life and the compact she must make to save it…

Certainly Rourke’s production does bring out – as if, strangely, a rebuttal to the #MeToo Movement – the sad fact that essentially the (patriarchal) system remains the same. The Duke’s imposition of marriage on Angelo to Mariana (the young woman to whom he was formally promised) and here, of Isabella to a young man, Frederick, are both miscarriages, in a sense, cruelly unjust solutions. And continuing…

So there is no redemption here and Shakespeare’s `unromantic comedy’ becomes, initially speedy but an increasingly unfunny echo of today’s sexual and social injustices.

Good though to see the next generation of acting talent steadily making ground.

Lowden who made such an impression in Richard Eyre’s award-winning Ghosts (2014) as Oswald to Lesley Manville’s Mrs Alving follows it up here with a performance as intelligent as it is mercurial.

© Manuel Harlan, Helena Wilson as Mariana, Angelo's wronged lover...

© Manuel Harlan, Helena Wilson as Mariana, Angelo’s wronged lover…

The other one to watch, in my book, is Helena Wilson, making her third Donmar appearance after last year’s Lady From the Sea, and this year’s The Prime of Jean Brodie. Here, she brings another delicately drawn, heartfelt touch to the comparatively small part of Mariana, Angelo’s wronged lover. Actually, I would love to have seen her play Isabella. Surely, leading roles await her. I hope so.

 

Measure for Measure
by William Shakespeare

Cast:

Duke Vincentio: Nicholas Burns
Escalus: Raad Rawi
Angelo: Jack Lowden
Thomas: Anwar Russell
Mistress Overdone: Rachel Denning
Lucio: Matt Burdock
Pompey: Jackie Clune
Claudio: Sule Rimi
Provost: Adam McNamara
Isabella: Hayley Atwell
Francisca: Molly Harris
Mariana/Justice: Helena Wilson
Frederick/Justice: Ben Allen

Director: Josie Rourke
Designer: Peter McKintosh
Lighting Designer: Howard Harrison
Sound Designer: Emma Laxton
Composer: Michael Bruce
Casting: Alastair Coomer CDG

Costume Supervisor: Mary Charlton
Hair, Wigs and Make-Up: Carole Hancock
Voice and Dialect Coach: Zabarjad Salam
Resident Assistant Director: Tom Bellerby

First perf of this production of Measure for Measure at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre, London, Sept 28, 2018.  Runs to Nov 24, 2018.

Review published on this site, Oct 14, 2018

 

 

I’m a Phoenix, Bitch

Battersea Arts Centre (BAC), London ****
Review: by Carole Woddis of performance seen Oct 10, 2017:

© Christa Holka, Bryony Kimmings, turning life into Art and horror story into a Grim Fairy Tale...

© Christa Holka, Bryony Kimmings, turning life into Art and horror story into a Grim Fairy Tale…

The last time I saw Bryony Kimmings, it was at Soho in 2015. She was appearing in a show with her then partner, Tim. Fake It `Til You Make It was the story of Tim’s journey through depression and their joint coming to terms with it – a sort of `coming out’ with the message that’s it’s okay for a man to say he’s suffering from depression. It doesn’t take away his masculinity. Continue reading

The Height of the Storm

Wyndham’s Theatre, London *****
Review: by Carole Woddis of performance seen Oct 9, 2018:

© Hugo Glendinning, Jonathan Pryce as Andre in Anthony Ward's handsome set, contemplating life, last night's storm, and the storm of his life with Amanda Drew as his daughter, Anne, beginning to sort through his many papers...

© Hugo Glendinning, Jonathan Pryce as Andre in Anthony Ward’s handsome set, contemplating life, last night’s storm, and the storm of his life with Amanda Drew as his daughter, Anne, beginning to sort through his many papers…

French playwright, Florian Zeller is definitely the playwright do nos jours. If Pinter at one time could do no wrong in certain eyes and in the autumn of his years, could expect several of his plays to be running somewhere simultaneously, Zeller too now carries a similar halo. After huge UK successes with The Father, The Mother, The Truth and The Lie, now comes The Height of the Storm, once again in the limpid, easy-on-the-ear translation of Christopher Hampton. Continue reading

To Have to Shoot Irishmen

Omnibus Theatre, Clapham Common, London ****
Review by Carole Woddis of performance seen Oct 5, 2018:

&copy, Mike Massaro, Elinor Lawless as Hanna (centre), Gerard Kearns (on piano above), Russell Richardson (left) on violin in designer Rachel Rooney's approximation of a destroyed Dublin and Hanna's dwellings by British soldiers...

© Mike Massaro, Elinor Lawless as Hanna (centre), Robbie O’Neill (back left), Gerard Kearns (on piano above), Russell Richardson (left) on violin in designer Rachel Rooney’s approximation of a destroyed Dublin and Hanna’s dwellings ransacked by British soldiers…

In a comparatively short space of time, Lizzie Nunnery has certainly made her mark. Singer-songwriter as well as playwright, her plays – of which, Narvik, her award-winning evocation of the North Atlantic, the sea and wartime love is one of the most recent – mixes all these elements into dramas that defy total categorisation. Continue reading