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Feb 12th

Beware of Pity by Complicite & Schaubühne Berlin at the Barbican

By Carolin Kopplin

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Laurenz Laufenberg and Christoph Gawenda

Once more my pity had been stronger than my will.

The novel Beware of Pity (Ungeduld des Herzens) by Stefan Zweig was published in the eve of World War II and takes place in 1914, shortly before the beginning of World War I. Simon McBurney directs the Berliner Schaubühne ensemble in a compelling production that raises questions of consciousness and compassion as the Austro-Hungarian empire disintegrates.

The performance begins at night in a museum. Two uniforms are on display: the first is covered with blood as it was worn by Archduke Franz Ferdinand when he was assassinated in Sarajevo in June 1914. The other uniform is squeaky clean, the uniform of an officer of the Hapsburg cavalry. This uniform belongs to Anton Hofmiller, a young career officer who slides into a terrible situation shortly before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the beginning of the Great War, an ill-fated love story with a rich and disabled young woman. As a now middle-aged Hofmiller remembers his younger self, the production takes us to a different time.

Young cavalry officer Anton Hofmiller (Laurenz Laufenberg) is stationed in a small garrison town near the Hungarian border. He is invited to a soirée held by Baron Kekesfalva (Robert Beyer) at his castle and enjoys the delicious food, select wines and the delightful company. Before leaving, Hofmiller feels obliged to ask Edith (Marie Burchard), the daughter of his host, for a dance. His request is met with shock and disbelief as Edith is disabled. Deeply embarrassed by his faux pas, Hofmiller flees from the castle. To atone for his behaviour, Hofmiller sends flowers to Edith and apologises, Edith responds with an invitation for tea. Soon Hofmiller is a daily visitor at the castle. He enjoys the rich food and the warm welcome by Edith's family but remains ignorant of the fact that Edith is falling in love with him. When Hofmiller realises the extent of the girl's feelings for him, he dutifully asks for her hand in marriage. But Edith soon realises that Hofmiller just feels pity for her.

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Ensemble

McBurney designs his production as an experiment - researching the timeless lack of compassion. The stage design by Anna Fleischle resembles a museum space with some of the actors sitting at desks, whilst others are placed in front of microphones or exhibits as they take us to the past so vividly described by Stefan Zweig. Hofmiller's story is told in German by seven actors, swapping narration and dialogue, who are not individually credited. Stylised movement by the ensemble reflects Edith's disability or suggests a cavalry drill, accompanied by Pete Malkin's thunderous sound design. Video projections of desolate battlefields and boats of refugess (design by Will Duke) place this story in a contemporary perspective.

Laurenz Laufenberg is excellent as the young Anton Hofmiller as he stumbles into an abyss, prompted by his older self and his comrades, torn between recklessness and a kind of foreboding. Marie Burchard plays Edith as a stubborn, unstable young woman who is helplessly moved around the stage on a mobile table. Robert Beyer convinces as Edith's father, acting like an aristocrat but despised as a Jewish upstart by the community and Hofmiller's comrades. Johannes Flaschberger is compassionate as Edith's doctor.

Stefan Zweig wrote that there were two kinds of pity: "One, the weak and sentimental kind, which is really no more than the heart's impatience to be rid as quickly as possible of the painful emotion aroused by the sight of another's unhappiness, that pity which is not compassion, but only an instinctive desire to fortify one's own soul against the sufferings of another; and the other, the only one at counts, the unsentimental but creative kind, which knows what it is about and is determined to hold out, in patience and forbearance, to the very limit of its strength and even beyond". We have to ask ourselves what kind of pity we are guilty of.

The production is part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary.  

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 12th February 2017

Barbican Centre

Running time: 2 hours with no interval

Age guidance 12+

Performed in German with English surtitles

The show is now sold out but is available online:

Live stream online: 12 Feb 3pm GMT

Available online until 26 Feb 11.59 GMT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98C1vV49gXo

Watch on these websites:

complicite.org/live-stream

Photocredit: Gianmarco Bresadola

www.schaubuehne.de/en/pages/live-stream-beware-of-pity.html

http://blog.barbican.org.uk/2017/01/livestream-complicite-schaubuhne-berlins-beware-of-pity/

 

Feb 9th

Dubailand at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Adi Chugh as Amar

Can you see me? Can you see me standing here in the stars? Look at me I'm in the future. (...) I'm in the future and I'm building one of the highest buildings in the best city of the world.

First shown in a staged reading format as part of the Finborough Theatre's Vibrant Festival in 2015, Carmen Nasr's play discusses the contradictory nature of luxury founded on the exploitation of impoverished foreign workers.

Dubailand is the name of a retail and entertainment development that is nearing completion. The play focuses on three characters - Indian migrant worker Amar who helps building the dream, British PR hotshot Jamie who is promoting it, and British journalist Clara who intends to reveal the truth about this fantasy.

On the 88th floor of an unfinished skyscraper, Amar (Adi Chugh) is gazing at the stars, talking to his little daughter who he left behind in India. He came to Dubai for a better life - a city of lights and an ice cream parlour offering 200 different flavours - yet he finds himself living in a slum. Moving to a different camp would require bribes that he cannot afford. Meanwhile Jamie (Nicholas Banks) is living in luxury - that he cannot afford. A former activist, he now prefers living the good life. He has just impressed his icy boss Amanda (Belinda Stewart-Wilson) with the idea of a live-feed broadcasting directly from the building site so buyers can see how their property is being built and their investment is growing. So naturally Jamie is not pleased when his former girlfriend Clara (Mitzli Rose Neville) intends to further her journalistic career by putting his own job on the line. Clara, tired of writing for a shopping magazine, wants to research the working conditions of migrant workers in Dubai who are building Dubailand and reveal the brutal exploitation at the heart of the glittering dream world.

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Nicholas Banks as Jamie and Mitzli Rose Neville as Clara

Amanda's PR team strives to present Dubailand as a modern development where Emiratis drink coffee in Starbucks whilst enjoying state-of-the art technology with their latest gadgets. Any hint of tradition or the past is to be banned from the video presentation. Of course the truth is rather different. Dubai is an absolute monarchy and a tax haven for the rich. There is no income tax but you also have to do without opposition parties, elections, or unions that could protect workers' rights. Migrant workers from India, the Philippines and other south Asian countries come to the UAE and are paid very low wages, often living under appalling conditions. Carmen Nasr effectively targets these issues in her play.

The German airport security officer is a true clichée but the play is well written and Nasr presents her arguments well, placing the emphasis more on the subject matter than the characters. Occasionally, Nasr's language changes into a form of free association, using the bare minimum to get her point across.

Georgie Staight's simple but intense production features a very good cast, most of all the three main characters played by Adi Chugh, Nicholas Banks, and Mitzli Rose Neville, but they get splendid support from Belinda Stewart-Wilson's cold-blooded Amanda who defeats Jamie's arguments by comparing his present hedonistic life to the crammed conditions in a London flat share. Reena Lalbihari impreseses as Jamie's colleague Deena who is living the good life just like her western colleagues, rejecting the "backwards" traditions of non-western countries. Leon Williams plays Jamie's colleague Tommie and Varun Sharma convinces in a variety of roles. Aanya Chadha is lovely as Amar's daughter Lali.

A relevant and topical new play that shows much promise.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 21st February 2017 

Finborough Theatre 

Running time: 90 minutes with no interval

Photographs by Tim Hall.

Feb 9th

The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Workshop Performance at The Ambassadors Theatre, London

By Elaine Pinkus

Flyer

First, let me emphasise that the performance of Ben Frost/Richard Hough’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a work in progress and, as such, is still in its stage of evolvement.  As a reviewer, I was very excited to be part of the audience for this ‘workshop’, where attendees were invited to contact the production team with their views and ideas.

Frost and Hough have based this production loosely around Goethe’s short tale of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Rather than focusing entirely on the traditional outline of the lazy young apprentice whose magic misfires in the mayhem of the famous broom scene, this tale uses that reference in one scene only.  The title role in this production is cast as feisty teenager Eva, (played delightfully by Naomi Petersen) who wishes to be taken seriously by her magician father Johan (Neil McDermott ) in her desire to be his apprentice despite being a ‘mere’ girl. Interwoven with this basic premise there are various sub plots including a love interest with young Erik (Blair Gibson), the confused relationship with long suffering Queen Larnia (Tracie Bennet) and a murderous plot devised by the jealous and cunning Prince Fabian (Jos Slovick).

At the very start Jan Ravens, as narrator, asks the audience to suspend reality and exercise their imaginations, for this is a minimalist performance with no scenery, no costumes and no lighting. Undoubtedly, should this production go ahead, it will demand all three on a large scale. Perhaps it was a big ask of the audience who were seeing only 7 chairs on an empty stage but all credit to the cast who gave it their all. They had rehearsed this first showing for three weeks only but had embraced their characters and were able to draw in the audience.

This Sorcerer’s Apprentice had a large musical score but lacked any real show stopping numbers where ensemble and/or harmonies could explode on stage. Perhaps this is an area that might be revisited. There were a few moments of humour but again, this might need addressing.  Nevertheless Seann Alderking (Musical Director) and Ed Scull presented the score on piano and percussion with finesse and are to be applauded. And not to omit Nigel Richards as Chancellor whose presence on stage injected some pantomime aspects into a show that could perhaps include an audience of both adults and younger visitors. At the moment, I am not quite sure who is the target audience.

This workshop was presented at London's Ambassadors Theatre on one night only. I await with interest the outcome of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Social media: @AmbTheatre #sorcerersmusical

Seabright Productions

Wednesday 8 February 7.30pm – The Ambassadors Theatre, West Street, London, WC2H 9ND - one night only

Feb 5th

Run the Beast Down at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Ben Aldridge as Charlie

When I looked up, I saw him. Burnt orange, bright against the summer woods. He stood grandly on all fours, the King.

The Finborough Theatre, dedicated to new writing as well as rediscoveries of forgotten classics, presents the first play by writer, director and musician Titas Halder. Run the Beast Down is a fantasia about urban foxes, a surrealistic dream performed by Ben Aldridge, painted in a symphony of sound and lights. 

After being fired from his lucrative city job, Charlie finds his flat in a redeveloped council estate deserted - his girlfriend has left him. Suffering from insomnia after this double blow, Charlie begins to confuse reality and fantasy as he drifts into a world of dreamlike memories and hallucinations.

Charlie first introduces his neighbourhood - the elderly Mrs Winter who is worried about her cat Peter, named after her husband. The cat has disappeared and she fears that the foxes might have got him. But it might have been the feral kids on the estate whose aggression level is so high that they seem capable of anything. When he finds Peter savaged on his doorstep, Charlie starts to investigate and meets the Silver Man, Mrs Winter's brother. We also learn about Charlie's life as a banker - his mates and their local watering hole, a pub decorated with stuffed wildlife. An internal investigation ends Charlie's career.

As Charlie's sanity begins to deteriorate, he sees Mrs Winter's cat as a reincarnation of her husband, and even the stuffed animals in the pub gain special significance. He keeps contacting his ex-girlfriend assuming that she needs his help, which shows a somewhat obsessive behaviour. Eventually, the protagonist, who believes that he once met the King of the Foxes in the forest, starts identifying with the urban foxes, who have lost their natural shyness yet retained part of their feral nature as their disturbing shrieks echo through the night.

Under Hannah Price's creative direction, Ben Aldridge begins his performance at a leisurely pace, increasing the suspense and speed as the intense drama reaches its climax. He plays all the characters in his story including Mrs Winter and the King of Foxes. An online DJ, Chris Bartholomew, provides the musical soundscape, designed by ANoR (Andy & Fraser) and the inventive lighting design by Rob Mills and Robbie Butler add to the narrative.

A unique production that should not be missed.  

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 25th February 2017

Finborough Theatre

118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED

Box office: 020 7244 7439

e-mail admin@finboroughtheatre.co.uk

Running time: 70 minutes with no interval.

Image by Billy Rickarts.

Jan 30th

The One Festival at The Space - Progamme E

By Carolin Kopplin

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What reconciles me to my own death more than anything else is the image of a place: a place where your bones and mine are buried, thrown, uncovered, together. They are strewn there pell-mell. One of your ribs leans against my skull. A metacarpal of my left hand lies inside your pelvis. (Against my broken ribs your breast like a flower.) (John Berger)

The Space is an exciting venue on the Isle of Dogs featuring mainly new writing but also offering daring new productions of the classics. The One Festival, now in its fifth year, accommodates five programmes over three weeks, entailing a variety of stories that have  one thing in common - they are performed by only one actor.

Programme E includes one 50 minute play and three short plays with a running time of 15 minutes each. Searching Shadows, written and performed by Emily Orley, is structured like a scientific lecture. Emily Orley combines the biography of her grandfather, a radiologist from Bialystok who moved to a variety of European countries and the US before eventually emigrating to Britain, with the history of radiology and the reception of this new science.

Directed by Christopher Heighes, this multi-media show employs a slide projector to display x-ray photographs and photographs of Orley's grandfather and family to illustrate her narrative, an ancient record player and a tape recorder to provide various sound effects, particularly whenever Emily Orley is quoting from her grandfather's journal and letters.

This is an intriguing performance, providing a plethora of information about society's fascination with radiology 100 years ago as well as retelling Dr Orley's story. The show is a bit slow-paced at times and somewhat repetitive, the John Berger quote is used three times, but it remains a fascinating piece of work.

After the interval, the programme continued with three shorter plays. If the Shoe Fits, written and performed by Cheryl Walker and directed by Simone Watson is a delightful play about a young Londoner with a Jamaican background who travels to Jamaica for the first time to celebrate her great-grandfather's 100th birthday and ends up learning much about herself.   

Cornet Solo by Ben Francis and performed by Silas John Hawkins deals with the owner of an ice cream van. Business has been slow and this is one the last hot days of the year. Yet on this particular day the queue at Ianto's van is never ending. His customers are enjoying a special spectacle - a potential suicide who is standing at the ledge of a high building. Hawkins inhabits his role as the seasoned ice cream seller as the story reaches an unexpected climax.

The final play of the evening is Among the Missing, written and directed by Niamh de Valera, Artistic Director of the Blue Elephant Theatre, and performed by Jess Neale. A recent graduate is taking a "gap year" working as a barrista in a coffee shop when she meets the perfect student, obviously on the road to success. Immaculately styled and enjoying her exciting internship at a local gallery, Jess Neale's frequent customer is an object of envy for the hapless barrista. But one day her customer disappears and it turns out that her situation was quite different - "appearances can be deceptive". An intriguing play with a surprise ending that makes one think. 

These very different plays are well acted, well written and provide a thought-provoking experience and an entertaining evening.

By Carolin Kopplin

Running time: 2 hours including one interval

The run has now ended.

Jan 29th

A Lesson from Auschwitz

By Carolin Kopplin

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Will you allow it to happen again?

I still remember seeing images of Rudolf Höss (not to be confused with Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess) and his staff celebrating the successful murder of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews - the so-called "Ungarn-Aktion". They were part of the "Höcker-Album", a collection of photographs collected by SS officer Karl-Friedrich Höcker, illustrating the lives and living conditions of the officers and administrators who ran the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex and an important document of the Holocaust. Höss was the longest-serving commandant of Auschwitz and is shown in many of Höcker's photos, often together with Josef Mengele. Höss was the most successful commandant of Auschwitz and the man who introduced Zyklon B to murder Europe's Jews more efficiently and in far greater numbers.

James Hyland is trying to shed light on the mentality of this mass murderer and the other perpetrators in his disturbing play that focusses on a secret meeting of Höss and his SS personnel in 1941. Purpose of the meeting was the introduction of Zyklon B, a more efficient method than mass shootings.

As the play begins, Abraham Könisberg (Michael Shon) a Jewish prisoner, who has been badly beaten, is standing on stage, wearing a blackboard with the words "Ich bin zurück" (I am back) around his neck. Höss treats him with condescension from the start and interrogates him personally about his escape, using him as an object to prove his inhuman theories whilst spreading the typical anti-semitic slander. The prisoner tries to keep his dignity despite the terrible abuse and humiliation he is subjected to.

Höss marches across the stage, clicking his heels before addressing his personnel, meaning to intimidate and demonstrate who is in charge. He also proves a master of rhetoric and manipulation. From the start, he makes them complicit: "There is no turning back now, gentlemen." Coaxing and threatening the soldiers in equal measure, he tries to turn them into effective killing tools who will obey all orders unquestioningly and abandon any human emotions such as mercy as this "weakness" helped the prisoner escape. Höss makes it quite clear that there is no room for weaklings.

James Hyland's portrayal of Höss is frightening - a sadist and a manipulative bully who seems capable of any atrocity. His rhetoric style reminds me of Roland Freisler, a Nazi judge who completely perverted his office. Michael Shon impresses as Abraham Könisberg, a man who tries to keep his dignity in this hell.

Directed, written and produced by James Hyland, this production should be seen by all - especially in the light of recent events.

By Carolin Kopplin

Running time: 60 minutes with no interval.

Recommended for ages 14+

Next performance:

FEB 25 @ 7.30pm

KETTERING - KETTERING ARTS CENTRE

St Andrew's Vicarage, Lindsay St, Kettering NN16 8RG

01536 513 858 www.ketteringartscentre.com

The play is dedicated to all victims of the Holocaust: those who were murdered and those who survived.

Proceeds will be donated to charity

 
 
Jan 23rd

Richard III at the Rosemary Branch Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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This is the winter of our discontent...

When the late great Ian Richardson played Francis Urquhart in the original "House of Cards" in the 1990s, he based his character on Richard III, speaking directly to the camera, seducing the audience and making them complicit. Years later, a U.S. remake starring Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood hit Netflix and found a new audience. Inspired by the U.S. remake, Theatre company GODOT's WATCH returns to the original Richard, presenting an energetic modern dress production including smartphones, references to videogames, and cocaine.

Sam Coulson's Richard is not deformed except for a dark red birthmark covering the left side of his face, which would probably be enough to keep him in obscurity in a world where young children already worry about their looks and normal people have cosmetic surgery to look like filmstars. But if Richard does not have the looks, he certainly has the drive to become King of England. Charming and deceitful in equal measure, he surpasses his obstacles, and if they don't yield, they will lose life and limb.

Directed by Sean Aydon, this high voltage production is fast-paced and intense. Sometimes the speed is almost too fast and certain aspects of the play are only touched upon, and the ending is somewhat abrupt. The emphasis of this cut down production is on the scenes between Richard and the female charaters, notably Lady Anne and Queen Elizabeth. The cast of eight is predominantly female with some of the actors playing two or three parts. Sam Coulson is an energetic and demonic Richard and Elena Clements is his intriguing counterpart as the cold and calculating Buckingham. Sophie Ormond impresses as the young Prince Edward and his murderer Tyrell, which is clever casting indeed. The cast is very young and although I enjoy the cross-gender casting I wish there had been some room for older actors as well.

The stage is dominated by a massive golden throne, source of envy and constant reminder of what Richard strives for. The punchy sound design by Daniel Harmer including a variety of musical styles and the trendy neon lights in different colours (lighting design by Jack Channer) add to the contemporary setting of the production.

An exciting production with some daring casting choices.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 29th January 2017

Rosemary Branch Theatre

Box office: 020 7704 6665

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including one interval. 

 

Jan 22nd

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road at the White Bear Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Flip (Michael Wade), Mitch (Robert Moloney) and J.D. (Keith Stevenson)

Noam Chomsky is the Jerry Lewis from West Virginia.

This was my first visit to the White Bear Pub and Theatre in Kennington after it had been refurbished and redecorated. It seemed far more spacious and brighter than before and made patrons feel welcome. The theatre is now upstairs and remains an intimate stage, about the size of a living room, which especially benefits this production, the European premiere of Keith Stevenson's hilarious comedy.

Set in a shabby motel room on Fried Meat Ridge Rd. in West Virginia, the play focuses on the hapless Mitch (Robert Moloney) from Maine who, after moving down South, has lost his job, his girlfriend, and his apartment. Now he cannot even sleep in his car because it was torched in front of a Girls' Reform School. Desperate for shelter, he answers an ad for a roommate and finds himself walking all the way to a backwoods motel on Fried Meat Ridge Road. His future roommate turns out to be the amicable hillbilly JD (Keith Stevenson) who surprisingly knows Latin but has never heard of Maine. Before Mitch even has time to digest this upsetting news. Mitch's neighbours begin invading the small room - bigotted motel owner Flip (Michael Wade), the meth-head artiste Marlene (Melanie Gray), and her volatile poet lover Tommy (Dan Hildebrand).

Robert Moloney's Mitch is a neurotic character, very much like one of Woody Allen's creations, who throws up whenever he is upset and suffers from an unusual condition that cost him his job. The laid-back JD, portrayed by playwright Keith Stevenson, is your picture book hillbilly who turns out to be the hub of the motel community, being the go-to guy for everybody in need of help. Yet this should not be too surprising, considering his parentage. Melanie Gray's Marlene and her hot-headed boyfriend Tommy straight out of New Jersey, played with the unpredictablity of a loose-cannon by Dan Hildebrand, are the perfect ill-fitted couple who react to each other "like fire and gasoline". Michael Wade lends credibility to the gruff redneck Flip who has a treasure trove of insults for almost any ethnicity.

The approximately one-hour long play, directed by Harry Burton, is very much like a TV comedy show featuring a host of outrageous characters. After it opened in L.A. in 2012, it soon became a cult hit and two sequels followed.

This is a highly entertaining show with a good cast and a surprise ending.

A fun night out.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 4th February 2017

White Bear Theatre

Running time: 65 minutes

Photograph by Gavin Watson.

Jan 18th

Burt Bacharach's PROMISES PROMISES at London's Southwark Playhouse

By Elaine Pinkus

The first London production in 20 years of the hit Burt Bacharach/Hal David/Neil Simon Broadway musical Promises, Promises, based on the Billy Wilder film The Apartment is now playing at the Southwark Playhouse, London. Added to the original score are those timeless and still popular Bacharach favourites  ‘A house is not a home’, ‘I say a little prayer’ and ‘I’ll never fall in love again’ which cannot fail to tear at the heartstrings and which serve as highlights of the evening.

Chuck in his office

Chuck Baxter (Gabriel Vick)

Set in 1962 in the offices of a male dominated, chauvinistic executive hierarchical structure we meet Chuck Baxter, an aspiring junior accountant and proud tenant of an apartment on the second floor of a block on West 67 Street, New York. Keen to be promoted to executive level, he naively falls prey to the promises of the middle aged higher echelon who cheat on their wives and bed young secretaries and receptionists in this misogynistic working world. In return for allowing them to use his apartment, Chuck will be promoted to a more senior level. ‘Where can you take a girl?’ sung fiercely by these cheating executives is presented with energy and humour and makes clear their exploitation of  this young innocent.

Executives with Chuck

Chuck and executives (Lee Ormby, Martin Dickinson and Craig Armstrong)

From the start Chuck shares his confidences with the audience. An endearing character, played with charm and a strong likeability factor by Gabriel Vick, we empathise with his low self esteem wishing only the best for what might otherwise be a loser in this corporate world. He is used and abused by those around him; not only the paunchy executive level and the manipulative CEO Sheldrake, played by Paul Robinson, but also by the one girl that he would love to know more, Fran (Daisy Maywood). ‘Our Little Secret’ sung by Chuck and Sheldrake makes the 2017 audience squirm but we must remember we are in the 1960s and the score and staging reflects the typicality of this period.

Chuck and Sheldrake

Chuck and Sheldrake (Paul Robinson)

This is a story of dreams, of disillusionment and empty promises. Supported by an energetic and enthusiastic cast, there are moments of humour which raise the occasional stillness. With numbers such as ‘Turkey Lurkey Time’ and ‘Christmas Day’ the pace quickens and there is a relief injected into the rather long and sometimes tedious moments. Certainly the included numbers mentioned earlier are performed with passion by our two leads, Chuck and Fran and we know that we will work towards a ‘promising’ closure.

Act 2 opens with a bang and we are treated to a wonderful interlude with Marge (excellently performed by Alex Young) and Chuck. Wearing her owl coat (yes that is not a typo) and sounding the final ‘p’ consonant with tight control, there are laugh out loud moments. Furthermore, Dr Dreyfuss (John Guerraso) in his quasi Woody Allen portrayal gives us Neil Simon at his funniest moments. This Act certainly has pace and energy.

Chuck and Marge

Chuck and Marge (Alex Young)

I hate talking about production lengths but in this case I do feel that the three hours (give or take a few minutes) was extravagantly long with an especially lengthy Act 1. However, the intimate staging in the round, the somewhat basic scene changes, the strong support of the band and the costumes and choreography typical of the 60s offered charm and nostalgia. Bronagh Lagan’s revival at the Southwark Theatre offers an enjoyable evening and, for those admirers of Bacharach, David and Neil Simon, is a worthy entertainment.

Chuck and Fran

Chuck and Fran (Daisy Maywood)

Photographs: Claire Bilyard

Aria Entertainment & Senbla
present

PROMISES, PROMISES

Book by Neil Simon

Based on the Screenplay The Apartment by Billy Wilder
and I.A.L Diamond

Music by Burt Bacharach
& Lyrics by Hal David

Friday 13 January -
Saturday 18 February

SOUTHWARK PLAYHOUSE
77-85 Newington Causeway
London
SE1 6BD

Box office: 020 7407 0234
www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk


Start Time 7.30pm
Matinee Starts 3pm
Running Time 160 mins including interval
Price £25 | £20 concessions | £14 previews

Jan 12th

The Kite Runner at Wyndham's Theatre

By Clare Brotherwood

Films and plays based on books are usually a disappointment. So I didn’t hold much hope for Khaled Hosseini’s best seller’s transference to the stage.

But here is a production which is true to the book. And how they manage to transfer an enraptured audience to the Afghanistan of childhood friends Amir and Hassan with a minimal set and a dozen actors is down to the genius of adapter Matthew Spangler and director Giles Croft.

It’s a simple format: Amir, now married and living in San Francisco, looks back on his life from his childhood days in a relatively peaceful Kabul when kite flying was a competitive sport. It begins with him narrating his story, but it’s not long before Ben Turner, as Amir, becomes more than a mere narrator. Taking on the cloak of the child he once was, the former Casualty nurse transports us back in time, becoming that child in mannerisms, speech and attitude.

It’s an extraordinary performance, for not only does Turner become child, adolescent and adult, he also runs the gamut of emotions from childish wonder and fear to adult love, to guilt and despair as he carries with him a secret which fractured his friendship with his constant companion, his servant, and kite runner, Hassan.

Hassan is totally loyal to Amir and defends him whenever he needs him, never wavering, and Andrei Costin’s portrayal is most moving. I also like Emilio Doorgasingh’s emotional Baba and Nicholas Karimi certainly struts his stuff as the bullying Assef.

Alongside Amir’s story is that of Afghanistan, from the communist coup in 1978, the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the rise of the Taliban. Together, Hosseini and Spangler make the situation real and personal, giving the play an extra dimension, while Hanif Khan adds an extra treat, playing the tabla beautifully at the side of the stage. And it’s not without its humour. Christopher Biggins’ loud laughter from the first night auditorium truly endorsed that!

 

The Kite Runner is at Wyndham’s Theatre until March 11.

Box office: 0844 482 5120

www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk