When Hjalmar Söderberg’s
classic novel was published in 1905, it caused a scandal
because it seemed to condone abortion and euthanasia and
discussed the morality of murder. Written in the form of a
journal, the novel is a psychological study of a complex man,
the protagonist Doktor Tyko Gabriel Glas: A fin-de-siècle
aesthete, who chose a profession that didn’t suit him in the
least because it would necessarily confront him with
ugliness, falls in love with a young woman who is married to
a ghoulish and morally corrupted clergyman - Pastor
Gregorius. Revolted by his sexual advances, Helga has fled
into the arms of the handsome Klas Recke. Although Dr. Glas
knows that Helga will never love him, he decides to help
Krister Henriksson, a national treasure in Sweden and known in this country for his portrayal of Kurt Wallander in the original Swedish TV series, decided to bring this book on stage, using Allan Edwall’s brilliant adaptation - his production became a great hit in his native Sweden. Cut down to 90 minutes from the original 5 ½ hours, Doktor Glas now plays in the West End – a bold choice because we get to see a Swedish production with English surtitles.
As the curtain rises, Dr. Glas recalls the first visit of Helga Gregorius, a young woman who started an adulterous affair because her husband is such an appalling creature. The physician immediately falls in love with the unreachable girl, perhaps because he knows that he will never have a chance. Helga begs him to invent some disease for her that will keep her husband away. All her pleas to restrain himself have so far been ignored or answered with sermons about the duty to reproduce. The resourceful Dr. Glas not only comes up with a disease for Helga but also discovers that Pastor Gregorius suffers from a heart condition and needs rehabilitation in a spa. Helga is experiencing the happiest time of her adult life once Gregorius is safely shipped away. But when her husband returns, he is as loathsome as ever and immediately rapes Helga. Dr. Glas now has to come up with a different solution and seriously considers using one of the cyanide pills he has kept for his own needs - in case his ongoing depression got out of hand - on the clergyman. A rather fail safe method and hard to detect: "“How suspicious is it to have a stroke after reading the news?” But Dr. Glas has sworn an oath to protect lives, not take them.
Peder Bjurman, who co-directed the play together with Henriksson, created a claustrophic set - an early 20th century surgery where the whole action takes place. Krister Henriksson plays Dr. Glas in this one-hander. For some strange reason, he was using a microphone which coveed half of his face but this did not really take away from his excellent performance as the tormented doctor who sees himself as a failure because he has not achieved greatness and knows he never will. Allan Edwall's adaptation of Söderberg’s novel is poetic, philosphical and at times hilariously funny. Henriksson's portrayal of the "toadstool" Gregorius borders on the grotesque and he delivers Edwall's best lines with subtle irony: "She said you have such a pleasant way of keeping quiet." I know a bit of Swedish and the surtitles represented the Swedish text fairly well. It was somewhat strenuous to switch between the surtitles and the performance but it could be done. The constant ringing of a mobile phone didn't help, but at least Krister Henriksson managed to ignore it. He received a standing ovation for his wonderful performance and thanked his audience with red roses. Grattis!
This production should not be missed.
By Carolin Kopplin
Until 11th May 2013 at Wyndham's Theatre.
Further information: http://www.drglas.com/
Lenny Henry -- Photo by Nobby Clark
You got more stories than the devil got sinners.
August Wilson is one of the great American dramatists. In a series of ten plays, he described the African American experience in the United States throughout the twentieth century. Fences was created in 1965 as the fifth part of his Pittsburgh Cycle and won the New York Drama Critics’ Award, two Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
As the play begins, Troy has just come home from work and is having a friendly chat with his best friend Bono on his front porch. It is payday after all! They are drinking, laughing and generally having a good time. Troy is bragging about having challenged his boss, which might well cost him his job, and then dares death to come and get him, swinging a baseball bat. When his wife Rose emerges from the house, he chides her for listening in on men’s talk but acts as if he was still very much in love with her. Rose laughs about his silliness and is pleasant enough but she obviously doesn’t support Troy’s theory that he didn’t make his career as a baseball player because society was against him: “If you could play, they’d have let you play” and she reminds him to do some work on the fences. This doesn’t go down too well with Troy. When Lyons comes to ask for money, well aware that Friday is payday, Troy treats him with derision but lends him the money after all, not expecting to get it back. He is less amiable towards Cory whom he considers competition and a reminder of his own failure. Although Cory might have a great career as a football player ahead of him, Troy insists that he work in a shop and help him build the fence instead of going to football practice. The only character that Troy truly seems to love is his friend Bono who is detached from his family and therefore cannot be regarded competition nor show him off as a failure.
Lenny Henry and Ashley Zhangazha -- Photo by Nobby Clark
August Wilson’s play is not easy to watch, it can be very verbose at times. Yet director Paulette Randall creates a remarkable production with an impressive cast in many memorable scenes. Fences centres on the leading character and Lenny Henry is fantastic as Troy, an ambiguous man who is actually hard to like although one has to admire his courage and tenacity. The final scene with his son Cory is almost unbearable in its cruelty but Lenny Henry also shows the vulnerability and pain of the character. Tanya Moodie conveys the warmth and decency of Troy’s wife Rose who has resigned to living Troy’s life instead of her own. Ashley Zhangazha is excellent as Cory who sees his dreams crushed by his jealous father.
A wonderful and well rounded production!
By Carolin Kopplin
Tour dates: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/fences/
The Gods are far away and indifferent.
Nameless Theatre presented Howard Colyer’s modern adaptation of Seneca’s Trojan Women. Cut down to 65 minutes, the production was fast paced and cut to the essentials.
This poignant play about the cruelty of war is as important now as it was when Euripides first wrote it. Howard Colyer updated some of the language which added to the power of this timeless story. Skilfully directed by James Farrell, a strong cast, led by an impressive Jacquie Crago as Hecuba, makes this performance a chilling experience. I especially liked the chorus. Their faces covered with masks and singing most of their lines, the actors took us back to ancient Greek theatre, and the use of masks made the suffering even more palpable. Edward Mitchell gave a strong performance as the vengeful, mad Pyrrhus who is obsessed with avenging the death of his father Achilles. Jess Tobert convinced as Cassandra, half-mad with grief. Tania Betzoglou was very good as the ambivalent Calchas. The set was appropriately desolate as debris and ash covered the stage (design by Libby Todd).By Carolin Kopplin
The run has now ended.
Bethan Clark -- Photo by Elyse Marks
Only if I remember exactly will I experience the
Olga Benario, a name that is relatively unknown in the former West, was a freedom fighter and martyr to the Communist cause. Born in 1908 in Munich as the second child of a Jewish family, she joined the Communist Youth organization at the age of fifteen and decided to dedicate her life to the promotion of Communist ideology. After being arrested in Berlin for "preparations for high treason", she was released and fled to Moscow. Her talents didn’t remain unnoticed by the Comintern and six years later, Olga was ordered to accompany the Brazilian captain Luis Carlos Prestes to Brazil to topple the fascist dictator and form a Communist government. The revolution failed - Benario and Prestes were arrested and the pregnant Olga was sent back to Nazi Germany where she spent the rest of her life in a concentration camp.
The set displays a gloomy room with bunk beds and a tall wire fence in the background (Design: Matt Sykes-Hooban). The room is supposed to be a cell in Ravensbrück concentration camp but it could be any prison cell, in all its universally depressive dreariness. Olga is alone. She has been imprisoned for a long time, for many years. Olga is trying to remember details from her past to keep her sanity although this also means remembering the horrors: “You have to forget and retain a perfect memory.” She recalls how the Brazilian police handed her over to the Gestapo after she had been interrogated in a Brazilian prison where she was sharing a cell with Genny, a 17-year old political Romanian prisoner. Genny, who prefers living in a fantasy world, keeps asking Olga to tell her stories about her romantic escape with Luis Carlos Prestes to drive away her fear. Meanwhile Filinto Müller, a former revolutionary who has opportunistically sided with the regime, conducts his investigation. A calm, suave racist in a three-piece-suit he indulges in his power over his victims and will use any means necessary to extract information from them.
Using an excellent translation by David Tushingham, and under the direction of Samuel Miller, Speaking in Tongues create a gripping, unsentimental tale of the human spirit. Bethan Clark is outstanding as the unbeaten revolutionary Olga, reacting with caustic intelligence to Müller’s taunts. Pete Collis plays Filinto Müller with a sickening charm that makes your blood run cold. The scene, in which he tortures Ana Libre (a wonderful Ceridwen Smith) is particularly hard to bear. Sheena May is very good as the young girl Genny.
Go see this powerful production at the Arcola Theatre!
By Carolin Kopplin
Until 26 January 2013
Tue to Sat, 8.00 pm
Perfect Mayhem was formed nine years ago and is dedicated to working with new or neglected North American playwrights. About a year ago, the company unearthed John Vanbrugh's amusing play The Provoked Wife at the Greenwich Playhouse, setting the action in the 1930s, which worked very well. This time they present a 30-minute play by a contemporary English author as part of "First: A Season of Solo Performances" at the Tristan Bates Theatre.
Kay, a war correspondent, makes an unscheduled stop during the Balkans conflict in Bosnia, in an area much like the Yorkshire Dales. As the lights go up, Kay is taking photos of an executed soldier although it makes her nauseous. In her monologue, addressed to the dead man, she confronts the cruel nature of war, journalism and the vagaries of map reading. She also explains the rules of "Tongues" to him, a card game for children in which the loser keeps on playing until the bitter end. The absurdity of the situation and the humour of the text make this short one-hander a darkly comic play that also raises some important questions.
Provence Maydew gives an intense performance as the not so hardened journalist who feels the need to connect and assist somebody, even if her attempts are in vain because the only other person around is dead. In this respect the play has an almost optimistic outlook on humanity.
By Carolin Kopplin
Until 16th January 2012, 7.30pm
Tristan Bates Theatre
The Actors Centre, 1a Tower St., London WC2H 9NP
Tel: 020 7240 6283
It was one world and we stood still. With gravity
Blurring the edges between music and theatre, dramatic monologue meets chamber opera, love meets mortality, and black widow meets bag lady as two women battle against time to save their true identities. Heart of Time weaves together the two song cycles on which the dramatic fantasia is based: the rarely performed Love and Time by Madeleine Dring dating back to the 1970s and Five Songs for Voice and Piano (1983) by Gian Carlo Minotti. Cabaret artist and actor Marysia Trembecka joins forces with soprano Anne Wright, and international pianist William Hancox in this World Premiere of a new work by writer Amy Bird.
Eve, an elderly bag lady pushing a trolley with all her belongings, sits down on a bench in a park. In the background is a big clock. The hands of the clock don’t move. Eve knows life. She knows all the coping-mechanisms and is aware that self-preservation becomes self-destruction - it does not stop the clock. Zoe, a somewhat younger woman, enters the park. She takes off her high-heeled shoes and sits down on the swing. Zoe recalls her first date with the man she loved. Eve looks at a photo and sings “Sister, Awake” remembering her past love. In the course of Zoe’s monologue, her relationship unravels and she is left alone and disillusioned. At first she rejects Eve’s help but then she understands.
This is a fascinating piece of theatre exploring new
boundaries. Anne Wright is lovely, expressive, and full of warmth
as her songs, masterfully accompanied by William Hancox,
counterpoint and add to Marysia Trembecka’s monologue
about her lost love. I especially enjoyed Wright's rendition of
Madeleine Dring’s song “I Feed A Flame Within.” Marysia Trembecka
is self-confident and full of energy as the resilient Zoe.
By Carolin Kopplin
10 November 2012, 19.30
Tickets: £12 / £10 (conc.)
Box Office: 020 7704 6665
Rough Justice is the kind of play that deserves a packed auditorium – and it definitely got this on opening night in Glasgow.
Tom Conti is oddly likable as James Highwood, representing himself in court while standing trial for smothering his own 9 month old baby. His warmth and charm come through to his character and his delivery is so natural and plausible you could easily believe it was Tom Conti on trial, all the while wrestling with your own conscience about whether you should like someone who has committed such a crime. Mr Conti is given a verbal sparring partner in Elizabeth Payne as Margaret Casely, Queens Counsel for the prosecution. Her sharp delivery and excellent timing made for some brilliantly executed exchanges between these leading performers. Unfortunately at times these exchanges were interrupted by poor timing from Royce Mills as the Judge. Although many of the characters were “referring to notes” as part of their legal characterisation, it was unfortunately extremely obvious that Mr Mills was referring to the script – and when I say referring, I mean “reading from”. His ad-libs to cover his own mistakes also seemed to leave a few of the cast looking a little bemused. This was very disappointing on a few levels – firstly the rest of cast really were exceptional and they were at times left floundering due to Mr Mills losing the place. Secondly, in a professional production of this standard, there is no excuse at not rectifying this before it reaches a paying audience.
Luckily, Mr Mills had more of a diminished role in act 2, where Carol Starks as Mr Highwood’s wife Jean, came to the fore. She perfectly captured the anguish of her character as she supported her husband, while struggling with her own feelings about the incident.
Terence Frisby has created a clever script with a dark plot, which is peppered with wit and humour throughout. This helps to keep this simply staged story full of life, and the witty exchanges between many of the characters is what makes this one of the strongest play scripts I’ve seen for a long time. Janet Bird’s clever design makes the scene changes seamless, especially when combined with clever sound and lighting that help evoke the feelings required in each scene.
Even with the rather obvious negative point to this production, I am still pleased that I have seen it, and would certainly recommend it to you. Tom Conti, Elizabeth Payne and Carol Starks do exceptional work here, ably supported by David Michaels and Mary Lincoln - and hopefully the later you catch this, the more chance Mr Mills may have learned his lines!
Wed 29th Aug – Sat 1 Sept
Wed – Sat eves 7.30pm
Thu & Sat mats 2.30pm
Tickets: £12 - £27
Box Office 0844 871 7647 (Bkg fee)
Interview with Patrick Warner, understudy for three of the cast members of West End play Posh. He explains how the cultural comment on privilege and abuse of power have been updated to reflect modern political circumstance. And the reaction from Alastair Campbell, who was due to watch it that night.
The play’s director Laura Wade was interested in the change in the standing of the Tory party. Patrick explains how now, “the Godfather figure at the open and close is the deputy chairman of the Tory party. The ‘riot club’ is also less of a gung-ho teenage initiative. In this version, they have been banned from having their dinners by Tory grandees because they have been having so much press attention. But its members, and other Conservative figures, want to reinstate it in what they call ‘the glorious return.’”
The club’s basic premise is to hold a dinner party in the function room of a country pub, get uproariously drunk and trash it. They pay for the damage, and are rewarded with the sense of satisfaction of having exercised the power, as the ‘ruling class’, that modern British society has dispossessed them of. They offset their sense of social alienation through violent destruction – but get away with it, because of their wealth and the secrecy surrounding their position.
Some reviewers maintain that Posh’s capacity to reflect the political times has been over-estimated by its creators. But it is generating controversy among the elite, like Boris Johnson, George Osbourne, and David Cameron, all of who were members of the ‘Bullingdon Club’ the play satirises. “Boris Johnson’s sister came to see it,” says Patrick, “but she left during the interval”. She is rumoured to be attending a debate next Thursday, chaired by Alastair Campbell and possibly including Cherie Blair, on the impact of Posh’s representation of modern politics.
While the antics of the real-life Oxford drinking society remain closely guarded, its director and producer have met some former members, most of whom are nonplussed. Patrick reports another cast member as saying, “The other night he ran into some ‘Bullas’ in the pub, who came to see the play.” They were seemingly amused. Several ‘upper-class’ members of the audience in Oxford, where Patrick originally saw it, said “Posh was almost an exact recreation of their time at university”.
What Patrick sees as being most interesting is the motives and behaviour of the one character who doesn’t “come from money,” Hugo. This is revealed in the speech beginning, “Once more into the drink, dear friends,” where he expounds on the themes of “Englishness and history,” displaying a love of tradition that he was not born to inherit, like the others. His earnest desire to belong cause him to go along with, and often propose even more extreme measures than, the characters with titles. Another pretender is the Greek Dmitri, who is not a British national but has wealth enough to buy his way in. His proposal to end the party by taking a private plane for a day’s holiday in another hemisphere is a typically excessive gesture.
Patrick admits that “there are a couple of double-barrelled surnames knocking about in the cast,” as the creators thought “it would be helpful to have a few people from Oxford and Cambridge who knew the context, and might have met someone like the characters.” But, he insists, there was no one from the Bullingdon Club. The cast has enthusiastically embraced new production innovations like the seventeenth century portraits which ‘come alive’ and “leap through the frame to the tune of LMFAO and start fencing” (of which Patrick was one). He particularly enjoyed learning the acapella medley, a 10-part harmony to the songs Pass Out by Tinie Tempah, Maroon 5’s Moves like Jagger and Earthquake by Labyrinth.
In the future, he looks forward to the winter release of Closed, a film directed by John Crowley, who also directed Pillowboy at the National. Before that, he starred in a production of Waiting for Godot, staged in an old beer cellar in Berlin. He explains that the director Will Oldroyd, a previous associate from LAMDA, wanted younger actors as Estragon and Vladimir. Also having them in business suits as opposed to vaudeville garb could “be seen as a nod toward out of work bankers,” a further contemporary comment on social disenfranchisement.
A final push for backstage gossip reveals that the after-party for the press showing took place in an old library in Mayfair. This Patrick feels was strangely appropriate: although it was clear that the cast of Posh do not engage in the level of revelry of their onstage counterparts, he said he felt that at any moment the ‘riot club’ would turn up and torch it.
Inspired by real events from just before the First World War, The Winslow Boy by Terence Rattigan examines what happens when a private individual stands up against the might of the British establishment. As the struggle goes on with no prospect of success, the playwright shows how a whole family suffers for the cause, and questions whether that price is actually worth paying
Ronnie Winslow is a 13-year-old cadet who has been expelled from his naval college for stealing a postal order. Ronnie maintains his innocence; his formidable father believes him and demands a further investigation. But the naval college is ultimately under the control of the Admiralty, which considers that such a challenge would undermine its authority (especially with a war brewing) and is therefore reluctant to re-examine the case.
Political demonstrations, heated debates in the Houses of Parliament and tense cross-examinations in the High Court all form the backdrop to the Winslow case, yet Rattigan does his damnedest to keep any of this action off the stage, which can be very frustrating. However David Thacker’s in-the-round production is warm, engaging and constantly interesting.
On press night the part of Ronnie was taken by Sam Ramsay, whose cheeky but cherubic looks suggested an alternative play, “Just William Goes to Court”. His brother Dickie, a very unscholarly Oxford student, is played to absolute perfection by Iestyn Arwel: he looks like a portrait by John Singer Sargent and sounds like a character by PG Wodehouse, cheering up the play whenever he comes on.
Christopher Ravenscroft as the redoubtable father, Arthur Winslow, shows us a man whose body is frail but whose spirit remains strong – although benign on the surface he is cold enough to risk his older son’s career and his daughter’s marriage for the sake of a personal principle. Georgina Strawson as his Suffragette daughter, Catherine, is more passionate and political, but endowed with a very feminine fragility.
Suzan Sylvester’s loving but unintellectual matriarch has a wonderful comic scene with Charlie Covell’s female reporter, whose trivial “Hello!” magazine questioning culminates in a ridiculous dialogue about the drawing-room curtains. And Flaminia Cinque has some excellent moments as Violet, the badly-trained maid, whose crucial speech at the end goes all round the houses before the big reveal.
The star role of society barrister Sir Robert Morton is played with mock severity by Christopher Villiers. Although called a “cold fish” by Catherine, and allowing for the occasional pompous moment, he is charming and amusing as well as kind and vulnerable, and I think this is one of the reasons why David Thacker’s production is so enjoyable. On the page Rattigan’s characters are brittle, his dialogue is terse, and there’s a huge “So what?” factor hanging over the whole play because the main dramatic events are never seen, only reported. But because the cast make their characters so real and interesting and engaging it is a pleasure to spend an evening in their company.
This wonderful and accomplished revival of a much loved classic is another winner from the Octagon.
The Winslow Boy is on at Bolton Octagon until Saturday 21 April 2012
Tickets: from £9.50
Eves @ 7.30
Matinees: Sat 14 & Wed 18 @ 2pm
Box Office: 01204 520661
As Glasgow becomes the new spot for “out of town” try-outs before a show hits London’s West End, we are presented with the first play written by Zach Braff of TV’s Scrubs fame.
The story begins with Charlie (Zach Braff), on his
35th birthday, trying to commit suicide in a beach
house in Long Island. He is interrupted by Emma (Eve Myles) who
is a letting agent trying to lease the property for the summer.
The opening scene here is filled with witty lines and excellent
physical comedy and certainly bodes well for the 1 hour and 40
minutes ahead. And although the play does lose its way on a few
occasions, it always pulls itself back on track with some nice
dramatic or comedic touches.
As the story moves on, the characters are joined by Myron (Paul Hilton), Emma’s only friend, drug dealer and also Chief of the Long Island Fire Department and finally Kim (Susannah Fielding) a prostitute – sorry “escort” sent to Charlie as a birthday present from his wealthy friend. With touches of farce the play is like a modern day Abigail’s Party – the introduction of characters who wouldn’t normally mix together, the hidden tensions between certain characters and the witty ripostes all give a little nod to Mike Leigh’s classic. I’m not sure if All New People will still have a resonance in 30 years, but for today’s audience it is an interesting piece of theatre.
Under the direction of Peter DuBois, the performances from each of the actors in this 4-hander are excellent. Eve Myles as the eccentric British girl has some great reactions and her comic timing is great, topped only by her portrayal of the genuine moments of sadness for her character. Susannah Fielding’s vibrancy in the role of Kim gives a much needed injection of energy to the play and her convincing delivery helps sell some of the more unbelievable dialogue. Paul Hilton is a great foil to Zach Braff, with both playing at either end of the manic scales and then switching to great effect. With a supporting cast on film (yes, I said film!) of Amanda Redmand, David Bradley and a great turn from Joseph Millson, the clips that break up the onstage scene are a nice technique where “break-out” scenes would have really slowed the piece down.
With an exceptional set design by Alexander Dodge and smart lighting from Paul Anderson, this is a classy production which is deserved of the West End. At time of writing, the Glasgow run has all but sold out, so it looks like you’ll need to book train tickets too to catch All New People at Duke Of Yorks Theatre, with previews from 22nd February for a limited 10 week season.
Listings – Glasgow
Tue 14 – Sat 18th Feb
Tue – Sat eves 7.30pm
Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm
Tickets: £12 – £29.50
Box Office 0844 871 7648 (Bkg fee)
www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)
Listings - London
From 22nd Feb for 10 weeks
Mon - Sat eves
Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm
Tickets: £15 - £49.50
Premium seats £66.50
Box Office 0844 871 7627 (Bkg fee)