London theatre update

Focussing on theatre and couldn’t be arsed to put in a photo.

Most of this below post still applies but a few new shiny things have caught my beady eye.

Some ideas for the culturally inclined in London

At the Barbican booking opening for a Japanese version of Macbeth which is apparently a “once in a lifetime” experience. So they have hooked me in easily. And all the Shakespeare Roman plays are coming from Stratford to the Barbican with booking very soon.

Talking of Roman plays the new Bridge Theatre with the marvellous Nicholas Hytner at the tiller will announce its inaugural season on 19th April but has already teased with a Julius Caesar with Ben Wishaw as Brutus. Busy Ben will also be in Against at the Almeida. What with the National Theatre productions of The Madness of King George III, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Alchemist, England People Very Nice, One Man Two Guvnors, Timon of Athens and Othello through the years Mr Hytner has been the brains behind some of the very best theatre I have ever seen.

The West End transfer of the Almeida Hamlet with Andrew Scott is booking already I think – I got a bit confused. Mandatory viewing if you haven’t already seen it. Hamlet at the Almeida review *****

And the Park Theatre new season has been announced and looks full of goodies to me. I don’t know how they do it but the ideas, writers and cast they attract it tip top. Rabbits, Loot, What Shadows and The Retreat all catch my eye for varying reasons. Take a gander at the website.

Park Theatre What’s On

Right best of what’s on now that I have seen is (in no particular order)

  • The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre – make sure you are in a Tennessee Williams mindset though (whatever that is) but the production and performances are top notch. mind you the staging requires a close up view I think.
  • The Kid Stays in the Picture at the Royal Court – loved it – The Kid Stays in the Picture at the Royal Court Theatre review *****
  • Ugly Lies the Bone at the National Theatre – have to review this but worth a visit – it is a bit skeletal and needs a bit of meat to flesh it out (sorry this is getting overly carnivorous) but solid performances, sone good ideas and a cracking Es Devlin set.

Yet to see Twelfth Night and Consent at the NT but critics like ’em, same for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Goat and Don Juan in Soho in the West End but sounds like you could easily go a whim to any of these.


The Radical Eye at Tate Modern review ***


The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection

Tate Modern, 29th March 2017

Sir Elton John is a thoroughly good bloke in my book. Firstly, for letting the Tate conjure up an exhibition of iconic works by renowned photographers (Man Ray, Dali, Kertesz, Strand), secondly for not coming over like a pretentious kn*b when explaining why he started buying them in the video that accompanies the exhibition – essentially because he liked them and it helped him get over the booze – and thirdly because he intends to gift the collection in time I gather. I can even forgive him for accepting the invitation from Kate Bush to sing on the Fifty Words for Snow album (mind you Stephen Fry should also have put the phone down). Though to be fair it is Kate’s fault for asking and my theory is she deliberately makes these lapses of judgement to confuse us into thinking she is human and not actually a god.

Having said that the house where Sir Elton displays them could do with a bit of colour accessorising in my view – there is a whiff of show home here. As perhaps could this exhibition. There are some absolutely stunning images here make no mistake, but they are all so perfect in pristine black and white, whether portraits, nudes, landscapes, close ups, surrealist mash-ups or still lifes, that in the end I was overwhelmed rather than engaged. The “coffee table book syndrome” that can often hit me in photography exhibitions came fast and came big. It is entirely my fault but I just ended up needing a hit of paint (mmm a bit of Doig would have done the trick if I had time – I know, I know now who is the pretentious kn*b).

If you know what you are looking at then I gather this is the bee’s knees. If you are a casual observer is it worth a whizz round? Yes. But if I only had time for one in Tate Modern right now the Wolfgang Tillmans would get my vote. Nothing pretty about most of his photos but way more to chew on.

The Kid Stays in the Picture at the Royal Court Theatre review *****


The Kid Stays in the Picture

Royal Court Theatre, 30th March 2017

So another of life’s minor annoyances caused by devoting too much time to work and not enough time to expanding the cultural horizons. I confess I have not read Robert Evans’s eponymous autobiography on which this play is based and therefore knew nothing about him. This clearly now looks like a massive oversight and will be put right tout suite. It is a fascinating story and it is pretty much immediately clear from the off why the genius Simon McBurney and Complicite have worked so hard to bring this story to the stage (with help from some big names in cinema).

Now all you theatre lovers will know full well how much of an asset Mr McBurney OBE is to the human race. For us lesser mortals you have likely seen him in a few films (Allied, Mission Impossible, The Theory of Everything, The Last King of Scotland which I recently watched), and a bit on the telly (Vicar of Dibley and Rev for example). Now I assume these were to pay the bills and fund the adventures with Complicite which he co-founded. Most recently he created Beware of Pity in conjunction with Schaubuhne Berlin at the Barbican (no review from me as it went in the blink of an eye but an astonishing five star tour de force) and The Encounter which I also saw at the Barbican last year and which was again a staggeringly clever piece of theatre.

Now this piece uses all the tricks for which he is famous. Video on stage, recorded video, close ups of other media, music and sound collages, lighting effects including brilliant use of silhouetting, actors telling the story through microphones rather than drama per se, multiple parts. It is an astonishing technical feat to have pieced all this together – even a dummy like me can see that. Given however that this is in essence therefore just telling the first person story, in a very cinematic way, of what is on the page in the autobiography, I can see why some of the professional reviewers got a bit sniffy about whether this is proper theatre. Me I couldn’t give two hoots about the genre bending when the story is this captivating and when it is delivered at this pace. At the risk of sounding like a patronising old git (actually no risk at all for when the cap fits) I would highly recommend this to those who are not natural theatre goers but who do love their cinema.

This is not simply because of the content (Robert Evans was largely responsible for the rise of Paramount Studios in the 1960s and !970s and the driving force behind the likes of Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story, The Godfather and Chinatown) but also the style. There is a debt of gratitude to the likes of Citizen Kane and films from the early days of cinema, as well as to noir with the “voiceovers”, but Complicite also manage to capture this era of great “New Wave” cinema making when big characters made big films with big issues at their heart (not the silly CGI fantasies too often spat out by modern Hollywood). There is no real development of the characters so I think I now know what Robert Evans and other caught up in his story got up to (a rise and fall morality tale), though not really why, but frankly it didn’t matter to me. I just got mesmerised by the story.

So there you have it. Please go and take a look. It isn’t the typical Royal Court fare where the writer is everything (and that is why it is a precious institution) but it is still a rollickingly good evening and they even let you out for a comfort break halfway through.

P.S. This did bring to my mind two other recommendations. Firstly if you have never read Suspects by the film journalist David Thomson, please do. He takes renowned characters from cinema’s past and weaves imagined back-stories for them. Marvellous holiday reading. And secondly if you are a youngster and have never sat down and watched the Godfather trilogy please put this right. I accept that by Part 3 Al Pacino is having to make herculean efforts to prop up a creaky plot but Parts 1 and 2 are about as good as film gets. Ask your Dad if you don’t believe me. If he doesn’t agree get a new Dad.