Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.


Messages - HtoHe

Pages: 1 2 [3] 4 5 ... 224
31
The Coffee Bar / Re: The Waffle Thread
« on: July 23, 2016, 08:05:40 pm »
As I’m more of a Wagner fan than a Wagner expert I wonder if anyone can tell me if there is a precedent for what we just heard from the RAH under the title of Die Walküre - final scene.  It sounded to me like an edited version of the famous Ride of the Valkyries from the opening of Act 3 fading into the actual final scene starting just before War es so schmählich, was ich verbrach…  I’m used to concert excerpts like Prelude and Liebestod or even The Ride of the Valryries and Wotan’s Farewell but this concoction seemed to be not only ill-advised but wrongly labelled. 

32
The Coffee Bar / Re: The Minor Moan thread
« on: July 21, 2016, 11:08:23 pm »
I was mildly disappointed to notice last week that The Globe in Covent Garden has undergone one of those pointless name changes that seem to be all the rage these days.  Instantly recognisable, long after the market it served has gone, as the pub in Frenzy (you know, that Hitchcock film that makes Psycho look feminist) where Anna Massey works and from which Jon Finch gets sacked by Bernard Cribbins, it's now called, in a stunningly original move, The Covent Garden.  It's been a crap pub for as long as I can remember - The Marquess of Anglesey next door has better food, better beer, better service, in short, better everything - and now it's given up the only thing that made it interesting.

33
Theatre / Richard III - Almeida Theatre
« on: July 18, 2016, 01:58:10 pm »
Ralph Fiennes certainly does a good job of getting across the cunning and viciousness of Shakespeare’s Richard III; but, unlike Mark Rylance, he fails to get to the heart of a character who might get away with such behaviour for so long.  I suppose he might have commanded loyalty because, in those days, you got away with much more using just raw power; or we can just accept that he got away with all this villainy because the bard says he does.  But Rylance’s wicked humour and his glances into the pit implying ‘come on, you’d do it too if you could get away with it’ do so much to lift the Duke of Gloucester out of the stage baddie category.  For the truly illuminating in this production we have to look to Vanessa Redgrave’s Queen Margaret indicting the duke in measured, almost resigned, tones rather than the more usual hair rending bitterness.  She even gets away with toting a baby around with her without looking too much like Damien Day of GlobeLink News taking his ‘child’s teddy bear’ to war zones and disaster scenes.

If you like your villains ruthless, reckless and joyless then Fiennes undoubtedly does a good job – with a fair bit of violent misogyny thrown in*  He horrifies even hardened assassins and fellow conspirators like Buckingham (another fine piece of work from Finbar Lynch) and Stanley (Joseph Mydell).  He disgusts his own mother (well played by Susan Engel) and ends with almost no allies (and, of course, no horse).  All this we know from the text but, as I said, Fiennes, unlike Rylance, gives us little insight into how he kept it up for so long before his inevitable end.

The production is a bit scrappy.  Topping and tailing it with the Leicester car park discovery is one thing but the mixture of traditional and modern – swords and assault rifles, for example – is mildly irritating.  There’s enough food for thought in the text without having to wonder why Vanessa is going round in a boiler suit carrying a model baby.   Oh, and I still can’t get Leonard Rossiter out of my head every time I see Fiennes on stage!

Worth going if you can get a ticket.  They pop up now and then as they are returned and there’s always the day seat issue if you can get there early enough. 

http://www.almeida.co.uk/whats-on/richard-iii/7-jun-2016-6-aug-2016




*SPOILER – in the shocking scene where he outrageously asks Elizabeth for her daughter’s hand he underlines the fact that he means business by raping her. 

34
but you praise it for avoiding political correcctness - what did you have in mind?

I just meant that Shylock is presented 'warts and all' rather than as an innocent picked on just because of his race.  By the same token, the production also makes it clear that his attackers repeatedly berate him as a Jew, not just as a mean-spirited bully.

Shylock's great speeches detailing the treatment he has received and protesting his humanity are enough to absolve the play from any charge of antisemitism

Exactly what I was saying to my neighbour in the interval.  It is the characters rather than the play who are anti-Semitic.  It was he who said that it used to be common to present Shylock as the model of the evil Jew - something I'd heard used to happen centuries ago but even at my (very Christian) school  forty-odd years ago  the 'hath not a jew eyes...if you prick us do we not bleed...' bit was presented as a condemnation of bigotry and was highlighted every bit as much as the 'quality of mercy' excerpt.

Just one thing, though - Italian Jews wouldn't have spoken  Yiddish

I overheard someone saying that on the way out.  I was already pretty sure that Shakespeare hadn't written any Yiddish and couldn't find any in any online texts.  I don't think much is gained by throwing such material into the action.  The fact that it's inauthentic as well as unoriginal makes it worse.

35
Theatre / Hobson's Choice - Vaudeville Theatre
« on: July 17, 2016, 09:56:15 pm »
I would have gone to the first night of the Proms but I wasn’t alone in town on Friday, and I let my nephew choose for the simple reason that he gets to London considerably less often than I do.  Perhaps that was good fortune because this production was on my long list and, judging by Friday evening’s attendance, it might struggle to last until the 10 Sep closing date.

The first thing to say is that my nephew, who had previously only known the name, loved the play.  I’ve always held that Brighouse’s best known work is more than just a comfortable old favourite and it was gratifying to see a young person appreciating it.  That said, it’s not difficult to explain the empty seats (indeed, empty rows – the third tier was closed and the dress circle very sparsely peopled).  This Hobson’s Choice has a bit too much of the comfortable comedy about it to do well with West End audiences who are spoiled for choice.  I’d be the last to advocate gimmicry or innovation for its own sake, but this period production, for me, lacks the spark that sets How the Other Half Loves – also entirely confined to its own period – alight down the road.  Moreover, Martin Shaw (who, one must presume, is the main attraction) doesn’t really put his stamp on the role of the Hobson family’s wobbling patriarch.  He clearly has stage presence but there are times when he comes over as decidedly hammy – and his Salford accent didn’t convince me, either.  Far better was Bryan Dick who charted Will Mossop’s journey from timid, servile employee to confident, successful artisan/businessman very well.  Of course, Will couldn’t have done this without the formidable Maggie Hobson; and Naomi Frederick is a fine counterpart to Mr Dick.  While there were no bad performances in the production I (and my nephew) found the other two Hobson daughters – Gabrielle Dempsey as Vickey and Florence Hall as Alice – a little underpowered; and I would have liked to see Emily Johnstone as Ada Figgins put up a bit more of a fight for Will (not, of course, that the text would ever allow her to best Maggie; but this Ada’s resistance looked almost half-hearted).  On the plus side, there were fine cameos from Ken Drury as Dr McFarlane and Joanna McCallum as Mrs Hepworth; and David Shaw-Parker as Tubby Wadlow also did well.

Hobson’s Choice is always worth seeing if done well; and this is done well enough to be worth seeing.  The only question is whether it’s outstanding enough to hold up against the fierce competition in the West End (as opposed to Bath, where it began).  If you want to see it, I recommend sooner rather than later to avoid disappointment.

http://www.uktw.co.uk/London/Vaudeville-Theatre/Play/Hobsons-Choice/L0809618070/


36
I hadn’t the time to report on this before the end of its very short visit to the Playhouse at the start of an international tour.  It hardly matters because the strongest of recommendations on Thursday might only have caused frustration for people trying to see a production that had been ‘sold out all dates’ for some time – and for which, I’m happy to report, the house seemed genuinely full when I went.  Some of you might have seen it before, of course, and all is not lost anyway because, after visiting US and China, the production comes back home to Bankside for a short run in October.

http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/theatre/whats-on/globe-theatre-on-tour/the-merchant-of-venice-2016-tour

Those who don’t like the Globe style might not enjoy this as, while it’s not as directorially slanted as some productions, there are a few deviations from the conventional.  I don’t know the play very well but I’d be very surprised if Stefan Adegbola’s Launcelot Gobbo is all Shakespeare.  My guess is that it’s at least as full of modern invention and audience baiting as Nadia Albina’s Porter in the current Macbeth.  The audience seemed to like it – which you might, according to your personal preference, see as a good or a bad sign.  Furthermore, I don’t need to know the play inside out to suspect it doesn’t contain the exchanges in Yiddish that we hear in this production; and a quick look at a couple of online texts suggests the Globe’s ending* is one that was never seen in the bard’s time.

Jonathan Pryce’s portrayal of Shylock is very fine and I was happy to see that there is no place here for political correctness (Shylock is shown as a most unsympathetic character); or for hiding from the racism portrayed in the play – attacks on Shylock are quite shocking and clearly make his Jewishness more of a fault than his nastiness.  Dominic Matham’s Antonio is a bit of a boy scout (though even his anti-semitism is pretty evil) making the character a little one-dimensional; but  this might be Shakespeare’s fault.  Portia (Rachel Pickup) and Nerissa (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) make a good team, though I did wonder a bit about their easy comradeliness across a very obvious class divide.

For all its deviation from the original this was probably the best of the three Shakespeare plays I saw last week – which is just as well because, having booked months ahead, I found myself in the middle of a week in London and having to come home for one night to use my ticket before heading back south for Friday and Saturday.



*SPOILER the production closes with Jessica (played by Pryce’s daughter, Phoebe) wailing (in Hebrew, I presume) as her father’s conversion ceremony is played out (in Latin).

37
The Meet Up board / Re: D'you lie?
« on: July 14, 2016, 10:20:16 am »
I'm in town on the last two days of July but that's a weekend  - not traditionally favoured for a R3OK meet.  I could do the 30th but would need to be away in time to get to the NT for 1930.  I'm (so far) free all day Sunday 31st.  I'm around more often in August.  If there's any suggestion of an August meet I could list the days when I haven't (yet) got anything planned.

38
Theatre / Macbeth - Shakespeare's Globe
« on: July 14, 2016, 10:13:59 am »
Tara Fitzgerald was the big draw for me and, consequently, the biggest disappointment of an unconvincing production.  After seeing her in Broken Glass I was looking forward to seeing what she made of Lady M, but by the interval the most charitable conclusion I could come to was that she wasn’t suited to the role – especially as conceived here.  A less charitable view might be that she wasn’t up to it – underpowered for the Globe’s space, too reserved for the Globe’s audience and lacking both the steel and the sex appeal that is often associated with a character who so easily overcomes her husband’s reservations about regicide.  This could be largely because director Iqbal Khan has taken a view about the character, as he seems to have done about several others, not least an implausibly urbane and innocent Duncan (Sam Cox).  This Lady Macbeth is fragile from the start, so that her determination comes across as bluster and her eventual disintegration seems inevitable and unsurprising.  Psychologically it is, perhaps, more realistic; but dramatically it’s rather weak. 

Ray Fearon’s Macbeth is rather better – for me the best performance of the production even allowing for the obvious advantages of playing the central character.  After a low key first few scenes he comes into his own when the thane gets home and is impressively convincing thereafter.  He also handles the verse much better than some others – including Ms Fitzgerald.  Of the others Jermaine Dominique as Banquo and, especially, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as Macduff put in fine shifts.

The production has several irritating deviations.  For no discernible reason there seem to be four weird sisters – I for one couldn’t work out which one was not counted in  ‘when shall we three meet again’, which is spoken unaltered.  The drunken porter (Nadia Albina) seems to have more added or improvised lines (including some lame digs at easy targets like Donald Trump) than actual Shakespearean originals.  It’s a comic interlude so there’s no point getting too prissy about it, but I’ve usually found the scene more effective when the actor concentrates on interpreting the actual text.  Most prominent of all the directorial caprices, though, is the frequent appearance of a silent child.  Presumably a response to the old mischievous question ‘how many children had Lady Macbeth’, I found this innovation rather pretentious and, potentially, very confusing.  Is the child real?  Presumably not, as the references to Macbeth’s lack of offspring are retained.  Lady M clearly interacted with the child but there was little sign that any of the other characters, even Macbeth himself,  acknowledged her/him.  In one scene the child is seen tugging at Banquo’s legs and getting no response at all – surely unthinkable if the child were real; a person would have to be unusually cold not to respond with affection, irritation or a mixture of both, and there’s no sign that this Banquo is such a cold fish.  I even wondered if the production was hinting at a historic liaison between Banquo and Lady M* but that might be my overactive imagination.

Some of the staging is quite striking – I especially liked the way Banquo’s ghost was done – but some, especially the music and the body parts distributed around the stage, is rather corny.  At £5 (still) for a yard ticket the production is still worth seeing if you’re at a loose end but I can’t recommend it with more enthusiasm than that.

http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/theatre/whats-on/globe-theatre/macbeth-2016



*in the final scene the vacant throne, in what appears to be yet another gratuitous deviation, is occupied not by Malcolm but by the child.   

39
OH thought we might see this while we were in London, until I told her it was miles away.

Depending on where you are based it can be as easy to get to the Orange Tree from Central London as to, say, the Almeida.  Richmond is on the District Line and several overground rail routes, the quickest of which does the journey in less than 20 minutes; and the theatre is literally one minute’s walk from Richmond station.  By contrast, the Almeida is a fair way from Angel or Highbury and Islington – a good ten minutes’ walk or you can wait for a bus to crawl along Upper St.

If OH is still keen, FWT visits the Oldham Coli in late October;

http://www.coliseum.org.uk/plays/french-without-tears/

Of course, Liverpool-Oldham is considerably further than London-Richmond but at least you can plan the trip from home base.

we did see The Deep Blue Sea, and I'll be interested to hear what you thought

I’m looking forward to The Deep Blue Sea, though the guy I was talking to at the Donmar said it was awful.  I avoid reviews beforehand but I’m now slightly apprehensive that directorial liberties have been taken.  If so, this would be a pity as Helen McCrory suffered from that in Medea, I thought; and I was hoping to get a better impression of her talents.  Anyway, I’m going at the end of the month and will certainly report back.



40
Theatre / Faith Healer - Donmar Warehouse
« on: July 04, 2016, 10:49:44 am »
It was the cast that attracted me to the Donmar for this.  I didn’t know Faith Healer and the Brian Friel name doesn’t make me reach for the diary.  I’m not well acquainted with his work, with Dancing at Lughnasa being the only piece I’ve really liked and his adaptation of Hedda Gabler making a rather negative impact.  The chance to see a three hander with Ron Cook and Gina McKee alongside Stephen Dillane (who played the central character but, initially, made least appeal) was not to be missed.

The structure of the piece is quite unusual.  It is essentially four monologues delivered by the three characters with only one person on stage at any one time.  First (and last) is the Faith Healer himself, Frank Hardy (Dillane); a man with a ‘gift’ to which he has a decidedly ambivalent attitude.  On the one hand he is sceptical about it and tells us that even his claim to be ‘seventh son of a seventh son’ is fraudulent; on the other, it defines his life – even his initials are the same as ‘faith healer’ – and, inexplicably, seems to work from time to time.  It also, of course, stubbornly fails to deliver when most needed and the differing narratives of the three characters all deal with several defining events including one astonishing success and one disastrous failure for FH’s powers. 

Frank’s version comes first and last and Dillane plays him as a rather bitter man in a shabby suit and tie, apparently in or outside one of his performance venues.  He speaks affectionately but, it seems, quite unreliably about the other two characters.  For example he goes to great lengths to explain that his companion was not his wife but his ‘mistress’ and came from Yorkshire whereas the other characters both say the couple were married and she was Irish, like him.  This woman is Grace (surely a deliberate choice of name for a character called on to sustain a ‘faith’ healer) and McKee appears in a London bedsit, apparently post-Frank and making a very modest living working in a library.  She gives a rather different version of some of the same stories we’ve heard from Frank.  McKee makes her a diffident but articulate character whose devotion to her husband, to the detriment of herself (and their child), is very obvious.  The third character (after an interval that would surely be dropped if the piece were just a little shorter) is Frank’s manager, Teddy, who really does seem to be cockney as Frank says.  He is clearly a fantasist, as demonstrated by some of the stories he tells from his own life, and opens bottles of Bass with alarming frequency; but you do wonder if his version of Frank and Grace’s story isn’t more reliable than either of the other two.  It is, perhaps, significant that, to the best of my memory, he’s the only character who doesn’t punctuate his monologue with litanies of place names (something of a habit with Friel, perhaps).  Ron Cook, in a bow tie and in a room that is either his lounge or, perhaps, an office with an armchair and drinks cabinet, plays him in a way that  makes me wish it were him rather than Ken Branagh that I’ll be seeing as Archie Rice in September. 

I have to recommend this production for three fine performances and the intimate setting  - don’t wait for a West End transfer if you have a choice.  I’m less sure about the play itself.  The language is attractive and there is plenty of food for thought; but it comes across as rather complex, not to say dense.  It struck me as a play that, rather than just repaying close attention, actually needs to be studied; which is a rather undramatic characteristic.  I will read the text at some point (they didn’t seem to have any left when I went so I’ll need to find a copy) but I’m a bit concerned about a discussion I had at the interval.  I didn’t know the play at all but the man standing next to me seems to have seen every major production in the British Isles and made two very contrasting observations.  On the plus side, he thought the first half Dillane the best Frank he’d ever seen; but at the same time he said that with every production he sees he gets the impression that the play is perhaps not nearly as profound as he initially thought it must be!

Runs until 20 Aug.  Tickets are hard to come by but there’s always the Monday morning Barclays allocation and the standing places sold to personal callers on the day.  Additionally, if you are online frequently, returns are put back on sale as they come in so ‘sold out’ doesn’t always mean ‘no chance’.

http://www.donmarwarehouse.com/whats-on/donmar-warehouse/at-the-donmar/2016/faith-healer

41
This revival of one of Rattigan’s less well-regarded pieces was, apparently, successful enough for the Orange Tree to give it another season six months later.  I wouldn’t want to put anyone off seeing it – it’s amusing enough for a pleasant summer evening – but I left with very firm ideas as to why, say, The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version and Cause Celebre deserve serious consideration while this play, perhaps, is best left to obscurity.  Even Flare Path, though clearly very much of its time, scrubs up better.  I won’t include The Deep Blue Sea until I’ve seen the NT production  in a few weeks’ time; but it seemed to me that, as far as French Without Tears is concerned, the thing that’s ‘of its time’ is not so much the play but the kind of allowances audiences are willing to make.  And why they are willing to make them.  The brutal truth, it seems to me, is that even its time, this kind of whimsical narrative and flimsy characterisation was done better  by Noel Coward who kept the laughs coming thick and fast in plays like Hay Fever and Design for Living.

The character at the heart of French Without Tears is the relentless maneater Diana Lake (Florence Roberts) – and I’m afraid she makes suspension of disbelief rather a chore.  The setting is a cramming school in France where candidates for the diplomatic service aim to get their French up to standard with the assistance of the pompous stereotype M. Maingot - deliberate anagram of Maginot? - (David Whitworth ) and his daughter Jacqueline (Beatriz Romilly) – perhaps the most credible character in the play and, unlike her father, not a stock Frenchie at all.   The pretext for the introduction of Diana (the only English female character) into the boys’ club* is as feeble as the possibility of her playing havoc with the affections of the young men.  It is, I suppose, interesting that the role of Diana in the original Orange Tree production was played by Genevieve Gaunt rather than Florence Roberts.  Perhaps the character might be credible if portrayed as someone so irresistibly sexy – a Marilyn Monroe or Brigitte Bardot type, say – that the young men succumb in spite of themselves; but it really is too much pressure to put on the lead actress.  The programme makes a half-hearted attempt to suggest that Rattigan is really giving us a very modern message about male sexuality but I don’t think that will wash.  Certainly the fact that he clearly shows Brian Curtis (Alex Large), who isn’t bothered by Diana at all on account being a regular client of a local fille de joie, as the most contented of the classmates wouldn’t be a very fashionable point of view these days.

The script is mildly amusing though, as I said earlier, not a patch on some of Noel Coward’s comedies.  It also presumes a nodding acquaintance with colloquial French as not all the dialogue in that language is explained.  The characters do elaborate on how (contrary to standard dictionaries) the word fille can be rather rude unless qualified by jeune; but, perhaps understandably, doesn’t go into detail about how the word baiser has very different meanings depending on whether you use it as a noun or a verb.

The set is functional and simple, as suits the venue.  Performances are decent enough, with my personal favourites being Beatriz Romilly's Jacqueline and Joe Eyre's Kit (perhaps Diana's main victim!).

To conclude, the French might be without tears but, in my view anyway, has insufficient laughs to make one overlook its lack of substance. Runs at the Orange Tree until 30 July, then a fairly lengthy tour until November:

https://www.orangetreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/french-without-tears


*her parents were away and there was nobody to look after so she had to follow her brother Kenneth (Alistair Toovey) to the cramming school where she nothing to occupy herself other than be alluring.

42
Television / Re: Television - General Recommendations
« on: June 21, 2016, 09:39:53 pm »
I nearly missed this as I misread one of the consonants in the presenter’s name.  No, not that consonant – I just thought that after sitting through Rachel Cusk’s Medea I really didn’t want to see what she made of Shakespeare.  I must confess that, having watched it, I wasn’t that impressed; though I preferred it to the two episodes of Upstart Crow I saw before giving up on that one.  Brooker & Morgan's programme struck me as a sort of cross between Sellar and Yeatman and Sacha Baron Cohen.  Mildly amusing; but the highlight for me was the guy who insisted on the normal pronunciation of ‘pentameter’.

43
Theatre / Re: Coming up....
« on: June 19, 2016, 11:31:31 pm »
As mentioned elsewhere, How the Other Half Loves transfers to the Duke of York's for an extra three months after closing on Haymarket.  Couldn't happen to a better production imo - and my high opinion of the production must have been shared by many if they have the confidence to extend for so long.

http://www.uktw.co.uk/Tour/Play/How-the-Other-Half-Loves/T0939188902/

Florian Zeller's The Truth, after a successful run at the Menier has found a West End home at Wyndham's after People, Places and Things finished and before No Man's Land arrives:

http://www.uktw.co.uk/London/Wyndhams-Theatre/Play/The-Truth/L0154830126/


http://www.uktw.co.uk/Tour/Play/No-Mans-Land/T01413861859/

There still seems to be no place for Zeller's The Mother - possibly because Gina McKee is in Brian Friel's Faith Healer at the Donmar from next week.  I certainly plan to see that:

http://www.uktw.co.uk/London/Donmar-Warehouse/Play/Faith-Healer/L621177366/

44
Theatre / Re: How the Other Half Loves - Theatre Royal, Haymarket
« on: June 19, 2016, 11:20:26 pm »
Your opportunities to catch this production just increased significantly.  Due to close on Saturday (to make way for Breakfast at Tiffany's) it is now booked in at the Duke of York's a few hundred yards away for a substantial extra run (7 July until 1 October if uktw is to be believed).  I read that Tamzin Outhwaite won't be in the cast, but there's no reason to suppose it will be very much less of an attractive proposition in its new home:

http://www.uktw.co.uk/Tour/Play/How-the-Other-Half-Loves/T0939188902/


45
Theatre / The Philanderer - Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond on Thames
« on: June 19, 2016, 04:06:09 pm »
The opportunity to see The Philanderer after last year’s Widowers’ Houses was one that I took up with enthusiasm but, also, with determination to make allowances for an early work and the imperfection that might entail.  I wonder if Mrs Warren’s Profession, the last and best known of Plays Unpleasant, will come to Richmond in due course.

If anything, The Philanderer is a weaker piece than Widowers’ Houses; though that impression might have been influenced by the (imo) rash decision to set the production in the present day (the two fathers have clearly been to see the current West End production of How the Other Half Loves – and the Orange Tree is such an intimate space that we are surely meant to spot the title on the programme that one of them throws on the table). 

First things first, though; there are intrinsic weaknesses in the play.  For one thing, the famous Shavian wit is not nearly as polished as in, say Man and Superman.  But there are more serious problems – such as the author’s invention of the Ibsen Club, whose constitution appears to have been drafted to suit the play’s plot developments.  Ostensibly an institution devoted to absolute gender equality (applicants have to be sponsored by a member of each sex who  declares that the candidate is not a ‘manly’  man or a ‘womanly’ woman; and ‘manly’ or ‘womanly’ behaviour is grounds for expulsion); but when Shaw wants to stage a ding-dong between Grace (Helen Bradbury) and Julia (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) we suddenly hear that ‘when two ladies quarrel in this club, it is against the rules to settle it when there are gentlemen present’. 

There are other niggling anomalies but none so bothersome as the sheer implausibility of the events of the play taking place any time in the 21st century.  On a trivial level, in the aforementioned scene Grace really does refer to ‘ladies’ – a term that would surely be avoided these days.  Furthermore, the idea that, progressive as he undoubtedly was, Ibsen’s name would be used these days for a club claiming to embody the cutting edge of equality is bizarre.  Leonard Charteris (a man of 40) is a founder member so we can’t pretend the name is of purely historical provenance).  Most unfortunate, though, is the decision to add Shaw’s original final act as a sort of epilogue or an extension to Act 3 (which is how the ‘running time' notice describes it, even though the addition more than doubles the length of Act 3). While it’s true that the customary, amended, ending is rather tame and conventional it’s easy to see why Shaw was persuaded to make the amendment even before the play was published.  This is not A Doll’s House with its radical ending butchered to spare the feelings of a German diva; but a sermonising, dramatically feeble, effort whose absence is no real loss to the theatre.  It’s true that the original finale is more recognisably Shavian and contains blistering attacks on matrimonial and divorce law; but the amended one is shorter and, for me at least, brevity is the soul of dramatic integrity in this case; especially as the ‘fourth’ act moves us on four years from the events of Acts 1-3 which take place on two consecutive days.  Whichever ending you prefer, though, the decision to give us the original ending in a modern setting was very odd.  It simply doesn’t make sense to be discussing the confounded difficulty of getting a divorce including, I kid you not, the advantages of taking up temporary residence in a South Dakota hotel, when the laws that created such a situation eased to exist long before the first production of How the Other Half Loves, let alone the current one.  I really can’t see any advantages of the present day/ modern dress approach that compensate for these absurdities.  The play still has relevance as it’s easy enough to tick off ways in which gender relations are as fraught now as they were in the early 20c but, in my view at least, that is better done if we have a setting in which the details make sense.

The set is admirably simple and uncluttered but with neat little touches such as a different item suspended overhead for each Act.  The chandelier of Cuthbertson’s drawing room gives way to a bust of Henrik to represent the Ibsen Club and finally a medical surgery lighting rig for Dr Paramore’s consulting room.  There are some fine performances, especially from the two main female characters, Helen Bradbury as the super-cool Grace and Dorothea Myer-Bennett as the ultra-competitive Julia.  Caught between them is the philanderer himself, Rupert Young as Leonard.  Young tries his best to convey the kind of charm that might have attracted these two very different women; but I’m afraid the appeal is still a bit of a mystery to me.  Christopher Staines does well as the diffident Dr Paramore but, understandably, struggles with the character change imposed on him in the final Act.  Paksie Vernon as Julia’s bluff sister Sylvia – a seemingly model member of the Ibsen Club who insists on being called by her surname, even by family friends, on club premises.  As the two fathers Mark Tandy as Cuthbertson and  Michael Lumsden as Craven give decent portrayals of parents who seem to accept and go along with, even if they can’t understand or approve of, ‘modern’ ways.  Which leaves just Joe Idris-Roberts – shown in the cast list as Spedding (a character who doesn’t appear except in the original ending) but surely doubles as the Page in Act 2.

Runs for another week if you want the opportunity to see this rarity:

http://www.uktw.co.uk/London/Orange-Tree-Theatre/Play/The-Philanderer/L017123782/


Pages: 1 2 [3] 4 5 ... 224