*** (3 Stars)
Richmond Theatre, London - May 8, 2014
In a new version by Anya Reiss, Frank Wedekind’s controversial play of teenage angst is brought bang up to date by the supremely successful theatre company, Headlong. Written around 1890 (but first performed in 1906), Spring Awakening was last seen in London in its musical form at the Novello Theatre in 2009. Reiss’ play utilises webcams and a killer soundtrack in this truly Brechtian piece.
The story follows a group of teenagers as they deal with all the horrors of adolescence. Written in reaction to the increasing rates of teenage suicide due to a lack of education around adolescence in late 19th-Century Germany, Wedekind’s original is tinged with sadness and frustration.
Reiss’ adaptation doesn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to representing this and instead feels rather superficial in its reliance upon technical tricks and projections. At times it feels as if it’s trying to be too clever, ultimately leading to a sense of pretentiousness.
This is partly down to the Brechtian nature of the piece – a style that I am not convinced entirely works with hard-hitting subject matters. The copious amounts of breaking character can be confusing to audiences unfamiliar with this style.
Young audiences will love it, and rightly so, for this is truly boundary-pushing theatre. However, for me, it lacks the emotional punch of Duncan Sheik’s musical version and focuses too much on trying to be clever.
Spring Awakening is currently on a UK Tour. http://headlong.co.uk/work/spring-awakening/
**** (4.5 Stars)
Minerva Theatre, Chichester - Friday 1 May, 2014
'Bitterly charming' is how I would describe Stevie By Hugh Whitemore. Yet it is equally a delight to witness such fantastic performances from the cast trio of Chris Larkin, Lynda Baron and the eponymous protagonist, Stevie, played by the enormously talented Zoë Wanamaker (who is also YMT's Patron!). Stevie’s pessimistic view of life and gritty humour is enormous fun; I couldn’t think of anyone better for the job than Wanamaker.
The play takes place in Stevie’s home at 1 Avondale Road, Palmers Green, London where she resides with Aunt (Lynda Baron). Stevie Smith, spends a lot of her time after work as a secretary, eating Battenberg cake and Ginger Nuts with her Aunt and writing poetry part-time. Her existence seems bleak and uninteresting to the naked eye yet her moving poetry shows pain and vulnerability as she reflects upon the comfort of her inevitable death.
The set is realistically cosy and welcoming with charred edges showing how Stevie’s personality would have seemed slightly 'rough around the edges'. Commendations have to be awarded to designer Simon Higlett for such a beautiful set.
Director, Christopher Morahan, aptly gives the script such wonderful justice and creates a brilliant night of dry and dark humour yet shows so much heart through the characters. The bitter-sweet ending left me with chills for the rest of the journey home, what a masterpiece of theatre!
The wonder of poetry is that it can spark discussions that can continue for hours on end, yet if poetry does not float your boat, the performances alone are worth seeing!
Stevie is playing at the Minerva, Chichester until May 24 - book your tickets here: http://www.cft.org.uk/5014/STEVIE/621
Photo: Alastair Muir
***** (5 Stars)
The Lowry, Manchester - 30 April, 2014
Thumbs up for this production!
There has been so much work and effort put into the production and it shows how committed the three actors are, especially as they play variety of characters! The transitions of each scene are clever and smooth by using clips of relevant and period music. The show is on the last leg of its tour and I can say I have not laughed so much.
It appeals to all audiences as it's a fun-filled comedic play, written by John Godber, and it is mainly targeted to young students aged 15+ due to its use of explicit language.
The performance is very Brechtian in style as the actors use small pieces of costume, accents and body language to transform into different a characters. Everything is distinctive and the production has a brilliant message at the end when Salty expresses to Mrs Parry about how the world doesn't care and how he can't have another chance at school because he's only just realised the importance of a good education.
The play starts and ends on a high. The blend of serious and comical characters keeps the play on its tiptoes and therefore there's never a moment when the show feels flat. Trupele Dorgu, Peter McMillan, and Amy Thompson have such brilliant focus and motivation, which helps them achieve their quick changes in characters, and quick wit, which has a great impact on the audience.
This is a DEFINITE MUST SEE! It is a brilliant interpretation of the play and I recommend anyone to see it if they have the chance!
Teechers is playing at the Lowry, Manchester until Saturday 3 May, 2014.
***** (5 Stars)
Noël Coward Theatre, London - 16 April, 2014
After a short run at the Hampstead theatre, Imelda Staunton gives a stunning performance in David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People in this must-see West End transfer.
Staunton plays Maggi, a working-class mother in Boston who's just been fired due to lateness (caused by looking after her disabled daughter) and looks to a former schoolmate (and boyfriend) for new employment.
Lindsay-Abaire’s sharp, intelligent script is wonderfully heartfelt without being too sentimental and the crux of class difference is brought to the fore In Jonathan Kent’s finely directed production.
Part of Good People’s success is down to the exploration of themes that are prevalent in today’s society, ie. class and privilege. Furthermore it deals with ideas of ‘choosing your own path’ and whether there is such a thing as luck or fate. Do people choose to be poor? Do people deserve to be poor?
This is a truly fascinating insight into the class war in America and the whole piece is helped by outstanding performances from the cast.
Staunton (Professor Umbridge from the Harry Potter series) is faultless. Her nuanced mannerisms and quick tongue create one of the most moving and emotive performances on stage this year.
There’s also fine support from the rest of the cast – Matthew Barker, Susan Brown, Lorraine Ashbourne, Lloyd Owen and Angel Coulby.
This is truly not to be missed!
Good People is playing at the Noël Coward Theatre until 14 June: http://www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/Tickets/GoodPeople/GoodPeople.asp
***** (5 Stars)
Birmingham Repertory Theatre - Monday 17 March, 2014
Telling a mesmerizing tale of love, courage and sacrifice Birdsong is the hit stage show based on Sebastian Faulks’ best-selling novel adapted for stage by Rachel Wagstaff.
The curtain rises to reveal what one can only describe as phenomenal set, enormous amounts of credit must be given to the arts and design team as the set presents the mood of the play from the very beginning. Over the course of the play, the set is used to its full potential, switching between a great living room and the harrowing trenches of the Great War.
The action throughout this play makes the production truly gripping. The distinct flashbacks from the trenches of the Western Front in the First World War and Amiens, France switch from one another seamlessly and create a true sense of life through the eyes of protagonist Stephen Wraysford. The flawless transitions shown would not have been possible however, without the extremely high quality of acting brought to the character from George Banks whose compelling performance throughout is deeply moving.
The use of lighting in the production is of very high standard, with any set changes being out of sight to the audience. Furthermore, the lighting highly emphasises the scenes in which a tunnel is featured making the moment both impressive and intriguing due the atmosphere created.
Each member of the company deserves praise for their work with each cast member delivering a truly realistic approach to their character. The on-stage chemistry between the company is more than evident as each of them work brilliantly in unison with one another.
Birdsong, directed brilliantly by Alastair Whatley marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War grasping every emotion a soldier would have felt on the battlefield. Receiving a standing ovation from the audience, this heart-wrenching, poignant and powerful piece of theatre may turn out to be one of the most memorable pieces of theatre to reach the stage.
Birdsong is currently on a UK Tour. For all the information click here: http://www.birdsongthetour.com