People watching

sheffield

It’s theatre by any other name. Usually we call it theatre when we’re sitting in the dark, the people are on stage, with the trappings of formality to tell us where we are. Now, however, it’s a Tuesday afternoon, and I’m sitting in the sun in the Peace Gardens in Sheffield. People watching. The busy civic space, with the splash of waterworks and fountains, inhibits earwigging, so I just look. … [Read more...]

Off with their heads

NP in Wolf-Hall-11-2013-361x541

You can’t move for gilt and ermine in London theatre. At the annual state opening of Parliament – pantomime for one night only! – poor Elizabeth II must mouth her government’s platitudes, but on stage, monarchs get lines that she can only dream of. King Charles III, Mike Bartlett’s beady vision of monarchy future, will soon transfer to the West End, joining Moira Buffini’s Handbagged about … [Read more...]

Beyond the peter meter

Rosen

So, let’s start with me. Spindly and saggy. Generously beconked, meagrely maned. A cavalcade of design flaws, a factory second at knock down prices. That’s me. And to an extent, that’s most of us. Even among critics there are eye-wateringly scrumptious exceptions (you know who you are), but in general, if they start hiring hacks for their looks, we’re all in trouble. Good looks and how to … [Read more...]

Ballet on Ripper Street

Sweet V

  On a pedestal or on a slab – are these the default settings for women in ballet? A friend decided not to join me at the Royal Ballet yesterday. Having seen the ads for its latest triple bill, he feared that Sweet Violets, about the Jack the Ripper murders, would glamourise violence against women. Every eminent Victorian bar Florence Nightingale has been suspected of being Jack the … [Read more...]

Laughter in the dark

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A comment on the Guardian’s review of The Testament of Mary, currently at London's Barbican, described Fiona Shaw’s performance as ‘19th century’ in style. I’m not sure the term fits such an arrestingly contemporary performer – I suspect they just meant ‘big’. Which it no doubt is. Shaw, like Simon Russell Beale, whose King Lear in London was recently broadcast in the NT Live series, is a singular … [Read more...]

But where’s the dinosaur?

skitterbang-header

Is there a tougher crowd in the world than a roomful of toddlers on a Sunday morning? So, this happened. A shipwrecked girl has crawled from the waves, and nervously approaches the cave of a weird, rabbitty scavenging creature. It’s a tense moment. My nephew has a question. ‘Will she have a dinosaur with her?’ he asks. He seems disappointed when his mother whispers that, no, there’s no … [Read more...]

Little hawks

Malcontent main

Polite. Agreeable. Well-behaved. These are not terms that should come to mind when you evoke the seamy edges of Jacobean drama, but they were the impression left by The Malcontent, John Martson’s swingeing tragic-comedy, originally written for a company of child actors, and now revived by Shakespeare’s Globe Young Players. Marston was 26 at the play’s premiere. He was enmeshed in the combative, … [Read more...]

Get real

Michaela Coel in Home Photo: Ellie Kurttz

  From your mouth to the director’s ear – that has been one idea of verbatim theatre. Using the words, experiences and sometimes the very inflections of interviewees as the basis for a production, verbatim has often seem to offer theatre a bracing hit of ‘pure’ reality, a window into authentic documentary material. But like all theatrical forms, verbatim is a shape-shifting beast. Last … [Read more...]

Silence by Shakespeare

Wheeldon in rehearsal

The challenge with basing a ballet on Shakespeare isn’t, oddly, watching the words fall away. That’s a given. It’s how you mine the silences, the telling moments in which ambiguities cluster and on which the story turns. Christopher Wheeldon’s fascinating new ballet (for the Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada) of The Winter’s Tale – the first recorded of that brilliantly strange late … [Read more...]

*sorry face*

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An actor looking to real life to research their next apology face might be disconcerted by Maria Miller. On Thursday, the UK government Culture Secretary was forced to make a public apology in the House of Commons for having (technical term) diddled her expenses. She could have wept with sorrow for misdeeds rightly punished; blushed because she’d been censored for having obstructed the inquiry; … [Read more...]