September In The Rain – November 2013

Experience: 6/10

Written and directed by John Godber

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Friday 22nd November 2013

This is not John Godber’s strongest piece. It’s a two-hander full of reminiscences of earlier days, the 1950s in particular, and times spent together on Blackpool beach by Liz and Jack. They’re an elderly couple, based on Godber’s own grandparents, and they’d spent many of the family holidays in Blackpool over the years. We got to see them back as they were, recalling the events of some memorable Septembers on the West coast, getting soaked in the rain and occasionally having some fun. Personally I thought the fun was in not having to relive the events, given the amount of arguing and fighting that went on. And not just between the two of them; Jack was quick to use his fists in those days.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream – November 2013

Experience: 8/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Edward Hall

Company: Propeller

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Tuesday 12th November 2013

Steve saw this production in 2003 in London. I say ‘saw’; an extremely large American chap blocked his view for the first half, and Steve was rather pleased when he didn’t come back after the interval. As we were in the front row tonight, there was no risk of a repeat, although I was a bit concerned about the extent of audience participation when I realised I was right beside one lot of steps up to the stage. I needn’t have worried though; apart from a flying button and some glitter, we were unmolested all night.

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Richard II – November 2013

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Gregory Doran

Venue: RST

Date: Thursday 7th November 2013

Prime seats tonight, looking straight down the centre aisle. As we suspected, the production had shifted up a gear, and tonight’s performance was a huge improvement on the preview we saw. The imbalances we’d seen before had gone, with strong acting all round and more detail in the performances, and they also brought out much more of the humour in the play which usually indicates that the cast have settled in. Richard’s hair seemed to be behaving better – David Tennant looked uncomfortable with it last time – and Bolingbroke had toned down his barrow boy accent to a sensible level. There were no significant changes to the staging that I saw, but I was reminded of several details which I hadn’t noted last time, so here goes.

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Liolà – November 2013

Experience: 8/10

By Luigi Pirandello, adapted by Tanya Ronder

Directed by Richard Eyre

Venue: Lyttelton Theatre

Date: Wednesday 6th November 2013

This was a very good production and an excellent adaptation too; well worth the trip up to see it. We took our seats very close to the off today, as a body in front of a train at Wimbledon had shut off our usual route to the National: change at Clapham for Waterloo. But the Victoria line was still open, and we had just enough time to get to the National the long way round. As a result, we missed some of the foreplay, but did arrive in time to see the central platform on the stage being cleaned by a group of women using foot cloths.

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King Lear – November 2013 (1)

Experience: 7/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Angus Jackson

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Tuesday 5th November 2013

We’ve seen Frank Langella on stage before in Frost/Nixon so we knew he could deliver a powerful performance, and we were keen to see how this would work in his interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s major roles. We weren’t disappointed, and as this was a preview we would expect the production to strengthen over its run, even though it’s not here for long.

The set was interesting, with an irregularly shaped raised area at the back leading down to the central stage area which was a mosaic of angled floorboards. I soon realised that this area depicted a rough map of Britain, with the different angled sections showing graphically how Lear intended to split up his kingdom. Along the back of the stage there were vertical wooden posts, staggered a bit to create both a screen and lots of possible entrances and exits; when characters did leave that way I could see there were steps down immediately behind the stage. A large wooden throne sat in the back right corner, above the map area, and looked remarkably like the English throne we’d seen in Edward II at the National. The costumes were historical, though I couldn’t say what specific period was intended; the general effect was mediaeval-ish.

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The Duck House – November 2013

Experience: 8/10

By Dan Patterson and Colin Swash

Directed by Terry Johnson

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud

Date: Friday 1st November 2013

This was cracking fun. We had a good view of the performance from our seats to the right of the auditorium, despite being warned that our sightline might be obscured in some way during one scene, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Although most of the topical references related to the expenses scandal, they didn’t seem out of date at all (sadly) and some of the other quips were very funny – references to getting a lift home from Chris Huhne, for example. I won’t give away too much, but the funniest gag for me came early on, when the Labour politician Robert Houston (Ben Miller) was filing away his receipts for a future expense claim. One box was getting a bit full, so he used another location which was a bit unexpected, and very funny.

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