Love For Love (understudies) – December 2015

Experience: 8/10

By William Congreve

Directed by Theo Scholefield

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Tuesday 8th December 2015

The advantage of a production with such a loose, interactive style of performance is that the understudies’ run fits in perfectly. Pre-prepared mistakes are part of the enjoyment, so a few unintended ones from time to time can slot right in. This audience was already in an end-of-term mood, so the pre-show ‘warm-up’ was off to a flying start. We were sitting on the right hand side of the stage this time, close to the front, so we had an even more detailed view of the performance, and after yesterday’s fun we made sure we were in early to enjoy as much as we could of the initial activities.

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Love For Love – December 2015

Experience: 8/10

By William Congreve

Directed by Selina Cadell

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Monday 7th December 2015

Nearly thirty years ago we saw a production of this play at the National, with an amazing cast which included Michael Bryant, Stephen Moore, Amanda Redman, Sara Kestleman and Sally Dexter amongst the leading actors. Despite this, neither of us has any recollection of the play or the performances: I suspect the language was much too dense for me due to my lack of experience with Restoration dialogue, and Steve may have a similar excuse. Tonight, thanks to the RSC, we had all the fun of rediscovering this little gem, and in a production which would be hard to forget, regardless of the density of the language. This production sparkled with wit and cheeky humour, the cast were all excellent, and the RSC should probably be claiming royalties from The Play That Goes Wrong, since their use of carefully rehearsed ‘accidents’ has been going on for several decades now, and will be continuing into the foreseeable future judging by this performance. Plenty to enjoy already, and we have all the fun of an understudy run tomorrow as well. Jubilate!

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The Distance – December 2015

Experience: 8/10

By Deborah Bruce

Directed by Charlotte Gwinner

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 3rd December 2015

We missed this first time around – I forget why – so it was great to have another opportunity to catch it. We were even more delighted after seeing the performance, as this is an excellent play, which manages to be both funny and moving as well as raising issues rarely, if ever, mentioned in public, never mind on stage. A great spot by Paul Miller, the Orange Tree’s artistic director, who told us he’d been amazed that no other theatre had picked it up – their loss is the Orange Tree’s gain.

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Hecuba – October 2015

Experience: 8/10

By Marina Carr

Directed by Erica Whyman

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Thursday 1st October 2015

A number of people had told us about this play beforehand: there was a lot of reported speech and it ran for one hour fifty minutes without an interval (actually one hour forty-five on the night). It was also heavy going in the manner of most Greek-based drama, with lots of suffering and unpleasantness and little in the way of humour to lighten the mood. Having said that, we found there were some laughs, but on the whole the piece had a poetic intensity which accentuated the suffering. We ‘enjoyed’ it, but for once we’re happy not to have booked a second visit, although if it gets a revival in a few years’ time we’ll probably see it again.

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Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me – September 2015

Preview performance

Experience: 8/10

By Frank McGuinness

Directed by Michael Attenborough

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Monday 14th September 2015

Although this was a preview, this production already had a strength and intensity beyond many other plays. It’s one of those pieces where it doesn’t feel right to say we ‘enjoyed’ it, but it was a deeply enriching experience to have attended this performance, even with such difficult subject matter.

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Volpone – July 2015

Experience: 8/10

By Ben Jonson, with script revisions by Ranjit Bolt

Directed by Trevor Nunn

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Thursday 23rd July 2015

This fantastic production was a joy to watch. There was so much going on that I couldn’t take it all in first time around, so I’m already looking forward to our next viewing which will be tomorrow’s understudy run. The performances were all excellent, and apart from a couple of the accents being a little harder to tune into than the others, the dialogue was crystal clear, including some modern additions.

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Twelve Angry Men – March 2015

Experience: 8/10

By Reginald Rose

Directed by Christopher Haydon

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Friday 13th March 2015

It’s almost exactly a year since we saw this production in London, and tonight was just as enjoyable an experience. Most of the cast had changed, but the set and staging were all the same, although they didn’t play the city noises before the start. Being in the front row meant that we were closer to the action and I certainly heard much more of the excellent dialogue tonight. The audience were nicely responsive, and the conflicts between the characters came across very clearly, while the tension of the unfolding story built nicely as well, especially through the second half. The revolve worked well, shifting the position of the table so subtly that I didn’t notice it, but I was more aware of the many trips to the water cooler made by most of the characters. All the performances were good, and Steve even thought that Tom Conti just shaded Martin Shaw as juror 8. (I had them neck and neck.)

One thing I was more aware of this time round was that the jurors had had to absorb a great deal of evidence over three days, so they hadn’t been able to spot the discrepancies till juror 8 made them spend some time considering their verdict. We did get a look at the floor plan of the flat this time; it was big enough to see, at least from the front rows. The quality of this play is such that we could watch it time and again and still find it enjoyable and gripping, so hopefully it will come back around in the future.

© 2015 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me