By William Shakespeare
Directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins
Venue: Almeida Theatre
Date: Tuesday 8th January 2019
“I have been studying how I may compare this prison where I live unto the world”: not the usual start to Richard II, but when Simon Russell Beale came to the front of the box-like stage, clad in dark leggings and a black top, to deliver this line, I grasped instantly that this production was set entirely within the deposed king’s mind. All the other ‘characters’ were simply his perception of those people, and he was spending his time going over and over the events that led up to his deposition, as if trying to figure out where it all went wrong. Or perhaps nurturing his grudges in case he ever got the chance at revenge. Whatever his motivation, this was an excellent way to allow Simon to play a part which, in a ‘traditional’ production, he would be too old for, and allow the rest of us to rejoice in hearing these lines spoken so brilliantly by one of our finest actors, whether of Shakespeare or anything else.
By Peter Shaffer
Directed by Michael Longhurst
Venue: Olivier Theatre
Date: Thursday 1st February 2018
This was something of a disappointment. Given the high standard of some of his previous performances, we were looking forward to seeing Lucien Msamati as Salieri, as well as revisiting this excellent play in a different production. The reviews had been very good, although we hadn’t read any of the details, so it was only as we took our seats that the potential problems became apparent. Still, we kept our minds as open as possible and restrained our expectations: even so, I found myself revising my rating of the experience down and down again. Steve enjoyed it more than I did – he would have given it 7/10 – but we were largely in agreement with the overall standard. So was the paying public, it would seem, as this matinee was only just over half full, leaving large swathes of empty seats in the circle, rear stalls and sides.
By Moira Buffini
Directed by Kate McGregor
Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
Date: 19th May 2017
It’s a good job Steve and I had already seen other plays by Moira Buffini which we enjoyed – if we had seen this one first we might not have booked for some of the others. Her inexperience shows in this, the first of her plays, through the underwritten characters, weak story and rather tepid ending. Some strong performances helped, as did some good humour, but the second half still dragged. Even making allowances for the fact that I was very tired after a hard week’s playgoing, I wouldn’t willingly watch this piece again. Steve got more out of this performance than I did, but not enough to raise the overall rating.
By Helen Edmundson
Directed by Natalie Abrahami
Venue: Swan Theatre
Date: Wednesday 13th January 2016
We enjoyed seeing this again, and while the performance had certainly come on a bit since November, I felt that overall it was just as good as last time, although Steve would have rated it at 9/10. Natascha McElhone showed a great deal more confidence as Lady Sarah Churchill, and the dialogue may have been even crisper, though as this was the captioned performance, and our seats put us almost in a direct line with the screen, I can’t be sure. One very noticeable change was that the auditorium was packed tonight – almost every seat was filled. The two next to us on the aisle were vacant – more on that story later – but otherwise it was close to a sell-out.
By Siobhán Nicholas
Directed by the company and Polly Irvin
Company: Take The Space
Venue: Minerva Theatre
Date: Thursday 19th February 2015
We’d seen this company’s Hanging Hooke several years ago, and were keen to view this new play. By the same writer, it also involved Chris Barnes from the earlier piece, Siobhán Nicholas herself and Sian Webber. They played characters in both the present and past, and although this meant a fair bit of jumping around, the story gradually began to emerge.
By Tom Morton-Smith
Directed by Angus Jackson
Venue: Swan Theatre
Date: Tuesday 20th January 2015
Wow. We didn’t have high expectations for this play, despite it being in the Swan and starring John Heffernan (one of our favourite actors) as Oppenheimer himself. We were prepared for it to be a bit dry, a bit too technical, perhaps even – dare I say it? – a bit boring, but the whole thing was an amazing piece of theatre, with music, jokes and lots of interesting information as well as lively debates. And yes, the horrific effects of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were brought out in a very effective and moving way. Given that this was a preview, I’d expect the performances to come on even more, and now that we know who is who in the story, our second viewing should bring out much more detail. Time will tell.
By Phil Porter
Directed by Erica Whyman
Date: Thursday 15th January 2015
We enjoyed this production so much when we saw it before Christmas last year that we decided to fit in another viewing, so here we are. Again we sat in the centre front stalls, the same seats as for the understudy run, so no complaints about our view. One young lad did a ‘wiggle’ dance to celebrate his success at the coconut shy, but otherwise the standard was pretty poor – Chris had to use his foot on one occasion or we’d have still been sitting there now waiting for the start!