Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – February 2018

Experience: 6/10

Adapted by David Edgar from the story by Robert Louis Stevenson

Directed by Kate Saxon

Venue: Rose Theatre, Kingston

Date: Thursday 15th February 2018

This was a decent attempt to put Stevenson’s story on the stage, but suffered from the usual problems of such adaptations – having to shift scenes very quickly as well as coping with visual changes which are done much more easily on TV and film. The cast did a reasonable job overall, and Phil Daniels created two clearly distinct performances as Jekyll and Hyde. The addition of a singer for this production was largely wasted on me, and I found the gloomy lighting a problem at times, as with increasing age I need more light to see by, not less. But this performance certainly kept my attention much better than the afternoon’s offerings, for which I was grateful.

The set had to accommodate several locations, and while it wasn’t the most sophisticated I’ve ever seen, it did the job pretty well. An upper balcony stretched across the centre of the stage, with a spiral staircase at the left side. Underneath was a filler wall which could be either the doors to Jekyll’s sister’s garden or the fireplace of Jekyll’s flat. For other locations it was usually left open. There were doors at either side of the wide stage, and an additional door, coloured bright red, in Jekyll’s lodgings, this being the door to the lab. Once through this door, a tall rack of glass bottles containing coloured liquids masked the right-hand door, while a table and overhead light took centre stage. With all of the furnishings removed, the stage became a gloomy London street.

The costumes and décor all contributed to the murky nature of the production. Dark clothes and dark paintwork made for dismal surroundings, but the cast did their best to keep things moving, and for the most part it worked quite well. My main problem was with the maid, Annie. It took me a long time to adjust to her accent, probably because it travelled round the British Isles at a fair lick. If it had settled down in one place, I would have been alright. Steve and I heard hints of Irish, Scottish and West Country, and that, combined with a tendency to gabble her lines, meant I got very little from her part at all. Since she was the one in the lab with Jekyll/Hyde at the end, when the final revelations were being presented, I lost most of the connection I’d had with the plot and found myself looking at my watch more than once. Even so, we enjoyed ourselves well enough, along with the rest of the audience.

© 2018 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Out Of Love – February 2018

Experience: 4/10

By Elinor Cook

Directed by James Grieve

Company: Orange Tree/Paines Plough/Theatre Clwyd

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 15th February 2018

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. My comments at the start of Black Mountain apply equally to this piece, another co-production which bored me rigid. Same set, same cast (who did another good job), similar lack of anything interesting or new: this time I did manage to nod off. Steve stayed awake, and would have rated this play higher than me, but only 5/10.

The play concerns the relationship between two women, Lorna and Grace. Again, there were lots of short scenes which flicked rapidly forwards and backwards in time, and involved the actors playing not only older and younger versions of their main characters, but other characters as well. In this, the cast did a great job: we were always aware of who they were and roughly when they were. To be fair, the writing did help with this, but the bulk of the credit must go to the actors, who were wearing the same costumes throughout the seventy minutes. (Not the same ones as for Black Mountain, but also modern dress.) The performance style was the same as Black Mountain, and although there was more physical contact, they mainly stood and talked to each other, creating a very low energy level.

One of the girls gets pregnant, the other goes off to have a career. Their relationship is strained, but rumbles on. (I can feel myself falling asleep as I type.) Steve summed up both plays with two words – singer/songwriter. We’ve found that most singer/songwriters tend to write about their own adolescent experience, and unless they make a real effort to grow up, their songs tend to be depressingly similar and of little interest to sixty-somethings. These plays felt like that: reasonably well written in some ways, but lacking any depth of imagination, ideas or characterisation. Not our favourite day at the Orange Tree.

© 2018 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Black Mountain – February 2018

Experience: 5/10

Written by Brad Birch

Directed by James Grieve

Company: Orange Tree/Paines Plough/Theatre Clwyd

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 15th February 2018

Steve and I take the view that it’s important to support new writing, but that sitting through it can be a bit hit-and-miss. We console ourselves with the thought that the less good plays are a kind of necessary payment for the better ones. After today, we’re well in credit. Much as we like the Orange Tree and its work, this co-production left a lot to be desired. The actors, as usual, did a decent job with the scripts they were given, and the audience in general seemed to appreciate the performance well enough. We found it rather banal, with little of interest in either the relationships or the ideas.

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Amadeus – February 2018

Experience: 6/10

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.

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The Weir – January 2018

Experience: 7/10

By Conor McPherson

Directed by Adele Thomas

Companies: English Touring Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Wednesday 31st January 2018

Irish drama isn’t usually my thing, but I was glad I went to this performance. Steve had seen the play some years ago (the revival at the Donmar) and this was certainly as good as that production, and better in at least one role. It’s not an earth-shaking drama – it doesn’t have to be, of course – but it did create a nice sense of the otherworldly, together with a gentle ambiguity which led to more discussion afterwards than many another more straightforward play.

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Driving Miss Daisy – November 2017

Experience: 8/10

By Alfred Uhry

Directed by Richard Beecham

Company: Theatre Royal Bath

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Thursday 30th November 2017

This was a pleasant surprise. Having seen a decent touring production at the Theatre Royal Brighton in 1993, I considered this a fairly average play: I was happy to see it again but didn’t have high expectations. Steve had also seen the production at the Old Vic in 2011, in which Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones demonstrated that they might have been the right age, but they no longer had the power to do the parts justice.

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King Lear – October 2017

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Jonathan Munby

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Thursday 5th October 2017

We’re so glad that Sir Ian McKellen decided to have another go at this part. We found the earlier production, part of the RSC’s Complete Works season, rather dull, but there was no lack of tension and excitement in tonight’s performance. The emotional aspects of the various characters were fully developed this time, while the staging was brisk and the story-telling clear, all of which made for a much more enjoyable and fulfilling experience.

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