A Midsummer Night’s Dream – October 2013

Experience: 8/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Michael Grandage

Venue: Noel Coward Theatre

Date: Wednesday 23rd October 2013

There was an unusual experience for us today; Steve rated this performance much lower than I did. However, he did have a chesty cold which inevitably reduced his enjoyment, so I’ve stuck with my rating overall.

The opening set consisted of tall window panels with just a small wooden base to each. The windows formed two archways, one behind the other, and behind these was a solid wall of windows with what looked like a door or doors concealed within it. There was some misting on the window panes, suggestive of age and decay, and with a soft yellowish light glowing through the panes, the whole set had a bronzed antique effect. The Athenians costumes were 1950s in style, but the fairies were another matter.

Continue reading

Peter And Alice – April 2013

Experience: 6/10

By John Logan

Directed by Michael Grandage

Venue: Noel Coward Theatre

Date: Saturday 27th April 2013

We both enjoyed this but felt that the second half began to drag, with too much repetition of the same ideas in between the new snippets of biography. This caused the energy to flag, and despite the standing ovation the cast received at the end, which was not entirely undeserved, we reckon the play itself needs more work to tighten it up. Unfortunately, with two such stars in the lead roles the audiences are likely to be less discriminating, so rewrites are probably not on the agenda at the moment. A second production might help with this, though if it were also to depend on star casting, the play’s own merits may never become clear.

Continue reading

Privates On Parade – February 2013

Experience: 9/10

By Peter Nichols, music by Denis King

Directed by Michael Grandage

Venue: Noel Coward Theatre

Date: Monday 11th February 2013

Fabulous! We missed an earlier performance due to train troubles, so we were really pleased to see it tonight. I thought the production was excellent, very reminiscent of the Donmar musicals this director has put on in the past, and if there was anything lacking at all I’d put it down to a somewhat patchy audience response. From comments I heard in the interval, I suspect that some of the attendees were expecting It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum – The Musical, whereas this was a much more nuanced piece, mixing satire with sexual innuendo, drama with cheesy puns. I was moved to pre-sniffles at least once, when Sylvia was being consoled by Acting Captain Terri Dennis after discovering that Steven was leaving her behind – not the done thing to bring a heavily pregnant half-caste woman back to Swindon as his bride. Dennis did the decent thing instead, so hopefully the little one will have more tolerant parents than most.

The treatment of and attitudes to the local population were all too accurate, an embarrassing reminder of Britain’s colonial past, and I felt the play had a lot in common with Oh What A Lovely War and The Entertainer. The play began with the two Malay servants hitting gongs, starting with single bongs and moving into the continuous ringing sound. This sound was used a few times during the play, but I don’t know exactly what it was meant to represent. After the concert party left the country, the final image on the screen at the back was of modern-day Singapore at night, while the two servants, now in suits, shook hands centre stage. It was quite a jump from then to now, but it worked, showing us the growth in prosperity since the British left, and leaving us to ponder how much the colonial power contributed and how much it held the local population back.

The set was basically a very run down theatre building with the pros arch towards the back of the stage, doors showing above it, and side entrances – the usual. With lighting changes and the swift arrival of furniture, the other locations were deftly set up and the screen at the back, when not covered by a backdrop, showed appropriate pictures. The costumes were excellent, especially Dennis’s outfits as he gave us his Marlene, Carmen Miranda and one other woman we didn’t recognise. His Noel Coward was good fun too (and very apt for this theatre).

The performances are the key to this show, and this production was strong in that department. I found John Marquez’s accent too strong for me and I couldn’t tune into his dialogue very well, but the rest of the cast were generally clear. Angus Wright was very good as the upright and uptight Major, producing some very John Cleese-like leg movements for one number. Mark Lewis Jones was a fine villain, Harry Hepple was very good as Lance Corporal Charles Bishop, while Davina Perera had taken over the role Sylvia, and didn’t look out of place at all. The big draw was Simon Russell Beale, though, and his performance as Acting Captain Terri Dennis was wonderful, both in the glamorous frocks and out of them, bringing out the character’s humour and showing us his caring side. We enjoyed ourselves very much, and were glad we’d made the extra effort to catch this one.

© 2013 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me