Posts Tagged ‘Duke of York’s Theatre’

Constellations, Duke of York’s Theatre, November 2012

17 November, 2012

Actions have consequences, but change the action very slightly and the consequences change. That is the theme of this two-hander with Roland (Rafe Spall) a bee-keeper representing the simple, reliable world of bees, and Marianne (Sally Hawkins) a highly-strung particle physicist representing the complexities of the quantum world.

In quantum physics a particle can be in multiple states, unknown and undetermined until compelled to choose by interacting with another particle. Such is the philosophy behind Schrödinger’s Cat, which is both alive and dead at the same time until the box is opened. Projecting quantum indeterminacy into the real world leads either to nothing unusual, as all the tiny indeterminacies cancel out, or to parallel universes. This play goes for the latter.

Marianne and Roland, image/ Johan Persson

The heart of the matter is love, marriage, infidelity, and terminal illness. Each brief scene is replayed with slight variations, leading sometimes to no real change, at other times to entirely different consequences. In between the replays are some very fine lighting tricks as the stage goes dark and lights come on again in a different form. I loved the scenes in which he proposes marriage, to be rejected or accepted or simply to lose the plot.

At first it all seems to be going very slowly, yet we see the vicissitudes of two lives, and everything is over in 70 minutes. Fine direction by Michael Longhurst and wonderful lighting by Lee Curran for Nick Payne’s imaginative play that has transferred from the Jerwood Theatre, upstairs at the Royal Court, to the West End. Audiences see the disquieting prospect of parallel worlds allowing replays of life’s little interactions, and life itself.

Performances continue January 5 — for details click here.

The Judas Kiss, Richmond Theatre, October 2012

30 October, 2012

This David Hare play focuses on two moments in Oscar Wilde’s relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie). One is at the Cadogan Hotel during the day leading up to his arrest, the other in Naples after his release from prison.

Bosie, Robbie, Wilde

The audience found several of Wilde’s lines amusingly witty, and some of Bosie’s breathtakingly narcissistic. This obnoxious young man was well portrayed by Freddie Fox, his admirable physique well befitting the nude scenes, though Tom Colley as Bosie’s Italian lover in Naples arguably beat him in this respect. Cal MacAninch as Robbie Ross, an ex-lover of Wilde who adores him and wants to help him, was very convincing, and the scene with the hotel servants was well played, but Rupert Everett made an unsympathetic Wilde. It’s essential to feel for him, otherwise the play rather loses its point.

Everett as Wilde

In an interview in the programme, David Hare is asked why he picked the two moments he did, and to what extent the dialogue was Hare’s own invention — the answer is most of it. Among numerous other questions and answers, the one asking what the author was trying to achieve is absent: was the intention to explain Wilde’s demise, was it to grieve over a relationship that halted Wilde’s creative genius, or was there some other purpose? However, in an article by Wilde’s only grandson — well worth the price of the programme — Merlin Holland wishes he could ask his grandfather one single question, ’Why on earth did you do it?’ suing Bosie’s father, landing himself in gaol and allowing society to rid itself of a rebel “who called into question … the hypocrisy of those social, sexual and literary values upon which Victorian society was so firmly based”.

The creative team that put this on has done a terrific job. Fine direction by Neil Armfield with excellent designs and costumes by Dale Ferguson and Sue Blaine, and clever lighting by Rick Fisher that allows the audience to experience the passing of many hours as Wilde sits almost immobilised.

Bosie and lover

Time waits for no man, but at the end of this play it seems that Wilde is waiting for time so it can annihilate him. I would have preferred more depth.

Performances at Richmond continue until November 3 — for details click here — after which it goes to the Theatre Royal Brighton, November 5–10, before opening in the West End at the Duke of York’s Theatre on 17 January 2013 (previews from 9 January).

Arcadia, Duke of York’s Theatre, June 2009

13 June, 2009


This Tom Stoppard play cleverly juxtaposes the modern world with the early nineteenth century, and in particular modern literary scholarship and mathematics with the earlier emphasis on literary creativity, classical study and scientific enquiry. In the early period we have a very clever girl of 16 named Thomasina, played by Jessica Cave, and her tutor Septimus Hodge, wittily played by Dan Stevens, along with a poet, and others. These early nineteenth century characters are juxtaposed in the modern world by a dreadful literary academic named Bernard Nightingale, played by Neil Pearson, along with an author named Hannah, wittily played by Samantha Bond, and a clever but rather intense mathematician named Valentine, very ably portrayed by Ed Stoppard.

Hannah is doing a book about the history of the Derbyshire country estate where all the action takes place, and Bernard visits with questions about Byron staying there in the early nineteenth century, and some slightly daft and ultimately irrelevant ideas about was going on at the time. While Bernard and Hannah plumb the past, those in the past enquire about the future. Thomasina hits on the idea of the second law of thermodynamics to explain the arrow of time, whose direction is entirely absent from Newton’s laws of motion, which are the same going backwards or forwards. As she points out, you can stir jam into a rice pudding, but you can’t stir it out again, and the three laws of Thermodynamics have often been wittily stated as: you can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t get out of the game. The second law says that available energy gradually becomes unavailable, so that in the long run everything will be at ‘room temperature’ and the universe will die out. Thomasina also discusses mathematics with her tutor, and devises an iterated algorithm that Valentine, in the modern world with his Apple laptop, is able to use to create beautiful shapes of nature.

The ability to make this into theatre is Stoppard’s genius, and while the main passion is intellectual, he sprinkles sex into both periods. The women are keen for some fun, and in the early period a poet’s wife, whom we never see on stage, along with Lady Croom, elegantly played by Nancy Carroll, breathe sexual allure into the proceedings. In the modern world Hannah shows desire for the dreadful Bernard, and the young Chloë Coverly, charmingly played by Lucy Griffiths, shows a bright interest in things sexual as did her earlier incarnation as Thomasina, who starts the play off by asking her tutor what carnal embrace means. In the end she desires more than words from her tutor, but when she goes to bed with papers and a candle we realise this is where her room goes up in flames and her genius is lost forever.

This revival is by David Leveaux, with sets and lighting by Hildegard Bechtler and Paul Anderson, but on the Duke of York’s stage it is unfortunately more cramped than when I saw it at the National in 1993, and the impression of extensive gardens behind the house is lost. The acting was very good, though I would have preferred more charm from Jessica Cave as Thomasina, whose high-pitched voice resonated sharpness, while Neil Pearson could have made Bernard less obnoxious and more smugly clever, which may have kept things in better balance. But Samantha Bond, Ed Stoppard and Dan Stevens were a delight to watch.

A View from the Bridge, Richmond Theatre, May 2009

31 May, 2009


This Arthur Miller play, about the self-destruction of dockworker Eddie Carbone, who lives in 1950s Brooklyn with his wife and niece, was beautifully revived and directed by Lindsay Posner. Ken Stott was excellent as Eddie, well demonstrating his insecurity, his intensely narcissistic love for his niece Katie and growing disenchantment with his wife. After overcoming his reluctance to let Katie go to work and become independent, he is presented with two brothers from their extended family in Sicily who move in to work as illegal immigrants. The elder one, Marco intends to stay five years and then go back to his wife and children, but the younger brother Rodolpho wants to become an American, and Eddie immediately senses a rival for Katie’s affections. When Rodolpho and Katie begin to fall in love, Eddie gets obsessed with the boy’s easy going and outgoing attitudes, accusing him of being gay. He eventually snitches on both brothers to the US Immigration Service, despite his lawyer’s warning that the reaction of his neighbours will destroy his own life. Eddie’s narcissism is well expressed by his cri-de-coeur “I want respect”. The wretched man cannot respect himself so he begs it from others, and his eventual demand for apologies, where none are due, leads to the execution of ancient Sicilian custom resulting in his own death.

The lovely 17-year-old Katie was beautifully played by Hayley Atwell, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio gave a strong performance as Eddie’s anxious and almost powerless wife. Harry Lloyd was a charming Rodolpho, and the elder brother Marco, who says but little, was powerfully portrayed by Gerard Monaco. The lawyer, who has a narrative role like a single-person Greek chorus, and attempts to turn Eddie from his fate, was excellently played by Allan Corduner.

Christopher Oram’s designs of the costumes and interior of Eddie’s apartment worked superbly, as did the lighting by Peter Mumford. The production by Lindsay Posner, which moved from the Duke of York’s Theatre in London’s West End, was well suited to this intense and emotional play, and the performance was riveting.