Advert
Advert

Tag Archive | "Trafalgar Studios"

Tags: , , , , ,

Review: I Found My Horn, Trafalgar Studios

Posted on 03 April 2014 by Adam Foster

I Found My Horn

A middle-aged man wakes up to a broken marriage, a beckoning bedsit, and the realisation that he has done nothing to make himself memorable. Sound familiar? Yes, exactly. I Found My Horn was originally staged at various venues in 2008 and 2009, and has now been re-imagined and updated for a UK and US tour. Adapted from Jasper Rees’ book of the same name, the stage version chronicles how, after a lay-off of 25 years, Jasper seeks redemption via the sixteen feet of treacherous brass tubing he never mastered in his youth. Resuming his old French horn, he sets himself the seemingly impossible task of performing a Mozart concerto in front of a paying audience of horn enthusiasts at the annual festival of the British Horn Society.

It is, according to director Harry Burton, “a classic myth about the man who has to confront his fear“. Indeed, I Found My Horn clearly strives for a carefully plotted mythical structure that taps into a story of universal appeal. The result, however, is an over-wrought and cliché-ridden script that emphasises cheap laughs over emotional integrity. To this end, the co-writers (Jonathan Guy Lewis and Jasper Rees) seem to be channelling a particular school of British feel-good drama of which Billy Elliot, The Full Monty and Brassed Off are perhaps the most notable examples. As mawkish and predictable as those works may be, they at least possess a degree of stirring euphoria that this production sorely lacks.

The production is further blighted by some of the lowest production values I have seen at this level, marked in particular by a slapdash drawing of a mountain (it’s a metaphor, geddit?) masquerading as a set design, uncomfortably long costume changes and a totally inadequate sound system. Indeed, for a piece about the enchanting vitality of music, to have such a poor sound system is pretty inexcusable. Frankly, it makes some of the most majestic pieces of horn music ever written sound as though they’re being played over a dated tannoy system in a grey-walled public service building. Sadly, even the fabled French horn playing isn’t very good. I mean, sure, it’s passable, but it certainly doesn’t warrant the length of time we’re made to sit through it.

Jonathan Guy Lewis, to his credit, plays Jasper with genuinely charismatic enthusiasm. He does, however, regularly falter when attempting various accents, which include that of his old school conductor, the German soloist Herman Baumann and his estranged teenage son. It doesn’t help that every one of these characters is painted with the broadest of broad brush strokes. As for the talking horn with a Czech accent, well the less said about that the better. Far from being, as the writers put it, “a wonderfully theatrical invention”, it feels more like a woefully amateurish contrivance to add to a catalogue of bum notes.

I admit I’m probably not the target audience for this particular piece – being neither middle-aged or especially interested in classical music. Nevertheless, there is an argument that the theme of a work shouldn’t necessarily dictate one’s overall enjoyment of a production. Needless to say, my enjoyment of this one was few and far between. To be honest, you’re probably better off reading the book.

I Found My Horn is playing at Trafalgar Studios until 3 May. For further information and tickets go to the ATG website. Photo by Gavin Watson.

Adam Foster

Adam Foster

Adam graduated from the University of Exeter in 2012. He is currently enrolled on Royal Holloway’s MA Playwriting course run by the playwright and academic Dan Rebellato. He has previously trained as an actor at The BRIT School and is represented by Alchemy Active Management.

More Posts

Comments (1)

Tags: , , , , ,

Review: The Act, Trafalgar Studios

Posted on 03 March 2014 by Daniel Harrison

The Act

All being well, the first equal marriages in Britain are due to take place on 29 March, the date of The Act’s final performance at Trafalgar Studios.  I’m quite convinced that the pioneers who campaigned to get the Wolfenden Report’s recommendations into law in 1967 (the Sexual Offences Act) would never have dreamed of one day being able to say ‘I do’.

It is this, often morbidly fascinating, period of British social history that Thomas Hescott’s The Act examines. The 1967 Act, as well as the literal act of raw, oft loveless, sex, and chance encounters in public toilets, dangerous liaisons, careers and reputations in jeopardy, are all explored in, er, one act.

The piece derives its power from the writing, which extracts genuine discussion and debate from parliament and presents it in all its cold and clinical glory. No embellishment is required. Homosexuality is ‘distasteful’ and ‘repulsive’. Being gay is ‘a disability, a deviation’ and those who suffer from it are often condemned as being ‘effeminate, depraved and exhibitionist’. Whilst this choice of language may be shocking or laughable to a British audience today, (such as the farcical notion that decriminalisation would lead to an increase in the gay population) much of it sadly still rings true. Homosexuality is ‘undesirable because it leads to loneliness and unhappiness…and the heavy burden of guilt’. High levels of treatment for depression amongst gay people would suggest that in some areas, little has changed in the last 47 years. Yet this language is juxtaposed wondrously with the imagined scenes. Upon being presented with an erect penis, we are told that Matthew Baldwin’s character ‘didn’t know whether to smack it one, or put it over my shoulder and burp it.’

Indeed it is Baldwin’s terrific performance which carries these words and allows them to resonate with the audience. He knows just when to let a line hang in the air, and when to take the machine gun approach and bombard us with thought and emotion. He is effortlessly magnetic (and, incidentally, totally unrecognisable from recent turns as the Dame in Above The Stag’s saucy Jack Off The Beanstalk) and delivers both poignancy and punch. As well as displaying Baldwin’s acting talents, the one man format also works to make secondary characters become almost ghost-like; they are relics from a recently by-gone age. We imagine characters such as the young and beautiful Jim, which gives them a haunting power. We are thankful for their existence in terms for the role they played, deliberately or unintentionally, in furthering gay liberation.

Akin to The Pride (also recently on at Trafalgar Studios), The Act is book-ended with contemporary gay London life, and a stinging critique of the blinkered existence which pays no creed to the journey gay liberation is still on. It is ‘bloodless’ according to Baldwin. Highly publicised cases of the situation in Russia and Uganda shows just how far we still need to go. Perhaps one day pieces like The Act can be enjoyed simply for their artistic merit. But for now, they are still very sadly relevant.

The Act is on at Trafalgar Studios until 29 March. For more information and tickets, see the Trafalgar Studios website.

Daniel Harrison

Daniel Harrison

A graduate of Theatre Studies, Daniel has worked in a number of different areas within theatre, most recently cutting his teeth with the Communications team at BAC. He is currently Project Assistant for the Young Vic's upcoming Schools Theatre Festival, and is a champion of the power of theatre as a force for good within society.

More Posts

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Feature: Sit up and listen – an overview of political theatre in 2013

Posted on 21 January 2014 by Matilda Reith

fiji land

This year, political theatre-goers were treated to high class drama up and down the country. Looking at topics including the Israel/Palestine conflict, homophobia, war crimes and sexism, 2013 saw major and minor theatre companies confront problems such as these head on. This brand of theatre offers society a service by providing accessible platforms, invitations to discuss and the opportunity for accidental discovery. For some, theatrical devices like dialogue, staging, music and movement have more impact than words on a page. Through research and devlopment, new stories are discovered and a company can bring a new angle to an issue. It is often the personal stories that are the most affecting right the way through, from actor to audience. But sometimes a show can pass for ‘political’ when it is as hard-hitting as a flannel, so here are some of 2013′s most memorable:

Set in 1920, These Shining Lives by Melanie Marnich bought the story of four female watch-dial painters, fatally poisoned by the radium with which they worked. Lyrical and moving, it bought a historical fight for women’s rights to London’s new Park Theatre. The revival of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s The Pride at Trafalgar Studios took a raw and pacy snapshot of prejudice towards homosexuality in 1958 and the present day. During the curtain call, the cast held ‘To Russia With Love’ placards, which amongst growing distress towards Russia’s anti-gay legislation, made The Pride exceptionally poignant. Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica opened at the Almeida Theatre in London, twinning the famed photo of solitary protest in Tiananmen Square with a spoonful of modern geopolitics. Praised for attempting and achieving a great feat in theatre, Kirkwood’s Chimerica has been listed as The Guardian‘s No. 2 in Best Theatre of 2013.

The National began the year with James Graham’s This House which was set in 1974 parliament, but perhaps had less bite than The Shed’s Protest Song, for example, which twinned London’s Occupy movement with homelessness in one monologue delivered by an intense Rhys Ifans. Love Your Soldiers, at the Crucible, gleaned 4 stars from The Guardian, marrying military realism with a twenty-first century love triangle. At the Young Vic, Joe Wright directed historical A Season in the Congo, telling of Congo’s liberation from Belgian rule. The Royal Court brought Polish playwright Anna Wakulik’s A Time to Reap to British audiences and high acclaim. A Time to Reap charts the journey of a woman against the backdrop of abortion and the Catholic Church in Poland, and was performed in Polish and English.

As usual, political theatre burst from every seam in Edinburgh. This year, at least 120 shows used ‘politics’ as a key word to describe themselves. The Fringe is the place to take angry, low-cost theatre that shouts a politically-minded message. Northern Stage at St Stephen’s housed Chris Thorpe’s There Has Possibly Been an Incident which was hauntingly stripped back. It took vague yet recognisable events (a country’s revolution, a public shooting, a plane crash) when you must choose between heroism and compromise from headlines into our hands. Ballad of the Burning Star was also highly praised; Theatre ad infinitum returned with an Israeli drag queen, proving that the oldest issues can still be approached from fresh. The Traverse marked its fiftieth birthday with a selection of international political shows; Quietly by Owen McCafferty took up Belfast bombings, and George Brant’s Grounded, which flagged up the psychological damage to drone controllers through the eyes of a pregnant pilot, was a must see of the festival. After the Fringe, Grounded transferred to London’s Gate Theatre for an extremely successful run.

It wasn’t just theatre that took up the political gauntlet. In dance, the return of Hofesh Shechter’s Political Mother was a sell out at Sadler’s Wells. A storming heart-attack of an evening with drums so loud you could hardly breath, it tackled terrorism and oppression. His new show Sun is a must-see for the 2014. Twitter went wild for spoken-word-artist Scroobius Pip’s Five Minutes which tackles domestic violence. Even Banksy’s Christmas card got in on the political action, depicting Mary and Joseph’s pilgrimage blocked by the 25ft high separation wall in Bethlehem.

This month, Nick Gill’s fiji land comes to the Southwark Playhouse. A darkly comic look at torture, the play is a surrealist reaction to the stories that emerged from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib in recent years. The fact that the problem is ongoing is a draw for director Alice Malin, but fiji land is mainly an exploration of the human capacity to hurt each other, and then justify it.

Theatre can be a wonderful mode through which to learn, feel connected and support a greater need. It is understandably daunting for a political newbie to go to a show dubbed ‘political’, but for anyone interested in affairs current and historical, it is a fantastic method of firing up anger, enthusiasm or surprise. In a year when we watched continuing revolution in the Middle East, marked the deaths of Margaret Thatcher, Lou Reed and Mandela, and watched North Korea unveil its ‘Barbie Army’, news stories have never been so varied, and our theatre reflected this. Perhaps 2014 is your year to get political?

Matilda Reith

Matilda Reith

Tilly is a first year English student at Sheffield University who is having an affair with the drama department. Between sleeps she likes to absorb and create as much theatre as possible but also spends a considerable amount of her time listening to jazz and drinking coffee.

More Posts

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review: Ghosts, Trafalgar Studios

Posted on 15 January 2014 by Jake Orr

Ghosts

Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts has always felt like a stiff play and whilst it may have caused a sensation upon publication, being banned from performance, its themes of freedom, sexuality and religion have struggled to grip me. In Richard Eyre’s production, having already met critical acclaim in its run at the Almeida Theatre, and now mounted at the Trafalgar Studios, Ghosts is anything but stiff. Eyre’s adaptation brings Ibsen’s play to a fine 90 minutes, and whilst it naturally offers syphilis and orphanage burning, it does so with a swiftness; like the winds that fan a bushfire, Ghosts is ignited.

Lesley Manville leads the cast with her portrayal of Helene Alving. Like a ribbon that unfolds itself before being snagged and torn by the sharpness of life, Manville unravels before us. From fleeting femininity to boldness and endearing motherhood, her breakdown as she sobs against her convulsing son closes Ghosts with a chill that trickles down the spine. Having been celebrated for his portrayal and understanding of female characters, Ibsen’s Helene Alving is a spirited character. Caged for years under her marriage and holding tight the ghosts of her family, Eyre’s interpretation leaves her clawing at the threads of her unwinding family.

Whilst there are fine performances from the rest of the cast, praise must first be bestowed to Tim Hatley’s design and Peter Mumford’s lighting for creating an ever present character within their designs. With walls that reveal the characters’ ghosts, mirroring them in the translucent but reflective material that separates the rooms, Hatley’s design is haunting. From a claustrophobic drawing room that looms upon the characters’ dialogue, to a glorious radiant sunrise that has the set glowing from within, punctuating Oswald Alving’s (Jack Lowden) “give me the sun” with perfection, Mumford’s lighting is nuanced. Ghosts is a fine testament to ensuring that a creative team understands and collaborates effectively to bring forth a vision that is shared but holds strong on individual merits.

Eyre’s adaption may give Ghosts a life that ignites with its 90 minutes but it does cause some causalities along the way. Certainly Lowden’s Oswald is handled with a crumbling affection and with an overwhelming fatigue that stifles the character (thankfully not the acting). Eyre does clip some of the enjoyment from Oswald’s gay Parisian life and story; condensed down it does feel somewhat that the character is short changed against that of his mother, who certainly steals the show. Nonetheless, for a rising actor Lowden commands in his portrayal, which is gently revealed in his interactions with the sweet but fiery Charlene McKenna as Regina Engstrand. Where Eyre does succeed in his version of Ibsen’s text is by finding the humour within the characters of Jacob Engstrand (Brian McCardie) and Pastor Manders (Adam Kotz), who both bring a freshness to the roles that have otherwise been quite straight-laced.

There’s a distinct sharpness to Eyre’s Ghosts, partly achieved through the reworking of the play into a single act, but it also lies within Ibsen’s characters. Each one in turns erupts like a chemistry experiment overheating, and just like the orphanage that goes up in flames, so do the characters, causing a ritual cleansing of their sins, the flames licking around them. It’s easy to see why Ghosts moved audiences during its original Almeida run; it’s a gift of a play that delivers repeatedly, both in direction and in its acting.

Ghosts is playing at the Trafalgar Studios until 8th March. For more information and tickets, see the ATG Tickets website.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
Pinterest

Comments (0)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here

Join our E-Newsletter

---
Exclusive offers, opportunities and updates from AYT.

---


Supporting: