Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Spring Storm - The Cottesloe

Look, look! It's another theatre review! Once I've done this one, I'll be up-to-date. Well, except for the eight plays I saw before the whole blog review resolution thing, and the one I saw on Sunday. But other than that - UP. TO. DATE.

So, anyway. Spring Storm. It's an early play by Tennessee Williams and it's about a lot of things, but basically boils down to a girl deciding between a respectable, rich suitor and a wilder, brutish boy who has (unknown to everyone else) already been her lover for a year and more. It's a production brought to the National from the Royal & Derngate in Northampton and is apparently a European premiere of the play.

There is a great deal to enjoy, particularly in the performances of Liz White as Heavenly Critchfield (never short of excellent names, old Tennessee) once she'd recovered from her accent wobbles in the opening scene and Jacqueline King as her mother (also Donna's mother in Doctor Who, fact fans). It's also fascinating to see proto-versions of later Williams characters - the dialogue and characterisation is good here, but I imagine it would have even greater resonance if the play was in rep with Streetcar.

All that being said, I enjoyed the play less than most reviewers seem to have - the Northampton production picked up four stars from most critics. For me... Not so much. The first half meandered and pootled along. It wasn't until the second half, when the plot starts to move with some urgency, that I felt any real engagement. When it's good, though, it's very, very good and the second half contains a couple of scenes with recognisable Williams themes (suppressed female sexuality, the clash between past and present, courtliness and brutality) that pack a real punch.

All in all, if you're offered a ticket, I'd take it. But I wouldn't necessarily kick down doors to get one.

Verdict: Je dis, "Comme ci, comme ca."

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The White Guard

So, I go to the theatre a lot. Like, a lot. It costs me a small fortune. To date, I have not blogged about any of the plays/shows I have been to see. Tonight, people, that changes.

(I bet you're super-excited.)

First up - The White Guard, currently previewing at the Lyttelton at the National. It's by Mikhail Bulgakov and it's all about 1918 Kiev and a family that sees itself as Ukrainian, Russian and Tsarist, with all the terrifying complications that brought with it. An excellent fact about this show is that Stalin loved it, even though its heroes were the White Army - the reason why becomes painfully clear in the final act.

Basically, you should go to see this play. It's dark and funny and satirical and brutal. The cast has no weak links (particular mention for Anthony Calf's perfect cameo and Pip Carter, who looks probably fresh out of RADA and who I have seen in three plays at the National in each of which he has been perfect) and the sets... Well, I'm not one to get excited about sets, or I never used to be though what with going to all these plays now I notice them more, but the design of this show is spectacular.

This is the third Andrew Upton-translated Russian play I have seen at the National in the last few years. If I hear he's translating any more, I'll be first in the queue. Seriously - go and see it.

Verdict: Je dis oui, oui.