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imageYes, the entire Clarke clan (including a new favourite child) trooped to the Barbican last night to see the  much-trumpeted, much hyped, much anticipated Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Hubby and I had seen him on stage before in the fantastic Frankenstein at the National, and of course I’d also adored him as Sherlock.

And he was good. Yes, he really was. You have to watch him when he’s on – your eyes are drawn to him. And he is amazingly physically adept – climbing up and down the huge ‘last supper’ dining table in the midst of a huge country house that is Elsinore and he delivers text in an easily digestible way. But no one gives a shit about him. Or any of the characters. We can’t – somehow all the real emotion has been sucked out of the play.

I don’t know Hamlet well enough to be able to tell you what was missing or moved around. Was it meant to be seen that he was really pissed off he didn’t get to be King rather than sent mad with grief so threw his toys out of the pram and broke the whole dynasty like a spoilt only child? “I’m the King of the castle” perhaps should have been the opening song rather than Nature Boy….

So I loved him, loved the vast set. hated the pointless costumes which were non-descript.  Couldn’t get Ophelia at all –  pathetically child like and too quirky to ever have been believably loved by Hamlet or seen as a future daughter in law by Gertrude – she came across as about nine years old. Polonius and Gertrude each had their moments but were essentially dull and leaden, and don’t get me started on Rosencrantz and Guldenstern who were like intense sixth formers playing their parts. The grave digger was great (as was the person catching the skulls he threw!) but really this wasn’t one of those Shakespeare productions where you come away thinking how amazing it is that we are still watching this 400 years later. It was one of those where you think “I can see why people don’t like Shakespeare”. But I still love the Cumberbatch and would go see him in anything he’s ever in on stage. I just wish he’d had the benefit of a better cast and director.

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Crab Bucket. Four stars.

February 14, 2015

After the opera a few weeks ago we repaired to the Opera Tavern where we chanced upon a lovely waitress. Easy conversationalist, bright, witty and fun. And sure enough she was a resting actress – but soon to start rehearsing for a play at waterloo east theatre. So we went last night.

i was put off by the blurb telling me the play ‘explores the issues surrounding young women in society today and how their apathy and sexuality can have a profound effect on the recognition of their place in the world around them.” And that the playwright was a man.

But I was really pleasantly surprised – it wasn’t a worthier-than-thou look at women pulling each other down, it was a poignant and funny take on the relationships between two sets of sisters and their friends, interwoven with classic fairytales. Our waitress was the bride to be at the hen weekend where the drama unfolds and she was great  – an ethereal dreamer and one who managed to shed real tears. Her supporting cast were equally believable – with sharp and pithy conversations and plenty of humour thrown in.

7 women, 80 minutes straight through and all for a tenner. I’ve no doubt we will see more of many of the cast so I’m doubly glad we caught them now. Four stars

Bull, the follow up to Cock which we didn’t see, is an uncomfortable hour. I didn’t like it. Found it hard going and fairly relentless. And was pissed off at the audience for laughing. But it’s good. I’m not sure I recognise the workplace politics it describes which seems to hark back to the 80s, but perhaps I am lucky with the people I work with or it’s because I’m freelance so am less encumbered by it all. Or perhaps it’s just that I’m not in a full on sales environment where the three employees are fighting for their jobs and waiting for the boss to come and decide which one of them will be ‘let go’.

As it’s so short, don’t read any more if you might go and see as it might spoil it for you.

It’s basically an extension of playground bullying dressed up as ‘a bit of fun’, ‘don’t take it personally’, and this time done as a two-pronged attack against the same victim. Sometimes direct, sometimes dressed up as caring, these two never let up. And sure enough the victim does himself no favours in front of the boss. The bullies are sharp suited, sharp tongued, confident and attractive. The victim overweight, sweaty, anxious. You expect a twist in the tale; for good to triumph over evil, for the stuffing to be knocked out of these cocksure cunts. I won’t spoil it for you completely.

Trafalgar studios returns  to its Whitehall theatre roots and plays farce. Which is not a genre I enjoy, but this revival of a 1960s play has one huge, mesmerising asset. James McAvoy in the starring role. He is utterly brilliant as the lunatic son now inheriting the family estate and title. One slight problem is he believes he is God and likes to be known as JC. He is wonderfully fey, languid and espousing that love is God. And he loves. He is physically so adept it is wonderful to watch him flit around the stage and jump up effortlessly on to his crucifix, or spend minutes walking on his haunches. Watching him made we want to see him do Shakespeare as he interprets text with such dexterity and ease I was completely bowled over. But of course the family plot to try to get him ousted and these caricatures are fairly dated and predictable, but not unenjoyable. His doctor returns him to ‘sanity’ whereupon he becomes the rabid immigrant-hating, selfish, old-boys-network-loving stereotypical toff looking out only for his own kind. And here too he plays this beautifully, with his previous madness bubbling under the surface and occasionally peeking through the cracks.

The play itself is too long, but there are plenty of laughs and it is worth seeing for his bravura performance. Three stars over all, but Five for Mr McAvoy.

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