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Funny Girl. Two stars.

July 23, 2016

Funny GirlI know every professional review gives it four or five stars. And I think it would probably have been better in the more intimate Menier where it started off, but the Savoy is hardly huge. The main trouble is the story is crap. Sheridan Smith (now back in role) is great at what she has to work with, but it is trite, predictable, old fashioned and underdeveloped. Her character (Fanny Brice) is not really likeable. I didn’t give a shit about what happened to her. There were hardly any hard times for us to see her struggle against adversity; one good number where she is a crap chorus girl and one song about “If you ain’t pretty like Miss Atlantic City, then give up”. And her then telling everyone how fantastic she is which to be honest isn’t  very endearing. But she seemingly got a break straight away and then came on to do a number which I honestly thought was meant to show her bombing. How is flashing bloomers funny? But apparently  everybody loved it so she became the star of the show. Her mother and two friends do various numbers well enough, as does her suave lover, but it is tired.It’s not a musical with anything new to offer, or to excite. It felt like we were watching a school production, albeit a good one. Smith is good – and her comedic song as a bride really well delivered, but it wasn’t enough for us to come back for the second half. She’s wasted in this role and deserves better.

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Where we spent the second half

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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.

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.

I’ve seen the film. Years ago of course, but remember the brooding Brando and the annoying Blanche who comes to stay with her sister and him in the steamy South. This Young Vic production gave me a different perspective altogether and I empathised completely with Gillian Anderson’s Blanche. The apartment is on a rotating stage in the round and for reasons beyond me it is set in a timelessness of somewhere in the late 20th century rather than the original post war era. That kind of jarred as the attitudes were still very much early 50s.

Anderson started as flirty, fragile and funny with some sharp cracks and coquettish behaviour. And regular snifters to keep her going. Her sister, Stella, accepts the appalling behaviour of her husband Stanley because the sex is so great with him and she enjoys the passion and volatility of their relationship. We have no idea of the personal backstory that led her to marry someone so beneath her social standing, but Blanche holds no punches telling Stella what she thinks of Stan. However, I don’t really feel we got see the menace, the animal magnetism, or relentless abuse and brutish behaviour that was referred to. Occasionally Stan would explode but it seemed to come out of nowhere rather than being a tinderkeg waiting to blow. Or it may be that Gillian Anderson was so much better than everyone else that their portrayals paled in comparison. Her desperation for affection and kindness were palpable and her determination for her world to be magical and joyous childlike. She had huge monologues which kept us captivated as she told the heart-rending tale of her doomed marriage and having to watch all her loved ones die.Stanley insists on telling his sensitive friend who had taken a shine to Blanche all about Blanche’s reality of having lost the family mansion and resorted to prostitution until being sacked as a schoolteacher for sleeping with a pupil and Mitch too abandons her. Later, Stella goes in to labour and Stanley rapes Blanche as if it were inevitable. Obviously this is the way to put a woman in her place. And then of course Blanche continuing to live there is untenable and they arrange for her to be carted off. It’s awful. Tragic. Pathetic. I wept as her illusory world shattered around her  as her sister decided to side with her husband and the nurse tried to heave her up off the floor. Luckily a man came to her rescue. The doctor, gentle, caring offered her his arm so she could leave with dignity. She responded as a reflex and I could feel the gratitude as she hauntingly said she had “always relied on the kindness of strangers.”  I don’t think it was Blanche living in a fantasy world, I think it was Stella and the only way she could maintain it was to obliterate Blanche from her life.

Five starts for Anderson, and four overall.

Skylight. Three stars

June 12, 2014

Just seeing Bill Nighy was enough. Let alone actually getting to watch him for a couple of hours.  He plays Bill Nighy of course, but this time he is a highly successful restauranteur who comes to visit his ex-lover in her squalid flat a year after his wife has died. His 18 year old son had dropped in first, surprising Carey Mulligan as she hadn’t seen him since she left the family home once the wife had discovered the affair.  He set the historic scene for us so that we understood what a lovely, privileged life they all led together whilst Carey and Bill carried on. And Carey loved Bill’s wife too – everything was just lovely apparently. No one mentioned the betrayal of the affair, or what they were doing to the wife.

But I digress, and without spoiling the plot suffice to say that Bill Nighy is cast as the go-getting thatcherite, a self-made man, a guy who ‘makes things happen’, whereas Carey is the caring middle class girl who has chosen to work with ‘kids at the bottom of the heap’, living in a freezing flat and commuting from one grim area of London to another. But of course Bill’s character has humour, wit and charm – although his assertion that ‘listening is half way to begging’ was a brilliant characterisation of his misogyny. And Carey is not entirely left wing do-gooder but she does feel her vocation to help ‘even one child’ out of the gutter.

Nighy was a joy and Mulligan’s body language conveyed her inner feelings. But surprisingly I didn’t feel the chemistry between them. That raging passion that had consumed them. I think it was good, but not fabulous. But I have hope that actually this will improve as the run continues.  Three stars

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