Posts Tagged ‘Duke of York’s Theatre’

Review – Constellations – Duke of York’s Theater

November 28, 2012

There are plays you dream of, and plays you wait for, and plays you give up hope of seeing ever again, as they swim into the depths of a pool of sold out shows and wasted time spent queueing for returns, nothing left but a closing date that flickers on your consciousness like the tail of a wily brown trout as it flies away from you, never to be seen again.

Plays, though, have occasional second lives, as very popular productions can be nearly immediately remounted in larger (and more remunerative) venues. I didn’t expect this to happen with Constellations, the Royal Court’s near mythic (amongst hardcore theater goers there are rarely so many tears) tale of love, loss, and physics: as an Upstairs show, it was at the fringes of public recognition – a new play by a newish playwright, a two-hander, even! It was hardly a crowd-pleaser like Jumpy much less a Cock (with its big name stars). So when, after weeks of trying to snag just a single ticket, I saw it had closed, I just closed down that little part of my heart that had been open to a night of amazing theater in an intimate environment. Constellations was the one that got away.

And then … It wasn’t. It was bundled with Jumpy and Posh as the Royal Court at the Duke of Yorks and suddenly they had a season and I had a second chance. But oh noes! It was in a BIG theater and oh noes! it wasn’t the sweet ticket prices that make the Royal Court a positive gift to us theater fanatic types. Yeah sure it wasn’t going to be the same, but hey, they were releasing 20 £10 seats a day, and wouldn’t it still be wonderful even in a barn? And at £10 and only 70 minutes, wouldn’t good be good enough?

The price may be too high (based on the 20% empty house – meant I could move myself into a less neck-craning spot than row AA), but I do believe the play is still very good. It’s a look at a relationship though the mirror of different concepts of time (helpfully explained by the woman to the man while they’re both drunk). Is there one universe with time happening linearly, or are there multiple universes all existing simultaneously where different things happen in each of them? Whether or not you buy the theory, it’s easy enough to understand the concept of, say, the 15 ways to people may or may not have met and become a couple at a barbeque. The universe where he was married and uptight? Not so much. The version where he is willing to try licking his elbow but is still married? You get to see some many junctions and conjunctions that it’s never clear what is supposed to be the “reality” of the show, but immensely fun to watch.

And then … And yet … It seems like, jumping back and forth in time (or perhaps across realities) that a narrative is happening, that amongst the multiplicities there is something important happening, and that the net effect is that actually, maybe we should care how the universe is shaped. It sound like it’s oh big scary too many hard ideas but it’s not, really, because in the end it’s all once upon a time, somewhere, there were some people that loved each other. And there are some balloons, and there are bees, and I’m afraid there were some tears, and maybe a few more balloons. And more tears. Two people alone in the universe. It could have/might/did happen. And I’m glad I was there for it.

Reviews – Dimetos, Donmar Warehouse and A View from the Bridge, Duke of York’s Theatre

April 29, 2009

While I don’t normally double up my reviews, there were so many similarities between these two plays that I thought it would make sense to review them together. Both are modern Greek tragedies, both …


Just let me be clear, I am about to give away major plot points. I recommend both of these plays, with the note that A View from the Bridge makes for a better evening’s entertainment (due to being less abstract) than Dimetos, though Dimetos has more beautiful language and imagery and may have more appeal to the sophisticated theater-goer looking to have her imagination tickled. And with THAT, I continue my review and move on to the SPOILERS ….

Both are modern Greek tragedies, both feature men who are inappropriately attracted to their orphaned nieces. Culturally speaking, they are millions of miles away from each other, as Bridge‘s Eddie Carbone (in a note-perfect performance by Ken Stott) is a hard-working longshoreman of the sort idolized by Dimetos (Jonathan Pryce), a highly educated South African engineer. Eddie’s problems (alongside “making enough money to feed his family” and “hiding his wife’s illegally immigrated relatives, who are living in his house”) are how to make sure his his niece is taken care of in a world where a lot of things can go wrong for a young woman; Dimetos’ biggest problem seems to be staving off boredom. In fact, Dimetos seems comically spoiled compared to Eddie, and while he’s certainly engaged with his environment (as in the beginning scene where he’s solving the problem of getting a horse out of a well), it’s just really hard to garner up a huge pile of sympathy for a man with such a big ego.

Oddly, it’s also Eddie’s ego that gets him hugely into trouble at the end of the play (whereas Dimetos’ trouble is ultimately caused by his inaction), but it just seems so much more compelling to see a man whose anger is at having his life overturned and who is, in fact, protecting what he considers to be his own. Mustering up a full head of sympathy is a bit difficult for either of them considering that, well, it is clear that both of them don’t have their hearts in the right place when it comes to their relationships with their nieces, but Eddie the fighter, even if he’s a drunk and lashes out at his loved ones, is easier to understand than Dimetos the dreamer, who feels free to complain about what’s wrong with the world but doesn’t seem to be willing to engage with it.

The heart of both of these plays wants to be the men, but in Dimetos it is the niece, Lydia (Holliday Grainger, whose perfectly toned body had me and my husband debating her workout regime long after we’d stopped talking about the play) who is the real center of her show – much as she is the center of Dimetos’ world. Watching her interact with housekeeper Sophia (Anne Reid) and visitor Danilo (Alex Lanipekun) is fascinating – Sophia clearly loves her and the two of them have a relationship that shows signs of years and years of being built, and the budding love affair with Danilo is just amazingly tense. Will he? Won’t she? And does Lydia even know where things are going? She forms a fascinating character study of a girl on the brink of womanhood – and perhaps passing over it – though the ultimate turn she takes during the play seems to make little sense in terms of her overall personality.

Lydia and Eddie’s niece Catherine (Hayley Atwell) also have a lot in common. Despite being orphaned, they’ve been sheltered and perhaps a bit spoiled; but in an atmosphere in which they have been loved to pieces, they’ve both grown up intelligent, engaged with the world, convinced of their own powers, and perhaps a bit naive. It makes me wonder if Lydia would have followed Catherine’s arc and finally had to just make a run for it if she’d stayed. Catherine, however, did not provide all of the heart of Bridge, as Eddie so strongly held the stage, but as a part of a trio in which the “other woman” was Eddie’s wife, she was in a much more precarious position than Lydia was. It was, in fact, quite painful to watch the tug of war with Catherine’s head as Eddie attempted to bend her to his will and Bea (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) attempted to bend Catherine’s head to a view of reality that would ensure Bea’s continued primacy in the family, and this further added to the dramatic tension of Bridge.

In general, the drama of the Carbone family (will the immigrants be caught and deported? will Eddie’s niece fall in love?) seems much more vibrant that that of Dimetos’ household (will Dimetos decide to return to an exciting job in the city rather than continuing to live somewhere where he’s not appreciated? will the adults start treating Lydia like a part of the family again?), especially given that a key turning point in Dimetos involves two people both going mad and the actors involved doing it completely unbelievably. While the narrator Arthur Miller dropped in Bridge tends to make the whole thing sound a bit Sam Spade (with flat, identical Brooklyn accents), I’m not surprised that Bridge was ultimately able to keep forty 17 year old students riveted to their seats while Dimetos is the rare Donmar non-sellout. I enjoyed them both, but Dimetos, despite its brilliant script and fine performances, was, like Dimetos himself, just too “woo woo” and in love with itself to really provide as much of a punch as A View from the Bridge. I say see both if you can, but if you can only see one … well, do you want to see the play you’ll never see revived again, or do you want to see the one that’s a hugely compelling night out?

Oh, who am I kidding. View from the Bridge is great. But if you miss seeing Holliday Grainger hog up the stage with her big heart and her radiant, perfectly-formed self, you may truly regret it.

(The Dimetos performance reviewed here was seen on Friday, April 24th, 2009. Dimetos continues through Saturday, May 9th, 2009. A View from the Bridge was seen on Monday, April 27th, 2009 and continues through Saturday, May 16th, 2009. If anyone can get me tickets for the Donmar’s next production, A Doll’s House, please let me know as it’s already sold out and I’m sad.)