Posts Tagged ‘Rory Kinnear’

Review – Threepenny Opera – National Theatre

May 24, 2016

I swear I’ve seen The Threepenny Opera before, but I’m beginning to think either it was very, very long ago (a student production when I was in college?) or perhaps a film? Was it just tapes of the music? Or perhaps … was the National’s reimagining of this show so original that it just blew all of my memories away? It’s so difficult to say. I mean, everyone knows Mack the Knife(er – Captain Macheath – Rory Kinnear) is a murderer … but do I remember him as being so hopelessly weak around the ladies? Did he also sleep with men? Was Mr Peachum (Nick Holder) as corrupt as all that? The only thing I was certain was absolutely, positively NOT in the original was the newly tarted up Polly Peachum (Rosalie Craig), who was more of a gangster’s moll than an innocent led astray by love. And of course I’ve never seen the cast be such a variety of races and even disabilities – assuming Jamie Beddard as Matthias “the Shadow” is actually really handicapped and not just playing “a bloke in a wheelchair with a speech impediment,” which would be just too incredibly distasteful for the National to contemplate and which caused a friend of mine to leave the theater in outrage, believing him a stereotype rather than an example of incredible casting. I found it all perfect, and well suited to a show set in London’s East End. So perhaps there really have been huge changes to the script. Rather than comparing it to what’s gone before, I’m going to treat this show like it’s all brand new, because, really, I felt it was a whole new ball game, and that’s how I’m going to write about it.

So. It’s London, and it’s time for a big celebration – the Silver Jubilee? The Golden Jubilee? Who knows. It seems to be today, a time when British soldiers are back from Afghanistan (including Macheath and Chief Inspector Brown – Peter de Jersey) – but simultaneously an older London, where criminals and prostitutes have their “patch” and beware those who cross it – most of all anyone else trying to earn a living begging or stealing on the streets. The evil Mr Peachum runs a gang of beggars which seems, all things considered, to be quite copacetic with the police, because each is as corrupt as the other. Peachum seems to be a man of no morals – he’s unconcerned who his wife Celia (Haydn Gwynne) has sex with – and he celebrates violence. But for some reason he is outraged that Macheath has married his daughter Polly. Possibly he was planning on keeping her around to sell for sex – it’s all a little unclear – or perhaps Mac is just his enemy from past deeds. Polly runs home from her nuptial deflowering, grabs some clothes, and is off again, and the plot is set in motion: Peachum wants to catch and kill Mackie. Songs ensue.

The set for this show is stripped back, with the walls of the theater exposed and the various elements (staircases, platforms, etc) done very bare-bones, with the occasional burst of excitement from, say, an extremely realistic car, a sparkling hoop of a cartoony moon (best decorated with George Ikediashi standing on it and singing), or a giant British flag that’s about the size of the entire Lyttleton. The characters, however, are dressed richly, with extravagant hair, makeup, and costumes helping to bring all of the principals (and secondaries) to life. This is the kind of theater where we are being forced to use our imagination, and with that little help a rich, seedy world comes brilliantly to light.

Yet somehow the combination of music, story, and setting didn’t gel for me. I didn’t feel anything for anyone on stage. They seemed like cartoon characters, as unrealistic and formless as Marvel superheroes but without the outrageous back stories. And I found that without sympathy, there was no tragedy, merely a tale of several lives gone bad, done to music. Is it because I was watching a preview? Or perhaps that was all the effect that the show sought? Either way, it was a dissatisfying evening, with some musical highlights and a few coup du theatre but nothing that really grabbed me. I was in the back row, though, so perhaps it was just too hard to get to me. Still, it seemed like a good production of this show, and if you’re paying more than £15, you may find you get a more intense experience.

(This review was for a performance that took place on Thursday, May 19, 2016. It runs for a while.)

Review – Measure for Measure – Almeida Theatre

March 15, 2010

When the Independent’s ecstatic review for the Almeida‘s Measure for Measure wound up in front of my eyes on my morning commute, I was completely sucked in. Woo, a Shakespeare play I hadn’t seen at a venue that consistently produced great shows! I figured with the five stars behind it it was going to sell out quickly, so I got my tickets that day and hunkered down for my chance to see it.

As it turns out, at 15 pounds (each) for a supposedly blocked view in the back of the house, my tickets were a very good deal (and ten times more comfy than the barstools at the Southwark Playhouse’s Henry V). The show featured the kind of acting that I’ve come to see as the standard in London, led by the on-top-of-his-game Rory Kinnear as Angelo, who could have been any right-wing politician currently gracing the front pages of American newspapers. The story of a man who promotes himself to others for his sterling reputation, attempts to enforce his morality, then falls “victim” to the sins he claims to want to stamp out is apparently far older than I had ever guessed. In fact, it’s the sharpness of this drama – much like the Donmar’s “fear the power of the papers” Dollhouse – that made this show seem so relevant. The language was thick at times, but the story was 100% now.

But the drama of a sister trying to save her brother from death, well, that cranked it up a big notch. Anna Maxwell Martin seemed a bit stiff as Isabella, somewhat overprone to holding her hands, but she was playing a woman who was a few days away from becoming a nun, and she did have a lot of begging to do to try to keep her brother Claudio (Emun Elliott) from being beheaded for (snicker) fornication. Oddly, no one seems concerned that he’s about to leave his girlfriend behind to take care of their soon-to-be-born child, but I was aware – every minute that Isabella attempted to convince Claudio that it was better to die that to live without honor – there was a lot more at stake than her virginity. Yeah, if she gave in to Angelo, she’d lose her job as a nun, but sister-outlaw Juliet would have a lifetime of struggles in a society not very supportive of unmarried moms.

Amidst all this, Vincentio (Ben Miles), the duke, the man whose departure has put Angelo in charge, wanders, talking to people about “the state of the kingdom” and what they think of him. His performance is fine but flat; as a character, he is static and just not nearly as interesting as Angelo. He also gets burdened with most of the long speeches in this play; it seemed nearly every time that I checked out mentally because I wasn’t able to make sense of the language, Vincentio was talking.

Despite the occasional lags, this was a consistently top-notch performance in a delightfully intimate space, with sets that were both inventive and deliciously flexible. As we walked out of the theater talking about the performance in great detail, we all agreed on one thing; we are spoiled by the quality of theater London offers, and the current production at the Almeida wonderfully shows off just how good we’ve got it.

(This review is for a performance that took place at 2:30 PM on Saturday, March 13th. Measure for Measure closes Saturday, April 10th, 2010. For a compilation of reviews, please see UpTheWestEnd.com. I’d be surprised if there were any tickets left, so be sure to call and ask for returns, or pity.)