Posts Tagged ‘The play The Quiz’

Review – “I, Lear” – Trafalgar Studios

August 9, 2008

Friday night is often a difficult night to watch theater for me. All of the mainstage shows (that aren’t crap) are frequently either sold out or only offering outrageously priced tickets, and I don’t really have the energy to watch anything more than two hours long or in any way an energy suck. Fortunately, Trafalgar Studios came to my rescue. They (along with the Soho Theater) have been staging a lot of fun one acts that in many cases have had a previous life as fringe theater (often actually from the Edinburgh Fringe festival, so “creme de la fringe”) and are perfectly suited to after work on a Friday night. Also very kindly, these productions often come with a sweet price tag, in this case a mere £10, and, in the case of Lear, a relaxed start time of 7:45, enough for dinner without needing to rush. What a winner!

We’d actually seen the Sir Ian King Lear in November, so the show was still pretty fresh in my mind, and when I’d seen the ads for a comedic short version (by the Black Sheep, aka Andrew Jones and Ciaran Murtagh), I was very up for seeing it. The show was quite different than I’d originally thought, though: rather than just being Lear, it was also a bit of a tour through other plays and playwrights, framed as “the history of British theater” (starting with the Greeks and including Chekov and Tennessee Williams) and a sort of demonstration of the various acting techniques that make these shows come to life (or not).

I did actually get quite a bit of laughs out of this fast moving show. Not every joke hit, but the energy was very up, and in an intimate space like this, I could really feel it rolling off of the stage. We got a little bit of improv (when the actor’s cane broke as he attempted to lift himself off of the stage with it during the Chekov bit), several very comic lines aimed at the highly theater literate (Alan Bennet – very prolific and terribly boring – oh, why didn’t I take notes!), and a lot of corny jokes and bad puns. There was also some scatological humor (during the Greek scene) and some, er, well, maybe a lot of sex jokes. Truth be told, I was busting a gut during the show, and while the cider, sake, and Pimms might have had a bit to do with that, mostly it was just that I was getting off watching Jones and Murtagh do their thing (especially when things went a little wrong – God, I love to watch actors struggle to get their ship back upright!).

The actual Lear bit was a bit not as exciting as I was hoping for. It was actually a rehash of what we’d seen earlier, so it was a bunch of jokes that we’d been set up for (the re-enactment of Bennet’s “Faces,” the re-use of the Greek tragedy in Lear’s storm scene, the wiping of the nostrils with Marmite – don’t ask), and was fairly clever but, well, not as sharp as I would have liked and not playing on the material as well as I could have enjoyed. Still, overall the night was a good one, and the price was right on and my laughs were hearty, so I’d say “I, Lear” was a success.

(This review is for a performance that took place Friday, August 8th, 2008. I, Lear continues at Trafalgar Studios until Saturday, August 16th.)

Review – “The Quiz” – Trafalgar Studios

June 25, 2008

(Note: this show closes Saturday, June 28th, so make your plans to see it right away if you’re interested.)

I have a reputation for being terminally allergic to one-person shows. Just too often they descend into a bunch of self indulgent twaddle, and I find my mind has left the room long before my body can. However, Venus as a Boy was so brilliant that I’ve been rethinking my feelings toward the form. Perhaps … when performed at one go without an intermission, there is hope.

The Quiz, therefore, hit the right buttons at about one hour in total, and the review I read in Monday’s Metro (why they won’t put the damned things online I do not know) indicated it was a comedic twist to a retelling of the Grand Inquisitor (InQUIZitor, get it?) sequence from The Brothers Karamazov, done as a burnt out actor telling the tale of telling the tale to the audience, like HamletMachine but without being so irritating. As I expected, tickets were available today at the TKTS booth (13 quid a pop – but you can also get them in advance for £15 from the Ambassadors website with coupon code “ATGQUIZ.”), so we had a quick takeaway curry from Thai Cottage, then headed off to Trafalgar Studios this evening with fairly high hopes (though the Pimms at the Wetherspoons next door did help).

I found the show quite pleasant, a good value for the money (I know this is a terrible way to view how good a show is, but since I see so many shows that I wear myself out, it’s one of the yardsticks I use) and the investment of time (I was grateful to be home before 11). I love the “breaking the fourth wall” stuff even though I didn’t know how to react to it – did he really want to have us talk back to him? And how would he have handled it if I answered his endless calls for his prompter? Would he have changed the end of the show? Would it have broken his focus?

Anyway, David Bradley was ace – just the kind of person whose hands you want to entrust yourself to when you’re going to spend an hour locked up in a dark room at someone else’s mercies. He handled the transitions between himself, the Inquisitor, his dad, Jesus, and just whomever else he wanted to be beautifully – and when he had the hood on his head, I swear to God, he looked just like Emperor Palpatine. It’s actually a bit of a shame it was only an hour long, though the BIGGER shame was the fact there were only twenty people there the night I went. Get with the program, people! The audience was laughing and chortling quite merrily so it seemed to me like this show MUST be able to pull in more punters to fill the seats. Bradley didn’t seem to stint but I’d really like to see him preening and glowing in the glare of a full house – I think he would have been even better.

Overall, I think there were a couple of points being made – a parallel between the missing prompter and Jesus (I didn’t catch this myself and fully blame the Pimms), and some more grand stuff about the light being extinguished that slipped through my finer filters for drama. But since it was all quite brief, I think the overall point is that it was interesting and funny, well lit, and a great opportunity to watch a top notch actor do it stuff. Catch it if you can! (But the theater is cold, so bring a jacket or a wrap if you don’t have sleeves.)

(This review is for a show that took place the night of Wednesday, June 25th.)