The Sacred Flame, English Touring Theatre, Nuffield Theatre, 13 - 17 November 2012
Fans of the classic murder mystery prepare for something a little bit different. And a little bit brilliant.
Although W. Somerset Maugham’s story does give have-a-go Poirots the chance to flex their grey matter, it’s the unfolding, emotionally wrought drama rather than the question of whodunnit that’s really captivating here.
The story is a gripping tale of love in all its forms intertwined with a mystery that glides serenely through in almost real-time. It’s genuinely charming but ultimately powerful.
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A TALE OF TWO HALVES
An Ideal Husband, RAODS, Plaza Theatre, 13 - 17 November 2012
Thank god for my more hardy companion for not letting me leave at the interval of RAODS‘ An Ideal Husband. To my amazement the dynamism that oozed Act Two was able to more than vanquish the bum-numbingly dull Act One.
For anyone, as I was, not familiar with the story, its about a woman trying to get something or other through parliament by blackmailing a senior politician. I won’t bore you as I was with the details but believe me when I say it takes a fair bit of dialogue to really get it all across.
A SWING AND A MISS AT GOAL
Total Football, Ridiculusmus, Nuffield Theatre, 6 - 8 November 2012
The good thing about Total Football is that it shows just what a difficult gig writing for stage can be. Co-writers and performers Jon Haynes and David Woods (collectively known as Ridiculusmus) are clearly talented actors and even despite a small nugget of a good premise, Total Football falls well short of any kind of watchability.
I frequently lost track of the muddled plot for large chunks of time and there was little else going on to keep me interested. I think I might have smiled a couple of times but any humour was few and far between.
Kafka's Monkey, Young Vic, Theatre Royal Winchester, 25 - 28 April
With absorbing dark eyes, unfathomable bodily contortions and an unrecognisable linguistic rhythm, Red Peter is an ape-turned-human with a story to tell.
Shuffling onto the stage with bowed legs and low hanging arms, from the very first moment Kathryn Hunter, as Red Peter, looks up to absorb the audience through deep spherical eyes, there is little doubt that the character was once in fact a monkey.
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A SCORELSS BORE
Snookered, Tamasha, The Nuffield Theatre, 3 - 5 April
Ever been trapped on a train surrounding by blokes drinking and getting progressively more drunk and increasingly aggressive towards each other? If you’ve not had such a pleasure don’t worry, just go see Snookered instead.
Set in a bar, four young guys are meeting on the anniversary of a fifth friend’s death. Each has clearly gone their separate ways since the days they were all childhood friends and to make the story really juicy, they all have ‘dark’ secrets which are slowly and agonisingly (for audience) revealed throughout the show. And by ‘slowly’ I mean slowly. The one act, one set play was a bum-aching one hour and forty minutes.
AN UPLIFTING BABE OF A SHOW
The Crowstarver, Alibi Theatre, The Nuffield Theatre, 27 - 31 March
Down on the farm of 1940s England, every bark, bleet and neigh of the barnyard is beautifully brought to life to tell the heart-warming tale of The Crowstarver.
Based on the novel by Dick King Smith, the story follows the curious life of Spider Sparrow – so named because of the way he scuttled about as an infant.
ARTISTIC SHOWCASE NOT TO MISS
Missing, Gecko, The Nuffield Theatre, 20 - 24 March
Rather than your traditional stage production, Missing has the feel of something you might watch in the Tate Modern, or somewhere a little more arty-farty than the Nuffield. It brings together contemporary dance, theatre and art to create something strangely engrossing. With little dialogue (and what dialogue there was seemed to be an attempt to dumb it down) the lighting, sound and design teams, all led by Amit, were the real stars of this production as they showcased their skills.
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BACK TO THE FAMILIARITY OF THE PLAYGROUND
Mogadishu, A Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester and Lyric Hammersmith Production, The Nuffield Theatre, 13 - 15 March
Drama teachers all over will be earmarking Mogadishu for the annual GCSE theatre trip. It has everything they could possibly wish for: youth culture, playground politics, swearing and comedy (to keep the youngsters entertained), plus symbolism, parallels, subtext and hard-hitting themes for that A* student to wax lyrical about in course work.
Starting on a dark caged stage, a playground brawl brakes out between Jason, an antagonistic ringleader, and Firat, your cliché nerd. As the uncomfortably realistic fight ensues, teacher Amanda comes to separate the pair but ends up on the receiving end of Jason’s anger and is pushed to the floor. This moment sets up the story as Jason desperately rallies his friends to tell his fabricated side of the story while in doing so throws Amanda’s life into turmoil.
ARE YOU REALLY TRYING TO SEDUCE ME MRS ROBINSON?
The Graduate, Maskers Theatre Company, The Nuffield Theatre, 24 - 28 Jan
It's probably worth pointing out now that I haven't seen the film, so no insightful observations on the parallels between stage and screen. But then there shouldn’t really ever be pre-requisites to enjoying a show and I can only presume in this instance there was. As a piece of standalone entertainment this production left me desperate for a tad more substance.
Despite solid performances from the entire principal line up, most failed to genuinely convince the audience causing much of the production to fall a little flat. The generous audience did its best to invigorate some dynamism but there were too many instances of seemingly never-ending scenes – almost as though the gear stick was stuck in second.
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PAINT-DRYING PROVIDES WELCOME DISTRACTION
Alchemy in the UK, The Nuffield Theatre, 27 October 2011
Oh the symbolism. The parallels. How profound. How real. How moving. Or least that’s what I think Alchemy in the UK writer Maggie Nevill was getting at with her bleeding obvious subtext.
If it wasn’t for the highly-esteem cast (yes, two of them were recurring characters in The Bill apparently) and the fact the writer has penned other plays (I dread to think) you could be forgiven for believing you were watching a play written by a first year drama student on their first day. And who is bottom of the class.