The Simple8 theatre company has already won acclaim for its current brief season at the Arcola Theatre. Moby Dick is its second production, following The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, another ambitious adaptation made remarkable by a back-to-basics method. With minimal props and a set erected during the action, Simple8’s emphasis is on story telling, delivering an appealingly pared-down piece of theatre.
Taking on the subject of mad Captain Ahab and whale hunting in such a rudimentary fashion works well and much of the success comes from the accompanying music, sea shanties and touching folk songs. Performances are also excellent, from Joseph Kloska as the cruelly obsessed, mutilated mariner Ahab, forever “bound” to chase the eponymous Great White, and Oliver Birch for a series of smaller roles. Taking the lead is Sargon Yelda as an impoverished schoolmaster turned sailor. If at times a touch too ebullient, he navigates proceedings admirably as our narrator.
Sebastian Armesto’s adaptation of Melville’s mammoth classic is strikingly economical and effective – qualities also commendable in his direction. Armesto superbly wrings out the action in the text using a great deal of mime and Melville’s religious concerns are downplayed. Instead, Armesto is fascinated by the allegorical use of the sea as a mirror for man’s own nature. It’s a rich seam to explore and one that gives satisfying depths to a show that provides much to reflect upon.
Until 4 May 2013
Photo by Idil Sukan
Written 3 April 2013 for The London Magazine
The Comedy of Errors is perfect for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Shakespeare’s comedy of mistaken identity benefits from being set in London’s most charming venue. It is surprising, then, that this is the first time in 14 years the play has been performed here. Philip Franks’ production is well worth the wait.
Ephesus is transformed into glamorous 1940s Casablanca. As the merchant Egeon roams the town under threat of death, his twin sons and their servants (separated at birth as Shakespearean twins often are) cause havoc as their lives overlap. Daniel Weyman and Daniel Llewelyn-Williams play the twins as matinee idols and do it swooningly well. Joseph Kloska and Josh Cohen as their servants add some delightful comic touches.
During their years of separation the twin living in Ephesus has married. His wife Adriana (Jo Herbert) shows outrage at her husband’s (actually his twin’s) odd behaviour but charms us with her obvious affection for him. After the interval, things really take off as she heads a posse in a slapstick chase to capture him, thinking he has gone mad.
At the risk of sounding blasphemous, Shakespearean comedy can drag a little, and over familiarity with the plot can lead to frustration with characters unable to work out that something is glaringly amiss. Philip Franks keeps the pace fast to avoid the worst of this and has plenty of engaging digressions. With the role of the Courtesan adapted into a nightclub hostess we get some great music – any excuse to hear the fantastic Anna-Jane Casey sing is a good idea. She adds a touch of eccentricity that embodies this colourful, pleasing production and crowns a fine night out.
Until 31 July 2010
Photo by Manuel Harlan
Written 30 June 2010 for The London Magazine