Tag Archives: Lee Curran

"Berberian Sound Studio" at the Donmar Warehouse

This must be the show of a lifetime for composers and sound designers Ben and Max Ringham. It follows a fictional sound engineer – the oddly named Gilderoy – who is working on an Italian horror film, and a claim might be made that sound is the subject matter for this whole show. Let’s be ringing, crystal clear that the Ringhams do a great job throughout. It is their night… but perhaps theirs alone.

A too thin plot fails to hold attention even at just over 90 minutes. As Gilderoy works behind the scenes to find a particularly horrible noise, and as his backstory is clumsily developed, there’s little tension and no surprises. Tom Brooke makes for a charismatic lead, doing well to restrain the hammy humour in the piece, but the character’s timid English manners are too caricatured, and contrasting his inhibitions with his continental colleagues becomes painful. As for the continually promised horror that’s played with, you’d have to be very timid to jump even once. While Gilderoy is searching for what frightens us most, his biggest fear is literally written above him in lights – no wonder the quest ends up dragging.

Weightier themes painfully forced into the play are the real terror here: Art and Ethics, screamed out loud. We get two sides of the debate, first from a voiceover actress offended by torture scenes. Eugenia Caruso does well and manages to craft a credible character here, but her points are pretty obvious. Then the auteur director himself comes in with a seductive defence. Credit to Luke Pasqualino, who has a good stab at making the part memorable, but the appearance is too brief and, by the time he arrives, it’s already obvious that the film being worked on is too awful to bother about.

Director Tom Scutt tries hard to raise the stakes. This show is clearly a pet project for him and writer Joel Horwood, who have brought Peter Strickland’s screenplay to the stage. As well as bells and whistles, Lee Curran’s lighting design includes complete blackouts (rarer than you’d think in the theatre). And there’s an effort at comedy with two assistants, both called Massimo (chortle), played by Tom Espiner and Hemi Yeroham, whose creation of the sound effects before our eyes proves a diversion. But restricting action to the booths that make up Scutt’s and Anna Yates’ design makes the show static, as surprisingly little of the stage is used. And placing the actresses’ booth in one corner of the stage is a big mistake – if you do bother to see the show, don’t sit stage right. Time and again it’s too clear that a film would be (and was) more effective. There’s a growing frustration that anyone bothered to stage the piece at all. Let’s hope that the Ringhams, at least, had fun.

Until 30 March 2019

www.donmarwarehouse.com

Photo by Marc Brenner

"Mirabel" at the Oval House Theatre

This cerebral piece, simply billed as a story told by Chris Goode, is adventurous, exciting and, ultimately, puzzling. It’s a show that uses theatrical conventions expertly and proves to be entertaining. But it is so deliberately destabilising that it’s hard to take away much – avoid it if fables frustrate you.

We start settling down to a something close to a fairy tale, though always for adults. It’s the end of the world and Mirabel is alone… apart from her talking teddy bear. In search of adults, she assembles a gang that includes ghosts and a rock as we journey through an apocalyptic landscape.

All this is beautifully written by Goode, who plays with many a sci-fi trope in his narrative. Simple sentences present complex imagery and are startlingly original, with plenty of humour, too. It’s a long monologue, but Goode’s skills as a performer are excellent and he holds an audience well. Aided by director Rebecca McCutcheon, a set comprising hidden depths by Naomi Dawson, and great lighting design from Lee Curran, Mirabel is wonderfully staged. A section of animation from Lou Sumray is stand-alone strong.

As evocative as the story is – and considering its bizarre touches, that’s a big achievement – judging its effectiveness surely requires the play to have clearer aims. This can’t be an exercise in seeing the world through the eyes of a child as, fantasy aside, Mirabel isn’t believable. Political concerns, such as the environment or consumerism, are oblique (they’re bound to be if you bring in UFOs). Is it an allegory? Maybe: the depths of Mirabel’s loneliness are painfully detailed and her growth during the play gives us plenty to ponder. Yet what the script describes as a coda, a bravura spoken-word section, suggests that pinning his work down wouldn’t please Goode. An explanation for the story is offered, then withdrawn, as chaos encroaches to unpleasant effect.

The world of Mirabel that we are allowed access to is well worth visiting. If you like travel for its own sake, then this is a first-class voyage. I am just not quite sure if the trip has any larger point.

Until 17 November 2018

www.ovalhouse.com

Photo by The Other Richard

“Nuclear War” at the Royal Court

A combination of dance, song and poetry, Simon Stephens’ new creation will make heads spin and hearts ache.
While the writer might dislike the word, ‘experimental’ is an accurate description. This is a piece that pushed boundaries well before an audience even got near it, by privileging the always collaborative nature of theatre-making. Stephens affords remarkable liberty to those he works with: his script is a “series of suggestions” left deliberately open – just a dozen pages of text with no characters. Both his role as a playwright and the job of director/choreographer Imogen Knight are reappraised and opened up.
So what’s the result? The text’s main theme rings out: Nuclear War is a meditation on grief, movingly depicted. Maureen Beattie takes the lead, recounting a day like a contemporary Mrs Dalloway, but stricken by loss. Recollections of moments in hospital are the clearest and most effective. This is a woman out of her mind with mourning and loneliness.
The character Beattie so meticulously depicts is accompanied by performers Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Gerrome Miller, Beatrice Scirocchi and Andrew Sheridan. All four give committed performances but with the actions of the group they form, the evening becomes confusing. You could call this quartet a chorus, why not: revealing internal thoughts and adding a running commentary…of sorts. Mortality is linked to time, with snatches of Arthur Eddington’s ideas injected. And then come some puzzling props. Lasting only 45 minutes, Knight hasn’t allowed long enough to explore the depth of Stephens’ text.
If you’re grumpy, a sense this was all more fun to work on than to watch creeps in. However, aided by lighting guru Lee Curran, there’s some incredible imagery here. The chorus become dogs, and bizarre fetishists, before transforming into ghosts to say a goodbye to their grieving companion. It’s a peremptory departure, despite the resolution it offers, and I wished for more of these unforgettable moments from such an intrepid trial.
Until 6 May 2017
www.royalcourttheatre.com
Photo by Chloe Lamford

"Jesus Christ Superstar" at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Artistic Director Timothy Sheader scores tops marks yet again for his venue’s annual musical. Sheader has wowed with grown-up and demanding shows before, but in this production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s concept album/rock opera even the glitter is gritty. This abbreviated Passion of Christ could win converts with its charged staging of ‘The Flagellation’ alone.
Updates to the music are respectful, coming mostly from the vocals. The score feels fresh and the rock guitars aren’t just retained, they are revelled in. More startlingly contemporary is choreographer Drew McOnie’s work and the athleisure clothes from designer Tom Scutt. Jesus and the apostles aren’t hippies but hipsters. It makes sense. Flares, glitter, a glam-Rocky-Horror outfit for Peter Caulfield’s excellent Herod and Judas’ hands dripping in silver paint, show carefully colour-coded scenes. All aided by Lee Curran, whose lighting for the finale is breath taking.
Sheader emphasises community (those ‘Shoreditch’ touches have a point). This is a big cast and it encircles the auditorium before mounting the stage, grabbing microphones and playing around with the stands, cultivating the idea this being a concert. The performative angle provides insight into the piece. And such a commanding use of the ensemble adds emotion as those who followed Jesus quickly turn, to hound him, then demand his death.
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR by Webber, , Lyrics - Tim Rice, Music - Andrew Lloyd Webber, Director - Timothy Sheader, Designer - Tom Scutt, Choreography - Drew McOnie, Lighting - Lee Curran, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London, UK, 2016, Credit - Johan Persson - www.perssonphotography.com /
There are as many superstars on stage as you could pray for. Anoushka Lucas is an excellent Mary, making the most of her show-stopping number. Tyrone Huntley (above) is a faultless Judas, with a soaring range and tremendous power. As the lead, Declan Bennett may strike you as lacking charisma – his Christ is introspective – but when power is called for Bennett delivers and his acting is astonishingly focused. Moments when it is difficult to hear what Bennett is singing are an especial pity, given that these are Tim Rice’s best lyrics. It’s testament to the strength of the production that a normally fatal flaw does little to diminish the power of this revelatory show.
Until 27 August 2016
www.openairtheatre.com
Photos by Johan Persson