Tag Archives: Matthew Marsh

“Teddy Ferrara” at the Donmar Warehouse

Contemporary American campus politics drive Christopher Shinn’s play, which sees the suicide of a gay student appropriated by college interest groups for their own ends. This university life is disorientating in its modernity and, for a serious, emotive topic, engenders a curiously cold work.

A crew of bland and earnest characters talk at, rather than to, one another. Debate infiltrates their personal lives, fuelled by self-obsession. Although the performances, strictly controlled by director Dominic Cooke, are fine, the cast struggles to leave impressions: the jock and his girlfriend, the guy in the wheelchair, the radical black professor – we get the point that diversity brings challenges. Shinn pokes fun rather than saying anything new.

Ryan McParland (Teddy) in Teddy Ferrara at the Donmar Warehouse - photo by Manuel Harlan
Ryan McParland

Luke Newbury, in the lead role of Gabe, who occasionally expresses contrary opinions, provides the most appealing character. And Ryan McParland is impressive as the awkward titular character, bullied and living out his fantasies online. But the only roles that really stimulate are the college president with bigger ambitions – a nice comic job for Matthew Marsh ­– and a “controlling” student journalist, played by Oliver Johnstone, who provides the majority of tension in the play.

While the plot of Teddy Ferrara is a touch predictable and the sexual politics presented too bluntly, the way people currently communicate is cleverly revealed: there’s a lot of broadcasting and not enough conversation. As Gabe says, “the texting never stops” and nor do political slogans or buzzwords – “micro-aggression” was a new one for me.

Oliver Johnstone (Drew) and Luke Newberry (Gabe) in Teddy Ferrara at the Donmar Warehouse - photo by Manuel Harlan
Oliver Johnstone and Luke Newberry

The dialogue consists of an uncomfortable, often amusing, mix of cliché and jargon, teen vlog and academic journal. This is particularly noticeable in scenes of romance – for a play so much about sexuality, Teddy Ferrara takes pains to be unerotic. Everything the characters say sounds familiar, whether through social media or web cams, the committee room or a speech, self-help books or pornography.
Christopher Imbrosciano (Jay), Griffyn Gilligan (Jaq), Oliver Johnstone (Drew) and Matthew Marsh (President) in Teddy Ferrara at the Donmar Warehouse - photo by Manuel Harlan
A memorial for Teddy, who none of the characters knew, leads to a clever conclusion. The remembrance silence, when everyone at last shuts up, makes for the most eloquent moment of the evening.

Until 5 December 2015

www.donmarwarehouse.com

Photos by Manuel Harlan

“Proof” at the Menier Chocolate Factory

Immediately before the interval of Proof, just opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory, the heroine drops a bombshell, claiming that she, and not her recently deceased famous father, has made an important mathematical discovery. It’s a fantastic moment of drama – so much so you can’t wait for the break to be over, which is surely indicative of the high quality of both play and production.

The genius father, who fought a losing battle for sanity most of his life, was looked after by his devoted Catherine, who put her own career on hold to care for him. Dealing with his death is proving difficult: in the first scene she talks to his ghost, portrayed with great emotional control by Matthew Marsh, and there’s a complex sibling relationship with her sister Claire, played wonderfully by Emma Cunniffe, to factor in. Add to the mix a former student of her father’s, Jamie Parker, sniffing around old notebooks for an academic scoop, and there are plenty of components to this fascinating equation.

David Auburn’s artfully written play deserves all the acclaim it has received since its New York premiere in 2000. It’s a controlled piece, easy to admire, full of subtlety actors can work with. Clearly visualised, the text must be a joy to direct; Polly Findlay does a superb job and brings out some humour with the help of Parker’s affable stage presence. Playing another Hal, after his triumph as Prince Henry at the Globe last year, his Catherine here takes the lead. Fearful that she shares her father’s instability as well as his intelligence, this is a demanding role for both actor and audience. Mariah Gale is wonderful in the part – frequently on the brink of tears yet with a wicked sense of humour – this play gives all the proof we need of her talent.

Until 27 April 2013

www.menierchocolatefactory.com

Photo by Nobby Clark

Written 22 March 2013 for The London Magazine