Tag Archives: Natalie Klamar

“Keith?’ at the Arcola Theatre

If there was ever a time ripe for lampooning, we’re living through it now. So thanks to Patrick Marmion for having a go with his new play. The effort isn’t an unquestionable success but there are some good jokes in this tale of a Dionysus of our day. As the god points out our problems, there’s satire and a touch of farce. You should laugh, even if it’s all too predictable to really lose yourself in.

The trouble is, if you set out to write a play that toyed with being risqué, it would probably end up like this one. There’s a startup millionaire turned hippy, his radical feminist ex-wife in trouble for transphobia and their entitled snowflake daughter who brings back a Muslim fiancé from her voluntary work. All pretty easy targets. There’s plenty of potential, of course – especially when it’s staged in North London – and some good lines. But you do know what’s coming next. And the characters are too flat even for caricatures.

Marmion’s self-consciously clever move is to subtitle the work ‘Moliere Rewired’. He says he has eviscerated the French writer although, if anything, the Puckish lead and sub plot with twins make the inspiration more Shakespearean. Still, there’s a fine Tartuffe type in our titular hero, a god disguised as a South African gun runner turned Buddhist monk. And Joseph Millson gives a strong performance in the lead: he has the charisma to give the role depth, the presence to make the incredible work and the confidence to give the jokes time to build.

Sara Powell and Natalie Klamar

Millson adds a conviction that the show lacks overall. Director Oscar Pearce rushes through the work as if speed might guarantee humour. The racing delivery, of Sara Powell and Natalie Klamar especially, is impressive but the jokes need more room. Pearce is more hampered by the script’s other shortcoming – it’s very static, more of a radio play than anything, with only one visual gag (well done to Aki Omoshaybi here). The dance at the end is a good idea.

Along with a checklist for crazy characters, Marmion’s strategy of trying to offend everyone equally is a tried and tested one. Regardless of age, gender or religion you’ll probably find a joke at your expense and I suppose that the Brazilian cleaner with a dust allergy (a nice turn from Lizzie Winkler) might cover class, too. Making light of weighty issues can be useful and I doubt Marmion would revel in really offending anyone – there’s no malice in the piece and, as it becomes sillier and funnier, there are glimpses of charm. It’s just a shame that Keith? is too calculated to really win you over and never crazy enough to really make you think anew.

Until 9 March 2019


Photos by Idil Sukan

“Othello” at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

This is an uncharacteristically poor production from one of London’s most gorgeous and surefooted theatres. Shakespeare’s tragedy of the Moor of Venice should be pretty foolproof – hard to mess up even if you muck about with it. But director Ellen McDougall overburdens the text with trendy touches while wilfully ignoring the poetry of the play.

From the moment the cast walk onstage to don their minimalist costumes (good work by designer Fly Davis) it’s clear McDougall wants to do something new. We have pop songs a cappella, ‘selfies’ and re-writing Cassio as a woman. All this could be exciting, and there’s clearly no shortage of ideas, but the ramifications of each addition are underdeveloped. McDougall surely has her reasons, but it is too hard to see what they are.

Which brings us to rhyme. Working with dramaturg Joel Horwood, there are stumbles due to the change of Cassio’s gender. Adding the odd joke or altering Shakespeare’s insults can be justified but add little here. Maybe tackling the text should have been bolder – presenting something new, in the spirit of last year’s Cymbeline, transformed into Imogen, outdoors at the Globe? McDougall’s cast adopt a bland approach to the verse. Presumably an attempt to make it sound natural – it actually makes it dull.

Natalie Klamar’s Desdemona suffers most from this prosaic delivery – she whines. Joanna Horton’s Cassio, a transformation that should offer such exciting potential, is humdrum. Peter Hobday’s Roderigo fails to deliver comic appeal, and he is even worse when performing as Duke Lodovico, entirely lacking charisma. Sam Spruell’s Iago comes close to making his role work – a gruff delivery denies Iago the intelligence to make him truly frightening but at least he holds the stage. The notable exceptions are Thalissa Teixeira, who develops her Emilia nicely, and the lead – Kurt Egyiawan – who thankfully, sounds wonderful. At a best guest, it’s a clumsy attempt to set up a contrast between Othello and everyone else. But it leaves far too much for Egyiawan to do and the majority of the production is just tedious.

Until 22 April 2017


Photo by Marc Brenner

“Future Conditional” at the Old Vic

Marking Matthew Warchus’ first production in charge at the Old Vic, Tamsin Oglesby’s new play is literally about education, education, education, with three views of schools crammed into one, like an overcrowded classroom. The evening is entertaining and feels fresh, and one or two parts might have passed on their own, but cumulatively the play doesn’t score highly.

Lucy Briggs-Owen (Hettie) and Natalie Klamar (Suzy) in Future Conditional. Photo credit Manuel Harlan
Lucy Briggs-Owen and Natalie Klamar

There are those pushy mums at the primary school gates, desperate for their kids to get on. OK, predictable, but the social observations are funny. There’s a strong turn from Lucy Briggs-Owen, as her character justifies going into the private system, and heartfelt angst from Natalie Klamar with a struggle to stay state. There’s a stilted amazement at class differences – are the school gates one of the few places people mix? I suppose I’m not qualified to say. The scenes are fun if slight.

Then there’s an education committee, a talking shop that Oglesby gets more laughs from. Warchus comes into his own here with the direction far tighter than the writing. Talk about shooting fish in a barrel: the arguments are so simplistic and the many characters so transparent it’s almost insulting to an audience. Ironically, the chances of learning anything about education, or being challenged in your thinking, are far too slim.
Rob Brydon (Crane) in Future Conditional. Photo credit Manuel Harlan (2)
Future Conditional’s most moving narrative has an emotional topicality, with the story of a Malala-like refugee from the Taliban, played impressively by Nikki Patel. She is joined by a woefully underused Rob Brydon as her inspirational teacher, sadly reduced to a trite little speech about how teachers are societal scapegoats. Patel’s Alia is the only character to appreciate learning and her story is uplifting. That her destination is, you’ve guessed it, Oxford, points to the play’s flaw: Warchus and the young cast have plenty of energy and create an exciting feel, but Ogelsby tries to tackle so much that originality goes to the back of the class.

Until 3 October 2015


Photos by Manuel Harlan