Tag Archives: Nick Fletcher

“Treasure Island” from NTLive

This third offering – and third call to support theatres during their current closure – from the National Theatre is an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure story. It makes sense to show the venue’s admirable variety by providing a show for the whole family, and this effort from director Polly Findlay is entertaining and enjoyable.

The script from Bryony Lavery excels with plot and deals expertly with some convoluted language that she spices up. Snatches of humour work well and “keeping nothing back” means some delightfully gory details! From injuries, and a massive syringe, to nightmarish touches, superstition and the supernatural are effectively included.

Lavery and Findlay aren’t afraid to ham things up – there’s a lot of shouting and plenty of fight scenes. We’re dealing with a “hot headed and exclamatory” crowd, after all, and a world that “crawls with large-eared villains”! A nice twist comes with Jim becoming Jemima Hawkins and in the role Patsy Ferran makes an engaging narrator, with a lot of energy to her exposition, as well as an impressive head for heights.

Arthur Darvill and Patsy Ferran in Treasure Island at the National Theatre photo by Johnan Persson
Arthur Darvill and Patsy Ferran

Jim is joined by the “blabber-mouthed” Squire Trelawney and Dr Livesey (roles Nick Fletcher and Alexandra Maher acquit themselves well with) along with a host of colourful characters. Including, of course, Long John Silver, which Arthur Darvill makes a fantastic part. At first “hardly frightening at all”, Darvill builds his character’s charisma and then menace with firm skill.

Treasure Island does lose pace. Maybe things get too silly, or Jim too gullible and fickle? The moral dilemma Jim is faced with is hard to care about, and poorly set up, which you could view as a serious flaw. Meanwhile, his counterpart as a cabin boy, Ben Gunn, proves a tiresome role for Joshua James. Attempts at serious moments aren’t convincing or sustained.

The show’s success lies in the strong staging by Findlay. The Olivier auditorium is used to good effect – if you’re seeing it on film for the first time it surely makes you want to go for real! There’s strong work from Bruno Poet as lighting designer – the constellations in the theatre are magical. Lizzie Clachan’s set well deserves the applause it receives. And, along with the expected shanties, Dan Jones’ fine score provides the final atmospheric touch for a suitably escapist show.

Available until Wednesday 22 April 2020

To support visit nationaltheatre.org.uk

Photos by Johan Persson

“A Doll’s House” at the Duke of York’s Theatre

The Young Vic’s widely acclaimed production of A Doll’s House opened its West End transfer this week at the Duke of York’s theatre. Directed by Carrie Cracknell, Ibsen’s classic story of Nora, a housewife and mother in 19th century Norway, and the breakdown of her seemingly perfect marriage, is tackled with great verve and features a superb spinning set by designer Ian Macneil. The show deserves all its many critics’ stars and is not to be missed – it only runs until 26 October.

The star draw is Hattie Morahan in the lead role. She picked up both the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle awards last year, and it’s easy to see why. She plays Nora as naïve – but only because of the society she was born into. Morahan makes the limitations women experienced at the time seem normal, no matter how bitter. Nora’s flashes of brilliance, as she comes to understand and rebel against constraints, are believable and moving.

Morahan is joined by a cast that is close to faultless. Caroline Martin (pictured above with Morhan) gives depth to the role of her old school friend, whose marriage of convenience has been a more obvious failure, and Nick Fletcher gives a magnificently understated performance as the money lender who wreaks havoc on Nora’s ideal home. Hiding her debts from her bank manager husband is only one of the lies her marriage is based on. As her partner Torvald, Dominic Rowan has to tackle sexist remarks it’s to be hoped make most people blush. The commodification of his wife may seem incredible, but Rowan manages to bring Cracknell’s pointed production home – Torvald’s fantasies about his wife raise uncomfortable questions relevant to men and women today.

This marital master and his slave are fantastic creations and with Simon Stephens’ adaptation of Ibsen’s text they breath anew. Injecting a strain of ‘Englishness’ into the play makes it recognisable, and there’s a cleverly suggested Pre-War feel to much of the language. Even better, ironic touches (again praise for Morahan here – her delivery is perfection) elaborate Ibsen’s dark humour and there’s even a sexiness here that has a disturbing edge. Stephens’ script is the key to this doll’s house being such a big success.

Until 26 October 2013

Photo by Richard Hubert Smith

Written 16 August 2013 for The London Magazine

“The White Guard” at the National Theatre

Designer Bunny Christie has done such an exemplary job on the sets for The White Guard –  Andrew Upton’s adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s masterpiece depicting the mayhem of the Russian Civil War, now showing at The National Theatre – that it makes sense to tell the story through her work.

Set first in the Turbin family household we’re drawn into the close, communal nature of their life. They are members of the Tsarist White Guard who protect a puppet politician installed by the Germans to control the Ukraine in the winter of 1918. The set gracefully retracts to the back of the Lyttelton stage, becoming distant and threatened as the story moves to the Hetman’s decrepit palace just as he is about to flee, with the vast, cold room depicting the corruption and chaos of the state. Next we’re plunged into to scenes of war; the barracks of the rebelling Nationalists, ready to fight both the Germans and the approaching Bolsheviks, and a school gymnasium commandeered by the White Guard who have come to appreciate that they have become an anachronism in a political vacuum.

This is a family drama set in turbulent times. Daniel Flynn plays elder brother Alexei Turbin with determination. He is a man of great courage but also a thinking soldier.  Flynn manages to show bravery but also fear about the future. Younger brother Nikolai is played by Richard Henders with great charm. In managing to convey ambiguity over whether Nikolai idolises his brother or the military more his fate becomes deeply moving. Justine Mitchell, cast as their sister Elena, is the only female role in the play. She manages this complex role superbly acting not just as sister but mother, friend and lover to her brother’s comrades visiting the home.

If this all sounds very worthy don’t be put off. True, The White Guard is a fascinating investigation into the impact of war and offers insight into politics. Yes, it shows the power of ideas and identity to sculpt our lives and behaviour, but Upton’s new version of the play deals lightly with all this and saves the work from any pomposity. Possibly because Bulgakov’s own adaption was so heavily censored, Upton has a sense of freedom. His writing is delightful, fast-paced, down to earth and comical with plenty of force when it comes to dramatic moments.

Best of all he has given a script that the cast can revel in and director Howard Davies uses his great experience to provide them with room and inspiration enough to result in performances that seem uniformly fresh and natural.

The visitors to the Turbin home all seem to fall in love with Elena. It isn’t just because she is the only woman around – Mitchell’s performance shows a vitally alive, captivating woman. Paul Higgins and Nick Fletcher as Captains in The Guard both convince as soldiers under pressure and men in love. Pip Carter who plays Larion, a visiting student who provides an alternative to the militarism around him, has some great comic moments. Kevin Doyle as Elena’s husband and deputy war minister serves as an effective foil to the many admirable men in her life with his amusing incompetence and self-obsession. Elena refers to them all as her boys – but the man of the piece is Conleth Hill.

Hill plays Lieutenant Shervinsky. We see him as the perfect charmer wooing Elena.  She and the audience can’t help but laugh with him. As aide-de-camp to the Hetman, he is superior towards the footman, a fantastic little role Barry McCarthy excels in, and deferential to his boss, played by Anthony Calf in great form. As the political turmoil increases we see his character adapt to survive, winning the love of Elena and revealing a deep sincere affection. His character is the man happiest to adapt to the future that the White Guard feared. His portrayal is so charismatic we are happy that he can do so. With him around the Russian Revolution becomes a lot more interesting.

Until July 7 2010

www.nationaltheatre.org.uk

Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Written 26 March 2010 for The London Magazine