Tag Archives: Olivia Vinall

“Women Beware Women” at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Like Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean play itself, this production has its bumpy moments. The exaggerated characters, plot twists and sexual politics all have to be negotiated in any revival. And director Amy Hodge does well, making the play entertaining, fast paced and full of drama.

Hodge focuses on the three female leads and makes the all the talk of honour and virtue convincing – Thalissa Teixeira and Olivia Vinall give captivating performances as two very different young women in love. Meanwhile, Tara Fitzgerald has the great role of arch-villain Livia and deals well with the camper moments of her truly wicked “shop of cunning”.

Women Beware Women at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Tara Fitzgerald

Make no mistake, a lot of what happens in Women Beware Women is awful. The sexual violence and coercion aren’t shied away from and Teixeira in particular handles this bravely. But the production also deserves praise for connecting this with the sexism that pervades the play, for example, the ‘advice’ about what kind of woman should be wed is delivered as a song (James Fortune’s music for the show is consistently strong). There’s a creeping nausea about the confined lives of all the female characters.

Simon Kunz

Sinister performances from the play’s powerful male characters add to the tension. Simon Kunz makes the most of a relatively small part as the Duke of Florence. Daon Broni is truly creepy as Hippolito, who tricks his niece into an incestuous relationship. Best of all is the mercantile Guardiano, a consistently strong performance by Gloria Onitiri, who brings out scheming, snobbishness and wrath by turns.

Despite all this praise, the production has glitches. Joanna Scotcher’s design is confusing (the aim was the 1980s, but you’d struggle to work that out). Comedy in Women Beware Women is a tricky affair, full stop, and the character of the hapless Ward, played by Helen Cripps, is an unhappy one. And there’s the decision to stage the Masque within the play with tongues in cheek. I happen to disagree and think this scene should escalate the drama, instead of comically diffusing it. But I understand the thinking – the genre is tricky to get your head around – and the decision is well executed, indeed so many bodies on such a small stage is handled superbly. Yet the Masque remains the most obvious moment when Hodge doesn’t smooth over the play’s faults as might be wished. Arguably, it’s not her job to. But the resulting production is a staccato affair that has plenty to praise but also too many stops and starts.

Until 18 April 2020

www.shakespearesglobe.com

Photos by Johan Persson

“King Lear” at the National Theatre

The National Theatre has rolled out the big guns to start 2014 – Simon Russell Beale as King Lear directed by Sam Mendes. It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing, or what your budget is like, make a resolution to see this one.

It’s a grand production in many ways. Star director Mendes was widely rumored for the top job at the National Theatre (it went to Rufus Norris), and is clearly at home here. Behind Anthony Ward’s deceptively simple design, the Olivier auditorium is used for all it’s worth. The sense of space is appropriately magisterial and the endlessly revolving stage reflects the play’s conceit of a wheel of fortune. Lear’s kingdom is a noirish nightmare inhabited by gangsters, militia and Blackshirts.

It isn’t just the superb spectacle that makes this Lear memorable. Simon Russell Beale gives the first unmissable performance of the year. His physical transformation is striking – he seems to shrink into the role in a degeneration that accelerates before your eyes. Always an intelligent performer, Russell Beale’s frequent work with Mendes shows how well he interprets the director’s powerful vision. This Lear is scary, a potent psychopath and giving up his throne is acknowledged as inexplicable. It’s a strategy that makes sense of his rages and fills the stage with fear. In a bold move, Lear kills Adrian Scarborough’s thought-provoking fool (in this production he’s even occasionally funny) in an agony of anger.

Matching him in menace, Lear’s daughters are clearly from the same mould. Fantastic casting is made the most of with Kate Fleetwood’s Goneril and Anna Maxwell-Martin’s Regan stealing many of the scenes they are in. Vampish and vicious, they are full of manoeuvres. Olivia Vinall’s Cordelia is also defiantly active, donning army fatigues as she leads an invading force to rescue her father. This Lear is action packed throughout. The plot fuels the tragedy in a way that emphasises that justice isn’t abstract, or the twisted sport of a divinity, but the work of man. From this, the end is even more tragic than usual, with a near unbearably moving performance by Russell Beale.

Until 25 March 2014

www.nationaltheatre.org.uk

Photo by Mark Douet

Written 27 January 2014 for The London Magazine

“Romeo and Juliet” at the Leicester Square Theatre

The young Ruby In the Dust Theatre company now have a semi-permanent home in the basement auditorium of the Leicester Square Theatre. Having done so well with their production of Dorian Gray they now present a fresh and bold version of Romeo and Juliet.

The action is set in Fascist Italy, with the warring families recast as either Mussolini’s “blackshirts” or Jews. At the risk of sounding mean-spirited, this ambitious concept adds little to the production (apart from the odd Star of David). Some people despair at the slightest change in the Bard’s text, but that isn’t the objection here. Unless you’re a purist, you’ll be happy with the changes made by director Linnie Reedman, especially as the result is a fast-paced and exciting show.

Very much in the spirit of Shakespeare, this is a show with plenty of music. Joe Evans has composed some delightful tunes that sit well next to an eclectic soundtrack. It is a shame that we can’t hear more, as the score adds to both romance and drama.

The cast take on board the show’s adventurous spirit, resulting in a series of virile performances. Dan Moore plays Paris with great stage presence. He rises above the sinister overtones of his black shirt to show why his character is described as having so much promise. Martin Dickenson does well as Tybalt, instantly establishing his strong-arm credentials and excelling in a superb fight scene with Christos Lawton’s dandyish, yet dangerous, Mercutio. A strong, appropriate sensuality marks all three performances and is echoed by Imogen Viden-North in the role of the Nurse. A considerably younger actress than we are used to in this part, she uses her age cleverly and makes the indulgence she shows her ward convincing.

Any production of Romeo and Juliet depends on its leads and here the evening excels. Daniel Finn and Olivia Vinall are young, vital and sexy. They treat their speeches naturally and bring out plenty of nuance. Their love is convincing, as is their fear of the situation they find themselves in. We are sure to see more of these young actors in the future and with this eye for casting are keen to see more Ruby In The Dust productions as well.

Until 11th July 2010

www.leicestersquaretheatre.com

www.rubyinthedusttheatre.com

Photo by Patrick Dodds

Written 7 June 2010 for The London Magazine