Tag Archives: Phoebe Pryce

“A Passage to India” at the Park Theatre

Simon Dormandy’s adaptation of E M Forster’s classic novel, which Dormandy directs with Sebastian Armesto, is sterling work. A harsh look at British rule in India, justice is given to the novel’s profound and disconcerting questions about how cultures and races mix.
This isn’t a production stuck in a period rut – hurrah! There are toffs, well led by Edward Killingback as the young magistrate about to be ruined by the Raj. And there’s the more enlightened Fielding, who Richard Goulding ensures is believably admirable. But we aren’t trapped in a distant past. The openly expressed racism Forster parodied is, one hopes, disestablished. But the anxiety about multi-culturalism is still frightening.

Edward Killingback and Phoebe Pryce
Edward Killingback and Phoebe Pryce

Its the visiting Adela, for whom Phoebe Pryce creates the perfect balance of sympathy, who becomes the focus of a dangerous drama. With her wish to see “the true India”, she befriends the Indian Dr Aziz, and a trip to the Marabar Caves results in the accusation of an “insult” that leads to public unrest. There could be more tension in the ensuing courtroom scene, but Asif Khan excels as Aziz. The humour, love of life, then sadness and anger are all present – it’s wonderful to see such a well-loved character brought to the stage so brilliantly.

Richard Goulding and Asif Khan
Richard Goulding and Asif Khan

The production falters at that pivotal episode in the caves, when Adele claims to have been attacked, and an audience doesn’t know what happened. Surely Aziz could have conspicuously left the stage, leaving the possibility of his guilt, and the tension that creates, open for a while? Nonetheless Forster’s theme of Panic (let’s give it a capital P) is conveyed consistently. It’s the mysteries and muddles the afflict humanity that make his work enduring. These struggles are embodied in the figure of Mrs Moore, and Dormandy wisely gives plenty of time to her. Again, there’s a strong performance, from Liz Crowther, unshy of the character’s “disagreeable” side and forcing us to confront bleak questions.

Kuljit Bhamra and Meera Raja
Kuljit Bhamra and Meera Raja

The production prioritises lyricism. It starts with Walt Whitman’s poetry that Forster so admired, and vocal work and impressive accompanying music by Kuljit Bhamra are expert additions. The “primal noise” of the cave, a cause and symbol of confusion, is created by the ensemble. The props are as sparse as can be, a blessed world away from film versions of Forster’s work. There are moments when the exposition could be clearer, but the approach demands imagination from the audience, leading to building theatrical excitement. And it serves the novel surprisingly well. A Passage to India may be pessimistic in its conclusions but, in sharing its author’s intelligence and imagination, this production is one to celebrate.

Until 24 March 2018


Photos by Idil Suka

“The Merchant of Venice” at Shakespeare’s Globe

Jonathan Munby’s new production will be memorable alone for marking Jonathan Pryce’s magnificent debut at Shakespeare’s Globe. Not to belittle Pryce’s achievement – it would have been a surprise if he wasn’t right for the role – the bigger story is that the whole production is of a consistently high standard, making it one of the best I’ve seen at the venue.

Munby embraces the play’s sometimes off-putting mix of comedy and tragedy. The broad humour that does so well at the Globe is present, most notably in Stefan Adegbola’s servant, Launcelot, going down a storm by pulling audience members on to the stage. And there are particularly fine comic performances from Dorothea Myer-Bennett and David Sturzaker, as Nerissa and Gratiano.

At the heart of it all are those most concerned with the theme of justice: the woman who masquerades as a judge, Rachel Pickup as a glacial Portia, and Dominic Mafham as the titular merchant Antonio, imperiled by the word of the law. These parts anchor the show and reveal the structure of Munby’s grasp.

As for the tragedy, no excuses are made for the text’s anti-Semitism, displayed in all its cruelty and violence. Spat at and assaulted, Pryce plays it straight, which all the more demands our attention. He is joined onstage by his own daughter Phoebe Pryce, playing Shylock’s child Jessica, who is full of passion and seemingly born for the role. Culminating in a heart-rending scene as she sings while her father is forced to be baptised, it’s a fine finale that confirms how brave this production is.

Until 7 June 2015


Photos by Manuel Harlan

“Charlie’s Dark Angel” at the Drayton Arms Theatre

A new theatre group, The Company of Strangers, which includes writer and director James Christopher, have made a credible debut with their first piece, Charlie’s Dark Angel. Unafraid to use whatever it takes to try and unsettle the audience, including sexual tension and intimations of the supernatural, the play is a satisfying thriller. Set around a reunion between two school friends, exploring a dark incident in their past, a consistently sinister atmosphere is successfully maintained throughout the play.

Ben Porter is convincing as the congenial, anxious Charlie. Joannah Tincey is superb as his no-nonsense wife Susan. Disrupting their lives comes Ella, with Phoebe Pryce making a professional debut she can be proud of, despite playing a somewhat blandly drawn femme fatale, and the sinister playboy Eric, played by Kieran Gough with predictable psychopathic charm and a talent for injecting suspense.

Christopher’s direction and script might have been trimmed slightly but the plot rattles along nicely. Film noir is said to the inspiration and you can sense an undertow of overblown humour that could have been developed further. More akin to a tale of the unexpected, the play’s twists become satisfyingly odd and there’s enough talent behind the whole show to maintain credibility and entertain.

Until 28 March 2015