Tag Archives: Ralf Little

“Ugly Lies The Bone” at the National Theatre

Lindsey Ferrentino’s plays have received plenty of awards and, having worked for the Roundabout Theatre Company and The Public Theatre in New York, she is no stranger to prestigious venues. Still, it must still be an exciting coup to have your UK premiere on the South Bank, and surely her work has much to commend it, but it’s a shame this lacklustre piece doesn’t live up to the honour.

The scenario is powerful, a wounded war veteran returning home. The treatment includes artificial reality – the idea is to shock the system into forgetting horrific burns – so reaching for designer Es Devlin’s number, given her work on The Nether, was a sensible move. Devlin has delivered the goods, with projections on to an impressive set that’s part infinity cove and part model town.

Kate Fleetwood

Ferrentino’s characterisation isn’t bad, either. There’s the strong lead role of Jess for Kate Fleetwood – a flawless performance – whose indomitable spirit is saved from cliché by an edge to her humour that could have been pushed further. The men in her life seem pretty scrappy by comparison, but the roles allow Ralf Little and Kris Marshall to show some good comedy skills. Yet so overpowering is Jess’s part that, along with the character of her sister (another superb performance, from Olivia Darnley), the play feels as if it should focus on them, yet doesn’t quite manage to do so.

There are too many false starts around. The medical advances used to treat Jess are interesting, but explored superficially. Hearing but not seeing the scientist pioneering the treatment (Buffy Davis) is novel but alienating and starts to become dull. The time and location of the play – the end of the space shuttle programme in the midst of war in Afghanistan – could give us more pauses for thought but any claims or insight about either are lost. We fall back on a solid human-interest story that ticks along too slowly. Director Indhu Rubasingham does little to add pace, resulting in a disappointingly pedestrian evening.

Until 6 June 2017


Photo by Mark Douet

“The Ladykillers” at the Vaudeville Theatre

The Ladykillers are back. After last year’s super-successful run, with the show nominated for five Olivier Awards, a fresh cast has taken over the show, now playing at the Vaudeville Theatre. Father Ted writer Graham Linehan’s adaptation of the Ealing Comedy, from 1955, is respectfully inspired by the much-loved film. Its central premise – a group of incompetent villains determined to try and do away with their little old landlady after she discovers their heist ­– is employed skilfully to create a clever comedy.

It’s a light affair, with just a touch of farce, and although slapstick is used effectively, it’s the quantity and quality of one-liners that stands out. And the superb characters. Everyone will have their favourite for sure, but Ralf Little brings real energy to pill-popping wide boy Harry, and Simon Day steals many a scene as the confidence man with no confidence, Major Courtney. Few people can suggest transvestism quite so amusingly as Day – it’s a rare skill indeed. Holding the whole thing together, as the criminal not-so-mastermind Professor Marcus, is John Gordon Sinclair; spot on the button with his comic timing and with an air of improvising that makes everything feel fresh.

It is the set and costume designer Michael Taylor’s work that impresses most. A proper ‘look at that’ stage, full of gizmos and gags, that really adds to the show. Working on its slopping surfaces must be oddly disorientating but the cast make it look jolly. Wickedly, it’s hard not to laugh at the very idea of assassinating Angela Thorne’s gorgeous granny Louisa Wilberforce, and the crooks failure to do so brings yet more invention from Taylor’s set – there’s even a railway tunnel at one point. The Ladykillers is free from twee and manages to be perfect family fun throughout – even for your grandmother.

Until 26 October 2013

Photo by Dan Tsantilis

Written 10 July 2013 for The London Magazine