Tag Archives: Ryan Wichert

“Clarion” at the Arcola Theatre

Having previously worked as a newspaper journalist, Mark Jagasia has the credentials for writing a satire about the media. With direction from Mehmet Ergen, as well as a cast a first-time playwright would kill for, Clarion is a seriously funny play that had the perfect audience at yesterday’s press night – I’ve seldom heard critics laugh so much.

Set over a day in the offices of the titular newspaper, Jagasia’s scoop is two great comic creations, performed to perfection. Claire Higgins is faultless as the indomitable Verity, a former war correspondent and “mother” of the newspaper in the Medea mould. Greg Hicks plays editor Morris, who carries around a Roman centurion’s helmet and delivers an outrageous combination of articulacy and filth that redefines egomania. Depending on whether or not you’ve worked in the media the play delightfully embraces exaggeration or serves as an accurate documentary. Either way you’ll laugh.

You can take the man out of Fleet Street but Jagasia isn’t afraid of a good pun, a cheap gag or a taste for shocking. Clarion isn’t for the sensitive “milquetoasts” Morris so despises. The depiction of a younger generation – a dispirited young journalist who works as immigration editor and a young intern (ably performed by Ryan Wichert and Laura Smithers) – has just as much venom and laughs, but might strike you as a little ungenerous.

The foul-mouthed viciousness offers insights into an industry in decline. Racing to find a celebrity’s missing dog, a disappearance eventually blamed on travellers, Morris describes Hampstead Heath as a “homosexual wilderness surrounded by Keynsians and men hiding in poofta bushes” – and for him that’s pretty mild. And yet the pace isn’t quite maintained. As Jagasia becomes more serious, ironically, the play becomes too fantastical. And the darkening themes of consequences and responsibility, which might have been more fully extended into the private lives of the characters, are slightly overwhelmed by the play’s comedy. But the headline is clear: Racist Red Top Exposed.

Until 16 May 2015


Photo Simon Annand

“King Lear” at the Cockpit Theatre

Last night’s press evening for the Darker Purpose Theatre Company’s King Lear was filled with emotion. It’s a collaboration between young director Lewis Reynolds and seasoned RSC pro David Ryall in the lead role. Sadly, a course of chemotherapy has left the well-respected actor’s memory so affected that he carried a copy of the text as an aid.

Ill health has not diminished Ryall’s commanding stage presence or the wonderful timbre of his voice but it seems unfair to review a performance that was clearly – no matter how brave and generous – an effort. Nonetheless, Reynold’s intelligent production offers much to the discerning theatregoer. The direction is considered and confident and handles staging in the round particularly well. It’s also remarkably calm and quiet, serving as an interesting comparison with the National Theatre’s current blockbuster show.

Reynold’s emphasis is on the “madmen and fools” of the play, and Ryan Wichert stands out as a spirited fool, putting a megaphone to great use, while Dominic Kelly gives a sterling performance as his Edgar takes on the persona of Poor Tom. Tension between these two roles is brought out and it was one of the few productions in which I actually missed the fool after his sudden departure.

King Lear at The Cockpit Theatre
Nikki Leigh Scott and Ian Hallard

Although not all of the performances are as even as might be wished, there’s good work from the wicked sisters Goneril and Regan, with Wendy Morgan developing her role nicely and Nikki Leigh Scott joined in convincing villainy by Ian Hallard as Cornwall.

The production also has the coup of seeing Ryall joined by two of his daughters. Imogen Ryall appears in the small role of the Doctor and Charlie Ryall is Cordelia. Both give understated performances in keeping with the tone of the evening – and powerful as a result. Concern for their father’s health has an extra, unwished for, charge given the circumstances. Sincere wishes for Mr Ryall’s quick recovery.

Until 29 March 2014


Photos by Robert Workman

Written 12 March 2014 for The London Magazine