Tag Archives: Theatre Royal Haymarket

“The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?” at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

This first London revival of Edward Albee’s 2002 play, with Ian Rickson directing a stellar cast, reveals a piece that is riveting and risqué. A superb companion to Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, playing around the corner, it’s also a marital drama with high stakes. Our hero is having an affair… with a goat.

There’s a lot of shock value, cleverly handled. Albee plays with taboos in a fashion that would make younger writers from the ‘In Yer Face’ school proud. The nervous laughter of the audience would be gratifying to him. The language is colourful and its articulate characters – caught in a nightmarish situation – explore all manner of repercussions to the affair.

The cast are superb. Jason Hughes and Archie Madekwe stand as fully formed characters, best friend and son to Martin and Stevie Gray, the couple whose perfect lives didn’t contain a plan about what would happen in the face of zoophilia. It’s a bizarre twist – that’s the point – Albee even describes it as “ludicrous”.

Damian Lewis takes the part of Martin: great as the tortured victim of his obsession and even better when it comes to trying to defend his actions. Sophie Okonedo plays his unfortunate wife, giving a magnetic performance of subtle comic skill. Together they create a believably perfect marriage – think how difficult that is – that roots the show in a painful reality. And the life we see falling apart needs to be convincing: it is important Martin’s obsession is a bolt from the blue.

When the truth is revealed, the objets in the couple’s stylish apartment suffer during an amusingly respectful fighting match (credit to designer Rae Smith here, but also a busy stage management replacing all those broken pots). Martin the “semanticist” tries to pin down what’s going on – to describe facts and feelings. His odd forgetfulness and obsession with grammar are not just for laughs, and Lewis makes them edgy; showing the “pit” of chaos that’s arisen from a chance encounter in a farmyard! With admirable gusto, Rickson orchestrates a swirling mix of trauma, hilarity and shock – making this an awesome experience.

Until 24 June 2017

www.trh.co.uk

Photo by Johan Persson

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

Richard Greenberg’s adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella wins admiration for resolutely not replicating the famous film onstage. Going back to the original source, there’s a determination to show the dark side of heroine Holly Golightly’s desperate life: prostitution, abuse and depression, described as the “mean reds”. It’s a disorientating experience for an audience if expectations are based on the production poster. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Sitting near me, a fan of singer Pixie Lott, who takes top billing in a font size bigger than the title, seemed puzzled. It can’t have been the thin story, which director Nikolai Foster propels nicely. Maybe it’s the small amount of singing (although what there is impresses). Lott gives a credible performance, tethered by studiously avoiding any trace of the movie’s iconic star, Audrey Hepburn. Here, Holly is blonde, defiant and downright sexy – it really is “Golightly gone” – a total transformation. A fine idea, but consequently we have to wait until two emotional scenes near the end to really glimpse Lott’s considerable acting potential.

Matt
Matt Barber

It’s clear to Lott, although it may be another surprise to some, that Holly isn’t the focus here. It’s Capote’s alter ego, a nameless writer, we are forced to focus on. Played by an exceptionally hard working Matt Barber, who injects a good deal of dynamism, fiercely holding the show together, it all comes down to how interesting you find this one writer’s struggle for success and journey of sexual discovery.

Capote, of course, found himself fascinating. If you don’t share his opinion, despite Foster’s efforts, the story is inconsequential. The show comes close to feeling like breakfast, lunch and dinner at Tiffany’s when just a cup of coffee would have sufficed. And there’s a cat – an astonishingly well-trained one you can follow on Twitter (@TiffanysBobCat). While everyone here is far too good to be upstaged by his feline talents, I’d rather follow him than the author any day.

Greenberg’s work is exemplary in creating the feel of a short story on stage – which is interesting – so the crux is how much Capote you can cope with? The case against? Holly isn’t quite the invention she’s cracked up to be, while secondary characters are weak, with the ensemble reduced to dodgy divertissements (rollerskates? No thank you). If you like your humour waspish with a big dose of self-indulgence, this fine production serves the author better than he deserves.

www.breakfastattiffanys.co.uk

Until 17 September 2016

Photos by Sean Ebsworth Barnes

“Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead” at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

Having to write about a play can spoil watching it. Many a schoolchild has been put off Hamlet, trying to fathom out what happens, conscious they will be examined on it. It’s a relief to find that in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the characters are in the same situation; baffled by the unfolding plot and their role in it, their predicament creates a special affinity with the audience.

Tom Stoppard, of course, knows exactly what is going on, in his hands we never feel too scared – just highly entertained. Stoppard’s first masterpiece, from 1965, Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead, doesn’t feel dated in the slightest – its intelligent humour shines forth. Seeing the events in Hamlet unfold via once minor, now major characters, we are introduced to the theme of free will, with speculation on aesthetics, and dazzling verbal badinage.

Stoppard’s dexterous writing is well served in director Trevor Nunn’s superb production. Having missed out on the chance to direct the plays premiere, Nunn relishes the opportunity now. There is an appropriate exuberance in his direction that does him credit.

Arriving from the Chichester Festival the production is already polished. The Players that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern encounter make a convincing ensemble of tatterdemalions. Times are tough for performers, they will “stoop to anything” to entertain, and as their leader Chris Andrew Mellon conquers, hilariously guiding our heroes around the artifice of the world they are trapped in.

In the lead roles, Samuel Barnett and Jamie Parker, the one-time History Boys, are reunited, and this duo needs no lessons in comedy. Parker explains their predicament marvellously: seeking logic and justice in the theatre, fate means they are condemned to “death followed by eternity”, with their roles puzzled over forever more. But Barnett literally runs rings around his colleague, getting every laugh going and showing that Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead is a very lively affair indeed.

Until 20 August 2011

www.trh.co.uk

Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Written 22 June 2011 for The London Magazine