Courtesy of the estimable playwright Philip Ridley, these six monologues make for an inimitable night of theatre. There may well be a theme to Angry – it isn’t rage as such, since the emotions we watch and experience are legion, but what really unites each scene is startling writing and superb acting.
The monologues range in subject matter and the characters are diverse. At first, the audience is harangued and confronted by inexplicable fury. Next there’s an upbeat self-motivation speech. The language is poetic, with an ear for contemporary slogans. Both scenes urge us to “participation” – demanding responses from us with disconcerting direct addresses. But it’s Ridley’s magical imagination and skill at story telling that draws us in, taking us next into a dystopian future of bombs, riots… and severed heads on a dancefloor. From a first sexual encounter, to the memories of a character about to die – all human life is here. The imagery is vivid, the humour pitch black and the emotions visceral.
Bringing such accomplished scripts to the stage, director Max Lindsay creates an intense atmosphere from the moment an audience enters. The two actors pace around a shallow pit of a stage – the only time they are together – ready for confrontation. Lindsay has given the text the close study it deserves: every line is considered and, as a result, the performances are flawless. From near constant shouting (let’s not forget how technically difficult that is), there’s masterful comedy and emotions turning on a word. And knowing that both actors, Georgie Henley and Tyrone Huntley, learn it all and then alternate in performance, is quite simply breath-taking. It’s hard to praise this show enough.
Until 10 March 2018
Artistic Director Timothy Sheader scores tops marks yet again for his venue’s annual musical. Sheader has wowed with grown-up and demanding shows before, but in this production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s concept album/rock opera even the glitter is gritty. This abbreviated Passion of Christ could win converts with its charged staging of ‘The Flagellation’ alone.
Updates to the music are respectful, coming mostly from the vocals. The score feels fresh and the rock guitars aren’t just retained, they are revelled in. More startlingly contemporary is choreographer Drew McOnie’s work and the athleisure clothes from designer Tom Scutt. Jesus and the apostles aren’t hippies but hipsters. It makes sense. Flares, glitter, a glam-Rocky-Horror outfit for Peter Caulfield’s excellent Herod and Judas’ hands dripping in silver paint, show carefully colour-coded scenes. All aided by Lee Curran, whose lighting for the finale is breath taking.
Sheader emphasises community (those ‘Shoreditch’ touches have a point). This is a big cast and it encircles the auditorium before mounting the stage, grabbing microphones and playing around with the stands, cultivating the idea this being a concert. The performative angle provides insight into the piece. And such a commanding use of the ensemble adds emotion as those who followed Jesus quickly turn, to hound him, then demand his death.
There are as many superstars on stage as you could pray for. Anoushka Lucas is an excellent Mary, making the most of her show-stopping number. Tyrone Huntley (above) is a faultless Judas, with a soaring range and tremendous power. As the lead, Declan Bennett may strike you as lacking charisma – his Christ is introspective – but when power is called for Bennett delivers and his acting is astonishingly focused. Moments when it is difficult to hear what Bennett is singing are an especial pity, given that these are Tim Rice’s best lyrics. It’s testament to the strength of the production that a normally fatal flaw does little to diminish the power of this revelatory show.
Until 27 August 2016
Photos by Johan Persson