THE DESTROYED ROOM by Matthew Lenton and Vanishing Point is a much less comfortable evening in the theatre. Three folk left from seats around us when the male character, played by Barnaby Power, described the video showing the death of the Jordanian pilot at the hands of ISIS, frame by frame. Those who conscientiously avoid such graphic material on the web have every right to feel cheated.
The play’s point at that moment was to show how clever such manipulation is.
The script is naturalistic, the behaviours of three folk coming together and falling into one of those conversations – this one started “If you had to destroy one thing in your house, what would it be? – and led on, as scripts must, into deeper and darker territory than might have been expected.
THE DESTROYED ROOM is a play for our times full of the big questions and its performance by three talented actors – Elicia Daly and Pauline Goldsmith joined Power – is incomparable.
Also on stage are two cameras and their operatives sending close-ups of the performers onto big screens. Does it remind us how everything we do today is recorded – or do they just get between the audience and the play? I began to watch for the close-up when any of the three performers held sway, my companion was simple irritated. He’s not on FB and has only ever appeared in one selfie.
I was able to open the sweeties for our neighbour.
In-flight entertainment was provided by ‘Wee Hughie”s antics trying to get to Edinburgh for the Preview of Matthew Lenton’s Interiors presented by Vanishing Point.
He’d messed up, ‘Wee Hughie’ had and the lady whose telephone conversation with his mum/girlfriend/sister was broadcast on speaker phone to the whole Grand Circle was not pleased. The rest of us were much entertained, although very happy that it was all switched off in response to the authoritative voice from the outer darkness, ‘Switch it off now, Love, switch it off.
So following this, Lenton and Vanishing Point had ground to recover. And recover it they did with a warm, affectionate look at the frailties of both the human condition and a community living on the edge. The polar bears, the narrator informs us, are very hungry at this time of year. Where society is small, the individuals making it up have to get on, compromise and respect one another.
They might also entertain one another and there is a dance routine you should try not to miss.
Interiors is in rep with Vanishing Point’s The Destroyed Room at the Royal Lyceum theatre till Monday 8th August. Tickets from the EIF Ticketing Hub
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THE CRUCIBLE by ARTHUR MILLER is The Royal Lyceum of Edinburgh’s flagship production to mark its 50th year. Royal Lyceum audiences have a long and mostly satisfactory relationship with Arthur Miller and this production of the Crucible will have enhanced that immeasurably.
The Crucible is a play ostensibly about witchcraft, but actually about so much that troubles any thinking person over the human condition. Religious fervour, superstition, greed, scapegoating, love, betrayal, the rule of law and the misrule of law. So much more is packed into the fabric of this work that further inklings strike one unawares.
It’s very difficult to single out individual performances, but the central love affair played out by Irene Allen and Philip Cairns as Elizabeth and John Proctor has not been bettered in my opinion. (Well, I haven’t seen it quite as often as Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it is around a lot…) Their quiet despair over where the love and trust went and why, is tangible and there can hardly have been a dry female eye in the house at the final scene.
John Dove asks a huge amount from his cast and they respond. The performances are all understated or hysterical as required by the script. The group of girls swayed by the unaccustomed attention to their views, is a terrible thing to watch. How easy it is for mass hysteria, at the time unrecognised, to influence otherwise hard-working and God-fearing (in the best sense) people. Danforth, the Deputy Governor, is unmoved by the obvious breakdown of social order caused by his lunatic questioning and blind adherence to the rigidity of words once uttered. How often do we see this polarisation between head and heart today? The cost remains high.
Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen in a new version by Richard Eyre and directed by Amanda Gaughan is the penultimate 2014-15 production in Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre.
By any measure, Hedda Gabler is a dark and disturbing play. I have read it and I have seen other productions, but I’m no expert. Richard Eyre, on the other hand, knows it well and the script playing at Edinburgh is the product of that knowledge. That may be why it concentrates so heavily on the two younger women, Hedda and her rival for Eilbog Loevborg’s soul, Thea Elvsted. We all know how men have consigned women to the reproductive nurturing roles, let us see how women treat each other.
It’s not pretty. I reached the interval thoroughly shaken by Nicole Daley’s performance. What a sinister air she gave to the doomed Hedda. It was difficult to find any sympathy, as the character manipulated and cowed everyone around her. She’s a far more ambivalent creation than Nora Helmer. Jade Williams’s performance, however, I found harder to connect with and, we are a middle-aged audience folks, sometimes a little difficult to hear.
I wasn’t convinced by the dressing. Why was our heroine, a woman who wanted to set up a Salon, wearing ankle socks with high heeled shoes? Why had the women lost the piles of hair so characteristic of the late nineteenth century.
The set was clever and worked well for the actors and audience with its ongoing glimpses into what was happening elsewhere in the household. The general’s portrait commanded our attention every time Hedda did something else that was supremely unwomanly.
Bad language, choreographed violence, sectarianism, non-pc themes, drugs… Kill Johnny Glendenning by DC Jackson, directed by Mark Thomson, has it all. But Auld Jim is very good to his mum. He even sleeps with her now that the farmhouse has only one bed.
If the script doesn’t get you, maybe the catering will. How many times do you re-use a tea-bag? Skootch hates the country and tea. Wannabe gangster’s bad manners or self-preservation tactics? Judge for yourself.
There are more plot twists than you can imagine possible and they’re all delivered in a script of sparkling wit and many laugh-out-loud one-liners. I puzzled over the reversed time-scale of Acts 1 and 2 as one is supposed to do. Stay with it. You will be rewarded.
Kill Johnny Glendenning is a superb opening for the Royal Lyceum’s winter and spring programme. I almost forgave them for the new start time of 7.30. Having enjoyed the extra fifteen minutes for over thirty years now, it’s a big ask.
Kenny Ireland, a talented actor and director, has died. Aged 68, Mr Ireland had been battling cancer.
Kenny Ireland was based at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh between 1992 and 2003 as its director. More recently he’s been known for his role as a swinger to an appreciative television audience of the sitcom, Benidorm.
A Doll’s House is a play I’ve seen more than once and studied. It isn’t a happy work, but it does have a lot to tell us about the ways in which our best endeavours for the ones we love the most can blow up in our faces and cause life-long harm. This version by Zinnie Harris, staged by the Royal Lyceum Theatre and the National Theatre of Scotland, has lost none of the intense moral centre of Ibsen’s original.
Harris took the play out of the banking world and into the political one where trust is equally important. Trust is all the politician has to allow him (and they were him) to lead his flock by the even-handed use of power that can be frighteningly all-embracing. At the core of the work is the issue of whether wrong-doing is ever justified. Thomas tells the embattled Nora everyone always has choices. Do we? What kind of choices? Choices might be to not buy a small car for the country cottage so one can re-decorate the drawing room, but equally might be not to put the heating on because then you can’t buy food. Thomas says they would face consequences together and then when he has to is unable to see beyond what he would lose and falls into the myth Nora created to save him from the stigma of being known to suffer from mental paralysis. I had pneumonia, he says without pausing for breath.
Excellent performances by the cast kept the pace moving along and the audience quiet. Lucianne McEvoy as Christine and Brian McCardie as Kelman were a delight to watch. Amy Manson was an engaging Nora.
On a personal note, I was really pleased the pears used in the scene we bloggers were privileged to see pre-opening, had been abandoned.
A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen adapted by Zinnie Harris is the next production in 2012-13 subscribers’ season at The Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh.
As regular readers of this blog know, that’s my favourite place. An invitation as a social media person to join a session in the main auditorium for one of the press calls for A Doll’s House, was a wonderful surprise. I accepted, but where were the rest of you? This production is a joint one with the National Theatre of Scotland and the NTS run regular social media opportunities. In Glasgow, they sometimes have to cap numbers.
All the more opportunity for me and John from Blip Photo blog – hope I’ve got that name right. We spoke with Graham McLaren, the director, Zinnie Harris the playwright and several of NTS’s staff on-site. I am amazed by how many people support the two actors we saw run through one of A Doll’s House’s climactic scenes.
Amy Manson as Nora and Brian McCardie as her protagonist Neil Kalman (Krogstadt) were locked in combat on the fully dressed stage and played the scene over several times for different press requirements. Graham and Zinnie spoke of the need for people now to understand how the problems arising from women’s lack of power are still with us. Although the people we see on stage were distinct products of their social and cultural mores, parallels can be found.
The morning was a great experience and I’m looking forward to seeing the whole play. Preview is tonight at 7.45 pm and it runs until 4th May.
Currently playing at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum theatre, Time and The Conways by JB Priestley is a must see.
Priestley takes time to draw the audience into the post demob world of Mrs Conway and her six children. Alan and Robin have miraculously escaped the carnage and returned home undamaged from the trenches. Kay is celebrating her twenty-first birthday and her sisters, Madge, Hazel and Carol are helping.We watch with 21st century disbelief as they fidget through a huge pile of dressing-up clothes and false moustaches. A simpler time then – it was simpler even when Priestley wrote Time and the Conways, first produced in 1937.
The current production is a collaboration between Dundee Rep and the Royal Lyceum. It’s directed by Jemima Levick and she’s ably supported by Designer Ti Green, Lighting designer Mark Doubleday and composer Philip Pinsky. The costumes were the responsibility of Dundee Rep and they are fabulous. Nor should one forget to mention the ageing of the characters between the first act and the second. Make-up, padding, wigs, movement – the whole package carried the characters forward to the late thirties in a beilievable way.
The performances of Emily Winter as the lead character, Kay, Irene Macdougall as Mrs conway and Richard Conlon as Alan Conway were very nearly perfect, but that’s not to forget the rest of Time and the Conways able and engaging cast.
The story is reminiscent of the Cherry Orchard, although no ancient retainers are shut up for the winter, and shows just how easily comfortable optimism can lead to disaster.
Another week in Edinburgh and then transferring to Dundee Rep. You should go…
WATT Samuel Beckett Texts selected from the novel and performed by Barry McGovern. McGovern performed the resulting one man play with exquisite timing taking us back to a time when things like a railway ticket could be bought for a handful of pennies.
He didn’t have any other actors to help realise the physical comedy of two elderly lovers sitting first her on his knee, then him on hers, but he had the audience entranced by it nonetheless. Beckett’s language, so carefully crafted, is well served by the intimate surroundings of the Royal Lyceum Theatre.