Thursday, October 10, 2013

Jeeves and Wooster a palpable hit !

Very clever adaptation of Wodehouse's much loved "Code of the Woosters". Bertie, Jeeves and Aunt Dahlia's butler Seppings tell the story in character to the audience with whom they engage in a theatrical way. While Stephen Mangan, an unusual choice as Bertie, stays Wooster throughout Matthew Macfadyen and Mark Hadfield each plays a multitude of parts. It is overtly tongue in cheek throughout and very funny. Hadfield manages to play both Roderick Spode AND Aunt Dahlia but is upstaged by Macfadyen who plays Stiffy Bing and her Uncle simultaneously ! 

Mangan is good as Bertie though this highly intelligent actor is not a natural chump! His appearance in a bath at the beginning of the second act was uproariously received by the First Night audience. It is a pacy production and the timing is good throughout. Looks like a hit! 

Saturday, October 05, 2013

“I seem to see Ghosts gliding between the lines. There must be Ghosts all the country over…”

With a playwright as great as Ibsen and a masterpiece like "Ghosts" there is room, by definition, for more than one interpretation. Coincidentally there are two running almost concurrently in London at the moment – one directed by Richard Eyre at the Almeida and one by Stephen Unwin at the Rose, Kingston.

I haven't yet seen the production at the Almeida but I heard Richard Eyre discuss it with Stephen Unwin on BBC Radio 3’s “Night Waves”. It sounded good, but then so was the Unwin production at the Rose which I have seen. Designer Simon Higlett has created a set based on Edvard Munch's designs for the 1906 production. This along with the costumes places the production firmly in its time.

On "Night Waves" it was suggested that Eyre's "translation" was more contemporary in its language than Unwin's. This has to be placed in the context of the visual design of course. It would be odd to have 2013 language on a 1906 set and with 1906 costumes. Stephen Unwin doesn't do this. His translation is contemporary in that it is comprehensible to a 2013 English audience but it is never anachronistic.

At the Rose we see performances which are truly exceptional - there isn't a weak link and that alone made the production worthy of commendation. If I mention two it is not to denigrate the others. Florence Hall's Regina was captivating and when Pastor Manders comments rather lustfully on how she has grown up so quickly we see what he means and don't need to have it explained. And Patrick Drury's Manders stands out as well. This is the central role in Ibsen's drama and Drury has exactly the right mix of self-regard and hypocrisy. The ending that the cast delivers is chilling and utterly engaging.

Critics in The Daily Telegraph and in The Guardian have wondered whether Unwin should have had an interval-free production as Eyre apparently does. Well as I said at the outset of this comment there is plenty of room for variety. I did not feel any break in tension in taking an interval at the precise moment that Ibsen had required it. It is a challenge for any director of three act plays to know the right way to handle this in a single interval world. But to merge the first two acts and have a break before the third usually works. It does at the "Rose".