Review: The Ferryman

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Ten things about The Ferryman that took my breath away*

1. The wonderful, sprawling ensemble cast, led by Paddy Considine as patriarch-of-sorts Quinn Carney. I couldn’t fault a single performance and each actor gets their own moment in the limelight, but Laura Donnelly in particular shook me to my core.

2. The child actors, of whom there are four plus a baby (yes, a real baby! Delightful!). Despite being tasked with roles with real narrative weight, the young actors had impeccable comic timing, nailed Irish accents that often outshone those of the pros, and never once became annoying. A theatrical miracle.

3. The presence of multiple live animals on stage. A script filled with livestock must strike fear into the heart of any director but man did the fluffy creatures go down well with the audience.

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Review: Hamlet

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My month in theatre has been distinctly Danish in flavour.

First, I went to the Old Vic to watch Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Dead, starring the surprisingly dynamic pairing of Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire. It was an extremely enjoyable revival, with McGuire’s sparky wit anchored by Radcliffe’s slightly morose absurdity. Sadly I was too busy to write a full review, but consider this my positive recommendation.

Then, earlier this week, I took my seat in the back row of the Almeida for a highly-anticipated performance of Hamlet.

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Review: King Lear

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There is a history of women playing classic male Shakespearean roles; in the past few years, parts stretching from Hamlet and Julius Caesar to Prospero and Richard III have been taken on by a range of actresses at British theatres, from Maxine Peake at the Manchester Royal Exchange to Harriet Walter for the Donmar Warehouse. The part of King Lear, however, has remained almost resolutely male.

There are exceptions, of course. In 1990, an 80-year-old Marianne Hope played Lear in a production directed by Robert Wilson. Kathryn Hunter took on the role in 1997, earning mixed reviews for her portrayal. Yet, despite these notable performances, the concept is still treated as a novelty at best, and an ‘absurdity’ (as Hope herself pointed out) at worst. Glenda Jackson’s appearance in the role for Deborah Warner’s new production for the Old Vic, then, is doubly remarkable; not only is Jackson adding her name to the female Lear canon, but the production is the actress and politician’s first stage role in 25 years. As a result, Jackson’s casting has generated some serious theatrical buzz, with all eyes on her to see how she handles the quintessential older male role. As soon as Jackson strides onto the stage, however, voice cracking like a whip as she calls her daughters to order, the casting choice seems anything but absurd.

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Review: Yerma

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I recently saw Yerma at the Young Vic, directed by Simon Stone. I’m a little late with this review (the play has been running since late July and recently closed) but it had a significant impact on me, and I wanted to share my thoughts nonetheless.

As Spanish speaker, I was nervous. Lorca is notoriously difficult to translate. His texts are rich with strong imagery and cultural resonances, and the rhythm of the lines heightens the emotional intensity of the language. His plays are beautiful to read aloud in Spanish; even if you can’t understand the words, meaning is conveyed through the flow of consonants.

I needn’t have worried; watching Yerma, I was thrown straight into the world of the play. Despite being written and set in Catholic Spain in the 1930s, it felt unnervingly fresh and relevant.

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Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

As the play has now officially opened, I thought it was safe to share my thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I’ve tried to #KeepTheSecrets as much as possible, but if you’d prefer to remain 100% spoiler free, please look away now!

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As we approached the theatre, it was immediately obvious that we’d come to the right place. The queue stretching round the block was packed with beaming faces and bodies covered top-to-toe in Hogwarts paraphernalia – striped scarves in red and gold, ties in green and silver, billowing black robes, t-shirts printed with familiar quotes and even a handful of pointed hats. Then there were the accents – voices from states across America, from New Zealand, Australia, Japan. It seems there’s no ocean a Potter fan won’t cross for a fresh dose of The Boy Who Lived.

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Review: Richard III

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Photo by Miles Aldridge

I have never devoted much time to Shakespeare’s history plays. When given the choice between the Bard’s real and fictional kings, I instinctively opt for the latter. Yet, despite my broader reservations, Richard III has always intrigued me; the first time I read the play, his curved back, seductive rhetoric and malevolent deeds captured the darkest recesses of my imagination. Naturally, then, when the Almeida announced their prestigious new production, with Ralph Fiennes in the title role, I happily spent a lengthy period on hold with the box office, desperate to secure a ticket. Thanks to their Under 25s scheme, I got lucky.

It takes a remarkable production to make three and a half hours of classical theatre feel like half that time. Fortunately, that’s exactly what director Rupert Goold achieves here, with the help of an outstanding cast and creative team.

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Review: wonder.land

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Alice in Wonderland is the story that spawned a thousand adaptations, the latest of which is currently playing at the National Theatre. After a lukewarm reception in Manchester, Damon Albarn’s musical has comes to try its luck with Londonders.

Loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, Albarn and his collaborators, scriptwriter Moira Buffini and National Theatre artistic director Rufus Norris, have hoiked the coming of age story into the twenty-first century by substituting Alice’s Wonderland for Aly’s wonder.land, a mobile game that allows the user to escape their problems by entering the game as an avatar.

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In Defence of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

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Photo: Alastair Muir

I have a confession to make.

I’m a musicals fan.

I’m not just talking about the hip musicals like Rent, or the impossible-to-hate musicals like Book of Mormon, or the constantly-shoved-down-your-throat musicals like Les Miz. I love the really cheesy ones. The all-singing, all-dancing ones stuffed with terrible Southern accents, flouncy skirts and questionable plots.

This obsession may go some way to explain why I spent last Saturday afternoon sipping a glass of Pimms in the sunshine and cackling at a new production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

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Review: The Merchant of Venice

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I have strong emotional ties to ’The Merchant of Venice’. It was the first Shakespearean play in which I performed. Hearing Portia’s infamous ‘quality of mercy’ speech, even ten years later, takes me back to the moment when I first spoke Shakespeare’s words and learned to love them.

Later, at university, I became fascinated with the generic problems posed by the play. It is full of contradictions, with an intricate blend of comedy and tragedy that flounders in the wrong hands. This production nails it.

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Review: Hay Fever

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The works of infamous playwright Noel Coward seem to be firmly stuck in their time; his characters burst onto the stage in a whirl of one-liners, cigarette smoke and champagne. Yet, for all its 1920s glitz and glamour, Hay Fever deals with universal themes. If you’ve ever cringed at the actions of a parent or attempted to outdo a sibling, the events of the play will seem strangely familiar.

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