Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Victorian in the Wall Review

The Victorian in the Wall
By Will Adamsdale
Royal Court Season.

Living in a Victorian Mansion apartment, has it’s advantages but when Guy’s girlfriend Fi heads overseas for a conference and leaves him in charge of supervising the kitchen renovations he doesn’t expect one of the to be the uncovering of a bona fide Victorian living in his wall. Also appearing in into Guy’s life this week is an extremely capable hipster-builder; a long lost son and seasons 1-3 of The Wire. It’s all go!

This Victorian, Mr. Elms has a story that might just get Guy off his ass and into action. Although it’ll likely take nearly the entire play. You see Guy is a writer, who shies from deadlines; has called in all his last favours and doesn’t actually like writing. I would say that Will Adamsdale did a very good job of making the somewhat unlikable main character bearable. To be honest, writers who sit about whinging about how ‘hard it is to write’ and harping on about ‘their award winning short stories’ can be extremely trying. Everyone knows that writing can be hard work and that is part of the process! It’s a line that the show treads neatly, with enough surrounding likeableness to carry Guy through to the other side as a pretty good bloke rather than a no-hoper. 

Chris Branch’s sound design and songs were a real highlight of the production. I do enjoy theatre that uses song well, and The Victorian in the Wall certainly did. Especially memorable was the one detailing Guy and Fi’s romance and the “knock-through” song – the refrain ‘knock it through please’ which still flows into my brain long after the show.

The set design was also inspired, in that it was so intrinsically connected with the direction, performance and the story that at times it was just magical. Michael Vale demonstrates considerable talent (although it must have been a bit of a nightmare to tour the show, with all the organised chaos).

I really enjoyed the craft of this work. It was clearly theatre made by people that both love and want to play with the form. Well performed, well directed, well designed and well written – The Victorian in the Wall is such a well-rounded production and it really proves the point that if you invest time in new writing you get excellent results. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Murder, Marple and Me Review

Murder, Marple and Me is a mystery story – appropriate in both the content and the telling. We are treated to a night in the company of three formidable women: strong willed and strong-boned actress Margaret Rutherford; crime authoress Agatha Christie and the wily Miss Jane Marple – on hand to unpick the pattern that draws the others together in friendship.

Each of these characters is performed with considerable gusto by Janet Prince. From early in the show she has the audience captivated and through the appearance of each character, she layered the performance beautifully. She is very well directed by Stella Duffy and seamlessly shifts between roles as gradually Miss Marple and Agatha Christie unpick Margaret Rutherford’s story.

Philip Meeks’ script is neat; the use of Miss Marple in particular is a warm addition to the tale. She is our guide through the story, the ‘little old lady’ in the corner of the stage who tells us what is to come and what we should look for beneath our expectations. There is a nice pace to the writing, it isn’t rushed and unusually for a one-person show the interval worked well. As is often a feature with one-person performances, the style often involves story telling and as such I actually think this is a play that would translate very well to radio.

It would have been interesting to perhaps explore more of the initial tension between Agatha and Christie and Margaret Rutherford. As it was there was no question of the secret not being discovered, no real threat of the movie not going ahead, and no sense of true antagonism above a short lived over-polite encounter over a cake. It is of course difficult when writing from history but a slightly more extended caper through the conflict would have been a welcome addition to the script.    

As a fan of Miss Marple (both the TV series and the books) I was a little apprehensive about her appearance on stage. I needn’t have worried, the writer, production team and actress clearly delighted in her presence and thus so did the audience. It is truly a delight to spend an evening in her company.

This play is quite cosy; there is warmth and a light humour to the drama which lulls you into smiles and laughter. But like Agatha Christie – these characters never actually let you forget the very real horror of murder and the ripples that remain for those left behind. Ultimately whilst it is human to perform, dance with princes and be seduced by lovely things it is also human to have secrets, be afraid and to eventually want to share your story. It is to his credit (and our benefit) that Philip Meeks is a writer who understands this just as well as Agatha Christie.

Murder, Marple and Me is playing at the Ambassador's Theatre. It has just finished a national tour and is produced by Gilded Balloon.