An interview with Him & Him (Russell Tovey & Stefan Golaszewski)

I spoke to Russell Tovey and Stefan Golaszewski for Ideastap. Both are thoroughly lovely chaps, links to both interviews are below…

“I think with theatre, more than anything else, people go in there and sort of take the lid off their heads and you’re allowed to poke around with their brains and with their emotions. “

“You’ve just got to trust yourself, keep working, being good and getting out there. You can never just rest on your laurels.”

Review: Rocinante! Rocinante!

Written for Time Out

Filled with vivid flights of fancy, ‘Rocinante! Rocinante!’ is an intriguing piece. Sweeping parasol oceans and miniature tin-pan solar systems make this a sophisticated visual work. But in terms of communicating a story, Panta Rei Theatre have completely lost their marbles.

You can’t fault their ambition. In this devised piece, Don Quixote de la Mancha (along with Sancho Panza, donkey and eponymous horse) meets two of Hamlet’s gravediggers in a setting which echoes the grotesque art of Hieronymus Bosch. But why have they met? And what is illuminated by their meeting? This episodic narrative is frustratingly opaque.

The cast’s intelligent handling of promenade is much more practical and we are manipulated with ease by an intuitive company whose physical work is superb. Stephanie Lewis and Tommy Scott give particularly detailed performances.Some of Don Quixote’s chivalrous integrity has bled into the heart of this strange piece. But Cervantes and Shakespeare gave their heroes flashes of sanity to contextualise their torment; there is no such clarity here.

Runs until Friday 2 March. For more information go here.

Review: A Russian Play

Written for The Stage

Ostensibly a black comedy, A Russian Play is actually rather like the stand-up gig you long to forget – you know the one, where you like the comedians but they just can’t make you laugh. Pegged as being a cross between Withnail and I and Crime and Punishment, John Thompson’s new play feels more like a tepid imitation of both.

It’s 1916 on the eve of revolution in Petrograd. Two unlikely friends (a poet and a revolutionary) are huddling in a small attic trying to survive poverty and starvation. When they attempt to rent out a bed to a lodger things develop with tragic results.

In David Salter’s amiable production the cast give spirited performances. Tom Kanji as pained writer Fyodor has a touching fragility and as frustrated man of action, Alexei Dan Percival is suitably fists first, in a bombastic performance.

Olivia Du Monceau’s detailed design gives a palpable sense of the cramped squalor in which these desperate men have to live.

There are philosophical echoes of Samuel Beckett in this vagabond relationship and some interesting ideas around violence necessitated by poverty. But these threads are not developed into any tangible discussion, leaving A Russian Play to flounder into something of a non-event.

Runs until 4th March.


And No More Shall We Part

It doesn’t seem to be hurting the Downstairs season at The Hampstead that they’ve imposed a no press policy. The place was packed last night for the extended run of And No More Shall We Part, a powerful example of word of mouth taking the glory. There really is nothing more viral than a good piece of theatre which moves an audience…we should all probably remember that.

I’ve been moved to write about it anyway, even though the run has ended and I went in a personal capacity. Because what I wanted to say about it couldn’t be wrapped up into a 140 characters for once.

And No More Shall We Part gutted me; to say it shifted my world perception is not, entirely, hyperbole. For 80 minutes I and the people next to me and on stage shared a space of emotional intimacy as we experienced a couple battling with the desperate complexity of assisted suicide.

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State of the Arts – Jay Griffiths speech.

Written by Jay Griffiths for State of the Arts, Artists and Our Future Environment.

Plato declared he would ban poets and flute players from his ideal Republic.  He would send them out of the city, place of culture, into exile in the countryside, place of disdained nature.  (Two thousand five hundred years later, I’m learning the flute, in the garden shed, in protest.  He also wanted to ban Sicilian cooking but that’s another story.)

Plato disliked the way poetry imitated mature, “the murmur of rivers and roll of the ocean.”  But the expression of the natural world – the unfaded world of saffron and lapis lazuli – is one of the supreme achievements of humanity.  Humanity, part troubadour and part nightingale, translates the world in artistic re-creation: art evokes nature. Goethe held the view that Art is a way to wisdom about nature, and that natural phenomena elicit cultural representation.

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Review: La Chunga

Written for Time Out

Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa’s play is a highly charged curiosity, with its hand firmly in its trousers. Despite director Andy McQuade’s valiant efforts it feels like little more than theatrical masturbation.

Chunga runs an establishment populated with barflies or ‘Superstuds’, whose lives revolve around ‘Wine, women and song’. But when the daddy of this motley crew, Josefino (Stephen Connery-Brown), lends his beautiful new paramour Meche (Nika Khitrova) to Chunga (a charismatic Victoria Grove), the two women disappear upstairs and things get steamy.

As each man’s fantasy plays out, Vargas Llosa’s strange story fractures into a sequence of desires. There’s the kernel of something interesting here as notions of societal power and sex become inextricably linked. But the stop-start structure ensures it never quite gets into its own rhythm, resulting in frustration, not climax.

The actors throw themselves into some pretty dodgy material with sporadic flashes of deep feeling. But there’s only one reason why this Peruvian episode of ‘Sexcetera’ is selling out to packed houses in the Phoenix Artist Club. And it’s not Vargas Llosa’s ‘poetry’.

Runs untill 19 February


Please note in original and printed copy of this review Patrick W Doherty was mentioned as Josefino, this has now been amended to reflect the updated casting of Stephen Connery-Brown.

Review: Sense and Sensibility

Written for Time Out

If one were to imagine a Merchant Ivory film corseted into a small dark room above a pub, Helen Tennison’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ would be it. Benedict Davies’s emotive score underpins a world full of ‘Downton Abbey’ charm. And Tennison breathes fresh air into this classy piece of chick-lit in an accomplished, if giddy production.

Jane Austen’s tale of sisterhood still resonates. For many women, whether they are painfully sensible or acutely sensitive, a good man is hard to turn down and a devilish one impossible to resist. Elinor and Marianne Dashwood find themselves oppressed both by financial circumstance and a well meaning aunt (an utterly ‘Alison Steadman’ but nonetheless charming performance from Lainey Shaw). Both sisters fall in love, lose it and then regain it.

It all feels very ‘darling’. Elegant movement sequences add a cut-and-thrust theatricality to proceedings, and feminist undercurrents bubble away nicely before Tennison drowns them out in a cacophony of over-the-top happy endings. As the cast zig-zag around Ellan Parry’s busy set, an expansive sense of space is formed in the Rosemary Branch’s tiny upstairs theatre. James Burton, Emma Fenney and Bobbi O’Callaghan give us richly drawn portraits of Edward Ferrars, Elinor and Marianne respectively.

But as the girls begin to make stellar matches, the rambunctious style of this amiable production becomes mawkish.

Runs until 19th February.

Review: Night of January 16th

Written for The Stage

There’s much to like in Jane Moriarty’s dastardly production of Ayn Rand’s melodramatic courtroom saga, Night of January 16th.

Bjorn Faulkner’s mangled body is found at the bottom of a New York apartment block, but did he jump from his penthouse suit or was he pushed? As the jurors of this whodunit, the decision lies in our hands (though one suspects Rand’s biased script will always lead the audience one way).

Moriarty brings out assured performances from her 11 strong cast who deliver Rand’s skyscraper poetry with melodic fluidity. Jonathan Rigby and David Mildon are commanding as, respectively, the savvy prosecution and reasonable defence attorney. Francesca Secchi gives a cool but passionate portrayal of Karen Andre, Faulkner’s raven mistress while Jessica Guise underscores doe-eyed widow Nancy Lee Faulkner with a glint of steel. In a rich merry-go-round of witnesses, Donavan Imber as Guts Regan is particularly juicy.

In what boils down to being a battle of souls it becomes evident that Night of January 16th is essentially Rand’s love letter to rational egoism. But Moriarty takes each corner of the argument at full throttle ensuring it never becomes a lecture and that in this courtroom at least, drama rules supreme.

Runs until February 25

Review: Men In Motion (where I forget to breathe).

Written for Exeunt

Former Principal Royal Ballet dancer Ivan Putrov has pulled together a constellation of stars for his first foray into producing: Men In Motion. Following in the footsteps of Nijinsky and Diaghilev, Putrov is seeking to make the audience see beyond the supremacy of the ballerina. In ballet men have had to play second fiddle for too long it seems: there’s more to life than being a Prince and Putrov’s going to prove it.

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