Final WOS Blogs

Verbatim rights & wrongs

Monkey Bars publicity image

This week I’m back at a subject that continues to niggle me – ideas of morality in verbatim theatre. When we use people’s voices onstage in edited pieces of drama, how fine is the line between representation and exploitation?…read more

Theatre buildings & communities

Bristol Old Vic

The oldest working theatre in the country, Bristol Old Vic, turned its lights back on last week after 18 months of refurbishment. This week warm reviews of its opening production, John O’Keeffe’s Wild Oats, show it is in as rude a health as it was when it housed rowdy 18th century audiences…read more

Lyric keeps it local

A scene from Morning at the Lyric Hammersmith

A blend of robust poetry and agile circus, I was recently wowed by Ockham’s Razor’s Not Until We Are Lost at Artsdepot. But it wasn’t only the stunning aerialism that captured me – just as impressive was the skill displayed by a choir of local singers who had been brought together for these performances…read more

Horror on stage? A chilling thought

Original poster for Let The Right One In

When I read that the National Theatre of Scotland was to do a staged version of Swedish horror film Let The Right One In I got chills down my spine for all the wrong reasons. Horror is notoriously difficult to do on stage and even with the formidable partnership of John Tiffany and Jack Thorne at the helm it seemed a doomed prospect – after all the NTS turned The Wicker Man into a musical earlier this year….read more

And in the end…

Poster image for A Life at The Finborough

So it’s pretty presumptuous to title my final blog with a Beatles lyric used to signify the end of their journey, but I’m going to do it anyway because endings are what form the basis of this blog…read more

I Am The Wind @ Young Vic

Written for Exeunt

Tom Brooke (The One); Jack Laskey (The Other). Photo by Simon Annand

Jon Fosse’s I Am The Wind is a meditation on acceptance and resistance; an exercise in philosophical manoeuvring around the subject of death. It is also a text which nearly drowns under the weight of its own wordiness. Even in Simon Stephens’ no-frills version the pun is intentional: this play is full of hot air. But, that aside, Patrice Chéreau’s dynamic production isn’t completely sunk; the addictive performances of Tom Brooke and Jack Laskey inject enough life into Fosse’s existential posturing to see you through.

They’re both pretty gaunt, these two men on a boat, both physically and mentally, at the edge of their reason. Brooke’s character (they have no names, they are simply The One and The Other) dallies with the idea of death while Laskey acts as a friendly and increasingly desperation inquisitor. Described by the Young Vic as a ‘contemporary fable’ it’s hard to see what moral lesson is to be learned here; the piece may anthropomorphize the sea and air but it does very little beyond that. “I didn’t quite understand it” a woman in front says, troubled, “That’s OK, I don’t think anyone did,” her friend says comfortably, “that’s not the point”.

But what is the point? Apart from some truly committed performances and some cool, calculated direction, the point of the piece is hard to see. Fosse’s text may scream but it never goes beyond anything other than amateur psychology. As such it feels pretentious and worse, slightly preachy.

Richard Peduzzi’s industrial design turns the sea into a muddy pool which is initially inviting as you watch the sodden splendour of the two duelling companions. After a while it comes not to seem so harmless and after their boat emerges you feel increasingly glad to be sat safely in the auditorium with dry socks on. There is something epic about watching Brooke and Laskey cling to and gamble about on the sophisticated hydraulic platform which represents their vessel; at times you feel quite off balance. Chéreau’s direction allows these two performers to flex their muscles and the stage positively heaves with a tension that almost makes you forget about the measured pauses that dog the script. Brooke fights a valiant battle, playing a character one just wants to slap, and giving him a down-to-earth practicality. Laskey’s slow descent into desperation is also beautifully played; he never overdoes his building hysteria and it adds a genuine bite of anguish to the piece.

Éric Neveux’s score creates an emotionally suggestive landscape which attempts to manipulate its audience into responses that the piece perhaps does not deserve. It’s a pity Chereau simply didn’t leave things be, and let the sound of rippling water, the characters’ laboured breathing and the slow heaving of the hydraulics speak for themselves.

Troubled theatrical waters then, but Chéreau steers a none-the-less compelling ship. It is strangely upsetting watching Laskey trying to both make sense of and save his increasingly cracked friend; it’s a struggle which stays with you despite the self-importance of the ending and even after you have emerged from the gloom.

Runs until 21st May

Punk Rock at The Lyric Hammersmith

Like an open wound that is scratched and pressed in front of you, some moments of Punk Rock are unbearable to be put through and watch.  The continual intensity, which simmers below the pithy surface of Simon Stephens’ new play, the sexual games, status plays and open bursts of bullying aggression, all add to a feeling of the inherent pressure which permeates the world of today’s young people and calls uncomfortably to memories of our own youth.  But when this ideas-led piece takes a turn into the melodramatic and the potential for violence explodes into actuality, it concludes in annoyingly clichéd climaxes which seriously disappoint.

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