Monthly Archives: May 2014

En un Lugar Del Quijote

quijote-edited‘En un Lugar Del Quijote’
(‘Somewhere In The Quixote’)
at The Riverside Studios

24th May, 2014

‘Tal es su imaginación, tan insano es su existencia, que sus propios libros son invisibles como un sueño.’
[‘Such is his imagination, so insane is his existence, that his own books are like an invisible dream.’]

Our second visit within a week to The Riverside Studios did not fail to disappoint. This time we were treated to the Ron Lalá Company’s version of ‘Don Quixote (the non-Spanish spelling) of La Mancha’.

The word ‘quixotic’ is nearly always meant as an insult. The way most people refer to Don Quixote makes you wonder if they have actually read the book. It would be interesting to find out whether Don Quixote is still as widely read as the universal popularity of the character would normally suggest.  In my early twenties, I resolved to read the massive tome which exceeds 1200 pages: I failed. Enlightened, I will revisit it now.

Very simply the tale of Don Quixote is polarised – either it is seen as a comic hero’s predicament or as a tragic hero driven by an impossible dream. Continue reading En un Lugar Del Quijote

The Two Worlds of Charlie F

Charlie-F‘The Two Worlds of Charlie F’
by Owen Shears
23rd May,  G-Live, Guildford

A guest review by Derek Linney

 The Two Worlds of Charlie F was first performed at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in January 2012 by a group of 12 wounded, injured and sick (WIS) service personnel and veterans of the Armed Forces and 5 professional actors. It is based upon the experience of service men and women severely injured while serving primarily in Afghanistan. Through a series of acts it covers their transition through recruitment, operational experience, injury and then treatment and rehabilitation.

The problem with reviewing the play is that it is difficult to separate ones response to the stories of the individuals and their undoubted courage in facing the trauma of severe injury and disability from ones critical judgement of the piece as theatre. There is undoubtedly an initial shock from seeing limbless, wheelchair bound actors on stage that clearly sets the tone for the piece. However, having a friend with an artificial limb, we found this perhaps less shocking than many of the audience.

We attended a pre-show briefing by some of the cast and we found this, in many ways, more emotionally powerful than the play itself. Their honest descriptions of the positive benefits from acting out their stories balanced by the sheer physical and mental effort of doing this while, in some cases, still undergoing operations and the effects of large scale drug treatment was genuinely moving. Unfortunately we found the play itself less convincing than this short pre-show event. Perhaps the size of the G-Live venue contributed to a lack of intimacy. We also felt that the piece was more a revue rather than a well developed play and it unfortunately exposed the somewhat, understandable amateur nature of the personnel on stage. A different format that involved the participants simply telling their stories would, in our view, have been far more powerful a drama. This of course might not have secured the type of nation wide appeal that the current show is enjoying.

None of this takes away from the courage of the individuals involved who have our full admiration. It is simply that their stories are so poignant and their personal determination to overcome their difficulties so moving that they deserve a simpler, dare one say less theatrical expression.

Nordic Noir – The Evil

nordicnoirThe Evil by Jan Guillou, Dramatised by Benny Haag

Part of a Nordic Noir evening at the Riverside Studios – 13th May 2014

A guest review by Derek Linney

The Evil is an adaption of a novel by the Swedish writer Jan Guillou. It is performed as a monologue by Danish actor Claes K. Bang – who has played parts in The Bridge and Borgen.

Guillou’s work is allegedly an autobiographical account of his home life as a child and particularly his time at boarding school, having been expelled from his previous school. It portrays a world of subjugation maintained by fear and bullying. When direct pressure on the individual fails then it is exerted through their weaknesses – in this case the protagonists best, and only, friend. In this world violence can only be countered by violence. As the character maintains: “Passive resistance doesn’t work in the short term”.

The piece is powerfully portrayed and leaves a distinctly uncomfortable feeling in the audience. The only upside for the character is that the violence he is subjected to at school enables him to finally stand up to the violence from his father at home, but only through the threat of violence in return. A morally ambiguous position.

Guillou’s account of his childhood has been challenged by his family but nonetheless the image conjured up by Claus Bang is, unfortunately, too easy to recognise as real. An exhausting performance, for actor and audience alike, that one can hardly say is enjoyable but  one which is rewarding to see.


Nordic Noir – Killing the Danes

nordicnoirKilling the Danes by Vivienne McKee

Part of a Nordic Noir evening at the Riverside Studios – 13th May 2014

A guest review by Derek Linney

Killing the Danes is a light-hearted revue by actor/writer Vivienne McKee who has lived in Denmark for many years. After the tense, dark atmosphere of The Evil this was light relief. McKee pokes fun at the Danes in an endearing way that reflects both her integration into their culture but also her ability to stand outside of it.

lundAt first, as McKee started the piece, I had severe doubts that we were about to experience an embarrassing, unfunny hour with McKee coming across as slightly patronising. But, it turned very quickly into a highly amusing look at the Danes, which had some Danish members of the audience behind us nodding and enthusiastically agreeing with her many characterisations of their culture and their seemingly unstoppable output of black crime thrillers.

And, there was a guest appearance by the ‘Lund Sweater’ – McKee claims it is the original borrowed from The Killing actress Sofie Gråbøl. Yeside couldn’t help having her picture taken with The Sweater after the show.

McKee’s piece only came about because she introduced The Evil to the Riverside Studios’ management but since it was only one hour they needed something to make up the show into a couple of hours. Hence McKee wrote and developed the piece.


Stevie_2901107b‘Stevie’ by Hugh Whitemore

at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester

16th May, 2014

 ‘This Englishwoman is so refined
She has no bosom and no behind’

Shamefully, the only memorable Stevie Smith poem, I remember, and fondly, is the notably haunting Not Waving but Drowning  from which come these lines which define her: ‘I was much too far out all my life’.

Hugh Whitemore’s play ‘Stevie’ commemorates the witty, melancholic and thoroughly unconventional poet who was quintessentially British, and whose poetry has dropped out of fashion. The biographical drama from 1977, tells the story of Smith’s two lives: the London art scene and suburban private life of monotony.  Through a hybrid of conversations and monologue, we are given a stylised, yet vivacious portrait of this enigmatic poet. Chronologically, we track her from the age of three to her death aged sixty-nine when a brain tumour robbed her of the power of speech and Death, her ‘friend at the end of the world’, brought her final coup de grace. Continue reading Stevie

Spring Awakening

Spring-Awakening-_2909618b‘Spring Awakening’ by Anya Reiss from Frank Wedekind’s original play

at The Richmond Theatre

8th May, 2014

“The fog is clearing; life is a matter of taste.”

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose: abortion, rape, suicide, pornography, masturbation and homosexuality are still hot topics. The issues remain the same, only the method of access is different.  Spring Awakening’ – first performed in 1906 – was highly controversial at the time and remained censored for years. Its author, the German playwright, Frank Wedekind’s subtitle: ‘A Children’s Tragedy’ dedicates the work to parents and teachers. Anya Reiss, a young British playwright updates the play by adding social media and internet porn.

The play opens boldly with uncompromising, graphic sexuality: scenes of male and female teenage masturbation against the background projection of Laurence Olivier as Othello; later, a rape – Melchior (Oliver Johnstone) appears to force himself upon Wendla Bergman (Aoife Duffin). The razor-sharp, bright lights cut through scenes and the pulsing soundtrack is so breathtakingly good that I envisaged Roger Daltrey (as Tommy) bursting on stage singing:  See me, feel me, touch me, heal me’. Continue reading Spring Awakening