Monthly Archives: November 2017

The Ferryman

The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth

at The Gielguld Theatre

November 24th, 2017

“This isn’t history. This is now.’ Everyone living in Northern Ireland will become part of this story; this history, whether they want to or not.”

Uncle Pat: “Let’s not be teaching the wean that being English makes you wicked.”

Aunt Pat: “As a rule of thumb, it’s proved uncannily accurate.”

It’s five years since I saw Jez Butterworth’s powerful Jerusalem. Similarly, The Ferryman is a layered and edgy production.

Nothing as it seems. Quinn,( William Houston) who we meet at home in one of the opening scenes, dancing wildly in the wee hours to the Rolling Stones with a woman we assume, is his wife or a lover. She’s not. Caitlin Carney (Catherine McCormack) is Quinn’s sister-in-law and the wife of the dead man. Laura Donnelly, the original Caitlin, was just a child when her uncle was taken away by the IRA, shot dead, and his body dumped in a bog:  the core that Butterworth retells here. There’s a clue in the title, as in mythology Charon ferries souls from this world to the next. McCormack plays a woman whose husband’s body is accidentally uncovered a decade after he was secretly buried, sparking a wave of violence and stirring up almost forgotten memories.  When I saw the play the role was played by Catherine McCormack. The play is set in the same year in rural Northern Ireland in 1981. A lot of old history resurfaces with him and so the family is entangled in Ireland’s bloodstained legacy of violence. Continue reading The Ferryman


“Quiz” at The Minerva Theatre, Chichester

November 13th,2017

“Do we choose a more entertaining lie over a less extraordinary truth?”

Well, this is the third new play by the prolific James Graham I’ve seen  in four months. “Quiz”  reimagines what may have happened behind the scenes during a now infamous moment in television history, when, in 2001, a contestant on ITV quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire was accused of gaming the system to win the million pound prize.  The contestant is the “Coughing Major” or Charles Ingram, a former army officer who in 2001 who successfully answered all of Chris Tarrant’s questions to win the jackpot. Suspicions were quickly raised and two years later he was found guilty of deception, a jury believing the charge that he used an accomplice to cough when an answer was correct.

In the years that have passed James Graham finds there’s something brilliantly enduring about their story. But we don’t want to give you that….yet!

First, we are free-wheeled, with a revue-like approach, to learn about the history of popular ITV quizzes and their connection to the commercial nature of the channel. We are reminded that ITV from the outset was built around game-shows such as Take Your Pick, Bullseye and The Price is Right, where the coveted prize was a vacuum cleaner. For the latter, audience members are invited onstage as contestants, and, yes, we, that was me, my husband, and a friend, amongst others, were asked to value a 1951 vacuum cleaner. The correct answer- £39 – the prize: an ice cream voucher!

Continue reading Quiz

Labour of Love

“Labour of Love” by James Graham

at The Noel Coward Theatre

5th November, 2017

“What’s happening is if you’re Northern, you’re getting butchered, it’s like Game of f—ing Thrones.”

Continuing my James Graham fest, “Labour of Love” did not fail to disappoint despite the formulaic and predictable narrative.

Admittedly, I hesitated booking for what seemed to be a comedy about the Labour Party, but faced with a dish of a co-production between the Michael Grandage Company and Headlong, and directed byJeremy Herrin, together with a  Tamsin Grieg topping, I looked forward to a feast.

Labour of Love tells the story of Blairite Labour MP, David Lyons (Martin Freeman) and his politically idealistic agent Jean ( Tamsin Greig).  The conceit is that we begin on election night 2017and work backwards past the Coalition years and expenses scandal, the 2001 election and the 1994 Labour leadership campaign, to Thatcher’s resignation in 1990. Right now, it looks as though Lyons may lose his North Nottinghamshire constituency seat, once regarded as safe – seat, evidently modelled on Mansfield, which saw a shock swing to the Tories this summer for the first time in its parliamentary history. Continue reading Labour of Love