‘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
1984 :a Headlong Company adaptation of George Orwell’s novel at Richmond Theatre
24th October, 2013
‘The arbitrary power of the Government is unlimited, and unexampled in history; freedom of the Press, of opinion and of movement are as thoroughly exterminated as though the proclamation of the Rights of Man had never been.’
(Arthur Koestler, ‘Darkness at Noon’)
Most people have heard of Big Brother, Newspeak, Room 101 and Thought Crime, but how they fit together in Orwell’s 1984 eludes many. Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s ambitious adaptation of the dystopian masterpiece, opens in 2050 after the autocratic Party has fallen. We are eavesdroppers on a book club from the distant future discussing a document from the past – Winston’s diary. They believe, as the Party would have wanted, that Winston Smith never existed.
Our perceptions of reality are never stable, for the year 1984 initially runs concurrently with the book club discussions. Winston is seen struggling to write a diary ‘for the unborn’ – a ‘thought-crime’ punishable by death. As he writes the audience watches a close-up of the words on a big multi-media screen above the stage – we are inside Winston’s head. Continue reading 1984
‘Chimerica’ by Lucy Kirkwood at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London, by the Headlong Tour company
19th August 2013
“We see only what we know” (Goethe)
Chimerica’s quizzical title -an amalgam of China and America – from the historian Niall Ferguson, is a new play by Lucy Kirkwood. The play, a magnificent achievement of its six year evolution, only slimly surpasses Lucy Prebble’s ‘ Enron’ – a reminder of the exciting new female talent in the country.
Chimerica begins with the iconic image of the Chinese protester/ the ‘Tank Man’, armed only with two shopping bags, stopping the might of an oppressive institution, symbolised by his stand before a phalanx of tanks. This is captured by the photojournalist, Joe Schofield (Stephen Campbell Moore), an American then aged 19, who just happens to have the perfect view from his Beijing hotel window of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Years later, the fictional quest to find the Tank Man drives the deceptively simple narrative to achieve a transition from the opportune photo moment to the ramifications of Jo’s personal reckless pursuit. Continue reading Chimerica