Consent

Nina Raine’s Consent premiered at the National Theatre last year and has now transferred to the West End. I went to see it at the Harold Pinter Theatre.

The story turns around six friends, four of whom are lawyers focusing on rape cases. When we first meet them, Ed (Stephen Campbell Moore) and Kitty (Claudie Blakley) are celebrating the birth of their first child, their strong partnership contrasting with the shaky marriage of their friends Rachel (Sian Clifford) and Jake (Adam James) – there are strong hints of infidelity. At the same time, Ed is prosecuting a rape case opposite his friend Tim (Lee Ingleby), defending. It all seems like a game to these two blasé friends, chatting amiably behind the scenes while the defendant, Gayle (Heather Craney), who is almost certainly – it becomes apparent – telling the truth, suffers. Her fractured recollection of events is no match for the intellectual prowess of the lawyers cross-examining her. In a further subplot, Tim’s mates are trying to set him up with Kitty’s old school friend, actress Zara (Clare Foster), entangling the group even more.

I confess it took me a while to really get into this play, and at the end I still found that the central group’s stories were much less compelling than that of Gayle, who is almost reduced to a plot device. That said, I found much to admire in this clever and compelling piece. Morality is turned on its head: the self-righteous Kitty commits her own indiscretions; the calm, reasoning Ed becomes unhinged; and Jake, initially seen as nothing more than a philandering husband, is shown to be the most human and empathetic of the lot.

It’s a play that asks difficult questions: can the accusation of rape be used as a weapon? How important is the policy of “innocent until proven guilty”? Are the intellectual twists and turns of the law courts the appropriate place for rape victims to get justice? I liked the references to ancient Greek drama and the undercurrents of violence that evoke the tragedies of Medea and the Oresteia in a middle-class neighbourhood in 21st-century London.

Overall, while I found this a play hard to love, it was certainly not hard to like, and it’s definitely worth seeing.

Advertisements

Tieta, The Trial

tieta

Tieta, The Trial is a a play adapted by Franko Figueiredo from the Brazilian novel Tieta do Agreste by Nobel Prize nominee Jorge Amado. Produced by StoneCrabs International Theatre Company, it is being performed throughout London this summer. I went to see it at the Marylebone Theatre thanks to TheatreBloggers.

Tieta returns to her Brazilian home town, twenty-six years after being beaten up for being different, rejected by her father, and forced to leave. A trans woman formerly known as Antonio, Tieta has embraced her true self and is now a millionaire. She has returned to bestow untold riches on the town – but there is a price to pay.

Tieta examines the concepts of revenge, justice, greed and equality in a witty and subversive way, using storytelling, live music and dance. It is performed by the multi-talented and versatile Inês Sampaio, who sings, dances, narrates, and performs each one of the characters. From lively, confident Tieta herself, her haughty sister Perpetua, and her good friend, to Tieta’s foul-mouthed elderly father and the cigar-smoking mayor, each character is superbly drawn and Sampaio switches back and forth between them with ease, often multiple times per scene. There is effective use of music as Sampaio layers her own voice to use it as a backing track, with interesting effects produced from only a handful of instruments.

Without giving too much away, the audience is invited to join in and vote on a key issue, making us all complicit in the result. We are invited to compare the relationship between justice and revenge, as well as how easy it is for greed and corruption to take over. However, these messages are not delivered in an overly heavy-handed way; Sampaio’s sparkling performance and the entertaining songs keep things interesting.

Tieta, The Trial is a fascinating play, unique and well worth seeing. It is being performed at the Soho Theatre, the Etcetera Theatre and the Camden People’s Theatre in July/August, so there are plenty of opportunities to catch it.

Olaf

Olaf, by Ottisdottir Productions, is the first production of Ibsen’s 1856 play Olaf Liljekrans in the UK since 1911. Adapted by Mark Ewbank and performed in the intimate Barons Court Theatre, it’s an enjoyable fable that reveals the younger Ibsen exploring themes that would come to fruition in his later work.

Arne Of Guldvik (Che Watson) has brought his daughter Ingeborg to marry Olaf, son of Lady Kirsten (Rebekka Magnúsdóttir), in order to end a feud between the two rival landowners. However, the groom is nowhere to be found. Rumoured to have been ‘bewitched in the mountains’, it soon becomes apparent that he has fallen in love with another woman, Alfhild. Will he stay true to her, or will he be persuaded to renounce his love in favour of a marriage of convenience?

In its language and plot, the play is somewhat reminiscent of Shakespeare, with a light, comedic tone throughout and some beautiful speeches. The company have managed to do a lot with very little: barely any set and a handful of props are all that are needed. The performances are strong, particularly from Teddy Robson as Olaf. Sarah Madden also convinces as the flighty Ingeborg, while Grace Monroe draws our sympathy as Alfhild.

This enjoyable play isn’t Ibsen’s greatest, but it’s a must-see for any fans of his work, and is a lovely way to spend an afternoon or evening.

The Daughter-in-Law

D.H. Lawrence’s 1913 play The Daughter-in-Law is an original kitchen sink drama, set in a Nottinghamshire mining village. This production at the Arcola Theatre is directed by Jack Gamble. Amazingly, it was Lawrence’s first play; he described it as “neither a tragedy nor a comedy – just ordinary”.

Mrs comes to see Luther Gascoyne’s mother to tell her that he has got her daughter Bertha pregnant; however, having recently married Minnie, Luther is unable to make reparations by marrying the girl. This revelation exposes the cracks in Luther and Minnie’s relationship, and the play is a study of this, as well as the effect of her surroundings on the sensitive, thoughtful Minnie. In addition, it relates to Lawrence’s novel Sons and Lovers in the way it examines the conflict between mothers and their sons’ wives.

Set against the backdrop of a miners’ strike, the play mixes the political, the social and the personal in a modern and refreshing way. On the surface a domestic drama, it echoes the wider context of the period.

There are strong performances from Ellie Nunn as Minnie and Harry Hepple as her husband, as well as Veronica Roberts as Luther’s domineering, life-hardened mother. It’s a bleak play, but it’s not without its Northern humour, and it’s a superb production.

The Little Pony

My second visit to the Cervantes Theatre in Southwark was to see a piece of new writing by Paco Bezerra, translated by Marion Peter Holt: The Little Pony. Inspired by real-life stories, the play explores what happens when a young boy is bullied for taking a My Little Pony backpack to school.

Young Timmy’s teachers want him to stop using his favourite backpack so that it won’t be an excuse to pick on him. Daniel (Paul Albertson) and Irene (Rachel Sanders) approach the problem in different ways: Daniel wants to challenge the school and support his son’s right to use whatever backpack he prefers; Irene thinks the best way forward is to get rid of the backpack for good. Both parents want what’s best for their son, but aren’t able to agree on what that is, leading to much conflict. The two actors gave compelling and intense performances; at times I wished for a scene or two that wasn’t so intense, but this did serve to emphasise how important their son is to them.

Directed by Paula Paz, the play is performed inside a set of pink curtains evoking the colour of the backpack itself – pink, of course, not seen as a colour for boys. A digital picture of Timmy adorns the back wall, altering to reflect the direction of the story.
It’s a shame we don’t get to see Timmy himself and get his side of the story, although I imagine that this would be a very challenging role for any child to play. However, with only his parents on stage, we get a portrayal of a marriage and how differing views can affect a relationship.

The play took an unexpected turn that was certainly original, but which I wasn’t entirely convinced by. Still, it was a thought-provoking experience.

The Two Noble Kinsmen

Co-written with John Fletcher, The Two Noble Kinsmen is one of Shakespeare’s last plays, and is something of a curiosity, not seeming to fit in to any particular type or style. This production at the Globe is the first by director Barrie Rutter since he stepped down from his role at Northern Broadsides, and Rutter brings his unique style to this rather odd play.

Palamon (Paul Stocker) and Arcite (Bryan Dick) are two cousins captured in battle; swearing undying devotion, they soon develop a rivalry for the affections of their captor King Theseus’ sister-in-law Emilia (Ellora Torchia). One is banished and one escapes, but they contrive to meet again and end up literally fighting for Emilia’s affections.

The play works well as a commentary on toxic masculinity: Emilia is seen as a prize to be won, sighing as she is informed that whoever loses the fight will die for love of her. Meanwhile the closeness between the two kinsmen is destroyed by their desire for the same woman.

Francesca Mills steals every scene she’s in as the jailer’s daughter who helps Palamon to escape, having fallen in love with him only to be ignored. A fine display of Morris dancing, choreographed by Ewan Wardrop, closes the first half.

It’s certainly a strange play but this production is well worth seeing.

Killer Joe

While not being an Orlando Bloom fan, my main reason for going to see Tracy Letts’ Killer Joe was curiosity: I wanted to see what he would be like. Legolas, this role isn’t.

If Tennessee Williams and Raymond Chandler had written a play together, this might have been the result. Orlando’s character, the titular Joe Cooper, is a corrupt cop and killer-for-hire who is taken on by the dysfunctional Smith family to get rid of their estranged mother, who is rumoured to have a lucrative life insurance policy. The plot is instigated by son Chris, whose drug debts are coming back to haunt him, and encouraged by father Ansel. In the absence of any money to put up, however, Joe demands a retainer: Chris’s younger sister Dottie.

I was impressed by Bloom’s performance: he was genuinely menacing, frightening in stillness, but there is a lot of black humour in the play and he brought it out admirably. His co-stars Adam Gillen and Steffan Rhodri were also superb, Gillen evoking a kind of reluctant sympathy from us as a lost, insecure redneck even though his character Chris appears to be sacrificing his sister. Sophie Cookson was excellent as the damaged, innocent Dottie, who has flashes of profound lucidity, while Neve McIntosh was memorable as Sharla, Chris and Dottie’s sharp stepmother. The play was atmospheric and at times difficult to watch.

Simon Evans’s production is effective, conveying a run-down trailer home (an impressive set by Grace Smart) with atmospheric weather effects, though I thought the stylised slow-motion of the final showdown robbed it of some of its impact and evoked laughter instead of shock from the audience. Perhaps this was intentional, but it didn’t quite work for me. Still, I’m glad I made the effort to see this interesting, albeit deeply uncomfortable, play.