Saturday, December 22, 2007

Something old, something new

Got distracted and forgot to post up reviews from my last London weekend - God In Ruins at Soho Theatre followed by Othello at the Donmar Warehouse.

God in Ruins, by Anthony Neilson, was commissioned by the RSC and is described as an alternative Christmas play, asking us to have sympathy for the single man alone on Christmas Eve. Although the play is very very funny, and really well put together, it's not so much sympathy that it produces but rather a feeling that men are really quite pathetic, but it's all either their father's fault, or women's fault. The play opens with Bob Cratchit and Scrooge, only it's Scrooge a couple of years later, and he's so jolly that he's quite a pain in the bum. Then we scoot forward to spend the rest of the play with Brian, played wonderfully by Brian Doherty, an over-working divorcee trying to make contact with his daughter. He flip flops from being quite a sympathetic character to being quite repellent in some of his actions, but ultimately despite his rudeness and selfishness, the denouement of the play is satisfying. It's very witty, laugh out loud funny, rude and thought provoking - well worth seeing.

Interesting Guardian blog here about the hazards of mainstream companies like the RSC commissioning work from innovative people like Anthony Neilson.

Then to Othello at the Donmar, sold out within half an hour of public booking opening, and tickets apparently going for silly prices on ebay, so I was half expecting to be bopped over the head by huddled folk in big overcoats lurking down dark alleyways, but in fact there was a very short and sedate queue for returns and no lurkers or boppers in sight. Phew. Overheard from the box office - there are usually six to eight returns a show, so if you don't want to queue first thing for day tickets, getting there early in the evening (before 6:45) might mean you get lucky.

Anyway, in we (me and L) go, and we're on the front row. Fabulous. The set was bare, with dark dripping walls and a stream at the back, becoming shot with beams of light when the action moves from Venice to Cyprus, Christopher Oram's design quite reminiscent of his Don Carlos at the Crucible. And the play itself was splendid, Michael Grandage at his absolute best. Much has been written about the power of Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance, and it's all true. He is wonderful, mesmerising, a truly great stage actor. Ewan McGregor was a very cold, calculating Iago, a perfectly measured performance that captured the sheer nastiness of the character. Desdemona, sometimes a bit of a drippy part, was played very sweetly by Kelly Reilly, and Tom Hiddleston and Michelle Fairley were also really good as Cassio and Emilia, especially Emilia's last scene where she becomes aware of Iago's treachery and argues about Desdemona's loyalty.

Perhaps because the Donmar is small and intimate, and we were on the front row, I found this Othello to be utterly engrossing and completely emotionally draining. I confess to a tear sliding down my cheek at the end, and I also confess to giving only the second ever standing ovation I've ever done. It really was that powerful. Chiwetel Ejiorfor alone is worth queuing in the dark before dawn to see.

Othello reviews round up here.

Recent film reviews to follow shortly.


Anonymous Nez said...

Wow - you lucky thing. Ewan McGregor! I'm glad you had a fab time.

12:15 pm  
Anonymous SevenofNen said...

I am just a little green now having just read your blog on Othello.... As you know my second favourite shakespearian play after Hamlet?? I am so pleased you enjoyed it and front row too, how gorgeous! Glad Ewan is worth looking at on stage also, I must admit I aways thing of him in Star Wars first when his name is mentioned. See you soon love Nina xx

8:15 pm  

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