Tag Archives: The Royal Court

Review, A Profoundly Affectionate, Passionate Devotion to Someone (-Noun), The Royal Court, by Hannah Goslin

5 Stars5 / 5

Again, The Royal Court does nothing but astound us with its epic writing and unique staging.

A profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone, written and directed by Debbie Tucker Green sees three relationships, intertwined and the love, passion, hate and pain that comes with being with someone.

What The Royal Court is very good at doing is by not masking the fantastic writing with bells and whistles. Set a little taller than us, the action happens around three edges of the squared room, where the performers move from side to side, from story to story – us being on chairs that rotate giving us the sense of choice as to whether we engage in stories that feel so private.

The performers are phenomenal – with such fantastic and funny writing they are open to exploration of feelings and expression and it feels very natural, very at home and pulls at our heart strings and our emotions.  We relate to the stories and relate to the characters, their emotions and circumstances. And it is evident that the performers are invested in their characters – not one break of it, not one slip, and when not the initial focus, their characters continue out of the spotlight.

Another triumph for The Royal Court- another fantastically written piece executed to perfection.

 

Review Escaped Alone The Royal Court by Hannah Goslin

You can listen to Hannah’s review below, the written review is below that.

4 Stars4 / 5

As I have previously stated, Caryl Churchill is easily one of my favourite playwrights. After seeing ‘Pigs and Dogs’ a few months earlier, to hear that this production of ‘Escaped Alone’ is only 50 minutes long is not surprising. While not all her plays are so short in time in comparison to a lot of productions on the theatre circuit at the moment, there is something really clever and interesting that she is able to condense so much emotion, thought provocation and comedy in a small amount of time, with the ability to make a serious point about current times.

Escaped Alone sees 4 older women sat in a garden, talking about whatever comes to mind. In 50 minutes we hear their darkest fears and confessions, with each character being established easy, quickly and well, not only with the writing but by the performer’s abilities. We have times of conversation which borderlines Harold Pinter’s coined writing of short sentences, interruption and pause, soliloquies of the characters and what they are really thinking and feeling away from the conversation, and our newest member of the gang who had happened to stumble on this group, breaking away from the scene entirely to give us a description or perhaps prediction of how man and his obsessions and excess have impacted our World; apocalyptic in ideals, it is strangely darkly comical but also slightly frightening.

Some will recognise and feel star struck by the cast – Linda Bassett, our newbie to the group, is well known for her role in the current show Call The Midwife; Deborah Findley, the lady with an irrational fear of cats, from many roles, notably the recent The Lady in the Van and a return to The Royal Court stage from The Children back in December 2016; Kika Markham, our lady with a fear of going outside, also well  versed in UK television such as Mr Selfridge and Call the Midwife; And finally our funny lady of manslaughter, June Watson, another regular to The Royal Court and of whom joined Findley in The Lady in the Van. These regulars to our TV, Film and Theatre scenes of course know their theatre, know their skills and simply comparing them from this production to former roles can see that with age, certainly comes experience. They are able to complement one another, bring a sense of naturalism and realism to the piece, so that when we have cut aways and taken from the scene to monologues, it breaks the ease and breaks this natural barrier – we are then not just listening to 4 women chatting over a cup of tea.

Again, The Royal Court never ceases to amaze. With each production, they are able to take such natural and seemly relatable texts and turn it on its head. A simple garden scene, is then punctured by bright lighting and dark and deep dialogue. It really becomes an experience, and in the context of Escaped Alone, creates uncertainty (that we welcome) as to whether parts are comical, serious, or a farce.

Churchill and The Royal Court gel together better than tea and biscuits.

Escaped Alone

Review : Wish List, The Royal Court by Hannah Goslin

4 Stars4 / 5

The Royal Court never ceases to amaze. Priding itself in great original writing, I keep expecting to come and not enjoy myself. Willing there to be something that I come away and not like, or be slightly unenthused with. But it never happens. And I am so glad it never happens.

Wish List a coproduction with Royal Court Theatre/Royal Exchange Theatre and written by Katherine Soper, (Winner of the 2015 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting) has a very inventive but minimal set. A conveyor belt that comes down from the ceiling and parts that are moveable around the stage, basing much of itself as a prop in the house which evidently is always on stage also, situated at the far end. A basic shower unit and kitchen, this is a basic home for a brother and sister duo that are far from simple.

Tamsin (played by Erin Doherty) and Dean (Joseph Quinn) are troubled siblings with a troubled past. Evident in his continual repetitive movements, the pair are struggling to meet ends with Dean’s incapability of working due to his OCD disability and Tamsin’s lack of time to work with helping him each day. Through the course of 1 hour and 40mins, we see them both grow together as people and as siblings, coping with one another’s issues and developments.

Our other characters are Luke (Shaquille Ali-Yebuah) and Tamsin’s new boss (Aleksandar Mikic) fit like a glove into the narrative. Each character has its own presence on stage and the performers do well to make them so different from one another.

Quinn has the uneasy job of making his ticks and repetitive gestures seem realistic; to show his uneasy sense around even his sister and problem with being touched. It is so naturalistic and probable that I felt myself wondering if he was even acting. But the real challenge lies on Doherty. She is not void of problems herself and is evidently an anxious, nervous, problematic person in herself while also being strong for her brother. She is so incredible with this that again, I struggled to not fall into the imaginative of the piece, which felt as if someone had taken away the window to this pair’s life.

Wish List from its set to the performers to the writing is nothing less than extraordinary and so perfect that one feels like an intruder into the private.

Wish List

Review The Children The Royal Court by Hannah Goslin

Image result for the children royal court

5 Stars5 / 5

A simple kitchen – nothing special, nothing lavish, a simple country kitchen, on a slight slant, suspended in the middle of the stage gap. This is the basis for the next two hours, and this is nothing but intriguing and interesting.

Now two hours – or just under as the usher informed me – with no interval seems daunting. It’s only fantastic writing, acting and general execution that could pull this off. The Children has all these attributes and more and is more than successful at achieving our attention and full indulgence in the performance.

Based in said kitchen, we meet three 60-odd year old characters – once all friends, it has been 38 years since they were reunited and we are introduced to their past, present and future, full of emotion, complications, witticisms and intrigue. The three are retired physicists from the local nuclear power station which in the last few years has had a malfunction causing a disaster in their local community.

This brilliant writing by Lucy Kirkwood does not exactly beat around the bush – we are delved into the lives of these people and all their emotions, problems and being forced to acknowledge possibilities of our own future and the likelihood of this situation in our own lives. We are also coaxed into looking at our fragility as human beings and the question of age and responsibility – the ability to be carefree when young and how this slowly boils down to the dependency of others.

The performers are fantastic – with age comes talent and experience and they are at home on the stage. As naturalistic as a play can be, we feel as if we are intruding and watching real life – the actors ability to bounce off one another, make text seem flawless and executed brilliantly along with personal touches to bring to life the characters, their feelings and interactions.

Without harping on about this miniscule fact – those two hours fly by. We do not want to leave these characters, we want to find out more, we want to see more and we want to be with them, through thick and thin. The Children not only tickles you, but it wakes you up to honest facts and leaves you feeling thoughtful but also entertained.

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Review The Sewing Group, The Royal Court by Hannah Goslin

Image result for the sewing group the royal court

5 Stars5 / 5

After being away for a while, my Royal Court cravings were high, so to be back and excited to what I was about to see was a lovely feeling.

As always, the Royal Court produces performances that make me feel as if I am entering a new theatre. Their spaces are so transformative, even the proscenium arch. However, this time we were upstairs and this space continues to be new, disorientating me in a good way as I try to think back to previous productions and how it was styled. It’s like a completely new place.

The Sewing Group begins exactly as it sounds. We feel intrusive – the staging a simple wooden box with 2/3 women sat on stools sewing. Dressed in Amish style clothing, I begin to feel apprehensive – would this be a really intense piece? It did not seem at first as if this simple set up would be funny or surprising… boy was I wrong.

Directorially – this piece is brilliant and clever. Short scenes – and I mean short, perhaps only a few minutes are stylised with immediate black outs and tingy music. Each time it’s as if we see a snap shot, creating the element of passing time. The two women sat sewing at first, limited speaking or movement, remind me much of the beginnings of a horror film – quiet yet concentrated, not revealing much, the entry of a third woman, an outsider brings home this element as she reacts to their strange ways just as we do. The character’s quickly become more 3 dimensional – revealing more about themselves, their village and with the new arrival, some comedic moments come out.

Without any spoilers, these performers bring such interesting characters and elements to the piece, that you cannot fail be engaged. As the relationships and events progress, the scenes become more intense, more comedic, more emotional and to do this in short scenes is a triumph to the actor’s capabilities.

The Sewing Group is surprising and enjoyable. Something that begins with apprehension to its creativity and a feeling that it may not be liked, soon becomes fantastic, intelligent and makes you wonder why you ever doubted The Royal Court’s brilliance.

The Sewing Group

Review Pigs and Dogs, Caryl Churchill, The Royal Court by Hannah Goslin

5 Stars5 / 5

15 minutes. Not 2 hours and an interval. Not 1 hour straight through. 15 minutes is all it takes to pound you with intense and thought provoking truth.

Pigs and Dogs by the brilliant writer Caryl Churchil and directed by Dominic Cooke speaks about homosexuality in Africa and across the world and what this really means. Taking influence from the Anti-homosexuality act in 2014 in Uganda, the play takes quotes and facts from around Africa and other parts of the World about tribes and groups of people that have historically delved into traditions that would be labelled as ‘homosexuality’ despite the discrimination in society and law.

Simply the production only has 3 actors on stage who take sentences of the piece one after the other and bring across characters and their quotations. The performers do this extremely well and are quick and prompt, bouncing off one another. The characters and accents change from African, to American, to British and so on. The performers are brilliant at this and despite one actor being Caucasian, there is no sense of parody or comedy in his African characters.  We forget that they are actors on stage, just engaged in the intense facts and shock at the naivety and cruelty of these discriminatory people.  We even feel guilt and disgust at our own history and the laws which we once had in place against others.

15 minutes is all it takes to bring emotion, fact and truth to an audience. To be able to do that, is a total triumph and extremely worth watching.

Review Minefield, The Royal Court, Lift Festival, By Hannah Goslin

5 Stars5 / 5

Up in the circle, viewing down onto the stage, a masterpiece is about to unfold.

What looks to be a simple set up – a big double screen, as if a cube had been cut in half, a drum kit, some guitars, a desk, costume rack and a camera. A simple yet welcoming stage to the mountain of feeling, expression, truth, fear, sadness and joy that is to fill this theatre.

Minefield, as part of the ‘On the Move’ series for Lift festival (an international theatre festival) takes veteran’s from the Falklands war, from both Britain and Argentina and brings their experiences of the war and compares one to the other. Bringing two enemies against each other on stage sounded like a dangerous and taboo thing to do – these veterans came as enemies and left as friends.

For ordinary men who are simply telling their story, their musical hobbies are used to bring an interesting element to the show. When you see a documentary on TV, there is some background music to parts and this was like a live documentary in front of our eyes- the talented veterans providing the ‘scene change’ music and showing who they are now is clever and shows more to them as people than just soldiers, marines and naval officers.

Multimedia was used throughout bringing new dimensions to the production. We had translations in both English and Spanish depending on who was speaking – despite one or two of the Argentinians being able to speak English, the majority of the performance was kept in mother tongues which gave a sense of nature and respect of cultures to the piece. A camera zoomed into performer’s faces, souvenirs and tangible memories for us to see more of; background video and animation was thrown up on the big screens – we were instantly brought into their lives and privy to their secrets.

The men were treated as performers-they provided their own soundscape using voice, breath and bringing objects together; they played different characters , interacted and trusted one another in their performance, put their truth on the line and respected one another for this. These men provided some of the best performance skills and techniques I have ever seen, and they were not trained or necessarily theatre fanatics as most performers in the industry are meant to be.

Perhaps the truthful and hard hitting stories, coming from the people themselves brings out the real performer and the real enthusiasm to portray not only their own but each other’s lives. It was evident that great friendship had been made and this made for the performance to run smoothly, cleverly and to make you think.

Ending with a full band featuring all the ‘cast’ singing and playing a rock song with lyrics relating to what soldiers do, the bad, nasty and the ugly. Rhetorically we are asked ‘Would you go to War? Would you?’ leaving us questioning ourselves to whether we would after hearing the reality that was not shown in the press.

I know what I would reply after being asked this. But what I ask you is, why wouldn’t you go to this production? As rhetorical as they ask their question, there is no answer needed and no doubt that you should.

Minefield

Royal Court Theatre

Lift Festival

10/06/16

Review Human Animals, The Royal Court, By Hannah Goslin

4 Stars4 / 5

Back to the Jerwood space – transformational, the scene is a complete change to what I have seen previously here.

Looking down on a modern, clean, almost Ikea like garden space, there are large windows, a barbecue spreading delicious smells and 6 actors going their ‘daily’ business.

Human Animals looks at the progression of an apocalyptic world and how easily the environment changes and how people can change when fearful and under threat. There is relation to the media and how it is portrayed, and in conversation, people’s discussion and opinion on this, with two sides of British reactions – either everything will be wonderful and will be fixed, or everything is entirely doomed.

These 6 actors give a wonderful performance, each with a character of substance and likelihood of change. We firstly are eased into the character’s, who they are, what they do, their personalities, our relation to these aspects. Once hysteria hits, it’s hard to not continue relating to them, questioning if this would be how you would react if it seemed that the world was slowly ending.

The layout of the production and the slow progression from normality to chaos and back to some resemblance to normality reminded me of watching animals in a zoo – things happen and instincts take over but there’s nothing you can do to help and no escape – all you can do is keep watching it unfold. The only difference here being that there is no screen in front of us, the screen is behind them. Occasionally liquid in various uncomfortable colours is sprayed down it and a person in a hazmat suit comes along to perform fumigation on the otherside. We are put in this comfortable bubble, but with the disintegration of the characters’ lives, minds, health and relationships, are we really that safe?

There is no attempt to hide any of these blatant facts that this production puts into your mind – there is gore and there is shock factors that leaves you thinking, considering life as it is now and the likelihood of this being a prediction of the future. And this is good – there’s no point hiding it and you are forced to sit up, listen and relate.

Human Animals is not only astonishing, but honest. No American zombie killing heroes to the rescue here; natural environments under threat, real possible events that could unfold in reality, truthful reactions and consequences. The performance aims to make you think, see and listen.

 

Review Cyprus Avenue The Royal Court by Hannah Goslin

peacock_cyprus_avenue_event

We enter a small but perfectly formed room with a low level traverse stage. Completely white and clinical there is nothing in the room but the audience areas and 2 chairs in one corner of the square carpeted staging, and one chair diagonally in the other with a small table containing a jug of water and a glass. Very minimalist, the area is open to the unfolding of absolutely anything.

Based in Belfast, we meet Eric played by Stephen Rea who is well known for recent television programmes such as War and Peace and Dickensian, and his counsellor Bridget played by Wunmi Mosaku, who sit the furthest opposite each other as they can be. The story unfolds from the point of view of Eric reminiscing past events that have lead him to this current situation. We begin with the simple sense that the man needs help and this is all it is. As the hour or so passes, his insanity becomes even more palpable and chaotic leading to actions and events that are dark and for the audience, shocking.

The play cleverly plays on cultural, emotional, political and religious identity. The main concept is of the Catholic and Protestant war and prejudice in Ireland. Eric representing the North consistently professes that he doesn’t hate Catholics or the South, yet his rants and racist wordings express otherwise. Cleverly, the use of a black character in the counsellor highlights the sheer ridiculous nature of Eric in feeling these ways – unintentionally relating to African and black culture in a racist manner, the counsellor turns this around to show that there is no difference in cultures if they were to go simply by his description. With the state of theatre at the moment looking into the diversity of actors, Wunmi Mosaku’s character has the most brilliant line noting that she is not African, she is British. Being born and bred in Britain, this is her identity and this, intentionally or not, pokes attention to the current theatrical world and its lack of diversity and the absurdity of this. Just as Eric is Irish despite being in the North, and Mosaku’s Character Bridget is British and not African, the casting of characters should be based on their talent and not based on their race, ability, gender or orientation. It is no one’s business what you are, but what you can bring to the table, which Bridget points out is wrong with Eric’s stereotypical view of the world.

The writing of the play is so intelligent, that a lot of comedy comes from the irony of the situations but along with the actor’s brilliant portrayal, the sense of timing and take on the words makes the majority of the production extremely funny.

This is what makes the slow building crescendo even more shocking. Eric’s mental state deteriorates more and more over the hour to lead to a huge case of seeing red and committing horrendous atrocities. The well-constructed violence in production is so realistic that writing this review and remembering this still makes me queasy. The once white and clinical staging becomes messy with mud, items thrown across the carpet and blood leaking from the floor. Symbolising Eric’s mind, his once innocence is tainted and becomes very dark and messy. While slowly building and pushing you into a sense of false security with the comedy, the ending where chaos ensures but suddenly stops, returning to where we began in Eric’s retelling of the story. We are left shocked and amazed at this story, on this stage, at this moment in time and the beautiful performances by the actors in this production.

Looking around the audience, not one single person looks relaxed as if their thoughts of the story presented on stage had still to be resolved. Being left vulnerable as an audience and to change preconceptions is quite a skill, Cyprus Avenue written by David Ireland and directed by Vicky Featherstone achieves this beautifully, disturbingly and intelligently.

Review X The Royal Court by Hannah Goslin

x-royal-court

The stage is white, clean and leaning downwards towards us. As the ‘curtain’ which is more of what looks like the outside of a ship is lifted, the staging continues this colour scheme but is constructed with a huge crack in the middle. Are we in a submarine? The large window where nothing can be seen could be a more futuristic decoration to the current submarine style, a large ladder to the side of the stage into the ceiling makes you feel as if you are under something. And the stage is silent. The two characters mill around, looking quite anxious, Jessica Raine’s (known for her debut in Call the Midwife on the BBC) looking the most intense, munching nervously on dry cereal. So many questions arise as the characters begin to talk, and you find yourself becoming as anxious as them as you are unsure what they are talking about, without any previous knowledge of events.

As we begin to understand the premise, X (written by Alistair McDowall and directed by Vicky Featherstone) is the story of an abandoned space team with no communication to a future concept of Earth. The world has begun to die, food is made in labs as animals and plant life are long extinct. Technology has long taken over from tangible things and the use of an older character reminiscing this in comparison to a younger generation pointing out the more technologically advanced versions hits home to how we are slowly becoming like this existence. X looks intently at the sense of time – how closely we rely on morning, noon and night, how our bodies unknowingly rely on this and how this can affect us. The combination of all of these elements shows the slow deterioration of the characters sanity, with clever back and forth scene changes from the past to the current. We’re never really sure which is which, along with being consistently plunged into darkness for a scene change, we feel anxious and lack a sense of time ourselves. The production very intelligently brings us into the action this way and makes you as confused as the characters.

Soon there is a very Sci-Fi horror take on the production. The story telling of seeing a girl with an X cut across her face, movement and sounds in areas of the ship and outside that are impossible and the interaction with characters that apparently do not exist. It feels like a Doctor Who episode, with a little less comedy and more adult themes. The same use of black outs, the violence and gory scenes throw at you push you into the situation and characters feelings; the actors using their abilities to consistently be in this state, it is a real testament to them that the constant confusion and high intensity anxiousness doesn’t leave them just as insane after the production has finished. As I was sat on the edge of a row, the darkness and non-rhythmic music made me feel vulnerable, half expecting for lights to flick on quickly and find some scary alien like character staring at me from the aisle.

Ending the production, the scenes leading up to this are emotional, fast paced, almost uncomfortable. X is so brilliant with doing this, that the calm ending where Raine’s character once left alone, has a daughter who continues the abandoned life in this space hub, seems unfinished. While in a way it is resolved and gives us the chance to calm down, it makes you wonder what putting us in such fearful situations was for. However, this is answered with the sense of loneliness, the loss of the sense of time, the emotional and intensity of the production; nothing is resolved. We still are left not knowingly what happens to this space hub.

X is beautiful, yet scary, evoking a rollercoaster of emotions and to be able to combine such opposite elements is a testament to the production, the actors and the writing. Going home, it certainly makes you think: What will we become?