Posts Tagged ‘Arcola’

Insignificance, Arcola Theatre 19 October

October 21, 2017



Photo from Arcola Twitter

I arrived here just in time-the young woman at the ticket desk spoke to someone to hold the door a further minute for me.


So, The Professor (who we know is Einstein) is sitting in his hotel room and The Senator (wwki Joe McCarthy) comes in to demand he testify the following day.  Then The Actress (wwki Marilyn Monroe) wants to demonstrate the Special Theory of Relativity with some toy trains, but she calls it the Specific Theory.  It is all rather unengaging because Einstein as a character (with a character) is just not there.  Then The Ballplayer (wwki Joe DiMaggio, who was married to wwki Marilyn Monroe) enters and the scenes with him and Monroe are much more dramatic, standard kind of Arthur Miller stuff.

OK, so we came to the interval.  Perhaps the play was on because we now had Trunp as a kind of McCarthy, or just a celebrity.  Then our group missed the signal (if there was one) to go back inside so we had to be led in to sit at the back but the house was pretty empty anyway when

McCarthy is threatening to take away the papers with Einstein’s calculations, but everyone calls them calculus not calculations then Monroe offers him herself or her money not to do that.  Then Einstein and Monroe get to discussing the quantum theory of the 1930s as though it still meant something when she was getting her skirt blown up around her legs all day for numerous retakes.

Monroe suffers a miscarriage and Einstein feels guilty about the bomb.  The world maybe comes to an end outside, or maybe he is just remembering.

At the end, I did not understand why the sexiest woman in the world would need to batter men with words in an unrelievedly rushed delivery and bored my companions by saying it was supposed to be physics not maths Einstein was doing and once you had got the ideas straight you could get the research student to do the calculations.

It made you think, if only about the mistakes…


A Warsaw Melody, Arcola Theatre 28 March

March 28, 2012


Arcola Studio 2 was about half-full for this opening night; but since the play only had two characters we were in no danger of being outnumbered.  The story is essentially Russian boy meets Polish girl and then they can’t marry after being silly and in love and then they meet a couple of times as the decades pass but there’s no going back.

The play is apparently very popular in Russia, and I think the reason must be it gives an opportunity for an actress like the young Alisa Freindlikh or that Lithuanian girl who isn’t Ingeborga Dapkunaite to show what she can do:  laugh, cry, speak Polish, sing, dance, fill the stage.  And Emily Tucker did pretty well at all of these, though I think Helya is supposed to be more of your Polish princess at the beginning.  I found her Polish more convincing than her Polish accent, but never mind.

Erm.  The Victor of Oliver King.  The thing went best when he was either asleep or absent.  He was far too wooden and far too English–Received Pronunciation English at that.  With the posh accent and the bomber jacket he just struck me as an RAF type from the off, which really wasn’t very helpful.  I think there’s supposed to be rather more to Victor than we ever saw here–charm for one thing and humour for another…

I really wanted to like this show and I’m sorry I couldn’t manage to.  Maybe someone will write in and explain how I’ve got it all wrong.  Failing that, you can see what I know about other Russian plays in London here.

The Diary of One Who Disappeared, Arcola Theatre 21 August

August 22, 2011


That's his sister's white dress she nicked...

A couple of blokes came out dressed in white shirts and waistcoats.  One sat at the piano and started to play hesitantly.  The other encouraged him by (among other things) humming, tapping his pencil on his notebook, performing dance steps until the music got too fast, and getting the audience to clap in time.

Then that came to an end and it became clear that the guy who was not the pianist was the tenor and he was going to sing The Diary of One Who Disappeared, which is somewhere between a song-cycle and a very small oratorio and recounts how the hero is led astray by a gypsy girl and leaves his family to unite his fate with hers.

I found to my relief that I could understand almost all of the words (it was sung in English; texts were not provided).  The pianist played the very plinky piano–was it meant to resemble some folk instrument?–and a rather blonde gypsy slinked her way across the stage.  Nice to know that the Moravian countryside enjoys reliable supplies of peroxide.  Three women stood up from the front row to form the chorus.

A breakthrough in Janacek scholarship: the 113-year-old composer is still giving poor Kamila no peace

I was moved by the tenor’s final declamation, though overall  I thought the staging betrayed nervousness that the piece wouldn’t stand on its own merits.  Perhaps that it just wasn’t long enough–50 minutes overall is a bit of a strange length for an evening’s entertainment.  The soprano (Mary Bevan) had an easier time of it than the tenor (Robert Murray), perhaps because she had something a lot more singable to sing.

I’m not sure why the text’s indications of the gypsy girl dropping her blouse and sleeping in a rumpled shift led to the tenor removing his waistcoat and cufflinks.

And so ended my first visit to a Grimeborn Festival at the Arcola!