Posts Tagged ‘Greenwich Playhouse’

The Provoked Wife Greenwich Playhouse 12 October

October 12, 2011

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Nasty photo of nice 30s-style set

The publicity for this show said PERFECT MAYHEM intends to do justice to [Vanbrugh] by bringing immorality and profaneness to the Greenwich stage in a trademark bold and daring production – tailored to the modern attention span. The company would like to warn people and apologise (not very sincerely) in advance about the explicit sexual content of the play and for jarring any conservative sensibilities.

That worried me a bit, but what we got was a sensible adaptation leaving out topical references and songs and moving at a sprightly pace in a 1930s-style setting that I illustrate inadequately above.  If anything, I think that time has bowdlerised the play in that ‘harlot’ and ‘strumpet’ hardly mean very much now and ‘punk’ means something different.

The play concerns Lady Brute who is not at all a brute but has married Sir John Brute who is for his money and is she going to take a lover in the form of young Constant.  Similarly her niece Belinda would quite like to marry Heartfree if he had lots of money.  The interesting things are the characters of Lady B (she is nice–modern sense!–but is she going to be good?) and Belinda, as an independent-minded young woman.  And so might Sir John be, but would require less underplaying than here–one thing he certainly wasn’t in his confrontation scene was drunk.

The plot is a bit of a problem, especially since we’re in a comedy that raised a respectable amount of laughs from the audience.  The author can hardly abandon Lady B to the mercies of her husband (since she’s gained the audience’s sympathy), but she would lose it if she got off with Constant and in the world of 1697 she could hardly leave Lord Brute, especially having no money as she hasn’t.  So we get  revelation, repentance and a happy ending involving Belinda and Heartfree and a reference to the Brutes that leaves their future undecided:

HEARTFREE  Then let’s to church, and if it be our chance to disagree–

BELINDA  Take heed, the surly husband’s fate you see.

Proof Greenwich Playhouse 8 May

May 8, 2011

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Picture from Sell A Door Facebook page

In terms of numbers, I think there were nine people in the audience so we outnumbered the four actors easily enough.

The idea of the the play is that Catherine’s mad-and-brilliant maths professor dad has died, after she has sacrificed much of her youth and her own studies to caring for him, and there remain what may or may not be important results.  We have a conflict with her sister Claire who is rather the Martha to her Mary and Harold her father’s former student, who may be her saviour and love interest, if not exactly Prince Hal.

I had the feeling that the idea of the thing was good, but it was spoiled some imprecise execution.  The old professor and his discoveries were copied from John Nash, but about twenty years too late.  As played here by Marcus Taylor, he was not believably schizophrenic–more like your typical academic–and Holly Easterbrook as his allegedly depressed daughter was extremely beautiful (can’t be helped!) but also uniformly well-turned out.  The only one to show signs of recognisable mental distress was Amy Burke as Claire-trying-to-hold-it all-together.

So these complaints may be a bit pedantic, and no doubt a Chicagoan would have laughed at the accents while they seemed fine to me.  But if you’re going to flog old mathematical jokes like 1729 it’s a pity to ignore thew one about the extrovert mathematician staring at your shoes when he talks to you, which would have given a useful clue here.

Still, there were some instances of agreeably snappy dialogue:

HAL: Some friends of mine are in this band – they’re playing at a bar up on Diversity, probably go on around 2, 2:30, I said I would be there.

KATHERINE: Great.

HAL: They’re all in the math department. They’re really great. They have this good song it’s called “I.” Lower case I. They just stand there and don’t play anything for three minutes.

KATHERINE: Imaginary number.

HAL: Math joke. You see why they are way down the bill (laughter).

KATHERINE: A long drive to see some nerds in a band.

HAL: God, I thought when people say that it’s not that long a drive.

KATHERINE: So they are nerds.

HAL: They are raging geeks but they are geeks that, you know, can dress themselves (laughter) — hold down a job at major universities. Some of them have switched from glasses to contacts. Play sports. They play in a band. In that sense they make you question the whole set of terms, geek, nerd, dweeb, Dilbert, paste eater.

And overall I enjoyed the performance:  although the play was horribly and multiply derivative, it was also (paradoxically) about something different, and I agreed with the message even if on this occasion the muck that the flower grew out of wasn’t very mucky.

I should have pointed out that Dan Cohen did very well as the younger (grad student) and older (colleague) Harold Dobbs.

Definitely worth a visit!

An Ideal Husband (Greenwich Playhouse) 01 May 2010

May 1, 2010

****

A highly successful performance of Wilde’s ‘An Ideal Husband’ from CandyKing Theatre sent a highly appreciative audience away in very good spirits to face the cold and rain of a Saturday night in Greenwich.  Perhaps the standout performance was that of Kath Perry as the grande dame Lady Markby, while Peter Rae was also very impressive as Lord Goring and Judith Quin obviously had a very good time–and gave the audience one–as the adventuress Mrs Cheveley.  At times I couldn’t hear what Kate Sandison (Lady Chiltern) was saying–which may be in part due to the long, narrow shape of the space–while she did generally seem to be underplaying.

At the interval I spoke to a couple of my fellow audience members and none of use could work out how Wilde was going to rescue Sir Robert Chiltern from the clutches of Mrs Cheveley, but manage it he did, with a device worthy of Shakespeare for sheer dottiness.  And for long periods the play was bathed in a Shakespearean glow (it was really that good) before ending with a Shakespearean moral about needing to take people for the fallible creatures they are.

Women are not meant to judge us, but to forgive us when we need forgiveness. Pardon, not punishment, is their mission. Why should you scourge him with rods for a sin done in his youth, before he knew you, before he knew himself? A man’s life is of more value than a woman’s. It has larger issues, wider scope, greater ambitions. A woman’s life revolves in curves of emotions. It is upon lines of intellect that a man’s life progresses. Don’t make any terrible mistake, Lady Chiltern. A woman who can keep a man’s love, and love him in return, has done all the world wants of women, or should want of them.

Well, up to a point Mr Wilde.  Strange that while you often see rather strained claims of contemporary relevance made for a staging of a classic, in this case the conjunction of a General Election in real life with the play’s political scandal, places in the Cabinet at stake, Liberal Women’s Association and so on passed unremarked.

100% Comedy 100% Chekhov Greenwich Playhouse 04 August 2009

August 5, 2009

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This evening comprised four short ‘plays by Chekhov’: The Sneeze, The Bear, The Jubilee, and The Wedding, presented by the Black Sun Theatre Company. Of course, Chekhov never wrote a play called ‘ The Sneeze’, so it was an adaptation of the story ‘Death of a Civil Servant’–who by was unclear, as was the identity of the translator. There were about 20 spectators as against four actors, so embarrassment was averted.

In ‘The Sneeze’ David Fensom as Chervyakov did some fearsome overacting, and having all of the action in one time and place rather removed the pathos of the original story. ‘The Bear’ had more overacting (from Trudy Elizabeth Hodgson) and neither she nor David Fensom really gave the impression that they were members of the gentry: part of the humour derives from the elaborately polite way Popova asks Smirnov to explain how to use a pistol, so that she can then kill him in a duel. Then ‘The Jubilee’ concluded the first half of the evening: Elyse Marks seemed to be playing the same character (certainly in the same costume) as she had for Chervyakova, but David Fensom put in a good turn as a man being driven mad by his own failings and the unreasonableness of the world around him, while Trudy Elizabeth Hodgson’s tone of robotic insistence was highly effective here. The photographic stop-motion was effectively used and this one got the most laughs of the evening. But Chekhov’s ending (requiring as it does more than four actors) was omitted, so losing the dying fall (as also in ‘The Sneeze’).

So after the interval the evening concluded with ‘The Wedding’, and four characters playing 12 characters (a few more present in Chekhov were cut entirely). This gave the actors a chance to show what they could do, and the audience a chance to get a bit confused (in fact the cast seemed to lose the plot as to who was who at least once). I’m not sure why the perfectly normal Russian word for cheating/sharp practice was translated by ‘monkeyshines’, which was new to me.

All in all—an amusing evening but one which will have left both those familiar with the works and those unfamiliar puzzled about different things.

The official details are here.