Posts Tagged ‘Greenwich Theatre’

Macbeth, Greenwich Theatre 28 February

February 29, 2020



Picture from Davy’s Wine Vaults/Twitter

The Lazarus Theatre production of Macbeth at the Greenwich Theatre was manly, clear and straightforward, at least when you could make out the words.  (A scene with Macduff’s pregnant wife addressing her bump was almost entirely lost on me, and it was sometimes difficult to understand what Lady Macbeth was saying.)

In line with manliness, the witches were male and as well as having some witchy exchanges cut they wore gas masks in one scene,  The direct approach meant that the pace of the action and there was on occasion the feeling that the cast just wanted to get it over with quickly.  There was no real distinction between the external world of action and heroism and the inner one of evil, obsession and femininity.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow raised a small shiver at the end, while Macbeth’s address to sleep was rather thrown away as he busied himself with washing off blood.  The murderers waylaid Banquo in complete darkness, rather contrary to their own words on the occasion.  Duncan became simply a comic figure at times.  The scene where Malcolm relates his imaginary failings to Macduff was even more tedious than normal, though that probably can’t be helped.

It was one of those productions where you can ask yourself what they are quarrelling over–if there is no glory, magnificence or colour (apart from Lady Macbeth’s dress) then what is the point.  But it will have been useful in helping anyone studying the text for an exam remember who the characters are and what they do.

Love and a Bottle, Greenwich Theatre 12 July

July 13, 2014


Twitpic from Out of Joint

Twitpic from Out of Joint

You can still see this on Monday 14 July and the Out of Joint tweet that kindly supplied the picture above also says that with code OOJ you can see it for £6.  That sounds like a good idea to me, and it would be even without the reduction.

The Saturday afternoon audience enjoyed this adaptation of the first play of the 20-year-old George Farquhar which, underneath the conventional comedy machinery (at one stage I thought we were going to get the finale from The Marriage of Figaro without the music) and references to the Battle of the Boyne is probably about the joys and sheer stupidity of being young.  Here we followed the adventures of one Roebuck, a penniless young  playwright recently arrived from Ireland and trying to avoid both creditors and the mother of his child.  All of course ended happily with moralising and multiple marriages after Roebuck and Kidderton the Drury Lane man had discussed that very prospect from a professional viewpoint; and I enjoyed the meta-theatrical games in scenes like the trainee actresses from LAMDA  playing actresses backstage.  It would have been even better if they had played boys pretending to be actresses, but Farquhar wasn’t Shakespeare and you can’t have everything.

The uncluttered design and fast pace worked well, as did the Irish folk songs.  How much of the proto-feminist repartee was down to adaptor Sheila Feehily as opposed to George Farquhar I don’t know, but it all worked for me.  The playing was of a uniformly high standard, and the young lady who flirted with fluffing a couple of her lines knows who she is…

STELLA, Greenwich Theatre 11 July

July 14, 2013



…or STELLA, a story of women and astronomy by Siobhan Nicholas, who also played Caroline Herschel.  So this was the story of how William Herschel, musician and astronomer, made his sister into a singer and astronomical assistant so that at the end she became an important astronomer in her own right, at the expense of any possibility of a personal life.  On top of that was overlaid the story of a modern-day radio astronomer (not quite called Jocelyn Bell Burnell)  who is writing an article about Caroline and resents the implication that she will follow her musician husband to Germany.

Some parts of this were very nice:  the pictures of stars projected on the backdrop of course and the further use of projections as Jessica communicated with her husband and daughter in distant parts.  And the circular carpet and circular table around which Caroline and William orbited and argued while Jessica followed along like a satellite; also the refusal to glamorise or prettify Caroline.

But there was also a certain amount of extraneous matter forced into the eighty-minute running time:  Caroline was permitted to foresee radio astronomy and the  Herschels between them adumbrated relativity, though it would be hard to say whether it was the Special or the General theory that was referred to.  Then there was the subplot of Jessica’s daughter Eve going to Alexandria on her gap year to form a human chain round the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina (which is in my recollection built like a bunker–a wise precaution in Alexandria) and drag Hypatia into the proceedings.

Then there were some bizarre errors:  Caroline calling her brother ‘Sie’ in German, and Jessica’s student allegedly being engaged in the hunt for the Higgs boson.  Not as mad as the idea of the gap year daughter in Alexandria IMHO, assuming her parents ever wanted to see her again…

This is not just pedantry:  one of the points made was Caroline’s records were detailed and accurate (and so useful) while William’s weren’t.

But as ever the main point for me was that you need to get what you want to say into your characters and their relationships and the actions that spring from their relationships, not paste it on in the form of a lecture.

Stella is funded by Arts Council England, Science and Technology and Facilities Council and The Institute of Physics–some of those excellent bodies may have wanted a lecture of course.  As far as I can see, if you have £ 700 (or negotiable) to spare, Take the Space will also come and do this show for you…

That Is All You Need To Know, Greenwich Theatre 08 June

June 9, 2013



Ubiquitous image for this show

That Is All You Need To Know (which ran for 80 minutes or so; no interval) told the story of the Bletchley Park codebreakers and the parallel story of how enthusiasts struggled to preserve and restore the place in recent times.  I thought it was highly effective, making good use of projections and recorded extracts to establish time and place, and a rather more numerous than normal audience in the Greenwich Theatre agreed with me.

The main male characters (Hugh Alexander, Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman) were effectively characterised, although doubling of the female ones made them a bit less clear.  Many weighty themes were touched on lightly and skilfully–the fate of Alan Turing, for instance, or Gordon Welchman as being a kind of reflection of Oppenheimer–and I think the story of the preservation attempts showed that we were still confined within a frame of eternal England, rather than reducing it all to complete bathos, which it might easily have done.

I liked the fact that the contribution of the female wireless operators in intercepting and transcribing signals was recognised, and also that of the Poles in making initial breakthroughs and managing to pass on the necessary results and hardware.  I was disappointed that there was no real attempt to illustrate the regularities in the Enigma-induced mapping that allowed it to be broken–explain would have been too much to ask, but a couple of visuals might have done the trick–the thing at the beginning about Turing pedalling backwards once every twenty revolutions might have been an allusion, but that was about it.

Well worth seeing!

Dido Queen of Carthage, Greenwich Theatre 22 May

May 24, 2013


Picture from

Picture from

Well I enjoyed this performance, probably because it was a good play!  The theatre was perhaps a quarter full, to be kind, and at the beginning at least I often had difficulties in catching what the actors were saying, both because of uneven delivery of Marlowe’s blank verse and because they were just facing away from the audience.

It wasn’t my fault anyway since I had prepared myself by reading the text, so I can report that there was a prologue adopted from somewhere else and The Passionate Shepherd to His Love had been adopted as a kind of leitmotiv.

How much the tricksy lighting, vocalise, and stylised playing with ropes actually helped things is hard to say, but I thought the puppet Ascanius was good.  The actors became more settled in their delivery as time went on, though Aeneas was never exactly secure in this regard and insecurity seemed to be the keynote of Dido’s characterisation.

The ending would have been overwhelming if the cast had just sung a bit better and in two parts.

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Oh What A Lovely War Greenwich Theatre 10 September

September 11, 2011


–President Wilson is very concerned about the War.
–I hear he’s a sick man.
–Yes, he’s an idealist.

That repartee certainly put this blog in its place!

As everyone knows, Oh What A Lovely War retails the history of WWI in the form of a pierrot show.  In this production by Blackeyed Theatre, it was performed by five male actors, so the picture above shows two important details–female impersonation and a video screen.

I rather felt we know all that:  It was a stupid waste of lives.  So what’s new? Some of the scenes, like the conference between monoglot Allied commanders or  soldiers literally going like lambs to the slaughter still retained some shock value, but one never felt that the war party might have any ounce of sense or that patriotism might be anything other than hogwash.

Maybe you just need larger forces to bring it off convincingly?  The five performances here certainly danced, sang and acted with great commitment, and I especially enjoyed the singing and female impersonation from Paul Morse.

As stated on the company’s website, this show will be touring to all kinds of places until the end of November.

Chekhov’s Shorts Greenwich Theatre 11 May

May 12, 2011


Blurred whipping of 'The Bear' from trailer on and with a different actress

Our readers will surely know that Anton Chekhov started off by writing short pieces for humorous magazines as a medical student in an attempt to make some money.  Very short in some cases.  An advert I saw in the window of the newsagent across the street from the theatre had the air of early Chekhov:


Anyway, in the theatre itself Anton Pavlovich’s early years were represented by:

The Evils of Tobacco
The Dimwit
The Bear


Swan Song
The Proposal

All of these elicited laughter from an audience that was not in truth over-numerous:  they were timidly clumped together in the hall in the same kind of way that the touring sets found themselves a bit overwhelmed by the space on stage.

To summarise:  these pieces are what we would call sketches (maybe The Bear and The Proposal are a little more substantial than that).  I thought that The Bear was the best and funniest piece–the audiences as a whole sounded as though it agreed–you could see Popova and Smirnov turning into Beatrice and Benedick if they were given a little more time.  A little underplaying would not have come amiss–I think the actors should seem to respond to what’s just happened rather than seeming to come out with what they were going to say anyway.  The Proposal was funny too, but the panic of everything being about to fall apart was somehow missing.

But certainly worth a visit!

Treemonisha Greenwich Theatre 13 June

June 14, 2010


Treemonisha's supposed parents

And so to Greenwich for a production of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha by Pegasus Opera.  I remember it as a story on Jackanory about 1970.   And it’s simple enough.  We are on a plantation in the American South sometime after the supposed end of slavery.  Wicked conjurors are deceiving the locals.  Treemonisha tells them to behave.  Monisha, supposed to be Treemonisha’s mother, says that she miraculously found her in a tree, which is why to she is called Treemonisha.  TM has also received an education (courtesy of a white lady), unlike anyone else around.  The wicked conjurors capture TM and prepare to throw her off a cliff.  TM’s friends capture them and prepare to punish them.  TM tells them that two wrongs do not make a right.  So in recognition of her wisdom and learning they make her their leader.

Well, it can’t be an opera–where music and drama fuse together–since there is no drama.  As for the music, I thought that Monisha’s number The Sacred Tree was nicely Italianate, and there was a nice ragtime number to finish with.  A lot of the rest was very forgettable.

Among the performers, Maureen Braithwaite as Monisha was good, and I could generally make out her words; and I liked Rodney Clarke as Parson Alltalk.  Donna Bateman as Treemonisha was squally, and I often had problems with her diction.  Bernard Abervandana as her rescuer, Remus, was very strained of voice and also rather flat I thought.  The cast were to be found standing still and waiting for the next number rather too often, given that they had by now been on the road with this show to quite a few places (including Middlesbrough).

the furies/land of the dead/helter skelter (Neil LaBute) Greenwich Theatre 23 February

February 24, 2010


Enigmatic image from

The theatre was about a third full–the usual echt provincial audience I remember from 917 years ago, together with a few students–and a guy came out to tell us to switch our mobiles off, not to take pictures, and what the plays were.

***Spoilers ahead!***

So first up was the furies, set in a very glassy restaurant, where Barry (Patrick Driver: middle-aged) had summoned Jimmy (Stuart Laing: young) to tell him something.  The airheaded Jimmie had brought his evil sister Jamie (Frances Gray: young too of course) with him, she kept on whispering in his ear–she was suffering from polyps on her vocal cords–whenever he seemed to be sympathetic towards Barry’s news that he was dying of some dread disease (not AIDS) and ending their relationship so as not to be a burden and going back to California for palliative treatment.  At the end Jamie rasped at him that if he did not die as described she would track him down, torture him horribly, and kill his children and slut of a wife.

Well, that was funny at the beginning and about as terrifying as the UCL Eumenides at the end.

Then there was land of the dead, where Woman (Gray)  and Man (Laing) stood in separate spotlights and addressed the audience, not each other.  The story was that on a particular day she had got up early to count her $400 and then he had gone to a work-related breakfast and then to the office and had tried to ring her on her mobile and say she could keep the kid if she wanted but she had turned her mobile off and had the abortion and in fact paid with her Diners Club card and not the cash.  Then the particular day was 9/11 and all she had to remember him by was the message on her mobile, that she had to refresh every week or so.  I thought this was the best of the three pieces, in spite of the cheap 9/11 reference and O. Henry neatness:  the $400 in bills (especially) and the mobile phone message were genuinely troubling images, like the net in Agamemnon, and this was also the piece that caught some tiny fragment of the essence of  Greek tragedy even without referring to it.

After the interval we had helter skelter, back in the glassy restaurant, where Man (Driver) and Woman (Gray: pregnant) had come to NY from the sticks to do some Christmas shopping.  She was wearing an old-fashioned dress he hadn’t noticed in the hotel that morning and he certainly didn’t want her to get her hands on her mobile and find out who he had been ringing.  At this stage, I thought that perhaps Chekhov (rather than Stephen King or O. Henry) was being laid under contribution, and as it turned out I was both wrong and right.

As it turned out, She had seen Him kissing & fondling Her Own Sister on the steps of the sister’s house, and wanted to know how long it had been going on.  It had been going on 6 years, and he indulged in some specious drivel about how they should put this behind them and become richer people as a result.  Then She said she never wanted to be alone with Him again–drivelled a bit about bad things happening to other people–mentioned Medea and Charles Manson’s followers–said she had in fact bought the dress from a consignment store, He hadn’t missed it in the morning–stabbed herself in the belly (and her baby) with a meat knife.

And this one I didn’t like very much.  She was much younger than Him, which I think was just the actors–it was never mentioned in the script.  There was some serious problem with Her reactions after He had said 6 years–she didn’t scream and shout as you would in real life, but also she responded too quickly and naturally to what she said to be dissociated from reality.

Once Medea had been mentioned I started to wonder how, since the robe could hardly be poisoned and anyway She was wearing it not the sister.  And it was the knife that had been there in plain view all the time–both Chekhov and Euripides.

Unfortunately it’s a complete disaster to take Greek tragedy as something naturalistic that can be translated to a domestic setting but, hey, shit happens…