Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Raggett’

When I saw Noel Coward’s Private Lives at the Donmar last month, I was taken aback at how radical that century old play was. Though I’ve seen this one before, I’d forgotten that it was even more shocking, and without the laughs! Yet it was his first big hit. Unlike plays like Hay Fever, Blithe Spirit and Private Lives, it’s rarely revived now, and I’m not sure it was to the taste of the somewhat conservative Chichester audience.

Within minutes I’d decided I didn’t really like any of these self-obsessed, entitled characters, yet I was drawn in to what is a fascinating piece. It revolves around socialite Florence, obsessed by age. Though she lives with her husband David, her relationship with Tom, a man half her age, is common knowledge; she flaunts it. She shares her time between London and The Country, surrounded by writers, singers and other hangers on. Her musician son is living in Paris, but is shortly to come home. When he does, he has a fiancee Bunty in tow, and a drug habit. His relationship with his mother may be as unhealthy as her obsession with youth. It turns out that Bunty and Tom have history, and more, and this is the catalyst for the next stage of the unfolding drama.

The production is fast moving and very animated, starting in Florence & David’s London home, moving to their country property, both superb period settings designed by Joanna Scotcher. There’s a brooding soundtrack in the background, with the move from one to the other brilliantly but not incongruously accompanied by David Bowie’s Oh You Pretty Things. When Florence discovers Nicky’s addiction, the confrontation that is the play’s conclusion finds just the two of them on an empty stage. Director Daniel Raggett’s production is hugely impressive. He’s a relative newcomer and is really one to watch.

Florence and Nicky are superbly played by mother and son Lia Williams and Joshua James. There’s an excellent supporting cast, with Priyanga Burford standing out as Florence’s best friend Helen, an oasis of sanity in all the madness. Isabella Laughland as Bunty continues to impress.

Paired with 4000 Miles at The Minerva, it made for a very worthwhile trip from London, and a good start to the Chichester 2023 season.

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Firstly, Sonia Friedman is to be congratulated for her RE:EMERGE season, a re-opening initiative with three new plays by West End debutantes, of which this is the third. Re-opening was brave enough, this doubly so.

This two-hander tells the story of a con artist and her gullible mark. Anna is a glamorous young and seemingly wealthy Russian who purports to be some sort of art philanthropist. Ariel is a relatively wealthy young American geek who has set up a dating app for the beautiful and well-to-do and now comes under her spell. Their story and relationship unravel in short punchy scenes, slickly delivered in front of a shape-shifting video wall which moves us from place to place. It’s an impressive piece of stagecraft.

Emma Corrin (fresh from her turn as Diana in The Crown) and Nabhaan Rizwan (fresh from his in BBC’s The Informer and Industry) are making their West End debuts, possibly their stage debuts (?) and both impress, playing multiple roles as well as the leads, with great chemistry between them. They do their best with the material, but that’s where the evening falls short. The play lacks depth; the characters aren’t fully developed and the story lacks substance, particularly the motivation which underlies both characters actions.

Still, it’s a thrilling 75 minute theatrical ride as Joseph Charlton’s play gets a dazzling production from Daniel Raggett, in no small part due to the extraordinary work of the design team of Mikaela Liakata, Tal Yarden, Jessica Hung Han and Mike Winship.

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