Posts Tagged ‘Jaygann Ayeh’

For Annie Baker’s last UK premiere, Circle Mirror Transformation, the Royal Court sent us to a sports centre in Haggerston. For this, the National have built a 110-seat cinema on the Dorfman stage!

If you read the programme in advance, as I did, you’ll be expecting a play about the transition from 35mm film to digital and the negative consequences of it. Well, that is the backdrop to the piece, but it’s much more about the relationships between the three principal characters and the back stories of two of them. Every scene – and there are many in its 3-hour playing time – takes place in the cinema auditorium between screenings and at the end of the day, as the three cinema staff  clean between the rows and talk. We glimpse into the projection room through small windows high up the back wall. There is a lot of silence.

The strength of the play is the characterisations. These are fascinating, very real people. At first I wasn’t sure I would stay the length, but it somehow draws you in and captivates you – but for me, the people rather than the technological change. You learn a lot about them as you peer into their lives, somewhat voyeuristically. I became enthralled and it didn’t feel its length.

Matthew Maher and Louise Krause, as Sam and Rose, both of whom have come with the play from New York, are outstanding, and they are joined by Jaygann Ayeh, who is terrific as the third principal character Avery, and Sam Heron in two supporting roles. There is an uber-realistic design from David Zinn and impeccable direction by Sam Gold.

I predict this is going to divide people; the number of empty seats after the interval testifies to that. I surprised myself by not being one of them!


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Back to Hackney Empire for the second year running to end the year at their now legendary panto. This Victorian theatre is made for panto and you can’t but get caught up in the excited anticipation of the full house. Before the curtain has risen on Susie McKenna’s production, you feel part of a community even if you don’t know another soul in the building.

This year’s concoction has Jaygann Ayeh an unfeasibly lovable Jack, his naive cute friend Silly Billy (David Roberts) and Chloe Taylor’s Off Her Trolly Molly infatuated with Jack and loved by Billy. Vegetable references abound with the good fairy Sweet Pea (Abigail Rosser) and baddies Runner Bean, panto veteran Tony Whittle  and Broad Bean, Jenny Dale. Then there’s Dame Daisy, the larger than life Clive Rowe who is now so at home as a dame he may be in his own groundhog day, struggling to get back to legit plays and musicals!

Add in an excellent beanstalk, a Shrek-like giant, a hip-hop snowman (Kat B), the customary cow and a singing gold harp! Yes, a singing gold harp! We even get a small troop of dancing flowers and dancing vegetables. I thought we got a few too many references to TV and too many familiar pop songs this year, but this is a bit of a niggle when what we have after all is the real deal – proper panto rather than celeb-laden mediocrity.

It’s only the second year I’ve been to Hackney on New Years Eve afternoon singing Auld Lang Syne arm-in-arm with the good folk of East London, but I have a suspicion it’s already a tradition. Bliss.

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