Posts Tagged ‘Lucy Ellinson’

It does seem timely, reviving Caryl Churchill’s ground-breaking 1982 play, which takes a look at differing views of feminism, but is it a modern classic or a play of its time?

The story centres on Marlene, a ruthlessly ambitious Thatcherite who gets the top job at recruitment agency Top Girls, beating Howard, who everyone expected to be promoted. In the first act, she’s celebrating at a fantasy dinner party to which she’s invited five unpredictable historical figures with differing perspectives on being a woman. We see her in action in the agency, where each of the historical characters has a contemporary parallel, before we travel back in time to visit her sister back home in Suffolk and learn what she’s really given up.

The first act is brilliantly inventive, but it outstays its welcome and becomes irritating, the second act’s first scene is a trip back to Suffolk with Marlene’s niece and her friend and seemed unnecessary to me, and the second scene of this act, in the agency, seemed a bit overcooked, a touch too caricature. The third act is the heart of the play, and its staged and performed to perfection.

Director Lyndsay Turner has assembled a fine cast of actresses, including many favourites of mine. Katherine Kingsley is terrific as Marlene and there’s brilliant support from Amanda Lawrence, Siobhan Redmond, Ashley McGuire, Lucy Ellinson and Lucy Black and an outstanding performance from Liv Hill as Marlene’s niece Angie.

It seems to be the first time the play has been performed without doubling up, and I wondered if the frisson this provides, given the historical / contemporary parallels, was missing. I was glad I saw it, but it seems more play of its time than modern classic to me.

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This is Bertolt Brecht’s allegorical satire about the Nazi regime. Every character, scene and incident has a parallel and the title character is of course Adolf Hitler. He wrote it in exile during the war, but it wasn’t staged until thirteen years after it ended, and not in the US, as he intended, but in Germany itself. This expletive-laden new adaptation by Bruce Norris feels very fresh.

Ui runs a protection racket in Chicago (Germany) with designs on Cicero (Austria). He ‘buys’ local politician and trusted businessman Dogsborough (German President Hindenburg) en route to implementing his master plan to control the cauliflower trade! He has to deal with some of his own as well as those in his way, as his gang become disunited along the way. It’s littered with Shakespearean references and this production is also in part a satire on the seemingly equally irresistible rise of Donald Trump, which I thought I would find gratuitous but it was clever, with a light touch, and worked to the play’s advantage. This seems to be a big gig for director Simon Evans and he’s risen to the challenge with an inventive production with lots of audience engagement, including some playing roles!

Designer Peter Mackintosh has turned the theatre into a 30’s speakeasy, with seating on all sides on both levels, including cabaret-style tables on the bottom level and a stairway for the cast to move between levels. His period costumes are superb. Some of the casting is gender-blind, with Lucy Ellison making a superb Giri (Goring), Lucy Eaton excellent in three roles and Gloria Obianyo brilliant in four. Tom Edden playing no less than six, steals the show more than once, most notably as the actor giving Ui lessons. Lenny Henry has great presence as Ui, commanding the stage whenever he’s on it. It’s a uniformly excellent cast.

If you don’t know the play, it would be wise to mug up in advance, to get all the parallels and to get the most out of the evening, which is playful and entertaining without losing it’s satirical bite.

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Sometimes, however many rave reviews & however many recommendations, you just can’t motivate yourself to go and see something. My particular bete noire is monologues and this monologue had rave reviews and I was inundated with recommendations, but it was only on its third outing that I relented. Of course, it was wonderful!

The Pilot is in action with the US Air Force when, during home leave, she meets someone and becomes pregnant. When she returns to duty some time later, she is horrified that she is posted to the Nevada desert to operate drones in Iraq. She eventually finds she gets as much of a buzz from long-distance virtual hits as live action.

Lucy Ellison is extraordinary and mesmerising from the first time she makes eye contact with you as you enter the auditorium. Standing in designer Oliver Townsend’s gauze cube lit by 29 small white spotlights from above and coloured underfloor lighting, she tells you her story as she uses the space restriction to advantage, making every move count, conveying her feelings at each point. Partner Eric and co-worker ’19’ really do come alive in the telling.

It might be a monologue, but in Christopher Haydon’s staging of George Brant’s play is tense, dramatic and gripping; if only all monologues were. Terrific.

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This is a very clever way to explain the events of, leading to and following, the 2008 financial crash, though the view of one of my companions – that it changes each night depending on the composition of the audience – is I suspect true. We had a large party of young people who were very much game for participation which resulted in a loud, exuberant (and exhausting!) 110 minutes.

You’re split into two teams as one of the two actors introduces the evening in separate spaces. In particular, you have to choose a ‘unique talent’. Ours was rapping a particular song (the alternative was a tongue up the nose!); the other team chose a dance move. This is the first game played to ‘earn’ some of the actual 10,000 £ coins on stage which are later ‘invested’; the others involve bubbles and balloons! In between, our ‘former hedge fund managers’ play out scenes explaining their short and long games and the other financial shenanigans which screwed up the world economy.

I found the mix between games and narrative a bit imbalanced, with the former taking too much of the evening and going beyond a creative concept to swamp the ‘play’ somewhat, and the contrast too sharp (one a touch superficial / one a bit dry). I suspect the young people thought the opposite, even though they calmed down and were quiet during the latter. The post-crash representation was a bit disappointing and overlong and the final vote a bit simplistic. That takes nothing away, though, from the inventive concept and high energy execution by Lucy Ellinson and Brian Ferguson who deserved a medal for managing it all so well last night.

Writer / director Clare Duffy has produced a brilliant introduction to theatre for young people and has had a good stab at the tough job of simplifying and making accessible & palatable the story of how we got into this mess. I’d like to see it with an audience of fellow GOMs (grumpy old men!) to test the theory, but I don’t think I have the energy to repeat last night’s in-your-face version.

Definitely something to experience, whatever your age!

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