Posts Tagged ‘Nick Bagnall’

Simon Armitage has cleverly adapted Homer’s Odyssey with a modern setting. In the original, it’s ten years since the fall of Troy and Odysseus hasn’t returned to Ithaca. His palace where wife Penelope and son Telemachus wait has ben overrun by a rowdy mob. Unbeknown to them, he is having a nightmare journey involving imprisonment, attack by a Cyclops, sirens and storms.

In Armitage’s version, Odysseus is cabinet minister Smith in a government about to fight an election. The PM (Zeus) sends him to Istanbul to watch England play Turkey in a World Cup qualifier, despite his protestations that he’ll miss his son Magnus’ (Telemachus) 18th. He gets caught up in a post-match bar room brawl trying to stop England fans attack a Muslim girl but photographed looking as if he’s the attacker. Running away, his journey home (Ithaca) begins and it of course mirrors the journey of Odysseus. Back in the UK, his political colleagues are preparing to disown him and his wife (Penelope) to sell her story to the highest bidding paparazzi (rowdy mob!) which she has invited into her home. During this, Magnus is reading the book he has been for his birthday by the PM’s aide – The Odyssey.

It’s all very clever and it’s also very funny, but I failed to see the point of the adaptation. It starts well, but as it progresses it does seem ever more contrived, implausible and preposterous. That said, it does entertain and you can’t help but admire it. Colin Tierney is excellent as Smith / Odysseus and Simon Dutton is perfect as the PM. I really liked Polly Frame as the PM’s aide / daughter and there’s good support from the other eight actors. It’s simply staged by Nick Bagnall who uses the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse well, though it doesn’t need this space (and has played other very different ones on tour).

An inventive and entertaining evening, but not an essential one.

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This stage adaptation by poet Simon Armitage takes (Greek) Homer and (Roman) Virgil’s poems, written 600 years apart, as its sources. It reduces the characters to a handful of Greeks, a handful of Trojans and four gods and concentrates on the personal stories of the opposing sides and it works very well indeed.

A seller of nick-nacks who poses as the god Zeus for the tourists at the archaeological site that was once Troy acts as narrator; this is a clever idea which adds much humour to proceedings. The war has been going on for ten years and the frustration of both sides at the stalemate is obvious as we move between encampments. Odysseus sends Achilles friend Patroclus into combat, posing as Achilles, and his death sends Achilles into a rage with his own people and intent on revenge against Troy’s Hector, who killed him, and it’s these two brilliantly staged fights which form the tragic core of the play.

I’m not sure why he cut Achilles death and wrote out Helen’s Greek husband Menelaus altogether, but I’m not sure it detracted. An excellent cast, with Richard Bremmer shining as Zeus and Jake Fairbrother a welcome newcomer (to me), deliver Armitage’s sparkling dialogue well, but it’s a bit unfair on them to give star billing to a model’s stage debut (and she has a song but can’t sing). Nick Bagnall’s staging is fine, very much at home in the Globe, but it’s the play itself that shines. Everything else is subservient to the writing. It’s great storytelling.

The Globe audience is becoming ever more challenging to regular theatregoers and my welcoming of theatrical virgins & novices and visitors was stretched to its limit by the amount of talking, eating and other distractions. I left wishing I’d seen it at the Royal Exchange in Manchester before its transfer.

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Considering the thinness of the material, they’ve worked wonders at the Landor to find enough fun in Andrew Lloyd Webber & Alan Ayckbourn’s 35-year old musical comedy to justify the revival – just!

It’s Panto meets farce meets Boys Own story, a play-within-a-play that’s very silly indeed. The story, dialogue and songs are entirely undistinguished and inconsequential, so it’s left to the performers and production team to mine it for whatever they can – and they certainly find a lot more laughs than you’d find on the page.

Kevin Trainor plays Wooster as a cheeky chappie, which provides some welcome charm, whilst Paul M Meston rightly plays it straight as Jeeves. The supporting cast is excellent; I particularly liked Charlotte Mills gung-ho turn as Honoria Glossop. Designer Morgan Large has created a finely detailed and brilliantly realistic village hall in this tiny space. Nick Bagnall’s staging fizzes with the chorus numbers superbly staged (and choreographed by Andrew Wright). There’s a fine four-piece on-stage band but they don’t have a score worthy of their talents and enthusiasm, I’m afraid.

There are six producers and associate producers, in addition to the Landor’s new in-house producer, listed in the programme which I suspect means they planned for life after the Landor? As much as I admired the production, in my opinion the show certainly doesn’t deserve that.

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