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Posts Tagged ‘Sule Rimi’

This 1995 play, set in 1930 Harlem, was the 10th by American playwright Pearl Cleage. She went on to write 7 more, but I think this is the only one we’ve seen in the UK. Based on this showing, with a great production by Lynette Linton and a handful of terrific performances, I’m wondering why we haven’t seen more.

Harlem in 1930 was going through what was called a renaissance. Writers and musicians flourished. Clubs. bars and speakeasies managed to navigate prohibition. The place had real style and white people flocked there to experience this edgy and somewhat hedonistic cocktail, but it’s four local characters and an arrival from Alabama that are at the centre of the story, with references to real people like Langston Hughes and Josephine Baker. I was surprised that homosexuality and birth control featured so prominently at this time in this place.

Guy Jacobs is a fashion designer who dreams of creating costumes for Baker. He’s openly homosexual, refusing to hide, something that seems to have been accepted by more people than it offended. He shares his apartment with singer, showgirl and friend Angel, who struggles to find her place in the world. Guy’s best friend Sam is a doctor who spends much of his free time letting his hair down with Guy & Angel, all three consuming large quantities of alcohol.

Neighbour Delia is preoccupied with promoting birth control, important in liberating local women, trying to set up an advice centre. She’s sweet on Sam and he on her, but they are more reserved than Guy and Angel so things take time to evolve. Angel’s latest man is like a fish out of water, religious and conservative, shocked by the open homosexuality and promotion of birth control, but she sees stability with him. His arrival, though, turns all of their world’s upside down.

The lead performances are all terrific. Giles Terera plays Guy as out and proud, loud and defiant. Ronke Adekoluejo’s Delia is shy but finds steely determination in her ambition for birth control and melts when her affection for Sam is reciprocated. Sule Rimi conveys Sam’s commitment to his profession as well as his love of the good life. Playing the unsympathetic character against these is hard, but Osy ikhile pulls it off as Leland. We’ve got used to valuing understudies more in recent years and on the night I went Helena Pipe stood in for the indisposed Samira Wiley and acquitted herself really well, with a word perfect interpretation in the pivotal role of Angel.

It lagged a bit in the first half as there was so much back story and scene setting, but the second half was a real dramatic tour de force. I really enjoyed this and would like see more of both Cleage’s writing and Linton’s directorial work.

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This black comedy is a stage adaptation of a much garlanded 2014 Swedish film by Ruben Ostlund. The American 2020 remake, Downhill, was a lot less successful it seems, and the stage version by Tim Price may illuminate why. I haven’t seen either film.

Tomas, Ebba, their teenage daughter Vera and young son Harry take a skiing holiday in the French Alps. On their first full day, whilst having lunch at a cafe at the top of the slopes, a controlled avalanche looks as if it is getting out of control and Tomas’ reaction has a profound effect on his family. That evening Ebba relates the tale to a guest she has befriended and the following day to Tomas’ friend and colleague Mats, who has by now arrived with his young girlfriend Jenny, during a drunken evening. In doing so, she embarrasses and humiliates Tomas. Things escalate as Tomas & Ebba’s relationship appears to disintegrate, affecting their children and contaminating Mats and Jenny’s relationship in the process. Whilst all this is going on, others party and the staff go about their business, but everyone knows there’s something up.

It’s often very funny, but also often uncomfortable. It makes us consider how we deal with different perceptions of the same event and our own and others’ flaws, and what happens when the acceptable / unacceptable line is crossed. The problem for me was the uneven pace, particularly in the multiple short scenes of the first 30 or 40 minutes. We were entertained during the scene changes by skiing, choreography and skiing choreography (!), but it still hampers the dramatic flow. The meatier scenes, like the drunken evening and Tomas and Ebba’s confrontation are excellent, though.

It isn’t easy to set a play in the Alps, but Jon Bausor’s design gives us ski slopes, restaurants & bars, bedrooms and an elevator on his brightly lit set. The four central characters are well played by Rory Kinnear, Lyndsey Marshal, Sule Rimi and Siena King, and there’s a fine supporting cast in Michael Longhurst’s production. As much as I enjoyed the evening, though, I couldn’t help wondering if it was really worth adapting for the stage.

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There’s something astonishing and wonderful about having two Arthur Miller classics revived at the same time at theatres on the same street less than 200 meters apart, at the Old and Young Vic’s. They were first staged two years apart, this being his first big hit 72 years ago. I’ve seen a number of great revivals over the years and this one is up there with the best. Seeing it sixteen hours after I’d left Death os a Salesman made me think how alike they are, though this is entirely naturalistic, without flashbacks and imaginary scenes. As productions, they are very different, Jeremy Herrin taking his lead from this naturalism and opting for a more conventional take and a realistic setting. Both however are absolutely unmissable.

It’s just after the end of the Second World War and only one of Joe & Kate Keller’s two sons have returned. Older son Larry is still missing in action, his mother convinced he’s still alive, whilst most think he’s dead. Younger son Chris has survivors guilt, though Larry’s girlfriend Ann is visiting and he is set on proposing marriage, despite his mother’s conviction. Chris works in his dad’s engineering business, which sold faulty parts to the military, resulting in deaths. His father’s business partner Steve Deever, Ann’s dad, took the rap and went to prison, though many think Joe is really to blame.

It’s a surprise that Broadway could stomach this story just two years after the war ended, but they did, and it ran for almost a year and was made into a film just one year later. It’s timeless, as Miller often is, with corporate ethics as much of an issue today, but it’s a family tragedy, so its as much about the complex relationships within and between the Keller’s and the Deever’s. Max Jones’ uber-realistic design places a suburban home and garden on the Old Vic stage in a way that draws you in, seemingly shrinking this big theatre, well at least from the stalls.

Jeremy Herrin’s production is impeccable, building the tension slowly, taking hold of you. As I was across the road the night before, I was in awe of the acting talent on stage. Bill Pullman’s performance as Joe has a naturalism that makes you forget he’s acting. Sally Field is superb as Kate, holding on to hope her son is alive and belief in her husband’s innocence. Colin Morgan navigates Chris’ complex emotional journey brilliantly. This appears to be Jenna Coleman’s stage debut, and an auspicious one it is too. In an excellent supporting cast, I very much admired Oliver Johnstone as George Deever and Sule Rimi and neighbour Dr Jim Bayliss.

How lucky we are to have two outstanding revivals of these modern classics at the same time. The informal Miller fest becomes a Miller feast on The Cut!

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This is amongst Shakespeare’s most moralistic plays. Vienna has degenerated into a debauched city and its Duke decides to take a break, putting Angelo in charge, though he is hovering in the background, monitoring activities in disguise as a friar. Well, it would’t be Shakespeare without someone in disguise. Angelo takes a no-mercy approach and condemns Claudio to death for having sex with his girlfriend outside marriage. Claudio’s sister Isabella delays her entrance into the nunnery to plead for her brother, when we see Angelo misuse his power in a way we now see daily.

This is filleted to a 75-minute version in period costume – a short, conventional but perfectly good staging of the play. A coup d’theatre then propels us forward to the present time, where the Duke appoints Isabella rather than Angelo, who is now Claudio’s brother, and we embark on a even more filleted 65-minute version, all mobile phones and other contemporary references, where the protagonists have changed gender. Josie Rourke’s production is both very clever and very timely.

Pete McKintosh’s simple set facilitated the show propelling forward 400 years in a matter of seconds, with the emphasis on costumes, lighting and music / sound. Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden are both excellent in their role reversals, and there are fine performances from Sule Rimi as Claudio, Nicholas Burns as the Duke, Matt Bardock as Lucio, Adam McNamara as the Provost and Raad Rawi as Escalus. Of course, everyone is required to exhibit different period behaviours, and Jackie Clune and Rachel Denning lead their band of prostitutes doing so brilliantly.

It does make an interesting and important point – how we treat the same situation differently depending on the sex of the protagonists, but it wasn’t as emphasised as I was expecting, and I did wonder if it was worth such a radical reinvention to make the point. Still, I much admired both the idea and its execution.

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I saw this play about the treatment of gay people in Uganda at the end of a week when the Anglican church was again pandering to the homophobia of African Anglicans; beat that for good timing. I was very impressed by playwright Chris Urch’s first play Land of My Fathers. This second play more than fulfils that promise; it’s stunning.

The relationship between young doctor Sam and student Dembe is the heart of the play. The problem is they are in Uganda where homosexuality is illegal and vigilantes out those they think are gay and subsequently persecute, even kill, them and ostracise and torment their families. Dembe is from a religious family, close to his twin sister Wummie and elder brother Joe. Their father has recently died and Joe has become pastor of their church. Family friend Mama is like a surrogate mother who has always thought her daughter Naome and Dembe were intended for one another. Sam is from Northern Ireland but has a Ugandan mother, hence his move to Uganda to practice medicine in her homeland.

The outing and persecution of gays begins and this tests relationships and challenges loyalties to family, friends and religion. A family friend is outed and killed and Joe refuses to officiate at his funeral for fear of reprisals. It’s hard to differentiate between attitudes and actions determined by fear and those determined by genuine beliefs and it becomes a complex web of responses to the horrific circumstances these people find themselves in.

Simply staged by Ellen McDougall in the round, the intimacy brings extraordinary audience engagement; you often feel part of the debate, having to resist the temptation to respond yourself. This is largely due to six brilliantly passionate performances. When Sule Rimi as Joe is preaching, you are the congregation and its riveting. In Julian Moore-Cook’s Sam and Fiston Barek’s Dembe’s more intimate moments, the relationship is so believable you feel uncomfortably voyeuristic. Faith Omole has real sibling chemistry with her stage brothers, Faith Alabi is brilliantly convincing as largely mute Naome and Jo Martin has great presence and charisma as Mama. Three of the cast are new since its run in Manchester last April, but on their second performance you’d have thought they’d all been together for a long time. Wonderful performances.

A well written play on an important subject, impeccably staged and superbly performed. What else can you ask for? GO!

 

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