Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Review of 2010 - what was missed out: July

The Beauty Queen of Leenane

by Martin McDonagh

The Beauty Queen of Leenane is a black comedy by Martin McDonagh. In the past I’ve greatly enjoyed his play Pillowman and film In Bruges. Tonight’s play is one of his earlier works. It has a single set and takes place in the Irish mountains.

A forty-year-old single woman is looking after her aged housebound mother. The latter is monstrously demanding and at first our sympathies are with the daughter. As the action progresses we slowly realise the two of them are in a mutually abusive yet dependent relationship.

The daughter’s attempts to find late-flowering love with a visiting neighbour prove to be doomed. There is much black comedy and overturning of expectation. There is even murder and a cruel denouement. Altogether excellent drama, well performed and staged.

Young Vic

Danton’s Death

By Georg Buchner in a version by Howard Brenton

Georg Buchner’s play deals with some events of the French Revolution and the ideological clash between Georges Danton and Robespierre. It is presented in a new version by Howard Brenton which makes for a shorter and – some might argue – more comprehensible evening.

It’s simply staged on two levels – there’s a bare lower area with numerous doors entering on to the performance space. There’s also a balcony above with giant shuttered windows.

The play is discursive, the performance of Toby Stephens as Danton could be seen as irritatingly mannered. The guillotine scene at the play’s climax is effective, though. The debate about how far revolution should go is sort of ok but fails to engage or involve. Overall it was a slightly disappointing production.


Shakespeare The Man From Stratford

By Jonathan Bate

Simon Callow performs a one man show based on Jonathan Bate’s book about Shakespeare. It’s an impressive and crowd-pleasing synthesis of Shakespearean anecdote interspersed with quotations from the plays. The form follows the seven ages of man.

Callow gives a bravura performance: and the show is a combination of entertainment and information. The entertainment is undeniable; the information is academically unexciting but theatrically good. Simply staged this is an effective and enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

Richmond Theatre

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