Thursday, 19 July 2018

Review: Honey

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Honey.
This week I had the pleasure of making my first visit to 'The Cockpit' in Marylebone to see the enchanting tale of Honey, written and directed by Tiffany Hosking.

A patchwork of life in the Welsh mountains, Honey is an intimate story that intricately weaves together the lives of a boy with autism who loves to dance, his mother and her tattoo-artist sister, and those that want to love them. I found the storyline of Honey to be exceedingly engaging. For 2 hours, from beginning to end, I was engrossed within the play. Hosking's writing is utterly gripping. The dynamics and changing relationships between the four characters makes for fascinating viewing. All four characters have subtle progressions at the play goes on, which was particularly interesting to observe. The story felt very true to life, and it seemed as if these characters could have easily been real people. Additionally, I was rather impressed with the way in which the play tackles the subject of autism. Its portrayal of a 22 year old suffering with severe autism was particularly moving, and the dedication shown by his family was inspiring.

As Anwen, the devoted Mother of Caron, Vey Straker gives a heartwarming portrayal. The character makes multiple sacrifices for her autistic son and is extremely dedicated to him, which I felt Straker perfectly encaptured in her performance. Additionally, she had an exceptional Welsh accent that didn't falter whatsoever throughout the course of the play. Callan Durrant, in the role of autistic son Caron, only speaks once throughout the duration of the play, however despite this Durrant creates an outstanding characterisation. His soliloquy which provides Caron with a voice to present his views on living life with autism was rather powerful. Portraying Caron's aunt, Celandine, is Jemma Lewis. Lewis has also created a wonderful characterisation for Celandine, the caring sister and aunt who is willing to give her all to help those around her. The warmth and kind-heartededness of Celandine is wonderfully performed. I felt that the scenes where Lewis truly shined was when Celandine would dance with her nephew. Choosing to dance like a bee with her nephew, real and heartwarming humanity was shown. I found that those particular scenes provided examples that you do not need to have dialogue to show connection, humanity and compassion. Jenni Lea Jones, as half-sister Armes, is also outstanding. Throughout the play, Jones makes it easy for the audience to have sympathy for her character, excellently showing her pain and struggles during her soliloquy's.

The lighting, which has been designed by Ben Hughes, is superlative and highly effective. I particularly liked the use of the spotlights, as well as the glowing honey pots which are used during moments of darkness.

The featured star of Honey is, drum roll please... JEMMA LEWIS!

Lewis's characterisation and portrayal of Celandine is excellent. The sequences in which the character of Celandine dances with her autistic nephew are charming and real signs of humanity are clearly shown. Jemma Lewis was utterly faultless!

Now for my final verdict on Honey. I give Honey...

Honey is undoubtedly worthy of a four star rating. The story is delightful, the cast are wonderful and the lighting design is remarkable!

Think it should have got a higher rating? Agree with my rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below.

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Friday, 13 July 2018

Review: Red

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Red.
My plan to kick of the Summer holidays was to visit London and visit the West End. After researching what was playing in London this week, I took the decision to go and see John Logan's Tony Award winning play 'Red', starring Alfred Molina and Alfred Enoch.

Red follows real-life artist Mark Rothko, under the watchful gaze of his young assistant and the threatening presence of a new generation of artists. In Red, Rothko must take on the greatest challenge of his career as an artist to date: to create definitive work for an extraordinary setting. The story that Red tells was not necessarily my cup of tea, which may have been due to the fact that I am not an art buff, but there can be no denying that Logan's writing is exceptionally clever. Red provides some interesting, and rather unique, viewpoints on art, people and simply life in general. The two characters, the artist and his assistant, go head to head on several issues, demonstrating opposing views. Mark Rothko takes an extremely cynical view upon life, stating that 'one day black will swallow red, whilst young apprentice Ken appears to be somewhat more optimistic about what the future may hold. The dialogue is exceedingly well-written and it certainly gives the audience a lot to consider once they leave the theatre.

Reprising the role of Mark Rothko after performing it to great acclaim at the Donmar Warehouse in 2009 and on Broadway in 2010, is Alfred Molina. In this role, Molina has created and outstanding characterisation; he presents Rothko as deeply flawed and troubled, and despite the fact that the character could be seen as being unlikable, the humanity that Molina provides in the role makes it rather difficult not to feel a touch of sympathy towards Rothko. It is an utterly captivating performance, and it was thrilling to watch. As his devoted young apprentice Ken, Alfred Enoch also gives a very interesting characterisation. He portrays the character as being both vulnerable and somewhat innocent, which contrasts nicely with Rothko's aggressive nature. Roughly half-way through the play, Ken does a monologue telling his employer of the day his parents were horrifically murdered by a burglar. This monologue was delivered beautifully by Enoch, and it was truly heart-wrenching.

I was particularly impressed with the set design, which has been created by Christopher Oram. The set depicts the art studio, where the walls are covered with Rothko's paintings, each filled with an endless amount of red. I felt that the design perfectly enraptured exactly what a 1950s New York art studio would have looked like, which helped to emphasise how life-like this play actually was.

The featured star of Red is, drum roll please... ALFRED MOLINA!

I went back and forth with this choice, as both Alfred Molina and Alfred Enoch are equally talented, and therefore equally deserving. Eventually, I chose Alfred Molina for featured star. Molina's performance is gripping; throughout the hour and a half of the play the audience simply cannot take their eyes off of him. The characterisation and persona he has created for this role is excellent, and it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into it.

Now for my final verdict on Red. I give Red...

The story that Red tells is not one that left a large effect on me which, as I mentioned earlier, could be due to the fact that I am not an art buff. Having said that, Molina and Enoch provide two outstanding performances, which are worth the ticket price alone.

Think it should have gotten a higher rating? Agree with my rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below.

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Friday, 6 July 2018

Review: The Jungle

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of The Jungle.
On Thursday evening, I entered the Playhouse Theatre knowing very little about the play I was about to witness. As soon as I stepped inside I was immediately struck by the reinvention of the theatre; the venue had been transformed into a refugee camp. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. I then realised that the play I was about to watch was something very, very special.

The Jungle is the place where people suffered and dreamed. In this moving production, we meet the hopeful and resilient residents of 'The Jungle' - situated just across the Channel and right on our doorstep. The play tells stories of loss, fear, community and hope, of the Calais camp's creation and of its eventual destruction. This is a very heartbreaking and touching story, and one which I am confident will provoke an emotional response from all of those that watch it. The struggles that the characters within the play have to deal with are utterly horrendous, and I am sure the various tales of suffering would have been more than enough to make all audience members grateful for all that they have in their lives. Whilst it is one thing to acknowledge the difficulties faced by the characters in this play though, it is particularly important to point out that almost all of The Jungle has been based on real life encounters; the horrific struggles and suffering depicted in the play are all issues that certain individuals have actually lived through. We as audience members cannot pretend this is fiction, because all of it has genuinely happened. It's therefore rather eye-opening, showing the audience that the migrant crisis is an issue that needs to be dealt with more effectively and quickly.

It is somewhat rare for me to speak of the direction of a piece of theatre, however I feel that this production deserves to be an exception to the norm. The Jungle is performed in-the-round, meaning that this must be a fairly difficult piece to stage, however co-directors Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin have done wonders with this production. I commend both Daldry and Martin for their superlative staging!

The cast of The Jungle are incredible; there can be no other word to describe them. The pain, suffering, passion and raw emotion displayed by each performer was quite phenomenal. This show's cast had quite a rare quality to them; they were all equally talented. There are many productions for which I am able to choose stand-out cast members, but that is exceedingly difficult in this instance. There are no weak links whatsoever, and each cast member shines in their own right. Additionally, it is rather interesting to see a number of refugees starring in the play. For a certain number of the actors, they are not simply telling a fictitious story of refugees travelling to the United Kingdom: this is their own life story.

The set design, created by Miriam Buether, was extraordinary. As previously mentioned, the Playhouse Theatre has been completely redesigned, pulling the audience into the heart of the Calais Jungle. All of the seats within the stalls have been completely removed, and instead benches with bar-like tables have been placed on either side of the long and narrow stage. The atmosphere created as a result of this design is terrifically immersive. With the actors no more than a few inches away from you, the audience are a part of the play. It feels like we are actually living there with them in the refugee camp. I was also rather impressed with the costume design, which has been created by Catherine Kodicek. All of the costumes within the play were remarkably realistic, therefore continuing the effort to make the play as life-like as possible. The lighting design is also admirable, which proved to be tremendously effective throughout the duration of the play, especially during the scene in which police descended into the Calais Jungle.

I found the whole experience to be illuminating and I am thrilled to have gotten the opportunity to watch this tremendous piece of theatre.

The featured star of The Jungle is, drum roll please... BEN TURNER!

This decision was unbearably difficult to make, due to the fact that all of the cast were on an equal footing. I even went as far to consider scrapping the 'featured star' portion of this review for the first since I have started blogging, as it was such a hard choice to make. In the end however, I decided that I would stick to tradition and choose a featured star, and therefore I selected Ben Turner, who portrayed Salar. Turner is an incredible actor, and the passion and energy which he puts into his performance is stunning.

Now for my final verdict on The Jungle. I give The Jungle...

The Jungle has everything going for it; fantastic writing, clever staging, a phenomenal cast and some incredible designs. It is undoubtedly, and deservedly, a 5 star production!

Agree with my rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below. 

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Review: The King and I

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of The King and I.
I had previously seen the Lincoln Center Theatre production of The King and I in Washington, D.C. last Summer, starring Laura Michelle Kelly and Jose Llana. The production that i viewed in Washington was very enjoyable, however there were a few issues with the set, lighting and sound design. I was therefore rather interested in seeing the West End transfer to see if there were any differences. I am pleased to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the West End transfer, and there were absolutely no issues with either the sound or lighting design. As a result, I found this production to be far more enjoyable than the version that I had seen in Washington, D.C.

The score of The King and I, composed by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, is truly delightful. It is filled with a great deal of memorable songs, which I will personally never tire of. There are some beautiful melodies throughout the show and the lyrics are particularly witty. Personal favourites of mine include 'Hello, Young Lovers', 'The March of Siamese Children', 'Getting to Know You' and 'Shall We Dance?'.

After performing the role of Anna Leonowens on Broadway and receiving a Tony Award for her portrayal, Kelli O'Hara is now making her West End debut with this performance. O'Hara is so utterly perfect for the role of Anna. There is a large amount of warmth in her portrayal, making her interactions with the Royal Children a delight to watch. O'Hara also has a beautiful voice; all of the songs of which she performed were enchanting. Additionally, her pronunciation when singing is very good and all of what she says is crystal clear. Playing opposite Kelli O'Hara is Ken Watanabe as the King of Siam, who also performed the role on Broadway and is also making his West End debut. I personally found Watanabe's characterisation of the role to be rather effective. He begins by portraying the King of Siam as being rather serious and somewhat impulsive, however his humanity and caring side is later shown during his interactions with Anna, and this was perfectly enraptured by Watanabe's performance.

On the creative side of things, this production excels for the most part. The costumes, which have been designed by Catherine Zuber, are magnificent. The bright colours and extensive details of the costumes are splendid, and they may be amongst the best costumes I have ever seen on a West End stage. The lighting design was also rather effective. Considering that the US Tour version of this production appeared to have certain difficulties with lighting, I was pleased to see that there were absolutely no issues with lighting at the London Palladium. Another aspect which was rather impressive was the choreography, all of which was carried out flawlessly by a brilliant ensemble. My only criticism for the creative aspects of this play would be the scenery. Whilst the set used in the opening scene is astounding, the rest of the show is performed in front of a grey castle wall back-drop, which appeared to be somewhat bland.

My only other criticism for this production would be the musical number 'The Small House of Uncle Thomas'. This ballet, which takes place in Act 2, currently stands at being just under 15 minutes long. I personally felt that the length of this number could be shortened, as in its current form it feels a little too long.

I am very glad that The King and I has returned to the West End, and I am thrilled that Kelli O'Hara and Ken Watanabe have reprised their performances for this production. I was delighted to have the opportunity to see The King and I once again!

The featured star of The King and I is, drum roll please... KELLI O'HARA!

I have awarded Kelli O'Hara with the title of featured star as she truly was flawless. Her performance was a delight to watch and she seems so well-suited to the role of Anna. Her renditions of songs such as 'Hello, Young Lovers' and 'Getting to Know You' are spectacular!

Now for my final verdict on The King and I. I give The King and I...

When I first saw the production in Washington, D.C., I gave it three stars due to the fact that there were issues with both the lighting and sounds design. However, as the West End transfer has rectified these issues, I believe that the production is worthy of four stars!

Think it should have got a higher rating? Agree with my rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below.

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Review: The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of The Lieutenant of Inishmore.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a black comedy by playwright Martin McDonagh. I had previously seen a McDonagh play in 2013, when I went to see The Cripple of Inishmaan starring Daniel Radcliffe. I was highly impressed with The Cripple of Inishmaan and therefore I was rather interested in seeing another of McDonagh's works. Additionally, this particular production has been directed by Michael Grandage, who also directed The Cripple of Inishmaan, as well as other favourites of mine such as Peter and Alice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Photograph 51 and Labour of Love.

The Lieutenant of Inishmore tells the story of Mad Padraic and his cat, who is knocked over on a lonely road on the island of Inishmore. Who committed this murder and was it an accident? These are the questions Mad Padraic will want to know when he gets back from a stint of torture and chip-shop bombing in Northern Ireland; he loves that cat more than life itself. The characters in the Lieutenant of Inishmore are really interesting; each and every one of them are deeply flawed and they are all either demented or unbelievably unintelligent. The interactions and dialogue between these different characters makes for riveting viewing. All eight characters are excellently written. My only criticism in regards to the storyline is that I felt there could have been more to it. The themes explored throughout the duration of the play are fascinating, and I felt that had the play been longer, it could have explored such themes in more depth. The play currently stands at 1 hours and 45 minutes, including a 15 minutes interval, so I would personally suggest extending the play.

Starring in the leading role of Irish National Liberation Army terrorist Padraic is Aidan Turner.Turner excels in this role, convincingly portraying both the deeply disturbed and psychotic side of the character, as well as his sadder and more sympathetic side. Turner successfully conveys the terror needed for the character by clearly demonstrating his unpredictable nature. As Padraic's Father, Donny, Denis Conway perfectly captures the archetypical Irish man in his 50's living a simple and quiet life on a small remote Island. Conway is perfectly cast in the role and had good chemistry with fellow cast members Aidan Turner and Chris Walley. In the role of Davey, the young boy who accidentally gets caught up in Padraic's acts of terrorism, stars Chris Walley. Walley was outstandingly hilarious; each and every one of the lines that he delivered were extremely amusing. It was Walley that I would argue provided the funniest moments throughout the entirety of the play. In the role of Davey's young sister Mairead, who wants nothing more than to become a so-called 'freedom fighter', was Charlie Murphy. I particularly liked Murphy's characterisation of the role. Her performance is solid, and I was especially impressed with her singing voice. The remainder of the cast includes Will Irvine in the role of Christy, Brian Martin in the role of James, Daryl McCorrmack in the role of Brendan and Julian Moore-Cook in the role of Joey. These four actors were all exceptional, and each added barrels of humour to the play.

The featured star of The Lieutenant of Inishmore is, drum roll please... CHRIS WALLEY!

My two choices for featured star were Aidan Turner and Chris Walley, which left me with a difficult decision to make. Both actors gave phenomenal performances, and they appear to be rather equal. In the end, I eventually chose to award it to Chris Walley, due to the humour that he provided to the production. Walley leaves the audience in stitches, and I doubt the play would have been as funny without his presence.

Now for my final verdict on The Lieutenant of Inishmore. I give The Lieutenant of Inishmore...

The Lieutenant of Inishmore is certainly something else; it was like nothing I had ever seen before. As a result of the show's stellar cast, I have decided to award this production three stars!

Think it should have got a higher rating? Agree with my rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below.

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer