Andersen's English (Out of Joint at West Yorkshire Playhouse), Jerusalem (Apollo Theatre), An Enemy of the People (Sheffield Crucible), Beating Berlusconi (York Theatre Royal), Murder in Samarkand (BBC Radio 4) w/c 22nd February 2010

The outsider seemed to be dominating the theatre in the performances that I have seen over the last few weeks.  I had listened  to David Hare’s radio play Murder in Samarkand on iPlayer, and following this saw several theatre productions which had the outsider as an ongoing theme.  Murder in Samarkand told the story of Craig Murray (played by David Tennant), who was the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan until he was removed from his post in October 2004 when stood up to the British establishment.  This seemed to set the tone for the week which  ended with watching Paul Duckworth solo performance in the studio at York Theatre Royal in Beating Berlusconi.  I also saw incredible performances from Mark Rylance as John ‘Rooster’ Byron in the spellbinding Jerusalem and Antony Sher as Tomas Stockmann in Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People at the newly opened  Sheffield Crucible.

Connections have been made between An Enemy of the People and Murder in Samarkand, and listening and watching the two productions so close together it is impossible not to miss the similarities of the two men standing out against society and standing up for their beliefs.*  In the Out of Stock Company production of Anderson’s English at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the outsider Hans Christian Andersen observes the domestic life of Charles Dickens, as he stays with him and his family at Gads Hill Place in Kent.  Andersen does not fit in well with this English world, and in many ways Andersen does not pick up on Dickens’ cruelty to his wife and children, but he presents the household to the audience who can clearly see this.  The Out of Stock production is thoughtful and surprising as well.  With its pretty domestic set, we think we are in for a comfortable evening, but without laying it on, the production subtly reveals Dickens’ rejection of his wife and lack of understanding of his children.

I addition, the theme of the outsider, Anderson’s English and Beating Berlusconi and Jerusalem explore nationality and specifically what is to be English.  Paul Duckworth plays a Liverpool fan, Kenny, who desperately tires to get a ticket for the 2005 European Cup Final.  Though this trip to the match in Istanbul  is the focus of the show, the play actually tells the like of Kenny Noonan, a lifelong Liverpool against the political background of Thatcherism and Blair.  it is clear from which political perspective Kenny comes from as invites the audience to boo at an image of Margaret Thatcher.  On the other hand, Jerusalem explores what it is to be English now, and deals with many issues which we are uncomfortable in discussing.  In his portrayal of Byron, Rylance takes the audience on his side.  We  laugh so much, but at the end I was left shocked.  It felt like a the destruction of a man, an individual, but also a way of life and to make choices in life.

Further Information


WOS on Jerusalem transfer to Apollo
Jerusalem at the Apollo in The Independent
Jerusalem at the Apollo in The Telegraph
Interview with Mark Rylance in The Telegraph
Mark Rylance interviewed in Official London Theatre
Jerusalem at the Apollo in The Evening Standard
The Independent on Royal Court Jerusalem
The Mail on Jerusalem
The Times on Jerusalem transfer interviews with Rylance…
Jerusalem article in The Telegraph
Jerusalem transfer to Apollo reviewed in The Guardian
Jerusalem at the Apollo in The Financial Times

An Enemy of the People

An Enemy of the People in The Independent
An Enemy of the People in the IOS
What the Critics say about The Enemy of the People
An Enemy of the People in The Telegraph
An Enemy of the People in The Observer
An Enemy of the People in The Financial Times
An Enemy of the People in The Times
An Enemy of the People in The Stage
An Enemy of the People in The Guardian

Andersen’s English…

Beating Berlusconi

Beating Berlusconi in the Press
Beating Berlusconi (in Edinburgh) reviewed in The Stage

* Poly G on Twitter said:  
Having listened to David Hare’s Murder in Samarkand on Rd4 two plays 130 years apart complimenting each other perfectly

Mark Kermode (City Screen York, 24th February 2010)

I engage with Dr Mark Kermode’s work rather a lot.  I listen to the Radio 5 podcast and watch his appearances on The Culture Show.  I also dip into his blogs and read some of his DVD reviews in The Observer.  This is why it was great to see him in the flesh on his tour.

At the City Screen in York, Dr K told stories from his book It’s Only a Movie.   Listening to the stories that I had just read in his book (an E version on Kindle by the way), brought the stories alive.   The book is funny and I could hear Dr K’s voice in the background as I read, but  seeing and hearing the stories being performed made them hilarious.   The reason for this is that Kermode is able to send himself up and doesn’t take himself too seriously.  On the evening, I saw him on tour, he told the story of how he was hand-bagged by Helen Mirren and how he blagged his way onto a radio show to discuss videos.  These stores were told to great effect with both actions and in different voices.

What was clear from reading his book, and hearing him talk about his life, is that Kermode has grabbed opportunities when they have come along.  He doesn’t sit mopping around, but through his career he has taken chances which have often paid off, such as ringing up Linda Blair’s agent and asking for an interview.  I felt that this must be inspirational for young people who really want to follow a particular path in life.  I asked Kermode in the Q and A what was the thing he was most proud off and he told the story of finding the cuts from Ken Russell’s The Devils.

Kermode is passionate about what he does and this clearly comes across.  He is also an expert in the subject of films.  Kermode’s approach is that he sees himself as the man in the street, commenting honestly on the films he sees.  As he said, this has meant that he has made negative comments to film makers about their films.   The audience in York  were clearly on his side and enjoyed the evening.

Measure For Measure (Almeida, 20th February 2010)

Measure for Measure is a play that deals with justice, the law, alongside sexuality and passion. In the Almeida production, Ben Miles plays the Duke as restless and anxious.  We are introduced to him pacing across the stage some fifteen minutes before the play has started. It is as if he has got up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep, because his conscience is niggling at him.

The pre show sets up a Duke who is unsure and almost desperate, but as the production progresses, as the friar, he becomes much more assured to the point he starts to play games with death. This aspect of his character is as unsettling as the fact he abdicates his responsibility and leaves the state in the hands of the deceitful Angelo.

Venice is a dark place, except for the colour brought by the prostitutes pole dancing in the background.   The set and costumes reflect the dark themes in the play.  There’s a thoughtful moment on stage where the Duke and Isabella are being dressed in religious robes.  His is a disguise, and hers, in contrast, is for real.

I thought that there was a really strong performance from Anna Maxwell Martin. She was particularly powerful in her moments of silence and in her speeches to Angelo.  For me, what was interesting about this production was the ending. Productions have tried to deal with the difficulty of whether Isabella accepts the Duke’s proposal or not.  Here Anna Maxwell Martin’ Isabella doesn’t need words, she looks at the Duke as if in him she sees a reflection of Angelo. Isabella might be able to fall to her knees to plead for the hypocritical Angelo, but it felt like she cannot forgive the Duke who, as the friar, used his power to take characters to an emotional abyss. 

I felt that this was a lovely thoughtful production with touches of humour, but a focus on sexual morality which didn’t feel dated at all.  

Reviews and Previews

Measure for Measure in The Evening Standard
Measure for Measure in The Guardian
Measure for Measure in The Stage
Interview with Rory Kinnear in Official London Theatre Guide
WOS on Measure for Measure at Almeida
Measure for Measure in the Official London Theatre Guide
Interview with Maxwell Martin in The Observer.
Measure for Measure in The Independent
Measure for Measure in The Financial Times
What’s On Stage round up of the reviews of Measure for Measure.

Frankie and Johnnie (West Yorkshire Playhouse, 18th February 2010)

Watching Frankie and Johnnie at the West Yorkshire Playhouse felt like a very intense two hours.  The play explored the lives of two lonely people getting together after they have had sex on their first date.   It focuses on the conversations between Frankie and Johnnie who both work together in a diner.  The characters move through a range of emotions and there is some humour.  We learn a little about their backgrounds, but at the end I’m not sure I cared enough about the two characters to hope they did have a future together.

There were two good performances from Rolf Saxon and Kelly Mcgillis, though Mcgillis did tend to scowl and grimace a lot.

Further Information