The Effect (National Theatre, November 2012- January 2013)

The-Effect-poster
Poster Image for The Effect (c) National Theatre

Experiment begins‘.

The audience is entering the auditorium of the Cottesloe Theatre, and they are also entering the waiting room of the Raushen Pharmaceutical Company where drug  trials will take place.  We are given wristbands to add to the effect that we are also patients in the trial.  Sitting on mustard yellow seats, on the red carpet the  next a small coffee table, I felt I my seat was actually on the set.

Lucy Prebble’s play explores whether falling in love is caused by chemicals in the brain, and whether depression can be cured by drugs, or is triggered by events in people’s lives. The debates are carefully conveyed through the dialogue between the four characters – two trialists and two doctors.

The play is such a success because of the dialogue and structure and because there are some fantastic performances from the cast.  There are two doctors, Toby and Lorna, played by Tom Goodman-Hill  and Anastasia Hille  and two trialists Connie played by Billie Piper  and Tristan played by Jonjo O’Neill.  Billie Piper and JonJo O’Neill were excellent in this production and really made me feel that they had really fallen in love.  Connie who tends to analyse, but when she is falling in love there is a sense of irony that she doesn’t really understand what is happening to her. Billie Piper is able to portray the awkwardness of the early moments of the relationship, such as fiddling with her hair, and the rubbing of the back of her shin with the other foot.  Much of the dialogue is very quick and there is a rhythm to it.  Some of the scenes are overlaid to great effect, and this was a device that the director Rupert Goold also used in his RSC Romeo and Juliet production.

The production is very visual.  Data is projected onto Connie and Tristan’s body and across the floor, as if this is how they might be made up. There’s a very poignant moment towards the end of the production, where Lorna mops up blood, and a brain projected onto the stage floor.

The shift from the clinic to the old asylum adds a lovely contrast and undermines the rigour and routine of the trial.  This is the moment that Tristan and Connie become closer. The highlight, which was Jonjo O’Neill’s tap dance. It reminded me of the time he danced to Mr Bojangles as part of the RSC Gala in 2011.  The Saturday Review reviewer said that the tap dance represented the exhilaration of falling in love, and I thought that was a lovely way to describe it.  The lovers/trialists are interrupted by Lorna and as an audience we don’t get our moment of applause, so I felt denied of my moment of acknowledgement and felt that the trialists had as well.  This makes the frustration conveyed as Connie and Tristan are kept apart after the discovery more relevant.

Just before the interval Tristan and Connie manage to escape the restrictions placed on them and meet in Connie’s room.  There’s a very tender scene between when they eventually make love.  In the interval, someone said to me that they didn’t want their heart broken, and there was a sense then that all would not be well at the end of the play.

The doctor scenes at times seemed a distraction from the young lovers, but they offered a contrast and another angle. I felt that the brain in the bucket was a little too slapstick and even though the TED style speech given by Toby does get across his viewpoint well, it did not work  in relation to the rest of the dialogue.  I think that was because I was so interested in Connie and Tristan, I wanted to see more of their narrative. However, as Lorna’s story was revealed, I was surprised, and as she moved towards the tablets at the end, it was if she’d been dissolved into the illusion that she so much wanted to dispute.

What kept me engaged throughout was that I felt I was so close to the performance both physically and emotionally.

Connie and Tristan walk off stage at the end of the play as Ingrid Michaelson’s ‘Keep Breathing’ is playing, it made me feel that there was some hope.

The Effect runs until Feb 23rd at the National Theatre.

Reviews (all links are to external sites)

2012

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2012 was the year that I kept thinking, I will blog about that and then never got round to it.  I always wanted to write some longer pieces on some of the productions, but I put it off, because I am working on a larger project that is taking up my time at the moment.  I will have to do better in 2013.  It was a year that we were warned to stay away from London, to avoid  transport chaos during the Olympics.  I don’t think tube delays happened, but I spent most of the summer in Stratford instead of London this year.

The highlight of the year for me was the RSC’s King John and Alex Waldmann’s death scene as he dances to a slightly speeded up Frankie Valli’s ‘Beggin”.  I really enjoyed the wedding scene and the night I sang ‘Say a Little Prayer’ with King John was something I will remember for a long time to come.  I have decided that the RSC’s Much Ado About Nothing ends up as my second highlight of 2012 .  I toyed with a joint second with the RSC’s Richard III, but in the end I think Much Ado just nudged ahead because it ended up summing up my summer for me.  I saw it one last time in London, and  the music, colours and ensemble performances had stuck in my mind.

Though the RSC’s Richard III was my third highlight, of course, this was also Jonjo O’Neill’s year.  Firstly, in Richard III and then in The Effect with Billie Piper.  The Effect gets my top spot in the theatre (other than Shakespeare) section. It was a lovely structured play and the two central performances were just great.  The best moment  in The Effect was Jonjo’s tap dance.  I saw Richard III so many times and got to know it well.  I also saw it grow and develop over the year.  it was a funny and clear production, and Jonjo was the master showman, a perfect Richard.

The RSC wasn’t all good.  The shipwreck season was very much a disappointment and Troilus and Cressida – well what can say further about it other than what I blogged in August?

As the summer was ending, I caught the original practice productions at  Richard III and Twelfth Night at The Globe.  I had really enjoyed the Globe’s Taming of the Shrew, mainly because Jamie Beamish was in it.

There are several Royal Court productions in my top theatre section including In Basildon which was very close to the top of my theatre list.

I saw a few exhibitions and paid many visits to the Shakespeare exhibition at the British Museum.  I really enjoyed the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at Tate Britain, and will visit at least one more time before it closes.

Here’s my top lists for 2012:

Shakespeare

1.King John (RSC, The Swan)

2. Much Ado About Nothing RSC, Noel Coward and The Courtyard).

3. Richard III  (RSC, The Swan)

4. Taming of the Shrew (RSC, RST).

5. Julius Caesar (RSC, Theatre Royal Newcastle)

6. Richard III (The Globe)

7.The Winter’s Tale (Propeller, Lyceum, Sheffield)

8. Twelfth Night (The Globe)

9. Timon of Athens (National Theatre)

10. Taming of the Shrew (The Globe)

11. Macbeth (Sheffield Crucible)

12. Henry V (Propeller, Lowry Salford)

13. Henry V (The Globe)

14. Antony and Cleopatra (Oyun Atölyesi company, The Globe)

15. Measure for Measure (RSC, RST)

16. Love Labour’s Lost (Northern Broadsides, The Dukes & York Theatre Royal)

17. Twelfth Night (RSC, RST)

18. The Tempest (RSC, RST)

19. Troilus and Cressida (RSC/Wooster Group, The Swan)

20. The Comedy of Errors (RSC, RST)

Theatre 

1. The Effect (National Theatre)

2. In Basildon (Royal Court)

3. Posh (Royal Court in the West End, Duke of York)

4. She Stoops to Conquer (National Theatre)

5. The Recruiting Officer (Donmar)

6. The Duchess of Malfi (Old Vic)

7. Jumpy (Royal Court in the West End, Duke of York)

8.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It) (Dmitry Krymov’s company RSC)

9.  Hero (The Royal Court)

10. Hedda Gabler (The Old Vic)

11. Miss Julie (Manchester, Royal Exchange)

12. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (West Yorkshire Playhouse)

13. The Judas Kiss (Hampshire)

14. The Physicists (Donmar)

15. Three Sisters (The Young Vic)

16. The Changeling (The Young Vic)

17.  People (National Theatre)

18. Steptoe and Son (Kneehigh, West Yorkshire Playhouse)

19. Blackta (Young Vic)

20. Privates on Parade (Michael Grandage Company, The Noel Coward Theatre)

Exhibitions

1. PreRaphaelites (Tate Britain)

2. Shakespeare: staging the world (British Museum)

3. Johann Zoffany RA: Society Observed (Royal Academy)

4. David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture (Royal Academy)

5. Lucien Freud (Portraits)

6.  Munch: The promise of modernity

7. Damien Hirst (Tate Modern)

8. Bronze (Royal Academy)

9. Someday all the Adults will die (Haywood Gallery)

10. Edward Munch (The Modern Eye) (Tate Modern)

11. Turner Prize 2012

12. The Lost Prince (National Portrait Gallery)

13. Picasso and Modern British Art (Tate Britain)

14. Hajj: Journey into the Heart of Islam (British Museum)

15. Yavoi Kusama (Tate Modern)

16. Royal Academy Summer Show

17. A Bigger Splash. Painting after Performance. (Tate Modern)

18. The Queen (National Portrait Gallery)

19. John Martin (at the Tate Britain for the few days that it was still open in Jan 2012, but this was my highlight of 2011).

20. William Klein + Daido Moriyama (Tate Modern).

Comedy of Errors (National Theatre, 31st December 2011)

The Olivier stage is a large space and this production uses the space extremely well. The large towering buildings move around to represent different parts of the city, and even become the shipwreck where the twins were separated.  There is a sense of the commercial business taking place in the city as well as the darker aspects of life there, such as the prostitutes and the hustlers.  Though on the surface things seem fine, underneath there is a more sinister side as the potential execution of a man hovers over the events.

I thought that Lenny Henry (Antipholus of Syracuse) was spot on with the verse speaking.  He used a Nigerian accent and this worked well and also added to the comedy because his twin did not have the same accent.  A points we got some of Henry’s stock voices (and faces), but I didn’t feel they intruded. Playing alongside Henry, Chris Jarman is extremely good as Antipholus of Ephesus.   It was great to see him in something else after playing the Prince of Morocco in the recent RSC Merchant of Venice. There are also two great performances from Claudie Blakey as Adriana and Michelle Terry as her sister, who manage to negotiate extremely high heels as they try to make sense of the strange behaviour of the men around them.

The production left me wondering why anyone doesn’t catch on to the fact that the twins from Syracuse have arrived in town, especially as the father explained the circumstances at the start of the play.  The play is about confusion and mistaken identity and this leads to the slapstick humour, which is wonderfully highlighted when the twins from Syracuse arrive and cause mayhem in the town square, ending in a traditional pie in the face.  The band link scenes extremely well as they sing pop songs in a foreign language .

I thought this production was extremely entertaining and I am looking forward to seeing how it looks on NT Live.

Reviews and Previews

The Comedy of Errors, National Theatre (Olivier), London – FT.com

The Comedy of Errors, National Theatre – review | Theatre

Blogs

There Ought to be Clowns

Rev Stan

2011

In 2011, the sublime was a popular topic of discussion. At the National Theatre there was Frankenstein and  in the John Martin exhibition at the Tate, the sublime was on show in a spectacular way. The John Martin exhibition was my favourite exhibition of the year. The epic was presented on grand canvases, but what I loved was getting really close to the paintings to see the detail. Earthly worlds melted into fantastical worlds and where one started and the other finished it was really hard to see.  I missed out on seeing Jonny Lee Miller as the creature, but glad I got to see Benedict Cumberbatch in the role in April.

Though I was delighted by the great John Martin exhibition on a trip to Manchester, I was also impressed by the Ford Maddox Brown exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery. It was good to see other works alongside Work.

The Royal Shakespeare Company came home to perform in the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in February.  Some of the productions that I liked  in 2011 were at the end of the long ensemble’s run, but I also looked forward to what the new company arriving.  In Stratford, there seemed to be so many ‘opening’  nights that every time I went to Stratford was some kind of event – the first night, the press night, and the queen opening the new theatre.  I was lucky to get tickets to see Katy Stephen play Cleopatra in a much more stripped down emotional version of the long ensemble’s Antony and Cleopatra  in the Swan theatre.  When the opening nights were over, the last night of the long ensemble seemed to happen so quickly.  The last day  that the long ensemble performed in Stratford was a great occasion because I saw three plays in a day and the last time I would see Rupert Goold’s Romeo and Juliet.  The long ensembles’ last work in Britain was three new plays at Hampstead Theatre.

Kathryn Hunter’s Cleopatra got mixed reviews. It was a performance I had grown to like, and I was so pleased I got to see her in Kafka’s Monkey in July. This was a polished and extraordinary piece of physical theatre.

The new company arrived at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre with a Macbeth and a thought-provoking Merchant of Venice. The critics seemed to prefer A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but out of the three main house Shakespeare productions, I thought this was the least inventive and exciting.  This was a production with Bottom wearing his packed lunch in inventive ways as he sleeps with the fairy queen and which the real world transformed into the woods in such a way, we were meant to feel that elements of the court world were seeping into the dream world.  Michael Boyd’s Macbeth played with time and the souls of the dead haunting the stage.  Rupert Goold’s Merchant of Venice gave Portia a central role in a production set in Las Vegas.   However, the joy for me was the Homecoming at the Swan.  This was a beautifully nuanced piece of work and for me beautifully captured the tone and mood of play.

Beauty was on show in the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at the National Galley and in Eddie Redmayne’s Richard II at the Donmar Warehouse. Unlike the John Martin exhibition it was so hard to get up clue to anything in the popular National Gallery show. It was so nice to be directed through the gallery past the other Renaissance pairings to the exhibition around the Last Supper.  I really enjoyed Redmayne’s performance as Richard falling apart in from to me.

In other Shakespearean productions, Kevin Spacey’s Richard III which was fantastic and brutal and The Tempest at the Haymarket was a little plodding with a nice performance from Nicholas Lyndhust.

I found the Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World (British Museum) fascinating, and  I felt that I should have enjoyed the Grayson Perry at the British Museum more than I did.  I was drawn to the Glamour of the Gods at the National Portrait Gallery, which is always a great place to visit before a matinée.

I saw five different production of Hamlet in 2011, starting the year with the wonderful production at the National Theatre, and finishing with Michael Sheen’s performance in the Young Vic’s production  which was set in a mental hospital.   The other Hamlets were the Northern Broadsides, the RSC Young Person’s wonderful production and the Globe’s touring production.

I saw three different Comedy of Errors.  The year with the magnificent all male Propeller  Company production in Sheffield and finished the year with the National’s lively production. Lenny Henry was spot on with the verse and the set really worked on the large Olivier stage. Though both these productions were superb, I also really liked the RSC Young Person’s version which I saw for the first time when it was last performed  in April.

Not all the cultural events have been memorable. In thinking about the past year, I’d totally forgotten about seeing Twelfth Night at the National Theatre until I heard someone on the radio saying that Charles Edwards was their choice for actor of the year. They reminded me that not only had he been a superb Benedick, but he’d also been a decent Sir Andrew in a dull production at the National Theatre.

Much Ado About Nothing scaffolded the year for me personally . It had been a long time since I’d seen a production, nd then two excellent, but very different productions came along. I loved the Globe’s detailed production and Eve Best’s wonderful performance as Beatrice. I was so surprised when she played the ‘Kill Claudio’ line for laughs. Over the river at the Wyndham’s Theatre was the commercial 1980’s concept production which I saw many times starting with the first night. It was great fun and the performances from David Tennant and  Catherine Tate were great and totally in context in this production. There was some comment that the audience only laughed because they saw David Tennant on stage, but when Alex Beckett took over from David Tennant for two nights the laughs came in the same places and it seemed the audience enjoyed the production and still gave it a standing ovation.

…..and my highlight of 2011 was Adam James’ Don Pedro in the Wyndham’s Much Ado About Nothing. It was a wonderful performance that seemed to catch the character so well.  James made everything look so easy, but actually it was his supporting performance that made it possible for Tate and Tennant to give great comic performances.

Best of 2011

Here is my best of.. lists. The following post discusses what I thought about the year.

Shakespeare in the Theatre

1. Romeo and Juliet (RSC at the RST)

2. Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)

3. Hamlet (The National Theatre)

4. Much Ado About Nothing (Wyndham’s)

5.The Comedy of Errors (Propeller at Sheffield)

6. Antony and Cleopatra with Katy Stephens and Darrell D’Silva (RSC at the RST)

7. Macbeth (RSC)

8. The Merchant of Venice (RSC)

9. King Lear (RSC at the RST and Roundhouse)

10. Hamlet (Young Vic)

11. Othello (The Crucible, Sheffield)

12. As You Like It (RSC at Roundhouse)

13. Macbeth (Liverpool Everyman)

14. All Well That End’s Well (The Globe)

15. The Comedy of Errors (Young Person’s at RSC)

16. Hamlet (Northern Broadsides at West Yorkshire Playhouse)

17. Hamlet (Globe touring)

18. The Comedy of Errors (National Theatre)

19. Richard III (Old Vic)

20. Richard II (Donmar)

21. Hamlet (Young Person’s at RSC)

22.  King Lear (West Yorkshire Playhouse)

23.  The Tempest (Theatre Royal, Haymarket)

24.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream (RSC, RST)

25. Twelfth Night (National Theatre)

Other Theatre

1. Jerusalem (Apollo)

2. The Homecoming (RSC at the Swan)

3. Frankenstein (The National)

4. One Man, Two Guvnors (The Lowry)

5. Anna Christie (Donmar)

6. The City Madam (RSC, The Swan)

7. Dr Faustus (The Globe)

8. Betrayal (Harold Pinter/Comedy)

9. Inadmissible Evidence (Donmar)

10. Cardenio (RSC, The Swan)

11. Rosencrantz and Guldenstern are Dead (Haymarket)

12. Grief (The National)

13. 13 (The National)

14. Silence (RSC at Hampstead)

15. Little Eagles (RSC at Hampstead)

16. Season’s Greetings (National Theatre)

17. Juno and the Paycock (National)

18. Cause Célèbre (Old Vic)

19. Deep Blue Sea (West Yorkshire Playhouse)

20. Moonlight (Donmar)

21. The Crucible (York Theatre Royal)

22. The Heretic (Royal Court)

23. Forty Years On (York Theatre Royal)

24. American Trade (RSC at Hampstead)

25. Beggar’s Opera (Belt Up at York Theatre Royal)

Note: Forty Years On is here for proud Mum reasons.

Exhibitions

1. John Martin (Tate Britain)

2. Ford Maddox Brown (Manchester City Art Gallery)

3. Degas (Royal Academy)

4. Leonardo da Vinci (National Gallery)

5. Juma Plensa (Yorkshire Sculpture Park)

6. Glamour of the Gods (National Portrait Gallery)

7. Gerhard Ritcher (Tate Modern)

8. First Actresses (National Portrait Gallery)

9. Miro (Tate Modern)

10. Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World (British Museum)

11. Gabriel Orozco (Tate Modern)

12. Watteau (Royal Academy)

13. Hokusai’s Great wave (British Museum)

14. Treasures of Heaven (British Museum)

15. Devotion by Design (National Gallery)

16. Royal Academy Summer Show 2012

17. Building the Revolution (Royal Academy )

18. Barry Flanagan (Tate Britain)

19. Grayson Perry (British Museum)

20. Tacita Dean (Tate Modern)

My great cultural moments of 2011

Meeting Sir Alan and Lady Ayckbourn

First night of Wyndham’s Much Ado About Nothing

Last night of Long Ensemble (2009-11) at Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Romeo and Juliet

First night of Long Ensemble (2009-11) at the opening of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre – King Lear

The performance of the year – Adam James as Don Pedro in Wyndham’s Much Ado About Nothing – just wonderful.

Edinburgh Festival

The RSC Ensemble Revealed at the Swan Theatre.

Best actor and actress

Best Actor – Adam James in Much Ado About Nothing (Wyndham’s)

Best Actress – Eve Best in Much Ado About Nothing (The Globe)