Tag Archives: Addison Waite

Lysistrata
★★

Cockpit Theatre

Lysistrata

Lysistrata

Cockpit Theatre

Reviewed – 26th June 2019

★★

 

“While the show has a scattering of very funny lines, it’s mostly incomprehensible”

 

Perhaps you’ve heard the ancient Greek story about a nation’s women who, fed up with an interminable war, banded together to refuse men sex until they agreed to call off the fighting. This is the plot of Lysistrata by Aristophanes, first performed in Athens in 411 BC. The Delta Collective have revamped the play for the modern era, setting the story in a non-binary world.

Unfortunately, if you haven’t read the original play, this one won’t make much sense. Alice Carlill, Alex Kristoffy, Robin Kristoffy and Luke MacLeod’s adaptation takes almost no care to clarify who the characters are, where they are, and what they’re doing at any given moment. Each scene presents a new challenge to discern what they’re talking about. The specifics of their protest are opaque. The series of events verges on nonsensical: there’s a gathering of representatives – we have no idea who they are, or what they represent. In one scene, the women are hard at work hauling bags – we’re given no clue why. In another, a letter arrives prompting everyone to fall screaming to the floor – it’s never explained. The whole thing feels random and messy. It’s very hard to follow.

The characters make long, passionate speeches that are practically unintelligible. Generic language about “not submitting” and “rights” and “the workers” form highly vague arguments that don’t seem to be attached to any particular subjects. Flashes of clever, surprisingly funny lines prove the writing is strongest when it breaks out of adaptation mode. Ikky Elyas (Philurgus and Drakes), and Louis Rembges (The Secretary) stand out in regard to the comedy.

Lack of clarity in the writing combined with uneven performances makes the characters seem erratic: suddenly they’re shouting, suddenly they’re sobbing. It’s impossible to feel connected to the emotions when they appear to fly out of nowhere. Aoife Smyth, who plays Lysistrata, comes across more stroppy teen than fierce leader. But immaturity is a broader issue. Most of what should be impassioned debate is reduced to senseless juvenile screaming. It’s a young cast, and director Olivia Stone may have intentionally chosen to emphasise the characters’ adolescent behaviour. However, while teenage-leaning performances bring out the sophomoric nature of Aristophanes’ sex-based comedy, they’re shallower and less convincing as adults with spouses and children.

Lysistrata, a comedy about a sex strike, is not something to meet with seriousness. The Delta Collective are absolutely right to play and experiment with reshaping this text for 2019, interrogating its gender and sexuality power dynamics. It’s a shame the story seems to have been lost in translation. While the show has a scattering of very funny lines, it’s mostly incomprehensible.

 

Reviewed by Addison Waite

 

Lysistrata

Cockpit Theatre until 29th June

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
On Mother’s Day | ★★★½ | August 2018
Zeus on the Loose | ★★ | August 2018
The Distance You Have Come | ★★★★ | October 2018
Don’t You Dare! | ★★★ | November 2018
Unbelonger | ★★★½ | November 2018
L’Incoronazione Di Poppea | ★★★★ | January 2019
Mob Wife: A Mafia Comedy | ★★★ | January 2019
Cheating Death | ★★ | February 2019
Bed Peace: The Battle Of Yohn & Joko | ★★★ | April 2019
Much Ado About Not(h)Ing | ★★★ | June 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Pictures of Dorian Gray – D
★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

Pictures of Dorian Gray - D

Pictures of Dorian Gray – D

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 12th June 2019

★★

 

“this Dorian-meets-Dracula interpretation has left the story drained of its lifeblood”

 

Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray – about the beautiful young man whose portrait grows old and marred over the years, while he remains a picture of innocent youth – is famous enough to be familiar even if you haven’t read it. The novel doesn’t lend itself well to the stage, and it’s an ambitious choice for an adaptation. Unfortunately, Tom Littler and Lucy Shaw’s one-note show doesn’t capture the complexity of Wilde’s writing.

Directed by Littler and adapted by Shaw, Pictures of Dorian Gray is titled in the plural to reflect its twist: the cast rotates through four different performances (‘Pictures’), gender swapping Dorian (Stanton Wright or Helen Reuben), Wotton (Richard Keightley or Augustina Seymour), Basil (Rueben or Wright), and Sibyl Vane (Seymour or Keightley).

The performances are strong all around – Reuben (Picture D) stands out for her portrayal of Dorian’s gradually souring innocence. However, the characters, and the intrigue around their gender-swapped dynamics, are drowned by Littler and Shaw’s heavily stylised presentation, which focuses solely on the darkness in Wilde’s story at the expense of all other elements. The aesthetic is gothic horror. The set is a sparse, black room with stark hanging lights and gothic mirrors (William Reynolds). The costumes are Victorian-influenced black robes (Emily Stuart). Disappointingly, this Dorian-meets-Dracula interpretation has left the story drained of its lifeblood. I found myself regularly reaching back to the novel for its colour and humour to contrast the hollow, unvarying bleakness of the production.

The characters who aren’t in scene slowly pace the edges of the stage, interspersing the dialogue with monotone prose from the novel, or blankly chanting scrambled, dissociated quotes. The constant repetition of echoing words – “Books. Mirror. Realism. Art. Art. Art.” – is grating and meaningless. The effect is a joyless, alienating tone. A few half-hearted chuckles from a handful of audience members survive the cleansing, but mostly the production dispenses with what is entertaining and engaging in favour of being confrontationally cold. Wilde would be the last person to take himself as seriously as this show wants to.

There’s plenty of darkness in Wilde’s works, but it’s insidious. In his plays, he slips his criticism into the comedy like razors. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, it takes a while to realise it’s a horror story. His writing lures you in with its warmth and humour, pretty dresses and lovely gardens. He’s still making light, witty jokes in the final chapters. Wilde is never straightforward. He’s very funny when he’s serious, and sincerity is his way of being playful. Littler and Shaw have missed this entirely.

In its attempt to stuff the story into a simplistic, one-note horror box, Pictures of Dorian Gray has stripped away the humour, the subtlety, the contradictions, all of Wilde’s colours, and left only black. It’s necessary to remember the original Dorian Gray is hugely enjoyable, even if Littler and Shaw want to argue it isn’t.

 

Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by  S R Taylor

 


Pictures of Dorian Gray – D

Jermyn Street Theatre until 6th July

The cast switch roles at different performances, giving you a choice of four versions:  A – Male Dorian with male Wotton, B – Male Dorian with female Wotton, C – Female Dorian with male Wotton and D – Female Dorian with female Wotton. See Jermyn Street Theatre website for dates each version is performed.

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018
Stitchers | ★★★½ | June 2018
The Play About my Dad | ★★★★ | June 2018
Hymn to Love | ★★★ | July 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | November 2018
Original Death Rabbit | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Agnes Colander: An Attempt At Life | ★★★★ | February 2019
Mary’s Babies | ★★★ | March 2019
Creditors | ★★★★ | April 2019
Miss Julie | ★★★ | April 2019

 

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