Tag Archives: Camden Fringe

Lautrec

Lautrec

★★★½

Hen and Chickens Theatre

LAUTREC  at the Hen and Chickens Theatre

★★★½

Lautrec

“Both Rattigan and Drisch look the part in detailed and timely costumes”

 

Comte Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa was a French painter whose art gained significant notoriety through its colourful and lively depiction of the theatrical life of Paris in the late 19th century. Producing over 737 canvases, 363 prints and posters and over 5,000 drawings in a career of less than 20 years, Toulouse-Lautrec was a powerhouse of the post-Impressionist movement.

Shadowmask Theatre’s new play Lautrec – directed by Natalie Winter – explores the success of this incredible artist but also his tragic fate. Born to nobility, Toulouse-Lautrec – played by Fergus Rattigan – suffered from stunted growth, his legs never healing properly from injuries in his early teens. In his despair, the young man turned his attention to creative endeavours whilst also embracing a philosophy of complete hedonism which included drinking to excess and frequenting brothels. Marie Drisch joins Rattigan on stage to play an impressive eleven characters – from Lautrec’s mother to the co-founder of the Moulin Rouge – all of which hold a significant place in the artist’s rise and fall.

Rattigan is fantastic as the play’s tragic hero, initially bursting onto stage speaking impassioned French before adapting for his English audience. He mixes the two languages well throughout with his accent rarely slipping. Our lead brings a great comedy to the role – a particular highlight being his first rendezvous with a prostitute – but he really shines in Lautrec’s final scenes in a psychiatric hospital where he suffers from hallucinations due to syphilis.

Drisch is a fine partner to the troubled artist, but her multitude of roles often makes her feel stretched thin as she frequently must throw on a new hat or accessory to signify the entrance of a new character. Drisch is best when she is allowed to settle into a role such as in an extended scene as Lautrec’s friend Yvette Guilbert where they discuss the artist’s frustration at never being considered a sexual option due to his disability. The play packs a lot into its hour runtime, and it is Drisch who unfortunately suffers most.

The theatre space is successfully utilised – a sofa, a small table and chairs and various props including a sketch book, a bottle of wine and numerous concealed hip flasks. Some of Lautrec’s most famous paintings and sketches decorate the surrounding walls – they are revealed throughout the performance as we move through the artist’s life. This is highly effective and makes the play’s final scenes even more poignant. One suggestion would be to litter the stage with more debris such as empty bottles and dirty clothes as the painter’s life spirals downwards.

Sound and lighting is basic and rarely used to its full potential. There are a few sound effects – dogs barking off stage, the sound of drinks pouring – but they are utilised inconsistently, and the actors unfortunately do not react in good time to their deployment. Lighting could be used for exciting results such as to emulate the excitement of the cabaret stage but instead remains static throughout except for the final scenes where Lautrec is on his deathbed. This feels like a missed opportunity and could really enliven the hedonistic portions of the play.

Both Rattigan and Drisch look the part in detailed and timely costumes. Notably, Rattigan becomes more and more dishevelled throughout the performance, removing his signature bowler hat and smart jacket as he descends into madness.

Lautrec is greatly successful in spotlighting the work and life of the formidable Toulouse-Lautrec and its vignettes will have you googling the artist for some time. With some polish and refinement, this play will go far.

 

Reviewed on 15th August 2022

by Flora Doble

PART OF CAMDEN FRINGE 2022

 

 

Latest reviews from the other Fringe – Edinburgh Festival Fringe:

Boorish Trumpson | ★★★ | August 2022
About Money | ★★★½ | August 2022
Fabulett 1933 | ★★★ | August 2022
Tropicana | ★★★★ | August 2022
No Place Like Home | ★★★★ | August 2022
Age Is A Feeling | ★★★★ | August 2022
My Son’s A Queer | ★★★★★ | August 2022
Feeling Afraid As If Something Terrible Is Going To Happen | ★★★★ | August 2022
Grandmother’s Closet | ★★★ | August 2022
Brown Boys Swim | ★★★★ | August 2022

 

Click here to read all our latest reviews

 

The Rice Krispie Killer

The Rice Krispie Killer

★★★★

Lion and Unicorn Theatre

The Rice Krispie Killer

The Rice Krispie Killer

Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Reviewed – 11th August 2021

★★★★

 

“an exceptionally well written and funny piece of theatre”

 

You think you’ve had it tough over the past eighteen months. Imagine not leaving your house for eighteen years; which is where we find the two brothers, Finbar and Donnacha in Little Shadow Theatre’s two hander. Six thousand five hundred and fifty-six days, to be precise, if we are to believe Donnacha, the elder sibling, who appears to rule the roost. They have been barricaded inside the four walls of their suburban Dublin home since the mysterious death of their parents from a bad batch of Rice Krispies.

Written by Seán Basil Crawford, this sixty-minute duologue is a bit of a find. The language trips off the pair’s tongues with its delightful Gaelic rhythms. Initially light and charged with surreal humour, it soon has hints of darkness that flicker subliminally in the background. Crawford (who also plays the younger brother) writes with a skill that renders the absurd believable. You can imagine him spinning a yarn over a pint of Guinness, weaving his eccentric mind patterns into a patchwork quilt of mismatched anecdotes.

The pair are a hilarious couple on stage. They gently spar, comfort each other with stories, play word games and talk about biscuits and giraffes as though Samuel Beckett had been hired by the Comic Strip team in the eighties. Crawford bounces with a childlike energy and innocence, with touches of a young Ardal O’Hanlan in his delivery, while Ross Gaynor humours, tolerates, babysits, entertains and ultimately controls him. Gaynor captures the dynamics of their relationship perfectly, only occasionally letting slip that something wicked this way is coming.

Finbar’s belief, endorsed by Donnacha, is that their parents were poisoned by a sinister villain known as the Rice Krispie Killer and now, after nearly two decades, his quest (vehemently not endorsed by Donnacha) is to go into the outside world to see if he can catch the culprit. Donnacha’s arguments to keep him in the house have the veneer of protection, of wanting to shield his vulnerable kid brother but it reeks of propaganda and supremacy. It is difficult to know whether this is intentional political commentary in the shadow of lockdown, or just serendipity. But it doesn’t really matter – this is a character driven piece and director Niall Jordan knows how to spotlight the contradictions of these weird personalities.

The only minor qualm about the piece is that you can anticipate the final twist a bit too early on in the play. But hey, who cares? I’m in danger now of becoming over analytical (read as pompous). Let’s just tell it straight: this is an exceptionally well written and funny piece of theatre, played out by two hugely talented comic actors. It is running as part of the Camden Fringe Festival so only has a limited run. I suggest you don’t waste time getting your ticket.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

 


The Rice Krispie Killer

Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 14th August

 

Part of Camden Fringe Festival 2021

 

 

Previously reviewed this year by Jonathan:
Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament | ★★★★ | Online | February 2021
Bklyn The Musical | ★★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Remembering the Oscars | ★★★ | Online | March 2021
The Picture of Dorian Gray | ★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Disenchanted | ★★★ | Online | April 2021
Abba Mania | ★★★★ | Shaftesbury Theatre | May 2021
Cruise | ★★★★★ | Duchess Theatre | May 2021
Preludes in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | May 2021
You Are Here | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | May 2021
Amélie The Musical | ★★★★ | Criterion Theatre | June 2021
Bad Days And Odd Nights | ★★★★★ | Greenwich Theatre | June 2021
Express G&S | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | June 2021
Forever Plaid | ★★★★ | Upstairs at the Gatehouse | June 2021
Forgetful Heart | ★★★★ | Online | June 2021
Staircase | ★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | June 2021
The Hooley | ★★★★★ | Chiswick House & Gardens | June 2021
Be More Chill | ★★★★ | Shaftesbury Theatre | July 2021
Heathers | ★★★ | Theatre Royal Haymarket | July 2021
The Two Character Play | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | July 2021
My Night With Reg | ★★★★ | The Turbine Theatre | July 2021
Big Big Sky | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | August 2021
The Windsors: Endgame | ★★★ | Prince of Wales Theatre | August 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews