Tag Archives: David Morrissey

A Separate Peace



A Separate Peace

A Separate Peace

Online via www.theremoteread.com

Reviewed – 2nd May 2020



“Where this production undoubtedly succeeds is in Stoppard’s writing and the magnificent performances of a stellar cast”


“Limitation, like desperation, can be the mother of invention” says the award-winning film and director Sam Yates, talking about his revival of Tom Stoppard’s 1966 play “A Separate Peace”, broadcast live as a real-time performance via Zoom. It is an apt rephrasing of Plato’s original quotation (“Necessity is the mother of all invention”), but then again Plato was also a strong advocate of the idea that theatre, as an artform, was immoral, disrespectful and a distraction of the mind. Not many people would agree with this, and over time, theatre has endured, and conquered greater obstacles over the centuries, and I have no doubt that it will survive the current crisis in due time.

In the meantime, however, the practitioners and audiences need something to fill the void created by the temporary closure. This has been met in part by some high-quality recordings of stage productions. Inevitably these don’t replicate the experience of live theatre. The ‘Remote Read’ series, of which “A Separate Peace” is the first, sets out to produce live virtual theatre by embracing the limitations of lockdown rather than by opposing.

Stoppard’s’ play is an inspired choice, which touches on themes of isolation and a central character who wants no social interaction at all. Set in a private nursing home, the smooth running and peace of mind of its staff is disrupted by the arrival of a new patient, John Brown. He has money, which he believes entitles him to pay for the room despite the fact he is perfectly healthy. All he wants to do is get away from the ‘chaos’ of the outside world. The nursing staff know nothing about his motives for this, or his background. Simultaneously content with taking his money, they find his presence discomforting. “We have to keep the beds for people who need them”. Half a century on this is one of many lines that resonate right now.

Where this production undoubtedly succeeds is in Stoppard’s writing and the magnificent performances of a stellar cast. Although a reading, there is little evidence of a script in hand and there is a spontaneity to the actors’ interpretation that belies the lack of a live audience. We sympathise with David Morrissey’s John Brown, albeit guiltily, as he slowly gives us clues as to why he chooses to check himself into the nursing home. The four nursing staff who unravel these clues operate on a kind of good-cop-bad-cop system. Ed Stoppard’s Matron has a knuckle duster of steel beneath his kid gloves, whereas Maggie Service’s Nurse doesn’t even bother to wear the gloves. In the background is the Doctor, played by Denise Gough like the desk sergeant coolly analysing the reality and digging deep. The most watchable is Jenna Coleman’s flirtatious yet duplicitous Nurse Maggie who teases out the mystery from the man.

By default, however, there is an experimental feel to the whole piece and while the objectives of the producers must be highly commended, this does not come close to a true theatre experience. It lies in a no man’s land somewhere between a radio play and a televised broadcast. Sam Glossop’s sound design is impressive, as is Andrzej Goulding’s occasional back projection, but the format ultimately disappoints visually. It is all too tempting to shut down the screen and just listen and let our imagination paint the picture, and the formidable cast ensure we are able to do this.

The technology for this media is in its infancy and, while I’d like to see it grow, we can only hope that there isn’t the time for it to reach maturity. Yes, it is definitely a necessity in the current situation, but let us hope that the mother of this invention is only a surrogate one, and we will soon be handed back to our natural environment when the theatres reopen.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans


A Separate Peace

Online via www.theremoreread.com


Last ten shows reviewed by Jonathan:
Love, Loss & Chianti | ★★★★ | Riverside Studios | February 2020
Message In A Bottle | ★★★★ | Peacock Theatre | February 2020
Musik | ★★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | February 2020
Nearly Human | ★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Tell It Slant | ★★★ | Hope Theatre | February 2020
The Importance Of Being Earnest | ★★★½ | The Turbine Theatre | February 2020
Closed Lands | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
Max Raabe & Palast Orchester | ★★★★★ | Cadogan Hall | March 2020
The Kite Runner | ★★★★ | Richmond Theatre | March 2020
The Last Five Years | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | March 2020


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Julius Caesar – 5 Stars


Julius Caesar

The Bridge Theatre

Reviewed – 30th January 2018


“This production is exciting beyond compare; chilling and entertaining in equal measure”


Never has Shakespeare been told with such clarity and disquieting immediacy. An onslaught from start to finish, it begins at a pop-up, raucous rock gig – a scratch band rallying the mob in the pit. This is the first of many pointers as to why the text is still so relevant today. The crowd are cajoled into cheering for Caesar, without knowing why or what he stands for. It is the story of mass emotions and how easily this can rise to civil war. We are shown, in Nicholas Hytner’s spell-binding production, some disastrous home truths about the nature of men and politics: “Julius Caesar” is a timeless mirror in which the present age can see itself.

Hytner’s decision to play it two hours straight through is inspired and adds to the immediacy. Configured in the round, Bunny Christie’s ingenious set rises up from the ground in differing configurations, forcing the crowd to sway with the tide and be bustled into all corners of the space. You can, of course, choose to sit if you wish, but the experience is amplified, both literally and figuratively, by being among the populace on the ground. When Caesar is assassinated we are forced to crouch to the ground by the gun-wielding conspirators. David Calder’s charisma as Caesar prevents us from saluting this slaughter, though his spot-on portrayal of a man too confident of his own power adds diffidence to our reaction.

Ben Whishaw is a revelation as a twitchy, studious Brutus, unsure of himself yet in command. At close range his facial tics and darting eyes convey his uncertainty in his own reasoning. Everything boils down to terminology, and we almost go along with him when he states that “we shall be called purgers, not murderers”, a hauntingly dangerous and resonant frame of mind to be duped into in today’s world.

Opposite Whishaw, Michelle Fairley’s portrayal of Cassius is impassioned and calculating, but does she ever truly get Brutus on her side? The sheer chemistry between the two comes into the open, particularly in the later scenes as they furiously quarrel then make up.

While the conspirators falter, Mark Anthony sets the seal on their destruction. David Morrissey captures, with diabolical precision, his ability to play the emotions of the crowd. His depiction, along with the entire cast, grips the audience and unflinchingly reminds us that political unrest is a beast that cannot, and must not, be ignored. This production is exciting beyond compare; chilling and entertaining in equal measure. And with the aid of Paul Arditti’s sound design and Bruno Poet’s lighting, it resembles at times a filmic, stylish thriller.

It is an absolute must see. Unfloundering to the end, the last line belongs to Octavius, and recent RADA graduate Kit Young’s (a talent to watch out for) manic smile of jubilation is a sore reminder that history is still on its inevitable and tragic cycle of repeating itself. “How many ages hence, Shall this our lofty scene be acted over, In states unborn and accents yet unknown!”


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Manuel Harlan


Julius Caesar

The Bridge Theatre until 15th April



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