Tag Archives: Gregory Clarke

Fiddler on the Roof
★★★★★

Menier Chocolate Factory

Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof

Menier Chocolate Factory

Reviewed – 6th December 2018

★★★★★

“warm and intimate, yet vast and epic at the same time”

 

“Fiddler on the Roof” is based on the stories of one of the most famous and beloved of all Jewish writers; Sholem Aleichem, who came to be known as the ‘folk singer’ of the Russian shtetl. Written between 1894 and 1914 the stories were a series of stand-alone monologues told by the character of Tevye to the reader. Aleichem had started to amalgamate these into a dramatic adaptation but died before he could finish it, but what he had already managed to do in his tales was to capture the hunger and the passion of his people trying to survive under desperate circumstances, but also the humour and the irony.

The often-staged musical has reflected this with varying degrees of success, but it is safe to say that Trevor Nunn’s revival hits the notes perfectly with a truly magical mix of mockery and menace. The story centres on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences encroach upon his family’s lives, not least of which is the edict of the Tsar that evicts Jews from Russia. At the same time, he is coping with the strong-willed actions of his three eldest daughters who wish to marry for love and whose choice of husband moves further away from the customs of the faith and heritage that he is, sometimes reluctantly, clinging onto. This production brings to the fore the deeply rich humour of Joseph Stein’s book. But we are never quite allowed to escape the shadow of the impending threat of exile.

Andy Nyman makes this show his own with his portrayal of the patriarch ruled by his wife, Golde (a perfectly pitched performance from Judy Kuhn). Nyman’s effortless stage presence sculpts a wholly heartfelt and honest portrayal of his character, veering between tradition and compassion, and bending his beliefs, where necessary, for love. He knows exactly when to switch on and off the comedy, a skill matched by the entire ensemble. The same sensitivity is applied to Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics. Often unfairly branded as kitsch, the poignancy and the irony are accentuated by the fine performances. And combined with Jerry Bock’s sumptuous score, orchestrated for an eight-piece band, it is an exceptionally moving piece of musical theatre.

Choreographer Matt Cole remains faithful to Jerome Robbins’ original which is a feast for the eye. In fact, all our senses are treated to this outstanding rendition. Full of belly laughs it is a cry from the heart. The gorgeous strains of “Sunrise, Sunset” segue into a euphoric wedding dance which, in turn, is broken by the arrival of a vicious tsarist pogrom.

It is warm and intimate, yet vast and epic at the same time. It speaks softly to each of us yet its message shouts out to all of us. The source material is over a century old, but it is still sadly topical and the final scene where the villages flee their homeland is breathtakingly stirring. The musical ends not with a bang but a whisper. Not with a chorus line but a band of silent souls heading towards an uncertain future. The lone fiddler is beckoned, and he steps down from the roof to follow them.

All that can follow this is the standing ovation this production deserves. A production that is heading towards a far from uncertain future.     

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Johan Persson

 


Fiddler on the Roof

Menier Chocolate Factory until 9th March

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Gronholm Method | ★★★★ | May 2018

 

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The Grönholm Method – 4 Stars

Grönholm

The Grönholm Method

Menier Chocolate Factory

Reviewed – 23rd May 2018

★★★★

“The piece twists and turns in a wonderfully layered structure of discovery”

 

Four people are waiting. These four people are interviewees. They have been told to expect a group interview but the ensuing ninety minutes is far more surprising and gruelling than any might’ve expected. Envelopes appear periodically in a drawer delivering them tasks to complete: they must decide which of them is not a real candidate but a member of HR, whether the company ought to hire someone undergoing gender reassignment, whether unstable mental health and extra marital affairs affect a person’s working ability, and so on. Inspired by actual procedures in HR departments, Jordi Galceran’s play, which premiered in Barcelona in 2003, is reset in a New York office by director BT McNicholl.

As the characters desperately try to puzzle their way through task after task, the audience are equally drawn in, as in the dark as the candidates themselves. The piece twists and turns in a wonderfully layered structure of discovery. It is impossible not to be drawn in, but the draw is surface level. This is not a nice world, and the people in it reflect that. Even at their most sympathetic it is hard to truly feel any empathy for them, and every breakdown is suspect in a play that refuses to stop surprising us. The piece is more thriller than drama, and there is little in which to emotionally invest or engage.

The cast of four is consistently strong. Jonathan Cake’s brutal Frank Porter is harsh, calculating and desperate, abhorrent at points, oddly likeable at others, albeit purely for his tenacity. Greg McHugh is softer but just as committed, the Harvard graduate who is revealed to be a trans woman, though the other characters’ universally transphobic responses perhaps show the play’s age for the first time. Laura Pitt-Pulford is Melanie Douglas – “Three men and a woman, as always,” she comments on arrival – determined to the point of ruthlessness, juggling the demands of work and life with a pragmatic coldness. John Gordon Sinclair’s Rick is a much needed contrast to his counterparts, bright and funny, always on hand with traffic-based small talk and tic tacs.

Tim Hatley’s design is beautifully detailed and fantastically well executed. A plush corporate conference room with white leather chairs, wooden panelling across the walls and an excessive amount of glass. The floor to ceiling windows at the back of the stage reveal the New York skyline, gradually darkening as the play goes on (lighting design by Howard Harrison).

BT McNicholl’s production is slick and well executed, an insight into an ugly world where brutality is rewarded and humanity stamped out, supported by four consistently strong performances.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Manuel Harlan

 


The Grönholm Method

Menier Chocolate Factory until 7th July

 

 

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