Life And Death Of A Journalist
Cage – The Vaults
Reviewed – 29th February 2020
“a play that could be extremely good, but is currently only good in parts”
Life and Death of a Journalist centres on Laura, a journalist who has just returned to London from covering the Hong Kong riots. There is an important story to tell here, a story of one woman’s struggle to tell the truth in the face of immense pressure, of whether it’s right to compromise sometimes, in the hope of getting what you want and for the greater good, and the story of what’s been happening in Hong Kong recently. Laura is played by Lucy Roslyn, with engaging strength and conviction. She is a magnetic actor, immediately charming the audience and holding this sometimes creaky play together.
Melissa Woodbridge plays Vicky, the editor of an independent paper who offers Laura a job, promising her freedom to write about what she believes in. She is professional, spiky and manipulative, but also warm and attractive, as she gets what she wants from Laura and from her own career. But has Laura been right to trust her?
The other pull on Laura is her boyfriend Mark. Robert Bradley is relatable and rather sweet in the role, but sometimes hampered by clunky dialogue. Who asks their girlfriend, in the heat of a row, where they see their relationship in five year’s time? It sounded like a belligerent job interview, not a relationship.
So there is the narrative of Laura’s determination to be an honest journalist and fight for justice in Hong Kong, a place she loves, and the narrative of her relationship issues. At times this works really well, and Laura’s conflict between these two parts of her life escalates nicely. But the writing doesn’t always help. Much of it is good, but some moments jar. On hearing that Mark’s father has died Laura’s response is ‘let’s get married. let’s have kids.’ It’s out of the blue, off piste and unbelievable. At times it feels like a lecture too, as though the writer, Jingan Young, is using her characters as a mouthpiece, rather than allowing points to be made organically, through credible natural dialogue and action.
Harry Blake’s sound, and lighting by Anna Reddyhoff, work well with the set. Some upended chairs, a couple of barricades and protest posters effectively evoke the riots and become the newspaper office, the streets of Hong Kong, a bar and Laura and Mark’s home.
This is a play that could be extremely good, but is currently only good in parts. Max Lindsay’s direction is not quite consistent, and the ending is just odd. I hope it gets a bit of a rewrite, because it’s full of potential.
Reviewed by Katre
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Rose Theatre Kingston & UK Tour
Reviewed – 1st May 2019
“the musical interludes are moments of beauty that complement the theatricality and flair of this evocative production”
The scale of Louis de Bernières’ visionary novel “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” is probably the main reason why it has taken a quarter of a century for it to be adapted for the stage. The multi layered and varied style of the epic narrative is a daunting prospect, but Rona Munro’s adaptation pinpoints the core of the story and, with a surgeon’s precision, cuts away the excess flesh to expose the rhythms of its passionately beating heart.
Director Melly Still’s adventurous production comes in two distinct parts. The first act comprises a series of finely composed vignettes that not only encapsulate the sultry atmosphere of the Greek island of Cephalonia, but serve also to set up the characters. At first we wonder at the hotchpotch of accents on display (from Irish, Welsh and Yorkshire through to RP) but soon realise the deliberate ploy to challenge stereotypes. We are not being asked to pass judgement, or decide who is the enemy, but to focus on the personalities.
Dr. Iannis (Joseph Long) has brought up his daughter, Pelagia (Madison Clare), on a diet of free thinking, which is now being threatened by the Italian occupation of their island. Meanwhile Carlo (Ryan Donaldson), an Italian soldier, tries to make sense of the invasion. Likewise, Captain Corelli (Alex Mugnaioni), an accomplished musician who carries his mandolin everywhere with him, only takes music, friendship and romance seriously. A reluctant soldier, armed with only his charm and his love of music, he is able to win the heart of Pelagia by his refusal to believe in the Italian invasion of Greece.
Although he doesn’t appear until the end of the first act, Mugnaioni lights up the stage with his strong presence, albeit a touch passionless. His slightly bumbling Englishness contrasts Clare’s feisty Pelagia who soon recognises his detachment to the military cause. But there is also a similar detachment to the relationship which, once ignited, burns slowly. More rounded is the relationship with Pelagia’s first love, Mandras (a brilliantly assured Ashley Gayle), that reveals the complexities of lost love in a more believable fashion.
The central theme of war, though, casts its shadow like an impending storm until it explodes with its full force after the interval. Mayou Trikerioti’s design comes to the fore as her simple yet evocative set of beaten metal morphs from the shimmering idyll of a Grecian seascape into the harsh smoky barrage of the battlefield. Jon Nicholls’ thumping sound echoes the waves of dance-like movement of George Siena’s choreography. The contrast is all too pertinent when, at a stroke, it overlaps with the relative peace of the village and the minutiae of their lives. And it is the finer details of these individuals that captivates most. Not just the people, but the animals too – Luisa Guerreiro threatens to steal each scene as the herb-chomping, affable goat while Elizabeth Mary Williams hangs upside down from a ladder as Psipsina, the athletic pine martin.
But there’s another clue in the title. And, yes, Alex Mugnaioni plays the mandolin exceptionally well. Superimposed onto Harry Blake’s pre-recorded score the musical interludes are moments of beauty that complement the theatricality and flair of this evocative production.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Marc Brenner
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Rose Theatre Kingston until 12th May then UK Tour continues
Previously reviewed at this venue: