Tag Archives: Jimmy Walters

Square Rounds – 3 Stars

Square

Square Rounds

Finborough Theatre 

Reviewed – 6th September 2018

★★★

“this play about war and the devastating impact of chemical warfare and weapons of mass destruction has never been more timely”

 

This year British theatre has been marking the centenary of the ending of World War One by staging a number of new and revisited productions that pay homage to those involved in the terrible events between 1914 and 1918. One such play, based on true events, is the final production in the Finborough Theatre’s THEGREATWAR100 series. Square Rounds written by Tony Harrison and last performed almost thirty years ago at the National Theatre, is an epic exploration of the devastating effects of technology in the build up to the Great War. The play runs concurrently with the celebration of the venue’s 150th birthday.

The all women play opens with a three screen projection, on an otherwise black and white set, stating ‘I will give my life for peace’ and oddly, against an overall theme of death and destruction, it is this positive statement that runs through the content of the evening.

We are initially taken back to England 1915. With many men away fighting at the Front, six women in a munitions factory decide to play some of the inventors of the then modern technology warfare. We are introduced to Sweeper Mawes and the Munitionettes who in turn represent six very influential people who had both a positive and negative influence during that era.

Amongst those whose story we learn more of is American inventor Hudson Maxim (Amy Marchant) who is concerned for his country and the frightening technological advances employed by America’s new European enemies. But he is also jealous of his brother Sir Hiram Maxim (Letty Thomas) who invented the horrifically destructive Maxim machine gun. 

Fritz Haber (Philippa Quinn) was a German Jewish chemist whose invention is still the basis used for producing nitrogen fertilisers of which approximately half of the world’s food is produced using. Sadly he is also considered the ‘father of chemical warfare’ for his pioneering work producing poisonous gases during WW1. We see an interesting interaction between him and his chemist wife Clara Immerwahr (Gracy Goldman) unhappy with her husband’s venture into developing a deadly gas.

Designer Daisy Blower has created a basic, though effective set, that is complimented by thoughtful sound design (Dinah Mullen) and sympathetic lighting (Arnim Friess). Direction from Jimmy Walters keeps the action moving well though on some occasions the rhyming verse was a little too fast to take in the necessary information.

With a mix of tragedy and parody covering themes of race and ethics, this play about war and the devastating impact of chemical warfare and weapons of mass destruction has never been more timely. Sadly some one hundred years later we still hear and see horrific stories of the gassing of innocent people.

Whilst I found the first half slightly difficult to follow because of the detailed historic and chemical references, the second half became much clearer and more enjoyable to watch. An interesting show and for those with a keen interest in World War One history, this is likely to be unmissable.

 

Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by  S R Taylor

 


SQUARE ROUNDS

Finborough Theatre until 29th September

 

Related
Recently reviewed at this venue
Finishing the Picture | ★★★★ | June 2018
But it Still Goes on | ★★★★ | July 2018
Homos, or Everyone in America | ★★★★ | August 2018

 

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The Dog Beneath the Skin – 3 Stars

Dog

The Dog Beneath the Skin

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 9th March 2018

★★★

“bubbling amusement that frequently fizzes into outright laughter”

 

After stunning snow, followed by Spring sunshine, London today resumed normal services and only ceased drizzling to tip it down at regular intervals! This meant arriving at the theatre with squelching wellies and dripping hat, and In need of cheering up!

This was the first time I’ve seen an actual ‘stage’ inside the Jermyn Street Theatre. The studio accommodated it well and it split the space interestingly. The set (designed by Rebecca Brower) gave little away about the continental escapade to come, as we waited for the lights to dim, it felt like we were assembled in a country church hall.

The story opens in a sleepy English village with a fairy tale style challenge and quest, which we embark on with our hero (played by Pete Ashmore) and his new companion (played by Cressida Bonas), a whisky drinking, card playing dog …

The journey that follows takes us through countries that do not exist, but which mirror Europe in the 1930s, with its monarchies and corruption and growing unrest. It is a madcap, fast paced trip to say the least!

The thought provoking satire of society and politics between the wars is a constant bubbling amusement that frequently fizzes into outright laughter. The story, although it twists and turns all sorts of corners, remains a basic chase. The script (by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood) is more poetry than prose and changes pace throughout. The remaining cast (Edmund Digby Jones, Eva Feiler, Rujenne Green, James Marlowe, Suzann McLean and Adam Sopp) has multiple roles to play, each with a lot of lines to deliver, which they do beautifully, in song, in rhythm and with gusto.

They shift both scene and actual scenery fluidly, as props and backdrop alteration are woven cleverly into the action. The ever changing lighting (by Catherine Webb) sets the tone, pace, and atmosphere for each scene, and the quick-changing cast are masters at flitting in and out of character.

A lot is packed into this production. The tale gallops across countries, in and out of hotels, brothels, hospital and prison. It travels by train and boat, meets villains and comrades, and steers our hero towards home. The story offers echoes of 21st Century political and social division: Of derision of ‘experts’. Of countries divided. Of hope for a fairer future.

The show is very good; the action doesn’t lull, I laughed aloud, the cast is engaging and my fellow audience members were grinning throughout. And despite the familiarity of ‘the hero seeking the almost impossible task to win fair maiden’, there are many moments of unexpected sidetracking that are novel and entertaining.

 

 

Reviewed by Joanna Hinson

Photography by Sam Taylor

 


The Dog Beneath the Skin

Jermyn Street Theatre until 31st March

 

 

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