Tag Archives: Jonathan Moore

Greek – 4 Stars



Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 10th August 2018


the characters are pretty grotesque, but the cast still manage to earn our sympathy to a degree


Mark-Anthony Turnage’s first opera, “Greek”, first performed in 1988, established his reputation as a unique composer, blending jazz and classical styles of music, shifting between modernism and tradition. Like Steven Berkoff, who wrote the libretto and on whose play of the same title this is based, he deliberately eschews mainstream aspirations. Consequently, this is not going to be to everyone’s taste, but the combination yields an intensely thrilling experience in this new production as part of the Grimeborn Opera Festival at the Arcola Theatre.

It is an incisive retelling of the Oedipus myth, relocating Sophocle’s play to North London in a Thatcherite Britain. Oedipus is now an angry young man, Eddy, who breaks away from his pernicious yet affectionate parents. He doesn’t know he’s adopted. We do. As we also know that the greasy-spoon café owner he kills in a brawl is his biological father. It is quite hard to swallow, especially the speed with which he shacks up with the dead man’s wife, aka his mother, as her husband is still lying bleeding on the ground.

The eighteen-piece orchestra pounds through the austere and often atonal score complementing the four singers’ performance which shares the same mix of lyricism and brutality. Sung in a cockney twang the narrative is clear, despite combining street talk with classical diction, and director Jonathan Moore’s uncomplicated staging amplifies the effect. Edmund Danon packs his rags-to-riches rise with coarse humour as he encounters love, wealth and finally his true identity. Eddy’s keening cry on discovering that his wife is his mother is chilling, if short lived. Tragedy is averted, in true Berkoff style: “Bollocks to all that” Eddy pronounces with rebellious bravado.

Richard Morrison, as the racist, working-class Dad manages to gain sympathy by being as much a victim as a symptom of the society he is trapped in: the “plague”, as it is referred to, of poverty blamed on Thatcher austerity. Philippa Boyle, as Mum, also multi-roles, infusing much needed comedy into the social commentary, while Laura Woods as the widow/wife lends her self-serving materialism a tenderness. In short, the characters are pretty grotesque, but the cast still manage to earn our sympathy to a degree.

The performances are consistently and superbly strong, but the overall effect is slightly tainted by Berkoff glaringly using the characters, especially Eddy, to use his own voice to speak against society. But although this occasionally detracts from the emotive performances, this is an enthralling, challenging production. A bit of an onslaught, admittedly, yet powerfully compelling


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Lidia Crisafulli



Arcola Theatre until 18th August



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Doodle – 1.5 Stars



Waterloo East Theatre

Reviewed – 12th January 2018


“an arrogant, thoroughly dated and unfunny mess … send in the rescue team”


A crisis is unfolding. A team must be dispatched to deal with it. This is the basis for countless World War Two action films, and the starting point for Doodle – The Musical! at the Waterloo East Theatre. With book and lyrics from Jonathan Kydd, whose father Sam starred in several of these films, and music from Andy Street, an American Idol mentee, the signs would appear promising. The show aspires to present a loving pastiche, a comedy-musical aiming for a lightning quick romp. Instead, it is unfortunate that the age of the inspiration floods into the comedy and misses the target entirely. A crisis is unfolding …

It is 1940. The inventor of the bouncing bomb, Barnes Wallis, is kidnapped by the Germans to make a war-winning device. As he is regarded as someone who only has the ability to make things bounce, the worst of the worst are assembled to rescue him and find out what Gerry is up to. This includes, among others, the actor Errol Flynn, David Niven and Weaver, a woman who is constantly ignored but will eventually come good, as per the patronising character type that writers believe is a ‘strong empowering woman’.

With such a rich vein of material from which to use, Kydd’s writing truly labours to find the funny, and tries to grab at all it can. We jump across scientists in love with their robots, a spy who is amusing because the actor is naked, or something, and a bizarre repeating line of humour in which anything linked to homosexuality is apparently hilarious! I want to dispel the idea that this is political correctness gone mad; it’s just simply not funny. The songs do not add much to help matters. Led in by awkward segues, they are overlong and rely often on constant repetition in place of any wit or memorable hooks.

The production from Jonathan Moore has none of the visual razzmatazz that might release a piece of this kind. Transitions are awkward, dull and clunky while the bare design from Baska Wesolowska places the emphasis on the comedy, which in this case does not act as a positive. This mundanity carries in to the choreography, uninventive and stilted. I particularly sympathise for dancers Kate Haughton and Viva Foster, whose only instruction appears to be that they vaguely float around in skimpy outfits during songs.

For the cast, there are moments where you feel that with given stronger material they could have promise. Sooz Henshaw does what she can as Weaver, lending her at least some personality. As Tweed, Paul Ryan brings a suitable stiff upper lip. But it is too late to save anything from the evening. All are stuck within an arrogant, thoroughly dated and unfunny mess. Send in the rescue team.


Reviewed by Callum McCartney



Waterloo East Theatre until 28th January



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