Tag Archives: Joseph Prestwich

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

★★★★

Alexandra Palace

A Midsummer Nights Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Alexandra Palace

Reviewed – 7th September 2019

★★★★

 

“a fun, playful and atmospheric take on Shakespeare’s comedy”

 

Hot on the heels of their previous innovative takes on Shakespeare, Felix Mortimer and Joshua Nawras of RIFT have taken the playwright’s greatest comedy and shoved it into the moody, atmospheric depths of the Alexandra Palace basement. Rarely opened to the public, this is a unique opportunity, and the RIFT team draw on the building’s history as the location for the first public television broadcast in 1936. Cradled by the BBC tower, the setting might be worth the ticket price alone.

Framing the story using this televisual theme, Egeus (Rob Myles) becomes Hermia’s (Dewi Sarginson) “agent”, a witty alteration that reminds you of the overwhelming power of contracts, and powerlessness actors can have in the working world. Escaping the world of cameras and lights with her lover Lysander, the two escape into the woods, followed swiftly by Demetrius and Helena. But as we all know, the course of true love never did run smooth.

The concept leaves you always wanting more. Just three rooms are used, with the audience plodding between them, at times unsure of the reason. Although it would have been a real treat to explore more of the nooks and crannies of the building, most of the action takes place in one long room, framed with two screens. Sat on upturned buckets, the audience become a fun plaything for the actors, and the odd audience-interaction went down a treat.

Some nice doubling sees Myles, energetic and playful, playing Puck as well as Egeus, two characters in thrall to the authority of Oberon/Theseus (Mike Adams). Hilary McCool’s costumes and some eerily incandescent 1930s music set the scene well, and it is fun seeing country shirts and corduroy pants get slowly dustier and dustier as the show goes on. The lovers really get going in the hilarious scene that sees Lysander (Ben Teare) and Demetrius (Sam Ducane) fighting over a baffled Helena (Phoebe Naughton), but they are overshadowed by the Mechanicals, who, as ever, steal the show. Penelope Maynard as Peter Quince is pedantic and grounded, and Henry Maynard, whose background in clowning is written all over his Bottom, booms and thunders his way through his greatest acting moment, playing to hilarious effect for the cameras as much as for the live audience.

All in all, it’s a bumpy ride both literally and thematically, but this turns out to be a fun, playful and atmospheric take on Shakespeare’s comedy. With exposed brick and dusty floor, hopefully this won’t be the last time theatre is brought to this wonderful location.

 

Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Lloyd Winters

 


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Alexandra Palace until 28th September

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Horrible Christmas | ★★★★ | December 2018
In Loyal Company | ★★★★ | June 2019

 

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Stripped

★★★★

King’s Head Theatre

Stripped

Stripped

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 2nd September 2019

★★★★

 

“a fresh perspective on a difficult issue, whilst still managing to be a witty and engrossing piece of theatre”

 

A surprising and thought-provoking piece of drama, ‘Stripped’ takes a tantalising premise and turns expectations on their head. What starts as a bouncy two-hander slowly transforms into a nuanced and devastating account of the how two people can view one night so differently.

Ollie (Charles Reston) has agreed to pose nude for artist Lola (Antonia Kinlay). Arriving at her studio, it’s an initially – and expectedly – awkward and amusing situation. After undressing, Ollie takes up various poses to the rhythm of Lola’s egg-timer. Her dead-pan wit battles Ollie’s incessant talking, who delivers imposing judgements and provocations that Lola easily bats aside. “All art is inherently political,” he blurts out at one point. “Cute. I remember my first opinion!” is Lola’s sarcastic response.

So far, so flirtatious. Things take a turn for the sinister as Ollie reveals he knows Lola. Eight years previously, he recalls a night Lola claims, at first, not to remember. Drunken party, ‘Dead Celebrity’ fancy dress theme, stumbling home together and dancing on park benches. After drawing out Ollie’s version of the night, Lola unveils her big reveal. Not only does she remember the night in detail, its haunted her for years. They didn’t just “have sex”, Ollie raped her. And it’s time he makes amends.

Victims confronting their attacker is not entirely new, nor is it a course of action to be recommended. As authors Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger have proved, conversations between victim and perpetrator can be educational and enlightening, revealing new aspects of our understanding of the culture surrounding rape. Hew Rous-Eyre’s ‘Stripped’ is a vital and timely addition to the discussion. Neither victim nor perpetrator is wholly good or bad – they’re just real people in all their complexity. Rous-Eyre’s hour-long piece works alongside such tomes as Mithu Sanyal’s ‘Rape: From Lucretia to #metoo’ as questioning how we understand rape culture. It’s also a thoroughly entertaining and gaspingly funny piece of theatre.

Kinlay and Reston work exceptionally well together, with the former shining as she moves from dead-pan charm to emotionally vulnerable over the course of the encounter. Reston seems a little less comfortable on stage, but offers a brave performance, especially considering he’s nude about 90% of the time. Max Elton has directed the two well to avoid melodrama, but the piece does lag a little after the ‘big reveal’ and Reston’s response to being confronted seems a little unsure. Felipe Miranda’s set design is deceivingly simple and conjures a detailed artist’s studio superbly well. Elle McAlpine is credited as being the production’s ‘intimacy coordinator’, a role I was pleased to see listed.

Overall, ‘Stripped’ is a nuanced, thought-provoking piece of drama that will stimulate discussion long after the final bows. Cunningly avoiding a ‘taking-sides’ approach to stories of sexual assault, it gives a fresh perspective on a difficult issue, whilst still managing to be a witty and engrossing piece of theatre.

 

Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Christopher Tribble

 

King’s Head Theatre – winner of our 2018 Awards – Best London Pub Theatre

 

Stripped

King’s Head Theatre until 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
HMS Pinafore | ★★★★ | April 2019
Unsung | ★★★½ | April 2019
Coral Browne: This F***Ing Lady! | ★★ | May 2019
This Island’s Mine | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | June 2019
Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World | ★★★ | July 2019
Mating In Captivity | ★★★★ | July 2019
Oddball | ★★★½ | July 2019
How We Begin | ★★★★ | August 2019
World’s End | ★★★★ | August 2019

 

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