Tag Archives: Stanton Plummer-Cambridge

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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Coming Clean

Coming Clean
★★★★

Trafalgar Studios

Coming Clean

Coming Clean

Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 11th January 2019

★★★★

“there is a period charm, enhanced by Amanda Mascarenhas’ design, the attention to detail of which is faultless”

 

“Coming Clean”, Kevin Elyot’s first play premiered at the Bush Theatre nearly four decades ago. That it took until last summer to be revived, by Adam Spreadbury-Maher, at the King’s Head Theatre is quite astonishing. Now at Trafalgar Studios, it can bask in the long-awaited attention it deserves. Predating, by a decade, his breakthrough play “My Night with Reg” (which covers much of the same ground) it consequently suffers from being branded as his ‘first promising play’. Originally titled “Cosy” – a pun on Mozart’s opera which plays an important part – Elyot reluctantly compromised on the title but, thankfully, none of the material.

The play is set in a North London flat in 1982. Struggling writer Tony (Lee Knight) and his partner of five years, Greg (Stanton Plummer-Cambridge), seem to have the perfect relationship. Committed and in love, they are both open to one-night stands as long as they don’t impinge on the relationship. Into their lives walks Robert (Tom Lambert), a ‘resting’ actor doing a bit of cleaning on the side. It is no spoiler to reveal that cleaning is not the only service Robert does on the side, but the repercussions are what form the backbone of the drama.

Central to the drama is whether fidelity is both emotional or physical, or whether the two can be compartmentalised; and whether total honesty paradoxically damages a relationship or whether ignorance is bliss (a dichotomy that uncannily foreshadows the misleading misnomer of the “Don’t die of ignorance!” campaign during the onset of AIDS). But it is a mistake to delve too deep. “Coming Clean’ is foremost a bittersweet comedy – and in my mind more sweet than bitter where the laughs outweigh the woe. The central characters’ neighbour, the donut-devouring William (Elliot Hadley), almost single-handedly holds the show together with bursts of colour and comedy. Hadley’s is an outrageously powerhouse performance with the lion’s share of the best lines. He chides but cherishes Tony, a complex character movingly portrayed by Knight. There is an interesting dynamic between him and Plummer-Cambridge’s growling Greg, with shifts of balance that are eventually toppled by the dashing Robert. Lambert manages to tacitly show us that there is a more calculating undertow to the rippling clumsiness of his ingenue façade.

To call it a ‘gay’ play is, like most labels, an ineffectual tag; the questions addressed apply to anybody and everybody. Take away the sometimes graphic references to their sexual practices and these characters can become as generic as the audience; which is all-encompassing. That is part of the beauty of Elyot’s humour that overflows with sharp and brutally honest one-liners that we can all relate to. For that reason, the dialogue, too, crosses over into the present day with ease, never feeling dated. Instead, there is a period charm, enhanced by Amanda Mascarenhas’ design, the attention to detail of which is faultless.

Nostalgia can often be confused with obsolescence. But Spreadbury-Maher’s production shows that a refusal to buck to the trend of updating in no way lessens the impact of the material. Yes, it is rooted in the eighties and in the gay, male culture; yet it resonates beyond boundaries and becomes universal. Which is what defines great theatre.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Scott Rylander

 


Coming Clean

Trafalgar Studios until 2nd February

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Strangers in Between | ★★★★ | January 2018
Again | ★★★ | February 2018
Good Girl | ★★★★ | March 2018
Lonely Planet | ★★★ | June 2018
Two for the Seesaw | ★★ | July 2018
Silk Road | ★★★★ | August 2018
Dust | ★★★★★ | September 2018
A Guide for the Homesick | ★★★ | October 2018
Hot Gay Time Machine | ★★★★★ | November 2018

 

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