Posts with the label olivier theatre
Showing posts with label olivier theatre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label olivier theatre. Show all posts

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Hadestown, National Theatre | Review


Hadestown
Olivier Theatre, National Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 14th November 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★★

Folky, emotive, excellently performed and ever relevant, the National Theatre's production of Hadestown is a grand triumph. The folk opera by Anaïs Mitchell started life in 2006 as a small concert which then became an album and gained a cult following. A fully formed, off-Broadway production came from the genius team of Mitchell and Rachel Chavkin who have continued their partnership for this new production which they are taking to Broadway after its run at the National.

Despite a number of iterations, the story has always remained the same and the music, scarily relevant. We follow the story of Orpheus who could charm anyone with his music and Eurydice, the woman who falls in love with him, but he loses as he tries to lead her out of the underworld. 

This show is wonderfully smart and sharp in the way it twists the original stories to feel current whilst still maintaining their mythic feel. Orpheus and Eurydice aren't magical spirits but a young boy and girl facing famine and the trials of life in a failing world. Hades, ruler of the underworld also rules the mines and offers his people "freedom" by giving them jobs but also imprisoning them behind a wall. Why We Build The Wall must be one of the most topical numbers of the show and it's hard to believe it wasn't written more recently. The parallels with the state of the USA are undeniable.


The sleek but intricate set of Rachel Hauck, takes the tale to a Depression-era bar, where André De Shields as Hermes, narrates the show and introduces us to the meaning's behind what's to come whilst accompanied by a life, bluesy band who are dotted around the stage. His rich voice transports the audience to another world.

The operatic nature comes from the recitatives which pepper the show and provide lyrical pauses from the sometimes repetitive songs. The cast do an absolutely outstanding job of performing the beautiful music, providing spades of emotion. The pureness of the show and performances within it moved me to tears several times and the man next to me must have exclaimed "wow" after at least 90% of songs. 

Reeve Carney has a soft-rock vibe to his Orpheus, with his spiked hair and calming voice showing Eurydice would have been drawn to him. Eva Noblezada is on another vocal level with her performance; her voice is supremely clear and the effortless way she delivers every line is truly magical to behold. Every word that leaves her mouth is infused with feeling and the way she idly carries herself round the stage makes her the perfect counterpart to the equally cool, Orpheus. Their sweet duet, All I've Ever Known is a magical moment.


Reminiscent of The Huger Games' President Snow and the USA's President Trump, Hades is played menacingly by Patrick Page. The weight of his words and performance cut close to home and his growling bass voice enchants everyone who hears it. What's most scary is the way he also reveals a tender side which is mesmerising and terrifying at once. Hey Little Songbird is an example of the way he can wrap someone around his finger; he seduces Eurydice before telling his wife later that the girl means nothing to him. As his half-drunk, half-lonely wife Persephone, Amber Gray gives a masterclass performance. Her high energy moments are contrasted perfectly with moments of sadness which seep out of her and cover the audience in waves.

Chavkin has worked with every performer, set piece, musician and lighting moment to create a show which has us lingering between despair and hope. The sharp choreography from David Neumann works fantastically with the revolves of the Oliver stage and bring an equally frenetic and still mood to the piece.

This is a production all about balance and the entire cast, crew and creative team have done an astounding job of highlighting the pain and beauty which inhabits our world. Mention goes to the Fates (Rosie Fletcher, Carly Mercedes Dyer, Gloria Onitiri) and Jordan Shaw who all caught the eye throughout with their supremely grounded performances.

Hadestown is painfully relevant and beautifully moving. It's a production which will surely be remembered by all who see it, and should be seen by all.

Hadestown runs at the National Theatre until January 26th 2019

photo credit: Helen Maybanks

Hadestown, National Theatre | Review

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Macbeth, National Theatre | Review


Macbeth
Olivier Theatre, National Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 6th March 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★

I've seen and studied a fair few Shakespeare plays but I wouldn't say I'm an expert in any form. I do however, know what I like when going to the theatre and recognise brilliant acting when I see it. The National Theatre's current production of Macbeth does have brilliant acting but overall it just didn't do it for me.

Walking into the wonderful Olivier theatre we are greeted with an almost bare stage, there are four poles with ragged, witchy fabric attached to the top; in the centre there is a sloped wooden platform decorated with severed limbs from plastic baby toys. Rae Smith's minimalistic set works well with the sparse life of the characters within the show; with them all (including Duncan and Macbeth) looking as though they're on the poverty line in muddy, battered clothes.

Rory Kinnear is thoughtful and suitably plagued as Macbeth; his small comedic moments are particularly enjoyable and he proves why he's such an esteemed actor.  


The choice to make Alana Ramsey's Murderer a fishnet tights-clad alcoholic is a great one and she works very well to show the extents which people will go to when they feel they have nothing, just to get their fix or some quick cash.

Trevor Fox's alcoholic Porter is like a ghost moving around, silently hearing all the secrets he shouldn't know. It's refreshing to see him as a more serious, important character rather than mainly being onstage for comedic relief. This darker side emphasises him as the metaphor for the gates of hell, something which I feel is often missed in productions of Macbeth.

It's Anne-Marie Duff who steals the show as Lady Macbeth. Every movement is clearly well thought out and her transition from the headstrong wife who lacks humanity to the crumbling woman plagued by ghosts is striking. 


I didn't find anything specifically wrong with this production, I just didn't really feel, well, anything. It's not scary, it's not particularly gory, it's not emotional and it's not funny, it's just a bit uninspiring. There are elements which have brought Shakespeare's play into the modern world but the emotions didn't translate for a modern audience... at least for me.

If you're a Shakespeare fan then there's no reason why you shouldn't go and judge Rufus Norris' Macbeth for yourself but if not then I wouldn't rush along, as I don't think this is the production to make you a fan.

Macbeth runs at the National Theatre until June 23rd and will be broadcast live to cinemas worldwide on May 10th as part of NT Live.

photo credit: Brinkhoff Mögenburg

Macbeth, National Theatre | Review

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Monday, 13 November 2017

Saint George and the Dragon, National Theatre | Review


Saint George and the Dragon
Olivier Theatre, National Theatre
Reviewed on Friday 10th November 2017 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★

The National Theatre's current production of Saint George and the Dragon is a modern and ambitious twist on the traditional folk tale of Saint George the dragon-slayer. Described as "a folk tale for an uneasy nation" this production time travels from the medieval times all the way to the current day and questions whether England is losing it's traditional values and whether change is always positive.

Rory Mullarkey's play has faults and drags a little but its interesting and humourous throughout and works extremely well in the space of the Olivier theatre. 

As George himself, John Heffernan is Shakespearean, larger than life, witty and charming- perfect for the role. A particularly funny moment is when he disguises himself as 'Ian' in the 2017 world, raising the question of how much we're willing to change to fit in. The character is interesting because as those around him change, he stays the same and becomes somewhat innocent in nature. This transition from the bold hero, to almost childlike is an interesting watch and the idea that distant 'heros' aren't always what the world needs is especially relevant now when it's being revealed that many Hollywood idol's are not the people we should be looking up to at all.


Julian Bleach is the perfect contrast as the sinister but witty Dragon; his portrayal is fantastically strong and gave me major child-catcher vibes in the second act. As the feisty, voice of reason heroine, Elsa, Amaka Okafor is brilliantly cast.

This show wouldn't be what it is without Rae Smith's outstanding set design which transitions along with the characters seamlessly and adds a simple but strong dimension to the play. From the green fields of medieval England to the factory filled London during the industrial revolution, each set is instantly recognisable. Whilst extremely fitting for the time period, the sets also have a humourous aspect such as the way smoke puffs out of the factories. Accompanied by the great, atmospheric lighting by Bruno Poet we are transported through the history of England.

Overall I don't think this play will be to everyone's taste and it could certainly be trimmed down for a smoother flow but it's definitely interesting and I enjoy how it raises some important and relevant questions whilst still remaining humourous. Its genuinely funny and entertaining and Rory Mullarkey has done a great job of reinventing a traditional tale.


Saint George and the Dragon, National Theatre | Review

Monday, 13 November 2017

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Peter Pan, National Theatre | Review




Peter Pan
The Olivier Theatre, National Theatre
Reviewed on Friday 2nd December 2016 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★★

The story of 'The Boy Who Never Grows Up' is one which we all know. Since J.M Barrie's original story and production there have been countless re-imaginations of Peter and Wendy's adventures in Wonderland, each trying to add their own spin to the story. With a such a Classic it can be hard to make the distinction between a play and a panto but the National Theatre's production has done that perfectly and created a fresh and exciting version of Peter Pan which is sure to be enjoyed by children and adults alike!

Madeline Worrall captures Wendy Darling's character wonderfully, with moments of childishness as well as of maturity and practicality. Wendy, is this production is much more free spirited than I've seen previously; she doesn't just follow Peter's every whim but seems to weigh up every decision she makes. She's independent whilst still having childlike qualities; a lovely contrast to Peter himself, played by Paul Hilton.


Peter is not the charming, sweet boy we usually think of. He is much darker and more frantic; a mix between Drop Dead Fred and The Mask (maybe that's because of all the green though!) At first I was unsure of this portrayal but Hilton's Peter really grew on me and I understood why he had such a cocky and arrogant side and was able to sympathise with him much more in his moments of despair than if he had been sweet throughout.

Of course motherhood is a key theme in the story of Peter Pan but in this production it is really magnified, especially through the choice of having Captain Hook played by a woman (Anna Francolini who replaced an injured Sophie Thompson.) Francolini is dark and menacing as Hook. Her gold teeth glistening like knives, her gothic get-up and of course her hook, all create a truly threatening character. The character of Hook is deconstructed slowly throughout the play, with snippets of her humanity showing all through, making her somewhat melancholy. I got the feeling that Hook would have liked to be a mother but as she is stuck in Neverland and evil has been drilled into her, she knows she never could be. This was a revelation to me as I had never seen Hook as anything other than the evil antagonist.

The stand out scene of the whole show for me was when she was roused up and dressed by Smee in a revealing scene where she transformed from a frail, balding lady to the strong, menacing Hook she shows the world. Although Hook was suitably scary, I found myself drawn to her and wanting to know more and more about her.

Another stand-out character was Tiger Lily played by Lois Chimimba. Tiger Lily is a feisty girl who's been raised by wolves and knows her way around. The wolves themselves would have terrified a 10 year old me- they're very reminiscent of The Wheelers in Return To Oz coming onto the stage erratically with masks and crutches.

The only character I didn't feel attached to was Tinkerbell, played by Saikat Ahmed. He was too aggressive and not at all likeable. Although it was heartbreaking when he drank the poison, there was just something about him which made me feel uneasy. I loved the made up language used for Tink and the whole premise felt very solid but I personally was not a fan.

I loved the theatricality of the production. It was wonderful to see how all the 'magic' was being done. Seeing the counter-weights and 'fairy strings' on stage didn't distract from the magic at all but made the whole thing even more enjoyable to watch. The use of music is another highlight of the production. Whilst it is clearly not a musical, it is also not just a play. The songs added are not randomly thrown in for decoration but to add to the characters and emotions, the duet/vocal duel between Hook and Wendy was raw and rich and exciting to hear.

Overall this production is lively, colourful, exciting and rich. It takes the classic story and elevates it to a new level of wonder and fantasy without taking it anywhere near the pantomime realm. This is a creative and refreshing production which is magical for children and touching for adults. The whole production is a visceral spectacle which is not to be missed!

Peter Pan is playing at the National Theatre until the 4th February. Tickets can be booked at: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/peter-pan

A huge thank you to #LDNTheatreBloggers for having me at the show; make sure you check them out on twitter @TheatreBlogs and their website: http://theatrebloggers.co.uk/!

Peter Pan, National Theatre | Review

Saturday, 3 December 2016