Posts with the label tony kushner
Showing posts with label tony kushner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tony kushner. Show all posts

Tuesday 4 July 2017

Andrew Garfield and Denise Gough on Angels in America | Platform Review

Andrew Garfield and Denise Gough on Angels in America
Lyttleton Theatre, National Theatre
Post by Olivia Mitchell

The National Theatre have begun a series of talks and events relating to their mammoth, hit play Angels in America, starting with Tony Kushner discussing his plays and work in conversation with Ola Animashawun and continuing with other members of the cast/ crew of the play.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend a talk chaired by Kate Bassett, as Andrew Garfield, who plays Prior Walter, and Denise Gough, who plays Harper Pitt, discussed their experiences of performing in the epically relevant show. It is clear from the praise and awards both actors have been receiving that they are masters of their craft and at the top of their game but sometimes this level of 'celebrity' status can make people seem sort of mystical. So it was lovely to see them in an intimate, laid back setting to prove that although they're supremely talented, they're just like everyone else. Kate, Andrew and Denise sat on the stage in front of the angel set of part two: Perestroika whilst we filled the auditorium of the Lyttleton theatre.

The pair spent the majority of the time praising one another, their other cast members and the incredible writing of Tony Kushner. It's truly lovely to see how passionate they both are about the work they're doing with Andrew describing it as "the most fulfilling experience [he'll] ever hope to have." When asked why she initially took the role of Harper, Denise explained that after her Olivier award winning role in People, Places and Things she thought Angels would be a walk in the park. However, soon discovered she was wrong and didn't realise how much the role would take out of her. Despite having time off stage she said she is so mentally attached that time isn't a break, stating that "profound writing has a profound effect" with Andrew echoing the amount of work and energy that goes into playing Prior and that Kushner's writing "demands you to surrender".

This led into a particularly interesting discussion when an audience member asked how the cast take care of themselves to perform in such a demanding and long show. Andrew spoke candidly about how actors are expected to answer that it's a breeze but how it really is draining to give that much on stage all the time. He spoke about the effects on his mental health and how completing the play is his form of self care. Although it's long, especially on a two show day, he explained how getting to the end is somewhat of a therapeutic experience. Denise agreed with this, also laughing about the amount of self-care remedies she has, including massages, reflexology and air purifying!

A personal highlight of the talk was when the pair spoke about the need for connection and how this play provides that. "People flock to certain shows in the West End and I think that's all about connection." This is certainly true and in the dark times the country is going through at the minute I think it's really important to have an escape and a safe place where we can all unify over shared interests. Both actors said how they feel that the audience are really part of the play, especially on two show days and that the curtain call feels like an applause for both the cast and audience. Andrew described it as a "communion with the audience. Us all going through the same things together and how prevalent and necessary it is to tell this story right now."

Andrew and Denise are both hilarious, frequently taking the mickey out of themselves and again proving how normal they are. Especially funny moments were when Andrew exclaimed "Jeremy Corbyn for Prime Minister" and when he explained how although he doesn't identify as a gay man, he is basically living as one "just without the physical act" and how Ru Paul's Drag Race was an extensive and essential part of his research process: "every Sunday I would have eight friends over and we would just watch Ru".

Overall this was a wonderful and enlightening talk on one of the theatrical highlights of the season. It's incredible to see such passionate performers talk so candidly and emotionally about the struggles of their roles as well as what goes into performing such a colossal play. The National is one of the most accessible in the West End and this series of talks is just another example of that. If you haven't seen Angels in America then you better get in that returns queue because you don't want to miss out!

Read my review of Angels in America here:

Andrew Garfield and Denise Gough on Angels in America | Platform Review

Tuesday 4 July 2017

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Angels in America, National Theatre | Review

Angels in America
National Theatre, Lyttleton Theatre
Reviewed on Saturday May 13th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell

Angels in America has got to be one of the National Theatre's most eagerly anticipated productions and one of the hottest tickets in London right now. The production boasts a line-up of incredible stars with the entire run sold out apart from lottery and day seats. Due to the sheer size and epicness of this play, it is rarely staged so seeing this revival from director Marianna Elliott is a once in a generation opportunity.

The show is big. The glossy A4 programme is big, the set is big, the cast names are big and the length is big. So much is packed in and the scope of the production and the ideas within it are vast and although slightly overwhelming at times, it's an extremely well put together and a mesmerising production.

The cast includes Broadway's Nathan Lane, Olivier-winner Denise Gough, NT stars Russell Tovey and James McArdle and Hollywood film star Andrew Garfield, who had performed in shows at the NT before heading to Hollywood. The acting is utterly sublime, with ridiculous talent and confidence that is breathtaking throughout.

Tony Kushner's two-part play tells the story of the emerging AIDS crisis of the 1980s as it hit the gay community in New York, by as cast of both real life and fictional characters who are living through it. Both parts are dense but liberating in the way they play with form, moving from domestic realism to hallucinatory fantasy, especially in part two Perestroika.

Part one, Millennium Approaches is full of angst and drama but is extremely humorous at points. A homeless woman chaotically exclaims "In the new century I think we will all be insane", when get to part two, Perestroika, twenty-five years later we see that that premonition may have come to be.

Nathan Lane manages to have both our hate and sympathy as the vicious, closeted lawyer Roy. Denise Gough lives right up to her superstar name and she embodies the role of the drugged out, angry and upset, Harper, giving a mesmerising performance. James McArdle is wonderful as the infuriatingly sensitive Louis. Russell Tovey brings pain and innocence to the confused Mormon Republican Joe and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett is fantastic as Belize who is perhaps the only sane one of the group. But it's Andrew Garfield who steals the show. He is breathtaking as the shows lead, Prior Walter. Garfield is intense and committed to the role with just the right amount of wit and grit to make this somewhat wacky character come to life in perfect colour on stage.

Although the context of Angels in America is different in 2017, especially with regards to AIDS, the play feels extremely relevant and the revival couldn't have come at a better time. The action looks back at the time Reagan was in office and studies his right-wing policies which are scarily analogous with Donald Trump's. This makes everything even more resonant and emphasises the fractured America where opinions on gender, wealth and race have unfortunately not changed.

This play is unlike anything else, with a mix of angsty, sardonic, gloomy surrealism which is a roller coaster from moment one. There are so many moments of shock that jump out like an endless stream of consciousness and it's really like being inside Kushner's brain as his thoughts vomit out. Although that doesn't sound particularly pleasant, it really is. There's something magical and truthful about the craziness. This play is not likely to be seen again in the near future and this production of the modern masterpiece is sure to stay with everyone who sees it until the next one comes about. Angels in America is epic but the most important thing is that it promotes discussion and remains relevant.

Angels in America will be broadcast to cinemas by NT Live from 20 July.

Angels in America, National Theatre | Review

Wednesday 24 May 2017