Blancheblanche marvin's london theatreviews

recommended by Peter Brook
**** = stand if necessary
*** = sit in front stalls
** = sit in back stalls
* = have a drink!



You can always identify the dancers with Kirov Ballet training in the brilliant acrobatic flexibility of the dancers’ bodies. To be privileged to see Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin, whose gift in acrobatic flexibility is startling, is the joy of the evening. Not only do they perform with the greatest artistry and skill but the chemistry between them sets the house on fire. Their personal relationship is aflame on stage. Their desire to show the world their ability to perform modern works and not just the classics has motivated this programme. They have succeeded in showing us their range but their choices of choreography are less impressive. Of the three pieces I preferred Silent Echo despite it not being the best of Maliphant…it’s derivative of some of his earlier work but not much improved upon. It is stunningly produced in its musicality, in its movement, and in its lighting effects. It is perfectly timed in its length, unlike Qutb which is too similar in tone and mood to Silent Echo, but is also repetitive in length without the excitement of Polunin. Run Mary Run, very modern indeed with its smoking, drinking, and drugging, may offer greater characterisations but impresses least of all in its cliché contents. Only the dancers held my rigid attention. Watching their movements, their relationship is mesmerising. The young Natalia Osipova, was a joy to watch at the Bolshoi Ballet, her technical bravura was magical. Her classical and modern roles have progressed with stunning artistry. In the Royal Ballet a young danseur, Sergei Polunin was destined to blaze the path in the classical and modern works. But basically, he remains a noble classicist. They are now appearing at Sadler’s Wells in inadequate and pretentiously cliché choreography, wasting such talent on trivia. There are ballets created specifically for great dancers which have emblazed the art of those great dancers. Osipova and Polunin are sadly trapped with choreographies that are unworthy of their talent. The actual technical side of the productions, outside of Maliphant, is clumsy. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Qutb physicalises Osipova with two male dancers. Only the rising wail of the Sufi singers adds to the fluctuating choreography. Silent Echo, is less skillful of Russell Maliphant’s usual gifts, and Arthur Pita’s endless Run Mary Run, set to pop songs, presents only dance clichés about life, love and its delusions. Osipova imbues her dances in every move, in every action with a vivacious zest for life. Polunin, despite all the obviousness, flashes such classic grace and nobility that almost eliminate the grossness of the choreography. The Royal Ballet principal dancer Natalia Osipova does her best in this freelance production while Sergei Polunin, the tattooed star who abandoned the Royal Ballet in 2012 to become a freelance, accompanies his partner with his Royal Ballet brilliance. …his backbreaking lifts and Osipova’s curling backwards into a c-shape are just samples of their genius. Import but no export. June 29 – July 3/16
Touring Programme:
  • Edinburgh Festival Theatre - 12 to 14th August
  • Sadler's Wells - 27 September to 1st October
  • New York City Centre - 10 to 12th November

Reportage - Peter Brook Sur Un Fil - The Tightrope a film by Simon Brook
There is a new release in a DVD called Tightrope which is an intimate viewing of rehearsals on The Suit directed by Peter Brook. Considering that Peter Brook does not allow any viewing of his rehearsals, this is a major breakthrough that every drama department and college must have. He follows the exercise of actors doing sense memory on a rug that is made to be a tightrope which each actor must fully pursue with a truth and reality of walking on an actual tight-rope. Through this exercise Brook reaches into the essence of the actor who will then reach deep inside him or her self to feel the pressure of a tightrope and sustain balance. It’s worked on over and over again, repeated rhythmically. The other exercise is for actors to call out in sequence the correct numbers, one after each other. In this exercise the actor must listen to the other actors in order to follow. The point being that the performer doesn’t listen…he or she is only concerned with self. The real actor is not performing him or her self, but the truth of a character and must act and react to other actors in order to be truthful. Thus after watching these exercises one begins to understand where acting begins and performing ends. You can learn to discern the reality of good acting from this dvd. It is mesmerising to follow the truth which needs no decoration; it’s always simple and direct. The pleasure is in watching the exercises over and over again. And for the schools, for the actor, the director, it is a brilliant instruction. Let there be light on these rehearsals which Simon Brook has so sensitively shot without trying to be anything but truthful himself. Let there more and more and more. by blanche marvin

The Shed is the new studio theatre replacing the Cottesloe while it is being rebuilt and renamed. It is far more practical, inventive, and flexible than the Cottesloe; hopefully its assets will be incorporated into the new theatre. Being a large square rather than the rectangle of the Cottesloe, it is acoustically far superior and its sightlines so much more conveniently viewable. Composed of red wooden slats (raw steel and plywood), it looks like a table turned upside down with its four ventilating legs in the air, resembling a gigantic toy that just sprung up from the ground ready to be entered….very inviting against that grey concrete of the main houses. Alongside the café and on the outdoor space leading to the main theatres, one easily slips into the lobby of the Shed to have a coffee, sitting at the joining tables and chairs. Inside, the theatre’s seating capacity goes up to 260 with a b alcony surrounding the whole square, yet it remains intimate. The space is adjustable to in-the-round, thrust or proscenium configurations as required. Designed by the outstanding theatre architects Hawarth Tompkins, the Shed is only a temporary space while the Cottesloe is being remodelled during the NT’s £70 million redevelopment programme. The Cottesloe will reopen in 2014 as the Dorfman Theatre. As for Haworth Tompkins….hats off to the architects that have transformed the British theatre opening its vistas beyond the immediate space!! The Royal Court’s big red drum, the Young Vic opened up to an expansive hello, Battersea Arts Centre's converted into a theatre-cum-residence for visiting artists. The growing use of site specific theatre is changing the whole concept of a theatre building. As Peter Brook said, “All you need is an empty space.” Just the sight of the Shed makes you smile. Its aim is to allow space for NT shows of a risky nature and for invited guest companies to perform. Productions will vary in their length of runs…some days, weeks or months. Tanya Ronder’s highly imaginative and emotionally provocative play Table has christened this new entity and could not be a better choice in its title or its quality.
It is also important to credit Nicholas Hytner for the diversity of spaces …the entranceway used for entertainment by performance artists, the terraces used by pyrotechnicians, the Prop Room for casual snacks and drinking on the embankment, making the costumes and workshops open for public use. Hytner not only made it a people’s theatre in the productions but in the atmosphere and attitudes. And now he has turned that grey block of concrete into a whole new redesigned series of buildings, far more friendly and inviting. He will be remembered as the artistic director who changed the National into an open sesame of invention.

The Lowry, an Arts Centre is a fascinating collection of sculptured buildings that look like living sculptures whose internal sculptured life continues. No staircase or column is left in ordinary shapes or sizes…nothing is symmetrical or of matching size. Everything dominates in different heights so that you feel you are on a boat that is braving the waves…we are in constant movement. Porthole windows in the Tower, the stairways and landings like ships' gangways add to the immediacy of the design. The colours begin with hot reds and oranges and gradually become cooler from building to building. You are in a continual atmosphere in the endless hallways, the offices, lobbies, foyers, shops, galleries, or theatres. There are three theatres…the huge Lyric Theatre which is close to 2000 seats (as large as the Coliseum) allowing big musicals, opera, and dance….a magician was performing his act with audience participation as I looked in; the Quays Theatre of 450 seats is ingenious in design with portable seats that allow configurations of proscenium, traverse and in the round beautifully décor-ed in red and up-to-date technical equipment…an experimental theatre commercially viable with its 450 seats… and finally crossing an internal bridge to the Studio Space which allows what you will in an intimate setting and seating. In 1988, this new arts centre, based at Pier 8 on the canal front, was considered as a means to raise the cultural profile of Salford bringing vital activity in business and tourism. The Council commissioned the famous architects James Stirling and Michael Wilford to produce designs for this arts centre. After Stirling’s sudden death in 1992, Michael Wilford alone became the architect. Lottery funding was secured, and in 2000 the buildings were completed, costing £106 million, including The Lowry building, the large triangular Plaza, the terraced areas down to the canal, the Lifting Footbridge leading to Trafford Wharfside, plus additionally came the Imperial War Museum – North and the Digital World Centre (DWC) - a high-tech business centre providing quality, serviced premises. All this extreme modernism with a Gallery devoted to the realistic painter Lowry who seems an anachronism as far as his style, but used because of his Salford renown. Outside fitting the shape of Pier 8, the Lowry is triangular in the size of 5 football pitches. The building stands on concrete piles sunk down into the bedrock, 2,466 tons of steel and 5,263 sq metres of glass. The ship-like appearance outside easily transmits itself into the interior.
The Studio Theatre, where I observed a work in progress, gave one a fair indication of the range and outreach of the audience who were requested to give written reactions. Perfect Pitch Musicals and the Lowry presented No Sleep for the Haunted by Geoff Page…a series of ghost stories put to music adapted from Bram Stoker’s The Judge’s House, Charles Dicken’s The Signalman, And M.R. James’ A Warning to the Curious. Roger Haines is the director with singers Fred Broom, Ryan Greaves, Darren Southworth-Long. The Studio is yet to prove its identity with the promotion of new Northern writers as part of its criteria. There is, of course, its international associations performing in the larger theatres and as the Manchester Theatre Festival grows and grows in its gravity and importance so grow the lilacs at the Lowry door. It is a fantastic ambiance for international festivals. The future lies here as one sees across the canal the gradual relocation of the BBC in its construction of more buildings. The growth of cities and festivals no longer is allocated to just the big-name metropolis but is also possible here in such an eye-glazing art centre where you can have the combination of all the arts at the same time.

The opening of the new RSC Theatre and the refurbishing of the Swan is a great historical occasion as the base of English fame in the theatre is Shakespeare and that Elizabethan/Jacobean era when England dominated the world in its originality and quality of playwriting. The enormous collection of English theatres and theatre artists with a dynamic energy became the world centre of drama and theatre for that time. The rebuilding of these foundations is again a major happening affecting the whole world yet it still comes from the market town of Stratford-Upon-Avon. The Swan remains just as it was with new seats and a new wooden stage floor with enough depth to have the famous trap doors from which to perform as well as the height for flying. But it’s the balconies on the upper levels that are enticing. The entrance to the Swan itself has changed and is part of the main entrance with its shop, now cleared out of the Swan, sharing the major shop space in the main entranceway. It leaves wide open room for the Swan lobby with a proper bar leading to the untouched library. However, the actors now have their own entrance to the dressing rooms, a reversal of what once was…. a shared entrance to dressing rooms of the Swan and its own entrance to the theatre.
There are runways throughout the main building connecting all the individual buildings and a brick tower standing on its own looking ominous. It’s only a tower for the lifts and has nothing to do with the RSC Theatre. Just as ‘all roads lead to Rome’ so is it with the all the runways that lead to the new and separate building of the main RSC Theatre. All that remains of the old building are the marbleised walls and floor of the old entranceway and some of the back wall of the old theatre plus the Art Deco staircase leading to the dress circle and its fountain. You walk through a runway to the new RSC Theatre. It resembles the Courtyard except that it is more intimate with its back wall much shorter allowing the circular seating to be close to the thrust stage with its deep wooden floor allowing for trap doors and ceilings for flying with its fly tower to insure the moves. It is a building on its own, all brand new, with an open stage allowing a report with the audience. There are cafes and bars easily accessible with dressing rooms all equal for the actors with no star categories. It’s ensemble down to the last shower in some of the bigger dressing rooms, but all are close to the stage plus surrounded by attached balconies overlooking the Avon. There are actual cubicles surrounding the back wall of the auditorium for the quick dress changes. But wood dominates the buildings as thick as concrete when necessary for foundation and a substitute for it. The weight of concrete would overburden the building. And so here is a theatre a combination of the old with all this new technology. In between it all are great sight lines for the audience plus the acoustics which resound with vigour. The only question mark is what will happen to the Courtyard and if possible the return to the Other Place Theatre. Hopefully, the Courtyard could be placed in one of the London parks for summer fare. We’ll see. But what must not be forgotten is the triumph of this whole event…I remember the chaos and broken spirits of a company when everything fell to pieces under Adrian Noble and his fallen departure…. The horrendous beginnings for Michael Boyd to pick up those pieces both of the buildings and the morale of an entire company. He not only managed to create a change in the spirit of the company but in its enterprising energy of opening its doors to the world, to the children, to the students, to the educational advantages and participation, to retaining an ensemble company of training actors to stardom, and sustaining a programme of new directors and new plays. Those glorious workshops that produce metal work and leather for the props, the seamstresses, the technicians such as the lighting designer whose invention of moving lights without cables is grounded at the RSC. The arts and crafts of theatre, its expansion into the curriculum, even Chiltern Railways’ final acknowledgement of the RSC significance in its train scheduling, made this enormously positive swing because of Michael Boyd. There is a great debt due to his undying integrity and selflessness; his triumph is as great as the buildings for without such generosity of spirit there would only be cold buildings with no heart. Now for the productions to enter the arena!!!!