London, Last Week
Dear theatre friend,
London's theatre scene is always a rich mix, but last week's plays were all truly memorable.
I was greatly anticipating Tom Stoppard's latest, "Leopoldstadt," which had been described as somewhat autobiographical. The three acts take place in Vienna (although he's Czech)-- 1899;1934;1955. This is one of Stoppard's finest since "Arcadia"-- not only an intricate tale of a cultured, extended family but also a passionate warning to heed the rise of fascistic governments and antisemitism. This one is worth a trip to London!
Had I seen only that, I would have been quite content, but there were more surprises and delights in store. If I hadn't been with friends, I might not have seen The Menier's Chocolate Factory's revival of "The Boyfriend"-- and I would have missed a gem. The excellent singing, dancing, costumes and sets in such an intimate space, were a total joy-- even to a non-musical viewer like me.
Another lighthearted piece was "Romantics Anonymous" by Emma Rice's new production company, Wise Children. Emma asked if I'd see it, knowing I'm an enormous fan of her work. (I gave her "Flying Lovers of Vitebsk" my Award three years ago in Edinburgh.) Based on the French movie of the same name, the show takes us on the arduous journey of two painfully shy people to find true love-- in Emma's inimitable, fanciful style. The play transfers to Los Angeles next, then Washington D.C.-- please look for it if you happen to be in either city.
For more serious fare, I chose "Swive" at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, written by Ella Hickson, my Award winner in 2008. Magically set in this candlelit venue, we witness Queen Elizabeth I's obdurate will resisting constant pressure to marry by all her male advisors. Ella has combines history with today's story to great effect.
"Kunene and the King" stars two consummate actors, Antony Sher and South African, John Kani, who also wrote the play. A post apartheid tale of racial conflict epitomized by an aging white actor and his black nurse. It also beautifully describes their growing friendship and mutual respect-- a tearful knockout!
"Albion" by Mike Bartlett (King Charles III) is an engrossing saga of a powerful matriarch hellbent on relocating her London family to the country home of her youth. It was prescient when written in 2017, and now knowingly revived to reflect the reality of Brexit.
"The Welkin" at The National is scheduled to be broadcast by National Theatre Live in May. I hope they'll add subtitles, because the broad dialects are difficult to understand-- and I'm used to many British accents. Visually stunning, it's an historic story concerning twelve women impaneled to judge the fate of another. It reminded me of "The Crucible" and "Twelve Angry Men."
Finally, since theatres are mostly dark on Sundays, I chose "Witness for the Prosecution," which has been playing at the London County Hall for years.
I found Agatha Christie's tale, set in this splendid courtroom, enlivened by excellent acting and direction. If you, too, might not remember the multiple twists-- go, it's great fun.
Now back in New York, I need to catch up on what's here. Please do send any suggestions-- I'm always eager to get recommendations.
See you at the theatre!