30 March 2010

London Assurance - National Theatre, Monday 22nd March 2010

Sir Harcourt Courtley – Simon Russell Beale
Charles, his son – Paul Ready
Squire Harkaway – Mark Addey
Grace Harkaway, his niece – Michelle Terry
Mark Meddle, attorney – Tony Jayawardena
Cool: Nick Sampson
Lady Gay Spanker – Fiona Shaw
Mr. Adolphus Spanker, her husband – Richard Briers
Mr. Solomon Isaacs, Junix Inocian

Charles and Dazzle arrive back at Sir Harcourt's London home after a night on the town, and manage to avoid Sir Harcourt with Cool's help—Sir Harcourt still believes Charles is a clean-living innocent. Max arrives to make the final arrangements for Sir Harcourt's marriage to Max's niece Grace—by arrangement, Sir Harcourt has financially helped Max in return for making Grace's inheritance contingent on her marrying Sir Harcourt (if she does not, it will pass to Charles). Sir Harcourt leaves and Dazzle bumps into Max, gaining himself an invitation to Oak Hall, Max's country house—a trip on which Charles will accompany him.
At Oak Hall, Grace explains to her maid Pert her acceptance of marriage to the aged Sir Harcourt and her view of love as an "epidemic madness". Charles and Dazzle arrive, and the former (not knowing of his father's marriage plans) immediately starts courting Grace. When his father arrives, Charles pretends he is actually a man called Augustus Hamilton who merely bears a remarkable likeness to Charles.

Max's daughter Lady Gay Spanker and her husband Adolphus (“Dolly”) arrive, and Sir Harcourt immediately falls in love with the former. Grace begins to fall in love with Charles/Augustus in spite of herself and so, when Lady Gay interrupts their courtship, Charles easily persuades her to distract Sir Harcourt from marriage to Grace by apparently accepting his affections.

Charles leaves as 'Augustus', returning as Charles to tell Grace that 'Augustus' has been killed, to see if she really loves him, whilst Lady Gay and Sir Harcourt plan to “elope” together. However, Dolly and the meddling local lawyer Meddle manage to prevent the elopement.

Dolly challenges Sir Harcourt to a duel, but both of them escape alive, and all is revealed. Dolly forgives Gay and Sir Harcourt finds out his son's true nature as well as acceding to the marriage.
Well, what can I say? At least four stars, if not quite five. This is the sort of production that the National Theatre should be giving its customers – well written, well cast and well directed stuff that can pack out the Olivier auditorium night after night after night and send people home happier than they were when they arrived. “Classic” drama, yet not so “classic” that its been done to death and people are bored with it. A script that, despite being nearly 150 years old, is witty, fresh as paint and full of seemingly up-to-date references, produced in a traditional way with a top-notch cast. Forget David Hare and all his flash-in-the-pan stuff – this is what people want, which is proved by the fact that tickets are like gold dust for the rest of the run. I hadn’t been feeling on top of the world for a couple of weeks beforehand; the dregs of a long-running viral infection coupled with the truly lousy weather that passes for spring these days had left me feeling drained, chronically tired and frankly crabby, yet I came out of the National feeling better than I had done in weeks, simply because I’d enjoyed myself so much.

Lets have a look at the script first. Written by Irish playwright Dion Boucicoult in 1841, it hums with satire and social comment, very little of which (if indeed any) seems to have dated in any way. In fact, (and unusually) the date is mentioned in the text and, if changed accordingly, the play could easily be set in 1741 or 1941 – there’s more than an air of Congreve’s comedies about the play, although such wonderful lines as “90% of lawyers ruin things for the rest of us” could so easily refer to the modern world. In fact, with a change of costume, this play could be set in any period and still be funny and fresh. A sudden thought – it would have been fun to have had the costumes change gradually in period throughout the play, from Queen Anne all the way through to completely modern (I’ve seen operas done like this) and those not in the know would be hard pressed to pin down the script to any one period. That’s a sign of a great writer. And Boucicoult certainly knew how to make his audience laugh.

The set was the kind of thing I want to see at the theatre, yet rarely do. The first act was set in Sir Harcourt Courtly’s London home – an enormous Georgian house front for the street scene, followed by what was basically an enormous four-fold screen decorated in blues and whites and pierced with doors. This rose to reveal a complete late Jacobean mansion house, perfect in every detail, which revolved to show the interior, just like an enormous dolls house, with cornfields beyond. Lovely to look at on the rare occasions when my attention flagged slightly. Costumes were perfect in period detail, accurately reflecting the character of those wearing them. One clever touch I noticed was that Richard Briers’ tailcoat had been made with built-up shoulders, giving him that permanently stooped look that old codgers have.

There was some major master-class acting taking place. I’m not a huge fan of Simon Russell Beale, as regular readers will know. But I have to admit that he made this particular part completely his own, even down to the “leg acting” (which is where someone pays particular attention to the placement of his legs and feet in order to enhance a character). Richard Briers must be one of the few actors going who can make an audience laugh just by walking on stage; he played a tiny part but still nuanced every line of dialogue and body movement. Fiona Shaw played her role to perfection (think of the Sarah Ferguson puppet from “Spitting Image” and you won’t be far off). Giving a masterclass in how to take a miniscule part and completely dominate the stage with it was Nick Sampson as Cool, Sir Harcourt’s valet - a wonderfully detailed performance with great delivery. The way he stepped round a pile of dirt in the courtyard, just like an offended heron, will stay with me for a long time. The only disappointment was Tony Jayawardena’s Mr. Meddle, who didn’t really give any real performance worth speaking of. He seemed uncomfortable with the ridiculousness of the role and didn’t come across as anything other than a jobbing actor playing an admittedly unrewarding role.

To add to the near-perfection (my cup indeed runneth over) there is a radio-controlled rat. Even the quartet of musicians were well integrated into the action – their presence seemed natural and plausible and it was uplifting (and sadly unusual) to have them play for the bows at the end and for the play-out. The last time I remember this happening was at Much Ado About Nothing here a couple of years ago and it provided the perfect ending to a highly enjoyable night. In fact, I would quite happily go and see it again – and that’s something you very rarely hear me say on this blog!

What the critics said:





There were no YouTube clips really relevant to London Assurance, so instead I treat you to some pictures of the wonderful set and the costumes:

26 March 2010

Shirley Jones in Concert - Arts Theatre, Wednesday 24th March 2010

The phone rang. It was Him Indoors, breathless with excitement. “I’ve got tickets for a concert that Shirley’s doing tonight!!” My heart missed a beat – had The Temptress from Tiger Bay slipped into London without my realising? Had Him Indoors pulled off a coup and got tickets to see Shirley Bassey? Was my greatest dream about to be realised? Alas no – he meant Shirley Jones. Who, you ask? Yes, I asked too. Apparently she played David Cassidy's mother in The Partridge Family. I can tell that you are as singularly underwhelmed as I was. I’d been looking forward to a nice quiet evening in, finishing up the original 1970s BBC series of Survivors that I’d bagged on Ebay. Still, duty calls. Apparently, Ms. Jones, now in her mid 70s herself, was a chorine in the original Broadway run of South Pacific and was plucked from the chorus line by Richard Rogers himself to play Laurie in the film version of Oklahoma, was in the film of The Music Man, went on to win an Oscar for her part in Elmer Gantry and then faded quietly from public view until she got cast as David Cassidy's mother - which was handy, seeing as she'd actually given birth to him.  And then she'd faded quitely from public view again - until now.

The Arts Theatre isn’t London’s most glamorous venue – it feels a bit like an old fleapit cinema and its seats are uncompromisingly uncomfortable, covered in velvet as faded  as Ms. Jones’s singing voice. Some vague attempt had been made to “jazz up” the stage with one of those curtains made of long strips of shiny material, but the effect was ruined not only by the moth-eaten looking quartet of old gits comprising the orchestra but also by the small table on stage holding two glasses, a dented plastic bottle of water and covered with what looked like somebody’s coat. The audience consisted mainly of doddery-looking pensioners and old musical queens. The show was nearly 10 minutes late starting but I was reassured by Him Indoors that “Broadway always starts late”. The lights dimmed, people two rows behind started unwrapping their humbugs from that particularly loud plastic used for theatre confectionery and, up on what looked like an old bath towel suspended above the stage, we were treated to Shirley’s “show reel” – clips of her from all her old films (mainly consisting of the kissing scenes). It went on and on and I began to wonder whether Ms. Jones might not eventually be joining us live via satellite link from the old folk’s home. Eventually the poor old cow came on stage (to give her her due, she looks damned good for 75 but I initially thought that she’d called in sick and Bea Arthur was covering for her). The band struck a chord, the microphone wailed and then cut out for a second and I knew instantly that I was going to have fun writing this review, if not actually sitting through what I needed to see in order to be able to write it.

The poor cow struggled with a couple of show toonz, ending both so off-key that I was amazed that bats weren’t falling out of the ceiling. There were a couple of minutes of “Oh my, you’re so wonderful, thank you, I love London”-type chit-chat and then Ms. Jones introduced her co-“star” – her son Patrick Cassidy. Scary, scary, scary. Looking like an American version of Patrick Kielty (with whom he shares a similar level of talent), Mr. Cassidy is obviously so in love with the image of himself that he has created that he really can’t tell he’s incredibly mediocre. You know things are going to be grim when people start emoting during “Danny Boy” – a song with no other connection to the evening than apparently Mr. Cassidy Senior quite liked it. Mr. Cassidy Junior then assured us that, although he listens to Oklahoma while on his running machine, he’s relentlessly heterosexual, a “comedy moment” that left most of the audience counting the buttons on their coat – never have sweet wrappers sounded so loud. Shirley had been “off” for so long by this point I wondered whether she’d dozed off backstage somewhere. But no – she tottered back on again, reminisced a bit (much of which was obviously rehearsed word for word - a raconteur she really ain’t), murdered a few more songs, and then tottered off and it was the Patrick Cassidy show yet again. There then followed an excruciating, tasteless and bitter “duet” called “You’re Nothing Without Me” from the show City of Angels (with him holding up a mask of his brother David – although “holding up” is not accurate; it was held at about hip level to mock David's height and “laughed off” with the line “Ah David, the older brother I always looked down to”). Half the audience found this entertaining, the remainder (including me) sat staring at our knees and wishing heartily that we’d stayed at home. A couple of brief duets with Mom, the announcement that “Shirley Jones will be signing copies of her CD in the foyer shortly. Ms Jones will only be signing merchandise purchased at this venue” and that was it – barely an hour and a half had passed and they are seriously expecting people to pay £42.50 to see something that you'd get on a third-rate cruise liner.

The evening was horribly misjudged from start to finish, and the major misjudgement was bringing that awful son of hers. The play-out music was “Have you met Miss Jones?” - an old Frank Sinatra number. Yes, I have – and I really wish I hadn’t. Shirley, darling, people fade into obscurity for good reasons. Take the hint.


Footnote: apparently the hint has been taken: http://westend.broadwayworld.com/article/Jones_and_Cassidys_West_End_Concert_to_Shutter_Early_on_327_20100326

25 March 2010

The Sorceror - Opera Della Luna @ The Churchill Theatre, Bromley, Friday 19th March 2010

The villagers of Ploverleigh are preparing to celebrate the betrothal of Alexis Pointdextre, the son of the local baronet and the blue-blooded Aline Sangazure. Only a young village maiden named Constance Partlet seems unwilling to join in the happy mood, and we learn as she tells her mother that she is secretly in love with the local vicar, Dr. Daly and the cleric himself promptly soliloquises that he has been unlucky in love. However, despite Mrs. Partlet's best attempts at matchmaking, the middle-aged Dr. Daly seems unable to conceive that a young girl like Constance would be interested in him.
Alexis and Aline arrive and it soon becomes clear that his widower father Sir Marmaduke and her widowed mother Lady Sangazure are concealing long-held feelings for one another, which propriety demands remain hidden. The betrothal ceremony is carried out, and left alone together Alexis reveals to his fiancĂ©e his plans for practical implementation of his principle that love should unite all classes and ranks. He has invited John Wellington Wells, a representative from a respectable London firm of sorcerers, to Ploverleigh.  Alexis instructs Wells to prepare a batch of love potion sufficient to dose the entire village

Wells mixes the potion. The villagers gather for the wedding feast and the potion is added to a teapot. All of the villagers, save Alexis, Aline and Wells, drink it and, after experiencing some hallucinations they fall unconscious.

At midnight that night the villagers awake and, under the influence of the potion, each falls in love with the first person of the opposite sex that they se. All of the matches thus made are highly and comically unsuitable; Constance, for example, loves the ancient notary who performed the betrothal. However, Alexis is pleased with the results, and now asserts that he and Aline should drink the potion themselves to seal their own love. Aline is hurt by his lack of trust and refuses, offending him. Alexis is distracted, however, by the revelation of his father having fallen for the lower-class Mrs Partlet, but he determines to make the best of this union.

Wells, meanwhile, is regretting the results that his magic has caused, and regrets them still more when the fearsome Lady Sangazure fixes on him as the object of her affections. Aline* decides to yield to Alexis' persuasion and drinks the potion without telling him. Upon awaking, she inadvertently meets Dr. Daly first and falls in love with him. Alexis desperately appeals to Wells as to how the effects of the spell can be reversed. It turns out that this requires that either Alexis or Wells himself yield up his life. The people of Ploverleigh rally against the outsider from London and Wells, resignedly, bids farewell and is swallowed up by the underworld in a burst of flames. The spell broken, the villagers pair off according to their true feelings, and celebrate with another feast.
* In this production, the roles swap at this point and its Alexis who takes the potion and ends up falling for Dr. Daly


Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre – Ian Belsey
Alexis, his son – Oliver White
Dr. Daly, Vicar of Ploverleigh – Philip Cox
Notary – Martin Lamb
John Wellington Wells – Simon Butteriss
Lady Sangazure – Sylvia Clarke
Aline, her daughter – Emma Morwood
Mrs. Partlett – Susan Moore
Constance, her daughter – Claire Watson

Creative team:
Director – Jeff Clarke
Designer – Graham Wynne
Choreographer – Jenny Arnold
Lighting – Guy Dickens
Wardrobe – Denise Crane

I have to admit that I approached this show with a fair amount of trepidation, being a bit of a G&S purist – although I’ve mellowed towards updated productions considerably over the past couple of years. I certainly remember staggering shell-shocked out of a performance of Opera Della Luna’s HMS Pinafore back in my dim and distant youth vowing never to darken their doors again and am amazed at my own narrow-mindedness.  I now firmly believe that if G&S is to survive, it has to be taken out of the aspic that the D'oyly Carte Company tried to pickle it in during its final years. What ODL do, if you don’t know the company, is re-write G&S (and occasionally other light operettas)  in a way that does without the chorus; all the principals double up as chorus members (or even triple-up sometimes, playing more than one role). What this production shows very clearly is that The Sorcerer, if done well and with conviction and panache, doesn’t really need a chorus at all. Certainly I didn’t miss it here; I think that such a thing would actually have bogged down this production horribly. Everyone on stage did their job so well and with such conviction and enthusiasm that the show seemed more or less perfect without it. True, I didn’t find it quite so hysterically funny as a couple of people elsewhere in the audience who seemed to be channelling hyenas on nitrous oxide, but I appreciated the clever humour and the affectionate parody of an art form which, if not handled carefully and with respect, so often tips dangerously towards parody anyway. The updating of the show from the traditional late Victorian to the 1970s didn’t grate at all, and in fact made perfect sense for a story which centres round a love potion; the rather high-falutin’ sentiments in the libretto translated perfectly to a time when LURVE was all the rage and expressed in terms just as quaint and affected (to modern day audiences) as by our Victorian ancestors.
I liked the simple but effective set showing the inside of a wedding marquee which left enough space for the small but enthusiastic orchestra to play alongside it on the stage, becoming essentially the village band (although perhaps it would have been nice for the musicians to have dressed in 70s’s outfits and thus become completely integrated into the production rather than their modern black outfits; no point in putting them on stage if they’re not going to be brought into the show). And I enjoyed all the performances as well. The G&S purist in me didn’t totally approve of flipping the story in the second act around so that Alexis and Dr. Daly (almost) ended up as gay lovers – I think this was a cheap laugh and one that seemed unnecessary given that, until that point, the show had been funny enough without it. Anyway, the entire cast was really “going for it” all evening and weren’t carrying any passengers – everyone was working their socks off and keeping the energy flowing, despite the disappointingly small house.

Anyway, the production is still touring, taking the show on a punishing schedule and there’s still time to catch The Sorcerer and, later in the run, that HMS Pinafore which had me chuntering all those years ago.Check out the dates and venue listing here to see if its coming to a town near you. If it is, go book your ticket immediately because believe me, even if you think G&S isn’t for you, you’ll laugh until you wet yourself.

There are a few reviews out there on the web:



Searching the InterNewt for something relevant (ODL's production isn't on you tube), I came across this excerpt from The Blue Hill Troupe's production of The Sorcerer (they are a New York amateur company) and the set is AMAZING.

21 March 2010

Measure for Measure - Almeida Theatre, Saturday 20th March 2010

Vincentio, the Duke of Vienna, makes it known that he intends to leave the city on a diplomatic mission. He leaves the government in the hands of a strict judge, Angelo. Under the Duke's government, the city's harsh laws against fornication have been laxly enforced, but Angelo, who later reveals himself as a hypocrite is known to be a hard-liner on matters of sexual immorality.

Claudio, a young nobleman, is betrothed to Juliet; having put off their wedding, he makes her pregnant before wedlock. For this act of fornication he is punished by Angelo. Although he is willing to marry her, he is sentenced to death. Claudio's friend Lucio visits Claudio's sister Isabella, a postulant nun, and asks her to intercede with Angelo on Claudio's behalf.

Isabella obtains an audience with Angelo, and pleads to him for mercy. Over the course of two scenes between Angelo and Isabella, it becomes clear that he harbours lustful thoughts for her, and he eventually offers her a deal: he will spare Claudio's life if Isabella will yield him her virginity. Isabella refuses, but she also realises that (due to Angelo's austere reputation) she will not be believed if she makes a public accusation against him. Instead she visits her brother in prison, and counsels him to prepare himself for death. Claudio vehemently begs Isabella to save his life, but Isabella refuses.

The Duke has not in fact left the city, but remains there disguised as a friar, in order to spy on his city's affairs, and especially the actions of Angelo. In his guise as a friar he befriends Isabella and arranges two tricks to thwart the evil intentions of Angelo:

First, a "bed trick" is arranged. Angelo has previously refused to fulfill the betrothal binding him to Mariana, because her dowry was lost at sea. Isabella sends word to Angelo that she has decided to submit to him, making it a condition of their meeting that it occurs in perfect darkness and silence. In fact, Mariana agrees to take Isabella's place, and she has sex with Angelo, although he continues to believe he has enjoyed Isabella. (In some interpretations of the law, this constitutes consummation of their betrothal, and so marriage.)

Contrary to expectation, Angelo goes back on his word, sending a message to the prison that he wishes to see Claudio's head, which necessitates the "head trick." The Duke first attempts to arrange the execution of another prisoner whose head can be sent instead of Claudio's. However, the villain Barnardine refuses to be executed in his current drunken state. As luck would have it, however, a pirate named Ragozine, of similar appearance to Claudio, has recently died of a fever, so his head is sent to Angelo instead.

This main plot concludes with the 'return' to Vienna of the Duke in his own person. Isabella and Mariana publicly petition him, and he hears their claims against Angelo. which Angelo smoothly denies. As the scene develops, it appears Friar Lodowick will be blamed for the 'false' accusations leveled against Angelo. The Duke leaves Angelo to be judge of the cause against Lodowick, but returns in disguise moments later when Lodowick is summoned. Eventually the friar reveals himself to be the duke, thereby exposing Angelo as a liar and Isabella and Mariana as truthful. He proposes that Angelo be executed—with his estate going to Mariana as her new dowry, "to buy you a better husband". Mariana pleads for Angelo's life, even enlisting the aid of Isabella (who is not yet aware her brother Claudio is still living). Heeding the petition of the two women, the Duke is merciful to Angelo, but compels him to marry Mariana. The Duke then proposes marriage to Isabella.

The Duke of Vienna – Ben Miles
Escalus – David Killick
Angelo – Rory Kinnear
Lucio – Lloyd Hutchinson
Claudio – Emun Elliott
Isabella – Anna Maxwell Martin

Creative team:
Director – Michael Attenborough
Design – Lez Brotherston
Lighting – David Hersey
Music – Stephen Warbeck

You can always tell when spring is coming; the bus drivers turn the heating on and the theatres crank up the air conditioning. Whether the wind whistling round my feet last night at the Almeida was meant to simulate the icy gusts of a Viennese winter I don’t know, but by the time the curtain came down, radio contact with my calves was intermittent and my feet hadn’t been heard from for at least an hour, making me think that my knees should be sending out a St. Bernard with a barrel containing some sort of embrocation in search of them. Fortunately they were discovered an hour or so later huddling up to my ankles, blue with cold and pleading faintly for Kendal Mint Cake.

Up on stage, a group of intrepid individuals had been tackling Mount Measure For Measure, one of the more remote and inaccessible peaks of the Shakespearean range. Most of them managed to come through the ordeal unscathed to receive a warm welcome back from the audience at base camp. However, a few of the company died in the lower foothills and spent the rest of the evening being dragged along as dead weights. They will be defrosted and rubbed vigorously in the hope of restoring some kind of circulation as every alpine expedition needs its sherpas.

Foremost among our intrepid band of climbers was Rory Kinnear, well on his way to becoming the Sir Edmund Hilary of Mount Shakespeare. Does this man ever put a foot wrong? Not if this performance is anything to go by – once again he almost literally wiped the stage with the rest of the cast, playing the eminently nasty Angelo as a man promoted well above his capacity who becomes a clock-watching Jobsworth and making everyone else’s life a misery. Such is the power wielded by petty administrators. His Sherpa Tensing was Anna Maxwell Martin’s Isabella, played with a little bit too much fire in her belly for my total approval. I think that part of the reason Angelo desires Isabella is that she is cool, remote and inaccessible (would it be stretching the mountaineering simile too far to describe Angelo as Ronald Coleman and Isabella as Shangri-La?). Her silent disdain at the Duke’s offer of marriage, communicated in complete bodily stillness and totally through her face was thrilling, which shows that intensity doesn’t have to be loud.

Quite why Isabella bothers with trying to save Emun Elliott’s Claudio is beyond me; he is by far the weakest link in this production. I don’t know whether he is trying to portray Claudio as some kind of minor, uncaring aristo with a bad haircut but his habits of over-enunciation (constantly pronouncing “liberty” as “libertiah”) and flailing his arms about like a sufferer of St. Vitus’ Dance while speaking really got my goat. Learn the value of stillness, my child, and enlightenment shall truly be yours.
The cold, chilly atmosphere of Vienna is nicely highlighted by the austerity of the set and the very limited colour range of the costumes (modern dress – boooo!). I do hate it when Old Master paintings are used as major parts of the scenery and there’s nothing in the programme to explain what they are; I think it was the Rape of The Sabine Women by someone or other, which would fit in nicely with the theme of the play. Perhaps one is supposed to know these things when visiting the Almeida. I liked the fact that that Angelo’s cold efficiency was shown by the fact that he had removed all the untidy piles of paperwork from the Duke’s desk when it became his own, and that his vanity was highlighted by the replacement of his specs with contact lenses before his second interview with Isabella. Clever directorial touches.
Measure for Measure is an inherently silly story based around the fact that nobody seems to recognise their Duke just because he happens to change into a monk’s habit. There is also no legal foundation for the exposition of the plot as Angelo’s attempt at rape isn’t witnessed by anyone other than the accused and the accuser. There’s no proof, only Isabella’s say-so. Thankfully there is no attempt at showing the daft “bed trick” ploy which is also used in All’s Well That Ends Well. The substitution of the decapitated head is a bit hard to swallow as well, and the low comedy character of Elbow once again fails to work. When you look at it, a lot of Shakespeare is awful tosh. But I enjoyed this production and noticed for the first time some of the play’s inherent flaws (including the fact that the Duke is eventually seen as being just as vile as Angelo) and that two pairs of socks should be worn at all times at the Almeida. My next two reviews will be coming direct from the English Countryside, so let us hope its warmer there.

What the critics thought:




Today's video offering is from the 1979 BBC TV version of the play; I particularly like the restrained performance by Kate Nelligan as Isabella.

20 March 2010

The White Guard - National Theatre, Wednesday 17th March 2010

 In Kiev during the Russian Civil War, the Turbin household is sanctuary to a ragtag, close-knit crowd presided over by the beautiful Lena. As her brothers prepare to fight for the White Guard, friends charge in from the riotous streets amidst an atmosphere of heady chaos, quaffing vodka, keeling over, declaiming, taking baths, playing guitar, falling in love. But the new regime is poised and in its brutal triumph lies destruction for the Turbins and their world.
Franko- Graham Butler
Hetman- Anthony Calf
Galanba- Peter Campion
Larion- Pip Carter
Uragon - Marcus Cunningham
Talberg - Kevin Doyle
Alexander - Nick Fletcher
Alexei - Daniel Flynn
Kirpaty - Keiran Flynn
Von Shratt -Mark Healy
Nikolai - Richard Henders
Vicktor - Paul Higgins
Leonid Yurevich - Conleth Hill
Bolbotun - Dermot Kerrigan
Von Durst - tuart Martin
Lena - Justine Mitchell
Production credits:
Director- Howard Davies
Designer -Bunny Christie
Lighting Designer- Neil Austin
Sound Designer -Christopher Shutt

I don’t really know whether its fair to review a play when you’re not feeling that well. Its bound to prejudice your view of the situation when half of you feels that you should be concentrating on what is happening on stage and the other half of you is feeling tired and crabby and just wanting to go home and flop into bed. I’m sure under different circumstances I might have enjoyed this, but on this particular occasion I really couldn’t be arsed to concentrate on the plot (which requires a reasonably cogent understanding of the political situation in the closing months of the Russian revolution – the plot itself really isn’t a great deal of help with this as nobody seems to know who is fighting who and when, and alliances and allegiances seem to be fairly fluid things). The fact that the production itself cannot seem to make up its mind whether it is a broad comedy, farce (all that Act 2 is missing is a copy of the Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies and it could well be a lost episode of Allo Allo), post-Chekovian social satire (or indeed parody thereof), deep and meaningful Turgenev-esque political tragedy or a strange amalgam of all five, did not help in the slightest. Neither did the fact that many of the characters seemed to be drawn from stock – the soulful sister, the irritating student, the bourgeois husband, the two-faced servant, the soldier forced to confront his unrealistic ideals, The Nice One Who Ends Up Getting Shot. In the end I merely watched the stage and didn’t really feel that I was connecting with any of it. To be frank, even if I’d been on considerably better form that evening, I don’t think that it would have been quite my samovar of tea. Although the production values were high, with some spectacular scenery changes, the play was too unfocussed and unsure of what it was trying to be for me to have enjoyed it. I’d have been happy to have shouted out “oh for crissakes, the Tsar’s dead, get a grip on yourselves” and gone home to bed.