Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri May 13, 2016 5:07 pm

Watched Hollow Crown's: Henry VI part 1. Ben Power has edited down the play from three to two which does mean various things are cut out. My sister had watched an excellent production some years ago of the trilogy and loved it, I hadn't and we were both excited but disappointed that we were getting a slimmed down version.

It hampers itself at the start with two problems, 1) the long running issue of the locations are wonderful but don't feel filled. It sacrifices intimacy and even in crowd scenes, there is the sense of location bigger then the cast, that there is a lot of empty space. 2) Moments of silliness.
Henry V has died and was super awesome but in the first five minutes of his death all sorts of major French cities have fallen to France. Some ridiculously hilarious battle scenes (Talbot sees son go round corner and then wonders where his son has gone). Joan of Arc has a strong northern English accent which is a little disappointing given use of Poesy in Richard II but logic failures is more of an issue.


Even then, the quality of the production is already on show and that gradually eases out the problems, other then characters can vanish for awhile and then suddenly reappear and become important deep into the play, but they eventually stop making mistakes. As you would expect from the BBC, costumes and locations are lovely, the characters like the kindly but weak Henry VI (Tom Sturridge) or his Lord Protector Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (Hugh Bonneville) quickly establish themselves, the cast get on top of their lines. The productions knows and values how to make moments seem human
like how the likes of Somerset and Warwick react to York's proposal around the rosebuds
rather then grand speeches, relationships are well done like the way Henry and his wife Margaret (Sophie Okonedo) interact in public, the power dynamics between the two. There is plotting and cunning aplenty to enjoy and it is well done.

Cast do a very good job: Sturridge capturing the innocence and friendliness of his Henry, Okonedo asserting herself, the powerful figure in that relationship while being the wife but when she plays angry, she overdoes the lines. Bonneville is great as the loyal Humphrey who can foresee the dark days ahead, Sally Hawkins does very well with the small role of his ambitious wife Eleanor, they form a good bond and I regret that there was no build up to her. Philip Glenister and Max Bennett as the Talbot's, Adrian Dunbar as York, Stanley Townsend as Warwick were good. Enjoyed Anton Lesser as Exeter, Ben Miles excellent as the calculating Duke of Somerset. Laura Morgan may be unfortunate with her accent as Joan of Arc but she makes a great warrior and a forceful presence. Wasn't a fan of Samuel West as the Bishop of Winchester, didn't quite land his lines.
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu May 19, 2016 4:21 pm

BBC doing Midsummer Nights Dream in two weeks

Saw Hollow Crown's Henry VI Part 2. A few considerable time jumps hint at some of the cost of turning three plays into two, had some early logic issues but mostly set around the play requiring you to believe nobody had ever worked out a way of spotting a large army till they turn up at the doorstep. Still has some early "doesn't quite fill the room" issues, strong production values and so on.

It moves from politics and plots to battles and symbolism. The battles are, bar some swirly camera work at Tewkesbury, well shot and most characters other then Richard feel like warriors in the field, it works effectively. The play and production are extremely heavy-handed with symbolism, dialogue has some nice zingers aimed at Henry but with intrigue gone, it loses something that made the first part so good. There are human moments but feels like less of the intimate moments and its big characters death bar one or two
the exceptions
Duke of York's death really well done, Margaret being jailed
lacks punch.

The old cast do well, Henry's (Sturridge) contrast with the more forceful Margaret (Okonedo) remains with some great lines as he goes for peace and she's disdainful of him. Warwick's role is bigger in this and Stanley Townsend really steps up to the plate as one of the big beasts of the realm, Adrian Dunbar providing the presence of a leader as the Duke of York. Most of the new cast do well: Barney Harris captures the balance between his father and his fierce mother as the Prince, son of Henry and Margaret. Keeley Hawes has wit as Lady Grey, Kyle Soller gives force of personality as young Clifford. In the French court, Mariah Gale did well with a few lines as the King's of France's sister better than the erratic Andrew Scott as the King of France himself.

The problem is the three York sons: Edward (Geoffrey Streatfeild), George (Sam Troughton) and Richard (Benedict Cumberbatch). The attempts to make the former two seem young men in the early stages of the play doesn't work but all three struggle to build a sense of character in the early years. As it progresses, the production heavily tilts towards Richard which is understandable given 1) Richard III is next so want to build him up, 2) Cumberbatch is the big name in the cast. He does end up squeezing the other brothers to the sidelines for a fair bit of the play and they struggle to build a sense of character. I got more of a sense of Gale's character and Lady Grey who have more sense of character within the ten lines between them then the elder brothers do through out the play. Neither Troughton and Streatfeild live up to the rest of the cast, this is exposed when Edward meets his future wife and an exchange of innuendo emerges, one hears it through the dialogue and Hawes performance but there is no humour, charm or spark from Edward.

As for Richard, Cumberbatch does a very good job, the hump and limp feels natural rather than forced, he does some excellent moments of brutality and blood-lust but he never feels like a warrior compared to Soller, Okonedo and Townsend. Not a strong sense of character outside the brutality and the ending moment is, while impressive by itself, so ill-fitting with the rest of the production that it feels utterly disconnected from what we have been seeing.
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu May 26, 2016 2:20 pm

Watched Richard III and first of the Hollow Crown series that I was tempted to switch off. I have watched a good Richard III play before and this retains the beautiful language, some excellent speeches, some lovely scenes
Richard vs Anne, the Princes vs Richard, the queen's family as bad news comes in, the pleading for Richard to take the crown
, and a great ending but it fails overall. It fails to build a cohesive narrative it feels like it's going from scene to scene, fails to develop some of the characters who feel like they act depending on what the scene demands rather then becuase that is what the character would do. It goes big for Bosworth and that doesn't work, some questionable decisions from the production team in some scenes.

Cumberbatch plays his Richard differently then in previous film, more over the top for awhile, less human and though it calms down, his Richard isn't intresting. He is incompetent, he changes as scene requires, he lacks a strong force of personality or anything that would make people follow him at any point. He is outshone by the Duke of Buckingham (Ben Daniels), a charismatic, human, intelligent presence throughout, made a far more intresting plotter and figure. Then again, there are very few characters that really stand out as human beings, whose cast members (though they do well enough) really rise above the production. Buckingham, the cameo's of Magraet, the two Princes (Isaac Andrews and Caspar Morley) in their small scenes, Phoebe Fox as Anne and my sister was impressed by James Fleet as Hastings.
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Jun 02, 2016 1:59 pm

Watched BBC and Russell T Davies (of Doctor Who fame) adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I'll hint my thoughts on it by opening with a question. You are producing this play and at a scene near the end
Thisbe (Fisayo Akinade) mourning the death of her beloved
is meant to be moving. The cast member hits it out of the park so do you

1) Congratulate the cast member afterwards and do all you can to ensure that the moment is well supported, that it doesn't hampered by anything later before it ends up on TV.

2) Work with long time ally and composer Murray Gold to highlight that this is an emotional scene by playing REALLY LOUD MUSIC SO ONE CAN BARELY HEAR THE CAST MEMBER in case the audience members are too stupid to pick on the emotional scene by watching the thing.

If 1, the BBC should hire you. If 2, please join Russell T Davies and be tried for treason at the tower of London for butchering this play.

The problem with this production is very much the team behind it. Some of Russell T Davies flaws in Doctor Who return, the sets look a bit gaudy and unrealistic, there is a lack of subtlety (example the guards wear blatant Nazi uniforms but Ray Holman also added such absurd helmets that WWII would have ended when the German army saw the helmets and immediately surrendered in humiliation) throughout. Music is abused during parts of the film when silence or something quiet would be welcomed instead, the ending is rewritten but while some neat moments in it that lack of subtlety wrecks it overall. There is also an idea they have that in itself might have worked had they adjusted the rest of the script for it, instead it leads to some unintended consequences
Theseus (John Hannah) being a tyrant. Only nobody comments about padlocking the fiancée on her wedding, nobody calls him evil, one of the youngsters in the romance serves as a guard of evil. In fact none of the youngsters even notice/care that he's completely evil. Yet we are supposed to root for them?
. Due to need to cut down to 90 minutes becuase BBC doesn't trust it's audience, it loses some narrative cohesion. In fairness to Davies and co, they use I-pads well for some humorous scenes and they flesh out Titania's (Maxine Peake) fairies well with a sense of individual characters.

Yet the play is nice thanks to Shakespeare's writing and the cast. The humour is nice but doesn't make one laugh with only Kate Kennedy as Helena showing a real comic touch, the romances are nice enough to provide a bit of charm. Matt Lucas makes a very good Bottom with charm while capturing the annoying side of him, Nonso Anozie as Oberon and Peake have formidable presence and would have loved more exchanges between the two of them but Peake can be too quiet, Hiran Abeysekera as Puck lacked a little charm but had his own sense of style. Of the four lovers, Kennedy was amusing and grew into the role while they used her height for good comedy, Matthew Tennyson showed some flair as Lysander but faded after a good start, Paapa Essiedu was good as Demetrius, Prisca Bakare had a sense of force of personality as Hermia. John Hannah is the only disappointment as Theseus with an erratic display.

====

Overall: The second season of Hollow Crown and the Russell T Davies production has been disappointing. Most (other then Richard III) weren't bad, indeed Henry VI part 1 was good, 2nd was less to my taste but competent and Midsummer Nights dream had charm to help overcome it's producers crimes but none was Richard II. One thing that doesn't seem to have helped is reducing the running times has meant cuts which has led to a lack of narrative cohesion, I don't blame the writers for it but I do blame the BBC who presumably did this to encourage people to watch and didn't consider the problems
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Tue Jun 14, 2016 5:15 pm

Tried Justin Kurzel's Macbeth with Michael Fassbender as the lead. Kurzel certainly tries to go for something distinctive with artistic camera work by Adam Arkapaw, intresting music by Jed Kurzel though Jacqueline Durran's costumes don't quite feel real. Fassbender is flat as Macbeth and the production struggles to feel real outside the witches and the strong performance by Marion Cotillard as lady Macbeth but she isn't enough for me to keep watching. Might have done on another day but it was just so flat.
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Ayame » Tue Jul 26, 2016 9:37 pm

I liked the first Hollow Crown series, and I was hoping to see the War of the Roses one soon.
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Jan 06, 2017 8:51 pm

BBC4 showed Talawa-Royal Exchange Theatre co production of King Lear with Don Warrington in the lead role. We gave it about 40 minutes but decided it wasn't going to be good enough for the full three hours. Warrington was good and we really loved Rakie Ayola and Debbie Korley as the evil sisters, when they spoke it was a natural human style. The kind that fits in with the Globe Theatre style I enjoy. In a play with a lot of monologues, most of the rest of the cast went for grand, dramatic style which never felt real
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sat Jan 07, 2017 10:15 am

Went to see The Play That Goes Wrong in London before Christmas. Farces aren't my favourite but this one had me in stitches. I enjoyed the comedy being on two layers, the characters themselves and then the characters that the characters themselves were playing if that makes sense! At times it was predictable, I guessed one twist in the interval, but didn't take away from the humour. Worth getting there early as they do some funny setting the scene stuff once the doors open!
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Jan 08, 2017 5:22 pm

Sun Fin wrote:Went to see The Play That Goes Wrong in London before Christmas. Farces aren't my favourite but this one had me in stitches. I enjoyed the comedy being on two layers, the characters themselves and then the characters that the characters themselves were playing if that makes sense! At times it was predictable, I guessed one twist in the interval, but didn't take away from the humour. Worth getting there early as they do some funny setting the scene stuff once the doors open!


I just saw this afternoon the BBC Peter Pan version. Funniest, funniest thing I have seen for ages. Like you, I am not a slapstick or farce guy (though I do like a good panto) but was in constant laughter for the hour and it was amazingly well done with precision while making one think it was chaotic. As you say, the play within the play element was good
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:10 pm

Saw BBC's/Mischief Theatre one hour comedy Peter Pan Goes Wrong. Premise: BBC hires Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society to do their version of Peter Pan in a completely open scour for new talent, to lure the punters they make David Suchet the narrator. Prepare for the greatest Peter Pan of your lives!

Mischief Theatre has built reputation for comedy farces+play within a play, doing something for TV can sometimes come a cropper as either the plays/shows don't adjust or they adjust too much. They get the balance right, there is stuff they can do with TV which they use, they seem to alter some jokes to take advantage of being on BBC and they make a few jokes around Suchet but they do not overdo it, they do not constantly go "LOOK, WE GOT SUCHET!". I imagine if you have seen the play but not too recently, one can enjoy the TV adaptation and I didn't feel I missed out because I can only see it on TV.

Everything is so carefully written and crafted. Pan is told in just over an hour, touching on all the scenes one would expect to see in a panto, it knows how to keep a surprise up it's sleeve, has long running themes though one does wear out it's welcome
Jonathan Sayer's John failing to remember his lines
. The play within the play is done very well, Suchet the star narrator, the writer (Henry Shields) desperate for this to be taken seriously, romantic tension, BBC vs Cornley staff rows, everything set up well. One does warm to and root for the characters, while sometimes it was clear someone was planted in the crowd to yell stuff out, the crowd were clearly enjoying themselves and get into the gusto of things.

Of course, there is the humour. This ranges from character's interaction with audience, something being heard by the cast that they shouldn't, tensions between the cast and slapstick. Very precisely done slapstick where the character takes a painful whack with expert precision but it isn't just the "hit" that works but the reaction of both the person hurt and everyone else around them, be it trying to cover up the problems or shock or blame. I'm not a slapstick fan but it was so well done, I was in constant laughter as was everybody else in the room.

The pick of the cast were Henry Shields as the director who so wanted the play to be taken seriously, his inappropriately attired assistant played by Lewis Henry and the sadly underused Nancy Zamit who really hit the comedy notes.
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
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