The Mentor – Ustinov Studio, Bath

It was extraordinary to see F Murray Abraham, one of the main stars of Homeland, live on the stage of a tiny theatre in Bath.  Well supported in a cast of just four people, he played the role of the mentor with great humour, fabulous timing and every now and then he showed us some of the power that he has as an actor.

The Mentor is a new German play, beautifully translated by Christopher Hampton.

Hedda Gabler, National Theatre

We went to see Ruth Wilson in Hedda Gabler yesterday at the National Theatre.  It was easily the best rendition of Hedda Gabler we have seen.  Patrick Marber has created a modern version of the Ibsen play that retains the powerful dramatic anguish of the original text but he has also introduced far more pace and some great moments of humour to the dialogue.  It is also fantastically staged and directed by Ivo Van Hove, who was responsible for the extraordinary View From the Bridge we saw at the Young Vic a couple of years ago.

The Marber version gives Ruth Wilson the opportunity to give full reign to the wild, flirty and uncompromising elements of the Hedda character and he also turns Brack into a more sinister force.  Rafe Spall is excellent as Brack, not quite as menacing as his part in The Shadow Line but definitely in the same ball park.  Indeed, the whole cast gave great performances.  All underpinned by a beautiful incidental soundtrack that included Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley & Nina Simone.

If you can get to see this live then don’t miss out.  If you can’t, it’s being screened in cinemas nationwide on 9 March.

Elegy @ Donmar Warehouse

We love the intimacy of the Donmar Warehouse and we have been excited about seeing the new Nick Payne play, Elegy, for weeks now.  We saw his earlier play, Constellations, at the Royal Court back in 2012 and it was fantastic.

Elegy is a play about the philosophical challenges that facing the partner of a person who has a degenerative brain condition.  The partner has to choose between an operation  that will preserve physical health but, at the same time, may remove two decades of memory. The play jumps from after the operation to before and back again.

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The issues faced are very topical and Zoe Wanamaker, Barbara Flynn and Nina Sosanya all play their parts beautifully.  Nick Payne creates some fabulous scenes and marvellous dialogue.  However, for us at least, Elegy did not quite hit the high notes of Constellations.

The Wasp – extraordinary drama!

We went to see The Wasp by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm – starring Myanna Buring and Laura Donnelly.  Both actresses gave exceptional performances as damaged human beings. Myanna – brash, funny, aggressive, vulnerable.  Laura – posh, patronising, devious, controlling.  The play has some great twists and turns and, in this tiny studio theatre, it is like having a front seat on a rollercoaster of emotions.  One of the best pieces of theatre we have seen in a long time.

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Hangmen@The Royal Court

We spent a great afternoon at the Royal Court watching Hangmen by Martin McDonagh. We had high expectations with a play written by the scriptwriter of the fabulous ‘In Bruges’ and starring favourite actors David Morrissey and Reece Shearsmith. We were not disappointed in any way.

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The stage set created real drama in places and the hanging scenes were cleverly constructed to give a sense of execution without overpowering the sensibilities of the audience. David Morrissey dominated the stage for the most part but the timing and brilliance of Reece Shearsmith really shone in the second half. However, they were not alone in producing great performances, newcomer Bronwyn James was brilliant in her stage debut and Johnny Flynn was extraordinary as Mooney.

Don’t go expecting a dour play about public execution – but do go….the writing, the subject, the set and the performances create a kaleidoscope of dark, brilliant humour.