Posted by lucypopescu on June 13, 2013
It’s hard enough to be stuck in a loveless marriage but imagine being marooned on an island together with your hated spouse for thirty years. This is the premise of Strindberg’s two-part drama that pits Edgar (Michael Pennington) against Alice (Linda Marlowe) in a battle of wits and one-upmanship. The couple clearly loathe one another and, over three decades, their hatred has poisoned everything inside and out of their home. They’re in debt, their servants never last long, the other islanders avoid them and even their daughter Judith (Eleanor Wyld) apparently keeps her distance, preferring to stay on the mainland.
Edgar, an army captain and commander of the fortress, treats his wife with virulent disdain. Alice, a former actress, longs for his death – he suffers repeated strokes but, once revitalised, celebrates with the savage, wild dances of the title. When Kurt (Christopher Ravenscroft), Alice’s cousin’s and Edgar’s childhood friend, arrives on the island to take up a post as quarantine master, he pays witnesses to the hell the pair have created. Edgar holds Kurt responsible for his loveless marriage while Alice seeks an ally. All looks set for a show down but the couple’s mutual obsession and Kurt’s natural passivity in the face of aggression moves events in a different direction.
Part II focuses on Judith’s relationship with Kurt’s son, Allen (Edward Franklin). Like her father she is adept at taunting her prey but Allen’s love offers the possibility of redemption. Again Edgar revels in playing the puppet master, attempting to meddle in his daughter’s future and usurping Kurt’s political ambitions. Like a political tyrant, he rules his family with “an iron fist” and is diabolical until the very end.
Howard Brenton’s adaptation teases out the black humour from Strindberg’s original script and gives it a contemporary twist. At times, though, the tension palls and one yearns for a little more light to offset the play’s darker side. Tom Littler’s slick production is complemented by two world-class actors. What a coup for the Gate. Pennington and Marlowe give striking performances as the embittered couple raging at themselves and the world and James Perkins’ stunning design is worth the trip alone.
Running at the Gate Theatre until 6 July
Originally published by Theatreworld
Posted in Theatre | Tagged: Christopher Ravenscroft, Dances of Death, Edward Franklin, Eleanor Wyld, Gate Theatre, Howard Brenton, Linda Marlowe, Lucy Popescu, Michael Pennington, Strindberg, Tom Littler | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lucypopescu on June 13, 2013
Come As You Are (Hasta La Vista), a quirky, heart-warming film, may just become the surprise hit of the summer. It’s in Flemish (with a Spanish sub-title just to confuse us) and is about three disabled young men trying to lose their virginity. In terms of subject matter and language, the film is decidedly arthouse, but Geoffrey Enthoven’s polished direction, Gerd Schelfhout’s impressive cinematography and the easy humour add some mainstream gloss.
The film is inspired by the real-life sexual experiences of American Asta Philpot, born with Arthrogryposis. Philip (Robrecht Vanden Thoren), paralysed from the neck down, has heard about a Spanish brothel catering to the sexual needs of those with special needs. He tells his two friends, partially sighted Josef (Tom Audenaert) and Lars (Gilles De Schrijver) whose aggressive brain tumour has confined him to a wheelchair, that this is the chance of a lifetime to lose their virginity.
The three persuade their parents to allow them to travel together across France and Spain, supposedly on a wine-tasting tour. They arrange for a nurse to accompany them and drive the specially equipped mini-bus. Then Lars is told that his tumour has dangerously increased in size and his anxious parents refuse to let him travel. Undeterred the friends decide to go anyway without their parents’ consent. The nurse they had hired gets cold feet and, to the boys’ dismay, his replacement is the heavy-set, scowling Claude (Isabelle de Hertogh) who turns out to be female and speaks only French.
Inevitably, nothing happens as the boys had hoped but they also find pleasure when they least expect it. There are various poignant moments but, wisely, Enthoven refuses to give in to sentimentality. The trio act with laddish bravado, lusting, hopelessly, after attractive women. Philip is brittle, angry and initially unpleasant towards Claude, who he nicknames ‘mammoth’. He is also prone to petulant outbursts and to rage at people for no reason – in one memorable scene he nearly gets beaten up after insulting fellow tourists at a winery because they are Dutch. Watching a beefy skinhead try to upset a paraplegic’s wheelchair, you’re torn between whether to laugh or cry.
Lars is also conflicted. He puts on a brave face but is by turn angry or in despair at the thought of his imminent death and Josef is sweet-natured but lacks courage. I don’t think that you will meet three more unlikely heroes in a contemporary film. Ultimately, though, it is their frailties that allow us to root for them. Come As You Are features striking performances and has already been well received at the 2012 Montréal World Film Festival, where it won three awards including the prestigious Grand Prix des Amériques as well as at the European Film Awards, winning the Audience Award.
Originally published in HuffingtonPost.co.uk
Posted in Films | Tagged: Asta Philpot, Come As You Are (Hasta La Vista), Geoffrey Enthoven, Gerd Schelfhout, Gilles De Schrijver, Isabelle de Hertogh, Lucy Popescu, Robrecht Vanden Thoren, Tom Audenaert | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lucypopescu on June 7, 2013
Before Midnight is the final part of an extraordinary trilogy, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. For those who have watched the previous two films, Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004), it will feel as though you have grown and aged with the two central characters, Jesse and Celine. It’s a clever concept, brilliant exploited by Linklater and his team. But for those lacking this background, Before Midnight also stands alone as a film about love, loyalty and commitment.
In Before Sunrise, Parisian Celine and American Jesse are twenty-three when they meet on a train travelling through Europe. Jesse persuades his fellow passenger to disembark and spend the day with him in Vienna. They chat, laugh and fall in love. When it is time to part they promise to meet again in six months. In Before Sunset, nine years later, it transpires that they never met again. Jesse is now a successful author who based his first book on his encounter with Celine. Unexpectedly, she turns up at his reading in a Paris bookstore. Once more, the pair hit it off. The mutual attraction is evident and they cannot stop talking. But by the end of the film it is still ambiguous whether this love story will endure.
Linklater wrote the original semi-autobiographical script with Kim Krizan. In Before Midnight we fast forward another nine years. Delpy and Hawke have claimed ownership of the story and co-write with Linklater. Celine and Jesse are now an established couple, in their early forties, older and a little wiser, with two lovely twins. The family are holidaying in Greece courtesy of a fellow writer.
In a poignant opening scene, Jesse is seeing off Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), his son from an earlier marriage, at the local airport. Jesse is on edge, his son is relaxed. After they hug goodbye, Jesse drives back with Celine and the twins to their holiday house. During the car journey, the cracks in their relationship begin to show, alongside the love they clearly have for one another. Jesse is anxious that he is living apart from his first child in Paris and missing his son’s best years. He wants to be a better father. Celine is defensive and quick to point out that she does not want to move back to the US. Linklater’s long, uncut takes follow them as they share lunch with friends and wander through the countryside and local town to the hotel where their Greek friends have booked them a room. They’re supposed to enjoy a romantic last night in a luxurious suite. But Jesse and Celine can’t settle and a minor disagreement becomes a full blown row that threatens to tear them apart.
Before Midnight’s plot may not sound like the stuff of great cinema but the actors are so immersed in their roles that one cannot help but be drawn in. As they work through their differences, it’s as if one is eavesdropping on a couple – there’s drama, truth, poignancy and joy. It’s a potent combination.
Originally published by Cine-Vue
Posted in Films | Tagged: Before Midnight, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Kim Krizan, Lucy Popescu, Richard Linklater | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lucypopescu on June 5, 2013
For many, the Arab Spring is not yet over. Some believe that the wave of protests that toppled dictators in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen heralded a false dawn and they continue to agitate for change. This fascinating anthology of essays is authored by those who experienced, first hand, the recent revolutions or are still waiting for real democracy. The contributors have all played a part in documenting and witnessing injustice in their countries.
The eight writers illustrate the diversity of the issues behind the protests that include autocratic rule, human rights violations, political corruption, and extreme poverty. For Mohamed Mesrati, revolution in Libya seemed impossible because “we were a generation born from our fathers’ defeats, a generation that first opened its eyes on a society that spoke in the language of oppression, where fear was an unalterable and undeniable destiny”. His family fled to the UK in 2005 and Mesrati lived the revolution through the eyes of his childhood friends.
Fear is the predominant emotion described by the essayists. Gaddafi’s authoritarian regime is compared to George Orwell’s 1984. But for lawyer Khawla Dunia the Syrian Republic is more terrifying than Orwell’s republic of fear: “Each morning we bid our loved ones goodbye as though it were the final farewell, and greet them again each evening as though they have returned from foreign lands.”
Jamal Jubran, from Yemen eloquently describes the power of language, how words became his weapons and how writing stopped him “drowning in the fear that follows me every second of every day”.
Malek Sghiri is a blogger, political activist and leader of the General Union of Tunisian Students. After participating in the protests, he was arrested on 11 January 2011 and detained for a week at the Ministry of Interior, where he was tortured. Sghiri offers an astute analysis of the uprising. He recognises that what should have taken 20 years to achieve happened in just a few days and that for this “process of becoming” to succeed it needs to be “protected at all times and its consciousness firmly implanted in the population”. Sghiri underlines that the protests arose out of the student movement and sadly reflects that its leaders are not now part of the new order, “when they should be the strongest political force in the land”.
Half of the contributors are women and one realises that they have the most to gain but also risk the greatest loss. The Saudi writer Safa Al-Ahmad displays immense courage in travelling to various hotspots in the region in order to cover the unrest. She illustrates the extent of what women are up against in Saudi Arabia when she describes being chased by a member of the religious police who demanded she close her abaya (cloak): “Saudi Arabia forces you to see yourself based on your gender …. And if you are female – your appearance alone is enough to get you in trouble.”
Yasmine El Rashidi noticed a sense of dignity being restored among her neighbours but her account, written in May 2011, ends on a note of uncertainty that proved sadly prescient. In Egypt, the fight for women’s rights continues.
Writing on Algeria, Ghania Mouffok observes: “We are not swallows. We’re not just making spring but also winter, autumn and summer too, because we’ve been around for a long time.” She takes her nine-year-old son along with her to watch the protests to show him that “being a citizen in Algeria can be joyous, chaotic and rebellious”.
The technological advances of recent years have played their part in the uprisings with protesters able to send pictures and real-time accounts out to the wider world. Ali Aldairy describes how being able to use Twitter encouraged him to go to the protests and “follow events with my own eyes, to record them and transmit them myself”. Tragically, Bahrain’s demonstrations have been largely ignored by the outside world and woefully under-reported by the western media.
Inevitably, the final saddest and unfinished chapter is on Syria. President Bashar al-Assad has proved to be as brutal as his father in the suppression of dissent. Every day there is more bloodshed and new horrors are witnessed; Dunia calls it the revolution of the mobile phone versus the bullet.
Writing Revolution provides a terrifying insight into the world of authoritarian regimes where freedom and democracy are alien concepts. Each of the eight accounts in this impressive anthology is accessible and illuminating. The final outcome of the protests affects us all. Profound, progressive change won’t happen overnight but by engaging with the Arab uprisings, understanding why they occurred and the protesters’ hopes for the future, we take a stand against tyranny. It is equally important not to forget the aspirations of those who remain in the wings, still dreaming of, and desiring, change.
Writing Revolution – The Voices from Tunis to Damascus, Ed. Layla Al-Zubaidi and others. Trs. by Robin Moger & Georgina Collins. Publ by IB Tauris.
Review originally published in the Independent on Sunday
Posted in Books | Tagged: Ali Aldairy, Ed. Layla Al-Zubaidi and others. Trs. by Robin Moger & Georgina Collins, Ghania Mouffok., IB Tauris, Jamal Jubran, Khawla Dunia, Lucy Popescu, Malek Sghiri, Mohamed Mesrati, Safa Al-Ahmad, Writing Revolution - The Voices from Tunis to Damascus, Yasmine El Rashidi | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lucypopescu on May 31, 2013
Mahi Binebine’s Welcome to Paradise (2003) was a harrowing tale of would-be illegal migrants waiting on a Moroccan beach for the boat that they hoped would take them to a better life. In this latest novel, translated by Lulu Norman, the author’s characters are again trying to escape poverty. This time, paradise is the glorious afterlife promised to Islamist martyrs.
Horses of God, based on the 2003 suicide bombings of Casablanca’s Hotel Farah, is narrated from beyond the grave. Through a series of anecdotes, Yachine introduces us to his family and friends, who live hand-to-mouth in Sidi Moumen, a slum on the outskirts of Casablanca. They make what they can from odd jobs and garbage-picking. Binebene builds a vivid portrait of life on the dump and illustrates how their harsh existence feeds feelings of alienation.
Despite their poverty, the boys enjoy moments of pleasure. They form a football team and compete against players from the other slums. Their exhilaration after winning often leads to debauched hashish- or meths-fuelled parties. Yachine’s love for his friend’s sister, Ghizlane, and their gentle courtship, is at odds with the shocking instances of violence against rival slum-dwellers.
Yachine is protected by his older brother, Hamid, whom he adores. When Hamid is befriended by Sheikh Abu Zoubeir and starts attending religious meetings, Yachine and his friends soon join them. They are tempted by the opportunity to learn martial arts, the promise of a roof over their heads, and food and work, in return for prayer. Eventually, they are asked to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Binebine is also a painter, and he uses all his senses to convey the squalor of the slum and “its camp fires, where random musicians, their petrol cans transformed into mandolins, unfurl their laments into a hashish-scented sky”. This is in sharp contrast to the luxury hotel targeted by the suicide bombers.
However, as Yachine realises too late, violent jihad does not bring him paradise. Binebene movingly portrays the path from disillusionment to violence, and Horses of God is a timely reminder of how poverty crushes hope and breeds hatred.
Originally published in The Independent
Posted in Books | Tagged: Granta Books, Horses of God, Hotel Farah bombings, Lucy Popescu, Lulu Norman, Mahi Binebine, Welcome to Paradise | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lucypopescu on May 31, 2013
Regis Roinsard scores a palpable hit with his debut feature, Populaire (2012), a romantic comedy about speed-typing, starring Déborah Francois (The Monk) Romain Duris (Heartbreaker) and Bérénice Bejo (The Artist).
Set in France at the tail end of the 1950s, Rose (Francois) a shopkeeper’s daughter dreams of escaping provincial life and making something of herself. She travels to Normandy for an interview with the boss of an insurance company, Louis Echard (Duris), and is delighted when he takes her on as his secretary. Rose is hopeless at her job and Louis considers letting her go, but her gift for typing feeds his addiction to competitive sport. Louis becomes obsessed with training Rose to compete in the national speed-typing contests that were in vogue at the time.
Louis invites Rose to lodge with him in his palatial home, so that he is better able to teach her to touch-type and slowly the pair fall in love. Insurance and typing may not sound like the most romantic of subjects, and both are unlikely themes for a big budget, lavishly shot, period romantic drama, but expect to be pleasantly surprised. Populaire has a lot of charm. Part of this is down to the evident care, love and respect that the cast and crew bring to the film.
Guillaume Schiffman’s impressive cinematography is rich in colour and symbolism and there’s wonderful attention to period detail – from Charlotte David’s fabulous costumes to Sylvie Olive’s spectacular sets – and the actors have clearly studied how to walk, talk, kiss, smoke and carry themselves.
Populaire is Roinsard’s homage to 1950s film-making and there are more than a few nods to various French and American cinema classics from the period. Rose wears her hair like Audrey Hepburn and has a picture of the star on her bedroom wall. There is also a scene that recalls Kim Novak’s performance in Vertigo. Ultimately, though, Francois invests Rose with her own particular mystique and charisma that we all fall for.
Of course, we know from the beginning that Louis and Rose will eventually get together. The fun is in the journey. Louis has never recovered from his break-up with childhood sweetheart Marie (Bejo), who married his American buddy Bob (Shaun Benson). But it is Marie who finally pushes Louis to swallow his pride and pursue his love for Rose.
There’s a nasty moment when Louis insults Rose, she slaps him round the face, he slaps her back. And then they make love. Like Mad Men, Roinsard’s film reflects the time in which it is set. Populaire is full of gender stereotypes and deliberate chauvinism that may frustrate female viewers. However, although Rose’s choices are limited, she is no pushover. She doesn’t collapse when Louis deserts her and her resilience provides a hint of the liberating influences that are just around the corner.
What it lacks in political correctness and emotional depth, Populaire more than makes up for with its feel good factor, visual flair and a soaring soundtrack by Rob and Emmanuel D’Orlando.
Originally published by Cine-vue
Posted in Films | Tagged: Bérénice Bejo, Charlotte David, Déborah Francois, Guillaume Schiffman, Lucy Popescu, Populaire, Regis Roinsard, Rob and Emmanuel D’Orlando, Romain Duris, speed-typing contests, Sylvie Olive, typewriters | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lucypopescu on May 30, 2013
Ayad Akhtar’s compelling play about multiculturalism and religious identity proves particularly timely, given the recent fallout from the terrorist atrocity in Woolwich. DISGRACED won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and looks set to wow London audiences.
Amir (Hari Dhillon), a successful corporate lawyer and his wife Emily (Kirsty Bushell), an up-and-coming artist, live in a smart New York apartment on the Upper East Side. Amir claims to have renounced the Muslim faith because he finds it “backward”. His white, American wife, meanwhile, likes to draw on the influences of Islamic art. They’re in love and seem to have everything they could wish for. Amir is just waiting to be made a partner in his law firm.
However, it transpires that Amir has made some bad judgments. To get ahead at work, he denied his Pakistani roots, altered his personal security number and changed his Muslim surname to Kapoor. At the request of his nephew Abe (Danny Ashok) and Emily, Amir agrees to support an imam, imprisoned without due process, but is dismayed when he is quoted in the press, fearing it will harm his career prospects. Appearance is everything to Amir – he even wears $600 shirts.
The cracks begin to show during a dinner party they host for Amir’s African American colleague Jory (Sara Powell) and her husband Isaac (Nigel Whitmey) a Jewish art curator interested in Emily’s work. It’s a potent mix and the characters’ different cultural perspectives, disagreements and personal rivalries provide the meat of the play. Gradually, various bitter resentments and the suppressed prejudices of the four are revealed. When Amir admits that he felt a blush of pride at 9/11, it’s a genuinely shocking moment, swiftly followed by an act of domestic violence that is to leave his life in shreds.
Nadia Fall’s production is beautifully paced and acted. Dhillon eloquently conveys the fall from grace of a debonair, arrogant achiever and Bushell invests Emily with just the right measure of charm and ambition. Incredibly this is Akhtar’s first work for stage. He tackles a lot of thorny questions around race, class and religion but offers no easy answers. In his choice of subject and its execution Akhtar displays a real flair for what makes good drama and DISGRACED had me gripped from beginning to end.
Running at the Bush Theatre until Sat 29 Jun, 2013
Posted in Theatre | Tagged: Ayad Akhtar, Bush Theatre, Danny Ashok, Disgraced, Hari Dhillon, Kirsty Bushell, Lucy Popescu, Nadia Fall, Nigel Whitmey, Sara Powell | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lucypopescu on May 30, 2013
Cate Shortland’s quietly powerful film, Lore (2012), is set in Germany during the immediate aftermath of World War II. This German-Australian co-production, based on the middle section of Rachel Seiffert’s 2001 novel, The Dark Room, is told from the perspective of a young German girl who has to come to terms with defeat and the horrors committed in the name of the Fuhrer. We follow teenager Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) as she travels with her four siblings from Bavaria, across war-devastated Germany, to find refuge with her grandmother in Hamburg.
Lore’s father is a high ranking SS officer. Through marriage, her mother is also directly implicated in the Holocaust. In the dying days of the war, Lore’s father returns home, packs up his stuff, burns a lot of incriminating evidence and then disappears, presumably to an internment camp. Lore’s mother gives herself up for arrest shortly afterwards leaving behind her baby, Peter, and other younger children in Lore’s care. The only instruction she gives her eldest daughter is to head for her grandmother’s home.
The children set off with their meagre possessions, the last of their mother’s money and some of her jewellery to sell. They sleep rough, endure near starvation and encounter rotting corpses as well as other German refugees who, like them, are trying to survive – some are belligerently in denial, others are just glad the war is over. Then the family meet Thomas, a young man with Jewish papers. By pretending to be their brother he helps them pass through the various army checkpoints. At first Lore despises him, for being Jewish, but also finds herself strangely attracted to him. Towards the end of their journey she has become desperately dependent on him and his protection.
It’s a rite of passage for Lore. At the beginning she is a committed anti-Semite; a product of her parents’ rabid hatred. By the end, her experiences may not have completely transformed her sympathies but she is irretrievably altered. Travelling across her defeated homeland has made her aware of some of the atrocities that have taken place and the terrible complicity of her own family.
Rosendahl is utterly convincing in the title role. Adam Arkapaw’s impressive cinematography contrasts the lush German countryside with bleaker images of war and Lore is beautifully shot, evocative and chilling. Shortland treats her dark subject matter with sensitivity and has produced an unflinching and compelling portrait of the Nazi legacy.
DVD release 27th May
Originally published by Cine-vue.com
Posted in Films | Tagged: Adam Arkapaw, Cate Shortland, Lore, Lucy Popescu, Rachel Seiffert, Saskia Rosendahl, The Dark Room | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lucypopescu on May 24, 2013
The debut novel of the founder of Peirene Press, Meike Ziervogel, carries many of the hallmarks of her publishing ethos. It’s short, beautifully packaged by Salt Publishing, and the themes are hard hitting and distinctly European.
Joseph and Magda Goebbels arrive in Hitler’s bunker with their children aware that the end of war is nigh. We already know their fates: Hitler’s propaganda minister and his wife commited suicide after killing their six children, although accounts differ as to who feeds them the cyanide capsules. Ziervogel suggests Magda murders the children alone and focuses on what leads her to this final brutal act.
Combining fact and fiction and knitting together the perspectives of Magda’s embittered mother and her eldest daughter, Helga, Ziervogel creates a multi-layered portrait. Magda’s mother, a former maidservant, reveals how her estranged husband insisted that his daughter receive a convent education. Its harsh environment hardens Magda from a tender age. She is rescued by her mother’s second husband, a kindly Jewish shopkeeper, who brings up Magda like his own and encourages her to pursue an education rather than follow her mother into domestic service.
After meeting Goebbels, Magda realises that her destiny is to serve the Party and dedicates herself to Hitler as though “He” was God, confiding in him her fears and desires. At one point she bemoans her husband’s frequent infidelities and Hitler flatters her into believing that she is an “icon” for the German people and counsels her to “forgive Joseph his trespasses and live like a saint.”
In her afterword, Ziervogel suggests that her intention was “to capture the psychology…of a destructive mother-daughter relationship over three generations.” Rather than presenting Magda as a monster, Ziervogel gives her a human face. She comes to represent all the ordinary German women who were swept up by Hitler’s abominable vision, refusing to recognise its horrors and absolving themselves with state propaganda.
Helga’s diary entries suggest that her mother is already distancing herself from her children, perhaps preparing herself for the inevitable. Ziervogel dedicates one chapter to Magda’s vision of what might happen should she and her children live under “enemy” occupation. Helga would have to prostitute herself while Magda would have to watch helplessly, terminally afflicted by her migraines. It is too hard for Magda to contemplate this possibility and so she chooses the only alternative left open to her. Even in that, she is deluded; seeing her act of prolicide as heroic rather than cold-blooded murder.
A shorter version was published in Tablet
Posted in Books | Tagged: Lucy Popescu, Magda, Magda Goebbels, Meike Ziervogel, Peirene Press, Salt Publishing | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lucypopescu on May 24, 2013
In his brilliant but flawed debut stage play, Thomas Eccleshare, winner of Soho’s Verity Bargate Award, turns the notion of an environmental disaster on its head. In PASTORAL nature has run amok and it’s humans who find their future is threatened. His vision recalls John Wyndham’s post-apocalyptic novel The Day of the Triffids, but with more laughs along on the way.
An elderly woman, Moll (Ann Calder-Marshall), is alone in her high-rise flat observing people down on the street and waiting for her cat, Winston, to return. When Manz (Hugh Skinner) and then Hardy (Richard Riddell) arrive on her doorstep, Moll thinks she’s being taken on holiday. But strange things are happening outside. Paperchase is infested with voles and there’s a rabbit warren at the bottom of Aldi. Weeds are growing everywhere, trees are bursting through cracks in the pavement and the sighting of a deer strikes fear into Manz’s heart. Then the army moves in, quarantines the block and suddenly it is too late to leave. Moll offers shelter to a couple and their young son Arthur (played by actress Polly Frame).
Eccleshare subverts our expectations by finding humour in this dystopian world and satirising the urbanites’ fear of nature. When Hardy goes hunting for food, he proudly returns with a hedgehog, to everyone dismay. Ocado’s delivery man (Bill Fellows) heroically fights his way through the mayhem to Moll’s flat, minus the shopping, only to come to a sticky end. There are also moments of poignancy such as when Moll and young Arthur share a last cigarette as they are left to fend for themselves. But the play’s ending, involving the arrival of a bedraggled bride (Carrie Rock) dressed in a pink T-shirt and mini-skirt, is disappointing.
Steve Marmion ensures the pace never slackens and Michael Vale’s stunning design features an oak tree that comes crashing into Moll’s flat, and flowers on darts that drop from above. Gradually the walls and floors begin to cave in.
PASTORAL is superbly acted and this is entertaining, engaging and provocative theatre. Eccleshare proves himself a talent to watch and a worthy award-winner.
At Soho Theatre until 8 June
Posted in Theatre | Tagged: Ann Calder-Marshall, Bill Fellows, Carrie Rock, Hightide Festival Theatre, Hugh Skinner, Lucy Popescu, Michael Vale, Pastoral, Richard Riddell, Soho Theatre, Steve Marmion, Thomas Eccleshare, Verity Bargate Award | Leave a Comment »