Himmel, Hölle, Haider Apr.5th, ’14

theatre misc

 

I was “doing theatre” last night! In Vienna! Again! ;) With the very talented Alfons Haider who is an allround entertainer in Austria. He presents both the famous Opernball and the equally famous Life Ball. He also was Zaza in La Cage and the king in Becket, just to give you a glimps of his versatility. His political cabaret is really funny and to the point and had me laughing so hard. Especially the sequence where he – as an openly out gay man – is evoking sexual feelings in an asexual angel… hilarious!

He also poked fun at our crooked politicians, of which we have more than just our fair share, I must admit. The Cabaret’s theme was: He died because his manager killed him in a parking lot. Now he is on a waiting cloud trying to make sense of what happened to him and what his future will bring – if there is any future. Sadly, the heavens aren’t that much different to good old earth and there’s just as much bureaucracy, meddling, backstabbing and fighting of office wars going on as everywhere else. Just without the cursing. a curse means thunder and lightning. And – in the long run – demoting of the angel in charge (Martin Oberhauser and really hilarious as the half blind fan of the … wrong entertainer).

The only drawback was the truly hideous theatre itself. It looks more like a large gathering hall. Which means all in all it was a great evening! ;) Must see his new show in October.

Ladies Night March 28th, ’14

theatre misc

 

well, my waning respect for Viennese theatre is slowly restoring itself. Ladies Night – better known as the movie The Full Monty – is indeed incredibly funny, for once the translation into a mild Viennese dialect didn’t kill the jokes and the actors were clearly having fun with their parts – in a lovable, self depricating way that made them very sweet and hilarious. The play Ladies Night is from New Zealand writer Stephen Sinclair and pal Anthony McCarten, also NZ, who made it into the biggest success NZ’s theatre had ever had. And it is truly understandable why that is.

The story: Three mates, all without jobs since the mines closed, have no outlook on life other than being criminals or forever in debt. When their wives go to see the Chippendales, their fearless leader Craig (Alexander Pschill of Kommissar Rex fame) plans on just such an endeavour – even though neither he nor his pals are even remotely built like one of the Chippendales. But: They will bare it all… and thus of course be a success and cash in on all the money they get.

And even though the odds are against them, they get together, find their motivation, fight their depression and … do it!

So first we have Craig with a plan for everything, just not for getting back visiting rights to his young son. We have Norman, who even after a whole year hasn’t told his wife that he got sacked, and Graham, who ignores the fact that his wife already has another lover. Add to this mix Gavin, the flamboyant tree hugger who is on a quest to find himself, gifted with a huuuge … and finally Wesely who is the only real dancer of the group and what you get is hilarity and fun and lots of laughs (not for everyone though. The stuffy audience of Kammerspiele wasn’t that enthusiastic – two at least left during intermission. how ridiculous is that??)

When they first casually take off their clothes – if you can’t do it in front of each other in the rehearsal room how will you manage it in front of 400 women, after all – their knickers alone are a hoot and chosen so that everyone can have a good laugh. Then they get their tiny tiny stripper “fig leaves” and Gavin (not Kevin, with a G! ) looks at it and says – that won’t fit.

All five men grow up and mature and face their problems head on during the course of their rehearsals of their shared project, but it is Gavin who comes furthest. Not only does he lose his till then sole reference to life when his mother dies, he also admits to being gay and hopelessly in love with straight Wesely, who loves him back, just not that way. The way the guys deal with the news goes from cringeworthy to awkward to accepting and normal in the span of a couple of minutes, till it’s not interesting any longer as there are more important things to consider. This almost casual acceptance (admittedly after a couple of half told gay jokes) is actually quite refreshing as it shows that there is more to everybody than their sexual orientation…

So now I have a huge respect for Pschill, who is a firecracker on stage and not that tall at all! (and oh so much better than on TV, but I know, TV pays the bills,…) and for everyone else who took to the stage and made us all laugh and cry out and laugh again. The play itself stops after the boys’ line up does the “Full Monty” – so it’s not explained if the gang of troupers actually accomplished anything with their daring performance. But I admit I never had hoped more fervently that they did, they so deserved it!

take a look at this to check out the boys… (click on Szenenfotos)

Blithe Spirit March 22nd, ’14

london west end

 

It’s Angela Lansbury. She’s 88. She has more charisma on stage than most people I ever saw. She is amazing. And she is (sorry, Stratford/Ontario) the best damn medium Madame Arcati I have ever seen and will ever see. And it’s not her clothes and wig and the lines she has to say (those are theatre magic, available to everybody) – it’s the way she summons her “spirit guide” with all encompassing arms and winks and come hither looks while dancing through the room that is hysterical. And the way her eyes get all huge when she’s surprised by something. and the way she is unabashedly, deliriously happy when she realises that she has indeed brought Elvira, her host’s deceased first wife, back from the dead. Or has she?

Introducing Charles Edwards (Downton Abbey), who plays author Charles Condomine who suffers from writer’s block and who is less than thrilled when Elvira makes her big entrance – only to try and kill him so that they can be together in the afterlife. Too bad she only succeeds to kill his second wife. Edwards is the perfect English gentleman – even in the throes of madness and it is hilarious to watch him become unravelled by his visions of Elvira.

It’s a great play (it IS Noel Coward after all), it’s a great cast and Ms Lansbury is incredible as the gin guzzling cooky medium – she seems to have at least as much fun as her audience who of course gives her standing ovations after every show, and deservedly so. I wish I could see it again and soon!

The Duck House Feb.22nd, ’14

london west end

 

I’m going to make this easier for me and just swipe the summary from the Theatre’s website:

May 2009. Gordon Brown’s Government is in meltdown and a General Election is just one year away. Labour backbencher Robert Houston loves being an MP and will do anything to save his seat – including change sides. All is going well with his switch from red to blue until, on the eve of his final interview with Sir Norman Cavendish, a Tory grandee, the Expenses Scandal breaks.
As public fury mounts over taxpayers’ millions being frittered away on second homes, hanging baskets, moat-cleaning and duck houses, Robert and his secretarial staff (aka wife Felicity, student son Seb, gorgeous girlfriend Holly and Russian housekeeper Ludmilla) find themselves in big, big trouble.
Now even without intimate knowledge of British politics this is a sharp tongued witty satire about how people in power start to abuse this power if nobody realises that. Unfortunately this is not something solely related to England. We have the same sort of politicians over here in Austria and it’s only safe to say they are in Germany and the rest of Europe/the world as well. It is however very British to turn a scandal into a brilliant comedy about tax evasion, a house for ducks, an apartment in London – used by the son’s girlfriend as a sado-maso playground to discipline sexually wayward — you guessed it — politicians – and a knighthood.
Ben Miller (of Death in Paradise) excels as Robert, who just wants to keep up with all the other boys in the playground… erm… politicians, and delivers his lines with a deadpan expression, double entendre and sarcasm that you can’t even be mad at his various slightly illegal schemes for a better life. It is hilarious, it is clever and after you left the theatre you suddenly go: wait a bit – that was all real!!! Oh, it’s also sold out! LOL

Jeeves and Wooster, Feb 22nd, ’14

london west end

 

Now this is a romp to remember. I actually saw it twice, the second time during my March-stay in London’s West End, just because.

First of all it’s Matthew Macfadyen. We all know him as somber, earnest, the weight of the world on his shoulders. But what his TV-roles don’t show is his impeccable sense of timing, his deep rooted humor and his quirky physicality. Yes, Jeeves and Wooster is all about Wooster telling the audience about his shenanigans in his London club and amongst his equally bored and rich friends. But it is Jeeves (and Macfadyen incorporating the gentleman’s gentleman as well as numerous other characters during the course of the show) that is carrying the show and doing most of the work. Including the fabrication of most of the set, much to the delight of Wooster.

The show goes back to the incredibly successful books about Jeeves and Wooster, manages to incorporate the audience by tearing down the “fourth wall” by having an audience member hide the stolen policeman’s helmet and actually talking to members to get approval etc. and is a brilliant successor of old style slapstick comedies.

With only three actors, and only two of them playing multiple parts, hilarious chaos ensues over the course of the play, as Wooster tries to stay unmarried and Jeeves saves the day over and over again.

It is already brilliant when Macfadyen dons a mop-like white wig to play the scorned maid’s father, complete with pipe-and-mustache – , AND the lovely daughter in question as well, in a dress and hastily applied lipstick. But when those two characters actually have to appear on stage at the same time and he then “splits” being half man, half girl with half wigs and clothes – that’s when I determined I had to see the play twice as I couldn’t understand everything he said, I was laughing so hard. Add to that his portrayal of hapless half blind best friend Gussie Fink-Nottle with bottle bottom thick glasses, who hides under the bed and climbs out of windows and overall adds to the chaos already present, breathing became optional for me.

Safe to say the play and Stephen Mangan, Mark Hadfield (who plays Wooster’s elderly aunt as well as the Nemesis and a shopkeeper and a trainstation) and Matt Macfadyen are a brilliant piece of awesomeness, especially with this cast.

Now I have seen this play twice in the matinees, and both time almost fell off my chair, when – at the end of the narrative – Bertie Wooster says, with mock panic in his eyes: Do we have to do that all again tonight???? Only to then get up, get  in line with Macfadyen and Hadfield and do a rowdie jig in perfect synch that is also their farewell to their audience. It’s absolutely brilliant. And I so  understand that they don’t come out in between shows.

stage-door: just one thing: Matthew Macfadyen is tall. really tall. hugely tall. and barely recognisable with his charming smile and modern haircut ;) – he also has a very VERY nice voice – and he really is TALL!

12 Angry Men Feb.21st, ’14

london west end

This play was probably the main reason for my London trip. The cast is outstanding, big names, big talents and a tight play about integrity, prejudice and the way people treat each other all wrapped in one theatre evening. I was drooling for weeks.

Funny as it is, I am not totally sold on the greatness of the show though. I assume everybody knows what it’s about (and has probably seen the movie a thousand times in reruns): twelve jurymen are to decide if a 16 year old black kid is going to die on the electric chair for stabbing his abusive father to death. What seems to be an open and shut case turns out to be a much longer discussion, when one of the Jurors, Martin Shaw, votes innocent – just to spark a discussion. During the following arguments the jurors reveal much, too much, about themselves – there’s the racist, the tough guy, the sly wise man, the pragmatic, the guy who just wants to go home. And while the votes start out with 11 to 1, they soon are 9:3 because if there is the slightest doubt, they can’t find the accused guilty.

And doubts they start to have. There’s the knife that isn’t so unique and also was held the wrong way. There’s the main witness who didn’t wear glasses. And another witness who wasn’t fast enough to actually see the kid running down the stairs. And all of a sudden the case isn’t as clear any more.

Grudgingly the tough guy (Jeff Fahey and brilliant) has to concede that maybe not all has been brought up during the trial. And the wise old man with his voice of reason (Robert Vaughn – awesome) keeps the racist in check with some well placed words. And then, when all is said and done, they acquit the kid because of all the doubts they now have…

I loved the play. it was well executed, the stage design was gritty and fitting and the actors were really amazing. I am in awe of Robert Vaughn, who – when I saw him later on the street – seemed frail and tired, yet very friendly – his stage presence is still strong and captivating.

Jeff Fahey as the bullying tough guy who is all for discipline and strong arming this kid, turns himself around  in the course of the play and finally reveals that he hadn’t spoken with his own son in years, as he had scared him away. The look of loss and sadness, the very real tears – all that made his monologue a remarkable piece of acting.

The only player I wasn’t totally happy with was Martin Shaw. His voice easily lends itself to a declamatory way of (over-)acting and did so this time. He himself seemed tired, and sometimes even a little bored while on stage. It could have been just me, but I had hoped for “more” from this actor. (It’s a bit unfair, I know, but I did compare his performance to Henry Fonda’s and Fonda was truly brilliant)

stage door note: Robert Vaughn. Awesome. Jeff Fahey: damn, he’s good looking. steel blue eyes. easy smile. (yes, I’m drooling, why do you ask?)

Red Velvet Feb.20th, ’14

london west end

I know, I know – it’s already done (but certainly not dusted). But I just had to see it again. And I admit: it was – if that was possible – even better than the first time around. Same cast, same stage, but apparently different views on if it’s easier or harder the second time: I had asked Adrian Lester if it’s harder or not to perform the same play a second time and his answer was: much easier. less rehearsal times. When I asked Eugene O’Hare (he played the impresario) though, he revealed: much harder, less rehearsal time!

Again the performances of the castmembers were incredibly captivating, the chilling underlying notion of the ever present racism a stark reminder of how it is till this day and age and the full circle of Edmund Kean and Ira Aldridge both dying on stage a very fitting, beautiful arc – even though Aldridge never found the recognition Kean got in London, in his last moments he was equal to the man who both started and ended Ira’s career in those two performances of Othello in the West End…

Fun addendum: When O’Hare asks “Ira” to proceed “gentler” for their audience is “older” he seemed to look directly at me – I had a 3rd row seat in the middle. So when Adrian Lester finally came out to sign for me, I mock scolded him for his colleague’s words. And with a totally straight face, the giggle barely hidden in his eyes, Mr Lester stated: that was althogether out of line of him.

so yes, it was a great play at a cute venue (their coffee saved my life and the red velvet truffles are a dream) and I even got a taxi for the drive back to the West End.

I’d go and see it a third time in a heartbeat. Too bad I can’t afford to go to NY for its broadway run!