The Judas Kiss Oct. 13th, ’12

london west end

It is the attempt to show a whole life in two scenes. And up to a point it is a very successful attempt that makes it clear just how dependent Oscar Wilde was from his young lover Bosie, even though the spoilt childlike manipulator takes other lovers and it’s never clear if he ever shared his body with the famed irish writer.

Rupert Everett shows an impressive amount of guts to portray Wilde with horrific white make up and rouged cheeks like an aging queen with dirty locks, while Freddie Fox as the angelic looking Bosie succeeds in seducing the audience as well as Wilde until he shows his true colours – the master manipulator who wants to stir his parents into “seeing” him, no matter which way.

The first scene takes place in the advent of Wilde’s arrest – where he still has the chance of getting away to France as his former lover and friend Robbie urges him to. It is Bosie who talks him into staying in order to face the trial, and win their cause – when already it is more than clear that there is no case, that he will be imprisoned and doing hard labour if he dares to stay.

Two years later: The second scene starts (just like the first scene began with the passionate lovemaking between a servant and a maid at the hotel) with a couple in bed – but Bosie isn’t intimate with the broken and tired Wilde, he is in an embrace with a pretty Italian fisherman in Naples. and when he realises that Wilde’s ill wife has stopped sending money (the one condition being that Oscar stops seeing Bosie) and his own mother offers him a way back into the high brow family, he takes the opportunity – as he isn’t “an invert” – it’s “just a phase” he’s going through – to which Wilde answers mildly – “no, you’re just a brilliant mimic”. And so it ends – Bosie has succeeded in making his family acknowledge him and “seeing” him and Wilde will spend the rest of his life in exile, alone, because “it isn’t rage that kills, it is a lover’s kiss” and so he kisses Bosie one last time – to release him into his family, his life, to live alone and cast away and without friends.

I would have liked to see more background to Wilde’s story – not just his sick dependency to Bosie, the spoilt brat. I also admit I never thought of sharpp witted and acidic Wilde as a mostly whining, lovesick queen, but I might have had the wrong image in my mind.

The play itself was gripping, but to me it lacked a bit of depth; which was unfortunately not compensated by Everett and Fox. What the audience (both male and female) appreciated very much, though, was the ample use of naked young men (and one woman) who strutted around the stage well built and casually. If they were used to distract from the mostly missing plot, I have to admit they succeeded just fine. 😉

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Red Velvet Oct. 12th, ’12

london west end

Where to start? It is amazing how a play about the struggles against racial prejudices in the 19th century can also be terrifyingly current, how an out of date style of acting can be riveting and catching at the same time, how a play grips you with the first scene and doesn’t let you go until you leave the theatre. This is a must-see play that lives through a powerful script as well as incredibly talented actors, tightly choreographed moves in stark contrast to outbursts of passion and anger and the mesmerising play of lead Adrian Lester.

The play tells the story of Ira Aldridge, a young American actor who is brought into a performance of Othello to save the day when Edmund Kean, famous for his interpretation with black face, collapses on stage and clearly won’t be able to come back. Ira will not need black face. He is black. In 1830 this is still a birthmark that speaks of disadvantage and repression. of prejudice and hatred. When the highly talented Ira takes over the part and fuels it with a passion that is not well received in those days, the character he plays is immediately mixed with the man he is. After a couple of performances he is thrown out of London’s theatre world.

Decades later – and this is where the play starts – in a small town on the Czech/Austrian border Ira Aldridge, now an acclaimed and famous actor is bing interviewed by a young reporter – through her false presumptions and his hurt feelings we unravel the course of events all those years ago. And while he tells the story, Ira puts on his make-up to play another leader, another king in his own right. When all is said and done, he turns to the audience, his hair scraggly, his face white, an impressive King Lear, ready to go on stage with his “white face”.

I admit I gasped. it’s such a strong play, full of ressentiments and sarcastic one liners that show us how far we’ve come in our fight for equality, but also how far we still have to go until equal rights truly mean the same rights for everyone.

Add to that the marvellous talent of Lolita Chakrabarti and Adrian Lester – and it’s a perfect, food for thought theatre experience.

 

Plus; both are incredibly charming and laid back at the stage door and take their time for a little chat. Thank you for that!

Top Hat Oct. 11th, ’12

london west end

This was almost not happening – I thought our Globe-experience would be in the evening and when we realised it was a matinee, we quickly booked this – and it was a fun experience to say the least. The show was built around Tom Chambers, obviously a fan-favorite after his win in Strictly come Dancing a few years back (I hadn’t seen it and hadn’t heard about him much before I saw him on stage).

So all I had was the Astaire-Rogers-movie to compare the show to and I must admit that even tho it was a lot of fun, the show wasn’t quite able to catch the effortless elegance Fred Astaire was capable of bringing to the silver screen. While Summer Strallen WAS Ginger Rogers at times, Chambers made points when tap dancing only. As soon as he was forced into a ballroom waltz though his body lacked tension – which was doubly apparent because Miss Strallen is so damned talented and has full control over all her moves. He on the other hand looked a bit brutish, to say the truth.

So the story follows the movie (just like Singing In The Rain, which is apparently the direct competition for Top Hat) with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire (who filled a tailcoat like nobody else ever could): Jerry Travers is a huge star on broadway and goes to England to conquer the West End.  On his last day in New York he meets Dale Tremont who is annoyed at  his tap dancing in the hotel suite above hers and therefore comes to complain. Just when he thinks he has found THE woman – and she thinks he is THE man, it seems thanks to mistaken identities that the man she has fallen in love with is Horace Hardwick (under whose name the hotel suit above hers  is booked) – the husband of her best friend Madge. Until everything is cleared up and Jerry is able to finally kiss Dale, she accepts the marriage proposal of her designer boss Alberto Beddini, gets married by a butler in disguise and has Horace chastised for an indiscretion in the park.

It’s a fun story and the dancers are wonderful, the ensemble numbers amazing. Chambers is definitely a fan favorite, but to me he wasn’t really up to the part and I do have to admit I liked “Singing” with “the other Strallen” better.

12th Night Oct. 11th, ’12

london west end

My very first play in the new Globe theatre – and thanks to the architecture of this exceptional and amazing building, but also thanks to a wonderful cast this was a very special performance, one that’ll stay very close to my heart. With an all male cast, minimal decorations on stage and period costumes this proved to be as close to an Elisabethan take on the Shakespearean play as possible in this day and age. We even fought to keep our bums still on the incredibly uncomfortable seats – and we did have cushions (thank you, Bev, for the life saving tip!)

We went to see Stephen Fry who plays Malvolio – the love sick maitre de of Countess Olivia and he was unfortunately a surprise – he was by far the weakest player in this tale of mistaken identities and misplaced feelings. He was, basically and sadly, Stephen Fry. Funny, yes, but without depth or any kind of passion. Which is a shame as the rest of the cast was truly great.

Liam Brennan seduced me with Count Orsino’s cute accent, which was a dream to listen to, and with the charming way he falls in love with his apparently male servant Viola, brilliantly played by Johnny Flynn, who is in truth of course a girl. Outstanding also Mark Rylance who is reprising his role as Olivia – the way he seemed to almost glide along the stage was hilarious, but he also managed to portrait her anxious love and the way she gives up her modesty for her happiness and still make her character loveable.

And it was the “girls” of the all male cast, that were especially marvellous. All done up in white make up the guys were obviously very much enjoying to see life with different eyes for once. They certainly could have fooled me – they were that good.

The performance itself is sold out for the whole run, no additional dates are planned – but there might be return tickets on the day, so checking might garner you some tickets. All in all it was a brilliant play, happy ending and a funny dance number choreographed for curtains (as there are no curtains) that certainly made staying despite “the rain and the wind” a must.