Monday 18 May 2020

Antony and Cleopatra, National Theatre Live 8 May 2020 ****1/2

By William Shakespeare
By National Theatre Live, May 8-14, 2020
Streamed May 8-14, 2020
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****1/2
 This is a VERY SHORT REVIEW of the streamed production. KH
Ralph Fiennes & Sophie Okonedo pic by Johan Persson
Simon Godwin’s production of Antony and Cleopatra is a sprawling epic that underscores the chaotic messiness of both love and war in Shakespeare’s narrative. 

Ralph Fiennes is impressive, inspiring and passionate as Antony, an ageing Roman General, still dignified and stately, but languorous, indulged and sated in Egypt where he lives and loves with Cleopatra.

On word of his wife Fulvia’s death, he leaves his beloved Cleopatra (Sophie Okonedo) and returns to Rome to marry Octavia and align his family and forces with Caesar and where immerses himself in power and politics. His Antony is playful, a little raddled and ruffled but still commanding.

Fiennes’ Antony is out of balance physically and emotionally with age, weariness, indulgence in alcohol and rabble-rousing and love.  With his gang of aides and soldiers, Antony carouses and boozes until the early hours to Caesar’s chagrin, but Antony is unaware of Pompey’s treachery.

Okonedo captures the impassioned, erratic rantings of Cleopatra as she demands Antony declare his love for her while doubting his fidelity. She is wild and hysterical which is apt for the role, but sometimes becomes vocally jarring.

There is electricity when these passionate, obsessive lovers are in proximity – enough to make your hair stand on end.

Nicholas Le Provost’s Lepidus is dignified and noble with the occasional lapse into booziness. Tim McMullan’s Enobarbus revels in the Bacchanalian delights of Cleopatra’s court and her ladies in waiting but is a loyal soldier and friend to Antony and his interpretation of Enobarbus’ famous speech about Cleopatra’s beauty is rich with vivid imagery.

Godwin’s production has stark staging (design: Hildegard Bechtler) with contemporary costume and modern military uniforms for the warring Roman factions of Pompey (Sargon Yelda) and Caesar (Tunij Kasim) and plenty of glamour for Cleo.

This production streamed for only one week in May during the shut-down, but it was a gift to witness Fiennes as Antony.

by Kate Herbert
Ralph Fiennes & cast, pic by Johan Persson

Sunday 17 May 2020

Jane Austen Unscripted - Birds Migrating, 17 May 2020 ****

Birds Migrating 16 May 2020  (LA time)
Improvised on one night only see here for upcoming shows 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 17 May 2020 (1pm AEST)
Impro Theatre LA is at it again! This week, their online improvised play is Jane Austen Unscripted with the title, Birds Migrating, an audience suggestion.

Having been a Jane Austen aficionado since I was a teenager, it’s fascinating to see how improvisers interpret her writing, characters and the period in which she lived. Here, we find ourselves in an Austen romantic story that is Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey with a hint of Emma.
Edi Patterson & Dan O'Connor (improvising in 'Iso' together)
Sisters, Emily (Edi Patterson) and Harriet Green (Sarah Mountjoy-Pepka), who live with their silly mother, Mrs. Green (Kari Coleman), have grown into lovely young women while the men of the area have not been paying attention, it seems.

 The improvisers perform via Twitch TV, playing their roles separately from their homes during isolation. The technical skill required to achieve this production is not to be under-estimated.
Sarah Mouttjoy-Pepka
They are in period costume and all action is set against virtual backgrounds, including rooms and gardens of the Greens’ manor home, and the imposing stately Hawkebury House, home of Lord Henry Matthews (Brian Lohmann).

By this mysterious alchemy, the company of six improvisers and three technicians creates an entire Austen world instantaneously on our screens.

Emily Green (Edi Patterson) is interested in science and the natural world while her sister, Harriet, is compelled to read and write dark poetry that is ‘amiable or horrific’.

Emily has two suitors: the dashing Mr. Edwards (Nick Massouh) who returns to the neighbouring estate after a long absence, and Reverend Johnston (Dan O’Connor), the stumbling, cheerful vicar. No prizes for guessing which one gets the girl.

When Emily meets the cool, pompous, narrow-eyed Lord Henry Matthews, played by Brian Lohmann (channelling Mr. Darcy), the pair share their love of poetry in his huge library.
 Brian Lohmann
This performance is riddled with euphemism about size, burning, heat, biology and anatomy, birds mating and migrating, and other metaphors.

Mistakes are gifts in improvisation and, when Emily’s voice becomes unintelligible momentarily, it provides an opportunity for an entire narrative thread about being tongue-tied in the presence of Mr. Edwards which leads to an inspired, unintelligible proposal and acceptance in the final scene.

It’s a gift to witness these shows when they fly and Jane Austen’s little-known work, Migrating Birds, really flew.

by Kate Herbert

Kari Coleman – Mrs. Green
Edi Patterson – Emily Green
Sarah Mountjoy-Pepka – Harriet Green
Nick. Massouh – Mr Edwards
Brian Lohmann – Lord Henry Matthews
Dan O’Connor– Rev Johnston

Technical Improvisers: Brian Michael Jones, Arlo Sanders & Cory Wyszynski.

Monday 4 May 2020

Frankenstein, National Theatre Live, 1 May, 2020 *****

Frankenstein by Nick Dear, based on Mary Shelley novel (1818)
By National Theatre Live, Filmed 2011
Online free from May 1 to May 8, 2020 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert  (of Cumberatch as Creature, Miller as Frankenstein)
Stars: ***** (I'd give it more than 5 stars if I could, but that's my highest!)

Benedict Cumberbatch performing as Creature: Until 7 May 7pm UK time (4am, 8th AEST)
Jonny Lee Miller performing as Creature Until 8 May 7pm UK time (4am, 9th AEST)
Info& resources for teachers, cast lists, photos etc:
Benedict Cumberbatch & Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature
Benedict Cumberbatch, as the Creature in the first version of Danny Boyle’s production of Frankenstein, is thrillingly primitive, wretched and sympathetic as this monstrous creation of Victor Frankenstein (Jonny Lee Miller) that wrestles with the cruel and merciless world into which he has been born.

‘Born’ is too warm and positive a word to describe the gut-wrenching labour as Cumberbatch’s Creature hurls himself bodily from the artificial womb onto the chill and unwelcoming ground. There, he writhes and crawls like a reptile until he struggles unsteadily onto his weak, useless legs which barely hold his weight as he collapses, rises and collapses again.

The first 15 minutes is a brutally physical and muscular performance and the audience is stunned into open-mouthed silence – even at home.

Danny Boyle's s production transforms the actors and transports the audience emotionally and imaginatively to some disturbing places.

The journey of the Creature from childlike newborn, through abused but still hopeful social outcast, secret student of the old master who teaches him about morality and literature – Paradise Lost is a favourite – to the violent, amoral and murderous Creature that hunts down Victor Frankenstein with one aim: to destroy Victor, his life and his loved ones.

Cumberbatch is a commanding, rough and towering presence, seeming to channel some physical and vocal aspects of a man with Cerebral Palsy and this makes his ostracism by the community even more viciously offensive.

Jonny Lee Miller’s Creature, (they swap roles on alternating nights) is almost move for move the same as Cumberbatch’s, and yet he is a very different creature: smaller, more vulnerable and intimate in some ways, but just as compelling. Each has his own exceptional quality.

Frankenstein himself becomes the antithesis of his Creature. Victor is cold, anti-social, superior, cruel, obsessed with science not humanity, and self-absorbed and a stranger to love, despite his betrothal to the lovely, curious and generous Elizabeth. Meanwhile, his Creature craves contact, love, partnership, warmth, learning of literature and humanity, and is much more attractive as a human being than his creator.

I will not, in this short review, analyse the atmospheric and deceptively simple staging and the masterly performances of the ensemble. Suffice to say, this is exceptional theatre with outstanding performances by Cumberbatch and Miller in both roles.

I imagine the experience live in the theatre was overwhelming, it was sufficiently awe-inspiring from my couch watching it online. Bravo!! I'd give it for than 5 stars if I could!

By Kate Herbert

The Creature Benedict Cumberbatch or Jonny Lee Miller
Victor Frankenstein. Benedict Cumberbatch or Jonny Lee Miller
Gretel Ella Smith
Gustav John Killoran
Klaus Steven Elliott
Agatha de Lacey -Lizzie Winkler
De Lacey- Karl Johnson
Felix de Lacey-Daniel Millar
Elizabeth Lavenza-Naomie Harris
William Frankenstein-Jared Richard
M. Frankenstein-George Harris
Clarice-Ella Smith
Servants -Martin Chamberlain, Daniel Ings
 Rab-Mark Armstrong
Ewan-John Stahl
Female Creature-Andreea Padurariu
Constable-John Killoran
EnsembleJosie Daxter, William Ny

Saturday 2 May 2020

Benedict Cumberbatch & Jonny Lee Miller in Frankenstein

Review to come.

Watched Benedict Cumberbatch (creature) and Jonny Lee Miller (Victor) in Frankenstein -National Theatre Live. 

It is an extraordinary production by Danny Boyle with exceptional physical performance. 

Will watch Miller as creature and Cumberbatch as Victor today.
Yes, they alternate roles!

 See link for full play:  Frankenstein 
Benedict Cumberbatch & Jonny Lee Miller  in Frankenstein