Exploring the greatest new and classic plays

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The Hills of California

The Hills of California

The Hills of California

by Jes Butterworth

Directed by Sam Mendes

Harold Pinter Theatre, London

April 2024

Laura Donnelly as Veronica 
with her young daughters
Harold Pinter Theatre
Photograph by Mark Douet

Published 1st May 2024

Jodi and I review The Hills of California by Jez Butterworth, currently playing at the Harold Pinter theatre in London’s West End, directed by Sam Mendes. Do not be misled by the title; we are not in sunny California, but in the back streets of Blackpool, where four daughters come together to say goodbye to their dying mother. The play is a portrait of lost dreams, of deeply ingrained patterns of love and hurt within a family, and of suppressed and mutable memories.

A new Jez Butterworth play is a theatrical event. Does it live up to our high expectations?

The Hills of California continues until 15th June 2024.

 

 

An Enemy of the People

An Enemy of the People

An Enemy of the People

by Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Thomas Ostermeier

Directed by Thomas Ostermeier

Duke of York’s Theatre, London

March 2024

Matt Smith as Thomas Stockmann
Photograph by Manuel Harlan

Jodi and I review An Enemy of the People, which is currently playing at the Duke of York’s theatre in London’s West End. Matt Smith, who of course many will know from Dr Who, stars in Ibsen’s fable of truth and lies, political compromise and the environmental costs of capitalism.

This production is very much a contemporary adaptation of Ibsen’s original play. It was conceived by the German director Thomas Ostermeier at the Schaubuhne theatre in Berlin, where Ostermeier is the Artistic Director, and has now been redrafted in English by the British playwright, Duncan Macmillan. While the central plot of the play remains as Ibsen wrote it, this version brings the setting bang up to date, with references to many of the concerns of our time here in the UK.

The show also contains a very dramatic theatrical event, which has sparked debate among crtitics and audiences alike! So does this bold interpretation of Ibsen’s classic work for our time?

An Enemy of the People continues at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 13th April 2024.

 

 

Clyde’s

Clyde’s

Clyde’s

by Lynn Nottage

Directed by Lynette Linton

Donmar Warehouse Theatre, London

November 2023

The cast of Clyde’s
Donmar Warehouse
November 2023
Photo by Helen Murray

Jodi and I review Lynn Nottage’s play Clyde’s which is currently on stage at the Donmar Warehouse theatre in London. The show is directed by Lynette Linton, who directed Nottage’s last play at the Donmar, Sweat, back in 2018, which I thought was a fabulous show. Clyde’s premiered on Broadway in November 2021, and was nominated for four Tony awards in 2022.

According to American Theatre magazine it was the most-produced play in non-profit theatres in America in 2022–2023, so there’s something about this play that touches a nerve. Lynn Nottage is very well known in America, having  won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice: in 2009 for her play Ruined, and in 2017 for Sweat.

Clyde’s is set in the same town of Reading, Pennsylvania, in what is known as America’s rust belt.  The title is the name of the truck-stop diner on the outskirts of town that belongs to Clyde. Clyde is a former prisoner in the local penitentiary, as are all of her staff and the four other characters in the play. The stories and characters of this play, and of Sweat, are based on extensive research Nottage carried out in Reading in the 2010s, and the plays certainly have the stamp of lived reality.

Clyde’s runs at the Donmar until 2nd December, but if there’s any justice it will enjoy a longer life with a West End transfer.

Elephant

Elephant

Elephant

by Anoushka Lucas

Directed by Jess Edwards

Bush Theatre, London

October 2023

Anoushka Lucas in Elephant
Photograph: The Other Richard

Jodi and I were lucky enough to be invited to see Elephant at the Bush Theatre last week. Elephant is a one-woman show, written and performed by Anoushka Lucas. Anoushka is a very talented singer, songwriter, actor and writer. As an actor she has appeared in Oklahoma! at the Young Vic,  Henry V at the Donmar, After Life at the National, and Jesus Christ Superstar at the Open Air theatre in Regent’s Park.

She has written musical scores for other shows, and released an album of her own music, Dark Soul. Elephant is her first play, which was first seen at the Bush last year, and now returns in a new expanded version. It is running at the Bush until 4th November.

 

 

Pygmalion

Pygmalion

Pygmalion

by George Bernard Shaw

Directed by Richard Jones

Old Vic Theatre, London

September 2023

Patsy Ferran as Eliza and Bertie Carvel as Higgins
Photograph: Manuel Harlan

Jodi and I review the new production of Pygmalion at the Old Vic in London. Pygmalion is arguably George Bernard Shaw’s most famous play, partly of course because it spawned the even-more famous musical and film My Fair Lady. The play offers two iconic parts in Eliza and Higgins, played famously in the film by Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. The Old Vic production boasts two of the most respected stage actors of our time in Patsy Ferran, fresh from her Olivier-winning run as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, and Bertie Carvel, who has conjured the figures of Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch no less on stage, not to mention Miss Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical.

Shaw’s biographer, Michael Holroyd, describes Pygmalion as “a comedy of manners and a parable of socialism.” Written more than 100 years ago, does this revival convince us that the play stands the test of time?

Listen to our full episode on the play with Shaw expert, Ivan Wise, here:
068 Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw.

God of Carnage

God of Carnage

God of Carnage

by Yasmina Reza

Directed by Nicholai La Barrie

Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, London

September 2023

Dinita Gohil as Annette and Freema Agyeman as Veronica at the Lyric Hammersmith.
Photograph: The Other Richard

The show that Jodi and I are reviewing today is God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza, which is playing at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith in West London. The play, written in French and translated by Christopher Hampton, had its English language debut in the West End back in 2008. The play followed Reza’s earlier play Art, which was a worldwide hit in the 1990s, being translated into 30 languages and winning Olivier and Tony awards. God of Carnage was similarly a popular and critical success, reprising the Olivier and Tony awards, and in 2011 the play was also turned into a movie, Carnage, directed by Roman Polanski.

So, Reza and the play come to the Lyric with a stellar CV. This revival is directed by the Lyrics’s Associate Director, Nicholai La Barrie, and the four-handed cast includes Freema Agyeman, who is perhaps best known as Doctor Who’s companion Martha Jones.

The action of the play all takes place on one afternoon in the elegant living room of a cultured middle-class couple, where they have invited another couple to come to discuss an incident that has occurred between their respective 11-year old sons, one of whom has hit the other in the mouth with a stick, breaking two of his teeth. The parents of the victim want to understand what provoked the attack, and to explore what action could be taken by way of resolution.

The play is a comedy of manners, or perhaps more accurately of no manners.