Sunday 04th December

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Hedda Gabler at Lyttleton Theatre until 21st March 2017

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Ruth Wilson’s complex, witty and sinister portrayal of Hedda Gabler at the National Theatre may well be the stage performance of 2017.

Hedda Gabler is probably the best play you’ll see all year.  That’s partly in the writing: Henrik Ibsen’s dark portrayal of a beautiful, bored and destructive woman – first debuted in 1891 – has been marvelously modernised by Patrick Marber (Closer, Notes on a Scandal) and directed by Ivo van Hove.  But it’s mainly in the acting: Ruth Wilson dominates every scene from the moment you take your seat to see her slumped over a piano, drunkenly, distractedly and despairingly stabbing a tune from its keys.

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Category: Theatre
Katie Leung (Sunny) and company The World of Extreme Happiness c. Richard H Smith
Katie Leung (Sunny) and company, The World of Extreme Happiness c. Richard H Smith

The World of Extreme Happiness at The Shed

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s play The World of Extreme Happiness mixed toilet humour, upbeat techno music and neon lighting to transport the audience in the Shed at the National Theatre to a toy factory in urban China. In this environment, the dreams of China’s youth soon flicker and die out altogether. Michael Longhurst’s portrayal of dire working conditions, corruption and police brutality puts my post-graduation career indecision firmly into perspective.

The play follows Sunny (Katie Leung) who is dissatisfied by her dull, stifled life in rural China. After traveling to the city she finds work as a cleaner, where she hits an equally impenetrable glass ceiling in her attempts at promotion. She is told to keep her aspirations low and her expectations even lower.

Ming Ming (Vera Chok) takes Sunny along to self-improvement classes where they learn exactly how smiling, shaking hands and speaking in a very deep voice will boost success. Chok’s frantic positive energy suits the role well, convincing us that she really does work a twelve-hour shift before going to class.

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Category: Theatre
Pitmen
Louis Hilyer as Robert Lyon leads his new art group.

Hall’s ‘The Pitmen Painters’ at Richmond Theatre

Rating:

Showing until August 10, 2013
Live Theatre + National Theatre

Appropriately enough, the plinth above the Richmond stage reads ‘To wake the soul by tender strokes of art.’ Nothing better describes Max Robert’s direction of Lee Hall’s ‘The Pitmen Painters’. Those familiar with ‘Billy Eliot’ know of Hall’s passion for culture for all; in the programme notes he explains this as an alternative to the ‘dumbing-down’ of the Arts.

From the original ‘Pitmen Painters’ (The Ashington Group of Northumberland) are drawn five main characters who allow for expansive dramatisation. The audience is immediately warmed by Hall’s comic writing, ranging from ironic observation to farcical gags such as “A Titian!” – “Bless you!” whilst the combinations of one or three projection-screens produce a more serious engagement with the art.

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Category: Hidden London
Royal National Theatre, London

Review of Children of the Sun at the National Theatre, London

Maxin Gorky’s tragicomedic political satire delighted Thursday’s audience with a combination of wit, fast paced rhetoric and an intriguing sense of his characters’ impending doom. Written while Gorky was in prison in 1905, Children of the Sun depicts a small group of Russia’s middle class at a time of political upheaval.

The play’s protagonist is the bumbling Pavel Protassov (Geoffrey Streatfeild), a dedicated scientist on the brink of a ‘life-changing discovery’. Though we soon see that Protassov is a likeable character, it is clear that his obsession with his work has the effect of marginalising his wife Yelena (Justine Mitchelle), his friends and family and the restless town – a bubbling cauldron of discontent that, like one of his experiments, threatens to explode as the play progresses.

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Category: Theatre