Archive for the 'National Theatre' Category

Review: August: Osage County, National Theatre

Saturday 6 December 2008

august-osage-countyfz6mif1Phew! What a lot of relief for the Whingers. On three counts.

After watching some actors being not entirely convincingly American in Neil LaBute’s In A Dark Dark House last week, it came as a real treat to see 13 genuine Americans (one of them genuinely genuine -a Native American) shipped across the pond for the National’s import of Mr Tracy Letts‘ Broadway hit August: Osage County, to play, well, Americans.

But more importantly what a relief to see a title punctuated with care and attention. The Whingers are always delighted to see a rather lovely and robust colon. Mr Letts clearly knows something Mr LaBute doesn’t: punctuation. We are now hoping that a play be written which incorporates the subjunctive in its title.

Thirdly, the Whingers can confidently now make mention of the play at a dinner party or while in witty conversation with an off-licence manager without mumbling or shortening it to “August” as they know it’s pronounced owe-sidge; previously they had been rhyming it with “sausage”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Review – Gethsemane by David Hare, National Theatre

Tuesday 11 November 2008

One of the many questions that Whingers get asked is: why do you go to see things that you’re so clearly not going to enjoy?

That and: “What do you think you’re doing with my wine?”

The answer to the former is that the Whingers are constantly hoping to better themselves. While this may seem to you to display a distinct paucity of ambition, the Whingers are committed to exposing themselves to as wide a range of cultural input as possible. It is their hope that theatre can expand their horizons, challenge their thinking and create new dreams for them to live. Very like Mr Barack Obama in this respect, the Whingers dare to hope for change we need.

Playwright David Hare is a case in point. Not known for his musicals, whodunnits nor lately for amusingly written parts for Dames of the British Empire (Amy’s View being the most recent we can think of) he seems, on the surface of it, to have little on his stall that might attract the attention of a passing Whinger.

Yet Gethsemane could so easily have gone either way; Andrew had been much moved by The Permanent Way, Hare’s verbatim theatrical piece on the privatisation of the railways; Phil had some good words to say about Stuff Happens (although Andrew fell asleep 15 minutes in and bailed out at the interval). Read the rest of this entry »

Review – De Profundis, National Theatre

Friday 26 September 2008

A glimpse behind the scenes of the West End Whingers’ workflow:

In order to save the time and bother involved thinking about things, the Whingers hit on the idea very early on of writing the bulk of the review before actually seeing the play.

So weeks before seeing Corin Redgrave’s reading of Oscar WIlde’s De Profundis at the National Theatre one of the Whingers had already penned a few distinctly sub-Wildean aphorisms: Read the rest of this entry »

Review – The Walworth Farce, National Theatre

Wednesday 24 September 2008

A major drama was played out at the National Monday evening.

In all the Whingers’ many years of theatre-going, never have they experienced¬† anything so tense, so immediate and so personally relevant.

There were moments of despair so profound they numbed the Whingers’ senses; and urgencies so imperative that adrenalin pumped through their veins.

Happily there was also hope, elation, redemption and a happy denouement which restored their faith in humanity.

Amazing stuff.

And once Andrew’s lost wallet had been recovered they went to see The Walworth Farce. Read the rest of this entry »

Review – Her Naked Skin, National Theatre

Wednesday 30 July 2008

There really are some rather spooky coincidences connecting the Whingers to the National’s new lesbian prison drama set against the backdrop of the fight for votes for women in Edwardian England.

Phil – who is very emancipated – feels a particular affinity with the movement: his grandmother was a suffragette; his uncle was governor of Strangeways Prison where suffragette Derby Day martyr Emily Wilding Davison was detained; Phil himself was hooked on the seventies suffragette TV drama Shoulder to Shoulder; and in the days when he cycled (before Dave and Boris made it unfashionable) he used to chain his bike to railings.

And Andrew is a Lesbian. Well, he isn’t actually one at the moment, but he hopes one day to become part of the Lesbian community once he has saved up enough to buy the little Greek hideaway he’s always hankered after. Read the rest of this entry »

Review – …some trace of her, National Theatre

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Andrew will go to any lengths to avoid visiting the Cottesloe Theatre.

Claiming rather grandly that he would be “flying back from a business trip to Hamburg” Phil was forced to fly solo with his first ever visit to a Katie Mitchell production: …some trace of her.

So elaborate was Andrew’s ruse that he even phoned Phil from the “departure lounge” just to add to the veracity of his story. “Airport noises” could be heard in the background, the bing-bong of a tannoy, a screaming child, and Andrew’s own weary “I’m at an airport” irritation all helped his painstaking fiction. Was Andrew actually still at home twiddling around with the knob on his wireless?

So …some trace of her then, but no trace of Andrew… Read the rest of this entry »

Review – A Slight Ache at the National Theatre

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Q. How do you get Andrew to watch a Pinter play?

A. Advertise the running time as 50 minutes, cast Clare Higgins and Simon Russell Beale and put it on at 6pm so that the whole evening isn’t wasted.

No, it’s not funny. It’s tragic; it’s true. Read the rest of this entry »

Review – Afterlife by Michael Frayn, National Theatre

Thursday 12 June 2008

To stage one verse play may be regarded as a misfortune; to stage two looks like carelessness. Or malice.

Yes, after the unpleasantness of Fram, the National has contrived to prescribe for the general public’s indigestion yet another unpalatable dose of doggerel in the form of Michael Frayn’s Afterlife. Read the rest of this entry »

Review – The Revenger’s Tragedy, National Theatre

Thursday 5 June 2008

Just days before embarking upon one of their mysterious trips a few years’ ago (to Costa Rica, as it happens), the Whingers were thrilled to discover from their trip notes that one of their companions (“land only”) would be none other than Barbara Flynn.

They spent days planning how they would become instant best friends with the quality TV stalwart (Cracker, A Family at War, the milkwoman in Open All Hours) and would spend every evening of the two week tour regaling each other with showbusiness reminiscences and anecdotes and generally excluding all the other people on the tour.

Once they returned to England their bond – rather than dissolving as such friendships inevitably do – would become even stronger. They would be forever popping in and out of each others’ houses, meet up to go shopping and maybe even taking in the occasional (short) play.

When “Bar” (as they would affectionately call her) eventually published her memoirs (In Like Flynn maybe or possibly My Name Is Barbara But Spelt Properly) the Whingers would be surprised, delighted and – well – humbled to see that it was dedicated to they, her dearest friends.

Sadly it turned out to be a different Barbara Flynn; this one did something in IT in Dublin. The Whingers valiantly tried to hide their disappointment and – once they had forgiven her – condescended not to hold her entirely responsible for their crushed dreams and even to affect a degree of amiability towards her.

Anyway, in wistful remembrance of what might have been, the Whingers couldn’t resist a trip to see Barbara Flynn in The Revenger’s Tragedy at the National Theatre. And also, of course, to catch WEW Fave Rory Kinnear too. Excitingly, Kinnear will be in the 22nd Bond film: Quantum of Solace. He will play Bill Tanner who Phil is hoping will turn out to be a relative of Elsie Tanner. Let us hope it turns out not to be another crashing disappointment on the scale of the Barbara Flynn debacle. Read the rest of this entry »

Review – The Pitmen Painters, National Theatre

Tuesday 20 May 2008

“This is the last chance for the Cottelsoe,” muttered Phil as the Whingers dilly-DALIed disconsolately towards the National Theatre last night.

“Indeed,” grumbled Andrew. “Enough is enough”.

And this time they really meant it.

So really quite a lot was hanging on the first preview (apart from the run it has just had in Newcastle) of The Pitmen Painters.

Would it prove a renaissance for the National Theatre’s alternative space or would it mark a continuation of the Dark Ages? Read the rest of this entry »

Review – The Year of Magical Thinking with Vanessa Redgrave, National Theatre

Sunday 11 May 2008

The Whingers thought this would be the one for them.

Phil only agreed to see it as he’d misread the title as The Year of Magical Drinking, and assumed he would be watching something he could relate to at last. The Whingers have spent many years drinking thus.

But thinking? That’s something they take great pains to avoid. It only leads to madness. Read the rest of this entry »

Review – Harper Regan at the National Theatre

Thursday 24 April 2008

As the Whingers snook out of the Cottesloe the other night Andrew – for once – raised an interesting point: “Perhaps we don’t really like theatre” he mused.

Things are certainly looking rocky. The love-hate relationship with the West End which characterised the Whingers’ giddy heydays seems now to be more like simple bitter enmity.

Perhaps the relationship analogy is the wrong one; maybe it is more like a sport. In which case the score over the last few weeks now stands at Theatre: 4 Whingers: 0. With a record like this, wouldn’t your morale be low?

In fact, Andrew proposed that the review for Harper Regan at the National Theatre should simply read: “Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Review – Fram at the National Theatre

Thursday 17 April 2008

All credit to the National: they never are averse
To staging something radical and this play is in verse!

It’s written by a Harrison and Tony is his name
Our “foremost theatre poet” so the NT website claims.

We tried to name some others but our efforts were in vain
And do not recommend it for a fun-filled drinking game. Read the rest of this entry »

Review – Never So Good with Jeremy Irons at the National Theatre

Wednesday 19 March 2008

An understandably overlooked historical fact: Phil’s place of birth was determined by the Suez crisis. Or so he claims. While Andrew accepts that current affairs may have played a part in Phil’s genesis he privately feels that the Boer War is the more probable context.

Anyway, talking of history, Howard Brenton’s Never So Good at the National Theatre tells the life of Harold MacMillan, Britain’s Prime Minister from 1957-63.

Now history does not record this either, but Phil actually had two encounters with Supermac (the PM, not the fast food meal): once from the comfort of his perambulator at a Conservative fete (oh, the shame) and once in the 1980s shuffling down Fleet Street. Just to clarify: it was Phil that was shuffling, HM looked quite sprightly for his age. Read the rest of this entry »

Victoria Wood, Kathleen Turner and the chihuahua mystery

Thursday 13 March 2008

A night off theatre for the Whingers. But they are never off duty.

First a visit to see Kathleen Turner being interviewed in a platform at the National Theatre.

Ms Turner was interviewed Chris Campbell who explained he was from the National Theatre’s literary department but the Whingers had already figured this out from his red socks. Read the rest of this entry »