The Duck House (or should that be Dire House?) – Vaudeville Theatre – Review

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I left the Vaudeville Theatre in a state of despair after seeing The Duck House. After the lacklustre One Man Two Guvnors and the instantly forgettable Raving, we now have the dire Duck House. It appears there are no creative comedy writers for UK theatre at present. What a shame.

The Duck House claims to be a farce based on the MP’s expenses scandal  of a few years ago. All the jokes are obvious and not a single situation isn’t telegraphed so early that you don’t see it coming almost from the moment the curtain is raised.

Again, as in Raving I’m fed up with the laziness of the writing, it goes for the crudest and lowest vulgar laughs far too often. One of characters walks in and we can tell she’s going to be running around in kinky underwear soon, why? Well because the coat she’s in is so short you can see her stocking tops and suspenders! Director Terry Johnson appears to equally not care about any subtlety as this farce lurches from one over the top scene to another.

The writers, Colin Swash and Dan Patterson appear to have just gone through their notebooks of what they’ve written for Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week and shoe horned in as many jokes from those as possible. I really did sit there thinking, “I’ve heard these jokes before”. They also seem to have a checklist of “things that should be in a farce” and have slavishly ticked them off; trousers dropping, tick, woman in sexy underwear, tick, someone hiding in cupboard in their underwear, tick. These are all set up with no style or intelligence, it’s embarrassing.

I love farces, but this is just a bastardised version of what a good one can be. The writers have failed in making the main character loveable in any way. So the scrapes he gets himself in ,I just didn’t care as they were self inflicted and deserved.

What could have been an intelligent and witty look at an interesting part of recent politics has been dropped instead for a crude, crass, piece of drivel, that butchers the farce. My search for a decent modern comedic theatre writer continues.

STARS : ★

Many thanks to www.officialtheatre.com for the tickets.

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Kungliga Operan – Stockholm / Swan Lake – Review

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Following on from my previous post about the Theatrical Sites in StockholmI’ve saved my highlight for its own post. It’s also a double whammy of a review too – both the Opera House and the Ballet we saw there.

So first of all the Kungliga Operan, in one word, WOW. What a stunning opera house. Lavish, luxuriant and stylish with friendly staff made for it being a perfect night out.

The Outside of the Kungliga Operan

The outside of the Kungliga Operan

We were fortunate to sit in the area which is actually reserved for the King’s household (unbeknownst to me when I purchased the tickets) and tickets for this are released only the last few days prior to the show if not needed. I could get used to theatre seats that are like armchairs, and a great view! Thanks to a very friendly local couple we sat next to, they gave us a peek of the Kings Gallery and private staircase which are located nearby during the interval.

Inside it is rather spectacular too - The King's Gallery,  © Alexander Kenney / Operan Kungliga

Inside it is rather spectacular too – The King’s Gallery, © Alexander Kenney / Operan Kungliga

Most comfortable theatre seat award goes to Kungliga Operan!

Most comfortable theatre seat award goes to Kungliga Operan!

Main staircase of the Opera House

Main staircase of the Opera House

The ceiling above the main stairs

The ceiling above the main stairs

During the second interval our kind locals sitting next to us asked if we’d been to the Golden Hall? We advised we hadn’t, “oh you MUST come and see it!” so off we went. Alas as I’d not expected to need to take photos I didn’t have my camera on me and I can’t find any pics online. Suffice to say it is a hall that is lit by magnificent chandeliers and the entire room is covered in gold. Rumour has it the room is entirely gold leaf, whether it is or not, I so glad they made sure we saw it.

I was also pleasantly surprised at the reasonable cost of attending the Kungliga Operan, comparative seating in the Covent Garden Royal Opera House, would easily have cost four times as much and people told me Stockholm was an expensive city! Certainly not for ballet or opera. I may start getting a cheap flight and seeing more there, as that’ll still be cheaper the way West End is going.

So to the ballet:

I’ve seen Swan Lake a few times but not recently. Previous occasions have all been Russian companies and so it was gripping to see how another school of ballet would deal with this iconic piece. I have to say I liked the understated subtlety and focus on the story telling they gave it. The dancers had their chance to wow us and show us what they could do, but the narrative of the piece was the centre point. So much so, that a full act I don’t ever recall seeing in my previous versions! I’m sure it must have been in them as I remember the score from them, but clearly they failed to connect the story to me. Whereas this time each act developed the story and built on the last act. I especially liked the quick change of Odette from Princess to swan, it was so magical.

Obviously pride in ones own Royal Ballet prevents me from saying the  Swedish Royal Ballet were better. However they were not quite as slick as ours and this could have been due to one of the dancers injuring themselves and having to bow out of the final act. In no way though is this a slight on the company. They gave charming performances and we had a wonderful time viewing their Swan Lake.

This was seen on my last night in Stockholm, a fine ending to a fantastic week there. I wish we’d had time for an official tour of the Kungliga Operan and should we return, we’ll make a point of doing that. If you are in Stockholm make sure you visit the Kungliga Operan!

Theatrical Sites of Stockholm

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I’ve just returned from a lovely holiday in Stockholm. Whilst there I took in a few of the theatrical sites, I saw Swan Lake at the Kungliga Operan a full review of that stunning Opera House and ballet will follow in a day or so.

After we’d decided to head off to Stockholm I consulted my trusty DK Eyewitness Guide and noticed that there was an August Strindberg Museum actually based in his finally residence, that went on my list of must sees, and in fact we visited it on our first day there.

Strindberg's Desk

Strindberg’s Desk

Following a trip up three floors in a “Thoroughly Modern Millie” lift as my wife called it, we arrived at the museum. Half of it is his apartment as it was when he lived there. It’s quite spooky to wander around his apartment and see his personal artefacts.

I studied Strindberg at college and found him an interesting if somewhat confusing writer. This museum opened up his life and world to me. It was set out in themed exhibits looking at various aspects of his life, such as his religious views and how they developed, his portrayal and views on women, his pacifism etc. This was a really good way of getting to grips with this multifaceted man.

He’s held in very high esteem in his native Sweden and this museum enabled me to see why.

Me with Strindberg statue outside the Swedish National Theatre

Me with Strindberg statue outside the Swedish National Theatre

The other “theatrical” museum I had to visit was Abba The Museum. It was a great chance to see their memorabilia and find out a bit more about the group via the guided tour you listen to recorded by Abba themselves. I was slightly surprised that there is only a passing mention to their musical, Mama Mia! A tiny display of the wedding dress from the show and as you leave the museum you leave via the bridge akin to the end of the musical. For a musical that has been so successful I was surprised they gave it so little promotion here.

Alas they wouldn't let me try these on.

Alas they wouldn’t let me try these on.

That's ALOT of records!!

That’s ALOT of records!!

It’s a wonderful city but theatrically the highlight for me was the Kungliga Operan – but I’ll save that for a future post!

Nothing to Rave About – Raving at the Hampstead Theatre – Review

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I bought my tickets for this simply based on the casting of Sarah Hadland and Robert Webb, a couple of months ago. I was keen to see a new comedy too, and revist one of my favourite theatres after the brilliant Race that I saw there earlier this year.

Is it worth raving about then? Not really.

The cast give clichéd and stereotype performances to their equally two-dimensional characters. Writer Simon Paisley Day clearly believes his audience can’t handle nuance or depth and so gives us this superficial offering.

Bel Powley appears to be the “teen chav for hire” actress , she duplicates her role from Jumpy here and in the two years since I saw her in that hasn’t appeared to learn that you don’t need to yell on stage all the time, even when you’re playing a stroppy teenager.

Sarah Hadland could just have walked off the set of Miranda and Robert Webb likewise has just wandered off the set of Peep Show. They’re just duplicating their roles from these TV shows. It’s this lack of any creativity by cast or writer that is so disheartening. It did feel they were “going through the motions” a bit too.

The exception is Tamzin Outhwaite with her performance as the depressed new mum Briony, it is superb, but lost in the sea of mediocrity that the rest of the play is.

I did laugh out loud, and in no means did I think it was dreadful. It’ll simply be a forgotten piece of theatre in a weeks time. Shame really as I’m sure the cast and audience could have been stretched and entertained further. It’s ok, but nothing worth raving about.

STARS : ★ ★ (and a half)

 

Scenes From a Marriage – St James’ Theatre – Review

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The first thing to mention is that when you see those competitions on Twitter to “retweet this for a chance to win free tickets…” that you do. That’s how I came to see this play last night. So thanks to St James’ Theatre for the chance to see this intense play.

The St James’ Theatre has now been going for a year and I’m pleased I got to visit this new London theatre. My only complaint is that yet again the theatre seating seems to have been an afterthought. Cramped leg room and thin uncomfortable seats really should be a thing of the past, especially when you’re designing a theatre from scratch, a real shame and wasted opportunity.

The "new kid on the block" of London Theatres.

The “new kid on the block” of London Theatres.

I had reservations about this play. A week that can only be described as manic at work meant I was tired and not sure a play dealing with the disintegration of a marriage was how I wanted to spend my Friday night with my wife. As regular readers to my blog know, this is a state of mind I’m often in prior to going to the theatre! I love it when theatre surprises and refreshes me. I’m pleased to report Scenes from a Marriage did just that.

My wife and I celebrated 10 years of marriage this year and so I think it’s fair to say I had a good insight into the themes and scenes being played out. I’m not going to comment on them though, as I don’t want people misconstruing or reading into my comments/thoughts/feelings/experiences that are not there.

Suffice to say, this is a no holds barred and potent look at marriage. It is also one of the few plays where I’ve seen the audience truly drawn in, and involved in the action on stage. There were audible gasps, and comments throughout, not because the audience were being rude, but because we were so engaged. Usually at the interval I want to stay, this time I had to stay as I was so intrigued to see what would happen.

To say Mark Bazeley and Olivia Williams performances were "legendary" is no hyperbole.

To say Mark Bazeley and Olivia Williams performances were “legendary” is no hyperbole.

The performances from Mark Bazeley and Olivia Williams were incredible. Olivia Williams performance in this rates as one of the greatest pieces of acting I’ve witnessed on the stage.

Unfortunately Act 2 does disappoint, it seemed to me that Ingmar Bergman couldn’t quite decide how to end the play and so it felt a bit incredulous and messy towards the end.

I’m so glad I did that retweet and saw this, it’s only on for another week though. If you’ve been married any period of time or want to see a performance by two actors that is truly “legendary” then make haste to St James’ Theatre.

STARS : ★ ★ ★ ★