Looking back at 2011

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For me 2011, has certainly been my busiest year theatrically. As I sit here with my Xmas Turkish Delight and box of choccy’s, what were my highlights?

  • Finally getting to see Robert Lepage was certainly a memorable occasion. His play The Blue Dragon I referred to as “Theatrical perfection”.

    Robert Lepage as Pierre Lamontagne

  • I saw my first Burlesque  show, which was certainly an eye opener!

    Mistress of Ceremonies

  • London Road at the National Theatre is certainly one of the highlights for me. An amazing piece of theatre.
  • The best new play of this year I think was The Acid Test by Anya Reiss.

Best new play of 2011

  • The best acting I saw this year was in The Seagull at the Arcola, especially Yolanda Kettle as Nina, who gets my “Best Actress Award”. Best Actor goes to Joseph Milson as Ben Stark in Rocket to the Moon at the National.

    Yolanda Kettle, best actress I saw in 2011, in The Seagull at the Arcola.

Joseph Milson, best actor I saw in 2011, in Rocket to the Moon

  • Crazy for You, was definitely the best musical I saw this year.

    The best legs in London!

  • Manon at the Royal Opera House, wins “best ballet” award.

    Manon left me speechless.

  • Best entertainment award would go to Strictly Gershwin. (so good I saw it twice and my wife saw it three times!)

    Dancing from the beautiful Rhapsody in Blue

  • Best theatre book of the year, without a doubt the publication of Volume 2 Samuel Beckett’s letters from 1941 – 1956, I’m still ploughing my way through them, but they’re one of the most rewarding things I’ve read in a long time.

So all in all a very good year theatrically for me.  Thanks to all my readers and I wish you all a very prosperous 2012.

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The Seagull – Arcola Theatre – Review

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When everything comes together in theatre, it’s like a certain magic is being recreated in front of the audience. Most of the theatre I see is good, sometimes exceptional, sometimes it leaves a lot to be desired and occasionally it is something quite magical.

This production of The Seagull falls into the latter category. This is like capturing lightning in a bottle. The play by Chekhov is a classic, and this new translation by Charlotte Pyke, John Kerr and Joseph Blatchley brings it up to date while keeping it rooted in the period it’s set in. I’m no Chekhov scholar but to me it seemed an accurate and fair translations to previous ones I’ve read, without some of the “stuffiness” that seems to be present in some.

Seeing Chekhov in the round was also a new experience, yet it actually made it feel more intense and I was surprised at how it suited being presented this way. The slick changes of the scenes made by the cast and the creative way each one was created really worked.

So what made this so special? the pedigree of the script obviously  helped, the creative staging likewise made this seem fresh and new. However I feel that the lions share for what made this so magical must go to the WHOLE cast and the director Joseph Blatchley. Not a weak link at all in the cast, each bringing their characters to life. I’ve seldom seen such perfect ensemble work (London Road at the National being the only other example that springs immediately to mind).

I was blown away by Yolanda Kettle who played Nina. This was her professional debut and it was phenomenal, to see an actress of such ability at the debut of their career can only mean we’ll be seeing her in much more as her career progresses. Her portrayal of Nina brought tears to my eyes in Act Four and her acting in the previous acts shows a zest of youth and idealism. Certainly an actress to keep our eyes on.

Al Weaver showed  a real depth and gave an excellent portrayal as the tortured and troubled  Konstantin. The aforementioned scene in Act 4 with Nina was so moving and the intensity in his performance throughout was palpable.

Even though it’s a smaller part, I thought Paul Westwood’s portrayal of the money conscious and struggling teacher Medvedenko was superb. His glances and asides to characters added to the desperation and conflict he was going through.

Roger Lloyd Pack showed his experience and skill as ever and was perfectly cast as Dorn, the final lines need someone of Roger Lloyd Packs experience to deliver them. Which he did with a sensitivity and alarm, that provided a superb ending.

Jodie McNee as Masha, was suitably forlorn and depressed, with her mood as black as her mourning costume, she gave a melancholy performance that never veered into melodrama.

The scenes where there were arguments and banter between numerous characters were witty, and exciting, they didn’t feel forced or that the actors were saying “rhubarb”, rather the conversations seemed totally natural and realistic. Even the off stage meal that happens in Act Four made for brilliant background noise.

I’ve been recommending this to friends since seeing it on Friday and I recommended it to a young actor who is still in training today, as seeing Yolanda Kettle will definitely be an inspiration for her and something to aim towards.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve given a few “rave reviews” recently, we’re extremely fortunate to have so much quality theatre on at the present, this production though ranks up there at the top of recent plays I’ve seen in the last few months. The Arcola Theatre building itself is a “work in progress” due to its recent move, but by putting on such exceptional productions as this, it can only go from strength to strength.