Wednesday, 8 February 2012

What an amazing month of theatre


In the last month we have seen some of the best / most interesting productions of their kinds we’ve ever seen.

'She Stoops to Conquer' I've already described (see previous blog).

One Man, Two Guvnors’ showed that broad, simple farce is still hard to beat. James Corden is simply superb (although his understudy is taking over around now of whom good things are said) and we were even more impressed when we found out how certain bits happened –which I won’t divulge here as it would spoil the experience.  My face hurt from laughing so much – the dining scene in particular was achingly hilarious.

‘Hamlet’ at the Young Vic had Michael Sheen in sparkling, eccentric and energetic form. It was set in a mental asylum so you were never quite sure how much of the plot was only in his mind or was actually happening. To be honest the Director had used a shoehorn to make the plot fit into his conceit and to be honest I really didn’t understand why, for example, Horatio was played by a small and seemingly timid woman. But it was a challenging experience and the ‘coup de theatre’ when Fortinbras rips off his helmet at the end to reveal that he is....yes, you guessed it, seems to have divided critics somewhat (see Cowgirl's blog - quite funny! and the Guardian's summary) .

I don’t know how many Hamlets I’ve seen – probably too many now – but overall i think David Tennant’s at the RSC has edged it if only for the fact that the supporting cast was fantastic (Patrick Stewart et al) and the whole thing had a focus on entertainment rather than / as well as emotional connection.

But best of all, and perhaps the greatest performance I have ever seen, was Mark Rylance’s quite breathtaking force-of-nature performance as Johnny Byron in Jez Butterworth’s ‘Jerusalem’. By the interval I tweeted (@besttheatrearts)that we were in the presence of genius, but by the end it had been taken to a whole new level. I wish all our students at Best could have seen hwat it is like when someone ‘inhabits’ a role completely. Not for a second did his focus drop. Not for a second was he not ‘on it’. His physicality was awe-inspiring, every gesture and movement nuanced, accurate and relevant. The release he achieved to ascend to the heights he reached in the closing sequence was nothing short of miraculous and all you can do, especially as a supposedly trained actor like me, is to sit back and bask in awe in this unequalled display of acting craft at its very finest.  

And then go home and begin to understand why you yourself never quite made it...

The show’s run has ended now – I hope they captured it on film – but I will never forget that performance and it is carefully filed in my most important stack of unique life experiences entitled “I was there!”