Monday, 10 November 2014

Theatre Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

(Image: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg from the National Theatre website)

Last week I went to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Gielgud Theatre in London. Having read the book when there was a craze for it in Year 6 and it remaining one of my favourites to this day, I was so excited when Simon Stephens first adapted it for the stage. (As an aside: Simon Stephens seems to be everywhere at the moment! What isn't he currently doing in the West End?) I saw the National Theatre Live version at a local cinema when the show first opened and absolutely loved it, but of course it really doesn't compare to seeing the production live. 

I would go as far as to say that it is one of my favourite theatre productions that I've seen, and I see a lot of theatre so few make that cut. (Don't ask me about my favourite musical, I will never be able to narrow it down.) 

I think the staging for this show is absolutely fantastic; motifs of physical theatre are used throughout and it's so effective in the parts where there is no dialogue. I especially loved the parts when it acted as a window into protagonist Christopher's thoughts, giving them an almost fantastical element. My friend who I went to see it with informed me that the physical theatre in the show was created with the help of theatre company Frantic Assembly who are known for crafting contemporary pieces of physical theatre, and it makes sense when you know their work as it's really what they're all about. As you can see from the above picture, the set was amazing too and so appropriate for the show. They frequently made use of lights, grids and boxes to give the audience a glimpse into Christopher's mind. 

Speaking of Christopher, I liked his performance but somehow couldn't shake the performance of Luke Treadaway who originated the role of Christopher from my mind. He was so fantastic in the NT Live production I first saw that I feel like no one else could do that role as well, for me. In fairness, Luke Treadaway did win an Olivier for his performance in Curious Incident so he would be a pretty tough act to follow! Christopher, although sometimes difficult and awkward, is such a touching character and I think it's so important that we as an audience warm to him, and in both performances I've seen now I definitely did. I also thought that Nicolas Tennant who played Christopher's dad was brilliant; the way in which he struggled to react towards his sometimes difficult son was so subtle but so on point. If you have read the book then you will know how it touches on the difficulties of life but also celebrates it, and I think the stage production made a valiant effort at capturing that.

I absolutely cannot recommend this enough. I think it's a genuinely brilliant production and deserves every bit of success it's had. Get yourself to the Gieldgud Theatre and see this ASAP.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Theatre Review: Of Mice and Men

(Image: Ellie Kurttz for the Birmingham Rep website)

I went home for reading week last week and after spending many hours writing essays, referencing and reading, I went to see the Birmingham Rep's production of Of Mice and Men. I, like many people, studied the book by John Steinbeck at GCSE and loved it so I was really excited to see it adapted for the stage.

For those of you who don't know, the story follows two men called George and Lennie who are struggling to find work during the Great Depression in America. They do everything together and are very much dependent on each other. Being set in the Great Depression, their story is not without its troubles and doesn't end very happily. (That's as much of a spoiler as I'll give!) I thought the whole production was really well executed. The two leads, Michael Legge and Benjamin Dilloway as George and Lennie respectively gave really strong performances, particularly Dilloway as he really made you warm to Lennie and feel so sorry for him. The two leads had so much chemistry and you could really believe that they were close companions. I thought that James Hayes who played Candy was really good as well; he is an old worker at the ranch George and Lennie end up at and he really characterised the whole futility of the American Dream which is what the book is all about. Even though I knew what was going to happen at the end I found myself getting so tense watching it as I was hoping there would be some miracle whereby it all ended happily!

The set was really effective, the stage was just made of exposed wooden planks which made it look really rustic and convincingly like a ranch in the 1920s. They changed it at the interval as well so there was a huge wooden chute in the middle of the stage which ended up being used for a very dramatic climax. I also thought the use of props was really clever; Candy has an old dog in the book and so they had made a dog out of jute or something similar and the actors manipulated it so it looked as though it were really alive. I thought that was really imaginative and this kind of rudimentary prop added to the whole rustic vibe, I felt.

I would thoroughly recommend it but I've just noticed that the run of this has now finished so I haven't timed this post very well! I wanted to share it anyway because I loved the production so much. Perhaps if it was very popular they may bring it back, so keep your eyes peeled...
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