Theatre figures recognised in 2015 New Year honours list

Kristin Scott Thomas, pictured Electra (Credit: Johan Persson)

The 2015 New Year honours list has recognised a range of individuals holding performing, artistic and administrative roles in the theatre and stage sector.

Actress Kristin Scott Thomas, who starred in The Old Vic’s Electra last year, has been made a dame for her services to drama. Stage and screen actors Sheridan Smith and James Corden have both been awarded OBEs. Actress and writer Meera Syal, most recently seen performing in the National Theatre’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, has been awarded a CBE for services to drama and literature.

Paul Kerryson (Credit: Paul Adams)

Leicester Theatre Trust’s Paul Kerryson (Credit: Paul Adams)

Artistic director of Leicester Theatre Trust Paul Kerryson, also outgoing artistic director of Leicester’s Curve, has been awarded an MBE for his services to theatre in Leicester. Also being honoured with an MBE is Graeme Phillips, Liverpool’s Unity Theatre artistic director who is stepping down from the role after more than three decades; he is being recognised for his services to the arts in Liverpool. Founder and artistic director of Northern Broadsides Barrie Rutter has also been awarded for his services to drama with an OBE.

P11_ES_DEVLIN_INTELLIGENT_LIFE_473_V2Retreat_1 David Ellis

Stage designer Es Devlin (Credit: David Ellis)

Design talents of the theatre world have also been acknowledged in this year’s honours: stage designer Es Devlin – whose recent work includes I Can’t Sing! at the Palladium, American Psycho at the Almeida Theatre and the 2014 Olivier Award-winning Chimerica – has been presented with an OBE for services to stage and set design; and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s associate designer Tom Piper has been awarded an MBE for services to theatre, and as well as for services to First World War commemorations, for his part in the poppies installation at the Tower of London.

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The Crucible, The Old Vic – Performance review

by Rachel Creaser
Star rating
****
A heartening piece of pure drama.

There's great physicalistation from the ensemble (Credit: Johan Persson)

There’s great physicalistation from the ensemble (Credit: Johan Persson)

Last night’s thunderstorm may have been forecast, but I have a feeling it may have been the doings in The Old Vic which spurred the storm to build to such intensity …

The design really sets the tone for this production: the space is awash with a dreary sepia tone and a constant smokiness in the air – there is no bright and lightness in the place. The Crucible is part of The Old Vic’s second in-the-round season – it fit the world of the play very well, and drew the audience further into the murkiness.

Directed by Yaël Farber, she hits us hard from the very beginning, and doesn’t let up throughout the three-hour production. With a story of Salem witch trials, false accusations, lies, revenge, power, God and the devil – how could it not be hard-hitting?

Richard Armitage’s portrayal of John Proctor is authoritative yet touching: he’s just as compelling to watch in quieter moments as when bellowing out in anger. Armitage has great chemistry with both of his leading ladies: Proctor’s wife, Elizabeth, played by Anna Madeley, and the formidable Abigail Williams, played by Samantha Colley. Both women have great presence: Madeley has a gripping emotional intensity, while Colley forcefully commands the attention of the audience.

Armitage's turn as John Proctor is commanding to watch (Credit: Johan Persson)

Armitage’s turn as John Proctor is commanding to watch (Credit: Johan Persson)

The movement in the play is a real highlight. Marama Corlett (playing Betty Parris) kept me engrossed as she contorted herself during a fight with an internal spirit. The movement work from the other young girls in the ensemble was also engaging and bewitching.

What I found most impressive about the production was that I found myself involuntarily shaking my head in disbelief on several occasions; I was utterly frustrated with Judge Hathhorne and his cronies – showing that the power of Arthur Miller’s storytelling is yet to dampened by time. The play may have left me feeling slightly depressed at the unfairness of life, but the most important outcome of this production is that it left me feeling something.

For people looking to go and see some impressive theatre this summer, this production has a lot to offer, and is highly recommended.

The Crucible runs at The Old Vic until 13 September 2014. Visit www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2014/the-crucible to buy tickets and for more information.

National Theatre: The Light Princess – Performance review

Nick Hendrix as Digby and Rosalie Craig as Althea in the National Theatre's The Light Princess

Nick Hendrix as Digby and Rosalie Craig as Althea in the National Theatre’s The Light Princess

Star rating
*****
There are all sorts of reasons to bring students to see this production.
By Sarah Lambie, TD editor

Comparisons are weak for a show which has a beauty all of its own, but to put the National Theatre’s new musical by Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson into context, I am drawn to reference The Wizard of Oz (and, by extension, Wicked) and The Pillowman, by Martin McDonagh, combined in both magic and darkness through the eyes of the brothers Grimm.

In reality, the original core of the story was written by the Victorian Englishman George MacDonald: friend to Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland. It draws on a rich history of fairy tale – the traditional subject matter of prince and princess, warring kingdoms, indiscriminately evil baddies – but has that dark and human edge that was lost when the Grimms’ and Hans Christian Andersen tales were taken over by Disney. Its emotional heart has depth and truth which are as compelling for an adult audience (almost exclusively so on the press night I attended) as for the young people for whom the piece is ostensibly written.

Amos and Adamson tread the line carefully between the cliché and the seemingly new, and the musical writing helps a good deal in creating a sense that something unexpected is happening here – the orchestration is imaginative, and while there are only really a couple of melodies one takes away after the first hearing, it’s fulfilling musical whole.

Rae Smith’s designs for the production are nothing short of magical, and each new scene finds a different way to draw the audience’s eye around the stage. I suppose it could almost be accused of being distracting, but really I just felt that I ought to come back and see the show again in order to have a good look at the details I’d missed. There is, despite its beauty, no danger of the performances being upstaged by the set, because these too are wonderful: Rosalie Craig in the title role sings beautifully, and apparently effortlessly as well, despite being continually either harnessed to the flies or manhandled around the set by four acrobats whose strength, commitment and discretion gained the biggest cheer of all at the curtain call.

The choreography by Steven Hoggett is understated: this is not a dance show in the way that other musicals are, but as a fan of actors moving around the stage in a way that has been clearly designed (I know that others aren’t), I enjoyed it very much. This is an ensemble of individual actors with individual characters rather than the slightly homogenous sense that one can get from more traditional musical choruses. A central love scene in which the light princess never once touches the ground is also beautifully choreographed, and I found myself wanting it to go on for twice as long.

There are all sorts of reasons to bring students to see this production. While they will often concentrate only on the performances, this also has the potential to be inspirational for young people from the perspectives of direction, writing, composition, and design: set, lighting, and sound. On this latter subject, I must say that this was the third musical I’d seen in a week – one other being an extremely long-running and successful West End show – and the only one of the three in which I could hear without effort, or even downright irritation, every single syllable. A testament to the sound designer, Simon Baker, but also to the quality of the performers and a director (Marianne Elliott, whose recent successes for the National include War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) who understood, in the minority it would sadly seem, that a microphone on an actor doesn’t negate the need for articulation and clarity. The piece also touches on a number of issues that arise both within drama and in other subjects – equality, fairness, peace, gender and sexual discrimination, conservation and the environment … there is much for students to discuss having watched what began as an ordinary fairy tale.

The audience of which I was a part at its official world premiere gave The Light Princess a standing ovation, and one of which I think it was utterly deserving.

The Light Princess, a new musical, by Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson, playing at the National Theatre until 9 January 2014.