Tag Archives: Bertie Carvel

Bakkhai at the Almeida Theatre – 22nd August 2015

25 Aug

Written by Athenian playwright Euripides Bakkhai is a Greek tragedy and deals with the two sides of man’s nature. In the play the rational side is represented by Pentheus, the king of Thebes while Dionysus represents the instinctive side.

Ben Whishaw shines in this production that goes by the traditional Greek practice of having three main actors play multiple roles. His Dionysus enters the stage and addresses the audience: “How do I look? Convincingly human?” From that moment on Ben Whishaw puts the audience under a spell with his brooding aura. He has an almost androgynous appearance – a delicate grace that is mesmerising to watch. At times he seems to be possessed, storming across the stage in rage. The next moment his expression resembles that of a cheeky little boy. It’s that contrast between innocence and pure fury that makes his performance so gripping to watch.

Bakkhai Whishaw

Bertie Carvel is just as convincing playing Pentheus. Dressed in a business suit he imposes political arrogance. His interaction with Ben Whishaw’s Dionysus is passionate and drives the play forward. Audience members who have seen Bertie Carvel in Matilda might experience a slight déjà vu towards the end of the play. Some might say he looks too comfortable dressed up in women’s clothing but personally I think this just adds to Pentheus self-assurance. He is absolutely sure about himself, his values, decisions and ideas and not even women’s clothing can change that.

Bakkhai Carvell

Kevin Harvey joins Ben Whishaw and Bertie Carvel but does not get the opportunity to stand out. The pure stage presence of Whishaw and Carvel alone is enough to command the audience’s attention and Harvey’s roles are simply too small to make a proper impact.

Bakkhai is one of the greatest Greek tragedies and being performed in a traditional way this production also features an all-female, all-singing chorus. And while their harmonies are impressive the action grinds to a halt whenever the chorus appears. As beautiful as the singing is it becomes tiresome after a while. One single sentence from Ben Whishaw’s Dionysus spoken with terrifying assurance and command leaves more impact than a five-minute chorus interlude.

Bakkhai Chorus

This production without a doubt centres around its two “stars” who unleash a tour de force on stage. Ben Whishaw and Bertie Carvel are what makes this production truly interesting to watch. These are two of the best stage actors of our generation at work and it is a joy to see them in such an intimate venue bringing Bakkhai to life.


Bakkhai runs at the Almeida Theatre until 19th September. For more info and to book tickets click here.

Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre – January 18 2012 (matinee)

27 Jan

Don’t shoot me for saying this but I didn’t love Matilda. I know the show has received rave reviews since it first opened in Stratford. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Matilda is a bad show – it’s definitely not! All I’m saying is I wasn’t totally blown away by it and that’s what I was expecting after having everyone around me praise the show in the highest words. Maybe that is the problem after all – my expectations might have been way too high.


So, what did I enjoy about the show? First of all the cast especially the extremely talented bunch of kids were spot on. I admit I’ve never been a fan of children on stage but the boys and girls in this show really know what they’re doing. Fronted by Kerry Ingram as Matilda those kids did an amazing job. I’m absolutely sure in a few years time I will be able to say: Oh yes, I saw him/her when he/she was a kid an appeared in the musical Matilda.


I had the pleasure of seeing Peter Howe as Mr. Wormwood which was a true highlight of my visit to the show. Peter was part of the cast of Lord of the Rings in London (and Toronto) playing the role of Sam. It’s always nice to see members of one of my all time favourite shows on stage again years later. So far I hadn’t been aware just what a versatile actor Peter is though. His Mr. Wormwood was hilarious and had me in stitches right from the start.


Bertie Carvel as Miss Trunchbull needs and deserves to win every award he is eligible for. What a brilliant performance! I seriously couldn’t take my eyes off him.


Tim Walton is one of the performers I have seen in lots of different shows without ever seeing a show especially because he was in it. That guy is everywhere it seems – and I don’t mean this in a negative way! A few more familiar faces in the cast: Gary Watson as Rudolpho (would have loved to see Michael Rouse in that part – shame he only appeared in the Stratford run of the show), Nick Searle who was on for Michael Wormwood on this occasion and Verity Bentham (who I hardly recognised – she looked so different from back in the days when I used to see her in Guys and Dolls). Sadly Matthew Clark wasn’t on – would have been nice to see him on stage again (he’s one of the old Saturday Night Fever Cologne bunch after all). But that’s the general trouble with swings. It can be quite hard to catch them on stage. 


I did like the set a lot I have to say. My first reaction when I entered the theatre was “Wow, that is beautiful!” They really did a good job with that (I’m not going into detail as I don’t want to spoil anything for people who haven’t seen the show yet).


 “And what did she not like?” you might ask yourself.


First of all I wasn’t particularly impressed by the songs. They weren’t bad but they also weren’t particularly special I think. None of them stuck in my head after the show had finished.


One thing that really bugged me was the fact that the whole magic aspect of the show didn’t come across properly. If you don’t know the story and don’t want spoilers you better stop reading now.

The whole “Matilda can move things with her mind” thing wasn’t even mentioned before Matilda moved the glass more than halfway through the show. I remember in the book (and the film) she had to practise before she was able to control the ability properly. Here it just seemed to appear out of nowhere.


The choreography was ok but nothing outstanding I think (but then you can’t have extreme dance scenes with so many kids in the cast, of course). The whole dancing seemed a bit messy from time to time but maybe it was meant to look like that – didn’t appeal to me for sure. 


And then there was that little something I just can’t explain properly. The whole show is so full of fantasy and is all about stories and children’s imagination – but for me it was lacking one little thing: Magic. Matilda is a technically well done show but I didn’t feel drawn into the story. I might just be lacking a proper connection to the whole theme itself but personally the show left me somehow cold.

A real shame as I wanted to like it. Matilda is a breath of fresh air for sure and I hope it does well in the months to come. We do need new and innovative shows like this in the West End after all. But sadly Matilda is not for me. I might be back to give it a second try at a later time (I would still love to see Matthew Clark in the show) but at the moment I have no desire to return the Cambridge theatre anytime soon.


But still, please do give this show a try. It’s new and most people love it (I might be just strange and not able to properly understand how special the show is – haha).


Matilda is running at the Cambridge Theatre. For more info and to book tickets go to: http://www.matildathemusical.com