Tag Archives: National Theatre

Three Days in the Country – understudy run at the National Theatre

15 Aug

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the understudy run of Turgenev’s Three Days in the Country at the National Theatre. Originally called A Month in the Country the play used to have a running time of about four hours and risked losing the audience’s attention half way through. After being renamed and cut to about half its original length Turgenev’s play is now a diverting journey into the 19th century Russian countryside.

The story revolves around Natalya and her ward Vera who both fall in love with the handsome new tutor. Add Natalya’s husband Arkady, her watchful unrequited lover Rakitin, Vera’s old and always terrified suitor Bolshintsov and Katya who is head over heels in love the the tutor too even though she is engaged to be married and you have more than just a simple love triangle. It’s a slightly chaotic but always gripping and entertaining comedy.

Lynn Farleigh as Anna, John Light as Arkady, Amanda Drew as Natalya, Mark Gatiss as Shpigelsky, Cherrelle Skeete as Katya.

At this performance the role of Belyaev, the slightly self-possessed tutor, was played by Mateo Oxley. Even though it is not the most prominent and wordy part in the play Mateo managed to stand out whenever he was on stage. He brought witt and a boyish charm to the role that made it easy to understand why women of all ages would fall for the young tutor.

Mateo Oxley

Mateo Oxley

Paige Carter was a wonderfully feisty Vera who made the transition from teenager to wife to be in just three days look believable.

A special mention has to go to Mark Extance who took on the part of the bitter and completely unromantic country doctor Shpigelsky usually played by Mark Gatiss. His marriage proposal to the governess alone was pure comedy gold.

One more special menton for John Light who joined in as Arkady in act two and made me consider watching the play again with the complete first cast just so I could see his full take on Natalya’s stocky husband.

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The set of this production is minimalistic yet effective. There is a huge Russian painting as backdrop, a few walls and doors and some furniture. The sides of the stage are left bare leaving a clear view of the ropes of the fly tower. It’s a refreshingly bare setting for a play full of characters who love to self-dramatise.

Watching this understudy run once again made me realise what a huge amount of talent can be found on London’s stages. You would never have guessed some of the people on stage were playing their parts for the very first time. I was especially impressed by Mateo Oxley. I have followed his career ever since I saw him in The Drowned Man and it’s wondeful to see how he has developed. Keep an eye out for this talented young man. I predict we will see more of him in the years to come.

Three Days in the Country continues at the National Theatre until 21st October. For more info go to http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/three-days-in-the-country

Follow Mateo Oxley on Twitter @Mateo_Oxley or find him on Facebook.

Here Lies Love at the National Theatre – 1st November 2014

5 Nov

Here Lies Love is the first show to be staged at the newly opened Dorfman Theatre (formerly the Cottesloe) at the National Theatre. It comes straight from Broadway where it is currently still playing to rave reviews. Telling the rise and fall of Imelda Marcos, First Lady of the Philippines, Here Lies Love is not your regular musical. The Dorfman Theatre has been transformed into a club for what is advertised as an immersive theatrical event. Part of the audience watches standing in the pit (the dancefloor so to speak) while the show takes place on moving platforms in a 360-degree staging.

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Having gained some experience in proper immersive theatre over the past months I first would like to say that Here Lies Love has some immersive / interactive elements but to class it as immersive theatre as such might be going a step too far. To me it felt more like watching a musical in a club and getting the occasional handshake from the performers. Apart from a few interactive dance bits the audience in the pit doesn’t have to do more than shuffle along when the platforms are being moved around. So even if you are really not up for any kind of interactive theatre – don’t worry, you will be fine. No one is going to put you in the spotlight.

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The show itself is what can only be describes as a huge, colourful party. The story is interesting and well told – I can imagine not everyone knows about Imelda Marcos and while you won’t be an expert on her after seeing the show it does give you a nice overview of Imelda’s life (and before you start looking it up on Google: Yes, she is still alive).

What makes Here Lies Love one of the must see shows of the season is the concept, the music and the amazingly talented cast. I left the theatre on a complete high with the title song stuck in my head. Natalie Mendoza is a revelation as Imelda. The same goes for Gia Macuja Atchison as Imelda’s childhood friend Estrella Cumpas, Mark Bautista does a great Job as Ferdinand Marcos and Dean John-Wilson truly shines as Ninoy Aquino (he made me tear up while I was standing in a pulsating, loud club-like venue – that says something).
There really is no weak link in the cast and even though this is Imelda Marcos’ story, Here Lies Love wouldn’t work without a brilliant ensemble.

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You don’t have to be a party person to enjoy the show but be aware that the music is loud. The songs are unbelievable catchy though and it’s hard not to dance along (at least a bit) when you’re standing in the pit. Be prepared to stand for 90 minutes though as there is no interval. It was quite hot inside the auditorium too and I can see that this might be a problem for some people. However, you really do get the most out of the show when you go for the full experience. Put comfortable shoes on, wear a t-shirt and just jump right into the exciting world of Here Lies Love (you will have to leave jackets and bags in the free cloakroom anyway so just wear layers to avoid freezing on the way to the theatre).

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I cannot recommend this show enough. Personally I think it’s one of the most unique theatrical experiences you can see in London at the moment. Just leave the thought behind that watching a show means sitting in your seat staring at the stage in front of you. Be up for something new and let yourself be swept away by Here Lies Love.

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Tickets for the limited run of Here Lies Love are currently sold out but you can contact the National Theatre for Returns or get Friday Rush tickets. For more info go here: http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/here-lies-love

 

The Light Princess at The National Theatre – 17th October 2013

21 Oct

The Light Princess is a show I have been waiting to see ever since it was first talked about. The whole idea of putting on a new musical centering around a floating princess with a score by Tori Amos just sounded very appealing to me from the start.

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The story is an adaption of a Scottish legend about a princess who is cursed to permanently float. Rosalie Craig plays said princess (Althea) and I’m not exaggerating when I say her performance is breathtaking through and through. After a while you believe she can actually fly simply because she makes the floating look so easy. For most parts of the show she is manipulated by a team of puppeteers which takes a short while of getting used to. You quickly forget they are there at all though. It’s quite similar to War Horse – I mean, Joey is a real horse, isn’t he?!
Rosalie’s acting and singing are flawless and thinking about how naturally she manages to belt out a song while hanging upside down still fills me with awe several days after the performance.

But while Rosalie’s performance is breathtaking the show itself has its flaws. There’s the story which doesn’t quite seem to know who it is aimed at. It’s a fairytale but it seems slightly too simple for the mature audience. On the other hand there are some elements that might not be suitable for a younger audience. In addition to that some parts of the story simply go on for too long. It feels as if aspects that have been established already are being dragged up again and again.
The set is stunning – especially at the beginning of act two – although it almost screams “Disney” in parts (plus some bird puppets seem to have been nicked from The Lion King).

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Nick Hendrix as Prince Digby does a good job but doesn’t really get the chance to shine next to Rosalie Craig. The same goes for Amy Booth-Steel as Piper. Overall this is a very strong cast that is slightly let down by the material they’ve been given to work with.

The score doesn’t appeal to me but that might just be down to personal taste. I prefer songs that get stuck in my head post show. And while there are some beautiful melodies in the show the music just doesn’t stand out for me and actually seems a bit repetitive after a while.

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While I’m generally happy to see a new musical I’m not sure this show will have a life after its run at The National Theatre. I’m genuinely wishing the show only the best though and I think Rosalie Craig has to win every awards she is eligible for. The Light Princess is a brave project with aspects of pure magic. However, it’s not a show for everyone and I fear it would struggle in a commercial West End Theatre.

The Light Princess is running at The National Theatre. For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/the-light-princess.