People Places And Things starring Denise Gough

Good Play With A Great Performance From Denise Gough

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

People Places And Things by Duncan Macmillan reviewed by Paul Seven Lewis of One Minute Theatre Reviews
People Places And Things at the National Theatre. Photo: Johan Persson

Sometimes a good play can be made great by a great actor. Sometimes a great play makes a good actor seem great.

Take the Headlong / National Theatre production of People Places And Things which is about to embark on a national tour. Duncan Macmillan‘s play is about Emma, an addict in rehab. She tells us plausible stories about her life and the people around her until a pattern emerges in which we discover she is deceiving everyone including herself. Is her name even Emma?

Although the play talks about an addict’s relationship with the world, it didn’t seem to me to give her that universal quality that makes a great play. On the other hand, it cleverly shows us what it’s like to be an addict and thus creates a great character. Other roles and group scenes don’t have the same depth, the latter even drag a little.

Powerful Agonising Performance

Denise Gough grasped this complex character with both hands and turned in one of the all-time great performances. It was all the more powerful and agonising because she underplayed what could easily have been an over-the-top portrayal.

Add Jeremy Herrin‘s direction, Bunny Christie‘s appropriately clinical set and an unnerving use of lighting and sound, and I felt I was inside Emma’s head.

The production is the same as the London one so it will be interesting to see what Lisa Dwyer Hogg, who takes over as Emma for the tour, makes of the part. I can imagine many great actors in the future choosing this play to showcase their talent.

Other roles and the group scenes in People Places And Things don’t have the same depth, the latter even drag a little.

There are many moments of humour alongside the desperation and self deception. When she’s off her head, Emma is comic as well as tragic. Her resistance to the group sessions and twelve steps to recovery are as funny as they are sad.

Between 22 September and 25 November 2017 the tour of People Places And Things will visit Manchester, Oxford, Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton, Liverpool and Cambridge. More information and booking details on the National Theatre website.

See my video review on my YouTube channel One Minute Theatre Reviews https://youtu.be/pTVFJHYVrQk
Or view here

War Horse – Theatre Review

Pure Theatre That’s Heartbreaking and Uplifting

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

National Theatre production of War Horse reviewed by Paul Seeven Lewis of One Minute Theatre Reviews
National Theatre production of War Horse

If, like me, your first experience of professional theatre was a puppet show, you may be surprised that a story for children featuring puppets should be a huge theatrical hit.

Don’t let anything you’ve seen before put you off. The quality of the puppets in the National Theatre production of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse is extraordinary, a world away from Sooty with Harry Corbett. In the hands of their expert operators, the wooden frames are capable of the most subtle and realistic movements. Using the power of the imagination, it is pure theatre. I would recommend getting a seat close to the stage in order to catch all the detail.

Near the front, you’ll also feel right in the middle of the frightening battle scenes which, partly thanks to Rae Smith‘s imaginative design and Paule Constable‘s dramatic lighting, create the horror and chaos of war before your eyes.

The direction by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris and the script by Nick Stafford deserve credit for turning Morpurgo’s brilliant story, which was written from a horse’s point of view with children in mind, into a tale of love, courage and hope that resonates with all ages.

While telling the story of a farm animal enlisted by the army to take part in the First World War and his owner’s attempts to find him, it is also the tale of the common humanity of the people who were forced to fight each other.

Before we are transported to France, we experience wonderful heartwarming scenes conjuring up the pre-war age of a countryside where working animals were at the heart of farming.

War Horse is uplifting at times and, at others, heartbreaking. Make sure you take a hankie.

War Horse is touring to Melbourne, Sidney, Perth and Singapore until 3 May 2020. More details at www.warhorseonstage.com

Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl – Review

Performance of a lifetime from Sheridan Smith

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl at the Savoy Theatre.
Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl. Photo: Johan Persson

For many actors, there’s a role they’ll always be remembered for no matter what else they do. Sean Connery as James Bond, Mark Rylance as Rooster Byron in Jerusalem, Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Alien.

I suspect, when the day comes to present Sheridan Smith with her lifetime BAFTA, her role as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl will be seen as the moment she achieved greatness.

The production, originally staged at the Menier Chocolate Factory and then the Savoy Theatre,  would be worth seeing as an excellent musical but what makes it exceptional is Smith’s performance.  I saw her before on stage in Legally Blonde, on film in Tower Block and in various TV appearances including Cilla and Gavin And Stacey so I knew she was good but I never appreciated just how funny she is and just how deeply she can occupy a role.

She makes Fanny Brice seem real, a genuinely complicated human being. But there’s more to it than that. I don’t doubt that the original Fanny was uniquely great but Smith’s acting makes you believe you are seeing one of the finest stage performers of all time.