Tag: drama

Review: A View from the Bridge at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal

viewThere is no escaping the sense of foreboding that permeates Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge. Currently being revived at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal by the Touring Consortium Theatre Company, this production brilliantly evokes the dark side of the American Dream, as well as the complex relationships and moral uncertainty which characterise Miller’s work.

It is set in the claustrophobic apartment of longshoreman Eddie Carbone and his wife Beatrice in 1950s Brooklyn. Eddie is fiercely protective of his 17-year-old niece, Catherine, who lives with them after being orphaned. He lives by his own rigid moral code, working hard on the docks to provide for Beatrice and Catherine and demanding respect from those around him.

But the fragile family dynamics begin to falter when Beatrice’s cousins, Marco and Rodolpho, come to stay. The brothers are illegal immigrants who have left Italy to escape poverty – and while Eddie warms to the strong yet morally-upstanding Marco, he cannot hide his dislike for Rodolpho who he sees as frivolous and effeminate. It’s not long before Rodolpho and Catherine form a close bond, which angers Eddie, particularly when the other dockers insinuate that Rodolpho may be gay.

Believing that Rodolpho is only interested in marrying Catherine so he can gain citizenship, Eddie sets about trying to destroy their relationship. He seeks advice from the lawyer – who acts as a narrator detached from the action – but he can find no guidance from him. Eventually, his misplaced desire to protect his niece leaves him consumed by rage and ready to commit abhorrent acts.

This production is infused with the social realism that is characteristic of Miller’s work and echoes his earlier play, Death of a Salesman, which also tells the semi-tragic tale of the demise of a lowly worker. The dialogue is well executed by all the cast members and the performance is paced perfectly as it winds its way towards a dramatic ending. The grimy-looking apartment block provides a fitting backdrop to the murkiness of this world, which is riddled with crime and desperation as the new-comers realise life in New York is not what they expected it to be.

A View from the Bridge is on at the Theatre Royal until Saturday. Visit the website for further details. 

Read More

Sets and costume design take centre stage at Bonington Gallery’s Make/Believe

Gary McCann - Die Fledermaus (Credit Bonington Gallery)

Gary McCann – Die Fledermaus (Credit Bonington Gallery)

Who can forget the magical opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games? Or the flamboyant costumes a pantomime? Sometimes it is the minimal sets of a drama – a few plastic stacking chairs against a black background for example – which proves so effective by subtly stirring a mood and concentrating our minds on what’s before us.

All too often design is forced into the background, with critics focussing on the actors’ performances or the script first and foremost. But it is design which lifts a performance above a mere reading or rehearsal – and it is this aspect of theatre which is explored in the Make/Believe exhibition currently showing at Nottingham Trent University’s Bonington Art Gallery.

Created over the past four years, this diverse collection features model boxes for stage sets, costume designs, costumes, props and mood boards which show the relationship between the designer, producer and director. The pieces come from a range of events and productions including the Olympics and Paralympics, as well as plays, ballet opera, pop concerts and more.

Some of the pieces are works of art in their own right and it’s a shame that they don’t normally go on display to the public. The model box for the Merchant of Venice, which comes complete with plush chairs and oak-panelled walls, is incredibly detailed and lets the audience members immerse themselves in this world of money, while the illustrations that accompany the large-scale outdoor events are beautiful.

These contrasted well with a Royal Opera House production of Kafka’s The Metamorphisis in which the clinical, white background is contaminated by a strange black fluid which evokes the physicality of his transformation into an insect. Similarly, the empty-looking brutalist set created for a production of King Lear which captures the cruelty and mental anguish of the play.

Another highlight was the model box created for Brecht’s Threepenny Opera which was performed at Nottingham Playhouse last year. I distinctly remember the unforgiving industrial set, with swathes of ripped red fabric which poked fun of the traditional theatre curtain separating the performers from the audience so seeing it in miniature form was incredible.

Make/Believe is a collaboration between the Society of British Set Designers, V&A museum and Nottingham Trent University. Selected works will go on display at the Prague Quadrennial in June and the V&A from July before going on a nationwide tour in 2016.

The exhibition is showing at Bonington Gallery (Newton Building) until 31st January. Entry is free. 

Read More

Abigail’s Party: More than just kitsch comedy

Mike Leigh’s 1977 play Abigail’s Party is one that is so ingrained in modern culture that it could potentially be reduced to clichés – cheese and pineapple sticks, garish décor and Donna Summer.

But although these may have raised a few wry smiles from members of the audience at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal, there is something about this suffocating suburban world that still resonates today.

Of course, we do not actually see Abigail. She is the teenage daughter of middle-aged divorcee Susan who is a guest at Beverley’s party across the road. So while we might wish we were at Abigail’s party, we instead find ourselves in the company of Beverley, her estate agent husband Laurence, their neighbours Tony and Angela and Susan.

The main characters are all ghastly in their own ways. Beverley flirts disgracefully with Tony and criticises Laurence even as he lays dying at the end. Laurence thinks of himself as an expert on art and says he likes olives but admits he has not read the Dickens on his shelves. Meanwhile, the quiet, sullen Tony is about as cultured as a broom; not only that but we also see that he is racist and emotionally abusive he is towards his wife.

What makes this production so successful are the subtle – and sometimes not so subtle – facial expressions, the sidelong glances and the excruciating awkwardness of the situation. Tony looks bored with the conversations about how wonderful Beverley’s kitchen is, while Susan clearly feels uneasy throughout the whole dismal event. There are moments of pure hilarity, such as when the two couples dance with each other’s partners: while Beverley and Tony dance in a passionate embrace, a very awkward Laurence and Angela do a strange, non-contact jive before Laurence formally shakes her hand.

During the course of the play we see the nuances of British middle class played out in the harshest of environments. The characters compete with each other and are often downright rude, while the fraught marriages of Tony and Angela and Beverley and Laurence unravel before our eyes as the alcohol strips away the social niceties.

This production, which is directed by Lindsay Posner, is made all the more convincing by the wonderfully retro set design which includes clashing brown patterned wallpaper, huge house plants and cut glass ashtrays.

Abigail’s Party is on until Saturday. For tickets see the Theatre Royal website.

Read More