King Lear ~ The Globe Theatre

King Lear runs at The Globe Theatre until Saturday 14 October, book your tickets here: King Lear Tickets

Star rating: *****

Many productions of King Lear have emerged over the past twelve months, however from my personal point of view, this version resonated more keenly and Nancy Meckler’s direction emulates my own feelings when I read the play.

Of course, Lear is a tragedy, following the title role’s descent to madness which he self-catalyses when he pits his three daughters against the other and send his youngest away when she is unable to articulate her feelings in the same elaborate way that her elder two have done. For the most part this incarnation is portrayed as a tragedy, however it’s appropriately punctuated with comedy to enhance the equilibrium of the piece. Characterisation from each member of the cast felt natural, beautifully synchronised and there’s a strong sense of unity amongst the strong ensemble – even when characters’ paths are divided.

The set lent itself to the splendour of the Globe’s stage, so basic and stripped back that it laid way for the space itself to take the lead. There was a desolate council-estate feel to the backdrop, it set the tone for the piece and costumes added to the theme and ambiance created.

Emily Bruni was a strong and fiery Goneril, her feistiness was all consuming yet the nuances in her performance were engaging. Similarly, Sirine Saba as Regan was a force to be reckoned with, her facial expressions alone told the audience of her hatred for her foolish father. Saskia Reeves’ performance as Kent was inspired, vulnerability, sensitivity and an underlying sense of loyalty which the character battles with. Reeves was captivating in the role and has an extraordinary stage presence. Loren O’Dair gave a stunning performance as the Fool, incorporating her musical talent and with a Pierrot-style which made so much more of the part than merely a comedy aide. Ralph Davis brought great physicality to the role of Edmund, he connected superbly with each character whom he interacted with. Kevin McNally was surely born to play Lear, the sheer swiftness with which he delivers each radical character trait, remarkable in itself. The chemistry with his three daughters is palpable and although his frailty is not highlighted until later in the play, the suggestion is subtly present from the outset, kudos to McNally’s portrayal and ability. A finer Lear I have yet to see, especially as his comic timing is an asset, which would be wholly unexpected from such a piece and such a character.

The Globe’s King Lear strikes the perfect balance of tension, trauma, violence, devastation and comedy – all of which dovetail to produce an innovative version of the Bard’s famous tragedy. If you’ve never seen it on stage, this would be a perfect introduction, if you’ve seen previous productions, this one has plenty to offer and is worth giving your time to.

 

Images: Marc Brenner

 

 

 

 

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Lost Sitcoms: Hancock’s Half Hour ~ BBC Four

Galton and Simpson are, in my humble opinion, an unrivalled writing duo, Hancock’s Half Hour provides some of the most witty and clever, yet basic plots. What you need to accompany such a script de force is the right cast. In Tony Hancock, together with Sid James, Kenneth Williams, John Le Mesurier and Hattie Jacques (among many others who were part of the cast at various times) they had a sterling ensemble who brought their comedy genius alive, superbly.

So, this episode, which has been revived as part of the Lost Sitcoms, had much to live up to. As an audience member from the radio recordings of The Lost Hancocks which were aired on BBC Radio Four (there have been two series of these so far, more to come), I already knew what to expect from Kevin McNally. McNally has been a lifelong fan of Tony Hancock’s and epitomises the lad himself. The television recording has given a fortunate opportunity to watch the fan in action as one of his idols. Comic timing is one of McNally’s many fortes, the ability to play to the audience’s laughs is also notable and it is a rather uncanny impersonation that he pulls off. The brilliance of the leading man, aside, it is very much an ensemble piece, with comedy star Katy Wix playing a believable Hattie Jacques, she managed to combine Jacques’ tongue in cheek gestures and facial expressions with her infamous clipped tones. “What sort of monster is he?” is spoken just like Jacques herself. Kevin Eldon made a fine John Le Mesurier, while popular impressionist, John Culshaw took on the role of Sid James and most successfully, too. When one considers the talent of Robin Sebastian who plays Kenneth Williams, knowing where to start is nigh on impossible. I had prior knowledge of his ability to impersonate WIliams, yet he still astounded me, I know of nobody else who can match him in this particular skill! His scenes with McNally are the highlight of the episode, they would make a formidable comedy double act.

Programme Name: Lost Sitcoms - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 2) - Picture Shows:  Tony Hancock (KEVIN MCNALLY) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Alan Peebles

 

The story line, which involved Hancock’s next door neighbour, was the perfect choice for the first (of many, I hope) episode to be televised. Hancock is curtain twitching, obsessively, in order to ascertain what his next door neighbour is up to in his back garden. Hancock’s observations lead him up the garden path to conclude that the man he is watching like a hawk is, of course, a murderer. Hilarious consequences ensue when he visits his estate agent (Sid James… played by John Culshaw), and also meets the estate agent’s assistant, Kenneth Williams. Hattie and John are in hot pursuit, of course, which makes for a ‘sitcom reunion’ like no other! When Williams arrives at Hancock’s house, later on as a Policeman this time, there was not a dry eye in my house.

To summarise, this has been one of the best possible come backs, I would like to see more of H-H-H-Hancock’s Half Hour, please!

Ps: Late filing of this review is due to technical difficulty and not because I’m a slow writer…

Photo Credit: BBC

 

Power Monkeys Episode Six ~ Channel Four

So we reach the final episode of Power Monkeys, Channel Four’s EU Referendum-based comedy series. There were a number of highlights in the final instalment, Spencer’s (played by Kevin McNally) wedding with the missing bride being one of them. Although I have missed the No Thank EU brigade being based on their bus and I definitely missed Spencer’s waistcoat, this week! Still, there’s no denying that the poor b*gger has wound up married to a Visa grabber.

Power_Monkeys_S01E02
The tale of the Tories ended in tears – ironically!

Life in Putin’s camp is both hilarious and mysterious at the same time, with the imminent demise of Alexi (Alec Utgoff) being the central storyline there, his disappearance leaves Oleg (Ben Willbond) confused and a bit scared!

Brett (Robert Wilfort) has been fired from his job with team Trump, meanwhile, the bewildered Trump supporter dared to pause before he concurred with his boss that they were going to win. Bea (Ayda Field) is quite delighted with her execution of Trump’s orders, but she ends up with egg on her face at the end of the programme!

The Tory party are possibly the most entertaining, though, Sara (Claire Skinner) turns violent and attacks Preeya (Archie Panjabi), Oliver (Jack Dee) and Tony (Anthony Calf) which does distract from her rumbling stomach, somewhat! Ruby (Liz Kingsman) predictably rocks up after the main drama is over.

It’s been a witty and highly observational series with a fantastic cast and a clever script writing team. Despite my initial thoughts, I’ll be sad to see the back of Power Monkeys.

Photo credits: Channel Four

Power Monkeys Episode Four ~ Channel Four

Post-vote episode and Priya  (Archie Panjabi) from the Brexit bus has offered Michael Gove a blow job! Or more accurately, Spencer (Kevin McNally) has managed to get hold of her unlocked phone, and what with him still being drunk (on cider, probably!) there is nothing but mischief ensuing.

In the other camp, Oliver (Jack Dee) ironically, has bet on Brexit’s triumph and won (in sterling!). Ruby (Liz Kingsman) is clueless as ever and hasn’t even voted!

Power Monkeys
The No Thank EU Bus celebrate Brexit’s win! Credit: Channel Four

The episode was mostly dominated by the Brexit bus, unsurprisingly, with Priya looking forward to becoming a government minister and Spencer’s outlandish insinuations about those who have voted to remain. The team aboard the bus have become a tight comedy foursome and they’ve collectively grown on me over the course of the series so far.

The Tories are preparing for Priya’s return, which is not looking likely to be welcomed and I have enjoyed the continual recurrence of the bitterness felt by Sara (Claire Skinner) in relation to the one night stand with Tony.

Trump’s jet has landed in Scotland, bewildered Brett (Robert Wilfort) is in his own bubble as usual, this time he has been spotted flamenco dancing by Trump. He’s also had a row with the printer and is blaming the Chinese for their workmanship. The partnership between Wilfort and Bullmore has fast become a partnership to be reckoned with. The Trump jet remains my firm favourite, overall.

Two episodes left to go and I am won over, this viewer will be sorry to wave goodbye to the monkeys, even though my initial reaction wasn’t as bananas as I had anticipated.

Power Monkeys Episode One ~ Channel Four

With the EU Referendum on the tip of everyone’s tongues, on every channel known to man and all over social media like a rash, this seemed an ideal programme to rip the proverbial out of the impending chaos. With a cast boasting Jack Dee, Amelia Bullmore (whom I personally loved in BBC One’s Twenty Twelve), Claire Skinner and Kevin McNally, I felt that Channel Four’s latest comedy series was going to be on to a winning formula.

In this follow up to Ballot Monkeys which was trotted out for the Elections last year, the format is unusual in itself as the majority of the script is written on the day to enable it to be as topical as can be. Therefore this first episode included the extension for voting registration and Muhammad Ali’s funeral among other news of the day.

There are a vast array of characters, some of which were well rounded and a few of whom made me snigger. Contrary to my preconception, nobody made me laugh out loud, I kept waiting for the moment that elicited the guffaw of all guffaws, and it didn’t come. That said, I do believe there is potential for the series.

Jack Dee is ideally cast as Oliver, who runs the Tory Unity Unit and is thoroughly cheesed off, who else could play that over-riding emotion with more spirit than Mr Dee? Andy Nyman reprises his role of Gerry and Ruby,played by Liz Kingsman is also back. I couldn’t help but see the funny side of Spencer played by Kevin McNally, sporting a waistcoat that Ginger Spice would be envious of and a ginger wig (which she may also be slightly jealous of, who knows?!). His to-ing and fro-ing from the ‘No Thank EU’ bus with a drill in his hand was simple yet inspired comedy and it would be a good gag to carry through.

If I had to pick favourites, my vote goes to the scenes on Trump’s campaign jet, where Amelia Bullmore (Lauren) and Robert Wilfort (Brett) are in the midst of making Trump more appealing to American women! I was particularly impressed with Wilfort, my memories of his previous performances mainly revolve around his role of Jason in the hit comedy show, Gavin and Stacey, so I was interested to watch and look forward to more from the debacle cabin!

RobertWilfort Wikia
Robert Wilfort who plays Brett in Power Monkeys. Photo Credit: Wikia

In conclusion, I think I expected too much from the first episode and possibly set my own bar too high. I’m willing to give the series a go, if not only for the fact that most of the content is written on the day. Kudos to writers, Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkins for originality and potentially some light relief from propaganda overload. To achieve a broadcast-worthy programme in such a short space of time you also need the perfect cast and crew, so pats on the back all round, there. I shall watch episode two with an open mind and hope to be impressed.

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