Tag Archives: Barbican

Krapp’s Last Tape | Robert Wilson

June, 2015 | Barbican, London (International Beckett Season)

Avant-garde visionary Robert Wilson is a legend in contemporary theatre with grand-scale shows such as Deafman Glance (which brought about Louis Aragon’s change of heart that theatre could indeed be a medium of surrealist art- having officially rejected Antonin Artaud and other theatrical efforts for many years,) Einstein on the Beach (‘Trial-Prison’ Act III Scene 1 track is not unlike Lucky’s monologue in Waiting for Godot,) The Black Rider, Death Destruction and Detroit– the list goes on. Samuel Beckett once saw him perform and found common ground in a post-show conversation, giving Wilson further consolidation in his particular theatrical outlook. Theatrically, Beckett and Wilson draw many similarities, visually to say the least, and it’s only natural that one would note with quiet satisfaction that each of their own ideas compliments those of the other. Beckett acknowledged Wilson as an actor that truly understands how his work should be played, a useful endorsement for any performer. This makes the show highly anticipated – in fact I bought my ticket 8 months in advance and Krapp’s Last Tape is a rich choice for a theatre creator like Wilson (It helps that Wilson has the clout to get himself scheduled into most performance spaces across the world… example: his last trip to London’s Barbican was part of the Duchamp Season in John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing, his presence described simply as “passing through town” by a techie working on it.*)
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Waiting For Godot | Sydney Theatre Company

June, 2015 | Barbican, London (International Beckett Season)

Waiting for Godot is a play that’s impossible to label, define or understand and famously (and accurately) described as one in which “nothing happens, twice”* – and it heads the Samuel Beckett Festival at the Barbican. Beckett often spoke out against the need to understand or interpret his work in the face of widespread despair by many a director, actor or critic. I propose that Beckett is more of a performance artist than a playwright in this respect. When you watch these unconventional pieces you are seeing live-art, a happening, staged minimalism, maths, art installation, philosophy, history, a dance; the texts are equal to or more choreographed than spoken. The viewer experiences his work (for wont of a less pretentious line) and often becomes self-conscious and reflective.

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A Mad World My Masters | English Touring Theatre and RSC

May 2015 | Barbican

The original play written by Thomas Middleton was a satire on London life back when society was very bawdy and at the same time puritan. Creators Sean Foley and Phil Porter re-stage it in 1950s Soho with the notion that this historically unconventional, culturally subversive and morally notorious area was a suitable and not ironically unimaginative setting (and to view the audience with as much dimness as many of the gags in this piece.)

There are two plots to this story, one in which Richard Follywit tries to swindle his uncle’s great wealth and another where Penitent Brothel tries to win sexual access to a married woman with the help of a crafty prostitute. The text has been adapted to apply to a contemporary audience, changing names to sound more familiar and clean up the obscurities of the historical context, although often unnecessarily. For example, Bounteous Progress, the rich snob who wants to gain favour and privilege amongst the political class is renamed ‘Peersucker’ – fair enough, Richard Desmond, (with whom the similarity is obvious) is the owner of numerous Red Top newspapers and a pornography channel and has been funding both Conservatives and UKIP in order to be selected for Peerage. But ‘Shortrod Harebrain’ didn’t need to be renamed ‘Littledick.’ It’s the start of many superfluous changes that underestimate the intelligence of the audience.
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The Possible Impossible House | Forced Entertainment

December 2014 | Barbican Pit Theatre

Forced Entertainment offer their first show for young audiences, and while their trademark performance style and signature elements remain true to form the piece lacks the relevant adjustments for a more demanding audience.

The story itself carries the audience through a strange house while ‘you’ search for a lost doodle-drawn spider for a small drawn girl in a book. Throughout the journey we confront various creatures, birds, dancing soldiers and a rhino among many, all projected with semi-crude drawings onto cardboard which, combined with a keyboard and microphone has a rough but imaginative quality that can often be more successful than fully realised set pieces (like the brilliant Het Filaal’s Miss Ophelia). Rambling through this world has the quirky substance of a child telling a story: why a Rhino? Why did the mouse give a pointless key, isn’t that a hole in the story?
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Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 | Royal Shakespeare Company

December 2014 | Barbican Theatre

The RSC with Gregory Doran continue the History Plays series at the Barbican following last years successful Richard II. Henry’s powerful former allies revolt against him in the messy aftermath of Richard’s abdication and murder. It’s the usual affair of armour and chivalry common with the traditional RSC productions popular amongst tourists and regulars but it falls short of the excitement and flair of a realised Shakespeare piece and feels more like the stiff, archaic performance in a static, formulaic manner that feels REALLY long (something which figures like John Barton worked hard to overcome.) This review will attempt to emulate this verily; prepare for nit-picking in a blandly structured essay.
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Kiss and Cry | Charleroi Danses

June 2014 | Barbican, London

This show is the result of an experiment: is it possible to make a film on a kitchen table and a dance performance using only hands? As featured in other performances using live-feed equipment, most of the apparatus is exposed on the stage. Shelves and storage are placed at the back, various work stations dominate key positions at the front and sides, a track for the primary camera reaches around three sides, a large screen hangs high above the action and a technical desk takes centre stage. This style of theatre, using cameras and cheap props to great effect, has been gathering popularity for a while, and the standard has been set pretty high by the likes of those from the small scale Paper Cinema to fully converged multimedia shows like Frauline Julie by Katie Mitchell with Schaubühne Berlin. Kiss and Cry has been going for years and should be more than capable of impressing in the same way.
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Ubu Roi | Cheek by Jowl

June, 2014 | Barbican Centre, London

Resident Company to the Barbican Centre, Cheek By Jowl, gain access to the main stage for this attempt at a difficult text from an absurd writer and credited pre-cursor to the surrealists. My companion, James Hodgson (abstract performance artist and under-the-radar critic), and I couldn’t agree on this production: I thought it was a wasted opportunity to bring a founding text of scandalous theatre to a mainstream audience and it was a miserable failure; he thought it was an absolute disgrace.
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The Testament of Mary | Deborah Warner

May 2014 , The Barbican Theatre, London

This impressive adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel, The Testament of Mary, takes the perspective of an altogether different mother of Christ. This Mary, bitter and resentful of the way her son has been deified in the aftermath of the crucifixion, reveals her grievous thoughts and stark attitude to the audience, framed by a visit of two evangelists seeking anecdotes to spin into propaganda. Deborah Warner returns to the Barbican with familiar collaborator Fiona Shaw (and Vulture) but the decision to invite audience on the stage in the soft opening is the most questionable element.
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Jack Charles V the Crown | Ilbijerri Theatre Co.

February, 2014 | Barbican Pit Theater

Jack Charles’ new project follows a seven-year long documentary [Bastardy, 2009] of his life as an aboriginal child; institutionalised within child care and the ‘Victorian’ prison system, as an actor, activist and drug addict of forty years. The play, which could be treated as an extension or aftermath of the documentary’s release has Jack Charles scrutinising his remarkable life, alluding to his crimes, struggles and sexual disposition with comment and reflection using real props, live music and multimedia in the form of projected film and official police documents.
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