Posts tagged ‘Olivier’

The lovely people at Colman Getty have just confirmed my seat in the press room at this year’s Olivier Awards. Darling! First thought: must scrub up. There’s going to be lots of the great and the good and the incredibly beautiful swanning about, so methinks it’s time to dust off a nice frock. Must play it cool though, as I imagine most people in the press room will be, well, press, and we are a fairly jaded bunch on the whole. I don’t want to be the one in a ballgown if everyone else is in jeans. Fortunately, I have a briefing document to keep me on the straight and narrow (and far from the red carpet) that suggests somewhere in between will be about right: sounds like time for a trusty LBD.

But enough on matters sartorial. I’m excited because of the awards themselves. The Oliviers are the theatrical Oscars. As a theatre enthusiast, it’ll be nice to hear who wins live, and to have the chance to talk to the winners afterwards. Nominees include: Mackenzie Crook (Jerusalem) Rowan Atkinson (Oliver!), James Earl Jones (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), Keira Knightley (The Misanthrope), Jude Law (Hamlet), James McAvoy (Three Days of Rain), Mark Rylance (Jerusalem), Rachel Weisz (A Streetcar Named Desire) and Samuel West (Enron). Presenters for the night include: Kim Catrall, Rosamund Pike (who is currently touring Hedda Gabler in a production high-up my Want to See list); Tamsin Greig (who is awesome in every way, and is currently in The Little Dog Laughed’ at the Garrick); Rupert Friend, Elaine Paige and James Earl Jones. We also get “divas” from ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, singing nuns, and most of the cast of Les Mis.

If Mark Rylance doesn’t win Best Actor, I shall eat my ballgown, and the smart money is probably on Rachel Weisz for Best Actress. I can’t comment on the Best Supporting Actress award as I haven’t seen any of the productions, but for Best Supporting Actor my hope is Macenzie Crook and my expectation is Eddie Redmayne.

The award ceremony is on Sunday night, so we shall see…

An Inspector Calls, Cambridge Arts Theatre, 14th May 2009.

Having seen this production when I was studying ‘An Inspector Calls’ for GCSE (which, bizarrely, didn’t destroy it for me), I was curious to see it again with the eyes of a more experienced and jaded theatregoer. I never experienced the initial joy of seeing the play unfold without knowing what was going to happen (a rare pleasure – I read too much), but the stunning set was surprising enough. This is exactly the same Stephen Daldry production, but transported from the rather grand Olivier stage to the much smaller Arts Theatre. The imposing house was rather less impressive from the back row of the stalls, where the underside of the circle cut off the top third, and it all looked slightly cramped. This should not detract from what was a solid production, though.

The Birling family were all good, especially Eric (Robin Whiting), who portrayed young and helpless and disgusted with himself very well. The wild disarray of his costume by the end of the play reflected the disarray of his mental state, and his self-loathing was deep without being worthy. Sheila (Marianne Oldham) came across earnestly and charted the progression from giggly naïf to self-loathing adult excellently. Mr Birling (David Roper) had just the right mixture of bombast and fragility. He was clearly terrified of a scandal, and yet was still a swaggering bully both within his family and in his professional life. There was a clear sense of being nouveau riche and very aware of it – never more so than when the cut-glass tones of his rather better off wife prompted him to do or say something he should have done without prompting. Mrs Birling (Sandra Duncan) was intensely dislikeable, which I mean as a complement. However, it did make it harder to sympathise with her pitiful, snivelling downfall towards the end, with dishevelled hair and dress covered with a brown blanket. Gerald (Alisdair Simpson) was a trifle nondescript, which I think is as much a fault of the play as the actor. He isn’t given much to go on in terms of dialogue, and his part in Eva/Daisy’s death is arguably the smallest, so there is less room for emotional turmoil and depth to be explored.

In spite of the restricted view, I adored the set. Its use of levels, with the upper classes forced to come down to Inspector Goole’s level, is inspired, and the metaphor remains subtle enough to only improve Priestley’s dismemberment of upper-middle-class airs and graces. Edna was a superb, constant embarrassing presence for the Birlings, and managed to convey a huge amount with the smallest of gestures. The fall of the house of Birling was beautifully done (spoiler alert), and there was a very clever ‘picking up the pieces’ scene when the senior Birlings and Gerald gather up their shattered self-belief and sense of humour while crunching across shards of their crockery and glassware

I was not overly impressed with the actual inspector. Although he had a good presence for a small man, and used his body and physicality to intimidate and probe, I found his diction very odd. He was presumably directed to do so, but he emphasised odd words in a phrase and put in overly long and rather bizarrely timed pauses – not leading to increased dramatic effect, unless the desired effect was bewilderment. The script is strong enough, however, that the relentless hounding of the Birlings and search for the truth overrode any small niggles. It is easy to see why this production has run and run.