Dead Funny, Vaudeville Theatre, 2016/7

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24 years on is a difficult time at which to attempt the revival of a play. It’s long enough ago for the jokes and attitudes to appear dated and out of touch, yet not distant enough for us to see the play as an interesting period piece, or for us to indulge the mores of a different society.
This show has a great cast and they perform very well. The play itself has not aged well. The storyline and many of the lines feel old, the characters are not developed. The female roles in particular are one dimensional stereotypes – the hysterical woman desperate for a baby and the flirtatious, glamorous eye candy. There is an inherent sexism throughout the play that is uncomfortable to sit through now.
The male characters are caricatures too and we have come to expect more subtlety from the dialogue. The parts of the play that set out to shock us are no longer outrageous, the tasteless joke was neither shocking nor funny and the nudity was superfluous.
The acting was of a very high standard though, you could tell that Steve Pemberton loved the play and Ralf Little and Katherine Parkinson were a joy to watch.
It is very possible that in another 25 years this play will be an antique heirloom but currently, it is just out dated and out of fashion.
 

The Deep Blue Sea, National Theatre, London 2016

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This is a play that will stay with you after you leave the theatre. Terrence Rattigan is the ultimate playwright if you wish to see quiet desperation. It starts out by seeing the bitter humour in a suicide attempt that fails because the money in the meter ran out and it gets darker from there.
Hester Collyer is surely one of the best parts written in the 20th Century and the anguish that Helen McCrory has seeping through her “stiff upper lip” is palpable.
We see the easier options that she has available to her, yet we also understand why she chooses not to take them. There is lovely interaction between her and Peter Sullivan, who plays her estranged husband. It could be so tempting to go back to him, but it would not be honest. On the other hand, her love for Freddie will ruin both of them in long term.
In the end, she is strong and does not take any of the easy ways out, but I have to say, this is one of the saddest happy endings you will ever see.

The Suicide, National Theatre, London

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This is an update of a play for which, Nikolai Erdman, the original author spent time in Siberia, in the 1930s. This version is set in current UK with social media, local politics and hip-hop slam rap being lampooned.
On the day I saw it Adrian Richards, the understudy, played Sam and was excellent.
It is funny and the characters are well written and recognisable. There are bits that could go, I’m not sure what seeing Maggie Thatcher in the afterlife added to the proceedings. I will look out for Suhayla El-Bushra’s writing in the future. The set was great too, it cleverly moved back and forth between the inside and outside of an authentic looking tower block flat.
While the state here is not going to feel threatened by this play, it was entertaining, interesting and showed promise.
Recommended.

The Painkiller at The Garrick

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This is physical comedy and farce. These are not usually my favourite types of theatre.
On this occasion is it so well done that I have finally realised why it was so successful in the last century – once you begin to laugh, you are carried along on a wave of slapstick and ridiculousness that is quite exhilarating. The whole cast were brilliant, Rob Brydon and Kenneth Branagh looked to be enjoying themselves enormously which added to the entertainment. The whole audience laughed out loud and I recommend this show even to those who do not normally like dropped trousers and double entendres.
Now, who can help me get tickets to the final performance of this show because I think it will be even more amazing!

X by Alistair McDowall at The Royal Court

x-royal-courtX is well written, daring and moving. It tackles big themes; futility, loneliness and emptiness. So, it is not exactly light entertainment although it does have some funny moments.
The acting was great, it needed to be, given the elliptical script. The direction was also really good, making the times when we could not see the stage almost as dramatic as when the lights were on.
I found the ending emotional and the play stayed with me long after I left the theatre.
Love it or hate it, I guarantee that you will not see another play anything like X this year!