Posts tagged ‘charles spencer’

2 November, 2010

Reviled. Respected. Revived.

I didn’t enjoy the Lyric Hammersmith’s revival of Blasted – but you’d think I was sick if I said I had, right?

Sarah Kane’s first play features rape (both explicit and implied), bigotry, despair, physical and psychological torture, the sucking-out of a man’s eyes and the cannibalism of a dead baby. What respite there is comes from the darkest possible humour. And Sean Holmes’s production both lingers on the atrocities, and punctuates them with eked-out moments of anticipation-laden near-inaction: held breaths of suffocating duration.

It’s not a play you enjoy; it’s one you endure.

When I arrive home from the theatre, the first thing my housemates ask is “Did you enjoy it?”. Taking in a show is a leisure pursuit, so it isn’t surprising that people judge the experience on how pleasurable it is. So can giving your audience a thoroughly miserable time ever be considered a valid artistic objective?

To mix my media momentarily and paraphrase Sally Sparrow from the Doctor Who episode Blink, sad is happy for deep people. Enjoyment isn’t necessarily every theatregoer’s goal or expectation; or at least, enjoyment can be reached by more than one route – for instance, via discomfort.

Stick with me.

In Blasted, the Soldier (Aidan Kelly) accuses journalist Ian (Danny Webb) of closing his eyes to the lives and hardships of the people he meets. To watch / endure Blasted, and not to turn away when (for instance) the Soldier goes to work on Ian, is to prove oneself better than Ian and the people he represents (you and I). The enjoyment to be had from the play is a kind of solemn, supercilious smugness. “I watched. I didn’t pretend it wasn’t happening. I faced it without flinching.”

But who left the auditorium resolved to pay more attention to foreign wars, or to the people sleeping in shop doorways on your way to work? Not I. I was just relieved it was over. That’s just the thing: it ends. You know it’ll end even if it seems interminable (and those dramaturgical held breaths of Holmes’s play havoc with your perception of time; it’s masterful). You’re allowed to stop facing it down – it lets you win the staring contest in a way real life never will. The victory is fiction, and the smugness is founded on fiction.

Written by Sarah Kane

Crew includes Sean Holmes (director), Stef O’Driscoll (assistant director), Paul Wills (designer), Paule Constable (lighting designer) and Christopher Smutt (sound designer)

Cast includes Aidan Kelly (Soldier), Danny Webb (Ian), Lydia Wilson (Cate)

Need a second opinion? (Or for someone to actually tell you whether the production / performances were any good?)

29 September, 2010

“Get dressed. The big fellah’s on his way.”

Everyone and mother has reviewed The Big Fellah already, but here’s the stuff nobody mentioned.

The Shadow of Sean O’Casey

Matt Wolf compares Richard Bean to Martin McDonagh and (tangentially) Harold Pinter in his review for The Arts Desk. Matt Trueman similarly calls the setting “Pinteresque” and references McDonagh’s In Bruges. Writing for What’s On Stage, Michael Coveney compares The Big Fellah to Bill Morrison’s Flying Blind.

Worthy comparisons all, but I’m surprised no one cast back beyond Morrison and McDonagh to Sean O’Casey, the master of Troubles tragicomedy. It could be because I studied it exhaustively at A Level, but O’Casey’s The Shadow of a Gunman sprang to my mind as a comparison almost immediately.

Gunman is a lot more claustrophobic in terms of scale and timeframe, but the similarities are there nonetheless. There’s the setting: a safe house in a deprived area (O’Casey’s in a Dublin slum, Bean’s in a Bronx brownstone). There’s the man seduced by the patriotic allure of the IRA (O’Casey’s Donal Davoren, who likes the glamour, and Bean’s Michael Doyle, who joins up out of a sense of duty to the victims of Bloody Sunday, fuelled by imagined ancestral pride). There’s the IRA assassin, laying low (though, okay, Davoren’s only pretending while Bean’s Ruairi O’Drisceoil is the genuine article).

The other thing Bean’s play has that O’Casey’s doesn’t is redemption, which may stem from the fact that O’Casey was reporting live, right from the heart of the Troubles, whereas Bean is charting their history (or, if we’re really lucky, writing their obituary).

“Britain’s most provocative playwright”

Aleks Sierz boldly labels Richard Bean thusly in his review for The Stage, though in the comfort of his personal blog he qualifies the assertion with a “perhaps”. I work for Aleks at theatreVOICE (full disclosure!), so I hope he won’t mind me saying I don’t agree with his judgement on this one.

For a start, I hope that Richard Bean isn’t Britain’s most provocative playwright, because if all it takes to earn that epithet is to point out on the Olivier stage that Britain is historically hostile to immigrants (in England People Very Nice), British drama is in trouble. (Having said that, I’m not sure I can think who does deserve the title. Tim Crouch, maybe? Nominations in the comments, please.)

For a follow-up, I think that while England People Very Nice was a deliberately provocative play, The Big Fellah isn’t, and I don’t see the value in bringing up the playwright’s reputation for being provocative in relation to a non-provocative play, unless it’s to say “he’s usually provocative, but this isn’t”.

I suppose my issue is with the journalistic tendency to slap labels on people, as shorthand for readers (“Oh yeah, that guy”), and to apply those labels regardless of context – and not with Aleks (my editor) after all (phew!).

“Get dressed. The big fellah’s on his way.”

What none of the critical community fail to mention is Finbar Lynch’s captivating turn as David Costello, the eponymous Big Fellah. There’s also plenty of well-deserved praise for Rory Keenan as Ruairi (the main character, to my mind, and the most interesting, beating the big fellah by a hair’s breadth), though not nearly enough for Claire Rafferty as the vibrant Elizabeth Ryan.

Unfortunately reviewers’ word counts are such that, when you only appear in one scene of a two-hour production, and the quality of your performance is matched by certain of your fellow cast members, all of whom have more stage time, you get sidelined. Well, Rafferty’s performance is lively and earnest; she makes light work of some clanging mouthpiece-of-the-playwright lines; and for a few short minutes she matches the charismatic big fellah blow for verbal blow.

Now, did I miss anything?

Written by Richard Bean

Crew includes Max Stafford-Clark (director), Tim Shortall (designer), Jason Taylor (lighting) and Nick Manning (sound)

Cast includes Rory Keenan (Ruairi O’Drisceoil), Youssef Kerkour (Tom Billy Coyle), Finbar Lynch (David Costello), Claire Rafferty (Elizabeth Ryan), David Ricardo-Pearce (Michael Doyle), Fred Ridgeway (Frank McArdle) and Stephanie Street (Karelma)

Those reviews in full:

11 July, 2010

The Comedy of Errors

Sophie  Roberts and Daniel Weyman in The Comedy of Errors

Sophie Roberts and Daniel Weyman in The Comedy of Errors. Image courtesy of The Corner Shop

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, 24 June – 31 July 2010

Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide

The first and final scenes of this open-air Comedy of Errors feel dashed off, as if director Philip Franks couldn’t be bothered to do much with them. This isn’t as big a problem as it might be in a different play: The Comedy of Errors is mostly middle.

Franks appears to have judged, by no means incorrectly, that the sob story Egeon (Christopher Ravenscroft) feeds the Duke (Alister Cameron) in scene one isn’t nearly as important to the audience as it is to Egeon (who is, after all, telling it in order to secure himself a stay of execution). Adoptions and shipwrecks don’t concern us. All we need to know is that two sets of estranged identical twins are about to be set loose in Ephesus and hilarity, as they say, will ensue.

So yes, the opening scene is interminable, there’s little evidence of “grief unspeakable” in Ravenscroft’s performance and as such his climactic reunion with his wife and sons is emotionally flat. But as soon as Egeon yields the stage to the twin Antipholi and Dromios, Franks and the audience alike sit up and start paying attention.

The production has a fantastic sense of fun, embracing the absurdity of the play’s premise and embellishing it with brand new absurdities, like unexpected song and dance numbers and Scooby-Doo-style pursuits with mobs racing past people hidden in convenient wicker baskets.

The contrasting relationships of the Antipholi (Daniels Weyman and Llewelyn-Williams) to their respective Dromios (Joseph Kloska and Josh Cohen) are convincingly fleshed out: Ephesian Dromio (Cohen) is beaten and put-upon by his wealthy master (Llewelyn-Williams) but they always make up in the end, while the less affluent Syracusan pair are on a more equal footing.

This means that when the Antipholi unwittingly swap Dromios or vice versa, as they inevitably must, there’s an extra level of humour to enjoy. One Dromio leaves in search of bail money for Antipholus and another returns with a bit of rope – that’s worth a giggle. But when Ephesian Antipholus, used to getting his own way, is faced with a Dromio who isn’t used to taking orders, hilarity ensues.

Perhaps if Franks had paid as much attention to Egeon’s characterisation as to the twins’, the production could have gained yet another layer, this time of poignancy. But this production gets belly laughs from a capacity crowd using Elizabethan dialogue, so I say, who needs depth when hilarity is ensuing?

Written by William Shakespeare

Crew includes Philip Franks (director), Gideon Davey (designer), Quinny Sacks (movement director), Paul Frankish (musical director)

Cast includes Alister Cameron (Duke), Josh Cohen (Dromio of Ephesus), Joseph Kloska (Dromio of Syracuse), Daniel Llewelyn-Williams (Antipholus of Ephesus), Christopher Ravenscroft (Egeon), Daniel Weyman (Antipholus of Syracuse)

Need a second opinion?

3 February, 2010

My Stories, Your Emails

Barbican, 2 – 13 February 2010

Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide

Ursula Martinez is an enigma and so is her new solo show, My Stories, Your Emails. An original member of La Clique, Martinez exists in the borderlands between stand-up comedy, burlesque dance, stage magic and performance art. Similarly, My Stories, Your Emails is a lecture, a stand-up act, a play, a confession and an autobiography while simultaneously being none of these things.

It also appears simultaneously to be a constructive, creative response to a potentially upsetting situation and a petty, misdirected act of vengeance.

As the title suggests, it’s a show of two halves. The first involves Martinez reading (mostly) humorous autobiographical anecdotes from a lectern. Her deadpan delivery is disconcertingly reminiscent of Jimmy Carr, though Martinez excels at getting laughs by leaving stories hanging, instead of by comic over-explanation.

The stories serve as a brief introduction to Martinez’s life, revealing aspects of her upbringing and career, details about her family and so on, without sketching anything like a complete picture of her as a person.

The second half concerns a similarly incomplete picture – a video of her magic/striptease act Hanky Panky, which was released onto the internet without her permission – and some of the astonishing conclusions people the world over drew about her as a result. It’s a pageant showcasing some prime examples of that uniquely 21st century prose genre, the speculative online solicitation, in which the objective is to coat every syllable in steaming sexual subtext, but convince the receiving party that you are not just another hopeless case begging for sex.

There’s a surprising variety of pretexts, from those who idolise Martinez as a campaigner for Nudism, to those who want to book her act, through those seeking friendship to those barefacedly requesting sex. What they have in common is that they all think they know, understand or have some kind of claim over Martinez just because they’ve watched a video of her stripping and making a silk handkerchief disappear.

The concept of this segment is a problematic one. A piece of Martinez’s work not intended for mass online consumption ended up online; she responds to this by taking fanmail (complete with full names, photos and even some telephone numbers) presumably meant for her eyes only and performing it publicly. The majority of the men (and they are all men) don’t come out of it especially well. On paper it feels like an eye for an eye.

But she performs the emails without commentary: the men are allowed to present themselves in their own words (though she provides each with an appropriate accent). It also becomes clear from occasional instances of two-way correspondence that their permission has been sought and granted to incorporate their words and pictures into the show.

To presume to draw a definitive conclusion regarding the motivation and ethics behind My Stories, Your Emails would be to make the same mistake as the men. Best just to present the facts and let Ursula Martinez remain an enigma.

Written by Ursula Martinez

Crew includes Mark Whitelaw (director)

Cast includes Ursula Martinez

Need a second opinion?

14 December, 2009

The Stefan Golaszewski Plays

Bush Theatre, 2 December 2009 – 9 January 2010

Reviewed for the London Theatre Blog and cross-posted to The Collective Review

Two one-act plays back to back don’t usually make a successful two-act play. Right? Which suggests it’s probably no coincidence that Stefan Golaszewski Speaks About A Girl He Once Loved and Stefan Golaszewski Is A Widower work so well as a double bill; it seems likely they were always meant to be performed together.

It was clear from the plays’ debuts, a year apart at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, that they were stylistically and thematically of a piece. Each is a monologue in which Golaszewski relates romantic episodes from ‘his’ life, or a fictionalised version of it (in Widower he imagines himself in the year 2056, following marriage and a moderately successful TV career), aided by some simple props and a gift for writing fresh, cliché-free imagery.

What wasn’t immediately obvious back then was how neatly the two would bolt together for their London transfer. At around an hour each they were bite-sized enough for the choice-rich, time-poor Festival theatregoer, but the double bill is substantial enough to be worth a London audience’s while. More importantly, the emotional and thematic trajectories of Golaszewski as a character and a playwright are revealed and reinforced by the juxtaposition; images, foibles and techniques introduced in About A Girl pay off with interest when revisited in Widower.

Little gimmicks used in About A Girl simply to create sight gags give rise instead to pathos when they recur in the altered context of Widower. Golaszewski’s tendency to idolise women is the quirky fulcrum of About A Girl, but Widower acknowledges the disadvantages of such an attitude when applied to a more adult kind of relationship; the wide-eyed, innocent awe of female beauty that characterises About A Girl is only briefly retrodden in Widower before tragedy abruptly erases it in favour of a whole new range of grown-up emotions like bitterness, desperation and regret.

Individually the plays are snapshots of a man at two different stages of emotional maturity. Combined, they sketch a more complete portrait of a man learning the hard way that the reality of long-term commitment can never be as idealistically romantic as rose-tinted recollections of unrealised adolescent love. Underscoring it all are the insecurities of a young playwright coming uneasily to terms with his own premonitions of future emotional disillusionment and bodily deterioration. The whole is unquestionably greater than the sum of its parts – and given all the stars, awards and praise each play received individually, marrying them is sure to result in a critical mass of acclaim.

Written by Stefan Golaszewski

Crew includes Phillip Breen (director/designer)

Cast includes Stefan Golaszewski

Need a second opinion?

7 December, 2009

Bush Theatre re-opens to unsolicited script submissions

Written for The Collective Review, 7 December 2009

The moment the Bush Theatre axed its script reading team, citing a lack of funds, was the moment the recession became real for me. Beforehand I’d been taking my usual naïve/optimistic view of the situation, confident that it couldn’t be as bad as the media made it out to be, and that it would soon blow over with no major consequences. The discontinuation of script reading at one of London’s premier new writing theatres, though? That was a major consequence.

Which is why it’s excellent news that the Bush are back doing what they do best, only this time with an additional social networking element. Bushgreen.org is a site “for people in theatre to connect, collaborate and publish plays in innovative ways”. Playwrights can submit their manuscripts directly to the Bush’s team, or publish them publicly on the site for other writers to critique, or for publishers and producers to peruse. There’s even the option to charge for downloads of your script.

When I signed up on the site myself, I discovered that, whether deliberately or unwittingly, the Bush have taken a stance on the issue of whether critics are part of the artistic establishment, or whether, as the Telegraph’s Charles Spencer would have it, they stand apart (“the belief that critics are part of the theatre community” is, says Spencer, a “great misapprehension”).

You can register on the site as a Playwright, Actor, Agent, Director, Dramaturge, Choreographer, Composer, Costume Designer, Lighting Designer, Literary Manager, Producer, Production, Production Manager, Publisher, Set Designer, Sound Designer, Stage Manager, Student, Enthusiast, Theatre Company, Group or Other. Critics – in fact journos of any kind – apparently aren’t “people in theatre”, or worse, we’re the feared and exiled Other.

I doubt very much that the Bush are actually trying to make any kind of statement with this; it’s much more likely I’m drawing random conclusions having happened to stumble on the site not long after wading through the critical blogosphere, catching up on the debate. But it’s worth stating that I think critics absolutely are part of the theatre community, and that reviews – and increasingly, comments on reviews – are as much a part of the creative process as writing, rehearsal and performance. A show doesn’t end when the house lights come up. Its influence continues to resonate as long as it’s inspiring debate.

24 September, 2009

Mother Courage and Her Children

National Theatre, 16 September – 8 December 2009

Reviewed for the London Theatre Blog

The prospect of staging Brecht’s work on the Olivier Stage is similar to the prospect of flying an aeroplane backwards. Though in theory the vehicle is a tool designed to go where you tell it to, in practice there are certain manoeuvres it’s structurally unsuited to perform.

Brecht dictated that his plays be staged with no frills. But any director given the run of the Olivier can be forgiven for wanting to actually use the facilities on offer. It isn’t yielding to temptation, it’s making the most of a rare opportunity.

Like a glass-panelled clock, Deborah Warner’s Mother Courage and Her Children doesn’t just choose not to conceal its inner workings, it displays them, inviting the audience to marvel at the way the pieces fit together. During one musical number Courage (Fiona Shaw) drags an ASM, already quite visible at the edge of one wing, fully onto the stage, where she dances briefly with the announcer (who also dances little jigs in the scene changes), and during the interval the second act’s placards fly in and out, in and out, as if the winches are being tested.

Not trusting the audience to be satisfied with the real backstage goings-on of a National Theatre production, Warner treats us to a self-conscious, theatricalised version of them. What we see is more bustling and disorganised than backstage in any theatre I’ve worked in; a theatre workers’ self-portrait that magnifies every insignificant pimple.

Revealing the production’s nuts and bolts works as Brecht intended, removing the emotional smokescreen that prevents critical engagement with the play; but theatricalising and calling attention to the backstage business just replaces the smokescreen with blinkers, creating a parallel drama that competes with the more important one centre stage.

Written by Beltolt Brecht (translated by Tony Kushner)

Crew includes Deborah Warner (director), Duke Special (songs) and Mel Mercier (musicscape)

Cast includes Stephen Kennedy (The Chaplain) Martin Marquez (The Cook), Harry Melling (Swiss Cheese), Charlotte Randle (Yvette), Clifford Samuel (Eilif), Fiona Shaw (Mother Courage) and Sophie Stone (Kattrin)

Need a second opinion?

20 June, 2009

Derren Brown: Enigma

Adelphi Theatre, 18 June – 18 July 2009

Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide

Only at a Derren Brown show could I have ended up standing on stage in a curtained cabinet with a bag on my head. Only at a Derren Brown show could someone in that position have been the envy of nearly the entire Adelphi Theatre audience.

Brown is enough of a household name that I probably don’t have to explain what it is he does (just as well, since I’m sworn to secrecy on the specifics). Suffice to say a good deal of what happens on stage during Enigma is baffling to the point of being unsettling.

Yet when he flings frisbees into the audience – a random method for picking volunteers – a Mexican wave of hands shoots up in its wake. Everyone’s eager to be unsettled personally by Brown. That isn’t to say he’s lost his spooky edge, just that the more famous he becomes, the more people are excited rather than disturbed by his act.

The mere mention of placing the audience in a trance state is still enough to scare a few people away in the interval. Those that remain react mostly with laughter as he toys with his entranced volunteers, but certain stunts – the ones that place the sleepwalking participants in physical danger, or appear to – are greeted with concerned silence.

Luckily, the only indication that Brown might be going mad with power is his patter, which gets a little snarkier with every live show. If he were a stand-up comedian, some of the lines he throws out would get him labelled lowbrow or puerile, but who’s going to challenge a master mentalist if he claims the five random words you provide are evidence of deviant sexual appetites?

Brown’s live performance is still utterly, awe-inspiringly mystifying, and that accolade is magnified when you consider the fairly limited repertoire of the traditional mentalist. As well as refreshing old faithful techniques with new vehicles – in this case, a version of children’s game Guess Who – he’s recharged his palette with new material gleaned from international sources, forcing himself not to rely solely on his tried-and-tested talent for reading body language.

Even with a privileged close-up view, a critic’s eye, a background in technical theatre and a glimpse of something I’m not sure I was supposed to see, I can’t come up with one cohesive, rational and plausible explanation for what I experienced on stage during Enigma.

But since Brown is, as always, adamant that the psychics and mediums that performed the tricks before him were all a bunch of frauds, the answer can’t be that the spirits did it. The answer is that Derren Brown did it. If anything, that’s more impressive – and more unsettling.

Written by Derren Brown and Andy Nyman

Crew includes Andy Nyman (director)

Cast includes Derren Brown

Need a second opinion?

8 May, 2009

The Contingency Plan

Bush Theatre, 22 April – 6 June 2009

Reviewed for the London Theatre Blog

If anthropogenic climate change is the greatest challenge currently facing mankind, then right now Steve Waters’ The Contingency Plan at the Bush Theatre is the most important artwork in the country.

Either individually or combined, On the Beach and Resilience – the independent but complementary constituent plays of Waters’ double bill – trumpet an uncompromising challenge to conventional, optimistic projections regarding the results of our effect on the climate.

In On the Beach, glaciologist Will Paxton (Geoffrey Streatfeild) returns home to Norfolk after an extended stint in Antarctica, to present his new girlfriend Sarika (Stephanie Street) to his parents, and to confront his reclusive father Robin (Robin Soans), who gave up glaciology two decades ago to observe sea birds on the salt marshes.

In Resilience, Sarika likewise presents Will to the Ministry for Climate Change, where he faces off against Colin (also Robin Soans), the colleague that discredited his father, in an attempt to convince the new Conservative government to legislate according to his own radically pessimistic predictions of coastal flooding in Britain.

If you can see both (highly recommended), see On the Beach first. If you can’t, see Resilience: though its focus is squarely on the policy makers and not those affected first hand by the crisis, it contains not only the best laughs (mostly courtesy of David Bark-Jones’ dangerously clueless Minister), but also the most important science.

Will’s solution is that there is no solution; there’s nothing left to do but retreat inland and abandon the coast to the North Sea. Before Resilience’s interval he reels off a list of draconian-sounding measures, including compulsory purchase and demolition of non-carbon neutral homes. Waters and his agent are adamant that the science used in the play is sound and rigorously up to date.

Downers don’t come much bigger, but neither play ever ceases to entertain, even when Soans’ characters show their similarities by breaking out the visual aids. Hard science and the accompanying pessimism are counterbalanced by dramatic flair in both the text and the performances. While the big issue naturally and rightly dominates, Will’s relationship with his father gets nearly as much exposure; and Street, along with Susan Brown as both Will’s mother and Tessa, Minister for Resilience, fly the flag for women finding footholds in predominantly male arenas. Soans’ portrayal of two similar but distinct obsessives, one comical, one eventually somewhat sinister, particularly stands out.

The only ray of hope in Waters’ predicted stormfront is that both plays are set a few years in the future. If the science is as solid as he claims, we can only hope the policy makers don’t greet him as Chris greets Will – at first jovially, then later bitterly, as “Nostradamus”.

Written by Steve Waters

Crew includes Tamara Harvey (director, Resilience), Michael Longhurst (director, On the Beach), Tom Scutt (designer), Oliver Fenwick (lighting designer) and Emma Laxton (sound designer)

Cast includes David Bark-Jones (Chris), Susan Brown (Jenny in On the Beach/Tessa in Resilience), Robin Soans (Robin in On the Beach/Colin in Resilience), Geoffrey Streatfeild (Will) and Stephanie Street (Sarika)

Need a second opinion?

19 April, 2009

Hang On

Lyric Hammersmith, 15 – 25 April 2009

Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide

Family show Hang On, a collaboration between visual theatre company Theatre-Rites and aerial theatre company Ockham’s Razor, thumbs its nose at health and safety officials everywhere.

The stack of risk assessment paperwork necessary to cover the aerial construction of a giant trapeze-cum-mobile high above the Lyric stage, by performers dangling from the half-built pieces without harnesses or safety nets, must be a serious fire hazard in itself.

The production is cheekily self-aware in this regard: the impetus for much of the acrobatic clambering about is a collective quest to cure boilersuited health and safety obsessive Eric MacLennan of a fear of heights and an accompanying aversion to fun. Eric, in turn, encourages quiet juggler Stephano Di Renzo’s cautious wooing of daredevil Tina Koch.

At its heart, Hang On is all about the spectacle: the precarious swings and drops, every movement affecting the mobile’s balance and thus the position of the other performers, all accompanied by Nao Masuda on chimes, drums and musical saws.

But the little dabs of plot and characterisation add an extra layer of enjoyment. It’s undeniably more entertaining to watch a man climb higher and higher to needle an uptight friend, or juggle five balls to impress a girl, than to see the same feats performed as a technical exercise, or to show off.

The company’s pie-in-the-sky first idea was for the audience to lie underneath the mobile looking up, like a baby in a cot. Naturally the health and safety bogeyman vetoed that plan – perhaps informing MacLennan’s heavily caricatured persona – and the production certainly feels limited by the Lyric’s proscenium arch. The three-dimensional spectacle of the mobile really deserves an audience on all sides.

But there aren’t any sufficiently large theatres in-the-round in London – and the whole point of City Circ, a multi-venue season curated by Crying Out Loud, for which Hang On is the launch event, is to get circus performance out of the big top and in front of a wider audience.

Something is definitely lost in that process, but Hang On remains entrancing for adults and children alike, so perhaps 270 degrees of sightline is a small price to pay for a whole new audience base. And this is only the beginning of City Circ – perhaps if it proves popular enough we’ll see some spaces appearing that can show off the full potential of companies like these.

Crew includes Sue Buckmaster (director) and Alex Broadie (choreographer)

Cast includes Stefano Di Renzo, Alex Harvey, Tina Koch, Eric MacLennan, Nao Masuda and Charlotte Mooney

Need a second opinion?

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