15th May2017

Salomé (Theatre)

by timbaros

SALOME by Farber ; Directed by Yael Farber ; Designed by Susan Hilferty ; at The National Theatre, London, UK ; 6 April 2017 ; Credit : Johan Persson

It was always going to be hard to produce a version of Salomé on the stage. It’s a story that’s mythical, biblical, violent, and perhaps a bit confusing. A new version of the show is now playing at The National Theatre, and it’s executed beautifully.

Staged by Director Yael Farber, this version of Salomé, at a short 110 minutes with no interval, will mesmerize you but may also confuse you as the story is told through song and dance and imagery and hebrew, and lots of sand and water. But it’s the story of Salomé who was born the daughter of Herodia who was a princess of the Herodian Dynasty of Judea during the time of the Roman Empire. Salomé, as you may or may not know, is infamous for receiving the head of John the Baptist. Played in this show by Isabella Nefar, Salome is not very respected, stands naked on the stage, has sand thrown all over her, but it’s at the end that she’s redeemed and resurrected, but the road to get there is an intense one.

A character by the name of Nameless (Olwen Fouéré) tells the story of Salomé, as Salomé the character doesn’t speak, and takes place in Roman occupied Judea. She’s yelled at and ridiculed by her stepfather Herod (Paul Chahidi), but finds something, perhaps a kindred spirit, in Iokanaan – John the Baptist (Ramzi Choukair).

But it’s not just the story, it’s the design of the show, by Susan Hilferty, that takes us on a journey, or perhaps better worded – on a ride – a ride that’s both luminous and heavenly, with lighting that adds mystery and darkness. It’s also the haunting vocals and chanting of Israeli folk musician Yasmin Levy and Syrian soprano Lubana Al Quntar that will take your breathe away. Their vocals that accompany the story told on stage is the most memorable part of the show – their voices are out of this world, and listening to them is well worth the price of the ticket.

Salomé will be broadcast by NT Live on Thursday 22 June 2017. For further details visit NTLive.com

Below is a list of connected talks and events for Salomé:
Acts of Violence and Salomé, Monday 12 June, Cottesloe Room, 2-5pm
Mothers/Daughters/Sisters, Wednesday 21 June, Cottesloe Room, 6-7pm
Yaël Farber, Friday 14 July, Olivier Theatre, 6-6.45pm

To buy tickets, please go here:

06th May2017

Angels in America (Theatre)

by timbaros

Angels In AmericaIt’s seven and a half hours long, and it’s shown in two parts, but Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is well worth a watch.

Calling it epic does not even describe the show. Now playing at the National Theatre, it is monumental, larger than life, phenomenal, engrossing, but it is in no way too long or too boring – sure it may be a bit complex, but it’s first class theatre. And both parts of the production – Millennium Approaches and Perestroika – really do need to seen together. And the cast in this current production is top notch – actors you might not be able to see in such a production again in your lifetime. But more on the cast later.

Unfortunately Angels in America is totally sold out – it’s been sold out since tickets went on sale, and calling it the hottest ticket in town is an understatement (the upcoming Hamilton may come close, but Angels is in limited run, only up until August 19th). So If I were you, I would do anything to get a ticket. But more on that later.

Angels In America

Angels in America has won almost every theatre award up for grabs. Written in 1993 by Tony Kushner, it’s won the Tony and Pulitzer Prize awards, and both parts were performed in London in the early 90’s. What is it about? Well, first and foremost it’s about AIDS in New York in the 1980’s – that horrible decade when friends were dying right and left, dissappearing only never to return. There was no cure, and when people started to see purple lesions on their skin, they knew that it was all over. But Angels in America is also about so much more. It delves deep into relationships that we have with each other and especially with ourselves, it deals with power, greed, lust, lies, betrayal as well as fantasy, ectasy, religion and last but not least life (notice that I did not mention death). The show is complex only in that it goes off into the deep end at times for the necessity of one of the characters. Angels is also still very timely, as it touches on immigration and discrimination based on heritage – themes we are seeing first hand in the much changed political climate that we now live in.

Andrew Garfield is Prior Walter – and he’s got AIDS. He’s goodlooking yet very thin, and has the tell-tale signs of the disease (Kaposi’s Sarcoma). James McArdle is Louis Ironson, his boyfriend who’s having a hard time dealing with Prior’s illness. Then there’s Joe Pitt (Russell Tovey), who is married to Harper Pitt (Denise Gough). The Pitt’s are Mormons from Seattle and live in Brooklyn. Harper Pitt has problems, she’s agoraphobic and has hallucinations. Joe, a clerk in a law office, is deeply-closeted.

Then there is Roy Cohn (Nathan Lane), a notorious ruthless lawyer who happens to be gay but doesn’t quite believe it himself and definitely doesn’t want anyone to know this. So for over seven hours we go on a ride with these characters as Angels in American puts them, and us, through a rollercoaster of emotion and drama. Louis is unable to care for Prior and walks out on him at the moment that Prior needs him most. Louis strikes up more than a casual friendship with Joe as they both work at the same law firm. Meanwhile, Joe, who becomes more than a bit friendly with Cohn his mentor, eventually falls in love with Louis. Meanwhile, Prior (and eventually Cohn) are taken care of by nurse Belize (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett). But alls not right in Prior’s life – he’s seeing angels, angels that are trying to tell him a message, angels that are a response to his illness, yet there’s not much these angels can do for him except only to be by his side (or to fly over him)……they’re helpless just as much as he is. There’s also a crisis in the Pitt home – Joe’s mother sells her house in Utah and goes to Brooklyn to look for her son who has just announced to her that he is gay. And Cohn can’t accept the fact that he’s got AIDS – he informs his doctor that it’s liver cancer that he’s got. And Belize turns out to be the real angel in the show – taking care of the dying, the ones who don’t accept the fact they’ve got AIDS and the ones who are way too young to die of AIDS.

Angels in American deals with a dark time in gay history – the AIDS plague. Conservative President Ronald Reagan didn’t help matters by doing nothing about the disease, Rock Hudson had just died, and the stigmatisation of the disease pretty much erased all the gains that the homosexual community had achieved in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. But in this retelling, and for those of us old enough to be around where all this actually happened, it takes us back to the time when there was nothing we could do for our friends dying of the disease but to just hold their hands and watch them die. And Angels in America takes us back to those horrible time. It’s a credit to the story and the production that the performers excel in their roles and take it to the next level. Garfield has a field day playing Prior – he’s in agony because he’s dying and because Louis has left him – and Garfield gives it his all and succeeds enormously. Lane was made to play Cohn – caustic yet not a bit remorseful, even after the ghost of Ethel Rosenburg practically stands over him waiting for him to die. Lane is just simply superb. Tovey – in his biggest stage role yet – doesn’t disappoint. His Joe Pitt is vulnerable yet determined to be who he’s supposed to be, and he accidentally falls in love with Louis yet is still in love with his wife, and Tovey is very believable every second he is on stage. Stewart-Jarrett, practically an unknown, holds his own with the acting heavyweights on the stage. His nurse and friend Belize is practically the glue that holds the other characters together – and Stewart-Jarrett does it so sarcastically and beautifully. A star is born. McArdle is adequate – he’s got a lot to do and say and it’s perhaps one of the hardest characters in the show as so much centers around him – and McArdle just about succeeds, but less so Gough as Mrs. Pitt who doesn’t quite wow us as the others do. Other notable performers include Susan Brown as Harper Pitt, Joe’s mother, and especially Amanda Lawrence, who plays the Angel, a nurse, a homeless woman, and a Sister, among others, is there nothing this talented performer can’t do?

Of course, the sets and music are all amazing, and director Marianne Elliott brings it all together in excellent fashion – but it’s all about the acting (and the message) in Angels in America, the message is loud and clear – this show is history in the making and relevant to all of us now, even 25 years after it was written.

The National Theatre is running a ballot for £20 tickets so I urge you to give it a try. There are two ballots left:
Ballot no.’s 4 and 5
Show dates included in the ballot: 11 Jul – 29 Jul and 2 Aug – 19 Aug
Ballot opens at midday on: 26 May and 30 Jun
You’ll need to log-in to your National Theatre account or create an account to register for the ballot, you can do so here:

Also, Angles in America will be broadcast live to cinemas around the UK and internationally. Part One will be broadcast on 20 July and Part Two will be broadcast on 27 July. For more information and to buy tickets, please go here:

Photos by AiA Perestroika Production Images (c) Helen Maybanks

27th Dec2014

John – Theatre

by timbaros

press a_24 performer_hannes langolf_photographer_hugo glendinningThe term ‘John’ is a word associated with a man who visits prostitutes. It’s also the name of the central character in a show with the same name.

John, now playing at the National Theatre, is an extremely unique theatre experience. The first half of the show is about a man named John. He’s had a hard life, classifies himself as straight, but he goes to gay saunas. The second half of John takes place in a gay sauna where we continue to hear John’s story as well as the stories of other patrons in the sauna, including the owners. So John is a story about men, sex, love, intimacy, and real life.

Lloyd Newson, who conceived, directed, and choreographed John on behalf of DV8 Physical Theatre, had three researchers go to say saunas primarily in London and asked patrons if they were willing to be interviewed. Newson conducted the interviews with just a handful of the men, but one man in particular, John, stood out. And it became clear to Newsom that John would be the central character in his new play.

So the first half of John tells his story. He came from a very disturbed Northern background where his father was a rapist and his mother was an alcoholic. He’d been married, had lots and lots of girlfriends, and two children. He also has a criminal record with 2 convictions. He’s been in prison (where he discovered his homosexuality), homeless for a time, but he turns his life around by getting a degree at the Open University. He goes to saunas to connect to men, not necessarily in a sexual way but more in an emotional way. He wants to be normal, be part of the middle class, be part of a community. And his life is portrayed on stage in a unique way – a revolving stage that revolves as the story is told. Also more unique is that the actors perform physically movements with their entire bodies. They twist and turn and go sideways and bend. And what’s fascinating about this is that they continue to do this the entire show, while at the same time telling the story, bending and moving. So we get a glimpse into John’s life as told by him and he and his fellow actors revolve and bend and tell a story that never once gets boring.

The second half of the show takes place in a gay sauna. There is a very well choreographed bit when three actors constantly undress and dress, several times, but it’s very interesting in how it’s done – it’s al choreographed in a way so that their clothes are moved by another actor to a different area only to be picked up by one of them to get dressed again, and the process repeats itself. We get to meet the owners of the sauna, who tell stories in what they find and put up with in their sauna. ‘They’ tell us that once they found someone dead, a young Portuguese man, and that his mom wanted to pay a visit as she wanted to see where her son had died. They also go into detail about at times finding ‘poo’ in the sauna. It’s actually quite funny when they describe where and how they find it, even in the jacuzzi. There’s also an attendant who gives us a rundown of what’s in the sauna: gloryholes, sling room, so as the stage turns around, we see more of the sauna and more of it’s ‘patrons’. Another man says that he doesn’t care that he’s being reckless or not. And like in any sauna, the men walk around and around and around, ignoring the ones they don’t want to be with and ignoring the ones they want to be with. But it’s the physical movement in the show that makes it very unique. The actors are moving, constantly, in tandem with each other. It’s ballet without the pointy toes.

But John is ultimately about gay men and gay saunas, intimacy and them searching for something they’re not too sure about. And while this show could’ve only been about John’s life story, or a separate show about saunas, John is a show that is so unlike anything you will have seen this year. Kudos not just to Andi Xhuma who plays John but to the entire cast (and Newson) for putting on a show that is really hard to describe but definitely needs to be seen.
John is playing at the National Theatre until January 13, 2015. To buy tickets, click here: