Previews, glorious previews!


Image source: Almedia website

Hello all, I’m back in the theatrical saddle again after a long break (reasons for this will be the subject of a separate post) and it feels great.

As is often the way, after a long period of no theatre, I had two shows booked in on consecutive days (not to imply that theatre is anything like buses but…). Both previews and both in some of my favourite London theatres. Here are my thoughts (not reviews) on these two shows.

First up was “Shipwreck” at the lovely Almeida Theatre last Friday. I booked in for this as soon as tickets went on sale last year, as I’m a big fan of Anne Washburn. Full disclosure: I saw “Mr Burns” 3 times because I adored it, and I’m fully aware that certain critics weren’t big fans.  Which makes me doubly glad that I got to see “Shipwreck” in preview, before my reaction to it might be coloured by the critical response (my first viewing of Mr Burns was also in preview, so I loved it before I was told I was wrong to)

In short I loved “Shipwreck”. Anne Washburn has this glorious talent for blending everyday, banal moments with the mythic. The theme of truth (or more specifically lies) colours the whole piece, placing all of the story building elements on a beguiling quick sand of uncertainty. What is reality? Is it an unchangeable thing, or shaped by memory, story and perspective?  This is much more than a simple (if that is possible) Trump play.

With a 3hr 20 minute running time (including a 20 minute interval) I found the time flew by, particularly in the 2nd half. The same can’t be said for some of the napping old folks around me, but I could sort of sympathise with their narcoleptic impulses, this is a play full of deep conversations and monologues, which may be a struggle for those who aren’t fully engaged with the piece.  I was engaged. I was fascinated. I want to get a copy of the play text and get lost in its twists, turns and fantasies. But that’s me.

So I chatted to some of my theatre buddies who also saw it over the weekend (not all at the same time as me) and they all enjoyed it too. They loved the bonkers, fantastical, mythic elements too. The staging and acting talent got a whole heap of love from them too. So I feel supported in my love of both this play and this production of it.

If you like intelligent, political, quirky, reality bending theatre, “Shipwreck”is for you. 


Image source: Young Vic website

Following on with the theme of really smart theatre, I saw a preview performance of “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train” at the Young Vic on Saturday night. It is powerful, darkly funny theatre. The odd line-fluff (to be expected people, don’t get preview tickets if you can’t cope with the odd mini glitch) did not detract from the skill of the performances. This is a tough play, and doesn’t portray a pretty picture of the American Justice System, so the actors have a lot to carry. And they do it with gusto in this production.

I laughed, I winced,  and I had to resist the urge to hiss at one of the prison guards (Joplin Sibtain nails it as a particularly unpleasant guard, such a stunning performance). There is a wonderful shape to the narrative of the play: Stephen Adly Guirgis feeds in glimpses of the future with a masterful lightness of touch, I’m not always a fan of having characters step of out the narrative flow to look back on the events of the play from a future perspective, but it really works here.

If you can’t cope with swearing or sudden loud noises, this isn’t the play for you.

If you like your theatre dark, uncompromising, funny, political and painfully human, “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train” should be right up your alley. 

I have to say it feels good to be writing about theatre again.  As my return to theatre-watching land is a gentle one, there’ll be limited opportunity for me to talk about specific shows in the near future, but watch this space for an exciting interview series I’ve being working on. Particularly if, like me, you’re fascinated with the play-writing process….

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