Where words speak louder than action

 

Hansard (National Theatre) is the edited verbatim report of proceedings from both the Commons and the Lords. It doesn’t immediately spring to mind as subject matter for a play, though in the politics of 2019 it’s probably riveting reading. Prorogation, vitriol, surrender, to withdraw or not to withdraw, it may be a fun read. Playwright Simon Woods, an Old Etonian, avoids low hanging fruit and instead takes us back to 1988 when Margaret Thatcher was still at the helm of a troubled country. The miners had been suppressed, the Falklands had been secured and in less than two years she would be turfed out in tears.

Meanwhile Robin Hesketh (Alex Jennings), a Conservative MP from the shires is en route home to be with wife Diana (Lindsay Duncan). Spending so much time apart works for some couples but scratch the surface here and we see a marriage in crisis. He believes his wife to be borderline alcoholic while she is convinced he has a mistress. The perfect storm and soon enough the contretemps manifests itself in a eloquent tête-à-tête. She is certainly no Thatcherite while he is the obedient, obsequious ‘true Blue’ who admires his leader. At the point you expect fireworks the play settles into a drawing room argument. Their obligatory Aga has more spark than the tiresome twosome.

Woods’ writing is intermittently witty and wry but it doesn’t say anything new and the lazy allusions to our present day Euro farce, is obvious and unnecessary. Basically they are a messed up husband and wife – there are millions – and though we get an insight into the life of the blue-blood, privileged class this stuff has been said many times before. Then suddenly, completely out of the blue, we learn about a tragedy that has been the backdrop to their dysfunctional marriage. Surprising and shocking, it is so unexpected that it almost raised a laugh in the audience. Simon Godwin’s direction is prim and proper and Duncan and Jennings, seasoned professionals, deliver the goods. Ninety minutes later (no interval) the “ayes” for the 2019 verbatim edition had it.

Meanwhile Sotiris Kyriakides loves all that jazz…

Lady of Jazz’ (Wilton’s Music Hall) is an inspiring evocation of 1920s New Orleans and the singer Honey Grey. Doye Mosse’s production is sublime, as is Michaela Bennison’s homage. The show features original songs, inspired by Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong and more. Although a one-woman show, Michaela is accompanied on stage by pianist Tony Pegler in the non-speaking role of Frankie Finch. We are transported back to when Honey Grey is lead singer in her daddy’s band. From there we are taken on a historical and musical journey through the Great Migration out of the south to a better life. So much resonates with the current political climate in America. Thankfully, Honey Grey had the wonderful music to help get her through the tough times…an inspiring piece of theatre

And Abiola Iacovou is sworn to spook secrecy…

Ghost Stories (Ambassadors Theatre) is an anthology piece (clearly taking inspiration from the old British portmanteau horror films Amicus Productions was famous for in the 60s). As such, there’s a bit of everything on offer – an old fashioned ghost story, a rural folk horror piece and a third act I’m going to keep quiet about, tied together through a lecture delivered by sceptic Professor Goodman.

Scares are as inventive and varied as the stories – for every ‘actor in a costume’ jump-scare there was a piece of mechanical ingenuity or unsettling sound design that keeps the horror fresh and unpredictable. It is a very good production and funnier than the promotional material suggests, in a good way. I would like to say more but all reviewers have been told to ‘keep the secrets’ and ‘not spoil’ the play. Mmmm…tape on mouth. All spooked out.

Finally, Gracia Erinoglu wants a little more respect…

The Music of Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul (St Johns Smiths Square). ‘Nuff said, for that is what she was. Singer Nicole Henry sang her heart out in delivering some all time classics. Unfortunately the Nick Fitch Band also played their hearts out delivering a sound that continually drowned out a really good and soulful voice. Thankfully when she sang the likes of Amazing Grace and Say a Little Prayer they took a back seat and Henry gave us some top drawer renditions which only made me think just how much better this gig could have been if the fellas had been a bit more chilled and shown this lady a little more respect.

 

Hansard – 020 7452 3000

Lady of Jazz – run complete

Ghost Stories – 0844 871 7615

 

Barney Efthimiou

Leave a Reply