After much deliberation and thought I’ve decided that, yes, the National Theatre is my favourite place in this fair city.
What’s not to like? Yes some of the shows are a bit hit and miss but that’s the point isn’t it? They take the risks that other theatres can’t afford to; some pay off and some don’t. Who else would have staged a cut-down version staged Ibsen’s 7-hour Emperor and Galilean? I rather enjoyed its balls and bombast even if it went a little ‘Monty Python-meets-Hair’ at some points.
I love the shop, the events, the music, the ugly-but-somehow-beautiful building and have spent many Sunday evenings reading in the sun on the 3rd-floor balcony looking down at the bustling South Bank and across to Westminster. I particularly love the NT Live scheme that sees shows broadcast worldwide. Hytner and his team know what they’re doing and they’re at the forefront of those trying to broaden theatre’s appeal and bring it to as wide an audience as possible.
What’s more, if you’re 25 or under and live in London it’s surely a no-brainer to get an Entry Pass and see as many of their shows as possible for a fiver a go.
My last visit was to see Katie Mitchell’s startling staging of Thomas Heywood A Woman Killed With Kindness. I went against popular with my review of Frankenstein and here I fear I will do so again: I loved it.
Upfront I should say that I was in row B and therefore the whole affair was quite ‘up close and personal’ whereas I have heard that the Lyttleton’s notoriously bad acoustics and some shaky preview performances combined to ruin a few people’s evenings. Practicalities aside clarity was simply not an issue; Heywood’s language lacks the colour and diversity of Shakespeare but it is nothing if not direct. Mitchell’s direction is also faultless and she draws fantastic performances from her cast. Paul Ready and Sandy McDade are particularly strong and whilst Liz White struggles early on it is merely because her role is somewhat under-written until the inevitable ‘fall from grace’. Giving equal weight to the two plots works brilliantly and, aside from an uncomfortable scene in which ‘the help’ discuss ‘barn dances’, the 1920s urban setting neatly compliments Heywood’s text and augments Mitchell’s argument.
It is not, and never will be, one of our great plays; but in the hands of a director as confident and single-minded as Mitchell it becomes a truly powerful piece.
The National is offering deals galore at the moment since it would appear that both A Woman Killed… and Emperor and Galilean have hardly set the box office alight but I would urge anyone to part with a few quid and check them out. (Get your bladder in training beforehand though as neither are kind in that respect; Emperor and Galilean is 3 and a bit hours with one interval and A Woman Killed… is 2 hours without one!)
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I haven’t posted much music in a while and the record that’s really got my juices going this summer deserves a stand-alone mention so for now here’s Clock Opera’s latest remix (yes, them again). This time it’s Joe Mount’s gang Metronomy in Guy Connelly’s lab with their single ‘The Bay’ from The English Riviera (itself one of the best records released this summer). Check it out below and view the fantastic video for the original single here.