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A Taste of Theatre

Alice Chambers gives you a flavour of the theatre as she reviews recent shows in theatres all around the UK. From a pastor with a past to Argentinian political royalty, she’s really got it all covered.

(As seen in Pegasus Pages, December 2013)

Anna Chancellor and Toby Stephens in Noel Coward’s Private Lives, the Gielgud Theatre

****

July 2013

With much anticipation, I went to see Noel Coward’s ‘Private Lives’ at the Gielgud Theatre. It opens with two balconies, introducing the two protagonists separately. Anna Chancellor is truly mesmerising in her role as Amanda, whilst Stephens’ witty humour as Elyot adds charisma to the performance. Both characters are on their honeymoons; Amanda with the adoring Victor and Elyot with the garish Sibyl. The previously divorced couple is unexpectedly thrown together by the position of their adjoining hotel suites. Hilarity and passion cause the love between Amanda and Elyot to be revived and consequently they run away together. However, their confident personalities create turmoil in Amanda’s flat in Paris, resulting in a whirlwind of devotion and abhorrence. The combination of jazz music, whisky and silk dressing gowns provide the perfect backdrop for this play. Chancellor brings a feeling of both sophistication and carelessness to the character of Amanda. The true desperation in the character of Elyot is revealed as he wishes to untangle himself from the obsessive clutches of Sibyl. The audience learns to appreciate the couple’s passionate love affair, with its ups and downs, as they act like naughty school children. This freshness contrasts with the fiery spirits of Amanda and Elyot, making it really the hottest show of this summer.

James Baldwin’s ‘Amen Corner’ at The National Theatre, London

***

July 2013

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to watch ‘Amen Corner’ at The National Theatre. This heart-wrenching performance shows a woman whose purity is dirtied by her previous life. The beautiful, soulful music of the gospel choir adds spirituality to the play, allowing the emotions of this tight-knit community to be revealed.

The play focuses on Sister Margaret, pastor of her Harlem Church, respected and loved by all for her passionate speeches and calm words. However, her private life is kept well hidden until the return of her husband breaks her composed demeanour and this supposedly sinful man leads her son off the tracks. The congregation of her church begins to question her authority as the secrets of her past start to surface. Her love for her husband is rekindled, but only when it is too late, as the rest of the church rise in mutiny against her. Humour and passion combined with grief and suffering shine light on this performance as the audience is made to realise how the past always catches up with us.

‘Evita’ at The Lowry, Manchester

***

August 2013

This fiery story follows the life of a working class Argentinean girl, Maria Eva Duarte, as a young girl with many ambitions who becomes the First Lady of Argentina, a title of power and prestige, and posthumously, a saint. The authority of Madalena Alberto’s voice in the character of Evita reveals all the struggles and heartaches she endures. Her passionate will allows her to rise from radio broadcaster and actress to the distinguished wife of Juan Peron – the Argentinian President. Her later fall to cancer is conveyed to the audience through the weakness in her once potent voice. The costume, music and dancing add colour to her life story, showing her strong connection with the people of Argentina in the emotionally-charged song, ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’. This true story shows a woman who manages to charm everyone around her with charismatic dominance until she ultimately wins the respect of her people. The singing is magical, forcing even the audience to appreciate the compelling woman who was Eva Peron.

Tom Stoppard’s ‘Arcadia’ at The Oxford Playhouse

***

October 2013

“When we have found all the mysteries and lost all the meaning, we will be alone, on an empty shore.”

This passionate performance by a group of students at Oxford University brought colour and life to Stoppard’s cleverly crafted play. Arcadia tells the story of two families living on an English estate, two centuries apart.

The transitions between the time periods were clear, allowing the audience to delve deeper into thought, and consider the differences between the two societies such as gender roles and the relation between maths and philosophy. The set was at first completely illuminated, showing the formation of new ideas but as the play progressed, the stage became increasingly dark, symbolising the approach of death. The witty wordplay between Septimus and Thomasina created light-hearted entertainment as we learnt of all the happenings beyond the schoolroom. It portrayed the ability of how we can misinterpret historical events and how with the power of a mere document, our minds can develop understandings so ridiculously far from the truth. Val’s silent curiosity was a calm presence in comparison to the scholarly Bernard who was overflowing with fervent remarks. The picturesque image of the past and present waltzing together made a somewhat satisfying ending. It made the audience realise that human nature will always stay the same, however much humankind evolves.

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