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In the Next Room or the vibrator play at St James Theatre
Posted on 22/11/2013 by  Cornelia

Much of the humour in the play rests on the assumption that the Victorians didn’t know that the ‘paroxysms’ induced by direct stimulation were of a sexual nature. The spectacle of the straight-faced doctor (Jason Hughes) applying a buzzing contraption to his patient (Flora Montgomery) lying under a sheet while he stands beside the couch with a stop-watch is hilarious; even more so when he extends his practice to include a local male poet (Edward Bennett) who has experienced a romantic disappointment. Soon everyone wants in on the treatment, including Mrs Givings (Natalie Casey ), whether the doctor is present or not.

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Disappointing Dramas
Posted on 19/11/2013 by  Cornelia

How to make a drama from repressed emotions and genteelly-expressed opposition is a challenge, especially in such a large theatre. One answer to the staging problems presented by Mansfield Park may well be to heed Willy Russell’s Rita’s advice and ‘Do it on the radio.’

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I Heart Literary Events
Posted on 07/10/2013 by  Cornelia

I ate my sandwich on a bench alongside the old town stocks, opposite the church where I heard Ruth Rendell talk about her latest book and answer questions about her life as a crime writer. In the same café I overheard someone say she could be 'tetchy', but when I asked her to pose for a photo she agreed at once, and suggested we move to a lighter bit of the church when the first attempt came out blurred. Now I'm a bigger fan than ever.

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Not as Silly as it Seems: The Ladykillers at Vaudeville Theatre
Posted on 18/08/2013 by  Cornelia

As the actors took their bows, my companion said the show was ‘delightfully silly’ and I more or less agreed, until I read the director’s programme notes:

‘the Major, a conman, is a caricature of Britain’s decadent and ineffectual ruling class, One-Round is representative of the used, brutalised masses, Harry is the worthless younger generation, Louis the dangerously unassimilated foreigner, and Marcus embodies the collapse of moral and intellectual leadership.’

Given the widely diffused irony and social comment in British films of the era – continued in TV series like ‘Dad’s Army’ – it’s a shame the stage play didn’t bring this out.

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Fixing the Fluffs: 'With Great Pleasure' at the BBC Radio Theatre
Posted on 22/07/2013 by  Cornelia

Celebrities in turn select favourite pieces of poetry and prose, interspersed with reminiscence about their own careers. Hannah Gordon was first – a tiny Scotswoman I remembered from ‘Watercolour Challenge’, a programme I was addicted to when it first aired. Contestants painted scenes in UK beauty spots for five afternoons, overseen by Gordon, and on the Friday an expert awarded a prize of a box of paints.

The chosen poems, and details of Gordon’s experience at a dour boarding school, were delivered in her characteristically gentle style, although the opening poem, ‘Albert and the Lion’, read by Michael Pennington, needed a more robust sense of humour.

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'Fences' at the Duchess Theatre
Posted on 09/07/2013 by  Cornelia

We've been spoiled with serious American dramas in London recently. Works by Arthur Miller, Clifford Odetts and Tennessee Williams all prod the underbelly of the American Dream. They give more to chew on than the usual tourist-pleasing musicals.

Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson's name is less well known. He wrote a cycle of plays that set out to explore over ten decades the experience of people who lived in an area of Pittsburgh where he was brought up. It's a perfect vehicle for our home-grown Lenny Henry, fresh from his triumph as Othello.

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A Play of One Half: Happy New at Trafalgar Studio 2
Posted on 05/07/2013 by  Cornelia

An intriguing, fairly low key start seems promising: two young men in shorts lie on beds, their faces covered in cream and sliced cucumbers. Their history as brothers and fellow-sufferers in an Australian setting is established. As part of an annual ceremony they concoct a weird 'punch' with ingredients that include a bottle of household cleaner and a pot of paint.

With the arrival of Lyle's feisty girlfriend Pru, played at full throttle by Lisa Dillon, to announce that she can no longer tolerate the situation, the play goes into chaos mode. The script comprises convoluted monologues delivered loud and fast.

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Writing in the Pool
Posted on 25/06/2013 by  Cornelia

Swimming activates the brain in the same way as walking but you don't have to worry about the weather or where you put your feet. I can just think about the story I'm writing or work out a new plot as I go back and forth. Afterwards I sit in the café for a while and study some magazines. On my first visit to the new pool I bought food and drink but now I take my own sandwich, as I used to at the Ladywell baths.

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A Woman of Words: El Diccionario by Manuel Calzada Perez at the Greenwood Theatre, Weston Street
Posted on 18/06/2013 by  Cornelia

As the lecture theatre slowly filled, it was a treat for me to hear Spanish being spoken all around me.

'Language is no longer a communication link between people and words are too generalized and vague'. So argues Manuel Calzada Perez in his play 'El Diccionario' (The Power of Words), through the mouth of his protagonist, Maria Moliner. In 1972 she is living in Valencia, her grown up children have left home and she and her ex-professor husband are about to enjoy their retirement.

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Marital Mayhem: Peter Nichols' Passion Play' at the Duke of York's Theatre
Posted on 14/06/2013 by  Cornelia

The programme was is good value at £4 ; in addition to a potted history of the theatre it has an interview with the playwright and an interesting overview of plays about adultery by Mark Lawson. He writes: ‘Nichols ‘Passion Play’ is part of an eternal triangle of great adultery plays written around the turn of the 80s, sandwiched on either side by Harold Pinter’s ‘Betrayal’ (1978) and Tom Stoppard’s ‘The Real Thing’ (1982)

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