Julie: (seen at the afternoon performance on 16th August 2018): Probably
the most remarkable moment of this is an activity involving multiple dishwashing
machines, that serves no apparent purpose other than to get actors unnecessarily
on the set, off it again a few moments later. Actually, there is another moment
that had the monkey suppressing an urge to express a playground witticism, but
that's by the by.
The main question is whether both director and writer shared the lifestyle of
leading character Julie (Vanessa Kirby) in creating the work. There can't be
much other explanation. Polly Stenham's script is obvious to the point of
ineptitude and not just derivative of anything churned out by TV under the "Play
of the Week" label, but a pretty straight lift of how many imagine life in that
particular social strata to be for a woman such as Julie. And that isn't a good
thing, as there is no attempt to delve an analyse beyond a belated rally from
Kristina (Thalissa Teixeira - pretty much wasted here) that should have
culminated in a contemptuous kick, but didn't.
As Jean, Eric Kofi Abrefa is even more criminally ill-used. To see an actor of
his calibre having to ping-pong lines with Vanessa Kirby for minutes on end is
simply scary. Perhaps two, maybe three are smashers, tiny fireflies of lightning
in a gloom that Tom Scutt's pretty decent marble kitchen set can't ordinarily
Strindberg may have something to say about the idle rich and the servant /
master relationship, and perhaps a revival may find a way to say it. This
update, though, is simply a shallow echo, rather than adding a single fresh idea
to what has already been written. 1 star.
The Lehman Trilogy: (seen at the afternoon performance on 17th July 2018).
This really is rather like the bank itself. Doughty and reliable until the
closing minutes, when it really does all fall to pieces. Es Devlin's remarkable
cuboid set (with Luke Halls rather distracting video projections) and Sam Mendes
inventive yet unobtrusive direction place Simon Russell Beale (Henry Lehman),
Ben Miles (Emanuel Lehman) and Adam Godley (Mayer Lehrman) in prime position to
tell a tale spanning over a century.
Act 1 sees three brothers coming to America and turning a wool and clothing
store into a bank. Act 2 is the establishment and growth in New York. Act 3 the
demise. The first act is deeply moving. A nod to Rabbi Epstein for the
perfection of the Jewish rituals and pronunciation, and all three actors as they
bring vivid life to their characters... and a good few more besides.
Act 2 is a transition as generations descend and take over. Beale is a wonder as
Philip, and there are some lovely comedy moments.
Sadly, the third act spoils the rest. While it is possible to overlook a lack of
detail about where the capital came from to expand business in act 1; you will
need either a good memory, Google or a copy of the programme to find out where
it all went wrong. Given that at that point we had invested nearly 3 hours of
careful attention, the effect is almost as if writer Stefano Massini and adaptor
Ben Power delivered a final script with a few pages missing. Mendes does his
best, but we need far more than we get.
Rather like a billion dollar byword for reliability failing with shocking
abruptness, so a crash from 5 stars and a standing ovation to 4 stars - with 5
only for acting and script was the monkey's mildly upset opinion.
War Horse: The monkey admits it wasn't keen on this in 2016 at the New
London Theatre. It found the puppets palled after the first 30 minutes, and most
of the storyline wasn't that engaging either. Perhaps it will appeal more back
at the National?
I'm Not Running: Not available.