Thursday, 24 April 2014

Review The Silver Tassie

The Silver Tassie
by Seán O’Casey

The Wasted Land

The Silver Tassie,  rejected for the Irish stage, appeared first in London in 1929  -  the  year after the Irish Republic issued its own silver coins produced in London’s Royal Mint.  Local Gaelic football star Harry travels from a glorious peak, carrying off a silver cup (the "Silver Tassie") for his team plus the local beauty with her primed Post Office savings account,  to First World War army service and then the contemporary Ireland of the 1920s. 
It's all downhill for Harry as he joins the maiming and slaughter on the killing fields of France. Returning home a cripple after being given false hope in a hospital ward, he finds himself a buffeted dependent outcast, alongside a blind comrade,  in a world that has moved on.  Or maybe the world has moved into his Dublin tenement, eventually filled with newly minted Irish citizens. 

This play is apparently in part an example of expressionism. Anyway TLT and her metallic red motorised companion were riveted by the fine, clearly spoken performances from all the cast and the eclectic but focussed nature of Seán O'Casey's writing. TLT’s take on it is that it does have spades of dialectical argument in its four acts (don’t worry, a two hour and twenty minute play!) but  disguised within a characterful domestic and wartime setting with a hefty dose of dark humour.

We also found it powerfully visualised in Howard Davies’s staging, Vicki Mortimer’s design and Paul Groothuis’s equally powerful sound effects (bring the ear plugs for occasional use if you have sensitive ears!). 

Anyone who has managed to read James Joyce’s Ulysses - this is meant to be an insight rather than a boast ;)! -  will have some inkling of the literary, musical and political landscapes through which the characters travel in this often prescient play, emerging into the false dawn of the Roaring Twenties. 

For, by  the end of the year in which the play was produced in London, following  poet and politician WB Yeats’s rejection of an Irish performance, we know with the benefit of hindsight all finished in a huge domino-effect financial crash.

This production of The Silver Tassie certainly receives our own highest green traffic light medal for embodying with humour and dramatic clarity a bitter, resonant turning point in history.   

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Review A View From The Bridge

A View From The Bridge
By Arthur Miller

Family Guy

Yes, we’re back. Do we have to make excuses for our absence? We think not  – after all, you’re reading this blog and hopefully hooked like a fish on bait or a side of meat hung in an abattoir. ;) Nor, unlike some others, will our narration misdirect you. This is a wonderful production of Arthur Miller’s 1950s’ fable, A View From The Bridge, with not a dud coin amongst the performances. 

At the same time, TLT and her well-oiled and speedy-wheeled chariot have to admit, although they would always race to a Miller play, they have always found his writing a little  – well - schematic. Yet in their humble opinion, the rendering of director Ivo van Hove, along with Jan Versweyveld's design and lighting, of A View From The Bridge turns this into a strength.

At the height of an economic crisis, the arrival of a wife's cousins as illegal immigrants from the old country disturbs the tenuous status quo of the Italian-Brooklyn Carbone family: Eddie (Mark Strong), good natured patriarch eventually descending into despairing self-defeating revenge, Beatrice (Nicola Walker), torn between her family and her isolated husband, and Eddie’s young niece Catherine (Phoebe Fox), chafing at the bit to experience life. 

A simple stretched length-wise stage   without props, bare-bones black and white with long box benches rising on every side can change within a few words into a dockyard pier, a Brooklyn home, an attorney’s office, a boxing ring or maybe even a court house foyer, a political cell,  an international conference room - or a man trap.

Cousin Marco (Emun Elliott) sets out methodically to earn precious dollars to send back to his own wife and children in Italy but, to the horror of her Uncle Eddie, Catherine is charmed by ambitious Rodolpho (Luke Norris) with his matinee-idol looks. 

Yet there is an explicit indication this play means more than the one man’s tragic (alleged) incestuous, jealous obsession. The two Italians speak perfect American from the start, although TLT and her motorised compatriot willingly took part in the audience's suspension of disbelief, while glimpsing the possibility of parallel stories.

Alongside a masterly use of sound (Tom Gibbons), lighting and choreography, the staging reminded TLT of a previous Young Vic production – the circular heartbeat simplicity of  The Brothers Size. And like Richard Eyre’s recent absorbing Ghosts, this production gathers momentum by eschewing an interval (back to its one-act verse roots) and the two hours fly past. 

The twists and turns of this piece’s tragic trajectory and insistent lawyer-narrator demand attention and open up the possibility of an audience analysing the action and words for itself rather than accepting the say-so about any character from others.

Naturally the pacing is superb with seemingly sympathetic but seedy lawyer Alfieri (Michael Gould) and the increasingly tortured and trapped longshoreman Eddie Carbone juggling the action until all hell breaks out and events spiral out of their control.

A minor quibble alone -  for us, using coloured lighting in the denouement might have made a more visceral impact than a final prolonged clinch in an actual liquid tide, although (we think) we can understand the reasoning for this. 

Anyway this may seem rather churlish as, for us too, the tragic human consequences acted on an anosmic (look it up! :) ) set of otherwise almost digital cleanliness gives the play recognizable currency in our globalized electronic age of video games and drones. A great ensemble effort to which TLT and her rootin’, tootin’ buggy give an unadulterated green light!