Tag Archives: Donmar Warehouse

REVIEW: Coriolanus – National Theatre Live from the Donmar Warehouse

tomLaunched in 2009 with a production of Phèdre with Helen Mirren, National Theatre Live aims to bring the best of British theatre live from the London stage to cinemas across the UK and around the world. Broadcasts have now been experienced by over 1.5 million people in 500 venues around the world, including 250 in the UK. Past broadcasts include Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller and One Man, Two Guv’nors with James Corden.

Tom Hiddleston CoriolanusThe latest offering in the programme is Josie Rourke’s version of the little seen Coriolanus from the Donmar Warehouse: Shakespeare’s last tragedy, his most political play and possibly his least favourite title character. Characterising the power struggle between the early Roman republic’s two main social classes; the patricians and the plebeians, it speaks of the common themes of war, social inequality and the abuse of power.

Having never experienced watching a play in the cinema the first surprise was the size of the audience, the powerful draw of Tom Hiddleston enough to fill the entire screening room.

Tom Hiddleston NT CoriolanusDifferences between the live theatre experience and the filmed one soon become apparent: unlike the theatre, this presentation included Emma Freud introducing the work, some background videos and a somewhat cringe-worthy live interval-time interview with director Josie Rourke musing on the casting of “sexiest actor on the planet” Hiddleston. Whilst these might provide some worthwhile information for those unfamiliar with the play (my presumption was that most people investing in the cost of a ticket for a screening of a Shakespeare play might have some inkling of what they were letting themselves in for) this is not the norm, so if the intention was to recreate the experience of live theatre this was somewhat off-base. The filmed production, unlike on stage, also has a measure of editing involved: the use of multiple camera angles and cutting between them, is one not experienced in a theatre, but the film-makers to their credit respected the fact that there is no such thing as a close up or a panning shot in theatre and studiously avoided them.

tumblr_my0ybgGswF1rxmb0io1_500As an example of British acting at its best there could be no better showcase. That Hiddleston is the finest actor of his generation is in no doubt after watching this production and the supporting cast are of a universally high quality in particular Deborah Findlay as Coriolanus’ mother Volumnia, Hadley Fraser as Aufidius and Mark Gatiss as Menenius. Rourke’s stripped-back staging gets the balance right between retaining the feel of ancient Rome whilst infusing the production with a welcome modernity. The creative lighting too adds atmosphere and creates a sense of menace throughout.

As an opportunity to gain access to productions that one otherwise might not be able to is worthy, the fact that it may inspire non-theatre goers to give live productions a try can only be encouraged, but as an emotional or visceral experience it does not have the power to move that being in a theatre does. the sense of a shared emotional experience just wasn’t there. There was also the embarrassing situation of to clap or not to clap at the curtain call, with the audience divided 50/50 (I was in the half who didn’t feel moved to clap – it just didn’t feel right – it was a cinema after all!)

Put simply: Did I enjoy it? Yes.  Is it as good as live theatre? No. Would I do it again? Yes.

INTERVIEW: Scotland’s own star of smash hit Jersey Boys talks to Glasgow Theatre Blog

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Scottish actor David McGranaghan recently joined the cast of the West End smash Jersey Boys in the starring role of Nick Massi. David’s impressive  credits include: Colin in Chariots of Fire; Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew; Father Damian in Be Near Me in the Donmar Warehouse/ National Theatre of Scotland production, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Boyfriend and Lady Be Good at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. 

Glasgow Theatre Blog had a chance to talk to David about his path from pupil at the Dance School of Scotland to the West End via the Royal Shakespeare Company and award-winning board game inventing!

Can we go back to the start, tell us about your background and what inspired you to become an actor.

I started off singing in my school’s music department. Through this came concerts and performances, so I almost fell into acting through my love for music. To move into working on scripts after performing lyrics and characters felt like a natural progression.

I see that you were a pupil at the Dance School of Scotland; I have interviewed many actors for this series and a large number are alumni of the school; what do you think it is about the training there that has produced so many top-rank West End performers?

I think that the teachers are very dedicated to their work, and their passion for the arts feeds into their pupils. Also they let us know from the very beginning that everything is down to hard work, so improvements are down to dedication and focus. I think from looking at myself and fellow Dance School students you can still see that in their attitude towards work and the industry.

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You have a very varied CV, from the RSC to the Regents Park Open Air Theatre and much more in between, what have been the highlights up to getting your current role in Jersey Boys?

I have been very lucky to jump around different types of theatre however working at the Donmar Warehouse which was a co-production with The National Theatre of Scotland was a great experience. It was a play called ‘Be Near Me’ which was set in my home turf of Ayrshire, and we premiered in Kilmarnock (40 minutes from my home) before we went down to London. Of course working on four completely different productions for the Royal Shakespeare Companies 50th Anniversary Season was another highlight. Working with phenomenal directors, actors and plays, it was as good as it can get for any young actor.

Before we talk about your starring role in Jersey Boys you are an award-winning entrepreneur, tell us about Game for Fame.

I invented a board game with fellow actor friend Joseph Pitcher (currently on tour with RSC’s Winter’s Tale) and we decided to go into business with it. It is fun family board game that takes the mick out of our celebrity obsessed society. Players must fight for fame and fortune by playing a number of fun games, and just like the real celeb circuit talent has nothing to do with success. While avoiding the Dole Queue or Re-Hab, players must attempt different games like guessing accents or talking with their tongue hanging out of their mouth, all with a very funny outcome (especially if a few glasses of wine are involved). It has been a great success for us both with deals from Tesco as well as a number of small stores and of course online, and we enjoy working on its success alongside our acting. For more information check out www.gameforfame.co.uk

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Let’s talk about your current starring role as Nick Massi in Jersey Boys, tell us a bit about the role of Nick and how you have prepared for it.

Nick is the bass player of the famous Four Seasons group. He is described as the ‘harmony genius’ and his three passions are music, woman and booze…in that order. Since he hates conflict or the arguments that the four guys find themselves in, he is often the quiet member of the group until he gets pushed too far and blows up. For playing Nick I taught myself Bass guitar for a start. Just playing a bass makes you feel very cool, simple and effortless, which is very much like Nick. I also did a lot of research about New Jersey, watched lots of Four Season performances with a fine tooth comb and watched movies based around the area and time of the group. After that the Jersey Boys creative team had so many stories that had been passed down from the band regarding the real Nick Massi that became a massive influence when building the character up.

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Jersey Boys is a phenomenal success in the West End, what is it like to join a show that is as well-established and well-loved as it is?

It’s exciting and intimidating at the same time. Since I was already a fan of the show I couldn’t wait to get the red jacket on and get going, however since it’s so well known you are aware that you are handling something that is precious to a lot of people, and if you mess up you will know about it. Thankfully that cast and creatives have all been great in guiding me during the rehearsal period while still giving me the freedom to explore my own ideas.

What do you think it is about Jersey Boys that makes it so popular with all age groups?

The music is timeless and appeals to all generations I think. I also think good theatre appeals to anyone no matter what age group they belong to. Our older audience members will remember some of the hits when they first came out however younger theatre goers will still surprise themselves with how many hits they know. The script is also based on their true story, and I think that each character and journey can resonate with all of us.

What drives you as a performer?

The excitement of auditioning or working on a role that you have lots of ideas for. Trying those ideas out and learning more about the character and yourself, going back to the drawing board and improving every time (well, hopefully improving). I think that is what drives me, the constant challenge and the never ending learning and discovering.

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 Are there any actors whom you admire or careers you’d like to emulate?

Hugh Jackman. Anyone that can do Oklahoma and Wolverine in one career has to be number one.

What ambitions would you still like to fulfil?

I now develop game shows for some companies off the back of Game For Fame so for one to work right through to commission would be a dream come true. Acting wise I’d love to do some Sondheim, Gabey in On The Town, work at venues such as The Globe and National and one day play MacBeth…not asking much really.

What advice would you give to any aspiring actors back home in Scotland?

Work hard. Put the hours in now and they will pay you back later.

Finally, what words best describe David McGranaghan?

Very good at Maths!

*DAVID AND HIS CO-STARS WILL BE APPEARING TOMORROW EVENING 6TH APRIL AT 7PM ON ANT AND DEC’S SATURDAY NIGHT TAKEAWAY*

Follow David on Twitter @dave_mcg3

Jersey Boys tickets and info at www.jerseyboyslondon.com

REVIEW: King Lear, Donmar Theatre Production, King’s Theatre Glasgow starring Derek Jacobi 12th March 2011

An ageing monarch. A kingdom divided. A child’s love rejected. As Lear’s world descends into chaos, all that he once believed is brought into question. One of the greatest works in western literature, King Lear explores the very nature of human existence: love and duty, power and loss, good and evil.

It is a Lear without the hystrionics and wailing and gnashing of teeth and all the better for it. It was a beautifully measured performance from almost all. The absence of hamming meant that the Shakespearean text, which can be hard to conceive, was beautifully conveyed.

 The supporting cast including Gina McKee (Goneril, above right), (below from top) Tom Beard (Duke of Albany), Michael Hadley (Earl of Kent), Paul Jesson (Gloucester) and Gwilym Lee (Edgar) were especially adept, each delivering just the right amount of emotion for each role.

 

 The white-washed planking set meant that all attention was focussed on the performance and was particularly effective in the storm scene where Jacobi delivers the ‘Blow winds and crack your cheeks’ speech as a hushed whisper making it all the more spellbinding. The King’s descent into madness is heart  wrenching and his end is as dignified and graceful as the rest of the performance. I’m glad I had the opportunity to see this before it heads to Broadway: “trailing hosannas in its wake.”