Review - The King's Speech @ Wyndham's Theatre (West End)

I went in knowing little of the production, and only knowing the script in its film incarnation. I was pleasantly surprised by the subtlety of the direction of Adrian Noble (former RSC AD) and the ability to stich seamlessly together the multiple short scenes in various landscapes in this rather cinematic script. It visits many of the same locations as the film, but obviously lacking outdoor settings in the theatre, Noble, and his very talented sound and set designers, used the depth of the stage and a series of frames to give shape and distance to the space, and ingenious sound placement and effect to give the impact of being in very large or very small spaces.

This was a very crisp production, with top knotch performances on all fronts, even for the matinee crowd. Notable were Charles Edwards as King George VI, and Joss Ackland as King George V. Ackland's monologue about Edward's impending coronation after his death was riveting; a master class in acting. The only actor whom I felt less engaged with was Charlotte Randle as Myrtle Logue; granted, this is a challenging role, rather one-dimensional, as we really only see her complaining of the desire to go home to Australia. That said, her performance felt up and down, which was noticeable in comparison to such seamless performances from the rest of the ensemble.

It is refreshing to see a professional production who clearly have an enormous budget (revolving stages don't come cheap) and yet don't overuse this budge to clutter the space visually or technically. The design, as with the performances, didn't have anything that wasn't necessary. Noble has clearly taken a page from Peter Brook's manifesto and brought it sparklingly to life.

One thing to add...perhaps it was the timing and seeing this in London, but the stage show came off with a much greater sense of patriotism to the empire, rallying the troops, etc, than did the film.

Review - Ashes and Sand @ RADA

The final production of this Autumn season at RADA was Ashes and Sand. Again, featuring graduate BA students, this show looks into the lives of 4 misbehaving young girls and their police officer friend in modern-day Brighton. The play begins fairly straightforward, however as the complicated relationship between these youths and the officer is developed, the world of the play gets more and more surreal, climaxing with an in-your-face style scene. This is a challenging style to work in, particularly given the huge outbursts required of actors, and I felt that most were handled quite well.

The design was flashy and commercial looking, and I found that the set itself wasn't entirely helpful to the development of the play. The pieces that were moved in and out by actors to use the full space were more intriguing, and offered more; the large pier that was built, with broken down posts almost felt like it was just in the way at times.