I Value the arts

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Merrily We Roll Along - Queen's Theatre

Stephen Sondheim’s birthday celebrations continue with the much-anticipated Donmar Warehouse concert revivals of two of their many associations with the composer. Next week sees two concert performances of Company but first up it's the turn of Merrily We Roll Along.

For many this is one of Sondheim’s ‘problem’ scores, closing on Broadway just 16 performances after opening night. The UK has looked more kindly on the show, with successful runs in the regions and the basis of this concert at the Donmar in 2000.

Much of the perceived problem is the plot runs in reverse, following the lives and loves of a trio of friends starting in 1980 and ending in 1957 but, for those prepared to invest some engagement with the piece, it offers rewards in the form of one of Sondheim’s finest scores, underpinned with emotion, wit and a wry look at the fickle world of showbiz itself.

Staging such a complex plot in concert format could be problematic but here in a ravishing production - the score has never sounded better.

Reuniting original cast members Daniel Evans, Samantha Spiro and Julian Ovenden this Merrily not just rolls along, it flies. In this concert staging we are able to enjoy book and score but also some remarkable performances by a company on top form. Here is a score that offers up some of Sondheim’s most accessible numbers: Old Friends, The Hills of Tomorrow, Our Time and the title song soar across the auditorium.

Director Rob Ashford gives just enough action to convey the plot without swamping the concert format, while musical director Gareth Valentine conjures up an impressively full performance from his eight-piece band.

There is many a rumour of a revised version of Merrily hitting London in 2011 but producers could do far worse than reviving this production without delay. Far from being a problem show this is a classic score by a maestro at the top of his game.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Spring & Port Wine - Sir John Mills Theatre

On the surface life is all happy families in the Crompton house in Bolton. Run with military precision by patriarch Rafe it’s a home where financial prudence is key, a rule not helped when Mother is not good with figures and a chain of borrowing causes many a headache. Scratch the surface though and there are tensions just waiting to be released, all it takes is the smallest trigger to spark rebellion.

Based on author Bill Naugton’s own upbringing in Lancashire, Spring & Port Wine became a classic of the 1960s and now offers a fascinating insight into the period, a time when the role of women in the household was beginning to change. In these time when fiscal responsibility is being urged it should also offer a relevance to today however Gallery Players latest production never ignites the much needed spark.

Naughton has created some wonderfully drawn characters here, layered and detailed. His script is full of quick fire interaction between the family but director Philip Rawe needs to look at the pace of the piece as lengthy pauses make it hard for the necessary tension to build. This is a strangely clinical production that makes it hard to engage with the Crompton family, nor empathise with the social upheaval they are undergoing. The trigger point for change fizzles rather than explodes as needed.

At times the cast seem uncomfortable with the material, opening night nerves seeing more than a few stumbles over lines, further eroding any growing tension.

There are some nice performances here though, Brenda Caddick nearly stealing the show with her wonderfully observed meddling neighbour Betsy Jane, Michael Cook’s nervous newcomer to the family Arthur and Rosie Fuller’s catalyst for change Hilda. There are a few issues with wandering accents heading off on tour across Lancashire and Yorkshire but hopefully these will settle as the nerves subside.

It is encouraging to see once again Gallery Players being adventurous in their programming choices, hopefully as the run continues the much needed pace and tension will grow but sadly at the moment this isn’t one of Gallery Players finest hours.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Passion - Donmar Warehouse

Stephen Sondheim’s Passion is perhaps one of his more complex works, a deeply dark tale with no conventional numbers, it is not an easy viewing. As part of its birthday tribute to the octogenarian composer, the Donmar Warehouse turns out a ravishing production. Given the intimate nature of the score, it works well as a chamber musical and it's here the Donmar excels.

The tale of an unconventional love triangle, betrayal and death, Passion is not a barrel of laughs but it does carry some of the composer’s most compelling music. Passion is in fact perhaps a misleading title with Obsession being a more accurate reflection. Terminally ill Fosca’s obsessive love for handsome soldier Georgio driving both to the edge of reason.

Given its tone, Passion is perhaps more cast dependent than most and here is where a slight niggle enters. At its heart is the doomed love triangle of Fosca, Georgio and Georgio’s married mistress, Clara. While all the cast sing perfectly, and this show sounds the best musically it has ever done, there are more spoken lines than you would normally find in a Sondheim show. David Thaxton and Scarlett Strallen perform well as Georgio and Clara but Elena Roger's return to the Donmar raises a few concerns. While her voice tears at the heartstrings during her musical numbers, her spoken lines fail to convince. It’s a performance not helped by some Hammer Horror parody make up and a tendancy to stalk the stage. It’s a small annoyance and a performance that grows on you, however.

Christopher Oram’s simple but effective designs and Neil Austin’s wonderfully atmospheric lighting create an evocative backdrop to this doomed love affair. Thanks to Terry Jardine’s and Nick Lidster’s sound design the score has never sounded better; Alan William’s musical direction balanced perfectly against the cast. Jamie Lloyd directing chooses wisely to focus on the intimate nature of the piece. Lloyd also decides to play the piece through with no interval. While this makes for a lengthy act, it does allow the tension to build well during the piece.

Passion may not be Sondheim's finest work and is not easy viewing but this production proves to be a loving birthday present to the composer.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Hamlet - Crucible Sheffield

Given the glut of Danish princes theatres have experienced recently, it is difficult not to compare one Hamlet against another. Obviously each production is a stand alone product and therefore any comparison is perhaps unfair.

The latest entry into the Hamlet market is John Simm, taking to the Sheffield Crucible stage in his first Shakespearian production. It’s a brave and valiant effort, tackling such a complex role, but one that ultimately proves to be just beyond his grasp.

This isn’t a bad production of Hamlet, but one that leaves the audience thinking ‘so what?’ the much needed chemistry and tension in the piece is sadly lacking in a sterile offering.

The title role is a notoriously complex character for an actor to bring to life, this complexity also offers a multitude of options; the grief-stricken, insane, rebellious, cunning or tormented Hamlet all offering potential takes on the psyche of the prince. It’s not clear what route Simm’ is taking with his portrayal, offering little insight into the tortured mind. The famous soliloquies at times seem little more than a line reading, loosing the chance to build any empathy or understanding.

Obviously Hamlet isn’t a one man show and there are fine performances from John Nettles as Claudius and Michelle Dockerty as Opheila, playing the role with a sweet innocence. Other casting works less well Barbara Flynn’s Gertrude seems strangely unmoved by unfolding events, a same reaction from Tim Delap’s laid back Laertes.

Direction by Paul Miller is strangely static; never making full use of the Crucible’s thrust staging. Tom Scutt’s designs add visual appeal but without much atmosphere. Here is an Elsinore uprooted from Denmark and transposed into a 19th Century grand châteaux.

In the move we loose much of the sense of isolation and courtly tension needed to make Hamlet really come alive.

As stated at the beginning it is unfair to pit productions against each other and perhaps in less of a Dane Fest this production would shine but instead it seems bland and oddly un-engaging.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Terror 2010 Death And Resurrection - Southwark Playhouse

Horror is a tough act to pull off on stage; for every Woman in Black there is a damp squib such as Ghost Stories (still somehow managing to pull them into the Duke of Yorks). While the movie horror genre seems to go from strength to strength, the theatre is still struggling to follow suit.

Southwark Playhouse has valiantly tried to rectify this with their annual terror season, with this year’s offering Terror 2010 subtitled Death and Resurrection.

It offers four plays plus interlude entertainment that, according to the publicity material, ‘contains scenes of a shocking and disturbing nature’. The only real shock is how some of this material actually ever made it to the stage and disturbing that some well-known names have penned contributions.

Given the nature of horror and its reliance on surprises, it is hard to review a show such as this without revealing too much. In reality, though, there is little to reveal, none of the pieces contain any real shocks or plot twists, with only the most timid getting even the mildest of shocks.

Up first is Mark Ravenhill’s offering to the mix, The Exclusion Zone. It is perhaps the piece that shows most promise, two young men meet in deserted woods but their plans of a sexual liaison take a darker twist as a horror tale becomes real. Now if the play had finished at the moment the play took that darker twist, all would be well but instead the two hander is supplemented by a Tesco carrier bag-clad ensemble of Zombies doing what appears to be a primitive impression of a tribute act to The Rocky Horror Show while a Russian songstress squeals out Bow Wow Wow’s Go Wild In The County. Any tension that has been built instantly evaporates as the audience sits bemused and wondering if they should laugh or cry.

Sadly The Exclusion Zone proves to be the highlight of the four plays. Neil LaBute's monologue The Unimaginable goes nowhere slowly, April De Angelis’ The County dispenses with any real characterisations while the longest piece, William Ewart’s Reanimator, seems like a pale imitation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein tale. By this point, any horror moments were met with giggles rather than screams.

Oh and there is also a goth/zombie bellydancer to further confuse a shell shocked audience. Some thought also needs to go into the make up – in an intimate venue such as Southwark Playhouse, children’s Halloween party standard zombie make up will only generate laughs and not chills.

There are some redeeming features. Performances on the whole were well conceived and Sarah-Louise Young’s songstress nurse was a joy to watch and listen to but woefully underused.

Halloween may be fast approaching but this show will fail to raise goosebumps on all but the most lily-livered. A truly disappointing offering.

Or You Could Kiss Me - National Theatre

After the epic War Horse, Handspring Puppet Company return to the National Theatre with a much more intimate, and deeply personal offering. Or You Could Kiss Me turns from the equine to the human, following the story of how two of the founder members of the company met and fell in love. Alongside the autobiographical though is also a trip into the future to explore the end of the partnership as death looms large.

This switching between the beginning and end of the relationship continues throughout the play and makes for a somewhat confusing narrative, never fully conveying the sense of devotion the two built over their 60+ years together. Although the script is weak in places it is perhaps the non vocal performances of the puppets and puppeteers that prove strongest.

Much like their larger counterparts in War Horse, the puppets here manage to convey the deepest of human emotions as the long term couple face being separated at last. There’s also a canine companion that comes perilously close to stealing the show.
Many may have booked expecting War Horse 2, however Or You Could Kiss Me is a completely different beast and there is still some work to be done here.

Following Earthquakes in London it seems to be the season to transform the Cottesloe. For this production the stage is placed diagonally across the pit with runways extending each side. While it does bring the audience much closer to the action it does create its own sightline problems with sections of the action being obscured by puppeteers manipulating the puppets or crouching down in front of you waiting for their next entrance. Some more work needs to be carried out on the blocking to overcome this issue as staring at the back of a black clad puppeteer does for large portions of the play does loose dramatic tension. There are sections that a truly moving however, demonstrating the real emotional centre of the piece.

Perhaps the piece would also benefit from some structure revision, bringing more of the challenges of being a gay couple in 1970s and 80s South Africa to balance the end of life struggles.

Overall Or You Could Kiss Me works well as a demonstration of the role puppetry can play in a dramatic narrative. A bit more thought on the staging, sightlines and structure of the piece would greatly improve the piece and become a more engaging experience.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Of Mice And Men - Sir John Mills Theatre

John Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice And Men may now be over 70 years old but is still as fresh and gripping today as when first penned. It's one of those rare pieces that works equally well as a book, film or stage play and Serendipity Theatre Company’s latest offering brings this potent mix of human drama to the Sir John Mills stage.

Steinbeck’s tale of two migrant farm hands in the 1930s Great Depression never shies away from covering an emotive subject matter on a grand scale but at its heart is a tale of the friendship between the two travelling workers.

In a world where it’s normally each man for himself George and Lennie make an unlikely pair, travelling together from job to job. George, worldly wise acting as a mix of older brother/father figure for Lennie, a childlike gentle giant who may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but who dreams of tending rabbits on his own farm.

The two dream of owning their a plot of land to escape the hardships of life on the road but tragic events conspire to thwart that ambition.

Although director Steve Wooldridge has assembled an impressive company of local talent for this show who work well together to create the farm community, the evening belongs to two remarkable central performances. Roger Jackaman nicely underplays George, bringing a quiet authority to the character, keeping emotions in check but inwardly struggling with the conflict between his own independence and his responsibility for Lennie. John Ling’s lumbering Lennie is a joy to behold, full of childlike glee, constant fidgeting and innocence. It would be easy to play Lennie as the village idiot but Ling shows that inside this giant of a man is a young child who wants nothing more from life than to show love and affection to his longed for rabbits. There is a strong chemistry between the two leads and Lennie’s breakdown in Act2 is almost unbearable to watch but the characterisations are beautifully realised and utterly gripping.

The authentic atmosphere of the piece is aided by a wonderful design by Dave Borthwick, combining Southern swamplands with the slatted farm barn.

Steve Wooldridge’s direction quite rightly focuses on the human conflict, although a canine appearance nearly steals the show and builds tension nicely until the moving climax. Perhaps the additional scene brining to life the voices in Lennie’s head lost some of the dramatic momentum but the final scene still has the power to shock.

It would take a hardened audience member not to have a lump in the throat or a tear in the eye at the end of this production. The capacity audiences demonstrate that there is a strong demand for quality drama in the region and Serendipity Theatre Company are certainly a name to watch out for in the future.

Picture: John Ling and Roger Jackaman in Of Mice And Men. Photographer Charlotte Coward - Williams

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Enlightenment - Hampstead Theatre

Enlightenment - a. The act or a means of enlightening  or b. The state of being enlightened. Sadly Edward Hall’s debut as Artistic Director of Hampstead Theatre does neither.
Shelagh Stephenson’s latest play Enlightenment kicks of Hall’s tenure at Swiss Cottage. Billed as a physiological thriller it looks good on paper; parents struggling to come to terms with the fact that their son has gone missing on a gap-year trip abroad. It should be dark, brooding and chilling; and at times Enlightenment does seem to be heading down that path but then it veer’s off into material bordering, unintentionally we hope, into comedy.

The second act does redeem itself as events take that much needed darker turn but it’s a plot that never full convinces and leaves many more questions unanswered than resolved.

There are some nice performances here; Julie Graham’s emotionally distraught mother, clinging onto any sliver of hope; Polly Kemp’s comedic physic brought in to trace the waywad boy and Tom Weston-Jones’ simmering Adam.

Other parts work less well, not helped by some paper thin material given to flesh out the characters in an overall weak script. In many ways this seems more of a work in progress draft than a finished article from an accomplished author. Dialogue seems strained and never settles comfortably with the characters.

Hall’s direction is fast and furious and makes effective use of Francis O’Connor’s space-age minimalist set while Andrzej Goulding’s projections add a much needed sense of atmosphere to the piece.

There is an interesting story here but one that Stephenson needs to prise away from the hopefully unintentional comedy and melodrama. This is one play that far from leaving you enlightened will leave you confused and slightly disappointed.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Hamlet - National Theatre, Olivier

Is Hamlet overload syndrome a recognised theatrical disease? Tennant. Law, Simms, Kinnear and soon to be Sheen all taking on the great Dane. David Tennant may have garned the most column inches, despite missing a large chunk of his London transfer but Rory Kinnear now stakes his claim as one of our leading stage actors.

Hamlet is one of those challenging pieces, you feel the need to do something revelatory to it but go to avent garde and you risk the wrath of traditionalists. Nicholas Hytner’s production goes somewhere in the middle, a modern dress production full of surveillance cameras and militaristic overtones but one that puts the text at its heart.

Overall this works well, the sense of oppression adding to the court tension, but other sections jar. Ophelia as a hip hop toting teenager never convinces for example.

More than any other Shakespeare Hamlet is a show that succeeds or falls on its central character. Rory Kinnear proves to be more up to the task however and gives a defining performance. More thoughtful that the manic Tennant Hamlet, here is a Prince more cerebral in his emotions. Obviously deeply impacted by the death of his father, his is a simmering cauldron of revenge, hurt, adolescent petulance and rage. Each word seems considered and placed for upmost effect; it’s been a long time since we’ve had a Hamlet that annunciates the script so clearly. It’s not a particularly warm or likeable Hamlet but one that is utterly gripping.

Of course Hamlet is more than a monologue, although Kinnear makes fine work of some of the Bard’s finest soliloquies. Patrick Malahide gives an ice cool Claudius, controlling his newly won throne with an icy hand, ably assisted by David Calder's equally frosty Polonius, happy to eschew family happiness for courtly duty. Clare Higgins is outstanding as Gertrude, battling her divided loyalty to her murdered husband, wayward son and her new husband.

Hyntner’s production may have benefited from some cuts in places and some of the modernity does jar but overall this is a gripping Hamlet. Kinnear can rightly claim the Hamlet crown and will be a hard act to follow for Michael Sheen and future Hamlets.

A Number - Menier Chocolate Factory

Who do you think you are? No, not the popular BBC genealogy programme but what could easily be the subtitle for Carol Churchill’s The Number. Churchill’s two-hander looks at the impact when a son confronts his father after he discovers that far from being unique he is actually one of ‘A number’ of clones. How does Bernard cope when he finds he has been cloned? His father sees it as a case for compensation, seeing his son’s individuality has been compromised by some unknown medical institution. Bernard is less sure and things become more complicated when over time his Father’s story subtly alters and Bernard discovers he may not be the original but one of the copies.

With ongoing advances in medical science it is a timely debate, what are the ethics behind cloning and what would the impact be if the clones become aware of each other or even meet? Churchill’s play is more than a genetic discussion though. A Number also examines how much of our lives are predetermined by genetic make up or how much is down to our upbringing. It’s the classic nature or nurture argument but one made vividly real in this short but gripping piece.

Alongside the ethical debate this is also an examination of paternal relationships and what happens when the parent child trust is eroded. This production, played in the round (a first for the Menier Chocolate Factory) is given extra potency by the casting of real life father and son Timothy and Samuel West. Timothy growing from innocent, confused father into something far darker and sinister. Samuel playing three of the sons, giving each their own unique sense of identity. It is an acting masterclass with as much being said in the pauses and eye contact than in Churchill’s clever script.

Jonathan Munby’s direction sensibly lets the characters take centre stage and allows the audience to draw their own conclusions. This is one of those plays that will keep you thinking long after the 50 minute running time.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Hampstead Theatre

How time flies; back in 1994 I worked at Hampstead Theatre as a lowly Assistant Stage Manager on Dead Funny in their wonderfully intimate, but let’s be honest, glorified shed of a theatre.

Despite the ageing building, the theatre built a reputation for quality shows, a large number heading down the Jubilee line into the West End. That the building ever survived 40 years use is a miracle, a bigger miracle is that Hampstead manage to build a new £15million venue that manages to not only retain the intimacy of the original but also provides a much more flexible space.

Add in a vast improvement in customer facilities and it’s not surprising it has proved an equally popular venue since its reopening in 2003.

Now seven years on from its reopening and the theatre is entering a new era as Edward Hall takes the helm as Artistic Director.

Hall’s opening production in his inaugural season sees the resurgence of the thriller continue. While Ghost Stories and Deathtrap continue to send chills down West End audience’s spines, Hampstead turns their attention to Enlightenment, the World Premiere of Shelagh Stephenson’s chilling mystery about a young man who disappears on a backpacking holiday leaving his distraught parents in a state of turmoil.

The show began previews last week and a review will feature here next week. In the mean time a trailer to wet your appetite…

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Palm Wine & Stout - Sir John Mills Theatre

As Nigeria celebrates 50 years of independence, Eastern Angles turn their attention from rural East Anglia to Africa in Palm Wine & Stout, a Nigerian coming of age story.

A young mixed race British man, Taiye, and his mother are on a journey to Nigeria to meet Taiye’s father and trace his Nigerian ancestry. It’s a quest guided by ancestral spirits and cultural misunderstandings on each side. Tradition, folklore, spirituality and family infighting all conspire to make Taiye’s journey of self discovery a meandering one. As events take a more tragic turn, lives in the UK and Nigeria become more closely entwined and Taiye is forced to confront both his heritage and responsibility.

Author Segun Lee-French has based the play on his own journey of self-awareness and it comes across as a deeply personal account with Lee-French’s poetical background clearly evident in the lyrical script.

In a fast moving production, a multitude of characters flow into and out of Taiye’s life, the streetwise brother, spurned first wife, spiritual aunt, and other extended family members to create a rich tapestry of life. The cast of four - Joe Jacobs, Helen Grady, Zackary Momoh and Antoinette Marie Tagoe - shift swiftly between characters with efficiency, although some work on further defining characters would help as occasionally there is a tendency for characters to merge into one.

Ivan Cutting's and Kate Chapman’s direction keeps the pace fast and furious, incorporating music and dance to evoke a much larger community on the tiny stage.

It’s an ambitious move away from its traditional core work based on East Anglian life for Eastern Angles and, perhaps, the piece would be stronger if it linked more directly to the region. But as a production it works well and transports the audience on a cold wet Suffolk night to the warmth of Africa.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The best...and worst of Quarter 3 2010

So another 3 months have passed and despite it technically being a quiet period another 34 shows under my belt. This was supposed to be summer so it was time to brave outdoor theatre, although this year these alfresco theatre shows offered wind and rain rather than sunburn.

Its also a season of increased amateur company activity and standards varied greatly - a plea to some companies, please try and be more creative in your choices of material. Yes there is scope for classic musicals but as Gallery Players have shown, there is more than just R&H to perform.

So onto the highlights:

The trend for small being beautiful continued with the Menier's Aspects of Love nearly making it into the top three and although in a small space the epic Earthquakes in London also just missed out on a gong. State Fair also impressed in the Trafalgar Studios as did Remains of The Day transformed into a chamber musical at the Union. In the open air Into The Woods is the highlight of Sondheim’s birthday year so far.

After much deliberation though the top spots go to

1. The Beauty Queen of Leenane - The Young Vic production was intense and dark but utterly gripping.

2. Elektra - The Young Vic again in association with Headlong. Tickets may have been free but the show was priceless

3. Rent - Gallery Players show that amateur doesn't mean low standards in a production that would make a pro company proud

There have also been some disappointments. Often these were shows that on paper looked impressive but in realisation something was lost.

Out of Joint's The Big Fellah looks at American support for the IRA but fails to tackle the subject fully. In Ipswich The Importance of Being Earnest while looking impressive didn't add anything that hasn't been seen in countless prior productions. Mark Ravenhill's The Experiment left more questions than answers.

The bottom three places this time round go to:

1. Ghost Stories - Marketing hype doesn't match the reality in this deeply un scary show

2. Danton's Death - It's a debate who will die first, Danton or the audience from boredom

3. Wolfboy - Lack of any real bite failed to lift this one in audience attention,

So on to autumn and a plethora of new shows to fight for the bouquets

The London Merchant - Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

You have to admire the bravery of the folk at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. When you have the only surviving Regency playhouse in the country, the last thing you would normally do is start altering the fabric of the building, removing seats and making the auditorium into ‘theatre in the round’. Before the National Trust swoop, however, it is only a temporary alteration for their latest production, The London Merchant.

It may be the first time in its 191 years that the Theatre Royal has been used in the round but it turns out to be an inspired decision. The intimacy and atmosphere it creates transforms the theatre into a magical performance space with a wonderful relationship between actor and audience. The transformation works so well it is easy to forget the normal layout of the theatre and one hopes this will not be the last foray into this configuration.

George Lillo’s 1731 The London Merchant more than holds its own against the architectural backdrop, however. It may be approaching 300 years old but here is a tale that resonates strongly today. Young 18-year-old apprentice George Barnwell is seduced by Sarah Millwood, a courtesan who uses him to take revenge on the wider male population. Her plotting sees gullible George totally ensnared in her spider's web until he’s willing to lie, steal and even murder to further his relationship with Millwood. This could easily turn into a preaching morality play but the conviction and realism of Lillo’s script instead paints the characters so strongly that it flows as a gripping human tragedy.

Colin Blumenau’s direction makes full use of the reconfigured space that draws the audience into the ever constricting circle of despair in which Barnwell finds himself. By necessity, in the round staging is minimalist in nature but designer Kit Surrey uses a palate of predominately black to create a sumptuous treat for the eye. Mark Howland’s atmospheric lighting lends an evocative atmosphere to the piece making great use of shadow and haze to delight the eye.

Acting in this close proximity to the audience needs great skill. Having the audience surround the stage adds to the challenge; however, it’s a challenge the cast rise to admirably. Anna Hope as spider Millwood and David Walmsley (pictured below) as prey Barnwell work well together, Hope practically spitting venom as she is cornered while Walmsley disintegrates as the impact of what he has done hits home. Other strong performances come from David Peart as the merchant of the title and Katie Bonna as Lucy the maid who realises she has to act to stop the tragic train of events.

The London Merchant is a remarkable rediscovery, parallels to its Shakespearean precursors are clear but it also show considerable development towards modern drama. In many ways it’s the missing link between the two eras. This is a double hit for the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, a powerful restoration of a classic to the repertoire and a thrilling demonstration of the flexibility of the auditorium. Catch it while you can.