Tag Archives: Siena Kelly

Force Majeure – Donmar Warehouse

Force Majeure - Donmar Warehouse (by Marc Brenner)

Force Majeure, a random act of God that cannot be predicted or measured that entirely disrupts planned activity, something we can all appreciate a little better in the past two years, certainly as force majeure has caused significant delay to Tim Price’s play of the same name. Originally scheduled for 2020, Covid struck again in late 2021 when the production was forced to close because company members tested positive and had to isolate, cancelling the show’s original Press Night. Returning to the stage between Christmas and New Year, not even a random act of God can save this slightly underwhelming production whose staging choices place spectacle over narrative purpose and audience engagement.

Based on a two hour movie by Ruben Östlund, the play Force Majeure brings across some interesting themes about human behaviour under extreme pressure and, in the wake of natural disasters, begins a philosophical debate about the ‘correct’ instinctual response when something goes unexpectedly wrong. When father of two Tomas abandons his family and is seen running away from an avalanche at an exclusive ski resort, it sets in motion a chain of events that affect his marriage and the opinion of his children and friends.

Across 2.5 hours, Force Majeure unpicks Tomas’s instinctive response and the consequences, mixing fraught family drama with this more abstract discussion of nature, the protective instinct and the ‘right’ response when making a split-second decision. So far, so interesting, but Price’s adaptation instead becomes overly repetitive with the central family having several versions of the same conversation with each other and then with their late-arriving pals who miss the main event. While we get a sense of Tomas’s actions as an emotional turning point that no one can let go, it makes for stodgy drama as the plot stalls with even a major pre-interval revelation leaving the audience wondering what could be left to say in the final hour.

Part of the problem is a series of short scenes that work fine in the cinema where quick cutaways create drive and direction but in the theatre require clunky scene changes to take the characters to new locations without developing the depth of perspective that makes you care about the individuals or properly pushes them to explore and justify their behaviours. In adapting the film, Price also takes each scene round in circles, having individuals say the same thing several times or carry on a particular joke a beat too long, making the plot feel overly laboured while sacrificing any serious development for the central family.

This static drama is very noticeable in the first half of the play where – aside from an energetic opener and the drama of the avalanche careering towards the trapped family – over an hour of subsequent talking is taken up almost exclusively by the question of whether father Tomas ran away from rather than seeking to protect his wife and kids. And the characters have multiple versions of the same discussion for the rest of the play – Tomas denying it and claiming Ebba’s perception of the event is misconstrued, Ebba equally adamant about what she saw. They talk about it as family, the couple argue about it when they are alone and they talk to strangers as well as friend Mats and his girlfriend Jenny, going over and over and over the same ground with neither yielding. By the time the interval arrives, it is increasingly difficult to care about this fractious family and their endless, somewhat stagey, arguments.

Price also begins Act Two in a similar fashion with Mats and new, much younger girlfriend Jenny debating the same issue as they take sides resulting in judgements about their own personalities. It is a scene intended to be comic as Mats agonises about the reflections on his character and late-night refusal to drop it and go to sleep. Their mutual exasperation is funny to a point but several minutes into the scene, the repeated scenario becomes tiresome, willing them to go to bed so we and the play (with another hour to run) can move on.

What we never get is a proper sense of why these people behave as they do and the pre-existing context that might make their reactions more explicable. Information is relatively basic, Tomas and Ebba’s marriage was already on the rocks, Mats had left his first wife and is now dating Jenny who is blithely and unquestioningly accepted despite being 20-years his junior, while Tomas and Ebba’s son implies some form of behavioural issue that requires careful management and intense parental attention, yet none of this is fully explored within the play and in asking the viewer to just accept the circumstances without deeper consideration misses an opportunity to ground the collective hysteria and avoidance of the truth in a much wider story about relationships, family and work pressure that has created a deep fissure waiting for almost any excuse to give way – the aftermath of the avalanche becoming a proxy for the true cause of and excuse for disharmony.

The single-issue focus of the story creates a feeling of dislocation between character and drama, so while Force Majeure builds to a moment of self-realisation and a consequential clearing of the decks, it is difficult to feel emotionally invested in the individuals in any meaningful way. That is partly a question of staging but also of tone, and Michael Longhurst is never quite sure if he is directing a comedy or a drama, eliciting laughs in some of the play’s more incisive moments. Like The Boss of It All and Another Round, Scandinavian dramas often have a particular blackly comic style that mixes irreverence with an oddball quality that allows a tragi-comic feel to emerge, and throughout Force Majeure there is a sense that a similar piece is trying to escape but the show is yet to find that balance, lost in the overwritten nature of the scenes and the slightly choppy drama that prevents any momentum from growing.

This is further exacerbated by the Donmar’s peculiar staging decision, building a ski slope that allows for a couple of very stylish moments as supporting cast members project themselves diagonally down the stage, but with the whole design facing forward, it loses opportunities to play to the wraparound-style auditorium particularly when the vast majority of scenes are based in bars, hotel rooms and cafes that are not on the mountain at all. The Donmar is a rare venue with no truly restricted views – there are side views in both the Stalls and Circle that sometimes put the audience’s eyeline behind the actors for a time, but all seats are close to the stage with clear, unobstructed sightlines.

So, in a venue with three sides and an apron stage, it seems ludicrous to build a piece of staging that creates quite severely restricted views for anyone sitting in the side Stalls (usually some of the best seats). Yet designer Jon Bausor has created a slope that increases in gradient towards the back of the stage meaning these audience members are unable to see the stage floor, can barely see the actors when they are sitting on the slope itself, often have views obscured by furniture or other actors blocking their colleagues and spend most of the action staring at the sides of a furry ramp. Only the straight-on Stalls seats will see a full view. Stylish it may be, memorable certainly and prices have been reduced accordingly but these choices do very little to enhance the experience of the play or particularly reflect its locations and context.

It is notable how often audience experience is sacrificed to design and directorial preference, and with the top critics usually given the most advantageous (and ergo most expensive) seats, the problems of restricted view seating has been given very little profile. In older theatre buildings, the curvature of the room and the existence of pillars just cannot be avoided, yet theatremakers rarely sit in these seats to watch their own show from these unusual angles – it might alter their choices if they did. Someone spending £10 on a ticket doesn’t love or understanding theatre any less that someone spending £70 nor do they necessarily prefer a vertiginous view of a far away story, it is an economic decision based on affordability and it shouldn’t mean their enjoyment or ability to see a show is any less worthy. Venues could do more to reasonably accommodate the known restrictions, for example by not setting too many scenes at the sides of the stage – particularly now when £70 may only get you a seat in the balcony in some places.

To purposefully create viewing limitations in an otherwise intimate theatre is baffling, and Force Majeure suffers from forcing a proscenium arch design that plays in only one direction into a three-sided auditorium that cuts visibility for a quarter of its audience. There is very little benefit to these staging choices and while the cross-ramp skiing is impressive and unusual, there must have been multiple other possibilities for a story set largely indoors. For once the Circle is probably the best place to see this production and even the £10 seats here will offer a superior experience to the side Stalls.

Among the performances, Rory Kinnear and Lyndsey Marshall are always worth seeing and while their characters offer relatively little substance, the actors find the emotional depths of Ebba’s blind fury and disgust with her husband that Marshall subtly suggests gives her the excuse she needs to finally leave while Kinnear’s blank effrontery is both wounded and embarrassed, sometimes hiding a deeper purpose and half believing his own nonsense. Sule Rimi as Mats and the excellent Siena Kelly, fresh from her triumphant Maggie in ETT’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, add some much needed relief from the claustrophobic family drama, offering convincing depth in their comedy side roles.

Nonetheless, Force Majeure feels like a missed opportunity for a tighter, more philosophical drama about different forms of self-preservation in the face of natural disasters and how these are conditioned by the fears or phobias we carry around with us. We all wear masks everyday, desperate to hide our weaknesses and foibles from others, and it is only in these moments of great crisis that they fall away and a raw nature is revealed. That tight character study was the focus Force Majeure really needed and, in staging this play, remembering that the audience experience should matter, whatever you’ve paid for your ticket.

Force Majeure is at the Donmar Warehouse until 5 February with tickets from £10. Follow this blog on Twitter @culturalcap1 or Facebook Cultural Capital Theatre Blog

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Curve Leicester

Regional theatre was given a whole new market thanks to the opportunities created by digital streaming during the last 18-months, leading the way on audience engagement and the innovative development of filming techniques that made watching shows from home increasingly enjoyable and immersive. Now, it’s our turn to give back, taking the chance to support these reopened venues with in-person visits to theatres that made the London-centric sit up and finally take notice. With gripping screen-only productions of The Colour Purple and a particularly transformative Sunset Boulevard, the lure of Curve Leicester is increasingly irresistible.

The reason for this long overdue attendance, a searing production of Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in the small studio space that absolutely burns with the fire and fury that the playwright built into this towering drama. Tight as a drum and thrumming with palpable tension, Anthony Almeida’s production, premiering at Curve before the English Touring Theatre take it to several other venues, is ferocious, a magnificent adaptation that follows other recent approaches to Williams by modernising the setting and focusing on the complex emotional intensity as a family combusts in front of us.

Previous attempts to place Williams’s work in a more contemporary or at least timeless setting have had mixed results; the Young Vic worked its magic with a 2014 version of A Streetcar Named Desire gratefully broadcast by National Theatre at Home last year, the Almeida too with that defining production of Summer and Smoke that did so much to revive the immediate potency of Williams’s emotional excavation. More recently, Hampstead Theatre’s pandemic-delayed version of The Two Character Play incorporated plenty of modern tricks and techniques but failed to lift this difficult work, while the most recent West End version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof directed by Benedict Andrews with a starry cast was a sorry, cold and lustless affair that confused nudity with chemistry.

So, Almeida’s production for Curve is an interesting lesson in how to take a beloved classic play, really strip it back to its essential characteristics using minimal staging and still hold on to all of the complex emotional currents, changes of direction and the bubbling tension that make it worth revisiting. There is, crucially, real danger here, it absolutely bristles with confrontational energy, that once-in-a-lifetime truth-telling session for the Pollitt family that was somehow inevitable but long delayed, as characters buried their feelings or hid from the truths they cannot bear to face. What Almeida brings to this revival is that feeling that its now or never for these people and once the storm plays out, everyone’s outlook will be forever different.

Because this is a play about the fight, everyone has an agenda, they all need something, a clarity that relies on someone else noticing them or being honest about what’s going on. And the audience sees, particularly in the stonking first half and the early part of the second, is that this is really high stakes stuff, and while Williams holds back some of the cards for later scenes, we come to realise that everyone has everything on the line on this fateful night that Almeida’s production rather gloriously brings to life.

And across the 2.5 hours of this story, there is very little relief, plunging the audience immediately into the marital troubles of Maggie and Brick and thereon holding our attention with an iron grip. Even the sudden interval which comes in the middle of the intensive and combative duologue between Brick and Dig Daddy gives little pause, leaving characters on stage before jumping right back into this full-throttle encounter without missing a beat – it is an extraordinary feat for the actors and demands an instant hush from an audience resettling after the break.

What this Curve and ETT revival does so well is to delineate the individual trajectories, opening with a forensic skill the wants of each character while still creating a consistent family dynamic – albeit a relatively dysfunctional one – and you believe in all of their ways of being. Williams, of course, shines the brightest spotlight on the central couple kept apart by sexual jealousy, resentment and self-loathing, inspired and fuelled by Brick’s alcoholism. Here, we are shown their parallel tracks as Maggie tries desperately to bring their paths back together. She is fighting for her marriage and a remembrance of the man she loved. It is a furious, desperate, scrappy business for her using every bit of her armoury from her body to various means of manipulation to get what she wants. Brick, by contrast, and arguably unrecognised by his wife, is actually fighting for his life, even more so than Big Daddy, almost letting it slip away but clinging to fragments of his own memories – the man he was, his athletic prowess and friendship. There are snatches when he looks at Maggie with something like his old feeling for her, amused, impressed, even proud of her resilience and determination.

Likewise, the relationship between Big Mama and Big Daddy feels crueller than ever, his lack of sympathy and bullying a clear template for his sons and their struggle to connect with or impress him. The volcanic rage he directs at everyone very occasionally appears in his sons while his wife silently accepts his bitter diatribes while trying to find comfort in noise, knowledge and the family she has endured so much to create and sustain. But she has strength too, a refusal to bend or break whatever direction the wind is coming from, quietly holding it all together. Meanwhile the obsequious Gooper and Mae seem far more sinister than previous productions, a pretence of happiness designed to sell Big Daddy a dream and reward them with his millions. The switch from kindness to cold, hard business in the penultimate scene is, therefore, rather chilling.

In staging this production, designer Rosanna Vize creates a simple but evocative space filled with places for characters to listen-in on each other’s conversations – a key theme in the play that contributes to the tight claustrophobic experience that Williams generates and so unnerves the protagonists. Initially played through a gauzy circular curtain surrounding Maggie and Brick’s bedroom, the hazy focus responds to their mismatched view of each other while creating a seductive feel to the their passionate opening conversation. The intrusion of other characters, Mae in particular who draws the curtain back, cuts through all of this to remove the filter, presaging what will become a night of revelation.

The combination of design and lighting creates an intense central playing space which seamlessly becomes the various locations. A raised edge doubles for the eavesdroppers’ balconies and Almeida uses these areas to emphasis moments of particular tension, silently lining-up the usually off-stage or unseen characters who observe the action, placing further pressure on the speakers who struggle to be honest without privacy, while continually drawing attention to the complex network of family and neighbours whose lives so completely intersect. It is notable that the church and medical profession are represented as the outside-insiders who become part of this household tonight but represent death and damnation that hangs over the Pollitts as their crisis ripens.

The staging, then, becomes both narratively functional and representational, allowing Almeida to create drive and drama in this soulless space of opaque materials and emptiness, but at the same time fill it with the emotional baggage and vast landscapes of Williams’s creations. Occasionally, the symbolism goes too far asking the audience to imagine phones that don’t exist or the cashmere robe Big Daddy is given for his birthday, but unlike Andrews’s interpretation whose windowless luxury sucked the soul from the drama, Almeida finds a wonderful and utterly compelling harmony within these contrasting elements, unleashing the very great power in one of Williams’s finest work and, with Joshua Gadsby’s lighting, create pace and evocative stage pictures that illuminate the work anew.

This production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof also owes much to its cast who find depth and resonance in their character to give them fresh appeal. Siena Kelly’s Maggie is both tenacious and vulnerable, driven by a need to make her marriage work that goes beyond the humiliation of failure to some almost romantic concept of destiny. But Kelly’s Maggie is an earthy creature, a woman open about her mistakes and failures but also her desires. Kelly carries herself so particularly, using her body and knowing its value as a communication tool, dressed in sensuous fabrics and prepared to grapple in the dust, pay whatever price and do whatever it takes to bend this family towards her.

Oliver Johnstone has been one to watch for some time with notable performances in the RSC’s Imperium and Cymbeline as well as All My Sons for the Old Vic. Here he gives his best performance yet as a deeply troubled and broken Brick Pollitt. There is such a desperate sorrow in Johnstone’s approach as his Brick becomes slowly more inebriated. But rightly, it never makes him pitiable or too empathetic. A character bent on his own destruction, there is a huge range here, disillusion turning to fury to amusement and attraction, despair, cruelty, disregard and even a hint of affection for his nephews that betrays his own desire for children, the chance that he and Maggie may really want the same thing after all. Johnstone holds the characterisation throughout, entirely immersed in the role, always reacting, responding or lost in Brick’s pain as he searches for release.

Peter Forbes as Big Daddy is equally strong, a self-made man who betrays his roots when a brush with death makes him vulnerable, something that manifests in his ebullience and need to re-establish control, making him a powerful and glowering presence while trying, like everyone else, to make sense of his life and its future direction. As Big Mama, Teresa Banham has less stage time as the men hammer-out their problems but the portrait of her marriage is vivid and while she may not have Maggie’s openness, Banham suggests a woman fighting in her own way for status and notice as a house full of domineering men consume all of the oxygen.

Curve Leicester is pushing boundaries with this version of Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, combining a chic visual aesthetic that supports a deeply reflective take on a play that continues to yield new insights and surprises. Like Chichester with their divine South Pacific, this bold production at Curve Leicester shows that regional theatres have been quick off the starting blocks with imaginative and smart new work that, even accounting for the train ticket, costs less than a top West End seat. Having enjoyed several virtual visits during lockdown, a live one was long overdue and hugely rewarding.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is at Curve Leicester until 18 September before a UK tour. Tickets start at £10. Follow this blog on Twitter @culturalcap1 or Facebook Cultural Capital Theatre Blog

Teenage Dick – Donmar Warehouse

Teenage Dick - Donmar Warehouse (by Marc Brenner)

Shakespeare and the High School rom-com go way back; the universality of his plays make them suitable for adaptation to a number of different environments and in the prescribed social structure of the American High School with its strict categorisations, power plays and love of social gatherings (proms, pep rallies and elections) it is a perfect setting to explore some of Shakespeare’s most enduring themes. Gil Junger’s 1999 reworking of The Taming of the Shrew became the accomplished 10 Things I Hate About You, a high point of the genre that made stars of Julia Styles and Heath Ledger, while Baz Luhrmann took a more traditional approach to the language if not the style of his 1996 version of Romeo and Juliet starring pin-up Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. And plenty of High School movies have at the very least referenced or borrowed plot points or ideas from Shakespeare including Never Been Kissed in 1999 whose heroine played by Drew Barrymore adored As You Like It.

In this context, Mike Lew’s new stage adaptation of Richard III feels surprisingly at home in its new world of teenage angst and social divisions set against the backdrop of the Senior Class President elections at one normal American High School. Taking Shakespeare’s overarching plot, some characters and themes as inspiration, the way in which the two genres have been melded together is remarkably sophisticated although on the surface Teenage Dick looks and sounds like your almost average US teen movie. And while the adaptation has not found universal favour among the critics, anyone growing-up in the era of the High School rom-com will delight in its affection for the genre and an approach that celebrates rather than dilutes Shakespeare’s text.

From the mid-1980s with The Breakfast Club to the mid-2000s when High School Musical signaled the end of the golden age of this enduring genre, for 20-years the US high school movie was a relatively low-budget staple of productions aimed at the teen audience. While the tone varied, they all had their stock formula, usually some kind of disaffected loner or outsider drawn into the world of the cool kids in order to effect change, social realisation and self-belief. There were highs like Heathers (1989) and Mean Girls (2004) – both now stage musicals – as well as the satire Election (1999) and there were plenty of lows too but the genre launched the careers of actors from Paul Rudd to Lindsay Lohan, Zac Efron to Rachel McAdam, Alicia Silverstone, Emilio Estevez and countless others who all went on to bigger, albeit quite different careers.

In Teenage Dick Lew absorbs all of this to believable create Roseland Junior High where jock Eddie is gunning for re-election as Senior Class President having served in the position for two years based entirely on his good looks and football-star status. Surrounding him in what is a very small cast for this kind of setting, we have a teacher Miss York looking to promote social equality and justice, therefore easy to manipulate, and the outcasts demarcated by their disabilities. But integrating Shakespeare into this context makes Lew’s approach so much more interesting than that and soon the audience is questioning whether the apparent divisions we are shown are only truly visible to Richard Gloucester, our protagonist and potential villain.

The central role is recognisably Richard III and those who know the play well will enjoy watching his masterful manipulation of friends and teachers as he manoeuvres himself into candidacy while letting his helpers think it was their idea. But in our more enlightened times, Lew deliberately sidesteps the notion of a truly dastardly Richard while also deciding to tone down the violence to make it appropriate for the High School setting. Instead, Lew asks interesting questions – as Shakespeare does to a degree – about the perception of Richard’s disability and its role in preventing others from seeing him as a leader. Most importantly though, we see clearly how Richard fails to see past his own physical appearance and it is this misconception about others that drives his behaviour and the action of the play.

What is so interesting about Teenage Dick is that there are no straightforward heroes and villains, so we see both Richard and Eddie behaving badly, squaring-up to one another while also being reminded that they are essentially children, 17-year olds acting out with a greater capacity for emotional development than the early part of the play suggests. The audience becomes complicit in its categorisation of the characters into their High School cliches before Lew spends some time in the second half revealing more complex truths beneath the surface.

Richard’s plan to bring about Eddie’s downfall initially seems straightforward and entirely justified when the popular boy taunts and mercilessly bullies Richard, using his disability against him. Eddie’s arrogance and use of offensive language to describe Richard’s condition pit the audience against him while he appears equally cruel in dumping the play’s love interest Anne Margaret before the action begins. Yet as with Shakespeare’s version, our changing opinion and understanding of Richard starts to recast the people around him, including Eddie so before too long other traits including his friendship with Barbara Buckingham known as “Bucks” and his clear popularity at the Presidential Debate force us to re-evaluate our judgement of him. This is only given greater emphasis by the shocking revelations and events of the last section that makes us wonder if, as our narrator, Richard has been manipulating the perspective of the audience as well as the characters.

Lew follows Shakespeare and incorporates aspects of his work in interesting ways across the play, occasionally having Richard break into a flowery Elizabethan structured speech (something which “Bucks” reminds him repeatedly is weird) and maintaining the wonderful soliloquies in which the protagonist directly addresses the audience in spotlighted revelations of his evil plans – there’s even a very funny moment when “Bucks” is onstage for one of these and thinks her unresponsive friend has just gone to “his happy place.” More humour comes from the occasional phrase borrowed from other plays including Julius Caesar – it is used sparingly but adds to the semi-artificiality that both the High School setting and Shakespeare create in allowing Richard to narrate his own story.

But Lew also gives Shakespeare short shrift for his treatment of women and the expansion of Anne Margaret’s character to create the central romance as well as delving into her backstory, aspirations and own feelings of self-exclusion which are meaningfully explored. There is a very sweet tentative chemistry that builds between the initially nervous Anne and Richard, two people from quite different cliques who find humanity in each other, and it is this which prevents Lew’s play from becoming either too snide or too lightweight. The effect of Richard’s decisions have significant consequences for this character and Lew gives her a chance to meaningfully address the viewer and stake her claim to relevance beyond Richard’s existence.

Lew has stipulated that both Richard and “Bucks” must be played by disabled actors which makes perfect sense in this version of the story. Daniel Monks is superb as the teenage Dick of the title, a young man tired of being defined and reduced by his physical appearance so decides to assume the mantle of the villain – as his Shakespearean counterpart does – to upset the balance of power in the school. What makes Monks’s performance so interesting is the conflicted perspective he brings to the role and not only does his Richard believe he is a good person using nefarious means to bring about a greater good, but sometimes he really is.

This nuance is evident all the way through the show and while it takes Richard to quite different places, navigating both a sensitive and sweet relationship with Anne Margaret that develops a real emotional honesty, and into some much more controversial territory as he schemes and undermines his friends, Monks retains the oily fascination of the original character who cannot see beyond his own image and uses that to blame others, while finding a large degree of empathy for his genuine social struggles. And this makes his final actions all the more shocking as he loses control and perspective.

The supporting cast is equally fine, particularly Siena Kelly as the compression of two Shakespearean originals to create a young woman desperate to hide from the spotlight to focus on her dream of becoming a dancer, but she learns to care for Richard and Kelly makes her trajectory extremely moving. Ruth Madeley is a calm presence as best friend “Bucks”, the only character to remain rational throughout, refusing to be blinded by Richard’s obsession with Eddie and finding plenty of comedy in their sparky interactions. Susan Wokoma is fantastic as the enthusiastically naive teacher unwittingly drawn into Richard’s plans, while Callum Adams as Eddie and Alice Hewkin as Clarissa perfectly represent their High School tribes but get to offer some deeper sense of motivation and emotion beneath the surface.

It all looks wonderfully recognisable in Chloe Lamford’s basketball court setting, with floor markings and hoop redolent of any secondary school gymnasium. Characters are dressed appropriately for their social status with Richard in the trademark black jeans and t-shirt of the outsider while sweatshirts and school-branded baseball jackets mark out the sporty boys. The transformations are quickly managed by Director Michael Longhurst who takes a cinematic approach to scene changes using speedily rearranged furniture and lighting to maintain pace. The ball scene is simply and effectively achieved instantly establishing the characteristics of an event we’ve seen in countless movies, but it is the inclusion of projected social media feeds, hashtags, tweets and characters filming on their smartphone that brings this up to date, skewering our modern obsession with an instant visual record and online responsiveness that magnifies every humiliation and private moment.

The murderous tension doesn’t build in the same way as Shakespeare’s original and that sense of deathly danger is all but expunged, yet at only 1 hour and 50 minutes rather than three hours something has to give, not to mention that the idea of mass murders in a High School setting would be in pretty poor taste. Lew has nonetheless created a version of Richard III that suits this context extremely well asking the audience to consider attitudes to disability, power and social structures that perpetuate all kinds of inequality. Teenage Dick may make less sense to those who bypassed the High School movie, but Lew’s play is funny, sad and meaningful, and like Joel Edgerton and David Michod’s film The King, Lew demonstrates that Shakespeare’s characters, plots, structure and themes are just as important as his verse and vocabulary, proving that Shakespeare’s understanding of human nature is as relevant to a battlefield in Leicestershire as it is to a High School gym in America.

Teenage Dick is at the Donmar Warehouse until 1 February with tickets from £10. Follow this blog on Twitter @culturalcap1 or Facebook: Cultural Capital Theatre Blog   

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