Tag Archives: Roberta Kerr

Boy-Curious

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Wednesday 18th February, 2015

 

The National Theatre’s smash hit adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel hits the road, giving us provincial folk the chance to see the show on our home ground rather than face that pesky trip down to that London.

It is pleasing to see the Grand packed to the rafters for a show that isn’t a musical or a pantomime, and later, when this affecting piece of contemporary drama has worked its magic, to see the audience on its feet, raising a clamour for a non-naturalistic staging. We can have sophisticated tastes too out here in the regions.

Whatever it is, Curious Incident is accessible theatre. Bunny Christie’s set is a black box divided by white grid lines, like graph paper. The walls are interactive – what main character Christopher draws on the floor, appears on them. Christopher’s thoughts are also projected up there – the show takes place in Christopher’s mind, sort of, and Christopher has Asberger’s Syndrome…

At the performance I’m attending, Chris Ashby plays the lead, and knocks everyone’s socks off. We believe he is fifteen, immature in many ways for that age but also intelligent, with flashes of genius. His tendency to take everything literally gives rise to amusing exchanges, especially with authority figures, as Christopher sets out to solve the murder of his neighbour’s dog.

Supported – literally in some sequences – by a strong ensemble, Ashby entrances, endears and surprises. We see how Christopher sees the world but also how he is isolated by A.S. unable even to accept basic physical contact. It breaks your heart.

Members of the ensemble come to the fore to depict a range of characters. Roberta Kerr makes an impression as lonely old neighbour Mrs Alexander, while Clare Perkins shows her versatility as the head teacher and the foul-mouthed Mrs Shears. Stuart Laing and Gina Isaac are Christopher’s separated, long-suffering parents – and through them we see how parents of similar children strive and struggle to manage, and how their human failings make their efforts all the more superhuman.

Director Marianne Elliott combines movement sequences, physical theatre and narration to tell the story, at first through readings from Christopher’s own account and then – a bit meta – through a dramatised version. At one point, Christopher breaks the frame to instruct his mother to be angrier with her lover. But it is the production’s artificiality that makes the story hit home.

We are absorbed into Christopher’s world and way of seeing to the extent that the solving of an A-Level Maths question seems a reasonable and enjoyable form of encore.

At the end, when Christopher has solved the murder and proved he has some level of independence, he asks if it means he can do anything. He repeats the question a couple of times but the lights fade before he gets an answer. And you think, what does happen to children like this when they grow too old for the support network that is in place, when the parents are no longer around? And it breaks your heart again.

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Getting Hitched

THE LOVESONG OF ALFRED J HITCHCOCK

Derby Theatre, Friday 8th November, 2013

 

A director’s chair in a spotlight.  A director under scrutiny. David Rudkin’s beautifully written play is not exactly a biography of Alfred Hitchcock but a series of glimpses into his history and into his mind.  As the story unfolds we begin to see the bigger picture and there are Freudian clues to why he was the way he was, and why he made it his life’s work to shock and scare cinema audiences.  Through monologues and two-handers, Rudkin interlaces ideas and we make the links.  This is no lecture or straightforward biopic.  Like a Hitchcock piece, there is a slow build to its surprises, a twist or two on the road to psychological revelation.

Martin Miller is a very strong lead as Hitchcock, speaking in terms of a shooting script he is forever forming in his mind.  With just a few words, he paints pictures in our imagination – the economy of narrative theatre. Behind him, silhouettes appear on a gauze – his mother is first revealed as a shadowy figure saying Boo to her little boy to make him jump.

As Hitchcock’s mother and then as his wife, Roberta Kerr is utterly compelling.  Unlike Miller, she is released from the added pressure of having us scrutinise her portrayals for recognisable traits.  Solid support comes from Anthony Wise as a priest, a teacher and, especially, a sleazy stranger on a train – sorry, strangler on a train; and Tom McHugh impresses as a young screenwriter, trying to keep abreast of Hitchcock’s creative whims.

Asuza Ono’s lighting shapes the scenes on this Spartan stage, with touches of Caravaggio highlights and, of course, cinematic glows. Jack McNamara’s direction keeps the distinction between the inside and outside of Hitchcock’s mind clear.  We are included in the action but not privy to all the secrets all at once.  McNamara gives us suspense, intensity and humour – the hallmarks of a Hitchcock film.  There are plenty of nods and references to Hitchcock’s oeuvre for the fan to spot and recognise.

This small-scale touring production from New Perspectives and Leicester’s splendid Curve deserves wide-scale acclaim and a much larger audience.

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SENTINEL review: Talking Heads

SENTINEL review: Talking Heads

TALKING HEADS

New Vic Theatre, Friday 25th January, 2013

Here is my review for the opening night of the New Vic’s new production of Alan Bennett’s classic monologues.