Another Two Reviews from London: ANATOMY OF A SUICIDE, TWELFTH NIGHT

by Lynn on July 6, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

Anatomy of a Suicide

At the Royal Court

Written by Alice Birch
Directed by Katie Mitchell
Set by Alex Eales
Costumes by Sarah Blenkinsop
Lighting by James Farncombe
Composed by Paul Clark
Sound by Melanie Wilson
Cast: Gershwyn Eustache Jnr
Paul Hilton
Peter Hobday
Adelle Leonce
Sarah Malin
Jodie McNee
Hattie Morahan
Kate O’Flynn
Sophia Pettit,
Vicki Szent-Kirallyi

A wonderfully challenging play taking place in three time periods involving three women, simultaneously, dealing with suicide.

The Story. We are in a hospital. Carol has attempted suicide by slashing her wrists. Her husband John is of course concerned, loving, attentive and lost as to how to help her. She always seems to have had these tendencies, to do herself harm. It gets worse when she has a child.

In another hospital at another time, years in the future, Anna has slashed her wrist. Her partner Dan is concerned, a bit angry, lost as to what to do.

In yet another hospital in another time several years ahead of the first two time, Bonnie is a doctor tending to people who are sick.

About a half-hour into the play it’s clear that Carol, Anna and Bonnie are related. They are mother (Carol), Anna (daughter of Carol) and Bonnie (granddaughter of Carol, daughter of Anna). Suicide haunts all of them. Bonnie asks to be sterilized at one point so that she cannot have the suicidal feelings of her mother and grandmother. Having protected sex or no sex at all is not good enough. She must be sterilized. You gulp hard at that.

The Production and Comment. Katie Mitchell directs this. Say no more. She is iconoclastic, focused, brilliant, laser-eyed in realizing a play, and brings the audience right into the heart of the play.

The stage is stark. There are three doors up at the back and two on each side of the stage. Carol comes through the first door and her space is that portion from that door downstage. Anna enters through the second door and her space is the middle space. Bonnie comes through the third door.

The date is projected above each back door when the scene affects that character. Bonnie’s dates are in the future, 2030. Carol’s are in the past and Anna’s are in the immediate past. Interestingly the text does not list the dates at all so I didn’t make a note of them while I was watching the play!

The play takes place simultaneously when all three women are on stage—they never interact. One character’s pauses provides opportunity for another character, in another time period, to do their scenes. It is all fluid and never seems choppy and awkward. We are never in doubt as to what is happening, although for that first half-hour it’s interesting to see who is whom and how they relate.

Hattie Morahan as Carol is resigned, perhaps in denial (she says what happened was an accident), impatient, frustrated and obviously so unhappy.

Kate O’Flynn as Anna is fragile, her voice seems flighty, almost child-like, attempts a brave face and when she makes her decision to do what she does, very clear mind.

Adelle Leonce as Bonnie is unsettled in a different way. She does not want to happen to her what happened to her grandmother and mother. Yet she is still haunted. She is supposed to sell her mother’s home but can’t make the move to do it. When she does, there is a lovely scene at the end with the new owner, that gives the impression that she has come through the weight of the legacy that she’s had to live with. Small, subtle little scene.

Powerful, gripping sobering play.

Twelfth Night

At Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

Directed by Emma Rice
Additional text and lyrics, Carl Grose
Designed by Lez Brotherston
Composer, Ian Ross
Choreographer, Etta Murfitt
Lighting by Malcolm Rippeth
Sound by Simon Baker
Cast: Marc Antolin
Carly Bawden
Nandi Bhebhe
Tony Jayawardena
Joshua Lacey
Pieter Lawman
Le Gateau Chocolat (I’m not making this up)
Annette McLaughlin
Kandaka Moore
Katy Owen
John Pfumojena
Theo St. Claire
Anita-Joy Uwajeh

Joyous, lively, irreverent in the extreme but the play is there, clear and sobering. You are never in doubt that what is happening to Malvolio is terrible.

Comment. Much has been written about Emma Rice’s short tenure as the Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. She has been pilloried for admitting that she has sometimes found Shakespeare boring (hello!! Yes!!) or that she might not have been as familiar with his plays as one might have wanted. She did the terrible, unforgivable thing of wanting to have her own lighting design involving all manner of lighting effects instead of using the one set of lights and a common design. Horrors! So her contract is up shorter than expected. An uproar went up from those who support her and know how important a kick in the pants is to a theatre that needs it. And of course from the nose in the air snoots who think that tradition is all and Shakespeare must be done as it was always meant to be, traditionally. Whatever that means.

But her productions of the two Shakespeare plays I’ve seen (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night) are dazzlingly imaginative, get to the heart of the play, and indicate a brain that is blazingly intelligent.

Production and Comment. A rock music score gives this production a bounce and verve. Emma Rice opens her production on the boat with twins Viola and Sebastian and the crew waking up to bouncy music. The storm comes and there is a desperate dance of the twins holding on to each other as they are being torn apart by the wind and storm. Sebastian is taken away, saved, in a boat that is negotiated through the groundlings.

Viola slips off the edge of the stage into the Groundlings where she changes her costume (aided by a discrete stage hand) and then appears on stage again, dressed as a boy, Cesario, to come into the employ of a hip, Scottish-dancing Duke Orsino (Joshua Lacey). The object of Orsino’s unrequited love is Olivia, imperious, cool, uninterested. Annette McLaughlin is lovely and commonsensical here until she is smitten with who she thinks is Cesario.

Olivia’s drunken, mean-joking uncle is played as a Scotsman in a kilt (Tony Jayawardena). His side-kick, Sir Andrew Aguecheek is a dyed-haired, prancing, hilarious twit (Marc Antolin). Malvolio is played by Kate Owen, a sprightly, short woman, who plays him as a man with a moustache and a whistle, which is blown constantly to get people’s attention. Malvolio is played with a Welsh accent, perhaps one more reason why he is not liked in that household.

Overseeing the whole thing is Feste played by a creature who is awesome and mesmerizing. Six foot, four inches at least, 250 pounds at least, a huge Diana Ross wig, wearing a gold sparkly caftan, shoes with heels, blue eye shadow, fingernails in flame-red polish. And a full beard. Feste is played by Le Gateau Chocolat. He has a bass-baritone voice. He is majestic. All the songs are sung with such class. At the beginning of the show, Feste ‘sails’ (this guy never moves fast) down to the edge of the stage and puts four rocks in a pile at the lip.

At the end of the show, when Malvolio says: “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you” it’s heartbreaking. Malvolio walks to the edge of the stage and puts the four rocks in his pocket and looks like he will jump/fall into water (the Groundling area) and drown himself, but he is stopped when Feste grabs his arm and pulls him back. Feste then climbs down into the Groundling area and holds his hands up to bring Malvolio down too. The two of them walk hand and hand through the Groundling area and off. Two misfits finding their own solace from that cruel, mean world. Woow.

Emma Rice has taken some liberties with the text. When Viola says “What should I do in Elyria when my brother, he is in Elysium,” Elysium is changed to ‘watery grave.’ I like the poetry of the original but can see the clarity for the change. I don’t think one is talking down to people who have not seen the play before. I think it’s just being clearer. I’m sure there were other liberties too. I don’t care.

This was a wonderfully acted, lively, moving, thoughtful, smart production. Rice has her cast microphoned. Ordinarily I hate this. Here it’s fine. That means the cast is not shouting as they have in the past. Change. Clarity. Glorious theatre.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.