London Road NATIONAL THEATRE, COTTESLOE London Road is in Ipswich and the residents had often complained to the police about the prostitutes soliciting in their street but nothing was done about it until five prostitutes were murdered in 2006. Suddenly the police and the media were everywhere and the residents’ lives were no longer their own. Under the stress of the constant and extremely intrusive surveillance the householders rallied round, supporting each other, and the street became much more of a community than it had ever been before. Alecky Blythe interviewed the residents and recorded their reactions to the murders, the murderer, the trial and the aftermath over an 18-month period. The most telling remark was, perhaps, by a householder who wanted to shake the hand and thank the murderer for getting rid of the prostitutes. Blythe is a verbatim documentary playwright and she expects the actors to mimic exactly what she has recorded: every accent, inflection, even every cough. The present play, highly original and only very occasionally patronising, adds an extra dimension in that the actors are now also expected to sing in a speech-like manner. Adam Corke’s music follows the cadences and rhythms of the original speech patterns and the choric work underlines the communal experience. The cast – 11 actors playing 63 roles – is immensely impressive. Rufus Norris’s clever and very watchable production uses police tape and baskets of flowers to potent symbolic effect.
Electra THE GATE THEATRE, LONDON ELECTRA never forgave her mother for killing her father, Agamemnon, who had sacrificed her sister, Iphigenia, to Artemis in return for a wind so that the Greek army could set sail for Troy. Grief-stricken and hungry for revenge she waits for her brother, Orestes, to return so that they can murder Clytemnestra together. It is a rare treat these days to see a play by Sophocles. In the last 60 years only three major actresses in England – Peggy Ashcroft, Fiona Shaw and Zoe Wanamaker – have acted one of the most famous roles in Greek tragedy. Premiered approximately 2,400 years ago, the story still has tremendous power. Nick Payne’s version is perfect for a 55-seat venue in which the audience is seated either side of a long corridor in the royal palace. Carrie Cracknell’s excellent production makes good dramatic use of sudden blackouts throughout the action. There is also an extraordinary interpolated scene when Electra, suddenly informed that Orestes is dead, flips and frantically starts ripping up the floor tiles and the floorboards beneath the stage; it is as if she were digging up Agamemnon’s grave, or digging her own. Madeleine Potter as the deeply disturbed heroine is quite unnerving and the tension is increased by the audience knowing that Orestes is alive. Little Eagles
RSC AT HAMPSTEAD THEATRE
EVERYBODY has heard of Yuri Gagarin, the first human to orbit round the earth 50 years ago. But who has heard of Sergei Pavlovich Korolyov, the chief designer of the Soviet space programme and responsible for the USSR’s successes?
Rona Munro’s informative and well-acted epic opens with Korolyov (Darrell D’Silva), who having been incarcerated in a gulag for 20 years, is freed so that he can work on longrange ballistic missiles. The drama comes from his confrontations with Khrushchev (terrific performance by Brian Doherty), the doctor (Norma Dumenezweni) who saved his life in the gulag and a sinister Red Army officer (Greg Hicks) who wants him sacked. As far as the Soviets were concerned the only tangible benefit of their space programme was propaganda. Khrushchev wanted a Russian to be the first person on the moon. The cost in money and human lives was enormous. Gagarin (Dyfan Dwyfor), interestingly, was not the best pilot; but he had the perfect proletarian background: he was a farming boy from Smolensk, the son of a tractor driver. He became an international celebrity, constantly touring, meeting world leaders and film stars. He just wanted to be a pilot again; the authorities kept him grounded.