mon 26/02/2024

Theatre Lockdown Special 12: An American rarity, a British savoury, and fresh Apples | reviews, news & interviews

Theatre Lockdown Special 12: An American rarity, a British savoury, and fresh Apples

Theatre Lockdown Special 12: An American rarity, a British savoury, and fresh Apples

Nigel Slater is back, as is Richard Nelson's Apple family for a second time via Zoom

New crop: the Apples reconvene in 'And So We Come Forth'Jason Ardizzone-West

Can this weekly lineup really now be three months old?  As we move towards at least some degree of relaxation on the social restrictions that have long been in place, the offerings of theatre online continue to afford many a reason not to leave your laptop.

National Theatre at Home has a particularly weighty (and timely) entry in its capacious rendering of Lorraine Hansberry's rarely glimpsed Les Blancs, whilst the Old Vic down the road places the music industry under the microscope via the Joe Penhall play Mood Music. You get recipe cards if you tune into Toast, not to mention the promise of spiritual sustenance aplenty with the return of Richard Nelson's Apple family. For more on these, alongside something fun (we hope) for the kids, do read on. 

AND SO WE COME FORTH: The Apple Family: A Dinner on Zoom, YouTube

Richard Nelson's Apple family have burrowed their way into the American theatrical consciousness, not least via an extraordinary quartet of plays that were seen at the Brighton Festival in their original productions in 2015: that daylong event remains, for me, a memory for the ages. 

More recently, these denizens of Rhinebeck, in New York's Hudson Valley, have brought their manifold concerns to the world of Zoom, first via What Do We Need to Talk About? in May (acclaimed by The New Yorker as "the first great original play of quarantine") and now via this latest play that promises as per the Nelson norm to be entirely up-to-the-minute and completely timeless. 

A world premiere to benefit The Actors Fund and online now for eight weeks. 

Danny Sapani in 'Les Blancs'Les Blancs, National Theatre at Home

One thinks of Lorraine Hansberry primarily, and crucially, as the author of the watershed 1959 drama A Raisin in the Sun, which was the first woman by a black playwright to be produced on Broadway and gets revived often. 

But her subsequent, lesser-known play Les Blancs, unfinished at the time of Hansberry’s tragically premature death age 34 from cancer in 1965, remains an important work as well, and was triumphantly revived by the South African director Yaël Farber in 2016 at the National. The story of revolution and misrule stars Danny Sapani (pictured right, photo c. Johan Persson), Sian Phillips and the ever-mesmeric Sheila Atim.

Streams for a week starting 7 pm on 2 July. 

Select A Quest, Digital Theatre 

Pins and Needles is an Olivier-nominated, female-lead children’s theatre troupe based in Bristol, and do they have a mission for you (assuming, that is, you’re age 6 or older): their new show, Select A Quest, is an interactive, and free, online children’s adventure set across multiple paths and 27 scenes.

A knockabout comic adventure, the virtual entertainment is set in a paranormal forest that is located through a time portal and also happens to be cursed – and the magic whistle guaranteeing safety has gone missing. At which point, cue Bigfoot, mutant plants, a swamp monster and other creatures of writer Bea Roberts’s prodigious imagination.

Giles Cooper onstage in 'Toast'ToastLawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield

The stage version of Nigel Slater’s 2003 cookery-themed memoir Toast had a healthy run at The Other Palace in London (and elsewhere around the country) and will shortly be available to stream online in a fresh version courtesy of the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield. This iteration of Henry Filloux-Bennett’s play includes animated settings and comes complete with recipe cards so that viewers can immerse themselves in the sensory nature of the experience.

Giles Cooper (pictured above, photo c. Simon Annand) recreates his entirely winning stage performance as Slater, whose autobiography also spawned a screen version, starring Freddie Highmore, in 2010.

Online 6-31 July. 

Mood Music, Old Vic Theatre 

The music industry is the often toxic terrain of Joe Penhall's play, first seen at the Old Vic in 2018 in a production from Roger Michell, a director who, as it happens, has a longtime association with Richard Nelson, as well. The play casts Ben Chaplin as the vainglorious, none-too-scrupulous Bernard, a recording world heavyweight who engages in a battle of wits, and finance, with a younger find of his called Cat (Seána Kerslake). Well-occasioned at its premiere to tally with the Times Up movement, Mood Music marked Penhall's first work for the theatre in more than five years: a significant gap for so renowned a playwright. 

Online 8-14 July. 

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