jennova: Jason Lee as Brodie, smiling. (Default)
[personal profile] jennova
(First: thank you to the people who expressed kind thoughts in my direction. I got to say goodbye to my cat and am mostly okay.)

Okay. It's best to start my recounting of this latest London trip with a review of The Recruiting Officer. I know a couple of you have tickets to see it later on in the run so I'm not going to make it exhaustive but I may not be able to resist a few spoilers in amongst the squeeing.

I preface thusly: I love theatre but I never see as much as I want to. Entirely my own fault for not making an effort to make it to the various North-Eastern theatres I have easy access to. So most of my experiences with theatre are things I'm seeing for very specific reasons: Avenue Q because a) I wanted to see it and b) Daniel Boys, RAGAD for Jamie Parker & Samuel Barnett, Panto for the Barrowpants. The Recruiting Officer for Tobias Menzies.

It generally means that I'm not entirely unbiased when I talk about things. Just a warning.

That being said: The Recruiting Officer was fantastic.

The play dates back to 1706, planting it firmly in the Restoration period, but it doesn't cleave completely to the practices of the day. There's still asides to the audience at times and a little bit of that drawing room sniping common to the genre - but this is mostly a quite naturalistic adaptation. The language is sharp and clean and walks a good line between period and understandable to modern audiences.

It's chiefly about a recruiting officer, the men who went about England convincing men to volunteer for the army, Captain Plume (Tobias) and his Sergeant, Kite (Mackenzie Crook), and their wheeling and dealing to con the men of the town (Shrewsbury) into the army. It's also about Sylvia (Nancy Carroll), the woman Plume professes to love, and her fight for her choices. And it's also about Plume's friend Worthy (Nicholas Burns) and his love for Melinda (Rachael Stirling) and her inconstancy now that she's rich. And Captain Brazen (Mark Gatiss) whose designs upon Melinda's money cause Worthy's woes. And Melinda's maid, Lucy (Kathryn Drysdale), and her designs upon Brazen. And Rose (Aimee-FFion Edwards), simple farm-girl, and her designs upon seemingly everyone at one point.

Yes. It's complicated. But then, it wouldn't be Restoration if it wasn't. And that cast - you will recognise near everyone, I think, by the end.

I won't go into too many of the finer plot details because it all unravels in such a fun way that it would be spoiling it - but there is some excellent cross-dressing involved.

There's some excellent interaction with the audience too - chiefly from Mark Gatiss, though there is a superb piece from Nicholas Burns which had our audience in stitches - and the staging lends itself towards this. We're made to feel as if we're in a rural pub, something the lighting state also reflects, and there's candles all over the back drop. There's also four rustic chandeliers that lower down from the ceiling and I had my first major flail of the evening when Tobias was one of the actors who came out to light them. Ah, which reminds me:

This goes out of a cut: for those of you that are attending - try and get into the theatre itself as soon as it opens. They begin building the atmosphere almost the moment the first few people are let in (I was, like, fourth in I think, because I was so excited) with the actor/musicians creating wonderful music and then some other stuff which I shan't spoil outside the cut.

As specific performances go - everyone was just wonderful. I particularly enjoyed Rachael Stirling out of the ladies, I've been fond of her since Tippping The Velvet, she was very very funny (and unintentionally so at one point which led to her corpsing spectacularly). I was a little bit in love with Sylvia by the end through Nancy Carroll's wonderful performance - she's by turns charming, affecting and forceful.

For the gents - Mark Gatiss' performance has been praised in all the reviews I've read and rightly so. Hands down the funniest character in the play, played beautifully with more than a touch of camp but with enough restraint to stop it from going too far, he bursts in around half way through the first half and is an utter delight. Mackenzie Crook is rather perfect as the sleazey trickster Kite, there's a turn at the beginning of the second half where he comes over more than a bit Captain Jack Sparrow.

But Tobias. Oh, Tobias. Here's the thing about Tobias as Captain Plume: every part of his acting style that I've flailed over in recent weeks, from the wobbly headed drunk acting through the sincerity that cuts through your soul, is present in this performance. Almost like the role was created for him. Plume starts as the clever and swaggering (boy, it is some swagger, I tell you) rake with a silver tongue. He ends as a true romantic, his heart right there in his eyes, and it's a wonderful journey to watch. He has spectacular chemistry with everyone - whether it be comic or romantic (and I could write odes to the world of difference between the genuine feeling he shows for Sylvia and the forced feeling he projects for dear Rose) - and he's always on, always working, whether the audience focus is on him or not (believe me: I never looked away from him when he was on stage, I couldn't, watching everyone else from the corner of my eyes). He's nothing short of perfection.

But, hey, I might be biased. :)

In conclusion: it was fantastic and everyone was fantastic and I love everyone in this bar I wish I could see it again.

Outside the cut I can talk about how: I couldn't stop grinning* all the time Tobias was on the stage, whether he was being funny or not; there was a point early on in the second half where I literally flailed because I was so amused; the bit where my internal monologue actually shut down whilst Tobias was on stage.

I recommend it highly to anyone who're lucky enough to be able to get tickets. And to those of you that already do: I'm jealous that you have it ahead of you (and you must come talk to me all about it when you've seen it).

Coming up next: On How Jen Had A Conversation With Tobias Menzies Like A Real Human Being.

*This is a thing my Mum pointed out to me when we were watching Forget Me Not - that I just smile/grin at him the entire time he's on screen. Since she pointed it out I've become incapable of not noticing it and I've discovered that I just can't stop. There were moments during the play where I tried to smooth the grin out of my face because my cheeks were hurting, but I couldn't. Physically incapable.

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jennova: Jason Lee as Brodie, smiling. (Default)
jennova

October 2013

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