Dead And Breathing 22.2.18

This coruscating two-hander at the Albany offered a near-perfect theatrical experience – a terrific play, great direction, a fine set and tour-de-force performances by its stars. Drama-lovers really couldn’t ask for more. Writer Chisa Hutchinson has created an extraordinary piece that swings restlessly from slapstick to heartache, from rancour to redemption and from offensiveness to sophistication without ever spilling over into cliché or bad taste. The plot is also spangled with genuinely surprising twists, including a brilliantly subversive ending, which I won’t spoil in case you get a chance to see the play later on its UK tour. And it is magnificently played by Lizan Mitchell as megarich widow Carolyn who is dying from cancer and by Kim Tatum as potty-mouthed, streetwise, God-fearing nurse Veronika who rails against her patient’s determination to commit the mortal sin of suicide. The plot hinges on Veronika’s moral dilemma when Mitchell offers her her entire fortune – 87 million dollars – to help her die. Yet what could easily have become a dirge or a farce gets the full human treatment here with episodes of hilarity (I loved the pumpkin joke), rage, affection and misery which were given moving depth by the skill of Mitchell and the equally impressive Tatum. The experience was made even more delicious thanks to Sarah Booth’s fabulous set and the breathless pace whipped up by director Rebecca Atkinson-Lord. An early contender for my play of the year – and hard to imagine it being surpassed in the next ten months.

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Trumpageddon

Many satirise Donald Trump but most fail because the man’s so homophobic, so mysogenistic, so racist, so paranoid and so egotistical that he’s a parody of himself. The latest attempt I’ve seen was Trumpageddon at Greenwich Theatre, a show written and performed by Simon Jay which aimed to out-offend a president who’s already offended a fair proportion of the planet. Rather than aiming for the ultra-smart and reasoned put-downs of such comedic luminaries as John Oliver and Trevor Noah, Jay presented Trump standing at a lectern making a speech in which he unleashed salvo after salvo of foul-mouthed tastelessness – to brilliant effect. It included gleefully outrageous claims about what Trump did to Theresa May in the Oval Office and a fabulously scurrilous analysis of the relationship between the Queen and Meghan Markle. There was a lurid film sequence of a trouserless Trump on the toilet as well as a running gag about his Slovenia-born wife Melania who he repeatedly described as an Estonian called Malaria. And there were plenty of clever, up-to-the-minute references to Putin, the FBI, the recent world leaders’ gathering at Davos, North Korea’s nukes and the president’s mental health. Several audience members were hauled up on to the stage to “help” as a shamelessly priapic Trump spouted sexist messages of hate and Jay bravely invited us all to join a Q&A session in which he improvised with great aplomb. The evening ended with Trump unleashing World War Three when his once-loyal Republican buddies decided to impeach him. This was a fine and consistently very funny dissing of the Donald. If only the real Trump was as smart and amusing…

TL Percussion

Any concert featuring three drum-kits is unusual, so one set in a church must be close to unique. But that’s the beauty of the free Thursday lunchtime performances at St Alfege’s – you never know what you’re going to get. The kits formed the centrepiece of a recital by Trinity Laban Percussion Ensemble, directed by Mick Dorian, who gave as memorable a performance as I’ve ever seen in Hawksmoor’s wonderful building. The septet began with the world premiere of To Blue, a composition by student Mikey Parson which brilliantly contrasted punky, thunderous drums with the mellifluous, ringing tones of two marimbas. The three kits were also at the heart of Brian Booth’s Rudimental Rock, a deceptively simple piece with an infectious groove. In a change of mood, Gosia Kepa was sensational on four-mallet solo marimba in Anna Ignatowicz’s Toccata, a tear-jerkingly lovely work that required amazing reach. Leonard Salzedo’s five-movement Concerto for Percussion Op74 featured all seven players – Kepa, Rory Clark, Dom Daggett, Tom Daley, Rhys Davies, Isis Dunthorne and Tom Plumridge – who gave bravura performances of this magical piece. I particularly loved the interplay between the four tuned timpani and the other drums. The recital closed with the first movement of JS Bach’s magnificent and world-famous Brandenburg Concerto No2 in F major played on six marimbas. It was hypnotic, offering not only a new take on a familiar work of genius but also helping to give us a new perspective on the way music has developed over the past 250 years.