Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Introduction to The Restricted Review

Hi! I am the Restricted Reviewer.
I am absolutely passionate about performances of actors, particularly on stage but also on screen.
I really enjoy writing about my experiences as an audience member and they include both my point of view on the performances but also the entire experience I have had around those performances.
You may find my reviews are restricted (enhanced) by OCD and walking disabilities ;). They are my own personal take and as such not reviews written in any standard or conventional way.
I very much hope you will enjoy reading and feel inspired to go see the performances yourselves.
Thank you and Best Wishes,
The Restricted Reviewer X

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Sunday, 15 April 2018

‘Frozen’ – Theatre Royal Haymarket – Tuesday 10th April 2018 ‘Marcella’ – Season 2 - ITV - Final Episode broadcast Monday 9th April 2018


(Rated 7/5 ) 

So we have 2 lady leads again but this time in 2 different productions – ‘Frozen’ and ‘Marcella’ - yet linked by a single theme hence my writing about them together. And that theme child abuse and murder! Jolly really! Oh and I suppose another link is two supreme actresses who both started out in soaps; Suranne Jones as feisty Karen McDonald in ‘Coronation Street’ and Anna Friel as the ground-breaking lesbian and incest-abuse survivor/challenger Beth Jordache in ‘Brookside’. They are both of a rare breed who do well in soap and then even better when they leave. Rumour is Suranne will be making a return to ‘Corrie’ – maybe they’re concerned about ratings when the demise of Phelan finally comes ;)
Anyway both plays are profoundly horrifying and leave you chilled and stunned. They explore the psychology of abuse – in various forms - on all concerned.
In ‘Frozen’ by Bryony Lavery, Suranne plays the mother of a little girl who has gone missing. Jason Watkins’s character turns out to be her abuser and child murderer. And Nina Sosanya acts as a doctor studying the factors which cause people to abuse. Taking place over a number of years, much of the play is delivered in the form of monologues from each of those 3 – alone on stage communicating as though directly to the audience or we act as witnesses to their processes. We feel intrigued as to whether these three will interact at some point. Suranne’s character fully engages us and with her highly sensitive exceptionally natural emotional range we feel such empathy for her. Jason is excellently creepy and repellent as the abuser – his perversion and motivations feel so real – again excellently performed. It is down to Nina to initially bring us into the play and as time proceeds involve us mentally – we already are emotionally - as she presents her lecture on the psychology of abuse. This involves neuroscience and the impact of abuse, stress and neglect on the human brain. Ultimately we learn what may lead someone to harm someone else. This is powerful naturalistic stuff and presents us with themes of emotional paralysis and the way forgiveness can both help those who have suffered as a result of abuse and as a catalyst for an abuser to reconnect with emotion even feel pain and empathy for their victim.
‘Marcella’ in some contrast has much more of a surreal tone to it and there seems little hope of forgiveness in its stark, brutal scandinoir-type-ness. No surprise as it is written by the outstanding ‘The Bridge’’s writer Hans Rosenfeldt. Whilst Suranne’s character seems to have had a normal down-to-earth life before the loss of her daughter, Anna’s character is a deeply disturbed mother with severe mental health issues. She is just as – if not more – traumatised – even prior to the actions of the piece – than the perpetrators of the crimes she is investigating in her detective work. As such she struggles as a mother whilst we feel the full warmth of mothering from Suranne’s character. However both also show remarkable strength and humanity.
‘Marcella’ raises some interesting, dubious and at times horrific ideas as to how to prevent abuse – no spoilers here so I will say no more! ‘Frozen’ is kinder and more compassionate about it though to what result? Again no spoilers.
Though these both come with an emotional health warning – I would highly recommend both dramas. Enjoy is not the word but they touched me profoundly and I feel I have gained from experiencing them.
A little note on settings – TV is clearly your TV in your own room J The Theatre Royal Haymarket is a wonderful ‘oldy wordly’ classic theatre – with lots of stairs – though I was told of a way to get directly to street level via a back-entrance – and ornate décor. I have enjoyed many masterclasses held there and recommend for students of theatre as well as audience members interested in the theatrical process.

Frozen & Marcella – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2018

Monday, 2 April 2018

‘Mary Stuart’ – Duke of York’s Theatre – Saturday 31st March 2018


(Rated 7/5 ) 

Even as a young child I was fascinated by Elizabeth I and herstory. I’m not sure why. Could it be I had the bizarre luck to grow up in an Elizabethan Manor House during which time I was friends with the spirit of a catholic priest?! Could it be she was also a strawberry blond ;) Or that she was outwardly a powerful woman – a role model – yet who deep down you could romanticise was hugely emotionally intelligent. Being as obsessed with her life’s journey as I have been, I’m sure life experience played a massive part in her life’s decisions. One of those – which she avoided like the plague – has a central role in this adaptation by Robert Icke of the original Friedrich Schiller play. How would she ‘deal with’ her cousin Mary Stuart – Queen of Scots – and the threat she posed to the throne of England?
I saw a review of this which had the headline ‘Electrifying’. I completely agree! If I may I would extend it to ‘Extraordinary Electrifyingly Emotionally Engaging Exciting Escapade to Who/How Evolves into Elizabeth I’ ;) And the Who is fascinating on a number of levels. The female leads – Lia Williams and Juliet Stevenson – appear on stage in exactly the same costume – black velour trousers and jacket with a flowy white blouse. They bow to each other and one calls ‘Heads’. Between them Leicester – John Light – spins a sovereign and the lady who wins Heads gets to keep hers! In the performance I saw Lia called ‘Heads’ and it came down tails hence she played Mary. Then a quick subtle change in costume – Mary ‘loses’ her jacket, her hair stays ‘softer’ and her blouse out of her trousers, whilst Elizabeth heads off stage and when she returns she has more slicked-back hair, wears her jacket and her blouse is tucked inside the waistband of her trousers. There is so much underlying this and the impact on both women. There but for the ‘grace of God’ go I – who would be Queen and who would stay alive such a chancy business especially at that time – and religion of course another factor – Protestant Elizabeth and Catholic Mary. And who would they each of been if they’d lived the other’s circumstances – as Mary later says in the play – ‘We are the same’. The psychology is so moving and as we know nurture, culture and society play a big part on personality. Both actresses were stunning especially given they only know after that coin toss who they are going to play! I feel I have more of an idea of Elizabeth and felt Juliet channelled her power and emotional struggles perfectly. Lia gave Mary such sensitivity and vulnerability. I read the other way around was equally as good though have a good authority Juliet makes the better Elizabeth.
This play is not just a history. It is part fictionalised. Written as expertly as Shakespeare did his history plays so that you don’t sit there thinking ‘No, that’s wrong’ but rather what a cleverly dramatic idea. In this the two women meet – they never did in real life. And characters such as Leicester play dangerous manipulative games between them. Leicester’s interactions with the ladies and those of Mortimer – Rudi Dharmalingham – involve some seduction and loyalty issues too! It’s all very touchy feely – at times gently and caringly so, at others more forceful even violent. Talbot – Michael Byrne – comes across as a loving father figure to Elizabeth. Burleigh – Elliot Levey – is a younger edgier version of his real life counterpart. I felt immediately drawn to young Davison – David Jonsson Fray – Elizabeth’s manservant who carries the can for her in more ways than one!
The attention to detail is incredible. Lia signing Mary’s name and then Juliet ‘Elizabeth R’ blew me away. And at the end when Mary is stripped to just a white slip whilst Elizabeth is dressed as in the ‘Darnley portrait’ of her we all know so well with whitened face and red wig.
All the relationships in this are charged but of course none more so than that between Elizabeth and Mary. Truly electrifying - brimming with risk, fear, sensitivity, power switches, respect and contempt, love and hate and all in between. And also their relationships with themselves their morals and values – their speeches are packed with conflict and emotion which almost exhausts the audience. The empathy for them is palpable. Of course we also relate to the politics – how to cope with the fickle ‘will of the people’ – how to stay loved?!
After the coin spin result is known the two ladies shake hands. At the curtain call Lia and Juliet kissed. I so wanted to go up and hug them! This has to be right up there in my top 5 favourites – with Chiwetel’s Othello, Peter and Alice, David T’s Hamlet and… can’t remember right now lol! I adore this herstory and this play!

Mary Stuart – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2018

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

‘Julius Caesar’ – Bridge Theatre – Wednesday 7th March 2018


(Rated 7/5 ) 

Wow, wow and wow again to such a compelling production of William Shakespeare’s political thriller. It starts with a rock concert involving many of the actors including David Morrissey (Mark Antony) singing and Fred Fergus (Lucius) on guitar. Lots of fun and really got us going and into the tone of this modern production – which, without any alterations to Shakespeare’s original words – aside from cutting play-length – hinted so much to the struggles of our times. Julius Caesar (David Calder) is the popular dictator with a red baseball cap and slogan ‘Do This!’ – worshipped and adored by the masses. Ben Whishaw’s Marcus Brutus comes across as an intellectual Liberal – caught in a dilemma as to what action or inaction is best to achieve democracy – we could see him fighting anything he feels would do damage to the good of the people in spite of what they have been wooed to believe - Brexit
J Michelle Fairley plays Caius Cassius and is such a wonderful double-act with Ben Whishaw. They feel like brother and sister though I imagine for Shakespeare they weren’t siblings and of course in his time would have been played by a man. In this production there is a lovely balance of men and women. And all in all it feels far more emotional, personal and engaging than any other production of this I remember seeing. OK well to be fair I don’t remember the only other production of this which I have seen, but maybe that in itself says a great deal. My theatre companion at the time found it very dull.
The staging in this production is extraordinary and so exciting. Bridge theatre is an amazing space. Similarly to Shakespeare’s Globe there is seating in the round and then members of the audience can also stand around the stage. In this production’s performance the pieces of stage move scene to scene – coming out of and then disappearing back into the floor. Standing members of the audience are guided to locations required and also to participate as appropriate as though being members of the crowd welcoming a victorious Caesar home, senators, soldiers involved in battle etc. If I were more able I would have loved to be a standing audience person ;)
I didn’t used to be very political and maybe I enjoyed it more as it relates so much to our time too and the serious issues we are facing. But without that I still think it’s very good!
The talent in all areas of this production is so, so strong. Sheer impressive excellence.
I highly recommend it!

Julius Caesar – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2018

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

‘Beginning’ – Ambassador’s Theatre – Tuesday 27th February 2018

(Rated 5/5 ) 

A wonderful night including a wonderfully ordinarily real play with two of my wonderfully extraordinary friends, which could have been prevented by the weather! It tried its hardest… snow on and off all day… and as I tentatively made my way to the theatre to collect tickets I slipped ever so slightly on icy pavements… very anxious not to fall and break yet something else adding to my restrictedness. In a way just that little journey reflects the play itself – but I’ll come to that in a little bit.
So tickets collected and another shaky potentially perilous trip of just a minute to get to the nearest Rosa’s Thai café – awkwardly struggling along to get nicely fed and then back again to the theatre. Still thankfully no major catastrophes… We also managed to navigate a very tiny ladies’ bathroom – with just 2 cubicles – trying not to bump into each other and strangers as we shuffled around and in and out… Getting to our seats relatively easy thankfully – asked by a lovely young man to ‘find your way to your row, for me, please’ - and then enjoying some of my favourite music from the 80s – maybe representing the end of Laura’s party at which the play starts…
Awkwardness resumes as Laura (Justine Mitchell) tries to begin a liaison with stranger Danny (Sam Troughton), the last lingering guest at her party. Ok and here’s where I want to be careful to avoid spoilers – though her motivation becomes clear and their attraction yet avoidance – the dance of intimacy so to speak – is all together charming, funny, painfully embarrassing and endearingly uncomfortable. It feels so honest and as such so refreshing compared to maybe the more usual rom-coms. Their revealing and hiding interaction is played out in real time as we can see too from the clock on the wall of Laura’s kitchen. Two-handers seem to be becoming more common in plays – I’ve seen some excellent ones in TV soaps before now ;)… back to that in a moment too – and I love them and feel in huge admiration for the actors carrying that. Right and here’s the soap connection that I got totally wrong and feel the need to apologise to my friends and Sam Troughton – who I mistakenly thought was Declan Bennett who played Charlie Cotton – Dot’s (June Brown) grandson in ‘Eastenders’. Yes she has been in fantastic two- and even single- handers in that show. Anyway Sam is in fact – in real life ;) – the grandson of The Second Doctor – in real life lol Patrick Troughton. So my muddledness prevails ;) Sam is excellent! And so is Justine, but for some reason I found it slightly harder to engage with her character initially. The play is written by David Eldridge and I wonder if – for me – he didn’t quite connect with the woman’s POV in places. Still his dialogue was perfect in its naturalness and keeps us hooked all in one scene with the ebb and flow of underlying emotion and external actions of his characters. The play’s director is the highly accomplished Polly Findlay – who also directed ‘Antigone’ starring two Doctors ;) – the Ninth (Christopher Eccleston) and Thirteenth (Jodie Whittaker).  Great set – just enough room for the two characters to be able to avoid each other - and yet small enough so they can collide.
I thoroughly enjoyed this and do like the space-restricted Ambassador’s in keeping with some of the themes of this play and evening.


Beginning – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2018

Sunday, 31 December 2017

MY FAB FOUR FILMS of 2017

(Rated 20/5 ;)) 

Before this year ends I wanted to give a shout-out – so to speak – to four films which have wowed me this year! Unlike theatre I can see them again of course but for the record wanted to note them down on here for posterity with my initial reactions…
Blade Runner 2049
Wow wow wow and wow again!!!! Utterly Stupendous Experience in the company of G, Ryan and Harrison. Excellently Clever links to the original film. Fascinating Exploration of Identity through SciFi again. Superb Script. Amazing Acting. Very good VueXtreme and Comfy leather seats. Absolutely Fab-u-lous!!!
Paddington 2
Such a special day seeing Paddington 2 with one of my oldest friends and then to receive this lovely book as a Christmas gift!! Paddington and Dogs all teach us really important stuff
Star Wars VIII : The Last Jedi
Wow what an experience seeing this with G today. Thank you for being there with me! A really excellent film - back to great Star Wars quality and revolutionary in its own way as was A New Hope. A good powerful story with familiar welcome Star Wars themes. Very well acted by all concerned. And genuinely outstanding from Mark and Carrie - who both for me seemed to step up a gear or more. Carrie's performance the best I've ever seen her. I coped with the emotion til Leia says there's been too much loss - I totally broke down and so good to be able to hold G's hand n him mine! As widely stated - so not a spoiler - the next film was intended to focus more on Leia - and I can see where that could've been going - so absolutely devastating Carrie can't do it. What will they do for Leia now?! Though as her SciFi Twin said #AlwaysWithUs #CarrieOnForever
Dunkirk
Excellent suspenseful very real-feeling drama about this extraordinary event which literally changed the world and showing communal humanity against adversity. Filmed as much as was possible at Dunkirk itself and with authentic action, planes, ships and young men! Stunning.


MY FAB FOUR FILMS of 2017
– Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2017

Saturday, 30 December 2017

‘Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle’ – Wyndham’s Theatre – Saturday 16th December 2017

(Rated 7/5 ) 

This review has been uncertain – in fact I have not been able to predict whether it would be written at all. I saw the play with my father 9 days before Christmas and then the very fact of Christmas coming and preparations for that made it difficult for me to be certain of finding time to write it. I have also not been able to be sure of getting it done since and now I sit typing I feel uncertain – as to be fair I do for all reviews and all my writing – as to what words and in what order and with what spaces in between will come out of me right now. What I can be certain of is that it was such a special evening that I would be very disappointed not to have this review to permanently try to record my experience of it for the future. That said I feel doubtful as to how much I will remember and - when I read it back at some uncertain future date – what memories of emotion will be triggered. Life is of course very uncertain. There is very little we can hold on to for sure. If we look hard at something and keep focusing on it as though to capture it forever we may not even realise it is moving away from us… until perhaps it has totally gone. Decades earlier I would never have known having seen a stage show with both my parents – that it would be the last time I would do so with Mum and that it would be years before Dad and I did so with just her spirit – but oh what a spirit filled with love of the theatre – with us. The thought of that on that night and now makes my head spin with the unpredictability of us beings and our being in this world…
So maybe I should end my philosophising a la Heisenberg and get on with writing what I thought about it! For this one I had no real expectations and was very pleasantly surprised. A play about a chance meeting between two very different people – both who have spent years trying to control their existences in this uncertain world – and found strategies to cope creating – apparently – a resistance to any kind of a relationship between them. And having met once by chance why would they meet again and so develop any connection at all in any case? In the development of his two-hander, writer Simon Stephens plays with numerous ideas involving Heisenberg’s Principle and has it as a third character constantly impacting on Georgie and Alex’s interactions, their dialogue, their circumstances and discussion of ideas on how the principle plays out in music, dance and many other aspects of life. It is as though the scientist Heisenberg – with us the audience of researchers - is studying these two humans in an experiment and the wonderful staging and production – so minimal yet capable of expressing so much – reflect that concept. With just a very few props - which the actors assist the mechanics of the staging to appear and disappear – different locations and rooms are created with the aid of the audience’s imaginations and actors descriptions. The lighting is used to either stark or hazy effect as though to create chemical solvents into which to add the substances – the characters. Will they attract or repel?
Alex (Kenneth Cranham) does seem to be initially repelled by the unwanted advances of Georgie (Anne-Marie Duff) at the busy railway station where they first meet. She is American, out-spoken, kind of crazy and much younger than himself. He is a quiet English butcher who loves the silence of walks, dancing and the spaces between the notes of Bach. Anne-Marie Duff is exceptional giving us a character of maddening attractiveness and humour and whom we can’t believe as she lies! Kenneth Cranham provides the perfect foil. Together their performances are mesmerizing. Her exuberance complimented by his stillness, they go on a journey together through the wealth of human feelings with Simon Stevens giving us just enough information about their backstories and the actors emoting so well as to make us fully empathise with them both and fascinated by how things will turn out for them. What will be the results of the experiment? What can be we conclude about uncertain human behaviour in our unpredictable settings?

#HeisenbergPlay

Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2017