Saturday, 20 June 2015

Two Plays

I had a ticket to see Damian Lewis, John Goodman and Tom Sturridge in Mamet's 'American Buffalo' at a matinee performance, and another to see Chiwetel Ejiofor in 'Everyman' at the National Theatre in the evening.

Which made for a fun day.

The last thing I saw Damian Lewis in was the BBC's adaptation of Wolf Hall, in which he played King Henry VIII.  His role here is very different.

The play is deceptively simple; three no-hopers, none of whom is as smart as they think they are, trying to plan a robbery to recover a rare and valuable coin (the titular American Buffalo (nickel) ) 
American Buffalo (photo from theatre site)
John Goodman is excellent as the slow-thinking Don, roughly generous towards the young, vulnerable,  Bob (Sturridge), and guilty when Teach (Lewis) persuades him to exclude Bob from their heist.

In fact all three performances are great - Lewis is flashy (and so very 70s!) but also lets us see Teach's underlying insecurity, and Sturridge's Bob is both pathetic and oddly appealing. 

It was a beautiful sunny day, so between plays I wandered along the embankment, through a pop up market, and visited Cleopatra's Needle.  Which is nice, and has some only-slightly-shrapnel-damaged sphinxes flanking it, which I don't think I have ever seen up close before.

Everyman  was very interesting. It's an updating (written by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy) of a 15th Century mystery play in which 'Everyman' has to account to God for his actions in life.

Everyman (Image from National Theatre site)
I had mixed feelings about it. Ejiofor is a superb actor, and I enjoyed the verse and the updating of the story, with Everyman starting the evening with an alcohol and cocaine fuelled birthday party, before being confronted with Death, the frailty of his relationships with friends and material possessions, and even with his family. 

However, the staging seemed, at times, to overwhelm the play - I can't help but feel that a slightly more muted production might have allowed the acting, and the writing, more space! 

I did, however, enjoy the specially printed banknotes, some of which were blown out into the auditorium, and loved Kate Duchene's cleaning lady/God)

Everyman and God (photo from National Theatre production gallery)
Despite some reservations about the over the top staging, I did really enjoy the play, and I'm glad I went.  I may even see the NTLive broadcast to give me a chance to see it again, and see what else I spot on a second viewing. 


Martha said...

I envy you, getting to see this American Buffalo. I sorta collect them. Saw Robert Duval (Godfather consigliore ) in the opening production on Broadway and then Al Pacino at Circle in the Square, Off-Broadway. Duval was excellent but Pacino was electrifying. Damion Lewis is one of my favourite working actors at the moment. He manages to combine physicality with cerebral intent in such a balanced ways. I would have loved to see his take on this play.

Sounds like the producers/directors chickened out on the Everyman and didn't trust what they had = from Euuu classic to Black lead, maybe we need to 'help' him along with a flashy production. Sad when that happens.

Real theatre is one of the things I miss most about no longer living in London.

Marjorie said...

I've never seen it before. I was really impressed with Lewis.

I know the National has a new director now Nicholas Hytner has left. - I just felt the play could have stood on it's own merits but was a little overshadowed. IS there a cinema near you that does the NTLive broadcasts? Maybe you could see what you think!