Review of theater and dance: Good, Last Days, Peaky Blinders – The Redemption of Thomas Shelby

It was a week of intriguing new performances, with theater mixing with other art forms via a Peaky Blinders dance show and an opera based on the life of Kurt Cobain. Also, there has been a major return to the West End for Doctor who starring David Tennant.

Join us next week as we review the production of Studio Ghibli’s successful RSC My neighbor Totoro and Crystal Pite’s new Royal Ballet show.

Good – Harold Pinter Theater ★★★ ☆☆

“We are good people,” says Anne, John Halder’s lover Good. But can they be? Playwright Alan Plater described CP Taylor’s 1982 play as “the definitive piece on the Holocaust in the English language.” He keeps track of how Halder, a decent liberal professor from Frankfurt, falls into arguing in favor of the Final Solution. In the lead role, David Tennant is coldly cold and compassionate in his thrust of goodness, but Dominic Cooke’s confused production needs more clarity in order to fly.

Elliot Levey, David Tennant and Sharon Small in ‘Good’

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Elliot Levey, David Tennant and Sharon Small in “Good”

(Johan Persson)

Cooke made the unsatisfactory decision to reduce the usual cast of 10 to three. The supporting actors, Sharon Small and Elliot Levey, have a mammoth burden of playing all the other parts – who, despite their enthusiasm, achieve varying levels of success. The text is bewildering in form, with scenes that don’t always follow a linear narrative order, while the lack of a defined character identity prevents the production from feeling truly creepy.

However, as Halder, Tennant is terribly hypnotic. Stiff and empty, he keeps us at a safe distance as he swaps his internal monologue and public face. He appears physically anchored to the stage as the evil buried within him slowly fades. Tennant is an actor who is not afraid to take his time and is a meticulous performance; every move has a purpose, every shot considered aiming.

The game’s conclusion isn’t entirely shocking, but it has power. Good it is an alarming lesson about the dangers of narcissism and passivity that requires thinking about more than ourselves. Anya Ryan

Read the full review here.

Peaky Blinders: Tommy Shelby’s Redemption – Troubador Wembley Park Theater ★★★★ ☆

With a swagger, that of Steven Knight Peaky Blinders it has gone from an award-winning television series to an ever-expanding brand. There are plans for a spin-off movie and series, a festival, clothing brands, and more. Now Rambert Dance translates the Birmingham gangsters of the 1920s into motion, mixing the energy of rock concerts with urgent physical strength.

Choreographed by Rambert director Benoit Swan Pouffer and created in collaboration with Knight, the new show is a stylized dance drama. Taking a free hand with the series, it focuses on the love story between Thomas Shelby and Grace Burgess. There are snippets of Benjamin Zephaniah’s narrative, but the story is told in dance and through its fierce and elegant production.

The cast of ‘Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby’

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The cast of Peaky Blinders: Thomas Shelby’s Redemption

(Johan Persson)

Naya Lovell’s Grace acts with magnetic poise, bringing each scene into focus, while Guillaume Quéau’s Thomas Shelby is a bold motive, with a sense of physical threat. Musa Motha, who is an amputee, plays Barney with absolute conviction. Working on crutches, Motha and Pouffer weave distinctive silhouettes into a vivid narrative.

In all, there is a sense that Rambert is positioning himself for a new audience, trying to find a new way to connect. The company’s talented dancers give her total conviction, whether she plunges into brawl scenes, spills offstage into the auditorium, or dives into period style. It’s a smart and confident show. Zoe Anderson

Read the full review here.

Last Days – Linbury Theater ★★★★★

In 2005, director Gus Van Sant, best known for his haunting beauty My private Idaho – made a fictionalized arthouse film entitled Last days. It told of the final disappearance of Kurt Cobain: 100 minutes in which nothing happens, apart from the murmurs and grunts of the protagonist as he stumbles into his domain. Boring? You can say it again. But strangely, some people love that movie, and one of those people is French star Agathe Rousselle, who she claims to have seen it 15 times.

Agathe Rousselle in ‘Last Days’

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Agathe Rousselle in “Last Days”

(Camilla Greenwell)

Enter composer Oliver Leith, director Matt Copson, and choreographer Anna Morrissey, who transformed Van Sant’s film into an opera with Rousselle in the lead (non-singer) role. When they asked Van Sant for a copy of his script, his response was simply, “Do your thing” – and they did. So, here we are, in a beautiful wooden theater in the bowels of the Royal Opera House, watching the fruits of a collaboration between ROH and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

The surprise is that this show avoids all the clichés one might have foreseen. No one tries to reproduce Cobain’s voice (Rousselle just snarls in anger) and none of his signature songs are brought up. There is a shotgun, but it hangs on the wall and is not fired. What this talented team has created is extraordinary, something visually and vocally closer to Japanese aesthetics than anything else in the West, while the final scenes hint at a Bach choir tenderly put across a screen of ecstatic atonality. It will be fascinating to see what these people do next. Michele Chiesa

Read the full review here.

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