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, 8 July 2018

‘The Bridge’ – shown on BBC TV

(Rated 10/5 ) 

I have to write something about this outstanding series but not quite sure what will come out. I am being careful not to include any spoilers or at the very least any that would detract from the incredible experience of watching this. It is also a part-review focused pretty much solely on the aspect that caught my attention – the personal and psychological stories of the key detective characters. As it’s a TV crime drama series and you can of course get it on DVD and see over and over, it’s not as though - with this one – I need to permanently record the experience in case I forget how it felt like I have felt the need to do with theatre productions. Yet then again I am sure it will feel different the next time I watch. Certainly seeing the final episode ever for the first time I was absolutely on the edge of my seat and couldn’t eat or drink! Totally gripped and frightened for Saga and Henrik – not sure I have ever been made to care so much for two characters. And that’s the incredible story-creation and writing – Hans Rosenfeldt – and superb skill of Sofia Helin and Thure Lindhardt in performance and expression of their character’s emotional development following huge traumas. Saga and Henrik are the most extraordinary couple. Absolute genius in putting these two together with their conflicting issues and struggles both craving love and healing but fighting their own demons, which draw them together while repelling them.
Season1 (and ongoing into 2) puts Saga together with Martin – Kim Bodnia – a family man with imperfections and something on the side – but whose arguably ‘normal’ conventional life-style was a huge contrast to Saga’s single life and autistic-like behaviour patterns. He is Danish and she Swedish and a double murder which a combination of two bodies placed together in the middle of ‘The Bridge’ between Denmark and Sweden starts the crime drama element. Though that aspect of things is excellent in itself, the main interest for me – as I said above - was always the personal lives of the detectives and their interactions. I found the same with ‘Lewis’ and Hathaway in a much more subtle British way of course. Scandi-Noir drama is so gritty – of course initially brought to our attention by ‘The Killing’ with Sarah Lund – Sofie Gabol – and that jumper ;). She was fascinating in herself but with Saga it is as though we step up several gears with a phenomenal conception and her psychological journey is the most interesting I feel I have ever witnessed - in drama anyway. However her story starts relatively gently if you like. And we learn about her idiosyncrasies through Martin picking up on them – in the main humour is involved. Saga’s own special methods work well in detection – asking many questions, being obsessive about solving the puzzle – though her directness upsets many, especially the loved ones of murder victims being told insensitively about their demise. She does not understand small talk – mind you neither do I ;) – and seems to feel no emotion. Sofia’s embodiment of her is a masterclass in acting for sure. As Kim commented you feel the emotion just beneath the surface but using body language and an invisible veil of Sofia’s own facial creation nothing is apparently there. Saga struggles in relationships and especially living with anyone. She has OCD. She assesses right and wrong with head and not heart. She and cuddly Martin develop a lovely friendship yet ultimately when Martin falls foul of the law, it is Saga who has him convicted. (I know a spoiler but for the sake of making this review a little more comprehensible ;))
There is no coming back from that in Season 3 so Martin is gone and a couple more Danish detectives ‘suffer’ Saga and we wonder if she can work with anyone again til along comes Henrik. His story is as strange as hers in a several contrasting ways yet beautifully structured such as to bring us personal roller-coaster drama between them to the absolute max! I thought the first two seasons were excellent and with Martin gone, worried it would dip, but my goodness it stepped up even more gears, and in ways I relish. The traumas, the psychology, the ‘disorders’, the contributing backstories are riveting. Is Saga ‘just’ a classic case of Asperger’s or did her behaviours manifest from deep wounds in childhood? And in asking that question how much of anyone’s apparent ‘disorder’ is nature or nurture? My favourite scene is Saga telling a psychotherapist why she thinks she has PTSD. But I’m leaping ahead to season 4. In season 3 we initially feel Henrik is unsympathetic til his backstory is gradually revealed. This becomes critical to the ongoing interactions and adds a case to be solved. Henrisk and Saga seem to use each other at first but it is mutually beneficial and a relationship – with their issues – which they can both handle. Yet will emotions develop – and if so what then?! Can there be a happy ever after with them saving each other? And what even would that mean? Probably not any conventional contentment but in a way this series beautifully brings into focus unusual ways of being and how people manage that. Far more realistic in my view than the stock relationships and standard ways of them going wrong we get shown time after time in dramas. Ironically I relate to the former better myself and perhaps that is in part why I relish it. I relate to and feel for Saga more than many characters I have observed – is that because I have a disorder myself? – I don’t think so – I think she is super-real in her abnormalities which help all we ‘abnormal’ unconventional types connect with her J After all who is normal anyway?!
Yes The Bridge is excellent crime drama, but for me is it also the most fascinating study in human psychology and ways of relating.

The Bridge – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2018

Saturday, 19 May 2018

‘Chess’ – London Coliseum – Wednesday 16th May 2018

(Rated 8/5 ) 

I have a tendency to see productions I love more than once but not usually with 32 years in between performances and nor when I can hardly remember a thing about them aside from the obvious aspects – like the fact the BBs of ABBA composed the music in collaboration with Tim Rice on lyrics and that some of those songs burn into your ‘memory’ (musical-associated pun maybe intended) with enduring neural connections. I do remember the first of many times I saw ‘Les Mis’ but that had a personal association of going with my parents to the then new Barbican Centre. I could cheat and look up where ‘Chess’ was on but that wouldn’t be ‘playing the game’. And my goodness that is such a huge part of this show which I certainly never appreciated in full 32 years ago. ‘Chess’ was inspired by the political game of the time – the Cold War – and as Tim Rice comments here we are again very unfortunately – in a political conflict involving the same state players Russia and the USA and others. Then there’s the game of chess itself of course. But the layer deeper than that – which I suppose I was too young at the time to fully comprehend was the psychological and emotional games between the players/characters and that on so many levels with intriguing enticing complexity. And in addition the depth of life journey exploration in the songs. I am sure this is true of other musicals – in fact ‘Les Mis’ and Blood Brothers are great examples too - but I feel I’ve only just fully taken in how much any individual song written expertly – and in this case with simple poignancy in the words – can say all you need to know about any single character.
And on that note we are welcomed to the show with the best smile ever by The Arbiter (Cedric Neal) – I absolutely loved him from the moment he opened his mouth – and for me the ‘The Arbiter’s Song’ so expressive of character and delivered to perfection. Just while I am on welcomes the staff of the Colisium were so warm and helpful too – I felt really looked after. But back to individual characters and their theme songs, the power of ‘Pity the Child’ and backstory for Freddie Trumper (Tim Howar) is extraordinary. I can’t believe I’d forgotten it from the original. For his character his showy self-obsessed charismatic entrance and ‘One Night in Bangkok’ are more likely to come to mind. Now with counselling experience and the way that childhood loss/abuse/neglect explains the character’s behaviour and craving for attention and fame – being lost without it – your initial dislike of Trumper (yes I know!) immediately turns to empathy. What a song! The American was very raspy rocky in style which was a great contrast to Michael Ball’s (as the Russian Anatoly Sergievky) more theatrical operatic style. I probably don’t need to say how impressive he was – gorgeous voice. Nobody lets the side down at all. Alexandra Burke (as Anatoly’s wife Swetlana) really is so talented and – though you might think just another X-factor winner – she has an outstanding voice. Cassidy Janson as Florence Vassy was new to me – excellent – and so emotionally expressive – she lived Florence’s emotions in voice and facial expression. As did I. ‘I Know Him So Well’ is arguably the most famous song from Chess – originally performed by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson – in this production it moved me to tears. In fact I spent the entire time holding back tears and almost unable to contain my feelings! These days I do more enjoy plays than musicals but in saying that I feel I’ve dismissed the power of music to wrench at your heartstrings both with joy and sadness and all in between. My favourite performance – though not favourite song as such – was ‘A Model of Decorum and Tranquility’ for the skill it requires in harmony, timing and above all argumentative drama – performed by Cedric, Michael, Cassidy and Phillip Browne as the scary deep-voiced Molokov. Wow just wow!
It’s a long show – almost 3 hours – yet unusually for me right now I felt no pain at all! Maybe the seats at the Coliseum are really comfy or I was so engrossed that pain faded away.
This 21st century production of the 20th century original was truly amazing with the clever use of current media such that it was both a stage and screen piece. On the screens characters on different parts of the stage could be presented side by side – perhaps to best effect in ‘I Know Him So Well’. It also allowed us in the cheaper seats (!) to see close-ups of the performers’ faces. And the protagonists’ chess battle going on whilst we see images of the cold war battles on screen in stark accompaniment - in addition to Cedric Neal – yes my favourite – telling us the story of chess.
It has been criticised for lack of story. Who needs story when you have such clever symbolism and communication between different aspects of conflict and game-playing on so many levels and symbiosis of music, psychology and lyrics communicating such depth of drama.
Oh and to add to all that you have the excellent ENO playing the score. And dashing dancing!
I recommend John Snelson’s article in the program ‘Not The Game, But The People’ and of course the two Bs are Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. Scandinavians certainly do rock!
A truly remarkable multi-media and multi-style entertainment experience.

Chess – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2018

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