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Recommending: Growing your own vegetables

Theatre of Blood, dir by L Simpson & P McDermott

Theatre of Blood
by Lee Simpson and Phelim McDermott of Improbable
Until Sep 10 at the National Theatre

The blurb: Seven self-regarding critics assemble at a disused theatre in response to a mysterious invitation. Too late they discover its gruesome purpose as Edward Lionheart, an actor frenzied by a lifetime of sneering reviews, hacks his revengeful way through the bloody works of Shakespeare, assisted by a gang of murderous tramps.

Previously a film, the Improbable team give the show a “visual theatre” makeover.

I like Improbable (the last show I saw of theirs was a re-run of Animo an intimate improvised puppet piece and it was brilliant) and they have created a very fun piece. Visually much more interesting then an average National Theatre production (but not as stunning as Complicite and others have been recently, in my opinion).

However, once through the surface fun there’s not so much substance to the play. There’s a nod or two to the role of the critic and the symbiotic role they can play. There’s the motives for revenge and the ham side of acting but aside from that it’s an episodic tale of murdering a critic each scene in an inventive manner.

On the other hand, the ensemble acting and visual fun is great. Jim Broadbent hams it up as required and is ably supported. The scene changes and theatrical manipulation are very inventive and smooth.

In the end, personally, I wanted more from the play. Either the intimate totally inventive style of Animo, or the spectacular visual nature of Complicite / Robert Wilson / Lepage. Or something with a more driving narrative and deeper themes, not just several inventive ways of watching a critic die to the background of Shakepeare.

But that’s just me, there are many others, for who, some frivolous fun is just what they want. And I do too but Theatre of Blood didn’t quite do it for me. Perhaps, I was just in a more cerebral mood.

Go, if interested in visual theatre, or want some fun where you don’t have to thinkvery hard. Don’t go expecting an intellectual challenge.

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  • About me

    I'm a playwright and investment analyst. I have a broad range of interests: food, gardening, innovation & intellectual property, sustainability, architecture & design, writing and the arts. I sit on the board of Talawa Theatre Company and advise a CIS investment trust on socially responsible investments.

  • Recent Work

    Recent plays include, for theatre: Nakamitsu, Yellow Gentlemen, Lost in Peru, Lemon Love. For radio: Places in Between (R4), Patent Breaking Life Saving (WS).

  • Nakamitsu

  • Yellow Gentlemen