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The Cut (Ravenhill), my only stage performance

To finish off my trio of posts on Mark Ravenhill… I had the opportunity to assist John Tiffany in directing a first draft of The Cut, a play Ravenhill wrote for a Paines Plough Wild Lunch series.

They needed an extra (non-speaking) actor for a very very small part of the reading, so I was volunteered! Therefore, I appeared in the Young Vic studio along side Chiwetel Ejiofor (aka Chewie) and Corin Redgrave for most probably the only time on the London stage.

It now looks like The Cut will go on at the Donmar in 2006 directed by Michael Grandage and including Ian McKellen.

More on Mark Ravenhill

From a Guardian interview

“In Product, Ravenhill plays a script executive who’s pitching his film to a young, unseen starlet, ‘a Sienna Miller type’. He tells her the story as a Hollywood action adventure, though actually, it’s about her falling in love with a suicide bomber. ‘So there’s always this tension between corny story-telling and quite real story-telling,’ he says. ‘Sometimes it’s almost Bridget Jones goes Jihad: because she falls in love with this man, she’s prepared to go on this suicide bombing mission.’

Ravenhill is interested in both the idea of terrorism as a subject (‘it’s been floating around for a while’), and as a form. ‘An al-Qaeda bomb, or planes going into a tower, doesn’t have a story, unlike an IRA bomb. That had a story, in that the IRA would say, “This is going to happen”, then there would be a bomb, and afterwards there would be a claim saying, “Yeah we did it, and we want troops out of Ireland”. That’s your beginning, middle and end. But with al-Qaeda, there’s nothing like that, they just do it. I think that’s one of the things that unsettles us, because we want a story. So my character tries to give suicide bombing a story.

‘Also,’ he points out, ‘if you look at today’s TV news, it’s always oscillating between a real emotion and a Hollywood one. We do it ourselves: you find yourself telling a story of your life that’s quite true, and then slipping into a way of talking about your life that you’ve learnt from Heat.’”

Mark Ravenhill in New Mark Ravenhill play, Product

Mark Ravenhill stars in his own new play, Product, directed by Lucy Morrison. [At Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre from 17-28 August (not 22). Box office 0131 228 1404]

This should be intriguing.

Mark is playing in his own play. Trained as an actor and director before settling on writing, it will be interesting to see how the play comes off.

Here’s the press blurb:

Amy is a hot young starlet. Now all she needs is the script which will save her from B movie hell. A script which balances artistic integrity with blockbuster bucks. Mark thinks he’s got the perfect pitch – a script which combines a torrid love story with the dark spectre of terrorism and big, big explosions. If he can only persuade Amy, he’s got the perfect Product.

Mark Ravenhill is one of the most successful and respected writers of his generation. He burst onto the scene in 1996 with his smash-hit debut Shopping and Fucking which opened at the Royal Court, quickly transferred to the West End and has since been produced all over the world. He followed this with a series of further successes including Faust Is Dead, Handbag, Some Explicit Polaroids and Mother Claps Molly House. This is his professional acting debut.

Critics: acting

As in my other review post on Shoreditch Madonna, I note that Alexandra Moen was slated in the Sunday Indy by Kate Bassett. However (I assume they saw the same performance) Nicholas de Jongh of the Evening Standard loved it.

NdJ writes:
“Alexandra Moen’s powerhouse of a performance as the drug-prone, distraught Christina, apparently sleep-walking into her sexual past or laying hands and lips on the exploitative Devlin, deftly treads a fine line between pathos and dark comedy.”

This compares to KB:
“Alexandra Moen’s performance as Christina is absolutely excruciating. She is, as they say, extremely easy on the eye. But the poor thing appears to be permanently auditioning for Lady Macbeth’s sleep-walking scene, histrionically rubbing her hands. I think Christina was also meant to be sexually mad for it, mincing around in stilettos, seemingly unable to sit down and often crawling around invitingly on her knees. Or did she just have had a shocking case of piles?”

Were they watching the same person? Go figure.

Shoreditch Madonna, Soho Theatre

In the end it’s about love. Once that thought crossed my mind somewhere in the second half, I settled down to enjoy the play. It charts the tangled relationships between 6 characters tied together by their hopes for love, art and an upcoming workshop (by Devlin a formerly great painter) at a squatted gallery space in Shoreditch

I have to declare a possible bias. I know Alexandra Moen, who plays Christina [and incidentally received one of the most appalling reviews from Kate Bassett in the Sunday Independent that I’ve read – not justified in my opinion, although it is true that Alex does spend a lot of time on her knees and is beautiful – see other post].

Rebecca Lenkiewicz received rave reviews for Night Season at the National, but Shoreditch Madonna has been more mixed. Lyn Gardner at the Guardian argues that it is all style over substance, whereas Kate Kellaway (Observer) argues “there is great pleasure in the play’s dazzling, amorous geometry”.

I liked the play, although it took me a little to settle in to it. I think I know what Gardner is suggesting, the production is slick, the acting good, the people beautiful and at the heart there’s no major statement particularly about how we live life today.

Except there possibly is, as the play follows 7 or 8 characters (I count two of the characters as never seen, the son and Christina’s ex, Charlie] search for love in the face of death, loss and the struggle to live life/make art. And it’s this relationship and hope tangle that proves compelling and I think will resonate with some who have seen, experienced or imagined the same conflicts in love and loss. What draws us to those we can’t obtain, why do some lovers linger on in the memory when we should move on, we don’t we show we care before it is too late.

The language of the play is multilayered, sharp and lyrical at turns. Some might find it slightly hollow, others supportive of the overall play structure. It’s also peppered with a fair few art and literary references through out.

The direction was slick but with many short scenes and hence scene changes, there was a constant fight in not letting the tension drop. I think there was a fine balance between the comedy and the intelligence of the play as well. By this, I mean, much of the play could have been played for laughs or played to make you think and there was a balance between these two modes. The night, I saw it, the balance was more cerebral, which suits me and I think was the right choice by director, Sean Mathias.

Acting was strong from all the cast. I liked a particularly tender scene in Act 2 between Francesca Annis and Lee Ingleby but I feel it was a good ensemble effort.

In the end, as in the beginning the play is all about love and specific relationship tangles and is satisfying on this level. A should see if you like relationship plays, a could see if “the big idea” is what you want.

To Aug 6, 2005
Soho Theatre: 0870 429 6883

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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