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Wednesday, 4 May 2022

REVIEW: Prima Facie at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Post Pandemic audiences have returned to theatre seeking uplift and distraction from the global woes, so it is a bold move by Empire Street Productions to stage a new straight play in the West End with a powerful heartfelt message for something to change in the legal system dealing with sexual assault cases. The statistics show over 170,000 recorded sexual assaults in the year to September 2021( an increase of 12% over the preceding year) and 37% of these were rapes. The programme highlights the long tortuous delay between filing an accusation and the case being heard in court. It also challenges the audience as they take their seats looking into the neatly ordered chambers of a sexual assault defence barrister to consider their own unconscious bias about sexual offences, the victims and the perpetrators and the meaning of consent. How would we act if selected for jury duty on such a case? This reflection that the programme prompts summarises not just the context but the narrative of the play. So, it requires a tour de force performance and some smart and slick direction to bring the arguments, so clearly set out in HHJ Angela Rafferty’s article, to life on the stage. Jodie Cromer duly delivers in a remarkable gripping one hundred-minute one-woman performance which marks her West End Debut.

This is a legal game of two halves. In the first section, she explores how she became a defence barrister in sexual assault cases, prides herself on never “coming second” (losing a case) and revels in the role of challenging and exposing the inconsistencies and gaps in the prosecution case. It’s a brilliant engaging performance, energetically prowling around the stage, setting the scenes, and grabbing the audience’s attention with glaring eyes and pointing fingers. She is at the top of her game; funny, witty, sexy, provocative and in control. There are tiny insights into her Liverpudlian background and some self-doubt which she has to overcome to succeed, culminating in a quick sexual encounter with Julian on the sofa of his chambers establishing that rape does not have to be between strangers in a first encounter.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

REVIEW: Blithe Spirit at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Paranormal comedy in the 1940s British drawing room can be a difficult thing to pull off with a modern audience, but Richard Eyre’s production does a marvellous job of bringing Blithe Spirit to life. 

It is a fairly traditional production, but don’t think that that means the laughs are any less genuine. All around me in the stalls the impeccable comic timing of all of the actors was inspiring muffled giggles and outbursts of laughter that the actors had to pause to see out. 

Many of the funnier moments work so well because they are punctuated with movement - characters who catch each other's eyes at the perfect moment, and who covey much of their contained frustration through passive-aggressively finding something to do with their hands. 

Thursday, 8 August 2019

INTERVIEW: Eve Polycarpou, currently in Captain Corelli's Mandolin at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Eve Polycarpou is currently in Captain Corelli's Mandolin at the Harold Pinter Theatre, playing the role of Drosoula. Her other credits include Abuela in Strictly Ballroom (Piccadilly Theatre West End, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto), Yiayia Agape in Sunset at Villa Thalia for The National Theatre, Abuela Claudia in In the Heights at Southwark Playhouse and King’s Cross Theatre, The title role in The Manchester Library Theatre's production of Brecht's Mother Courage, Nerhjas in Judith Thompson's award-winning Palace of the End (M.E.N. nomination for Best Actress) and Agave in The Bacchae, both at Royal Exchange Manchester and Chanson Performer in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well at Charing Cross Theatre.

You’re currently in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, tell us a bit about the piece.

It’s all set in the Second World War on the small Greek island of Cephalonia which has been occupied by the Italians first and then the Germans. The occupation has a huge impact obviously on all the islanders; their livelihood is affected, there’s a shortage of food, their families and relationships, the fact that they are invaded and then feel imprisoned in their own homes.

A young Italian Captain, Antonio Corelli, comes onto the island. He plays the mandolin and in spite of the horrors of war that he’s witnessed and indeed what we go on to see him witness, his music gives him life and hope and also touches the hearts of some of the islanders, somehow bridging the divide.

A young Greek woman, the doctor’s daughter, Pelagia, is already betrothed to a fisherman, Mandras, an islander, the son of feisty widow Drosula however Mandras has to serve in the army and on his return we see how he has been very badly traumatised. He’s not the man they all knew or even the young innocent boy that his mother knew before he left. Pelagia sees her childhood ‘sweetheart’ disappear and starts to fall in love with Captain Correlli.

Ultimately this story is all about love in its various forms and the effect the war has on it; romantic love, people coming from two opposing situations being captivated by each other and dreaming of a peaceful family life together and unrequited love. The love of a young man who wants to have an ordinary normal life, with his childhood love, but who has been badly affected by war and cannot express his love through fear of more pain and hurt. The love of two soldiers who would ‘die for each other’, whose love ‘dare not speak its name’. The love of a mother for her son as she wants the best and fears the worst for her child, her island and her home, then indeed suffers the ultimate loss. Yet through all her pain she still believes in love to survive, to live and to ‘carry on even if the world is destroyed’.

You’re playing Drosoula in the production, tell us a bit about her.

Drosoula is a passionate strong hardworking woman, a widow who wants the best for her son. Striving for affluence for her fisherman son, she works alongside him to have a good job a good wife and a good home. She loves her son, her only son and only child and has strived to teach him how to be the best in many ways. We see her struggle to make a better life for him, care for him after he’s been wounded, grow to love Pelagia for the healing she gives her son, Mandras, and finally we see a mother who survives through the ultimate of losses. In this particular version we also hear her sing, representing the voice of Cephalonia, which is like the existential side of herself. We hear her sing some covers, Greek songs, well known in this period. We also hear her sing pieces of music created by the inimitable Harry Blake, musical director and composer. We also hear her improvise and lament the biggest most painful grief of all.

Monday, 5 August 2019

INTERVIEW: Madison Clare, currently in Captain Corelli's Mandolin at the Harold Pinter Theatre

A recent graduate of LAMDA, Madison Clare is currently playing Pelagia in Captain Corelli's Mandolin at the Harold Pinter Theatre after having been with the show on its UK tour. Her other credits include Plastic (Old Red Lion),Holby City (BBC) and I Knew Jesus (Nutopia/History Channel)

You’re currently in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, tell us a bit about the piece. 

It's a story about love in many different forms, and how it survives under the pressure of war. It's told through various visual forms, music and movement in many different ways by a number of artists and creatives

You’re playing Pelagia in the production, tell us a bit about her. 

Pelagia brings a new way of thinking to the island. She pushes against the restraints and expectations of being a woman in the 1940s. She's very strong-willed, independent and feisty. She’s insanely intelligent, and fearless in challenging people. 

At only 17 when the play begins, she really doesn't understand the dangers of war until it comes to her. It not only brings risk and tragedy, but also more restrictions - which means she pushes harder against them. She’s constantly being told what she can’t do, so the audience get to witness her grow, and bravely make decisions in taking what she wants.
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