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Jekyll & Hyde Rose Theatre, Kingston

Off to the Rose Theatre earlier in the week, in Kingston, with Husby, teenage stepdaughter and the teenage son of an old friend of Husby to see Jekyll & Hyde. Stepdaughter is studying it as the nineteenth century novel (even though it’s a novella!) element of the GCSE in English Literature. A throng of similarly aged sat on cushions in front of the stage, overlooked by a full house across three tiers. Phil Daniels played Jekyll/Hyde in what I think was an Edinburghian accent for Jekyll and a Glaswegian accent for Hyde. Daniels excelled in the both roles, and created a physical transformation  of body and face when in Hyde mode. Rosie Abraham, who played the maid, also delivered a brilliant performance with a Dorset accent and plenty of attitude. In fact we all mentioned her as we discussed it afterwards. My only complaint is that it was too traditional; Jekyll & Hyde is one of those stories that can be played with; a few more risks could have been taken.

The Open House - The Print Room at The Coronet, Notting Hill

Whenever I tell people about The Print Room at The Coronet, they always say 'ah, the old cinema'. The building has been a landmark on Notting Hill for donkeys years. I remember watching a film there a good few years ago, and then went with Husby to see a play there for the first time a couple of years ago. We were taken with it as a theatre 'space' (everything is a 'space' nowadays!). It's very 'boho' or 'shabby chic'. I was there on Monday to see The Open House by Will Eno, directed by the former creative director of the RSC, Michael Boyd. 
The Open House is billed as a 'subversive family drama', all families are dysfunctional etc... that popular category of everything, and which is apparently Eno's speciality, if you can call it that given that Eno is 'only' young and probably doesn't want to be pigeon-holed so soon into his writing career. 
The play is a five hander, each of whom play two roles to great effect. Th…

Anything is Possible - Elizabeth Strout

Two days ago I bought the hardback of Strout's latest, Anything is Possible. I finished it yesterday evening. This is a 'novel of inter-connected stories', which features the fictional writer Lucy Barton, of My Name is Lucy Barton (blogged about already). We learn more about Lucy's brother, still in the dusty old town of Amgash, Illinois - the setting that is the main character. The Guardian claims it to be a 'shimmering masterpiece', and I agree.

Strout's work is often described as 'quietly written', and she is said to have 'a touch of Updike and Tyler'. Quietly written is one of those descriptions that means the 'sparse' writing provides the atmosphere into which the reader gladly sinks to enjoy a story of flawed and pained characters without being distracted by a 'writerly' approach. I have never sunk into Updike or Tyler, but her writing reminds me more of Richard Yates. But why liken her to anyone at all? It seems to be …

The Robin - Stephen Moss

One of the few advantages of living in Sussex is the nature and wildlife. Sure, every city has birds and foxes, but seeing the skylark for instance, up on the downs, is glorious. The way it ascends and then almost dances its descent with its characteristic and beloved song is joyful. But come Christmas, it's the robin most people think of. I received two robin related presents - a large tin garden robin from the husby - and The Robin - The Life of Britain's Favourite Bird, by Stephen Moss. It's a fascinating book, categorised into months - and follows the robin from nest to grave. A robin is lucky to live 18 months and may enjoy a bit of 'me' time in between two or, sometimes, three broods. I also received Steve Barnett's book 'The Countryside Year', which is again categorised into months, but which covers 'field and flower', 'landscape and culture', and wildlife. For January it states that we can expect a visit from the siskin, 'a …

Heather - Bush Theatre

Off to the Bush Theatre in Shepherd's Bush on Monday evening to see Heather, playing in the smaller studio theatre. It's the first time I've visited since the very well thought-out extension. Heather is a 55-minute two-person drama in three parts by Thomas Eccleshare. It starts ordinarily enough with an exchange of emails between a publisher 'Harry' and the new author 'Heather'. The author is reluctant to give public interviews or even to meet the publisher and we wonder whether the reclusive act is just a ploy for the author to create promotional mystique. Heather's book does well, which sees the publisher urging her on to turn up for the launch of the second book in what becomes a wildly successful series. Of course it's parodying J.K Rowling's success with Harry Potter.  But this comes with a delicious twist, revealed in the second act, which shows neither Harry nor Heather are whom they seem. The third act saw the two actors use the small sp…

Midwinter Break - Bernard McLaverty

The only other book that I've read of Bernard MacLaverty was the sublime Grace Notes, published in 1997, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize of the same year. That prize was awarded to an author of another similar hiatus recently broken, Arundhati Roy, of the widely acclaimed The God of Small Things. I was certain, when buying the kindle version of Midwinter Break, that MacLaverty's first book in seventeen years (Cal, 2001, was his most recent) had made both the Booker Longlist and Shortlist - but having just double-checked - am disappointed and confused to find it had made neither. MacLaverty's prose style feels Yatesian, after the late Richard Yates, US author of Revolutionary Road, and TheEaster Parade
Midwinter Break, set in Amsterdam, is written in the same deliciously clear and poignant prose that so widely marked out Grace Notes. The husby and I have not long returned from a late summer break in that same fabulous city. With the visit to the Rijksmuseum still fre…

Girl from the North Country - Old Vic

To The Cut last night to see Girl from the North Country, written and directed by Conor McPherson - he of The Weir. The story is set in a hotel in Duluth, Minnesota, in the ongoing Depression of 1934. Nick Laine is the hotel 'owner', although it is more accurate to state that the bank owes it, not him. Nick is married to Elizabeth, who now has dementia. They have two grown children - Marianne, a tall, graceful black girl whom they adopted when she was abandoned at the hotel years before and who now does a lot of the work in the hotel, as well as looking after her mama - and Gene, an alcoholic writer who doesn't seem to write - or certainly doesn't get published. The cast is an ensemble of characters - Mrs Neilson, with whom Nick is having an affair; Mr Burke and his wife and their 'simple' adult son, Elias; Doctor Walker; and Joe, who it seems has escaped from prison and is now en-route to Chicago, accompanied by a fellow escapee/bible salesman. The story is al…