After six months I found myself back in one of the world’s most inspiring places with regards to entertainment: London’s West End! Time for another theatre marathon, consisting of these plays: American Buffalo, starring Damian Lewis, John Goodman and Tom Sturridge, The Merchant Of Venice, including Jonathan Pryce and Daniel Lapaine and The Elephant Man, with Bradley Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola.
- American Buffalo – Wyndham’s Theatre (3/5 stars)
Don (John Goodman) runs a junk shop and sells a buffalo nickel for ninety dollars. However, he suspects it’s worth much more. Don and Bob (a young recovering addict played by Tom Sturridge) are planning on stealing the coin back. Then the fast talking and swearing Teach (Damian Lewis) gets involved… I have to admit I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the first half. I saw Speed-the-Plow (also a David Mamet play) with Lindsay Lohan and Richard Schiff in October and it had striking similarities. Only three actors on stage, quick witted dialogue and not a lot happening in the first act. That’s why it takes a while to get involved with the characters. The second act however was much more interesting and the building tension reaches a slightly violent climax. I was particularly impressed with Damian’s energetic performance as Teach and Tom’s vulnerable way of portraying the character of Bob.
Afterwards I got the chance to briefly speak to actors Damian Lewis and Tom Sturridge and ask them why people should come and see this play.
“Because it’s an extraordinary play and it stars Damian Lewis and John Goodman!” Tom Sturridge quips, modestly leaving himself out of the equation.
“People should come to the theatre because It’s a shared act of imagination, that happens spontaneously at the same time between actors on stage and the hundreds of people in the audience. It’s a very rare occasion that people get to do that,” Damian Lewis explains. “They should come and see American Buffalo in particular because it’s both funny and savage at the same time.”
- The Elephant Man – Theatre Royal Haymarket (4/5 stars)
Bradley Cooper is phenomenal in this play based on the real life of Joseph Merrick, who stars in a travelling freak show in the 19th century, but then gets taken care of by Dr. Treves (played by the wonderful Alessandro Nivola). The doctor introduces him to actress Mrs. Kendal (great performance by Patricia Clarkson) and both are touched by the authentic kindness of the ‘Elephant Man’ and his yearning for love and understanding. The emphasis in the play lies on the acting, which is incredible. Or should I say: credible? Those of you who have only seen Bradley Cooper in Hollywood blockbusters, will be impressed. You will hardly recognise the actor, who changes his posture, accent and way of talking drastically to impersonate the malformed Joseph Merrick. Bradley has said the role actually causes him quite a bit of physical discomfort. However, it definitely shows the actor is extremely talented and committed to his craft. Hopefully we’re going to see him perform more often in London’s West End.
Actress Patricia Clarkson and actor Anthony Heald tell me afterwards what they think makes The Elephant Man unique.
“This play is beautiful and timeless,” Patricia Clarkson says. “You’ll see Bradley Cooper in a way you’ve never seen him before… and you’ll see me naked!” she adds with a smile.
“It’s very moving, but also funny,” Anthony Heald reveals. “It’s an extraordinary production and it’s happening in one of the most glorious theatres in the world!”
- The Merchant Of Venice – Shakespeare’s Globe (4/5 stars)
This play is a truly unique theatre experience. The wooden structure, the open roof and the atmosphere of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre all add to the magic of The Merchant Of Venice. Luckily for both the actors and the audience, it only rained before the play and during the intermission when I was there. The famous Shakespeare play has both dramatic and light hearted elements in it and that’s what makes it so interesting to watch. Another highlight is the interaction with the audience. One of the actors even dragged two helpless people on stage to ‘star’ in the production during one scene. Much to the delight of the audience, as it had them almost in stitches from laughing so hard. Actor Jonathan Pryce plays the lead ‘Shylock’ and gives away an impressive performance, being able to be vulnerable as well as menacing. The ensemble cast does a marvellous job and you can tell that they’re having a great time doing it. On a side note… although the Shakespearean language is a bit difficult to follow sometimes, particularly for non-native English speakers, there’s enough action on stage to understand what’s going on. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying a fantastic evening!
I really enjoyed my experiences in the West End and plan on going back for another round of theatre visits in the near future!