Tag Archives: colin morgan

Mojo – Harold Pinter Theatre

mojo 1This has been a difficult play to review because I still keep changing my mind over whether I liked it or not.  Without question, it has a strong cast, it’s well acted and wickedly funny – it had me absolutely helpless with laughter at some points.  But, as with some plays (and it is important that such plays exist), none of the characters are particularly endearing and not a lot really happens.  All of the action that steers the play has happened several hours before, somewhere else and we are now watching the aftermath.

Mojo plunges us into a seedy underworld of neer-do-wells in late 1950s Soho just as rock’n’roll is starting to explode onto the London music scene.  For the boys at the Atlantic Club, there’s money to be made, drugs to push, territory to defend and an endless stream of liberal-minded girls.  When a rival gangster Mr Ross murders Ezra (their club owner) in a very grisly manner and teen heartthrob Silver Johnny has gone missing, Mickey, Sweets, Potts, Baby and Skinny start to wonder if one of them could be next, so decide to barricade themselves into the club for the weekend.  The claustrophobic atmosphere means that the cracks between them start to appear very quickly.  As if the situation itself wasn’t bad enough, they’re trying to deal with it whilst assortedly hungover, still buzzing and/or on a comedown (or any combination of the three).

It takes a little while to tune into the dialogue and vernacular of ‘Laaandan’, partly because it’s very naturalistic with people shouting over each other and partly because it’s drug-addled nonsense. Potts (Daniel Mays) is a brash, cocky wideboy – very much the character of the gang – who seems to be incapable of standing still and constantly chips in with whatever is running through his head.  A lot of it, utter crap.  But very funny crap.  Everything from another man’s shoes “penny loafers.  NO tassels.”  to the correct use of linguistics:  “…in the bins, by the bins, what f***ing difference does it make?!  He’s been sawn in ‘alf!”  He also has one of the best lines of the play, talking about the girls who get so excited by Silver Johnny that they soil themselves: “anything that makes polite young ladies come their cocoa in public is worth taking a look at!”

Daniel Mays – Potts

It’s often difficult for screen actors to make the transition to theatre, but Rupert Grint (best known as Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films) thankfully cuts the mustard in his stage debut.  Sweets is vaguely reminiscent of Ron, but with more pills and swearing.  He is both gormless and always slightly wired.  Grint is blessed with the sort of natural comic timing that cannot be taught – he is on stage almost constantly and manages to be funny even when he’s not saying anything.

Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, Cloud Atlas and Richard II in BBC’s series The Hollow Crown) plays Baby, a deeply troubled and complex character, with astonishing skill; one minute a playful ingenue, then quietly vulnerable, then dangerously volatile. The change is so subtle that you don’t notice it until he’s gone from gentle boy to threatening someone with a cutlass and calling them a c*** within a few syllables. The violence is terrifyingly realistic; too often stage fighting can look choreographed and placed – this looks far more visceral and spontaneous.  And who knew that buying toffee apples as a gift could be so menacing?!  Whishaw also pulls off some very Elvis-esque crooning with great aplomb.

Ben Whishaw – Baby

Skinny (Colin Morgan, Merlin in the BBC series of the same name) is the lost boy of the gang; with no real identity of his own, he copies Baby’s hair and style – at a glance they’re almost indistinguishable from each other.  Morgan plays him with a great desperation to fit in and be liked.  His final scene starts off being blackly funny “oh no, I’ve got blood on my shirt…. my teeth feel all wobbly.” then slowly moves to being quietly harrowing.  The vibration in his voice is quite something.

Mickey (Brendan Coyle, Mr Bates in Downton Abbey) has a menacing undercurrent which he mostly keeps under wraps. He comes across as emotionally hollow, a man who puts business before anything else.  Even when all the others are losing their heads in a delirious haze of amphetamines, he is silently mulling things over, not even giving anything away to the audience.  Special mention should also go to Silver Johnny (the devastatingly beautiful Tom Rhys Harries) who appears briefly at the start for some rock’n’roll posturing and posing, vanishes for most of the play, and then spends the best part of 20 minutes strung up by his ankles.  A small, but surely physically demanding part.

The only trouble with this play is it is LONG.  The first half is loaded with pace and quickfire dialogue and it keeps you laughing frequently at some pretty grimy subjects – the sort where your moral compass looks at you with absolute disdain and you know that you should feel terribly guilty (but somehow, you don’t).  The the second half has some truly inspired lines like: “Yeah, I came down the chimney.  Like f***ing Father Christmas.”, but once the laughs stop coming, the whole thing feels like it’s starting to sag and it has no sign of resolution.  It could’ve easily been 10 minutes shorter with no detriment to the overall play.  It is a good play and it is well done.  As it happens, I liked it; I just didn’t love it quite as much as I wanted to.  I suspect a lot of people will see this based on the casting and the hype – do go, but make up your own minds.

Mojo is currently in preview at the Harold Pinter Theatre, Panton Street, LONDON, SW1Y 4DN and officially opens on Wednesday 13th November; it is currently booking until Saturday 25th January 2014.  Contains frequent use of very strong language.  For more information and tickets, go to http://www.mojotheplay.com/

The Tempest – William Shakespeare (Shakespeare’s Globe)

I am a long term fan of Shakespeare’s Globe.  I bought a brick for £5 when it was being built in 1996, and having now seen 8 excellent productions on its stage, I’d say it was a great investment.  If your back, legs and feet can handle it, standing in the yard with the groundlings is the best ‘seat’ in the house – you get a great view of the stage and can always move if someone tall stands in front of you.  At just £5.00, it’s also the cheapest theatre ticket in London.

tempest

Prospero, the usurped Duke of Milan was banished by his brother Antonio and 12 years later, he still wants revenge.  When Antonio’s ship sails near the island, Prospero uses his magic to conjure a tempestuous storm.  The play opens with its iconic shipwreck scene, with all sound effects provided by the percussionists in the gallery – the matinee sunshine is a little at odds with the sounds of rolling thunder and howling wind, but the men onboard the ship become separated in the storm and each in turn wash up on the island.  There we meet Prospero (Roger Allam), his daughter Miranda (Jessie Buckley), his spirit companion Ariel (Colin Morgan – Merlin in the BBC TV series of the same name) and his deformed feral servant Caliban (James Garnon).

Roger Allam gives a great performance as a man whose bitterness has been reignited by the reappearance of his brother and he proceeds to play tricks on the shipwrecked men, aided by Ariel.  Colin Morgan imbues his character with an almost childlike mischievousness and proves himself more that worthy in a stage role.  Jessie Buckley gives Miranda a glow of naivety, almost drunk with joy when she first encounters the strangers arriving on the island.  But it is James Garnon whose wronged simian-like Caliban steals the show at times with his vocal gymnastics, swinging from deeply guttural to high pitched squeaking.

The highlight of the play is a typical Shakespeare slapstick scene; drunken jester Trinculo (Trevor Fox – last seen in The Pitmen Painters) stumbles ashore, wrings out his oversized codpiece and hides under a blanket waiting for the storm to pass, only to find Caliban underneath and the two proceed to get tangled up in the fabric.  The writhing, shouting mass of limbs is found by Stephano (Sam Fox, a regular face in Shakespeare comedy roles) a drunken steward from the shipwreck who believes it to be creature that is either ill or possessed: “four legs and two voices: a most delicate monster!”  Shakespearean comic acting at its best.

The Tempest runs on selected nights up until Sunday 18th August, however it forms part of the ‘Season of Plenty’ at the Globe which includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth which are running until Sunday 13th October.

Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, LONDON, SE1 9DT

http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/

Shakespeare’s Globe is currently building a traditional indoor Jacobean theatre which will be open for its first performances in January 2014.  To be named the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, after the Globe’s visionary founder, this will be an exquisite candlelit venue in which Shakespeare would have felt right at home.  They have so far raised 94% of their £7.5million target.  If you would like to contribute towards this exciting new venture, you can do so by clicking this link.