Tag Archives: Steven Elder


(reviewed at the HighTide Festival, Aldeburgh on 12 September)

This new play by Anders Lustgarten is a searing indictment of two contemporary evils, one national and the other international. It is a piece for two voices, one that of Stefano, a Sicilian fisherman whose work has degenerated from catching fish to feed people to pulling the bodies of dead migrants from the Mediterranean – that sea around whose shores western civilisation first took root.

The other character is Denise, who works for a pay-day loan company collecting overdue repayments. In its way, it is equally soul-destroying, but she has an invalid mother to support (much as the DWP would like to declare her fit for work, and thus save paying disability benefits). Anyway, her employers reckon that a woman has a better chance of success in collecting money than a man.

Because the writing is strong and committed, I kept on feeling – in spite of Steven Atkinson’s production and the excellent performances by Steven Elder (Stefano) and Louise Mai Newberry (Denise) – that this would work much better on radio without the visual distractions furnished by a theatre-in-the-round production.

At the end, both characters are offered a glimpse of hope – Stefano through finding alive the wife of a distraught migrant, Denise through the kindness of a Portuguese woman client. But Lustgarten makes us aware that these are mere firefly glimmers in an increasingly dark world. We are never far from decay, even on the seashore.

Lampedusa continues in repertoire at the HighTide Dome until 19 September.

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Filed under Plays, Reviews 2015

Romeo & Juliet

(reviewed at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge on 30 June)

This new touring production of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare’s Globe is a concentrated affair. Because it is a story about young people still in their teenage (their elders only make things worse, not better), the characters’ impatience is mirrored by the way in which directors Dominic Dromgoole and Tim Hoare intercut scenes in an manner more often encountered on film than on stage.

it’s extremely effective, ensuring that we’re caught up in the drama from its very beginning. Andrew D Edwards’ set is a brown-wood, rope-edged affair on two levels, against which the off-white costumes stand out. Most of the cast take on at least two characters and provide the, at times, raucous musical accompaniment (the composer is Bill Barclay).. We are in hot Verona, but it’s a timeless sort of place.

Choreographer Siân Williams and fight director Kevin McCurdy have devised some effective moments. There’s a particularly effective Mercutio by Steffan Donnelly (who also doubles the Prince) and a marvellously country wise-woman Nurse by Sarah Higgins. Matt Doherty contrasts Paris and Tybalt to considerable effect.

You can believe completely n Samuel Valentine’s Romeo as a youth on the cusp of adulthood, conscious that he owes his family and city a duty but reluctant to step up to it. Mooning over the unattainable Rosaline and larking about with his friends is so much more an apparently easier option.

Cassie Layton’s Juliet is also a credibly teenager, confiding in the audience as though to a coded diary as she comes to terms with the threat as well as the blessing of love and marriage. The older Capulets – Steven Elder and Hannah McPake – make a couple to be reckoned with, unleashing their fury at Juliet’s apparently wilful disobedience (she had, after all, earlier seemed delighted by the idea of marrying Paris) in a flailing crescendo.

Tom Kanji makes Benvolio into the butt of his friends’ japes, then gives us a somewhat rough-hewn Friar Laurence, a simple man who means well but is totally out of his depth when he tries to play God. As the humour fades with the daylight and the tragedy unfolds itself, its inevitability brings its own catharsis.

Romeo & Juliet plays at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge until 4 July as part of a national tour.

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Filed under Plays, Reviews 2015