Alan Geary, Top 3 from 2015: ONE MAN, TO GUVNORS, IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, EAST IS EAST.
2015 has been a outstanding year at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal, which happens to have been celebrating its 150th anniversary; and most of the best productions I saw were at that venue. Top was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; and others included A View From the Bridge, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Jeeves and Wooster. All of these had already been ably reviewed by other contributors to this site.
The three best I covered for reviewsgate.com were One Man, Two Guvnors, The Importance of Being Earnest and East is East, in that order.
One Man, Two Guvnors, directed by Nicholas Hytner, didn’t reject the spirit of Goldoni’s original 1746 comedy one iota. It was firmly embedded in the Commedia dell’Arte.
Gavin Spokes’s Henshall was outstanding, but there was remarkable depth in the casting. Pace and inventiveness sagged somewhat after the classic lunch-serving routine, the comedic core of the play, but from end to end this production delivered first-class entertainment.
Adrian Noble’s inspired deployment of a splendid David Suchet as Lady Bracknell was great box-office. But in fundamental respects his Importance was gimmick-free. Noble avoided plastering himself all over the production, leaving Wilde to speak for himself.
Michele Dotrice’s dotty Miss Prism was the real hit of the evening. Her scenes with Chasuble (Richard O’Callaghan) were wonderful. So was the final recognition scene.
One might have thought that by now the east meets west theme has been done to death. But East is East, seemed even more relevant now than when it first appeared. There was rich comedy, harrowing violence, pathos and even tragedy. Yet it managed to end on a realistically optimistic note, free of cheap sentimentality.
Simon Nagra’s portrayal of George was near faultless. Here was a man striving to be an upright Muslim and dutiful father, but failing to come to terms with the realities of the world around him.
Besides being thoroughly entertaining, this was a complex piece taking a no-nonsense look at problems affecting real people today. Without offering slick solutions, it presented most sides of the clash of cultures issue with admirable fairness.