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The Arts Review: Welcome Home Captain Fox to Uncle Vanya’s Wonderland


A review of the latest cultural goings on. Welcome Home Captain Fox, Uncle Vanya and Wonder.land.

Andrew Venning takes us on a deeper look at Welcome home Captain Fox, Uncle Vanya and Wonder.land.

Welcome Home Captain Fox

Welcome Home Captain Fox ReviewBased on Jean Anouilh’s ‘Le Voyager Sans Bagage’, Anthony Weigh has brilliantly adapted the original text and updated it to 1950’s America. And he has pulled it off with incredible vigour!

A young man has come out of WWII and been imprisoned for 15 years in East Germany, he is suffering from Amnesia and when he arrives back in the USA and a local long island house wife decides to help him out with charity work , she believes he is the long lost son of a local rich family. He eventually meets the family and, of course, doesn’t remember a thing, but he is told by everyone around him (brother, mother, sister, maids) that he IS captain Fox. What’s great about the play is that you never really know whether he is truly the real Captain Fox or not and by the end there is a moving moment when he makes a decision to decide what to do with his life.

“A really warming play and very fun, well worth a watch.”

It’s a great play and this adaptation really does it fair justice and the updating works a treat. The dialogue whips along at a steady pace and at times overlaps with a naturalistic ease. The cast have got the timing down to a key and its definitely a winner for the Donmar Warehouse. The cast are on top form and there are brilliant nuances throughout and real moments of danger and uncertainty about who this man really is. This version also does it’s period duty and takes a close look at the attitudes of 50’s America, both towards race and the snobbery of white middle class America at the time.
 A really warming play and very fun, well worth a watch.
Welcome Home Captain Fox is currently at the Donmar Warehouse and runs until 16th April

Uncle Vanya

Uncle Vanya ReviewRobert Icke famously burst onto the stage with his adaptation of the Oresteia at The Almeida last year, that was rightfully praised as one of he best pieces of Theatre last year. This time he has returned to the Almeida to tackle Chekhov.
This production may put people off at 3 Hours and 15 minutes long, but I urge you not to worry. We are given 3 x 10 minute intervals and this play moves a long at a lovely pace, despite it’s sense of lethargy, boredom and procrastination. This adaptation is intensely interesting on several levels. Icke has updated the play and Anglicised the names wonderfully,  (this is usually not done well and I am against it). What Icke has also done is to retain, what Chekhov would have loved, and that’s the comedy. Chekhov always thought people took his work too seriously. Here the comedy is truly brilliant and utterly truthful, and that then allows the moments of dramatic tension to gain fill weight and shine through with complete devastation.

“It is a true study of mental health and bi-polar disorder as well as the fear of mortality”

When Paul Rhys’ wiry and beautiful Vanya has his breakdown his plight is tenderly moving as is that of the journey his niece Sonya goes on, or rather sadly doesn’t go on! It is deeply moving and Icke has gotten superb performances from his cast. It is a true study of mental health and bi-polar disorder as well as the fear of mortality. This production is slick and painful. The last few minutes perhaps could have been paced a little better but otherwise it was spot on in my view.
One thing to mention is that the set (a raised box) turned slowly on a revolve through-out. Something done to utterly powerful effect in the Young Vic’s ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ a couple of years ago. Uncle Vanya doesn’t seem to pull off the same kind of superb coop like that latter production (where the sets movement was intrinsic  to Blanche Du Bois’ mental state). The revolving set was still an interesting idea, particularly in it’s relation to the thought of time slowly turning on and on. One thing however was that when the set at one point changed direction, there was no clear reason (certainly to me) why it had done this. In ‘Streetcar’ when the revolving set swung the other way it was because it seemed to be connected to Blanche’s fragile mental state, I didn’t see a parallel with the set and Vanya here. The only other issue was that very often the wooden set creaked and cracked (or tapped) away making rather obtrusive noises , at times, when turning. But this final point is completely minor to what is one of the best Vanya’s I have seen in a long while.
Uncle Vanya is showing at the Almeida Theatre, London


Wonder.landDamon Albarn’s new musical Wonder.land premièred at the Manchester International Festival i 2015, so this is  very late review indeed. I was lucky to have been at the festival in 2014, but not in 2015 , last year. This show has made it’s way down to the NT in London and has been running now a for several months.
As you can tell it is the Alice in Wonderland tale for a 21st Century audience, where the idea of going into a “magical” or “unreal” world, in this case, the internet. A place where children spend most of their time these days. It is a world where anything is possible but also (like the Alice books) it can be incredibly dangerous!

“One thing has to be said. The design is super.”

This show had a very confident and utterly mad first half, I can see how it would split some audiences. The heroine Ali is a young teenage girl is fed up with her mum and is bullied at lot at her new school, so she escapes into her phone into a game which is a virtual reality called wonder dot land. Here she creates her avatar “Alice” (modelled on a “perfect” blond white girl) as Ali wishes she could be someone or something else. The avatar is played by a dancer with interesting stylised movements that look like a computer game character, slightly rigid and exact. Then we follow the avatar and Ali’s story in parallel, both in the real world and the virtual one as they both essentially go on a quest to answer one of the most profound questions, Who are you? (from the caterpillar) and it is one of the most important questions and ideas in this piece.
The second half seemed to veer off and we had  a story about Ali’s parents which unfortunately I found my self less interested in. Some of the music is fun but at times it feels repetitive, one number in particular felt like there was no need for it at all. It was an interesting idea but I feel it got lost and over played the metaphors a little,  an interesting take on this timeless story but I think more of the original story was what was needed.
One thing has to be said. The design is super.
Wonder.land is showing at the National Theatre and runs until 30th April

Andrew Venning All reviews by Andrew Venning


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