Tag Archive for colin morgan

Mojo @ Harold Pinter Theatre (Ben Whishaw Colin Morgan Rupert Grint Brendan Coyle)

showbiz-mojo-stage-rupert-grint-ben-whishaw-et-al

So what do you say about a play you’ve been anticipating for months? When Mojo was first announced and I heard that Rupert Grint was going to debut in his first stage role, I was a smidge excited. Especially as he would be starring alongside Ben Whishaw, who I was dying to see on stage again after Peter and Alice. I quickly bought up tickets for the first and last preview. Then they announced Colin Morgan and I kind of went a bit nuts with the ticket buying for the rest of the run. It’s like the gods decided to put on a play with Claire’s dream cast. Because Daniel Mays and Brendan Coyle are also two that would get me to go see any show.

So you get a stellar cast like that, and a play like Mojo, and you know there’s no chance it will suck.

Writer Jez Butterworth, 25 years old at the time, debuted Mojo at the Royal Court in 1995. The play won the Olivier for Best New Comedy, and Jez won a couple of awards for Best New Playwright. It was well received, to say the least. The cast in 1995 included Tom Hollander as Baby and Aidan Gillen as Skinny, and it too was directed by Ian Rickson, as this new production is.

Tom Rhys Harries (Silver Johnny) in rehearsals for Mojo, photo by Simon AnnandIt’s 1958, it’s Soho, and a young 17 year old rock singer dubbed Silver Jonny (Tom Rhys-Harries), in a shiny silver suit and pink shirt, with his blond hair slicked back, and as pretty as they come, opens the show with some moves that set the scene. He disappears from stage for most of the rest of the play, mores the pity, but he’s in the back of your mind as so much of the show centres on his character. In the next scene, Sydney Potts (Daniel Mays) describes to Sweets (Rupert Grint) how the girls go wild for Silver Jonny, so wild they soil themselves. And as he says, “anything makes polite young ladies come their cocoa in public is worth taking a look at”.

It’s Ezra’s Atlantic Club and everything seems business as usual, until the next morning they find out that Ezra is dead. Sweets and Potts, along with runt of the club Skinny (Colin Morgan), Ezra’s psychotic son Baby (Ben Whishaw) and the older leader of the group Mickey (Brendan Coyle), are all terrified they might be next. They decide to sweat it out in the club for the weekend until everything has cooled down.

But tensions between the group run high, with suspicious and accusations flying, causing a strained atmosphere that you know just isn’t going to end well.

But this is a comedy, if you couldn’t tell by the synopsis. One that is dark and humorous, with constant flares of genius. I’m generally not a fan of comedy in TV and film, but on stage it seems to work for me a lot more, and I’ve enjoyed a few comedies in recent times. Mojo is the kind of play where you are nervously tittering throughout, knowing that it’s not not all going to be fun and games and waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under you.

Rupert Grint (Sweets) in rehearsals for Mojo photo by Simon Annand

The writing is strong, lyrical at times, and the characters nicely drawn. Sweets and Potts are a wonderful comedy duo that play off each other well, while Skinny is appropriately irritating and awkward to the point of discomfort. Baby. Well Baby is the star of the show, the unmistakable loose canon who sets you on edge in every scene and drives you crazy.

The cast in this version were very strong for a first preview. I was surprised at how strong they were in fact, though like any show they will only get better with time. Rupert Grint was surprisingly good and self assured on stage, and it was great to see him there. I’d say he’s played it a little safe for his first stage role – at times I would slip into thinking about Ron Weasley, but I am certain that will change with time. From both an acting and audience perspective. I felt just the same seeing Daniel Radcliffe in Equus and even seeing Colin Morgan in Our Private Life when I still associated him so heavily with Merlin.

But that is definitely not the case with Colin anymore. I’ve watched him shake that off very successfully and he just gets better. His Skinny is well played, and his twitchy, somewhat sleazy character plays off Ben Whishaw’s Baby so very well. There’s a barely hidden sexual tension between the two that underwrites all their interactions.

Also, cheekbones that could cut glass. I’ve never seen them pop so hard. ;)

Colin Morgan (Skinny) in Rehearsals for Mojo, photo by Simon Annand

Ben Whishaw, of course, gives it his all. He nails the crazycakes Baby character effortlessly, barely displaying any kind of emotion, making the smile freeze on your lips. He can go from strutting around to murderous frenzy in a moment, causing the tension to ratchet up as the play moves on. His face is the one to watch throughout – his cold looks, his empty smiles, they’re all enough to remind you that this comedy isn’t light. And that Ben is one brilliant actor.

Ben Whishaw (Baby) in rehearsals for Mojo photo by Simon AnnandBy the way, he’s also a great singer. Colour me surprised, although I shouldn’t have been since he’s just been cast as Freddie Mercury. I enjoyed his voice a lot.

Daniel Mays as Potts is hilarious. His is a stand out performance, although perhaps it’s also a stand out role, with some of the best lines in the whole play. His performance was full of energy and exuberance, pumping up the laughs and lulling you into a false sense of security with his and Sweets rather bumbling approach to everything.

Brendan Coyle was solid, but the character of Mickey did little to really focus on. He’s probably the least well drawn of the characters, but is one that shows the most remorse as the play ends.

There’s some scenes in the play that will get the fangirls going (myself included). Colin Morgan in white underpants, tied to a jukebox, being bullied by Ben Whishaw is one that will stay with you. I won’t spoil the scene, but suffice to say they get up close and personal. (And, yes, yes, I did describe Colin’s thighs as quivering earlier, which seems to have stuck with some!) Some of Baby’s ‘Kiss My Pegs’ rage is so crackling with sexual tension you want them to just do it and put us all out of our misery. Ben Whishaw, by the way, looks nothing like what you’d imagine with his shirt off. Toned, tanned and gorgeous. I always imagined him being willowy and pale, but also gorgeous.

Finally, some props to Tom Rhys-Harries who has a small role in this production and spends most of it upside down. I’ve had my eye on him for a while and it’s great to see him in a play of this calibre. I’m excited to see his career climb.

Negatives? Well it wasn’t perfect. Down to the writing mainly. There’s some plot holes to be honest, but easily overlooked. There was some nerves on stage, but let’s be fair as it was first preview. All in all, I give it a massive thumbs up. Having seen some real tosh recently on stage, it’s so brilliant to be excited about a play again.

Buy tickets for Mojo.

The Tempest @ Shakespeare’s Globe

IMAG0050Pic of the Globe audience before the show courtesy of Stacey

What’s this, you cry! A review before the end of the run?? Why yes, on opening night, no less! I know, I know. I have in these last few weeks been privy to some outstanding theatre – Judy Dench and Ben Whishaw in Peter and Alice, James McAvoy in Macbeth, Rory Kinnear and Adrian Lester in Othello and god knows what else – and yet failed to review. However, I know too that a good deal of my followers are fans of Colin Morgan, so I feel I owe them a timely review.

Firstly, I do have to say a word about theatre etiquette. (Although let’s be fair – though I am loathe to link the Daily Fail - it has been said better than I.) It is true, Shakespeare’s Globe is one of the less formal theatres. It has to be given that it a) emulates the theatre from the Elizabethan age (where it was certainly very rowdy) and b) is by its nature often full of school trips and large tourist groups. The major factor here is the average age of the crowd – considerably younger than you’d get at the Donmar or Old Vic, for example, and many clearly dragged there by their school or language college.

However, I do take exception to the following (which all occurred during the performance this evening):

  • Late arrivers coming in at 7.50pm (show started at 7.30pm)
  • Talking and whispering throughout
  • Loud mobile phone going off during a big Prospero / Ariel scene
  • Guy in front getting out his iphone, looking up The Tempest wiki and reading along
  • Girl two down from me getting out her picnic and eating salad, cheese, etc, with lots of rustling
  • People taking pictures during the performance

All these things not only disrupt my enjoyment of the show, they also affect the actors. Mostly, I think it’s disrespectful to take pictures during a show. Especially on opening night, not for some kind of spoiler issue, but because the actors deserve to have the least distractions possible on their first performance, and so do the audience. The end, no arguments. Anyway, I wouldn’t expect to put up with people playing on their phones in the cinema, so I shouldn’t have to in the theatre either, even if it’s open air and less formal.

That all said, most people settled down by the interval, so yay for the audience.

Moving onto the play itself then! The Tempest is not one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, not gonna lie. It throws me back to university far too much where I studied (for a brief period) court masque and some of Shakespeare’s more challenging plays. (Coriolanus yawn) It does not grip me in the way that some of his other plays do, but nonetheless it has an interesting departure from Shakespeare’s usual style in that it’s more classically structured and performed as if it’s in ‘real time’.

The Tempest is a play with romance, magic and mysticism. It is set on a remote island where Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, found himself and his daughter after he had been sent off to die by his usurping brother Antonio, 12 years previously. While on the island, Prospero has learned sorcery and uses it while on the island to control others. He also becomes master of the monster Caliban and Ariel, a spirit Prospero rescued.

The Tempest begins with a storm, created by Ariel at Prospero’s request, intended to lure Antonio and King Alonso of Naples to the island. This succeeds and the tempest shipwrecks them. You might think that this opening sets a heavy and serious tone for the rest of the play, but we quickly learn that no one was harmed during the storm, reassuring us that this contains nothing of the horror of other Shakespeare’s works. Throughout the play, Ariel then becomes Prospero’s eyes and ears, manipulating and foiling other characters’ plots to bring down his master.

This production is a faithful telling of the play. It was fairly soft in its approach and Roger Allam’s Prospero was certainly less menacing and dark than it could have been played. He was likable and yet commanding. There was a certain feeling of sentimentality about the ending in this one, something that is surely down in part to the text, but it feels a little neat as all are reconciled.

tumblr_mkusudNZ3R1qcew9qo1_1280Roger Allam and Colin Morgan in rehearsals from Shakespeare’s Globe

As one of Shakespeare’s romances, The Tempest has themes that are shared with his other works. The elements of magic and fantasy cannot be ignored. Everything about the tone of this play is steeped in wonder, amazement, and admiration. Although there is a great deal of magic, it is never dark or black, but instead comes across as being part of nature. It’s light and pleasant – the plot to kill the king is even amusing, compare and contrast that with a play like Macbeth or Julius Caesar and you can see where I’m coming from!

As well as the themes of magic, loss and gain is also an important feature. Prospero has lost a lot at the opening of this play – his kingdom and 12 years of his life – but by the end he has also gained, learning that vengeance is far less important than forgiveness. In fact, by the end all wrongs are forgiven and that sentimentality gives one a warm fuzzy feeling inside! It’s a wonderful and hopeful conclusion about life and the human condition.

The performances were excellent. They always are at The Globe. My eye was on Colin Morgan  as Ariel throughout, given that I am a huge fan, but he’s certainly got a lovely character in Ariel. He played him with a sweet and slightly confused air, which made him quite adorable. Kudos to Colin also on his accent, which was amazingly spot on throughout and I honestly didn’t think it sounded like him at all. Even though he played Merlin with an English accent, it was vastly different. I had shivers up my spine when Ariel became a harpy. He really was fantastic.

He got to climb around the stage like a nimble nymph, it was fun to watch. He was hanging from bars and swinging around. He sang a bit. I wouldn’t say singing was his strong point, but I suspect he’ll only get better as the run continues. It’s a tough gig!

The rest of the performances were also great! I was impressed by the comic timing of all the characters – really super! Where I was sat, we were in stitches half the time. At one point I could see the cast were holding their laughter in too. During the play Ariel puts on a show for the newly together Miranda and Ferdinand (son of Alonso), they are all dancing and Prospero and Ariel are trying to keep Miranda and Ferdinand from getting too close. This causes quite a bit of hilarity and the audience are laughing – I could see Colin turning away slightly, laughing, because he couldn’t hold it in!

I think that’s as far as I’ll go with this review because I will follow-up again after I’ve seen it a second or third time. It’s fairer to review later in the run when the cast have had the opportunity to settle into their performances and characters. (It’s also late and this is a rambling mess and has zero structure!) However, as a first outing, this was quite impressive. Having just seen Othello at the National last week on its opening night, I can firmly say that The Tempest was far more polished and ready. While Othello was over long, some lines were flubbed and the set looked like it might fall over on occasion, The Tempest was engaging and I didn’t notice much by way of flubbed lines. (None by Colin Morgan, I might add.)

On a small shallow note – Colin looks dashing as Ariel. His cheekbones wow. And long hair combed back yeah. And tight top all tight v good. I don’t want to bring the tone of my blog down, but who am I kidding, Colin just gets more attractive all the time!! Extremely pretty in this.

Finally, Colin didn’t come to the stage door tonight. I hope that’s just because it was opening night and not a habit. It was kind of them to come out and tell us he’d left though – unlike when we waited for Ben Whishaw and Judy Dench and they just let us wait in the cold until we’d had enough! However, I think being a theatre actor you just have to accept part of the whole experience is the stage door interaction. It’s not exclusive to Colin – the number of people outside was equal to the number waiting for McAvoy at Macbeth and he signed and took pics with everyone. So I hope it’s not a sign of things to come! My next outing is in May, but I was thinking of picking up a £5 ticket this weekend since I don’t have any plans on Sat. We shall see!

Celeb count: Colin Morgan (Merlin)