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Live / stage review

Frost/Nixon / The Kingdom Come #3

26 February
The Crucible

Twelve years ago, when Peter Morgan’s play premiered in London, the playwright could never have suspected that we would be living in a time with a world leader whose bluster and inflated self-worth would cause the shadow of Richard Nixon to dwindle. Sheffield Theatres’ return production of Frost/Nixon could not be more timely a reminder of the pitfalls of political office and the power of the media to find truth and closure.

It's 1977, and popular playboy and talk show host David Frost somehow manages to secure a lengthy televised interview with disgraced ex-President Richard Nixon. For the former, this is his chance to move from the edges of mainstream popularity. For the latter, it's a shot at redemption and public rehabilitation at the hands of an interviewer seen as a soft touch.

Daniel Rigby is louche, charming and seemingly superficial as Frost and Jonathan Hyde is dominant, confident and brittle as Nixon. Compared to Ron Howard’s cinematic adaptation, this performance is played more humorously, something that felt a little jarring in places, but was handled with a deft touch. The audience is eased into events by the dual narration of US journalist Jim Reston (David Sturzaker) and Nixon’s chief of staff, Jack Brennan (Ben Dilloway), presenting conflicting views on Nixon’s tenure with an authentic passion.

Director Kate Hewitt and the rest of the production team have done a tremendous job of bringing a taut, engrossing and intimate drama back to the stage. Real cameras move at the edges of the stage, capturing close-ups of the performers and projecting them live above the stage. Andrzej Goulding’s sterling video work really reinforces the themes and tenets of Morgan’s script and the production is note perfect, with a fitting sparsity and coldness.

In today’s world of fake news and murky political ethics, it's good to be offered a note of hope that the tools to call powerful people to account are still present and correct.

Max Cubberley


10 March
Walkley Community Centre

You know you’re at Andro & Eve’s already-legendary drag king night, The Kingdom Come, when Ironman rocks up in a skirt and Justin Timberlake reminds you that ‘gender is a construct’.

The Kingdom Come revels in showing the constructs of gender coming apart at the seams: Luke Warm clutching his crotch for the high notes and waxing lyrical about the size of his ego; Oedipussi riffing on being a hero (of Bonnie Tyler’s kind) and singing, “Let me tell you what you need”; Richard Von Wild asking, “Why be a hero when you can be a god?” All of these speak not just to masculinity and the often anxious ways it shores itself up, but to its performative status and therefore its inherent instability.

The whole evening exuded a shared sense of how and why drag kings offer an important and empowering form of entertainment. Sigi Moonlight’s take on Hollywood upped the ante. Dramatizing the La La Land/Moonlight mix-up of last year’s Oscars drew attention to the roles that race and gender play in not just identity performance and construction, but in cultural power. Joey Bambino’s reflections on the world of film also spoke to this. His centrality on stage as Hannibal Lector, responding to the disembodied voice of Clarice Starling, was insightful and inventive. No-one could forget the hilarious horror of what he did with Prince’s ‘Kiss’, nor the resonance of his performance of 'Man in the Mirror'.

With vegan cake, raffle prizes, a mesmerizingly sparkly venue, beards too numerous to count (many of them Oedipussi’s), and fantastic hosts and performers, none of us felt luke warm about joining in with the final song: ‘I Want To Break Free’.

Samantha Holland

Photo: Oedipussi, by Ndrika Anyika


Next article in issue 121

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