The secret river (Olivier, National Theater, London)
Verdict: brutal but brilliant
fit (Donmar Warehouse, London)
Verdict: Weak plot saved by Monica Dolan
Australians enjoy their rough reputation – think of Shane Warne or Aussie "Rules" Football. And let's not even say anything about the chardonnay they send us.
But The Secret River, Andrew Bovell's uncompromising adaptation of Kate Grenville's novel about the impact of convicted settlers on indigenous people, is an even rougher – and gloomier – offer that is also moving and uplifting.
The production, which was also seen in Edinburgh this month, becomes all the more poignant by the fact that Ningali Lawford-Wolf, who played the narrator of the story, suddenly died on August 11, causing the company to go into shock.
What it needs is a pretty painful confrontation for its sketchy characters. What it delivers is a slapstick fistfight interrupted by a really shocking moment that made a largely white audience laugh the night I saw it this week
Her replacement, Pauline Whyman, flew from Australia last week and has been absorbed in the alternately dark and radiant story of mutual ethnic suspicion, careful cooperation and eventual horror.
The hero is cockney-convicted William Thornhill who receives a full grace for his crimes in London after reaching Australia in 1806.
Will & # 39; s wife wants to return home with their boys, but Will persuades her to give him five years to set up a farm on the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales. He prays that spear-bearing natives who watch from a distance will soon move on. The spear-bearing natives hope for exactly the same.
The production of Neil Armfield is a bit slow to establish, but the design by Stephen Curtis makes a stunning spectacle. Anyone who has been to Australia will recognize the penetrating but creamy light that falls on a background of what may be the pale skin of peeling gum trees or folds of old rock that reaches for the sky.
It is a partly naturalistic and partly ritualistic performance that combines western piano and celo music with native Australian singing.
The production of Ola Ince is very competent; amplified by Fly Davis’s messy set: the spiral staircase and Doric columns designed to remind us of Gone With The Wind
The characterization is rough and clear, ranging from the cheerfully filthy, xenophobic misogyny of Jeremy Sims & # 39; Smasher to Colin Moody & # 39; s more optimistic Thomas Blackwood, who is trying to integrate with the indigenous people. The native Australians remain a mystery to both settlers and most of the public, using their own language and inscrutable rituals.
But the essence of the story is Nathaniel Dean and Georgia Adamson as our troubled hero Will and his courageous but playful wife Sal. Dean may sound a bit more in the suburbs of Sydney than Bow Bells, but he has a powerful presence, struggles to be a good father and husband, while maintaining peace with the indigenous people and resisting the hard-pressed fighting spirit of his fellow settlers.
It inevitably ends in a tragedy, but until then it is full of love and compassion as well as guilt and shame. Bold but brilliant.
A much less in-depth view of historical legacies of racist violence and slavery is appropriate. Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, a rising star on the American stage, it has little to say.
Instead, the evening is set on fire by Monica Dolan, who snoops around the stage like a language flame thrower like Toni, the matriarchal sister who fiercely defends her deceased father against allegations of racism when the family gathers to settle his estate.
Her first step is lighting the Jewish princess's wife (Jaimi Barbakoff) from the rich brother Bo (Steven Mackintosh). And then she focuses her anger on youngest brother Frank (Edward Hogg), who praises herself as a recovering addict.
The production of Ola Ince is very competent; enhanced by Fly Davis & Devil's messy set: the spiral staircase and Doric columns designed to remind us of Gone With The Wind.
What it needs is a pretty painful confrontation for its sketchy characters.
What it delivers is a slapstick fistfight interrupted by a really shocking moment that made a largely white audience laugh the night I saw it this week.
And yet it is worth catching only for Dolan. She is a glowing frump who, with her bed-head and sagging bathrobe, reminded me of Roseanne Barr in her sitcom days.
And when her villainous feeling eventually diminishes in embarrassing self-pity, she is still the meteor who lights up a dubious night.
Fleabag is ready for her close-up!
Fleabag (Wyndham’s Theater)
Judgment: thoroughly modern filly
We may all be fond of her misery, but we know that she is not really, as her character claims, & # 39; a selfish, corrupt, morally bankrupt woman who cannot call herself a feminist & # 39 ;. Her secret is that she has found a way to say things that women think they can't say – and men know they shouldn't
Me and my friend Phil also love Fleabag. And not just because Phoebe Waller-Bridge, below, is an honorary guy who acts like a geezer in a skirt. A sex maniac who agrees with everyone. Most men I know don't like that anyway.
No, what is refreshing about her act is that in this sublime era of political correctness, Waller-Bridge acknowledges that we are all a bit of a mess. And none of us models good behavior.
In a sense, this revival of her hour-long monologue at the Edinburgh Festival in 2012 seems like she is looking in the wrong direction through a telescope.
It's not particularly worthwhile to see the little green shoots that have grown into the TV show with its opulent characters – the filthy brother-in-law of Brett Gelman, the neurotic sister of Sian Clifford, the poor stepmother of Olivia Colman and the unfortunate father of Bill Paterson.
Everything culminating in the icky affair with Andrew Scott's "hot" priest. And yet it is fascinating to see her on stage – especially when she dresses like the chair on which she sits: red top; skinny black legs.
She's not as hot on the stage as she looks on the screen. But she still has a subversive eye for detail.
She also has a talent for characterization, in her depiction of the rodent-faced man with whom she enters into battle on the Tube.
And she knows when to play the self-removal card, in her feminist blunder about wanting to trade five years of life for a perfect body.
But her best joke is her most laddish and disgusting, one that ends in the gentlemen, with a real punchline. Men don't feel threatened by her, not like old feminist feminists were proud to claim.
More importantly, I suspect that many women do not feel threatened either. Because although she is beautiful in her willowy way, she looks unusual and hides a birthmark under her pony.
Otherwise it's all about her naughtiness: the shameful libido of a gullible bimbo combined with the conscience of a hard-boiled domino matrix.
The admiring audience at Wyndham & # 39; s gives her an easy ride. But she doesn't seem tempted by their nonsense – at least not until the curtain calls.
We may all love her misery, but we know that she is not really, as her character claims, & # 39; a selfish, depraved, morally bankrupt woman who cannot call herself a feminist & # 39 ;.
Her secret is that she has found a way to say things that women think they can't say – and men know they shouldn't do that.
Fleabag will be live at the cinema on 12 September (ntlive.national theatre.org.uk)
. (TagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) tvshowbiz (t) London