One of the pleasures of visiting London is taking in the topnotch theatre, of which the National Theatre Company (NTC) is the jewel in the crown. Now located in a facility in South Bank with three theatres, the company was started by Laurence Olivier over four decades ago and has produced more than 600 plays since Peter O’Toole took the stage on October 22, 1963 on the opening night of Hamlet. Unfortunately, the demise of discount airfares across the Pond and London’s famously high prices have now made the city off-limits to many theatre fans in the US. But now the National Theatre is coming to the mid-Hudson Valley, in the form of four live recorded performances of plays screening at the Rosendale Theatre. The series will open this Saturday, November 19 with a showing of Arnold Wesker’s The Kitchen at 2 p.m.
The revival of the 1959 play, which was shot live at the NTC’s Olivia Theatre last month and directed by Bijan Sheibani, got rave reviews. “Sheibani’s inventive energy turns the rising crescendo of orders, waitressing and cooking into patterns, even dances,” reported The London Times, which went on to the “extraordinary choreography” and “fabulous, fast-moving direction.”
Set in the kitchen of a large West End restaurant in the 1950s, the play chronicles the frenzied activity of the chefs, waitresses and porters as they struggle to keep up with a barrage of orders for soup, fish, cutlets, omelets and fruit flans. Between preparing the dishes, Peter, a young cook, strikes up an affair with a married waitress dreaming of a better life. The all-consuming clamor of the kitchen builds like a crescendo to the brink of collapse, manifesting the violence that threatens to boil over in Peter.
The Kitchen will be followed on January 29 by Collaborators, a new play by John Hodge, who wrote the screenplay for Shallow Grave, The Beach and Trainspotting (which portrayed the lives of young Scottish heroin addicts with a sprightly, unexpected lyricism). Mikhail Bulgakov, living among dissidents in Moscow in 1938, is offered a commission to write a play about Stalin celebrating his 60th birthday: a project that forces him into a set of appalling compromises and humiliations. Travelling Light, a new play by Nicholas Wright, is scheduled for February 25, followed by The Comedy of Errors on March 25. All of the screenings are scheduled for 2 p.m.
Tickets are $12 general admission, $10 for members; to purchase one play or the entire series in advance, send a check to the Rosendale Theatre, PO Box 250, Rosendale, NY 12472, attn: NQ; indicate the name of the play and include an e-mail address or phone number. For more information, log on to https://rosendaletheatre.org/ or call 658-8989.