Sunday, 7 December 2014



A River Runs Through Broadway.

Neons, cameras, action! That's what the earths entertainment core of Times Square, New York City is all about. Follow the lights of all the billboards, to the billions of tourists cellphones and the stream of chrome Taxicab lights that take you there and you may flow down 'The River'. No we're not talking about a classic Bruce Springsteen double album and song. More like the Circle On The Square theatre that currently plays home to Jez Butterworth's amazingly atmospheric Broadway show that with one light on the far stage draws everyone in and illuminates Manhattan's theatre scene like regulars 'Jersey Boys' and 'Wicked'. Following his 2009 success with 'Jerusalem', all praises due to Butterworth's latest show that is so well lighted and directed it draws you in and almost makes its subject of fishing like a religious experience. Spiritual, the smaller but superior Circle In The Square down a side-road, just a few blocks after Times Square is so significant and effective at this from its centre stage to focussed light, that forget hundreds, even those in the 30 dollar, standing room only light will feel so close and immersed that they may as well bring their own bait and tackle.

So 'The River' is about fishing, but catch and release this and you'll see there's much more to it then this and its one beautiful and broad cabin, living room setting that stages the feverish , and at times surprisingly funny drama. From the wood to the oil lamp this burns with a moonshine varnish of the darkness and depth of humanity that normally you'd have to make for and find off-Broadway. It seems however that inbetween all those 42nd Street lights there is a new focus drawing fans and A-List, Academy Award nominated, leading men superheros to town. Rocket the Racoon, Bradley Cooper is currently shining his star power on to something even more acclaimed than his potential three Oscar nominations in a row (we see you 'American Sniper') with his passion project, 'The Elephant Man' down the road. A story that has been close to the heart of the 'American Hustle' star since he was a mere 12 years of age as the planets sexiest man takes on the world of a disfigured man in the public light. Another Hollywood heartthrob in the form of another superhero 'X-Men' following Marvel's arguable best year takes a trip with us across 'The River' however, as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman gets his claws back into theatre, where his amazing-albeit still criminally underrated acting-started. The actor that proved to the Academy along with 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal that he really could act in the unlocking of 'Prisoners' (a case can be made for it being the overlooked movie of last year alongside Bradley Cooper's 'The Place Beyond The Pines'), got his Oscar nomination-and what should have been his award-for the thespian theatre of one of the worlds greatest stage shows, 'Les Miserables'. But here, without hitting a single note-although reciting W.B. Yeats' 'The Wandering Aengus' poem-the former host really sings.

Hitting fabulous form by the script Jackman is the cast out line and hook and sinker bait of this lakeview theatre. Armed with wellington boots and a red t-shirt the housewives favourite even auctions off for charity (I bet you're booking your tickets now aren't you...and we mean to New York if you don't even live there), Jackman brings sincere and strong acting to a straight forward set. A man seemingly torn between two women walking in and out of his life (and believe me even shedding more light on this would be all too revealing), Hugh grants us with some depth and desperation, powerful passion of character as this Aussie rules Broadway once again. With the Playbill's clapping in a round of applause in his favour Jackman has the audience hanging on his every word and more for just his charming and charismatically studded star status. From baring his soul to wearing his heart on his sleeve, even if this show was in the city of New York's largest auditorium this lead draws you close with a lead strong performance that is as soberingly grounding as a seaman's anchor dropped for the port of alcohol. Over dinner and wine even Jackman preparing a caught fish for supper is acting at its simplest but poetry purist best. Still the man in this show isn't the only thing this river runs through. The women in this piece are perfect as they bring wonder to this three-piece show. Cush Jumbo is fondly funny and engagingly evoking, while the equally bold and beautiful Laura Donnelly is the perfect match drawing as many laughs and hearts and even haunting us with her candlelight singing of Yeats. More than its incredible, star lead this 85 minute show without intermission leaves you immersed and begging for more (and we aren't just talking about Hugh ladies) from the show and love and life. A reflection of our lives itself from the fishing lake, this thought provoking, open-ended show of morals and mortality stays with you like the fish you catch but cant quite unhook. Underneath the peaceful tranquility of 'The River' there's more going on in this stream of consciousness as you dive down. What a catch! TIM DAVID HARVEY.

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