London acting coach, theatre director, Guy Retallack
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Guy Retallack - Theatre Director, Acting Coach

Selected reviews

Mother of Him by Evan Placey

Writer: Evan Placey, Director  Guy Retallack.
Reviewer: Duncan MacInnes

The Public Reviews Rating:

How does a mother love her child after he has been found guilty of rape?

“It’s a snowy December morning like any other in Toronto, Canada, as Brenda Kapowitz sends her 8 year-old son Jason off to school, while her teenage son Matthew remains asleep upstairs. Soon she’ll begin lighting candles for the 8 nights of Hanukkah. You’d think Brenda was like any other mother. But in 8 days Matthew will be sentenced for three terrible crimes. In 5 days the judge will decide whether to accept or reject Brenda’s application that her son be sentenced as a child. And today Brenda’s face is splashed across the cover of every newspaper. As the press are camped outside, Matthew is under house arrest, and it’s the laws that form inside the house that matter most. “

There are few issues that challenge a society’s ideas about the natures of human development and justice as much as serious juvenile crime. Because people neither expect children to be criminals nor expect crimes to be committed by them, the unforeseen intersection between childhood and criminality creates a dilemma that most of us find difficult to resolve. The only way out of this dilemma is either to redefine the offense as something less serious than a crime or to redefine the offender as someone who is not really a child.

Mother of Him comes to us from Canadian playwright Evan Placey who has won a string of awards with this epic study of a family at crisis. The play among many things sets out to examine how we as adults view children and the stark differences between them and teenagers. Brenda’s role in the mix is to be a mother to each of her sons but it’s the way that she treats each of them that defines who she really is.

The action is played out on a very realistic set designed by John Bell with Madeleine Potter’s exemplary performance as Brenda leading a very strong cast.Tom Golding as Matthew is outstanding, creating an insular teenager who knows that he’s living on borrowed time and Gideon Leibowitz as the eight year old son Jason is a joy to watch as he deals with the pressures of his family.

The play is lengthy but you can’t help but be swept away with each of the characters journeys as the clock ticks leading up to the last day of Hanukah. Added to this mix are fantastic ensemble performances leaving no weak link, this is a great night at the theatre that does what theatre is supposed to do which is to entertain yet enlighten us.


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2008
LIBERTY by Glyn Maxwell. Shakespeare's Globe, London.

**** ‘Touching, intelligently drawn… Compelling’ Time Out
‘Raucous humour, vivid emotion’ Sunday Times
‘Deliciously light and pointed, helped by the scamper of Guy Retallack's direction: anyone who thinks the Globe can't be intimate is yet again proved wrong’ The Observer
'Guy Retallack's production is well staged... Eye-catching performances come from John Bett as a gentle, Lucretius-reading ex-duke and from Belinda Lang as an arch manipulator who goes to her death with a speech of ringing defiance' The Guardian
'Ellie Piercy charts a harrowing course from revolutionary fervour to deranged eroticism as the increasingly neurotic heroine' The Daily Telegraph
'The way a revolution soon eats its own certainly put one in mind of New Labour... David Sturzaker is dark, hunky and nicely remote... Good performances all round' Daily Mail
'Shrewd costume drama does an entertaining job of capturing a tumultuous period of French histroy... The evening is often witty' Metro
'The writing is full of humanity and humour... The trial scenes are a highlight' Daily Express
"the acting and directing are faultless in this supremely crafted piece" British Theatre Guide


2008
MICKY SALBERG'S CRYSTAL BALLROOM DANCE BAND by Ade Morris. Watermill and Touring.

"an immaculately fashioned, warm-hearted pleasure." The Guardian. Critics Choice.
"Ade Morris's play is simple, warm-hearted and concerned with the been-and-gone more than the here-and-now.Yet it possesses an honesty and humour other playwrights would do well to emulate; and there are, albeit obliquely, topical reflections on the benefits of immigration that make just the right points without ticking any boxes. Inspired by his own father's tales of the days when rock and roll hit the north, Morris has fashioned a "comedy with music" set mainly on a farm near his home town of Leek, just outside Stoke on Trent, circa 1952. There's much entertaining crosstalk between the trio; along with Tomkins, both Paul Kissaun, wearing a yarmulke and an expression of amusement, and Pam Jolley, all brittle fiestiness as Sam, play a range of instruments and act their roles to vivacious perfection." The Daily Telegraph
"Playwright Ade Morris has created a gem of a time capsule in this new actor/musician production. Guy Retallack directs with a sanguine sensitivity." The Stage

2008
WORLDS END by Paul Sellar. Trafalgar Studios, West End, London

"an intriguing new play with cracking dialogue and cunningly revealed character" confirming "it's author’s growing reputation for chronicling the feel of 21st Century life". The Times

"strongly advise anyone to take out 70 minutes to see this biting play about love"
"it's a delight to see so much that's right packed into such a short playing time".
the play captures a "very 21st century relationship"
"the couple may not last, the play certainly should!" The Evening Standard

“A bust up drama that won high praise in Edinburgh. The lead character is a clever, articulate loser with an anger problem. More succinctly, he's a failed writer. Girlfriend Kat, after five years shacked up with the skint doodler, has decided to move on and has bagged herself a smooth city type. But when Kat arrives to pick up her stuff from Ben's flat he decides to stick around. This simple set up unleashes a thrilling hour of drama. It's tender and vicious, realistic and poetic, very funny and horribly, horribly true….A harrowing treat, this show, for anyone who has been dumped or has done any dumping, and wants to revisit the slow motion agonies of a dying relationship. Or is it dying? The play ends with two unexpected, and quite brilliant twists that had me gasping in admiration. Guy Retallack's direction is exquisitely judged and Paul Sellar is a writer we can cherish." The Spectator


2007
FUTURE ME by Stephen Brown. Theatre503, London.

“Never before has the act of plugging in a modem cable seemed so dramatic. I was on the edge of my seat. Don’t do it!”
****Brian Logan, Time Out, Critics Choice.

“…a truly remarkable production.”
Alistair Smith, The Stage.

“…a slick, sharp look at desire and the forbidden…It is a gripping, cunningly structured evening….exceptionally well acted…it demonstrates that there is a far thinner line than we might think between our private fantasies and public actions.”
Lyn Gardner, The Guardian.


2004/5
THE LIFEBLOOD by Glyn Maxwell. British Council Showcase, Edinburgh Festival and Riverside Studios, London.

"...brilliant writing, intelligent acting and elegant direction...interpreted with uncompromising vigour."
*****Louise Rimmer, The Scotsman.

"Superb mix of intrigue, politics and treachery, vivid and fast paced. This show is magnificent"
Timothy Ramsden, Reviews Gate.


2005
TOMMY by Pete Townshend and the Who. National tour for Bill Kenwright Productions.
"The single finest thing about Guy Retallack's touring production is that it stays true to this
sense of rage, and to its fierce continuing significance for the Britain we live in today."
****Joyce Macmillan, The Scotsman


2003/5
FASTER by Stephen Brown, originally devised by the company. BAC/Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith,59E59,Brits Off Broadway Festival, New York.

"If you want to see imagination at work, Filter Theatre is the one to watch...Capturing the technological zeitgeist, exposing our crazy accelerating world,
Faster is witty, laugh out loud funny...this happy production is a must see. Loved it."
Vera Liber, Plays International.

"The most astonishingly confident debut show I've seen for a long time...a cheeky witty evening that has all the thrill of a rapid ride at the funfair,
as well as the ache you feel in your heart when you know something is missing from your life - even though you are right out in front, in the fast lane."
****Lyn Gardner, The Guardian.

"...the creative collaborators that make up the company turn out to be exuberant masters of this ramped up culture...
the company's exhilarating gifts of invention give the mania an electric irresistible edge...the director, Guy Retallack,
plays with the evolving visual media that have altered our experience of time."
Miriam Horn, The New York Times.


2003/4
THE SECRET RAPTURE by David Hare. Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, West End, London.
"This could be one of the most important revivals of the year. Guy Retallack's calm but harrowing production...
the final effect is pity and terror: two old friends you seldom meet in contemporary plays."
John Peter, The Sunday Times.


2003/4
THE MARQUISE by Noel Coward. National tour for Bill Kenwright Productions.

"Guy Retallack's production is fast moving, spirited, and full of high comic energy, with beautifully chosen music,
gorgeous set and costumes by Tim Shortall and magical lighting by Ben Ormerod."
Joyce Macmillan, The Scotsman

2003
THIS STORY OF YOURS by John Hopkins. New End Theatre, Hampstead.
"Guy Retallack's sinewy revival is a provocative entertainment that makes Hopkin's successors look childish by comparison...
this remains an arresting depiction of loneliness and loathing that will loiter in the mind for a long time."
Dominic Maxwell, The Evening Standard.

2003
OFFICE GAMES by Trevor Baxter. Pleasance Theatre, London. Bill Kenwright.

"A brazenly slow mix of stricture and subversion, the assured torpor of Guy Retallack's production, including the kind of pauses
that might make even Pinter glance nervously at this second hand...makes this a compellingly curious two hours."
Dominic Maxwell,Time Out

2000
HARD TIMES by Charles Dickens, adapted by Stephen Jeffreys. Watermill Theatre, Newbury.

"Guy Retallack's revival is a dynamic delight. The pace of Retallack's production never flags as he steers his actors up to and away
from dreaded Dickensian caricature. Together, this fine cast dispel all memories of dreary classroom slog."
Patrick Marmion, The Evening Standard.

1998/9
EMMA by Jane Austen, adapted by Doon Mackichan and Martin Millar. Edinburgh Festival, Watford Palace, Tricycle Theatre, London.

"Delightfully dotty and insightful deconstruction of Jane Austen's novel. This Emma is worth a thousand TV adaptations. Unmissable."
****Lyn Gardner, The Guardian.

1998/9
RICHARD III by William Shakespeare. National Theatre Studio, Pleasance Theatre,
Globe,Neuss Shakespeare Festival.

"The overriding achievement here is that of Guy Retallack as director. This production, which began life at the National Theatre Studio,
is all of a piece. The play breathes; and we breathe with it."
Alistair Macaulay, The Financial Times.