I know this LJ's readers include a number of Harry Potter fans who get jealous when I see a member of the films' cast on stage. You may have a wish-list of actors you'd like to see in the flesh, and Kathryn Hunter (Mrs Figg in Order of the Phoenix) is probably quite low down on it. Well, you're wrong; frankly she should be right at the top, and if you ever get the chance to see her perform feel free to push and maim anyone standing in your way. The woman's a bloody genius - I'm only sorry I only became aware of her last year, so never got to see her as the first British woman to play King Lear.
In the Young Vic's smaller Maria studio, she plays Red Peter, a chimp who was captured in the wild and put in a tiny cage; he realises that the only way out is to become "human," and sets about spitting, smoking and drinking, eventually managing to speak. The play takes the form of a speech given to a mysterious "Academy" (the audience) and Red Peter recounts his life from capture to emulating human behaviour, through to becoming an all-singing all-dancing performer. It's a deeply sad story as Red Peter makes it clear throughout that he doesn't equate his new human life with "freedom," and sees that as something he'll never have again.
Hunter is an astonishing physical performer, occasionally twisting her body into shapes that actually made the audience gasp. More often than not holding one arm twisted behind her, she absolutely comes across as a chimp trying to repress his own nature. I can't imagine who else could have played the part so convincingly and with so much warmth. Despite the tragedy underpinning the story she's frequently hilarious, turning on a sixpence to sadness and back. STANDING OVATION WATCH: I usually feel a bit self-conscious about starting a Standing Ovation when I'm in the front row, as I was tonight, but I had no hesitation standing up at the end, and pretty soon most of the audience were on their feet as well - one of the most unique performances I've ever seen.
Kafka's Monkey by Colin Teevan, based on "A Report To An Academy" by Franz Kafka, is booking until the 9th of April at the Young Vic.