What was he thinking of? Poliakoff has done such wonderful things in the past .... has he just lost his touch? One would hope it is only temporary. How this got to the point of being staged at the Almeida gawd only knows. Reputation,clearly, still counts a lot, but surely against better judgement? Never mind as - Must Try Harder - See Me - 2/10. And keep this up and there's always detention! (PS: WOS still haven't sorted this website out as it's still showing here one of my reviews from years back!) - rds
28 Oct 11
My City is a very odd play but intriguing and compelling and far better than I had feared given the unfavourable reviews here and elsewhere. There is very little in the way of a plot, but Stephen Poliakoff has created a very atmospheric piece from a chance encounter with former primary school teachers and the power of evocative storytelling. Tracey Ullman, Sorcha Cusack and especially David Troughton resist the temptation to overplay the ecentricities of the teachers and it might be possible to look back on this as the professional debut of Hannah Arterton should she become as famous as her sister Gemma. Possibly the strangest part of the play are the accents of the two former pupils. Tom Riley appears to have attended a minor public school whilst Sian Brooke is apparently attempting broad Cockney. Unfortunately she retains a massive undertone of the broad Brummie she used in Ecstasy. Despite this distraction and the lack of any possible plot twists (are the teachers ghosts?) My City provided a very rewarding return to the stage for Poliakoff even if it is very difficult to pin down exactly why it worked so well. - David Baxter
20 Oct 11
It's difficult to articulate exactly why, but I found My City deeply moving. I admit the production was unconventional, and it took a little while to get used to its rather surreal and dream-like staging, but I ended up loving the way it was done. I was totally convinced that this charismatic 'career teacher', together with her cohorts, was able to make such a difference in young, troubled lives -- a difference that remained with some of her pupils into adulthood, giving them the tools, and confidence, to cope with life's vicissitudes. It was also very credible that the teacher who had sacrificed any sort of personal life in favour of giving her all to her pupils, would find it so difficult to see any meaning in her existence once she retired. The play was optimistic, heartwarming, and so very human. Tracy Ullman was a revelation; still, serene, unshowy acting that gave no hint of her wonderfully over-the-top comedy characters. Kudos also particularly to Tom Riley as Richard, and to Sian Brooke as Julie, who managed to bring in some comic relief without in any way making the character laughable. And David Troughton and Sorcha Cusack convinced utterly as the other teachers. It made me wish I had had such an inspirational teacher, and it was lovely to learn that Poliakoff based the character of the head teacher on a former teacher of his own, who had inspired him at a young age. I cannot for the life of me understand so many negative reviews, both here and in the press. Lovely play, one that will stay with me for some time. - LDE
19 Oct 11
Iíve liked most of the Stephen Poliakoff plays I saw before he became fully engaged in TV and films. I also usually like his films; theyíre sometimes impenetrable and occasionally all over the place, but theyíre challenging and stimulating and always watchable. If only the same could be said of this, which Iím afraid is deeply frustrating and deadly dull.
The chance nighttime meeting of a primary school teacher and a former pupil is the starting point for a rambling narrative that takes us back to school assemblies, introduces us to another former pupil and two more teachers and goes off in all direction with a selection of stories, the purpose of which isnít always clear. Itís as if he just downloaded last nights dreams, mixed them with todays thoughts, wrote it all down, called it a play and (to make matters worse) directed it himself, so no-one else was there to provide some creative objectivity.
Whatever the talent on stage. and there is talent on stage, thereís nothing they can do with what is a self-indulgent ramble which didnít engage, entertain or interest me one jot. - Gareth James
06 Oct 11
What a waste of a good cast, what a waste of an evening! Unfortunately I was blinded by the fact that Tracey Ullmann was in this play and did not wait for reviews when buying the ticket. I sat through the 2.5 hours expecting some big revelation that never came. Unfortunately, this play lacks everything and cannot be recommended at all! - Frank
01 Oct 11
Totally agree with all the bad reviews.
Poliakoff needs to get his act together this is terrible. - coral
29 Sep 11
I loathed this play, and felt sorry with the valiant cast vainly trying to make sense of it. Repetitive, clunking, telling you rather than showing you things, ridden with cliche, and overly long with no characters for whom I had a shred of sympathy, it disappointed on almost all levels. Avoid. - Michelle
28 Sep 11
Haven't seen a Poliakoff play on stage before, but i usually love his work for TV. But i never understood why he wrote this play or what it was about. The cast was doing it's best but the play was going nowhere. The best part of it was the narration of some stories which reminded of "The Pillowman" (which was a far better play). - Manos
22 Sep 11
Whilst the concept is interesting, the outcome is disappointing. Contrived doesn't even begin to cover it - none of the characters are three-dimensional and what there is of the plot is not believable. This might not matter to some - Pinter for instance doesn't give much away about his characters - but was a waste of the cast's talents.
It's been a good while since I saw empty seats at the Almeida's front stalls, and more after the interval.
This will not go down well with those who think Poliakoff can do no wrong, but I'm always suspicious of the writer-director approach in theatre, and wonder if fresh direction could have injected some much needed pace. - dgr1
21 Sep 11
If you expect a traditional narrative, you will be disappointed. I didn't, and I wasn't. For me, Poliakoff's world is fascinating because it always holds up time as a mirror. In it, it is as if everyone alive is already dead, and everyone who has ever lived before is vibrantly alive. So in "My City," Ullman plays a former teacher, who educated her pupils about the voices and stories of the past, but who is now herself lost, stalking the streets at night looking for new stories. Ullman is perfect casting as she is herself at once substantial and insubstantial, like all characters in Poliakoff's world, constantly being changed by the passage of time. She is substantial because she has a charismatic stage presence, clear diction, and makes eye contact with actors and audience alike. She is insubstantial because she is Tracy Ullman, a mistress of mimicry, whose identity seems unfixed, and who cast off her British identity for an American one, becoming something in between. In the ostensible narrative, two former pupils of Ullman's school meet up with her and two teacher colleagues for some recollections and soul searching. Led by a brilliant Ullman, the cast are all wonderful. Particularly, Sian Brooke is blunt and funny, Tom Riley charming and vulnerable. But the real star is Poliakoff's weird and wonderful way of presenting you with a story you want to dismiss, that grows on you, and leaves you pondering deep and mysterious things, such as the fixedness of your own identity, the changing city around you, what you leave behind and the mark you are making now. - Steve
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