5 posts categorized "Celeb spots & encounters" Feed

That was August in London Theatre-land (with a late addition)

9383745446_a248156e8f_zAugust always used to be a quiet month for theatre; it was as if everyone decamped to Edinburgh for the fringe. But even though the Royal Court still shuts up shop, elsewhere it just seems to get busier and busier. There is more fringe - and not just pre-Edinburgh shows - and more productions opening at the bigger theatres. As a result I ended up seeing 12 plays and yes I know there are people that see more than that each month but it's above my average.

* The 'hold the front page' story for the month (and possibly the year) was the announcement of funds to be made available to theatres to improve the ladies toilets. There is general under provision in the older theatres which means long queues and they are often so cramped and badly designed you have to be child-sized to get in and out the cubicles.

* The month was also notable for having only one steamy theatre watching experience and by that I mean the 'joy' of sitting in a non-air conditioned theatre on a hot summer evening with sweat trickling down your back while feeling sorry for the actors because at least you can wear shorts and T-Shirt. Yep thanks to Found III for that one.

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Comedy Stalin in Collaborators - who'd have thought it could work?

Collaborators-billington--007For some reason I had low expectations about Collaborators at the Cottesloe. The oddly shaped stage cutting a sort of zig-zag through the National's flexible space brought back bad memories of having endured Earthquakes in London but this new John Hodge play (he of Trainspotting and Shallow Grave fame) is the polar opposite of the Mike Bartlett number.

It's about Russian satirical playwright and writer Mikhail Bulgakov (Alex Jennings) silenced by censorship during the pre-second World War Stalin years. He's asked in a 'we'll imprison your wife' kind of way to write a play about Stalin to celebrate his 60th birthday. As well as keeping his wife out of jail, his most recent theatrical success - closed after just one triumphant performance - will be allowed to play again if he satisfactorily completes the job.

He has only four weeks and has writers block. How can he write a celebratory play about a man who has made his life and the lives of many others a misery, a man about whom he has nightmares? One night he gets a phone call asking him to go to a secret location and there he meets Stalin (Simon Russell Beale) himself who claims to be a big fan of his work.

In a surreal twist, the two come to an arrangement whereby Stalin will write the play:

Anyway, what have I got you sitting there for? You're not the typist, you're the genius! Let's swap! You come and sit here - leave the slave labour to me.

 Bulgakov is persuaded to do the leader's job, making decisions about running the country and signing off orders.

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The Last of the Duchess and the Ben Whishaw experience

The-Last-of-the-Duchess---007I'm going to confess right from the start that it is going to be a little difficult to review The Last of the Duchess at the Hampstead Theatre because I had a certain favourite actor of mine sat right behind me and I'm sorry but I found that at little bit diverting.

I could write a whole post about the utter coincidence of it all but that would only really be interesting to me and probably two other people who feel the same way (ask nicely by email and and I might give you a moment by moment account of the evening ;0). So I'm going to launch straight into what thoughts I did have about the play.

It's based around a book that was written by Lady Caroline Blackwood  (Anna Chancellor) who went to interview the Duchess of Windsor, for The Times, when she was an elderly widow living as a reclusive in Paris. Once there Caroline comes up against Maitre Suzanne Blume (Sheila Hancock), the Duchess' formidable and controlling lawyer whose achilles heel is a snobbery that allows her to be easily flattered.

With Blume threatening to sue - or worse - for anything that isn't the most favourable report of the Duchess and blocking any access to the woman herself, Caroline begins to suspect that there is more to her than just an over protective friend. Is the Duchess still alive? Why won't Blume let anyone see her? Why are the Duchesses things being sold off? But then Caroline likes a drink in a 'carry a bottle of vodey in a handbag' sort of way, so are her suspicions the irrational thoughts of an alcoholic?

It has the makings of a great mystery and also has it's laugh out loud moments. Of course it is very well acted (aside from a handful of line fumbles) as you would imagine from such an experienced cast. It is engaging more in an amusing way than as a thriller. And maybe this is the problem.

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'Tis the Season's Greetings

Images-1 Family Christmases were cited as 'unreasonable behaviour' in the Rev Stan/Christmas divorce. Since the decree absolute came through we've got along swimmingly so was Alan Ayckbourn's Season's Greetings at the National Theatre the ghost of Christmas past, the memories too painful to find funny or an amusing reaffirment of why it never worked in the first place?

Well first of all if Oliver Chris had been at any of those Christmases then things might have been a lot different *pause for sigh*. He plays Clive, friend of Rachel (Nicola Walker) for whom the friend moniker falls short of where she'd like things to go.

Rachel invites Clive to her sister Belinda (Catherine Tate) and husband Neville's (Neil Stuke) for  Christmas where they are joined by Uncle Harvey (David Troughton), sister in law Phyllis (Jenna Russell), her husband Bernard (Mark Gatiss) and friends Eddie (Marc Wootton) and his wife Pattie (Katherine Parkinson).

So while Rachel is failing to move things on with Clive, he's caught the eye of Belinda who is feeling unloved and neglected by gadget-loving husband Neville. Phyllis likes a drink or three while husband Bernard is a incompetant doctor bent of putting on yet another epic puppet show for the kids. Eddie meanwhile is an expert in avoiding duties of any sort for heavily pregnant wife Pattie who really would rather not be having another baby.

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Actors at the theatre

I've created a new category for my celeb spots when I'm at the theatre - hey I'll do anything for the clicks these days.

It's been a bit of a bumper theatre week, three plays so far and one more to go. The Donmar on Monday night wasn't it's usual rich picking of celeb spots but the Royal Court proved to be as good as ever on Tuesday night.

Images Lrg_1114200812834 Sir Ian Holm (Bilbo in LOTR) was having a pre-theatre bite in the cafe bar and then afterwards, aside from the cast from Sucker Punch and Sharon Small who's in Spur of the Moment upstairs, Olivia Williams (Ghost Writer) was having a wee drinkie.

Then last night at the Cottesloe, it wasn't so much as a celeb spot as a full encounter. A rather familiar face sat next to me, someone I've seen on stage recently but couldn't place (I'm rubbish with names) and as the first two to arrive on our bench and with the stage set so unique it was inevitable that we'd end up talking to each other on it.

I commented on the challenges of rehearsing when your stage is essentially an s-shaped, bar-height cat walk and he mentioned that they had built the stage in the rehearsal room for that very reason. Further comments led me to believe he was working at the NT so I asked and he indeed was, he's playing Prince Tydeus in Welcome to Thebes which I saw a few weeks back.

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