18 posts categorized "Non-plays" Feed

My favourite plays of 2017...so far #midyearreview #theatre

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2017 is already the year that brought us Andrew Scott's Hamlet, Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman and my introduction to playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins and it's only six months in. There are a further nine plays I couldn't not include in my 'best of so far' list and that was with the bar set very high. I've still got Angels in America, Ben Whishaw in Against, Rory Kinnear in Young Marx and the awarding winning Oslo to come later this year, among many others potential theatre treats - the end of year list is already looking tricky to narrow down.

Anyway, here's what I've enjoyed the most in 2017 so far. Feel free to agree/disagree...

(In no particular order, because that would be too traumatic to do.)

1. Amadeus, National Theatre  This was supposed to be a 2016 play but I gave up my ticket for the early part of the run because of work pressures, good words from @PolyG made me rebook for January and I'm so glad I did. It was a play that unexpectedly floored me. It's returning next year and yes I've got a ticket.

2. Out Their On Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Fringe theatre kicked off in fine style with this brilliantly warm, funny, odd, dark, misfit comedy that was the antidote to everything disturbing that was going on the world at the time. It transferred to Trafalgar Studios 2 and I got to enjoy it all over again.

3. Hamlet, Almeida  I've seen a lot of Hamlet's and there is usually something new in each but Andrew Scott's prince in Robert Icke's production made me look at the play with completely new eyes. Sorry Sherlock but this was a battle that Moriarty definitely won. It's transferred to the West End.

4. An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre  Was tipped off about American playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins and this is the first of his plays I've seen. It's a play I could write reams and reams about and reminded me why I love going to the theatre. Gloria, another of his plays is currently on at Hampstead Theatre, it didn't quite make this list but it is still really good.

5. Rotterdam, Arts Theatre  This was in my 'best of' list last year but after a stint off Broadway it's come back to London to the bigger Arts Theatre. It made me laugh, it made me gasp and it made me cry - all that even though I've seen it before and knew exactly what was coming. That's why it's back on the list. It's on until 15 July.

6. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Old Vic  It's possibly the only Tom Stoppard play I really like and this was a great production that was lively, entertaining, profound and melancholic . There was a brilliant rapport between the two leads - Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire - and David Haig as The Player was worth the ticket price alone.

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Review: Princess, Lost Theatre, Stockwell or when Stan watched a contemporary dance piece for the first time

Well this is new for me: A dance piece. And by that I mean I'm coming to this having seen a ballet once and that's it when it comes to dance as a form of story telling. There is a synopsis for Princess in the programme and I wonder if I'd read it beforehand whether it would have made a difference because I'm not sure I gleaned much of what is described there from what I was seeing on stage.

Stuart Saint is the writer/director/choreographer of the piece which, apparently, shatters the illusion of the happily-ever-afters, banishing the storybook fairytale and finding the feminism in Disney. Maybe it's my lack of familiarity and knowledge of dance but what I got from it was a toy rabbit carrying, dungaree wearing 'princess' who is seduced by a group of more scantily-clad dancers including a man wearing a rabbit mask. At some point she changes into a dress that is more Alice in Wonderland-style and eventually she rejects the man-rabbit.

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Review: The hilarious and hot Naked Magicians, Trafalgar Studios

Christopher Wayne & Mike Tyler
Christopher Wayne & Mike Tyler

The blow up doll on the stage is a clue. If you don't get that, there is a warning before The Naked Magicians show starts that if you are easily offended then you should 'probably f*ck off now'. And that is the tone of the show: it is rude, irreverent, a little more than suggestive and brilliant fun.

Lets be honest, the suggestion of nudity is probably what makes most people buy the ticket and that doesn't come until the end but it doesn't matter, the show is so good you forget that's what is promised.

It is part comedy part magic, full of laughs (my face was aching by the end) and while the magic tricks aren't the most sophisticated they are nonetheless impressive.

Stand up Maureen Younger gets the audience warmed up ready for the Naked Magicians - Australians Mike Tyler and Christopher Wayne. There is plenty of audience participation. If getting dragged up on stage to 'help' with some magic is your idea of a nightmare then make sure you choose seats towards the middle of the row and at least few rows back from the front.

There was one woman 'volunteer' who brilliantly flawed the magicians with a comment - she saw where they were going and got there first. They took it brilliantly and it added to the fun.

A couple of the tricks the whole audience can get involved with - one of which is particularly impressive but I won't say any more because it will spoil it if you go.

They are only around until the end of this week so if you fancy something silly, funny and with adult themes then hurry along to the Trafalgar Studios.

The show is roughly two hours long including an interval and I'm giving it 5 stars. If you hadn't worked it out already it has an 18+ age restriction.

 


A few thoughts on Kenneth Branagh's weepy The Winter's Tale via encore screening

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Tom Bateman and Jessie Buckley in The Winter's Tale, Garrick Theatre. Photo: Johan Persson

I'm told by my friends on social media that this doesn't technically count as my first theatre trip of 2016 but that doesn't mean I can't write a bit about it as I won't get a chance to see it live at the Garrick Theatre before it finishes on January 16. Seeing it on a cinema screen is a good substitute and while you don't get the thrill of seeing the live performance you do get to appreciate the performances close up.

So what was it like? Well I've always been a bit 'meh' about The Winter's Tale mainly because it feels, tonally, like two very different plays separated by an interval. Kenneth Branagh's productions doesn't quite manage to erase that feeling but it did something other productions haven't, it made me cry. Several times.

Dame Judi Dench's Paulina, defender of the innocent Queen, Miranda Raison's Hermione, the innocent victim of her husband's personal misjudgement and Jessie Buckley's Perdita, who is divided from her lover, were such touching performances. I've never been quite so consistently moved by Shakespeare.

I've seen funnier productions - although perhaps the smallish cinema audience on a Sunday morning didn't help - but this certainly tugged on my heart strings. It was also great to see Theatre Hottie Tom Bateman (moustache notwithstanding) and there was great chemistry between him and Jessie Buckley as the two lovers which probably helped provoke the tears when things started going wrong for them.

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My 10 favourite things about the #Iliadlive reading at the British Museum and Almeida

Iliad cast & creative
Iliad cast & creative - click for bigger image

On Friday #IliadLive was trending on Twitter, a remarkable feat considering it was essentially a 16-hour live reading of an Ancient Greek epic poem - not the sort of thing you normally expect social media to get excited about. Even more remarkable that among the cast of more than 60, while sparkling with theatre stars - the sort of actors that get us theatre nerds very excited - only a handful have the broader TV screen fame of the sort that usually gets Twitter excited.

The readathon started at 9am at the British Museum and was live streamed for those that couldn't make it. Benches had been set up on a first come, first served basis and were full most of the time. There were people sat on the floor nearby, some had come prepared with picnics and always a throng of people at the back - some bemused foreign tourists.

As the museum was closing those among the audience lucky enough to snap up tickets for the remainder of the story at the Almeida were ushered onto a Routemaster bus or into cycle rickshaws where the reading continued during the journey.

I reckon I caught eight or nine hours, a combination of live streaming and watching it live at the British Museum and at the Almeida. Some far sturdier than me did the whole thing braving night buses to get home after the final lines were read, shortly before 1am. (I salute you @RhianBWatts).

Anyway here are 10 of my favourite things from Iliad Live, what are yours?

1. Simon Russell Beale set the bar high with the very first reading cementing why he is a national treasure when it comes to live performance (and possibly the only stage actor who'd get up to perform at 9am).

2. At the British Museum, there was no waiting in the privacy of the wings to come on, the actors are stood to one side script in hand for all to see and study which is fairly unusual. Sometimes you could see the nerves in their body language. John Simm borrowed a pen from an AD to make last minute notes on his script and Oliver Chris just leaned casually chatting and smiling like it was a walk in the park.

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Udderbelly review: Spectular strength and agility in A Simple Space

30_a_simple_spaceTo call A Simple Space an acrobatics show doesn't really do it justice: For sixty minutes I was smiling and agog.

This Australian troop of five men and two women perform a series of spectacular feats some of which you have to see to believe.

Most of it is done without props, using each other for strength, guidance and balance. They fling each other about, are human climbing frames and a shoulder, head, face, foot or hand can all be a useful platform on which to balance. They even jump on each other, sometimes playing a sophisticated and graceful game of moving around without touching the floor.

It is done with a certain amount of humour and playful competitiveness. In between the more physical feats they have little competitions. There's one to see who can hold their breath the longest while one of them stays in a handstand and another which is a bit like strip poker only they compete at skipping rather than cards.

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Review: Japan's answer to the Blue Man Group - Siro-A

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If you cross the Blue Man Group with Japanese pop culture, electro music and video then you'll have an idea of what Siro-A's show is all about.

The six performers are dressed in white rather than blue but over the course of 60 minutes spin through a number of 'acts' which involve video projections, light, cameras, performance and dance. It's very clever and slightly difficult to describe.

Sometimes the performers are shadows against a backdrop on which images are projected, sometimes they hold square screens on which images are projected and sometime they have images projected onto their white suits. It is skillfully done and timed with great precision so that they can interact with the images, move with them, catch them, throw them etc. All the time you are thinking: are the following the images or the images following them?

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Review: Thongs, feathers and drag queens in Briefs - A Second Coming

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Think Priscilla: Queen of the Desert crossed with Cirque du Soleil and you'll get the idea behind Briefs - A Second Coming (or just watch the trailer from their first show).

This troupe of camp acrobats and drag queens from Australia have put together a fun, frolicking and very grown up cabaret and brought it to tent on the South Bank. Marvel at scantily-clad, glitter-glowing muscular physiques performing breathtaking circus acrobatics mixed with acerbic drag queens and Priscilla-style mime to popular songs.

Briefs is 75 minutes of fun, laughter and lets face it an ogle-fest. I've seen it twice just to fully appreciate the physical talent. Ahem. You've got another week to catch it at London Wonderland as it finishes on Sep 28. The slightly more expensive Wonderland Seats are on the front row, regular priced seats are unallocated and people start queuing before 7pm. It's not raked seating but the stage is quite high.


Review: And now for something different - Gandini Juggling's Smashed at Udder Belly

For something a little bit different, something that is a unique twist of juggling, dance, comedy and drama  head to the upside down purple cow on London's South Bank.

Gandini Juggling are in residence with their show Smashed which is skillfully and often beautifully   performed by the troupe of seven men and two women using a lot of apples and a tea set.

The hour long show is a series of loosely linked vignettes sometimes synchronised juggling, sometimes there are threads of narrative discernible in the dance and mime and sometimes there is slap stick. But all the time there is juggling, all sorts of juggling.

It is a show that is like a cocktail that has been shaken and stirred with drizzle of sauce that tastes much better than its description implies.  It is funny, sometimes beautiful, entertaining and impressive and you won't see anything quite like. It runs as part of the South Bank Festival's Udder Belly programme until May 18 before resuming a UK and European tour.

 


BBC Henry IV part 1 and 2 post screening Q&A chaired by Sam Mendes

I was in awe, probably far more than I should have been, to be in the same room as theatre and film director Sam Mendes on Monday night. Love his work and there he was on stage chairing a Q&A with Sir Richard Eyre and Stan fav Simon Russell Beale following a preview of the two parts of Henry IV which Eyre adapted and directed and SRB starred as Falstaff.

IMG_0806I've already reviewed the two films, part of the BBC's Shakespeare season which they are calling The Hollow Crown, which were excellent, so this post is a few of the highlights from the discussion.

Richard Eyre: "It's my second favourite Shakespeare after King Lear but my condition for being involved was that Simon played Falstaff."

Other than cutting the words were never tampered with but he said added physical scenes to get around certain problems such as the fact that in part 2 you don't see the King for an hour. Also intercut a bit because you don't have the constraints of the stage.

Simon Russell Beale: "We vaguely put ourselves in the right positions and Richard would say just do it and I'll film principle shots."

When the play acting scene in the alehouse was filmed it was performed straight through without an "actor dropping a line". "The actions of the extras was entirely dependent on what we did. It was an extraordinary moment."

Sam Mendes: So why rehearse then?

SRB: "You can localise absolutely precisely. It's absolute concentration. I found it extremely pleasurable."

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