94 posts categorized "Theatre thoughts" Feed

London theatre June highlights: Game of Thrones stars tread the boards and a bumper crop of celeb spots

June was a big month for new production and casting announcements, here are the ones that caught my eye including two Game of Thrones actors heading to the stage.

• Angela Carter novel Wise Children has been adapted for the stage by Emma Rice for the Old Vic Autumn Season. Rice will also direct and previews start on October 8.

Kit Harington Doctor Faustus
Kit Harington previously appeared in the bloody Doctor Faustus and is set to star in True West.

 

• After Donmar's The Way of the World at the Donmar earlier this year, there is more restoration comedy to look forward to, this time William Congreve's play The Double Dealer which opens at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond on December 7.

• And talking of the Donmar, Michael Longhurst has been announced as the replacement to Josie O'Rourke as artistic director. He takes over in March 2019.

• Hollywood star Cate Blanchett is going to be treading the boards at the National Theatre with Stephen Dillane. Yay. What is tempering my excitement is it's a Martin Crimp play with a pretentious title and directed by marmite director Katie Mitchell. So torn about whether to see this one.

• Game of Thrones' Jon Snow aka Kit Harington is following up his turn in the bloody Doctor Faustus starring in Sam Shepherd's True West with Johnny Flynn at the Vaudeville Theatre. Previews from November 23. 

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Best (and worst) of London theatre for 2018...so far...and the actress in two plays on the list

As the halfway mark of 2018 rushes past, it's time to reflect on the highlights and low lights of London's theatre productions so far (edit: scroll to the bottom for the most read posts).

julius caesar bridge theatre Rev stan
Julius Caesar warm-up gig, Bridge Theatre. Photo: Rev Stan

I'm not sure whether it's a reflection of more varied programming generally or just where my interests predominantly lie these days but it's a list dominated by women protagonists and BAME stories.

Best of the big stuff (West End and off West End)

Girls and Boys, Royal Court

Carey Mulligan's performance is a tour de force, precise, subtle and complex. It is a devastating and brilliant piece of theatre and it's transferred to the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York Theatre where it runs until July 22.

The York Realist, Donmar Warehouse

Like My Night With Reg crossed with God's Own Country and the steamiest flirtation on stage for a long while.

Julius Caesar, Bridge Theatre

Stuff with Ben Whishaw in it doesn't always make it into my best of lists but being part of the mob was at times like being at a rock concert, a rally and in the middle of a war - never thought I'd enjoy standing at the theatre.

The Great Wave, National Theatre

Had no prior knowledge about the true events this play is based on but it proved the adage that the truth really can be stranger than fiction.

Summer and Smoke, Almeida

The first of two appearances on this list for Patsy Ferran, Summer and Smoke was a delicate, yet tense and heartbreaking play and I'm so glad it's got a transfer to the West End. See ATG's official website for details.

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Two transfers - An Octoroon and Sea Wall - are they as good in bigger venues? Or a shout out for diversity.

It's great to see small production transfer to bigger venues so more people get to experience them but there is always a danger they lose something in a larger space.

An Octoroon national theatre posterAnd so it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I have been to see two transfers recently - An Octoroon and Sea Wall.

An Octoroon first wowed me at the Orange Tree in Richmond where it served as a reminder of why I go to the theatre. (You can read my original review of An Octoroon here.)

Same intimacy?

Its transfer is to the Dorfman at the National Theatre which is a great choice as the space is flexible so the original staging, with the audience on four sides, can easily be recreated.

You would think it would lose some of its intimacy in the bigger venue but it didn't.

And crucially An Octoroon is a testament to not only why we need plays that reflect a more diverse narrative but also why theatres need to be attracting a more diverse audience.

By diverse I'm talking about both age and ethnicity.

Less staid

I've written before the difference it makes sitting in an audience that is more reflective of London's population, it makes for a less staid, less vanilla theatre-going experience.

And so it was for An Octoroon, right from the very beginning when the fourth wall was broken and there was a verbal response to actor Ken Nwosu's greeting when he came on stage.

This was an audience engaged and gripped from the outset and it just heightens your own enjoyment being part of that collective experience.

Go see An Octoroon if you can get a ticket. It's just as brilliant at the Dorfman, details at the end of the post.

 

 

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10 Very British Theatre Problems (inspired by @SoVeryBritish)

It's just sitting in the dark watching people talking on stage, right?

Wrong. Theatre-going is one huge mess of social awkwardness for us Brits and here's why: 

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Photo by Shrinkin' Violet on Flickr

1. Feeling you have to apologise when you stand up to let someone get to their seat.

2. Or finding yourself apologising for not standing up fast enough to let someone get to their seat.

3. Sitting on the front row and trying to look 'interested and entertained' just in case one of the actors meets your eye.

4. Then deciding you can never see that actor on the stage ever again because they caught you yawning or accidentally pulling a face when they did look at you.

5. At the interval, apologising for disturbing the couple at the end of the row despite the fact that they failed to notice everyone else had stood up and was waiting for them to move.

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Comment: Is Mark Rylance right to say noisy audiences are the fault of the actors?

The Stage reports on comments made by Mark Rylance at a conference in which he laid the blame for noisy audiences on the actors:

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 18.27.10But is he right?

Yes, there might be occasions when the performances aren't engaging enough but to solely blame actors would absolve playwrights, dramaturgs and directors of any responsibility.

Not all plays are perfect. I've sat through several new works that should have had more development time.

Equally, I've sat through revivals of 'rarely performed' work that probably should have stayed on the bookshelf.

Plays not perfect

Sometimes the actors can be doing their utmost with what isn't a particularly good play. In fact, I've written reviews in which I couldn't fault the production but found the play was lacking.

Not everyone will feel the same way about a particular story and themes and no amount of good acting is going to change it. 

I'm not going to get noisy and disruptive when I'm not enjoying a play but others do.

Last week when I was enjoying Julie at the National Theatre the man sat next obviously wasn't. He was huffing and puffing and sighing in that way people do when they are bored or irritated.

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Highlights: May's London theatre news, casting, highs, lows and a Q shaped celeb spot

Theatre stuff that caught my eye

* Director Jamie Lloyd is back with more Pinter (at the Pinter). It's a season of the one-act plays with a cast including Tamsin Greig, Danny Dyer, Jane Horrocks and Martin Freeman and will run at the Harold Pinter Theatre from 6 September through to January 23. Directors joining Jamie Lloyd include Lia Williams, Patrick Marber and Lindsay Turner.

Southwark playhouse new venue rev stan instagram
Southwark Playhouse's new venue at Elephant & Castle. Photo: Rev Stan on Instagram

* Southwark Playhouse is to get not one but two new homes from 2019. Its current spot in Elephant & Castle is hopefully the last of a string of temporary homes but as well as having a venue back under the arches at London Bridge, it's previous home, it will have a brand new theatre in Elephant. In order to secure these permanent homes the theatre needs to raise some more cash - and in return for a donation, you get the chance to have your name or other message inscribed on the wall. Dig deep.

* The Young Vic's rather brilliant production of The Inheritance gets a well deserved West End transfer. It opens at the Noel Coward Theatre Sep 21 until Jan 5.

* Andrew Scott returns to the stage with Simon Stephens superb Sea Wall. This time it has a two week run at the Old Vic from Jun 19. It is a punch in the guts short play (30 minutes) with a breathtaking performance by Scott. Need more convincing? Here's what I wrote about Sea Wall when it had its last short run at the NT's The Shed back in 2013.

* Lenny Henry is back on stage next year (still fangirling after shaking his hand during Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui). This time he's heading to Theatre Royal Stratford East to star in a production of August Wilson's King Hedley II which opens May 17.

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Round up: That was April in London theatre - Monster casting and A-list actor spots

MTNEW* I'm excited and nervous about the forthcoming stage adaptation of Patrick Ness’s novel A Monster Calls (the book is a favourite) but I couldn’t think of a better actor than Matthew Tennyson to take on the lead Conor. The production will have a run at the Bristol Old Vic from May 31 and the Old Vic from July 7.

* David Haig’s play Pressure (in which he also stars) is transferring from Park Theatre to the Ambassadors following a successful run at the Finsbury venue. Malcolm Sinclair and Laura Rogers co-star.

* Stan-fav Adam Gillen has been cast in Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios, which stars Orlando Bloom and I'm really looking forward to seeing him in something very different to Amadeus. You can see photos of the cast in rehearsal over at What's On Stage and previews start on May 18.

* Kilburn's Tricycle Theatre has been renamed the Kiln Theatre post refurbishment with a new season that includes the UK premiere of Florian Zeller’s The Son.

* In a new twist on role swapping (recent role swaps: Mary Stuart, Almeida; RSC's Doctor Faustus and NT's Frankenstein to name just three) Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden are to alternate playing Isabella and Angelo in Measure For Measure at the Donmar Warehouse.

* There is part of me that is excited and really curious and part of me that thinks: 'Gimmick to get repeated visits'. There is one version I'd particularly like to see but no way of knowing, having booked at ticket whether I'll get it. Previews start September 28.

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Review: London theatre seat guides pros and cons

You want the best seats for your money, right? But what are the pros and cons of seat review sites?

13954901608_89dfc11ece_zThere are two main sites that cover London theatre: SeatPlan.com and TheatreMonkey.com.

SeatPlan

What is it?

The site invites punters to upload reviews of seats and also pictures of the view*.

The seating plan is then colour coded according to how well or otherwise seats have been reviewed.

You can also buy tickets through the site and they invite reviews from the audience for current productions including a rating out of 5.

Coverage

The site covers the main West End Theatres and it looks like between 50-80% of seats in each theatre has been reviewed.

Pros

The site is well laid out and the seating plans are clear and easy to understand. You can see at a glance where the best-reviewed seats are and reviewers rate on comfort, view and legroom.

Cons

Many of the seats have only one review so you are only getting one opinion rather than an aggregated score.

While breaking up the review into three key areas is definitely a plus, there is no way to allow for things such as personal preference, the height of the reviewer or staging for particular productions.

For example, the cheap seats at the front of the Lyttelton get you close to the stage but the seat rows aren't offset so if you are short or medium height and have a tall person sat in the seat in front, you will be peering around someone's head. 

There are also very similar seats next to each other that are given very different ratings for no other reason than one person found the discomfort more bearable than another. 

While the main West End theatres are covered there are some notable exceptions such as the Donmar Warehouse and Trafalgar Studios.

The plans also don't allow for changes in staging. While most of the main theatres keep the same seating, not all do. For example, Quiz at the Noel Coward has on stage seating which isn't covered.

Conclusion

Clear and easy to use but check out several different seats in the same row/same area of the theatre to get a general feel and perhaps check with the official theatre websites to see if there have been any changes to the seating plans to accommodate particular staging.

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That was March in London theatre-land with Hamlet actor spots but a Shakespeare theatre low

Theatre news highlights from March

* Mark Bonnar and Jane Horrocks have been cast in Instructions for Correct Assembly at the Royal Court which opens for preview on April 7.

Cw-24829-660x375* Samuel West joins the previously announced Romola Garai in Ella Hickson's The Writer, Almeida, which opens for preview on April 16.

* Not only is the Donmar staging a new adaptation of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, directed by Polly Findlay, but Lia Williams and Angus Wright are starring. Be lovely to see those two on stage together again.

* Stan-fav Jade Anouka has been cast in The Phlebotamist, the debut play by Ella Road at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs.

* It's bye bye to the Lyric Hammersmith for a little while (June to October) as it undergoes a refurbishment.

* Orlando Bloom has been cast in Killer Joe at Trafalgar Studios which opens for previews on May 18. I admit my interest in seeing this is more out of curiosity rather than being a fan.

* Another Stan-fav, Jonjo O’Neill, has been cast in The Prudes at the Royal Court Theatre which opens for preview on April 18.

Celebrity spots

There's a bit of a Hamlet theme to the spots in March. Game of Thrones's Joe Dempsie was watching the RSC's Hamlet at Hackney Empire and then he 'stalked' @PolyG and I nearly all the way home on the tube.

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Agreeing with Exeunt magazine's (irrational) theatre dislikes and adding one of my own

Exeunt magazine (@theatremagazine) asked its reviewers what their (irrational) dislikes at the theatre were and compiled them into this great list.

ColdThere are many I agree with (ovations, actors on stage as the audience arrive, real food...) but I have my own addition: Snotty noses.

Well, not so much snotty noses, there's (s)not much you can do about that, but the fact that actors never have a hanky or tissue.

Instead, they wipe their nose on their hand or sleeve...or on the shoulder of the fellow actor, their character is hugging, if they are lucky.

It's what seven-year-olds do. It's revolting. 

Only once have I seen an actor on stage with a hanky. Zoe Wanamaker obviously had a cold during when I saw her in The Rose Tattoo at the National Theatre but she made blowing her nose part of the performance.

An actor blowing their nose isn't going to break some magical spell, in fact watching them wipe snot on their sleeve or hand breaks the spell, grown-ups (mostly) don't do that.

They must know they are going to get snotty why not be like Zoe, make it part of the performance?

Photo by William Brawley on Flickr and used under a creative commons license.