63 posts categorized "Theatre thoughts" Feed

That was February in London Theatre land - theatre food and presidential celeb spots

3187725261_f691619f64_z* Following a successful run in Stratford Upon Avon in 2015, the RSC's production of Helen Edmundson's play Queen Ann is to transfer to the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the summer. Romola Garai and Emma Cunniffe star.

* Paddy Considine has been confirmed for Jez Butterworth's new play Ferryman at the Royal Court (directed by Sam Mendes). It hasn't opened yet but buoyed by advance ticket sales a West End transfer to the Gielgud Theatre has already been announced.

* Skins and Game of Thrones star Hannah Murray is to head an all female cast of Posh at the Pleasance Theatre.

* The hot topic for theatre news sites and theatre tweeps was the Harold Pinter Theatre banning food during the performances of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf (and no ice in drinks less than 10 minutes before performance start apparently). Even the BBC did something on it with the well-worn opposing views. Personally, as someone who can hear the rustle of a sweet wrapper four rows away I heartily approve. But on a slightly more serious note, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a play of pin-drop pauses - you don’t want the tension and drama ruined by a rustle or clink of ice cubes. So while it pains me to say a blanket ban across theatre land would be a little unfair, I think for this particular production it is the right move.

Thesp spots: Richard Curtis was spotted at the Four Weddings and a Funeral staged reading at Hampstead Theatre, Andrew Lincoln watching Andrew Scott play Hamlet at the Almeida. Then a whole bunch of thesps at press night for  Ugly Lies The Bones at the National Theatre: Adrian Lester, Anna Maxwell Martin, Denise Gough and David Tennant. Quite a haul, I think you'll agree, but PolyG can top all of those, on her trip to New York she was at the theatre 'with' Barack Obama. Not sure that is ever going to be bettered.

Photo by Fiona Shields on Flickr, used under creative commons license


Theatre addict fixes - production announcement highs

If you are a hardcore fan of theatre or music or films or art or anything like that you'll perhaps get this. An email lands in your in box - or you see a tweet, or something on Facebook - announcing a new play/film/tour etc and you get a rush of excitement. Maybe you are a cool cat and can contain it or maybe you are like me and your heart starts racing and you can't help saying out loud, much the bemusement of your work colleagues, 'bloody hell!'.

Then follows the 'every second counts' googling on suddenly the slowest computer on the planet to find out if tickets have gone on sale, simultaneously checking your diary for potential dates. You nab those two good seats that seem to have been left just for you and nervously await the confirmation screen - nothing is certain until then. Ping it is done.

You check the details just in case you've missed the fact that it's actually at a theatre in the Outer Hebrides, take a screen grab for evidence 'just in case' and wait for the email confirmation to come through for back up. Add to diary, sit back and bask in the post purchase glow and then look around at your colleagues, none of whom will appreciate or understand your excitement.

Or is it just me?

***

The most recent instance this sort of excitement was the Cat On A Hot Tin Roof announcement last Friday for four reasons: It's a Tennessee Williams play I've yet to see, it's a Young Vic production directed by Benedict Andrews and Sienna Miller and Jack O'Connell are in it and I love both of them.


Andrew Scott's Hamlet is in the press but not in the way Cumberham was during previews

Hamlet_1470x690_version_3This article by the Telegraph about Andrew Scott's Hamlet at the Almeida is interesting for two reasons. Firstly because it picks up on some of the issues of long running times and secondly because it both quotes and links to reviews by bloggers who've seen previews.

My regular readers will know that long running times are a personal bug bear - this production of Hamlet rocks in at 4 hours, or it did the night I saw it. It is not very practical for those who don't live locally and have regular jobs to get up for. I luckily don't have too far to get home but it was still 11.45pm before I walked through the door and my usual alarm is 6.30am. Go at the weekend? It's not always possible, beside when you book way in advance as I do there is no way of knowing just how long the running time is.

I remember going to see Michael Sheen's Hamlet at the Young Vic with a friend who lived in Shoreham and he had to leave at the interval because he was worried about missing the last train home. It doesn't make for a relaxing evening if you are constantly worried about when its going to finish.

Now while I think Robert Icke's production and Andrew Scott's performance are both excellent (full thoughts coming soon) I'm sure there is stuff that could be trimmed, indeed the expectation is it will lose around 15 minutes before press night.  And as the run is pretty much sold out the running time doesn't seem to be putting off sufficient numbers to worry box office revenue but it will be publicity I'm sure the Almeida would rather not have.

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Roaming through the Roman Tragedies - is this the ultimate in immersive theatre?

Got this email yesterday ahead of our visit to see Ivo Van Hove's Roman Tragedies at the Barbican next month:

We look forward to welcoming you in March for Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s Roman Tragedies at the Barbican. For those not familiar with the format of the show, after the first half an hour of the performance you will be allowed to move freely around the auditorium and stage until the final 75 minutes of the performance when you will be asked to return to sitting in the auditorium. This means that when the performance starts you will have an allocated seat (your seat number can be found on your theatre ticket), but after the Master of Ceremonies invites you to move around, seats in the auditorium will become unallocated for the remainder of the performance.

Refreshments will be available to purchase on stage using cash or contactless payment and you may enter and exit the auditorium whenever you like. Use of mobile phones to access the internet is permissible throughout the performance although we kindly ask you to silence phones and ensure you switch off the flash when taking photos.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Barbican Centre.

Is this the ultimate in immersive theatre? The audience become the extras in the background "shopping" or being a tourist and stopping to take a photo? Curious to see how it works. It could be brilliant, it could be a massive distraction or the British proclivity to avoid embarrassment might prevail and people will stay put.


My theatre wish list for 2017

_originalPutting aside all the obvious ones like better loos, cheaper tickets, noise-free snacks, booking systems that don't collapse under the weight of demand etc this is what I hope for in theatre land this year:

More plays with strong female leads We had a good run in 2016 with Hedda, Mary Stuart, Saint Joan, the all women Shakespeare at the Donmar, The Deep Blue Sea, just to name a few. It’s a breath of fresh air and it shouldn’t be, it should be the norm - 65% of audiences are women after all.

Diverse casting - I don’t live in a city where 95% of the population is white so why should theatre be? All white casts are embarrassing. It's getting better but there is room for improvement.

Shorter plays If Josie Rourke can cut Saint Joan down from 4 plus hours to two hours 15 and Flute Theatre can cut Hamlet down to 90 minutes and they are both still really good then does your production really, really need to be three and a half hours long? I'm not saying everything should be two/two and half hours but overly long plays have become a bit of a thing in 2016 and it used to be the exception rather than the rule. It's as if there is a perception that running time is proportionate to level of seriousness. I saw a 15 minute play at the Royal Court last year that packed more punch than a three and a half play on a similar topic. On a practical level, some people need to catch the last train home and/or get up for work the next day.

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That was November in London theatre land

Show_DonJuanInSohoFeels like November was a big month for announcements...and thesp spotting.

* Even being out of the country at the time I couldn't miss the announcement that David Tennant is returning to West End stage in the 16+ age rated Don Juan of Soho at the Wyndhams Theatre next year. He'll be joined by Adrian Scaraborough and Gawn Grainger with further casting to be announced

* Barely a month goes by without the National Theatre announcing new productions and it's particularly exciting to see Kate Fleetwood cast in new play Ugly Lies the Bone in which she'll play an American soldier returning home after three tours in Afghanistan.

* The Boys In The Band, starring Mark Gatiss, which enjoyed a successful run at the Park Theatre, is transferring to the Vaudeville Theatre for a two week run in February. My review from the Park Theatre is here.

* Double excitement from the Royal Court as next year they've got a new Simon Stephens play (Nuclear War) and a new Jez Butterworth play (The Ferryman). Just need to take a moment to absorb that. As Sam Mendes is directing The Ferryman and Sonia Friedman Productions are involved I'd put money on a West End transfer and at least one really starry name in the cast. Not surprising it's already sold out apart from the Monday day seats.

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That was September in London theatre-land and a fav thesp spot

London-app-TodayTix-launches-the-worlds-first-Silent-Snacks-for-theatregoers-57d9484ae947a__880Busy and exciting month in the world of theatre not least because TodayTix launched a range of 'silent snacks'. This is something I can whole heartedly get behind as the rustle of sweet wrappers and other snacks is up there with talking as the most annoying audience behaviour. It is only a promotion but I hold out hope that theatres could be persuaded to stock only quiet edible items...These are the some of the other highlights:

* A stage adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner was announced. It's one of my favourite books and to say I'm curious as to how it is going to be adapted is an understatement. It opens on December 21 at the Wyndhams and runs until March.

* Ruth Wilson was confirmed for Hedda Gabler at National Theatre and Rafe Spall has also joined the cast. With Ivo Van Hove directing this just might be too much excitement. It opens on December 5.

* The relationship between Trafalgar Studios and Broadway's New Group continues as the latter brings its production of Buried Child starring Ed Harris and his wife Amy Madigan to the theatre in November. The New Group also produced Jesse Eisenberg's The Spoils which had a run at Trafalgar in the Summer. 

* The Lyric Hammersmith's Spring season is shaping up to be really interesting with the European première of Seventeen which is described as a coming of age story set on the last day of school - performed by septuagenarians. And then Duncan Macmillan (People, Places, Things and 1984) is adapting Paul Auster's City of Glass for the stage. The creative team behind the likes of The Nether, Wolf Hall, Let the Right One In and Harry Potter are also involved.

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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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That was July in London Theatre-land

Mary-Stuart_Juliet-Stevenson-and-Lia-Williams-photographed-by-Miles-Aldridge-700x455No treading the boards this month, lots of fringe theatre, really good fringe theatre (look out for a future post on what to see in London if you can't make it to Edinburgh)  and lots of celebs out and about, which is unusual.

* As someone who often books tickets in advance before the cast has been announced I do feel smug when someone 'popular' gets announced such as Mark Strong in Red Barn at the National. *Smug*.

* It's a shame the Almeida doesn't put its tickets on sale before the cast is announce and then perhaps there wouldn't be the usual website melt down. I'm already dreading trying to book for Juliet Stephenson and Lia Williams who were announced for Mary Stuart. They will alternate the roles of Mary and Queen Elizabeth by tossing a coin. Alternating roles is obviously the thing this year as they do something similar in the RSC production of Doctor Faustus. Very excited to see Lia and Juliet on stage together whichever part they end up playing.

* Thanks to Mark Rylance, @PolyG and I have some New Year's Eve theatre. There isn't always much on - last year was a case in point - but it is a nice way to spend the last night of the year when possible - previous trips have included Richard II at the Donmar and Mojo with Ben, Colin and Rupert et al. This year we'll be spending the evening watching Mark Rylance's new comedy Nice Fish at the Harold Pinter. We have a table at the back of the stalls which is going to be rather novel. Let's hope we can see something.

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That was June in London theatre-land

So June was the month when I properly trod the boards ie I didn't just walk across a stage to get to my seat, I interacted with actual, real live actors. It was the beginning and end of my glittering stage career, go out on a high is my philosophy. It was also the month I said goodbye to Kit Harington in his pants. Yep I went to see Dr Faustus for a third time - there were a couple of £15 front row seats calling to me. Jamie Lloyd said in an Q&A afterwards that despite what you think of the production you'd never be bored - and he was right. Plus it was fun noticing the little changes and nuances from show to show.

But there was plenty of other stuff going in London's theatre-land not least a raft of exciting casting announcements:

* Stan fav Jasper Britton was cast in the West End production of The Libertine.

* The National Theatre's production of Angels in America is shaping up to be possibly the most exciting cast for 2017. Joining Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough and Russell Tovey is James McArdle. Loved him in the James plays.

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