65 posts categorized "Theatre thoughts" Feed

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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That was May in London theatre-land

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John Boyega. Photo: Old Vic

May was the month I went to a musical, sort of. It was also the month I saw probably my favourite Hamlet so far. But in other news there was quite a bit of celebrity casting...

* John Boyega of new Star Wars film fame is to star in a Jack Thorne adaptation at Woyzeck at the Old Vic. Is this a bit of a coup for the Old Vic? Boyega cut his teeth in youth theatre but has been catapulted into the limelight through the Star Wars franchise.

*Matt Smith of Dr Who fame is in new play Unreachable with Stan fav Jonjo O'Neill at the Royal Court next month. I'm hopeful that it will be far more inspiring than the trailer in fact I think the trailer is a strong contender for worst of the year.

* Much excitement for us Ivo Van Hove fans when the Barbican announced a Toneelgroep residency next year. There will be three plays including a six hour epic based on Julius Caesar, Coriolanus and Antony & Cleopatra. His four and a half hour Kings of Power was just a warm up it seems. It is not going to be a bum-numbing experience though as apparently the audience will be invited to move around the auditorium and even tweet throughout. He's also roped in Jude Law to star in Obsession.

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Tom Hiddleston's next Shakespeare role: some speculation and wishful thinking

Ntlive_template-large_0Catching up with BBC Radio 4's Front Row podcast this week there was an interview with Tom Hiddleston in which he was asked about whether, having already played the likes of Coriolanus, Prince Hal and Henry V whether there were any other Shakespeare characters he'd like to take on.

His answer was:

"I do have my eyes on something...you'll find out very soon, I think."

Now if that doesn't give us an excuse for excitement and speculation then I don't know what would. We can't assume stage, although that it what I'm keeping my fingers crossed for but who will he play?

He can tick off history and Roman tragedy from the canon. Obviously there is a Hamlet sized hole in his CV but is theatreland ready for another big starry Hamlet hot on the heels of Benedict Cumberbatch and with Andrew Scott is playing the Dane early next year at the Almeida? It's an obvious choice - a bit obvious and predictable - but my second thought was a comedy: I could see him playing Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing.

I've subsequently done a bit of Googling and found this interview with Kenneth Branagh from 2014 in which he hints that he'd love to direct Tom in Much Ado. Ken's theatre production company currently has a residency at the Garrick, so there is that.

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That was April in London (and New York) theatre-land - the bloody (dog) star-spangled month

TamaskanApril was a bloody month and it was a (doggy) star spangled month...

* Haven't seen a dog on stage since Little Eyolf at the Almeida last year but this month there were two occasions for pause so the audience could go 'ah'. First up was at the Almeida again, this time a dog was walked on the stage during Boy then in The Crucible at the Walter Kerr there was a wolf. Actually it was rare dog breed called a Tamaskan (pictured) which looks spookily like a wolf. The Tamaskan gets the performance award for wandering around the stage (helped by strategically placed treats) pausing to look out into the audience before trotting off.

* Talking of The Crucible, as you may have guessed my theatre obsession took me state-side. It was my second trip to New York to check up on Ben Whishaw and it is reassuring to know he can still touch his knees with his nose at the curtain call. Used the Today Tix app to get some really good seats for a relative bargain to see Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels in the disturbing and devastatingly good Blackbird.

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Comments and critics on Timothy Spall's The Caretaker, Old Vic

Timothy Spall (Davies) in The Caretaker at The Old Vic. Photo by Manuel Harlan (5)
Timothy Spall (Davies) in The Caretaker at The Old Vic. Photo by Manuel Harlan

People are kind enough to stop by this blog and leave a comment occasionally but my review of The Caretaker seemed to attract more interest than normal. The consensus of opinion from the comments seemed to be that the production is "dull and boring" - to quote one - although there was one person who really seemed to like it.

I too liked it, although it didn't warrant the long running time. In liking it I was accused by one person of fawning over Timothy Spall and raving about it because it was at the Old Vic. I don't think I did but I'm going to put that to one side because there is a whole separate post about how some people can't seem to disagree with others without sounding like they are personally affronted.

The play hadn't been seen by critics when these comments were written so I was curious as to whether it would divide opinion just as much. And  I think it is fair to say it hasn't gone down as a resounding success. There are more four star reviews than three star but there are three star reviews and it is interesting that the running time does get mentioned in a few:

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That was March in London theatreland

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Jonathan Broadbent as Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

More grumbles but also plenty of laughs in March, we needed them what with the weather and everything.

* Endurance play-watching continued in theatreland this month with Les Blancs at the National Theatre clocking in at three hours including an interval and The Caretaker at the Old Vic running for three hours and 15 including two intervals. Both 7.30pm starts. I'm not going to go over old ground but...I'm using it as training for Ivo Van Hove's Kings of War at the Barbican at the end of April, think that hits the four hour mark but at least the start time reflects that.

* March made me realise there isn't enough really good comedy on stage mainly because there have been two really fun plays in the past month. First up was Filter Theatre's A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Lyric Hammersmith during which I got told off for laughing in anticipation of the punchline and then Richard Bean’s snooker-themed The Nap at The Crucible. Haven’t laughed as much since One Man, Two Guvnors.

* Big casting announcements came from the Almeida - not that we hadn't already heard the rumours of course - but yes Andrew Scott officially becomes 2017's hotly anticipated Hamlet with Juliet Stevenson play Getrude (get me a ticket now!). And I'm not normally excited about seeing Ralph Fiennes on stage but he's playing Richard III at the Almeida and I quite fancy seeing him play the Machiavellian king (he was a great Voldemort after all). 

* Celeb spots: Phyllida Law sat next to Poly and I at Reasons To Be Happy at Hampstead and then Poly ‘shared’ the tube with Vanessa Kirby and ‘bumped’ into Damien Molony in M&S at Moorgate. Sadly we just missed Angelina Jolie's trip to see Jack O'Connell in The Nap at The Crucible, she must have read my review as the visit couldn't possibly have had anything to do with him starring in her directorial debut on the big screen.

 

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What is it with long and late finishing plays these days?

Plays that are more than three hours long seem to be popular this year as does starting them at 7.30pm rather then scheduling them a bit earlier.  This is a particular bug bear of mine and the issue arose again today when I checked the running time of Le Blancs at the National Theatre: 3 hours and 15 minutes with a 7.30pm start. So I took to Twitter to vent my frustration and turns out I'm not alone:

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I think theatreland could do with carrying out some customer discovery.


My top three badly behaved theatre audience experiences

484635401_3fb7c1609e_zLast week's story of Laurence Fox's outburst at an audience member made me think 'good on him'. There have been times when my fellow audience members have not behaved brilliantly and if it wasn't for disturbing the actors further I'd have a go myself.

Here are three of the worst I have experienced:

The noisy headphones

Yes, someone sat near me at the Lyttleton was either listening to music through headphones or hadn't turned their mp3 player off. No one could quite work out where the singing and music was coming from audible during the (many) quieter scenes. There were a lot of quizzical looks passing among those of us who could hear the irritating noise. In the end several people complained to the usher at the interval who made an announcement in the general direction of where the noise was coming from and the music was gone during the second half.

The giggling teenagers

Trafalgar Studios 2 is one of those tiny theatres where the actors are often within touching distance. It was a Dickens themed double bill (Dickens With a Difference) and for the second show James Swanton took on all the characters, contorting himself into each in what was a skilled and gripping performance. Unfortunately the two teenage girls sat in the middle of the front row, virtually under his nose, weren't as gripped and decided to giggle, snort and whisper their way through the entire thing. Swanton soldiered on waiting until the curtain call to say: "Thank you all for coming tonight, I've made two of you laugh at least but for everyone else I hope it didn't spoil your enjoyment." I'm still surprised they made it out of the theatre in once piece.

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A glimpse back stage at London's theatres in 2015

Love nosing around back stage at the theatre - Simon Annand's The Half, a series of photos of actors in the half an hour before they go on stage is a permanent resident on the coffee table.

Curtain Call: A Year Back Stage In London Theatre is a new book - and the first of a series - in which photographer Matt Humphrey has been given access to nearly 60 theatre productions in 2015/16 to capture what goes on. Stars such as Nicole Kidman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Damian Lewis, Imelda Staunton, Mark Rylance, James McAvoy and Mark Strong all feature.

Have been given a taster and these are some of favourites:

The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studio. ∏ Matt Humphrey - Curtain Call (2016).
James McAvoy, The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studio. Photo: Matt Humphrey - Curtain Call (2016).

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