76 posts categorized "Theatre thoughts" Feed

That was April in London theatre-land - cast announcements, transfers and thesp spots

Jam, Finborough Theatre

* Incoming from Broadway is new play Oslo about the Oslo Peace accords which will have a short run at the National Theatre in September before transferring into the West End

* Bertie Carvel is back at the Almeida, this time he's been cast with Richard Coyle in the new James Graham play Ink which is set on Fleet Street in the 1960s. Bertie is playing Rupert Murdoch and Richard is playing Larry Lamb.

* Stan fave Forbes Masson (loved him as the devil in Dr Faustus) will appear in Terror, Lyric Hammersmith which opens in June. The play is set around a court case and the audience gets to decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

* The new Bridge Theatre's first season was announced which naturally generated a lot of excitement because Ben Whishaw is playing Brutus in a promenade performance of Julius Caesar, alongside David Morrissey as Mark Anthony and Michelle Fairley as Cassius. There were other gems in the season announcement too, Rory Kinnear is taking the lead in a new Richard Bean play Young Marx alongside Oliver Chris. (I wrote a piece on the new season and ticketing.)

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Bridge Theatre's first season - and what we know about London's newest venue

Are we excited about the new Bridge Theatre's first season which was announced today? Ben Whishaw, David Morrissey, Michelle Fairley, Rory Kinnear (in bouffant wig), Richard Bean and Barney Norris? I would say that is quite exciting.  

But I must admit that my excitement was tempered until I found out what sort of prices and seating the new 900-seat flexible performance space theatre would have. There was nothing on the website and initially I balked at paying £50 for membership, knowing so little - if decent seats were the usual West End prices then trips would be infrequent.

However, an offer came through for half price membership so it felt less of a gamble and actually it paid off because although ticket prices go up to £75 it's been possible to get reasonably positioned seats in the stalls for £25. For Julius Caesar you can go in the pit (presumably it's standing but you get real close to the action) for £25. For The Young Marx, which is the first play when the theatre opens in October, I got front row stalls for £25 and for Nightfall that price bought seats on the third/back row at the side of the thrust. Obviously the proof will be in sight lines when watching but as it's a new theatre, I'm hopeful.

If the first season is a taste of the type of work and talent involved and it remains possible to get decent seats for £25/30 then the Bridge Theatre might just become a regular haunt.



That was March in London theatre land - and a bumper crop of thesp spots

Keith Stevenson in Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Theatre (c) Erika Boxler

* The Almeida's excellent production of Hamlet starring Andrew Scott is transferring to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End in June.

* And...not to take away from Hamlet's success but putting the tickets on sale at midnight, on a Saturday for Almeida members was an odd decision not least because, if Twitter is anything to go by, there were glitches with the ATG Tickets website and apparently no customer services/tech support available to sort it at that time of night.

* One of my favourite plays of 2016 - Rotterdam - is transferring to Broadway. OK, so not technically London theatre but it was such a great play and production I’m really pleased to see it doing well.

* Back in London and fringe plays doing well, the excellent Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road, which I saw at the White Bear back in January is transferring to Trafalgar Studios 2 in May. Yep, I will be seeing it again because I liked it that much.

* Stan-Fav Simon Stephens is adapting The Seagull (one of the only Chekhov plays I actually like) for a production at the Lyric Hammersmith starring Lesley Sharp in the Autumn.

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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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