70 posts categorized "Theatre thoughts" Feed

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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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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