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My 3 current theatre turn-offs

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There are so many things that inspire my choices of what to see at the theatre but there are a few things that are actually a turn-off, besides musicals.

Here are three things that have me running in the opposite direction. What are yours?

1. BREXIT

It's everywhere, everyday, the reminders, the opinions - and I'm happy to share mine in a different forum - but if I see BREXIT in the synopsis for a play something inside me dies a little bit.

2. Immersive theatre

When it is done well it's brilliant, but more usually it's just awkward, exposes bad story-telling or reminds you of why there are conventions in the first place. It feels like a term that is bandied about to make a production sound daring and exciting.

3. Male-centricity

Guess what, the world isn't just made up of men and a play that has only men in it, is starting to be a big turn off. Was seeing the world purely through male eyes ever a novelty?

Image by Erica M on Flickr

 


10 plays I'm really looking forward to seeing in London 2018

Julius Caesar, Bridge TheatrePrompted by the Daily Telegraph's rather uninspiring and quite frankly lazy list of upcoming theatre treats - three plays which have already opened? Oh come on - here's my list of what I'm already really excited about seeing in the first half of 2018*.

1. My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court Theatre - Patsy Ferran, I love Patsy Ferran and this is the first of two plays she's doing in 2018 and it's a solo piece *insert big smile here*

2. Julius Caesar, Bridge Theatre - Ben Whishaw playing Brutus alongside David Morrissey and Michelle Fairley and the chance to mingle with the Roman mob? Already booked to see it twice.

3. The Brothers Size, Young Vic - Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney who also penned Oscar best picture winner Moonlight (which I loved) and starring Sope Dirisu who was brilliant in One Night In Miami at the Donmar and the RSC's Coriolanus.

Continue reading "10 plays I'm really looking forward to seeing in London 2018 " »


That was November in London (and beyond) theatre land or Martin McDonagh month

 

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Beginning, National Theatre

You wait ages then two Martin McDonagh plays come along...

 

* The Bridge Theatre announced a new play by McDonagh, The Very Very Very Dark Matter which opens in October 2018 and not only that it stars Jim Broadbent.

* Before that, in June, The Lieutenant of Inishmore is being revived by Michael Grandage at the Noel Coward Theatre from June starring Poldark's Aidan Turner.

* Grandage is also reviving John Logan's play Red which he originally directed at the Donmar. Alfred Molina returns as artist Mark Rothko while Alfred Enoch will play his assistant Ken. It is at the Wyndhams from May and is really good although I'll always be grateful I saw it in a small theatre.

* Elsewhere, Paines Plough is transferring three of its Edinburgh hits - Black Mountain, How To Be A Kid and Out Of Love - to run in rep at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond from Jan. And for those who do this sort of thing, you can see all three plays in one day.

* Carey Mulligan returns to the stage in Dennis Kelly’s Girls and Boys at the Royal Court from February next year.

* The fabulous play Beginning transfers from the Dorfman to the Ambassadors theatre from January.

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That was October in London theatre-land

Mischief Movie Night
Mischief Theatre

A little later than usual as I've been on holiday...

* Quite a few nuggets of excitement in the National Theatre’s 2018 season announcement. Sam Mendes will direct The Lehmans Trilogy and Ralph Fiennes will appear alongside Sophie Okonedo in Antony and Cleopatra. Stan-fav Colin Morgan will star in Brian Friel’s Translations, Vanessa Kirby will star in Polly Stenham’s new version of Miss Julie (the Miss has been dropped) and one of my favourite plays of this year (so far), An Octoroon, is transferring to the National next summer.

* Sheila Hancock will star in the stage adaptation of 1971 comedy Harold and Maude at the Charing Cross Theatre from February.

* Mischief Theatre - those clever peeps behind The Play That Goes Wrong, Peter Pan Goes Wrong (etc) - are returning to the West End with their improvised Mischief Movie Night at the Arts Theatre from December 13.

* The next season at the Park Theatre will include a new play written by and starring David Haig called Pressure which is about meteorologists trying to predict the perfect weather for the D-Day landings.

Continue reading "That was October in London theatre-land" »


That was September in London theatre land with added mobile phone disturbances and actor drop outs

 

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Ben Whishaw in Against. Picture Johan Persson.

* Suranne Jones, Nina Sosanya and Jason Watkins have been cast in Frozen (the Bryony Lavery play not the Disney thing) which opens at Theatre Royal Haymarket in February.

*Punchdrunk announced its latest London production which is a six hour, two at a time walk. And no I'm not the least bit bothered about seeing it, I'm still scarred by The Drowned Man.

* The Almeida announced casting for Mike Bartlett's new play Albion which includes Victoria Hamilton, Margot Leicester, Vinette Robinson, Christopher Fairbank and Nicholas Rowe. Previews from Oct 10.

* Up in Stratford, Christopher Eccleston is to play Macbeth with Niamh Cusack as Lady M. (How many Dr Who's is that who've trod the boards in Stratford?) It opens for previews on March 13. I'm hoping for a London transfer.

* Kwame Kwei-Amah was announced as the new artistic director of the Young Vic and takes over the role next year. Love the Young Vic and I think he's a great choice.

* The Donmar announced its new season. Michael Longhurst is to direct James Norton and Imogen Poots in Amy Herzog's Belleville from December. Then there is Peter Gill play The York Realist from Feb and I must admit I'm not a huge fan of his work but it's got Katie West in it so... The season finishes with The Way of the World which I've only seen once before, at the Sheffield Crucible, and I loved it. Linda Bassett stars and it's directed by James Macdonald. Full season details on the Donmar website.

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That was August in London (and Stratford) theatre-land with a bit of a Hamlet theme

Hamlet
Tom Hiddleston as Hamlet, photo Johan Persson

* The lucky charms came out in August as it was announced that Tom Hiddleston would play Hamlet, directed by Kenneth Branagh, for a limited run at RADA as a fund raiser for the drama school. The lucky charms were for the ticket ballot, the only way to see the production. My stars were aligned or at least @PolyG’s were. Can’t wait. (Production photos here on What's On Stage.)

* And while we are on the topic of Hamlet, Andrew Scott/Robert Icke's amazing production is due to be broadcast by BBC 2 next year. It opened at the Almeida earlier this year before transferring to the West End's Harold Pinter Theatre and has set the bar high for Hamlets, so no pressure Tom/Ken.

* Another Hamlet related bit of news (kinda), Jonathan Slinger - a former RSC Hamlet  -  has been cast in Trouble in Mind at the Print Rooms at the Coronet.

* Stan-fav and RSC regular, Jasper Britton, is starring in a new Howard Brenton play, The Blinding Light, at the Jermyn Street Theatre from September 6.

* And still with the RSC, if you fancy a unique souvenir of a favourite production get down to Stratford on Sep 23 for the company's costume sale.

* Elsewhere, Samantha Bond and Richard Dreyfus have been cast in the Florian Zeller's play The Lie at Menier Chocolate Factory from September 14.

* Michelle Dockery has been widely reported as joining Brian Cranston in the Ivo Van Hove directed Network although there is nothing on the National Theatre website, as yet, to reflect this.

* The amazing Rachael Stirling has been cast in Labour of Love - and so has Tamsin Greig who is replacing Sarah Lancashire who has pulled out of the production. It opens for previews at the Noel Coward Theatre at the end of September.

* And this is particularly lovely casting news, Oliver Chris and Nancy Carroll will join Rory Kinnear in Young Marx, the inaugural production at the new Bridge Theatre which opens on October 18.

Continue reading "That was August in London (and Stratford) theatre-land with a bit of a Hamlet theme" »


Why I will review Tom Hiddleston's Hamlet

RADA-KBTC-HAMLET-CAST-Nicholas-Farrell-Ansu-Kabia-Lolita-Chakrabarti-Kathryn-Wilder-Tom-Hiddleston-Ayesha-Antoine-Sean-Foley-Caroline-Martin-Irfan-Shamji-and-Eleanor-de-RohanMatt Trueman wrote a piece for The Stage this week - 'What's the point of reviewing Hiddleston's Hamlet?' based on the fact that the Kenneth Branagh directed production is essentially an exclusive gig and a fundraiser.

I'll gloss over him referring to Tom Hiddleston as 'Hollywood's very own' - my view on this is reflected by some of the comments on his piece - and move on to why I will be reviewing HiddleHam. (Yes, I am extremely lucky to have a ticket, thanks to @polyg getting picked in the second round of the ballot).

I enjoy writing about theatre, it's nice to revisit the experience of seeing a particular play. It gives me time to properly cogitate on what I've seen and I sometimes discover something new I hadn't considered while watching. It's also nice to have a record of the experience and I do go back and re-read some reviews - Hamlets are always fun to revisit and compare.

Then there are the conversations I strike up with people who comment on what I've written, discussions I wouldn't otherwise have if I hadn't written a review.

And in the case of HiddleHam, it is an exclusive event, I know I've been lucky and there are at least two people out there who will appreciate reading what I have to say about it, as I would appreciate reading about it had I not got a ticket.

Is it the difference between being a paid critic and someone who is first and foremost an avid theatre fan?


That was July in London Theatre land with a bumper crop of announcements and thesp spots

Loot_460x375After a quiet June, July was a bumper month for announcements and thesp spots...

* The cast for The Divide, the new Alan Ayckbourn play, was announced. Clare Burt will be joined by Sophie Melville, Sian Thomas and Finty Williams. It opens at the Edinburgh Fringe this week (8 Aug) and then at the Old Vic from Jan 30.

* It was a month of former Globe artistic director announcements starting with Dominic Dromgoole who has announced an Oscar Wilde season at the Vaudeville Theatre including Lady Windermere’s Fan directed by Kathy Burke and A Woman of No Importance starring Eve Best.

* Then the Old Vic announced that Emma Rice’s production company, Wise Children, would have a residency at the Old Vic. The first production next year will be an adaptation of an Angela Carter novel. Goodie.

* Stan-fav Sinead Matthews has been cast in Loot at Park Theatre (picture) which also exciting because it’s been many years since I last saw a production of Loot.

* Much lauded on Broadway, the UK production of Oslo (National Theatre and West End) has found its leads: Toby Stephens and Lydia Leonard.

* This Christmas will see the battle of the stage Scrooges. Rhys Ifans is playing Scrooge in an Old Vic production of A Christmas Carol while Phil Davis is playing same character in the RSC’s version in Stratford. Already looking forward to compare and contrasts.

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Up close and personal: Tales from sitting on the front row at the theatre

The front row is generally my favourite place to sit at the theatre for several reasons. I'm short so it's often the only place that guarantees an uninterrupted view and I don't like having heads bobbing into my eye line.  Being close also means I can see the whites of the actors' eyes, the sweat on their brow, the nervous tremble of their hands but most importantly their facial expressions - if you are sat further back you miss stuff.

And then there are the unexpected incidents that happen when you are sat so close. Stuff like a prop hitting you, landing in your lap or dropping onto the floor by your feet, or the splatter of blood, the flying sand and sugar glass. Then there is the eye contact you make with an actor, an actor squeezing by you to get onto the stage, shaking your hand or saying hello or speaking lines directly to you and an actor falling into your lap when they misjudge the edge of the stage (yep that has happened to me). I've also been blamed by a character when they farted and dragged up on stage to take part.

I watched enviously from row C when Caesar was strangled in an empty seat in the middle of the front row during the Donmar's Julius Caesar. 

While most performances go by without anything like this happening, there is always the chance that it might and it becomes a story to add to the story, an experience to add to the experience. I included some recent 'acquisitions' from my front row seats in my new blog banner, it's nice to give them an airing. (Click on the image for a bigger version.)

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