Live stream review: Alice by Creation Theatre - taking online performance to a whole new level

Creation Theatre has taken online live performance to a whole new level with its latest family show Alice.

Alice image 1 - Leda Douglas copy
Leda Douglas in Creation Theatre's Alice

Described as a virtual theme park, this is part interactive theatre, part style your own adventure, part video game and it is enjoyed from the comfort of your own living room.

Based on Lewis Carroll's famous stories of Alice in Wonderland and adapted by Zoe Seaton and Charlotte Keatley this has all the well-known characters and familiar scenes of the books.

It is imaginatively brought to life in the style of an old fashioned fairground with a combination of high tech wizardry including AI and good old fashioned theatre craft and entertainment.

Choose your story

We join Alice (Leda Douglas) via a Zoom call to be transported into her fantasy world. Fairground music sets the scene for the roller-coaster adventure to come and for the first part of the show you get to choose where you want go and explore.

A click on an icon takes you off to meet characters including the Mad Hatter, twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the Mad March Hare in their Zoom rooms with their own stories and entertainment.

Don't dither in your choices though as you may miss bits.

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Review: Blindness, Donmar Warehouse - the intimate social distancing experience

Is it ironic that in going to the theatre with strict social distancing in place, I felt closer to an actor than at any time before?

Blindness poster on door smll

The Donmar has opened its doors, the first major theatre in London to do so, but with live performance still not allowed it has created what is an extraordinary experience using sound.

Blindness is adapted by Simon Stephens from a novel by José Saramago and tells the story of an epidemic in which people suddenly go blind.

Juliet Stevenson plays the narrator, then the doctor's wife, the only person who can still see as  society struggles to cope with its sudden predicament.

The Donmar, partially by design and partially by necessity, has been stripped back so that it is both familiar and different.  The bar is stacked with boxes and equipment and stage and seating have mostly been removed from the auditorium - there are still some of the benches stacked against one of the walls.

It's transformed into an open space with pairs of seats strategically placed across the floor for social distancing but facing different directions.

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Back at the theatre at last...to see socially distanced stand up comedy at Battersea Arts Centre

When theatres had to close in March, I thought it might be a month or two before I was back watching live performance again.

Stan fran andrew

As the weeks passed, it became obvious that it was going to be much, much longer and I stopped thinking about when I might return.

Did I imagine, that at the beginning of August I'd be sitting on a wooden bench wearing a mask with 30, socially distanced, others waiting for a live performance to being?

No.

The live performance was a series of stand-up comedian's headlined by Ed Gamble and wooden bench was in a courtyard at Battersea Arts Centre. 

With indoor theatres still closed, it is a genius use of outdoor space which also has a balcony level where some more people could stand.

So what was the experience like?

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I asked and you answered: The one play you'd go back to revisit if you had a time machine

Sunday Theatre Questions started on my Instagram and FB channel back in February and I'm really enjoying reading the answers and stories. So, I thought I'd share some of them here, starting with my first Sunday Theatre Question:

And here are some of the choices from the good theatre fans on Instagram - interesting that After the Dance came up more than once...

@Vickster_51

No surprise, but 2010’s After The Dance at the NT. I just loved everything about it so very much.

@pcchan1981

I'm going to go for The Glass Menagerie at the Young Vic. Just something beautiful about that production. Would have to be staged somewhere different of course, couldn't have something like that at the YV now.

@loureviews.blog

Tom and Clem with Alec McCowen and Michael Gambon. It ran for a few months in 1997. About Tom Driberg and Clement Attlee. Remember it with great affection and with Alec gone and Michael retired, I'd love to see it again.

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Lockdown lessons for theatres in audience relations

I've been waiting for Cultural Capital to publish her thoughts about how the National Theatre saved lockdown and what it means for future audience relations.

We've discussed it a couple of times in recent weeks, having both noticed a change in the relationship between theatres and their audiences.

 
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Without a communal space to congregate in, theatres have had to reach out like never before to find an audience - and without live performance, they've had to be inventive in their offer.

As the piece says, the National Theatre's NT Live has been a boon but even more so has been the 'behind the scenes' Zoom chats with the cast and creatives. You'll have to read the piece to get Cultural Capital's full thoughts about how this might fuel changes.

We have also discussed how theatres have been far more responsive on social media, again reaching out to engage with their audience noticeably more than has been done in the past.

Have theatres realised that they need to build a relationship with their audiences in a far more engaged and meaningful way than they have in the past?

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10th birthday list: Favourite Ben Whishaw stage performances... and encounters

Anyone who has followed my blog for a while will know my favourite actor is Ben Whishaw. It's an admiration of talent pure and simple, I may not always like the play (or film) he chooses but he never disappoints in what he brings to his roles.

Ben Whishaw Bakkhai Almeida Marc Brenner
Ben Whishaw in Bakkhai at Almeida Theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner

I'm always excited about his next project and ever hopeful that he treads the boards again.

It wouldn't be a theatre blog birthday celebration without reminiscing about some of my favourite Ben Whishaw performances...and encounters.

I don't stage door, apart from that one time in New York but our paths have crossed a few times. I've only spoken to him once (New York), the whole speaking to celebs thing makes me cringe, besides I'd only make a tit of myself and say something stupid which would haunt me.

(PS there is a bit of cheating in this list because some of these pre-date Rev Stan's Theatre Blog but if I make the rules, I can break them 😉)

The watch incident (Leaves of Glass, Soho Theatre, review from my old blog)

Mr Whishaw first came to my attention on the big screen in the film Perfume but it was around the same time I had started going to the theatre again.

I saw that he was in a play at the Soho Theatre and was curious to see him on stage.

A week or two earlier I'd been at the Soho Theatre seeing some comedy with an ex and passed him on the stairs but it was when watching the play that 'it' happened.

I was sat on the front row and during the play, there was a fight - a sort of scuffle/grappling sort of fight - during which Ben's watch flew off and hit me on the foot.

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Review: Lungs, Old Vic - the 'live' theatre experience and a few thoughts on the play itself (I wasn't blown away)

I never got to see Lungs when it was on stage and I nearly didn't get to see this live online version because of the Old Vic's odd approach to ticketing - charging normal theatre prices for people to sit in their own homes to watch.

Lungs Old Vic on screen

But putting that to one side (I wrote about it here), on the final release of tickets, without expecting to find anything affordable, I managed to snag a £20 ticket.

The Old Vic has tried to inject as much of the live theatre atmosphere into the online experience as possible.

In the run-up to the live performance by Claire Foy and Matt Smith, you hear the hubbub of an audience and the bell that warns people the start is imminent and to take their seats.

It was a nice touch.

The performance itself looks like it's filmed on two cameras so you have the two actors appearing side by side on screen but in different shots.

You only get a sense that they are on the same stage in the occasional wide shot and when one of them walks across the other's shot to take up a new position.

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Video: This Sunday's theatre question - why do you love going to the theatre?

Theatre makes a massive contribution to the UK whether it is in the jobs it creates, the billions it generates for the economy, the outreach programmes for local communities and of course what it gives to you and me as theatre-goers.

Its future is at risk which is heartbreaking, in this Sunday's theatre question video I talk about why I love going to the theatre so much and I'd love to know what you love about it.

And if you want to help theatre survive there are all sorts of things you can do. Sign this petition to get the Government to help theatres, make a donation to your favourite theatre or buy a membership, pay to watch some streamed theatre and tell your friends about it, for example.

If you've missed a Sunday theatre question, here's a few I've already posted:

The question about Shakespeare.

The question about unexpected audience experiences.

The question about directors.

The question about which theatre production you'd revive?

If you want to see more of my videos, including my 60-second reviews, follow my YouTube channel, like my Facebook page or follow me on Instagram, whichever is your favourite platform 🤓

 


Review: Black Women Dating White Men - a candid exploration of interracial relationships

There is a lot that is fabulous about Somebody Jones' verbatim play Black Women Dating White Men, one of which is that it works so well on Zoom.

 

BWDWM still
Black Women Dating White Men by Somebody Jones

 

Five black women, sometimes with a glass a wine in hand or in a dressing gown, come together lockdown-style for regular chats via Zoom during which they discuss and share their experiences of being in an interracial relationship.

The nature of Zoom means the characters are at home, while you are watching at home which makes for an intimate experience, it feels like you are part of the chat.

They talk about how their friends and family reacted when they first met their white boyfriends, how they are treated when out and the ups and downs of their relationship.

It's a candid discussion, relaxed and matter of fact, sometimes humourous but no less powerful in what it exposes.

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10th birthday list: My favourite comedy plays and a few I didn't like so much

Humour is personal, what one person finds hilarious might fall flat for someone else. And it is really difficult to get right, comic timing is a great skill.

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Now I love dark comedy, the uncomfortable laugh that makes you think but I'm also partial to the silliness of a good farce.

Here are my favourite comedies from the past 10 years of writing this blog and I would love to know what your favourites are - tell me in the comments.

Upstart Crow, Gielgud Theatre

A clever and funny play that twists and weaves Shakespeare's plots - often exposing their ridiculousness and prejudices - with modern references.

Teenage Dick, Donmar Theatre

Based loosely on Shakespeare's Richard III the setting is an American high school and the machiavellian protagonist is a hemiplegic student Richard who is fed up of being bullied and teased about his disability.

It was a great combination of fun and dark comedy - and had a brilliant dance sequence.

Emilia, Vaudeville

A potent mix of humour, fun and feminism. It had a powerful message delivered in a deliciously entertaining and clever way.

Present Laughter, Old Vic

Director Matthew Warchus put a fresh spin on the well-trodden Noel Coward play which, coupled with Andrew Scott's performance, made this a sublime comedy.

I reviewed it alongside Noises Off at the Lyric Hammersmith, in a compare and contrast of the two comedies which you can read here.

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