Review: Top Story at the Old Vic Tunnels
Review: No Quarter at the Royal Court

Six things that get me to the theatre

Jd3Lyn Gardner wrote a piece on her blog this week about what makes people choose certain plays over others naturally she talked about popular actors, directors and writers, particular theatres and even favourite type of interval ice cream.

Now interval snacks are never going to be a selling point for me but even having seen more than 100 plays in the last 12 months there are still plenty that I miss, usually for reasons of time and funds (I've been lambasted on Twitter for not having seen The Kitchen Sink). London just has so much to choose from and that's before you cast your net further afield to the superb array of regional theatres and the RSC in Stratford.

Anyway, it got me thinking about how I choose what to see and while I concur with many of Lyn Gardner's suggestions (see my examples below) there are some USP's she doesn't include:


It's an obvious one but we all have our favourites - an ever growing list in my case. Names that will

have me reaching for the credit card naturally include Ben Whishaw (pictured above as Hamlet) but also and not exclusively Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Russell Beale, Fiona Shaw, Rory Kinnear, Helen McCrory, Andrew Scott, Mark Gatiss (mentioned as a bankable theatre star in Gardner's piece), John Heffernan, Julie Walters, Luke Treadaway, Harry Melling, Lydia Wilson, Jack Gordon, Colin Morgan, Pippa Nixon, Ruth Negga, Al Weaver...


I'm attracted to different director's for different reasons. Michael Grandage always feels like a safe pair of hands, Rupert Goold has a very fresh, modern and visual style and someone like Katie Mitchell I have a love/hate relationship with, when she is on point her work can take your breath away. Declan Donnelly's Cheek By Jowel is also a draw for the interesting spin they put on classics.

But equally I'll often head for a director who's last play I loved for example Marianne Elliot who directed my favourite play of 2012: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.


I was one of those that took great pains to secure a ticket to Jez Butterworth's new play, The River, at the Royal Court upstairs last year having been blown away by Jerusalem and I'll do the same again when he graces us with new work. Other current playwrights include Lucy Prebble, John Logan and Mike Bartlett whom I have a Katie Mitchell style relationship with having loved Cock but hated Earthquakes in London.

Shakespeare and the Jacobean playwrights are a big draw and I've also got a soft spot for Noel Coward, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde.

Plays I will always go and see are generally from the classics: Hamlet, Richard II, Richard III, The Tempest, The Seagull, A Doll's House and I would run to a production of Waiting For Godot.


I see everything that isn't a musical at the Donmar. Not everything is brilliant but enough is to warrant the loyalty. I'll also see as much as I can at the Royal Court and the National Theatre. Geography plays its part so the Southwark Playhouse is a regular haunt but I'll be doubling my efforts to see what is on at the Finborough, Gate and Bush in West London as well as the Arcola and Almeida in the North.


It is a major decider in choice. I don't like sitting a long way from the stage so if I'm going to pay upwards of £60 to see something in the West End it is going to be something I am dying to see. Theatres like the Royal Court, National and Donmar get a lot of my custom because they either have cheap ticket days (£10 Mondays) or sponsored seasons (£12 Travelex) or cheap preview tickets. The Southwark Playhouse has a very cheap subscription service where you pay something like £35 which entitles you to see any five shows over any period.

There are also the theatre clubs, which are extremely useful in allowing you to be more experimental both in choice of play and venue as the ticket prices are so low. If you hate a show you don't feel guilty for leaving at the interval.


Aside from everything mentioned above there is the story, the heart of why I go. If it sounds interesting or different then I'll give it a go.  If the synopsis mentions the environment then I'll probably give it a miss as I've seen too many preachy green plays or plays where the playwright has felt compelled to shoehorn in a green issue.

The play synopsis is the equivalent to the film trailer for me. I don't read reviews before I decide (I try and go in preview so as to avoid them and get the cheaper tickets) so the synopsis is the make or break. If I read it and it conjures up an image of a play or style of play I dislike then I'll probably give it a wide birth.

I haven't yet decided to see a play based on a trailer which are becoming all the rage but that's a whole different post I've been planning to write for a while.