294 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

10th Birthday list: 10 plays that, in hindsight, feel strangely appropriate for lockdown during a pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has thrown a whole new light on certain plays, the ones about isolation, loneliness and surreal landscapes. So I've compiled a list of plays that I think reflect the current weirdness and how we might be feeling.

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Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

These aren't plays that are for escapism but more seeing the human condition through a pandemic lense. They are also all plays I've actually seen.

Got a suggestion? Leave it in the comments.

1. Mr Burns, Almeida

This play is set in the future when for some reason there is no electricity so people spend their time trying to recall episodes from The Simpson. The more you remember the greater currency it gives. I didn't get on too well with it at the time but given how inventive we are having to become to entertain ourselves in lockdown it feels appropriate.

2.Pitchfork Disney, Shoreditch Town Hall

Quite a few Philip Ridley plays feel appropriate because of their dark, broken, near-future feel. But I chose Pitchfork Disney because it is about 'outsiders' arriving and disturbing the routine in a disconcerting and threatening way. Taken metaphorically it works for COVID-19.

3. You Stupid Darkness, Southwark Playhouse

Set in a decaying office, a group of volunteers man a helpline called Brightline for people looking for help in seeing the positives when the world outside is not in a very good state (think stormy weather and people having to wear gas masks outdoors).

4. Misterman National Theatre

Cillian Murphy plays a man living in isolation having a series of encounters that might be real or might be imagined.

 

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10th Birthday list: Best play I've seen for each of the last 10 years (or the agony to choose list)

So this month Rev Stan's Theatre blog is 10 years old. My first post was 18 April 2010, it took a couple of weeks before I was to post again but the marker was in the sand.

Various theatre tickets

I had lots of ideas for fun theatre nerdery to celebrate but the lockdown has clipped my wings a little bit as many of them involved actually be at the theatre.

But not to let a decade of theatre bloggery go by without marking the occasion I've got a few other things up my sleeve for the coming few weeks/months.

And to kick things off I've compiled a list of my favourite play for each year I've been blogging (I did my 10 best plays of the decade back in December).

It has been fun revisiting my best-of lists but absolutely agony narrowing each list down to just one, as you will see.

I'm still not 100% happy but here goes:

2010

I initially chose The Pride, Lucille Lortel Theater, New York which saw Ben Whishaw make his Broadway debut alongside Hugh Dancy and Andrea Riseborough but then I realised that technically I saw that in February 2010 before Rev Stan's Theatre blog was born. So I've reluctantly decided it doesn't count.

So my second choice is Clybourne Park, Royal Court Theatre. It's a play that set the benchmark for uncomfortable humour and one which I regularly reference when talking about superb dark comedies.

2011

Jeez, this was a tough one. This was the year I saw Jerusalem, Much Ado with Tennant and Tate and Collaborators, National Theatre to name just three. But with much soul-searching I'm going to choose Flare Path, Theatre Royal Haymarket because it was so beautiful and warm and sad and I'll always remember Sheridan Smith's trembling bottom lip and a brilliant early performance by Matthew Tennyson. Saw it more than once too.

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Interview: Big Telly Theatre's Zoe Seaton: "We want to draw you into our world but also let us step into yours a little"

Hot on the heels of Creation and Big Telly Theatres virtual, interactive production of The Tempest, Big Telly is bringing its game-theatre experience online with a new production: Operation Elsewhere.

Zoe Seaton
Big Telly Theatre Company's Zoe Seaton

Big Telly's artistic director Zoe Seaton talks about creativity, inventiveness and performance during the lockdown.

Operation Elsewhere is described as being 'a new and extraordinary online theatrical experience’ - how does it work?

Like The Tempest, the audience joins a zoom call… Technically, it is complicated, although each actor is running their own tech – most of them are using more than one device, a number of locations and a myriad of props/lighting/effects.

The real magic, however, is happening in Lurgan, where our brilliant stage manager, Sinead Owens is vision mixing the whole show, sharing screens, muting and spotlighting audience and actors – finding an actor amongst 60 thumbnail images and spotlighting them on cue is an art.

The biggest challenge is something we can’t control – i.e. the unpredictability of the internet. If your bandwidth becomes unstable, Zoom can kick you out the room mid-scene, which one actor described as ‘like being an astronaut cut off from the space station….’.

Luckily, we have unbelievably resourceful actors who can improvise and cover and recover…

And the audience is involved in the story. They can see each other and react and join together.

The piece marries ancient Irish myths with theatre produced using digital and virtual technology - what makes old and new forms work so well together?

Many of our productions borrow from old stories, myths and legends. We want to keep our work grounded culturally and share that in unusual ways.

So we’ve always played with traditional stories and ways to subvert them for an audience without losing their authenticity and integrity. So, I think for us, it’s natural to pair the ancient with the future and explore that.

The ancient stories, like Tir na N’Og, which Operation Elsewhere is based on have so much resonance with our lives now. They are timeless - they illustrate the human condition, frailties, beliefs, loyalties, that doesn’t change.

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Review: Live and interactive theatre in your living room - Creation Theatre's The Tempest

Archive streaming schmeaming, Creation Theatre have taken theatre performance during the lockdown to a new level.

Creation Theatre Tempest Screen shot Miranda
Screenshot: Creation Theatre's virtual The Tempest - Annabelle Terry as Miranda

Using Zoom and other technical wizardry they are putting on a live and interactive family-friendly version of The Tempest.

Shakespeare's tale of nobility shipwrecked on a mysterious island has been distilled down to an hour's running time using a handful of key characters.

The actors, observing lockdown rules, perform in isolation - using different virtual and physical backdrops to transport them from scene to scene.

As a member of the audience, you can choose whether to have your camera on or off. If you do choose the former the 'audience' only appear when called upon to get involved with the story.

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Q&A: Creation Theatre's Lucy Askew on the challenges of creating interactive theatre during lockdown

This weekend Creation Theatre is inviting audiences to watch an interactive, virtual version of Shakespeare's The Tempest - from the safety of their sofa. Creation's chief executive Lucy Askew talks about the challenges of making theatre in isolation for people in isolation and how it will change theatre in the future

Lucy Askew 

Necessity breeds invention, how did the idea for an interactive, virtual production of The Tempest come about?

We felt really strongly that despite the restrictions we all currently face we had a responsibility to continue to entertain and that we needed to find ways it would still be live and responsive to an audience.

We didn't want isolation to mean we'd lose what is different and special about the live experience, chatting to Zoe Seaton at Big Telly [Theatre Company] it was clear they were thinking similar thoughts.

Last year we made the Tempest so adapting that and embracing the new opportunities online mediums offer felt like a good place to start.

How does it work and what can audiences expect?

The audience is invited to a Zoom call. They then see the story of The Tempest unfold, the show has been virtually designed by our costume designer Ryan Dawson Laight with virtual backgrounds and carefully curated costumes put together from what can be accessed by our cast in isolation.

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Theatre streaming: An interactive, virtual production of The Tempest coming to your living room this weekend

While still observing all rules about social distancing, Creation Theatre and Big Telly Theatre Company have created an interactive, anarchic (their word) production of The Tempest to watch while on lockdown this Bank Holiday weekend.

The Tempest Live
The Tempest Live will stream this Easter weekend

Using Zoom to transport the audience from their living room to Prospero’s Island, nine actors will tell Shakespeare's mysterious and magical story of Miranda, Caliban, Ariel and royal court who find themselves shipwrecked. 

The production incorporates pre-filmed scenes, virtual backgrounds and projections.

Each performance is scheduled and will each have a capacity of 50 audience members (audiences taking part can have the choice to switch off their cameras so they don’t have to be seen by everyone).

Lucy Askew, Creation Theatre’s chief executive commented: “We’re really excited to be trialling this brand-new idea. This piece of work has been made in isolation for people in isolation, and we hope that it truly opens up a whole other theatrical world that we can all experience and participate in from our living rooms.

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Review: Spy Plays, Above The Stag - sophisticated gay spy thrillers

Spy plays by David Thame are two pieces based on real events, 55 years apart and linked by themes of espionage and gay liaisons.

Spy Plays programme

The first, London/Budapest, is set in 1955 where successful gay author Adam (Guy Warren Thomas) picks up handsome young airman Reg (Max Rinehart) at a sauna and takes him home.

Adam is erudite and eloquent, quick and observant but perhaps not quick enough - or maybe he doesn't want to see?

Flashbacks reveal more about his background, including a friendship with Guy Burgess who defected to the Soviet Union, which give the authorities enough grounds to be suspicious of his loyalties.

But while Adam may not be as innocent as he claims to be, is Reg being equally honest?

The tension mounts, is the sex functional, a ruse or is there something more, will this liaison end in the usual way?

Kompromat, which was first performed at the Vault Festival last year, has similar tensions although the narrative is reversed starting with final events so the question is how it got to that point.

It is set in 2010 and inspired by the death of GCHQ employee Gareth Williams whose body was found in a sports bag in his Pimlico flat while he was on secondment to MI6 in London. 

Tom (Warren Thomas) is the brainy country bumpkin for whom the freedom and accessibility of London's gay scene have made him joyously wide-eyed, naive or purposefully unobservant?

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Review: Chyna, Vault Festival - deaf teen's joyous portrayal of a year in her life

Chyna Brianna Harrison-Bell is a 15-year-old deaf performer and in her eponymous show, she documents a year in her life.

CHYNA vault festival 1
Chyna, Vault Festival 2020

Using video, dance, movement and sign-language and with the help of director Laurence Dollander, we are introduced to Chyna's life at home, at school and with her friends.

Her personality shines through in the expression of her movement and sign language, she is bubbly, funny, full of energy and ideas for the future.

Chyna is a keen observer of others, brilliantly portraying her friends' different personalities in a segment that culminates in an inventive solo re-enactment of a football match.

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Review: Flights, Omnibus Theatre - drinking games, denials and grieving for youth

It is 17 years since the teenage Liam laid down on a road while tripping on drugs and his friends Barry (Colin Campbell), Pa (Rhys Dunlop) and Cusack (Conor Madden) gather to drink and remember his untimely death.

Rhys Dunlop; Colin Campbell; Conor Madden as Pa  Barry and Cusack photo Ste Murray
L-R Rhys Dunlop, Colin Campbell and Conor Madden in Flights by John O'Donovan. Photo Ste Murray

But this night is less about Liam and more about them and how their lives have measured up since. 

The large crowd they expect never materialises leaving them playing drinking games and darts while picking over their school days and adult life.

Barry's girlfriend has just got a good job in London so they are leaving Ireland, Pa is living on benefits, taking drugs and sofa surfing and Cusack has a baby with his wife.

Picking its way through the witty banter and amusing reminiscences is a growing mood of melancholy that reveals grief and regret.

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Vault Festival review: Tinted, Amy Bethan Evans throws the spotlight on life and relationships for the visually impaired

Writer Amy Bethan Evans' new play, Tinted, is another piece that explores what life is like for the visually impaired.  While her previous play, Libby's Eyes, exposed the Kafka-esque nature of the benefits system, Tinted takes on friendships and dating.

Tinted Vault Festival
Charlotte Eyres in Tinted, Vault Festival. Georgia Harris Photography

Charlotte Eyres plays Laura, a visually impaired young woman, talking us through both childhood and adult experiences around friendships and relationships.

Her dad wants her outlook rooted in reality - he likes to take a hatchet to her favourite fairytales - but is equally over-protective and as a result, Laura isn't very worldly-wise.

She prefaces the tale of her first dating experiences with stories about her sex-education classes which are light on actual detail, to put it mildly.

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