25 posts categorized "Non-plays" Feed

A few thoughts on Kenneth Branagh's weepy The Winter's Tale via encore screening

Tom Bateman and Jessie Buckley in The Winter's Tale, Garrick Theatre. Photo: Johan Persson

I'm told by my friends on social media that this doesn't technically count as my first theatre trip of 2016 but that doesn't mean I can't write a bit about it as I won't get a chance to see it live at the Garrick Theatre before it finishes on January 16. Seeing it on a cinema screen is a good substitute and while you don't get the thrill of seeing the live performance you do get to appreciate the performances close up.

So what was it like? Well, I've always been a bit 'meh' about The Winter's Tale mainly because it feels, tonally, like two very different plays separated by an interval. Kenneth Branagh's production doesn't quite manage to erase that feeling but it did something other productions haven't, it made me cry. Several times.

Dame Judi Dench's Paulina, defender of the innocent Queen, Miranda Raison's Hermione, the innocent victim of her husband's personal misjudgement and Jessie Buckley's Perdita, who is divided from her lover, were such touching performances. I've never been quite so consistently moved by Shakespeare.

I've seen funnier productions - although perhaps the smallish cinema audience on a Sunday morning didn't help - but this certainly tugged on my heartstrings. It was also great to see Theatre Hottie Tom Bateman (moustache notwithstanding) and there was great chemistry between him and Jessie Buckley as the two lovers which probably helped provoke the tears when things started going wrong for them.

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My 10 favourite things about the Iliad Live reading at the British Museum and Almeida

Iliad cast & creative
Iliad cast & creative - click for bigger image

On Friday #IliadLive was trending on Twitter, a remarkable feat considering it was essentially a 16-hour live reading of an Ancient Greek epic poem - not the sort of thing you normally expect social media to get excited about. Even more remarkable that among the cast of more than 60, while sparkling with theatre stars - the sort of actors that get us theatre nerds very excited - only a handful have the broader TV screen fame of the sort that usually gets Twitter excited.

The readathon started at 9 am at the British Museum and was live-streamed for those that couldn't make it. Benches had been set up on a first-come, first-served basis and were full most of the time. There were people sat on the floor nearby, some had come prepared with picnics and always a throng of people at the back - some bemused foreign tourists.

As the museum was closing those among the audience lucky enough to snap up tickets for the remainder of the story at the Almeida were ushered onto a Routemaster bus or into cycle rickshaws where the reading continued during the journey.

I reckon I caught eight or nine hours, a combination of live streaming and watching it live at the British Museum and at the Almeida. Some far sturdier than me did the whole thing braving night buses to get home after the final lines were read, shortly before 1 am. (I salute you @RhianBWatts).

Anyway here are 10 of my favourite things from Iliad Live, what are yours?

1. Simon Russell Beale set the bar high with the very first reading cementing why he is a national treasure when it comes to live performance (and possibly the only stage actor who'd get up to perform at 9 am).

2. At the British Museum, there was no waiting in the privacy of the wings to come on, the actors are stood to one side script in hand for all to see and study which is fairly unusual. Sometimes you could see the nerves in their body language. John Simm borrowed a pen from an AD to make last-minute notes on his script and Oliver Chris just leaned casually chatting and smiling like it was a walk in the park.

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Udderbelly review: Spectular strength and agility in A Simple Space

30_a_simple_spaceTo call A Simple Space an acrobatics show doesn't really do it justice: For sixty minutes I was smiling and agog.

This Australian troop of five men and two women perform a series of spectacular feats some of which you have to see to believe.

Most of it is done without props, using each other for strength, guidance and balance. They fling each other about, are human climbing frames and a shoulder, head, face, foot or hand can all be a useful platform on which to balance. They even jump on each other, sometimes playing a sophisticated and graceful game of moving around without touching the floor.

It is done with a certain amount of humour and playful competitiveness. In between the more physical feats they have little competitions. There's one to see who can hold their breath the longest while one of them stays in a handstand and another which is a bit like strip poker only they compete at skipping rather than cards.

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Review: Japan's answer to the Blue Man Group - Siro-A


If you cross the Blue Man Group with Japanese pop culture, electro music and video then you'll have an idea of what Siro-A's show is all about.

The six performers are dressed in white rather than blue but over the course of 60 minutes spin through a number of 'acts' which involve video projections, light, cameras, performance and dance. It's very clever and slightly difficult to describe.

Sometimes the performers are shadows against a backdrop on which images are projected, sometimes they hold square screens on which images are projected and sometime they have images projected onto their white suits. It is skillfully done and timed with great precision so that they can interact with the images, move with them, catch them, throw them etc. All the time you are thinking: are the following the images or the images following them?

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Review: Thongs, feathers and drag queens in Briefs - A Second Coming


Think Priscilla: Queen of the Desert crossed with Cirque du Soleil and you'll get the idea behind Briefs - A Second Coming (or just watch the trailer from their first show).

This troupe of camp acrobats and drag queens from Australia have put together a fun, frolicking and very grown up cabaret and brought it to tent on the South Bank. Marvel at scantily-clad, glitter-glowing muscular physiques performing breathtaking circus acrobatics mixed with acerbic drag queens and Priscilla-style mime to popular songs.

Briefs is 75 minutes of fun, laughter and lets face it an ogle-fest. I've seen it twice just to fully appreciate the physical talent. Ahem. You've got another week to catch it at London Wonderland as it finishes on Sep 28. The slightly more expensive Wonderland Seats are on the front row, regular priced seats are unallocated and people start queuing before 7pm. It's not raked seating but the stage is quite high.

Review: And now for something different - Gandini Juggling's Smashed at Udder Belly

For something a little bit different, something that is a unique twist of juggling, dance, comedy and drama  head to the upside down purple cow on London's South Bank.

Gandini Juggling are in residence with their show Smashed which is skillfully and often beautifully   performed by the troupe of seven men and two women using a lot of apples and a tea set.

The hour long show is a series of loosely linked vignettes sometimes synchronised juggling, sometimes there are threads of narrative discernible in the dance and mime and sometimes there is slap stick. But all the time there is juggling, all sorts of juggling.

It is a show that is like a cocktail that has been shaken and stirred with drizzle of sauce that tastes much better than its description implies.  It is funny, sometimes beautiful, entertaining and impressive and you won't see anything quite like. It runs as part of the South Bank Festival's Udder Belly programme until May 18 before resuming a UK and European tour.


BBC Henry IV part 1 and 2 post screening Q&A chaired by Sam Mendes

I was in awe, probably far more than I should have been, to be in the same room as theatre and film director Sam Mendes on Monday night. Love his work and there he was on stage chairing a Q&A with Sir Richard Eyre and Stan fav Simon Russell Beale following a preview of the two parts of Henry IV which Eyre adapted and directed and SRB starred as Falstaff.

IMG_0806I've already reviewed the two films, part of the BBC's Shakespeare season which they are calling The Hollow Crown, which were excellent, so this post is a few of the highlights from the discussion.

Richard Eyre: "It's my second favourite Shakespeare after King Lear but my condition for being involved was that Simon played Falstaff."

Other than cutting the words were never tampered with but he said added physical scenes to get around certain problems such as the fact that in part 2 you don't see the King for an hour. Also intercut a bit because you don't have the constraints of the stage.

Simon Russell Beale: "We vaguely put ourselves in the right positions and Richard would say just do it and I'll film principle shots."

When the play acting scene in the alehouse was filmed it was performed straight through without an "actor dropping a line". "The actions of the extras was entirely dependent on what we did. It was an extraordinary moment."

Sam Mendes: So why rehearse then?

SRB: "You can localise absolutely precisely. It's absolute concentration. I found it extremely pleasurable."

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BBC Hollow Crown review: Tom Hiddleston is magnetic as Prince Hal in Henry IV parts 1 and 2

ImgresHave only seen one production of Shakespeare's Henry IV part I and that was when I was studying it for O-level (yes I am old enough to have done O-levels). Since then haven't been near and I never touched part 2 although I always had an inkling for how things might turn out.

But, wow, what a great way to be reintroduced/introduced to the plays than with these magnificently produced,  film-length versions by the BBC as part of its Hollow Crown series, previewed on the big screen at the BFI last night.

Visually the two parts of Henry IV are very different to Richard II, which aired on BBC One last Saturday (still available on iPlayer). In Richard II, usurper-to-be Bolingbroke was somber and conservative to Richard's glamour and extravagance and his court, as Henry IV, reflects this. He's also a king that has inherited debt and is at war so there is little cash to splash on conspicuous wealth.

As a result Henry IV has a more earthy feel helped by the scenes in ale houses and muddy streets of Cheapside and then on the battle field where formality is somewhat thrown out of the window. 

Part 1 sees the King (a gravelly voiced Jeremy Irons) despairing about his wayward son Prince Hal (Tom Hiddleston) who spend most of his time drinking and concocting japes with his alehouse friends led by Sir John Falstaff (Simon Russell Beale) while the Duke of Northumberland's son, the respected Hotspur (Joe Armstrong), engineers a rebellion against the King.

Then in part 2 we see the breakdown of Hal's relationship with Falstaff as he tries to shake off his past and the King's battle with a new threat of rebellion, ill health and his troubled conscience about how he came to take the crown.

Tom Hiddleston is just a magnetic screen presence as the young prince switching from bawdy fun seeker to introspective intellectual weighed down by his future responsibility and then taking on the regal cloak like a natural in part 2. The crown scene is particularly moving, Hiddleston managing to convey grief and fear of responsibility with just a look. And he does a fantastic impression of Jeremy Irons's Henry IV in the mock confrontation played out with Falstaff. (Hiddleston fans may also enjoy a scene set in a sauna.)

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V&A to screen theatre video recordings from the archive and Stan is very excited

Hamlet-5_1673844iIf you've never booked to see a play recording in the theatre video archive at the V&A museum it is certainly an interesting experience shaped, quite naturally, by an environment designed for researchers rather than enjoying theatre.

But soon, for a selected number of plays, there will the chance to see recordings in comfort, on the big screen in the museum's posh education wing.

The V&A's collection of theatre recordings is just  bursting with plays I missed and would love to see that it makes me hyperventilate a little just reading about what they have. 

Nine plays have been chosen for the first season of public screenings starting with Aladdin at the Hackney Empire in 2010 on Jan 22.

Naturally the play I'm most excited to see is Hamlet at the Old Vic with Ben Whishaw from 2004. I've seen it on the small telly in the archive but to watch it on a big screen is an opportunity I can't miss. Also on my list is The Alchemist with Simon Russell Beale recorded at the National Theatre in 2006 and the Eve Best/Benedict Cumberbatch Hedda Gabler from the Duke of York's Theatre in 2005.

Each play will be introduced by either a member of the original cast or a museum curator. As Mr W always claims in interviews not to remember anything about any of his performances after he's finished them my money is on him NOT being an original cast member doing an intro for Hamlet. But a Rev can dream.  

Further plays are yet to be announce but you can view details of the schedule, timings and location on the V&A website

And now for something completely different: Accomplice London

Accomplice_CF_220x300_1a Accomplice London  is a bit like Ghost Stories in that you don't want to reveal much so as not to spoil the experience for others. But that is as far as you can go with a comparison - on any level.

Probably the best way to describe Accomplice, without giving anything away, is a theatrical, interactive treasure hunt.

The drama starts the day before you've booked with a phone call detailing the rendezvous point, which is somewhere on the South Bank. Once there the journey proper begins. There is no announcement about mobile phones, no buying a programme or settling into your seat with a glass of wine instead you are not so much lead but pointed in the direction of a trail along which there are clues to solve and encounters to experience.

You and your fellow 'audience' members - there is a maximum of 10 per group for every performance - are part of the story. A big part of the story in fact. But who else is in on it? You certainly start to look at people differently as you wander around the South Bank.

If you want to see something different, something that involves a bit of walking and exploring the less well known parts of the South Bank and don't mind interacting with real live actors or people you've never met before then you will have a hoot.

Don't book if you are expecting something deep and meaningful or prefer to sit in the dark in front of a stage and not talk to anyone.

As it is so different from almost all other theatre you will see in London at the moment it's a bit difficult to compare it, ratings-wise, to others but I'm going to give it five stars for being fun quirky and clever.

Accomplice London is part of the Menier Chocolate Factory's repertoire, has performances starting at regular intervals and is booking until Oct.

No RS/BW 6DS this time because of the absence of a cast list.