Video: This Sunday's theatre question is about whether you've had an unexpected, unscripted audience experience

With live performance, stuff doesn't always go smoothly or to plan. There is a rogue prop, a trip, a cough and occasionally those unexpected incidents spill out into the audience.

So, my Sunday theatre question is whether you've had something happen to you while sitting in the audience or have seen it happen to someone else.

My own 'that wasn't meant to happen to me' experience was while watching Teddy Ferrera at the Donmar Warehouse (review here if you are interested).

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Review: Colin Morgan and Roger Allam, A Number, Bridge Theatre - everything counts in the 60-minute clone drama

You can tell an awful lot about Colin Morgan’s characters in A Number by the way they drink milk and eat biscuits - there is quite a bit of biscuit eating during Caryl Churchill's hour-long play about cloning.

A Number poster Bridge Theatre

The subtle costume changes, personality shifts and reactions to 'father' Salter's (Roger Allam) explanation of his past the signifiers that, while the looks and DNA are the same, 'life' has created three different people.

The biscuits and milk demonstrating, at times, familiarity with the setting, comfort or awkwardness. And, perhaps, a common, inexplicable character trait shared by his clones.

Giving A Number a domestic setting (the set changes are great) is an important and interesting choice by director Polly Findlay, the previous production I saw felt more clinical with minimal set.

Family drama

It makes the sci-fi premise - a father cloning his son - more of a family drama throwing the emphasis on the father-son relationship and parenting.

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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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Video: This Sunday's theatre question is all about directors

On this sunny Sunday morning, my theatre question is all about directors.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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I'll still be posting reviews, thoughts and interviews here on the blog, of course.

 


Interview: 14-year-old deaf dancer Chyna: "I want D/deaf and hearing people to be equal and I want everyone to be kind to each other"

Chyna is 14, a dancer and deaf.  In an eponymously titled multimedia dance production, she takes the audience on a journey through her daily life. 

Chyna Vault Festival 1

Created in collaboration with Oak Lodge, a specialist school for the D/deaf in Balham and Deaf Dance Artist Chisato Minamimura, this performance aims at bridging the D/deaf and hearing communities. Here she talks about how performance makes her feel and what it means to her and her hopes for the future.

 
Where did the idea come from and how did you create the piece?
 
Laurence [Dollander, the director] spoke to me about the project, she asked me a few questions, she wanted to incorporate being D/deaf and D/deaf empowerment to a live performance.
 
So I started to practise, I think we had that conversation back in September. I practised weekly during December and twice a week from January right through until now.
 
Soon it’ll be March when the performance is and I’ve been performing a lot, so it’s a long time and I’m very excited. I’ve progressed and practised a lot.

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Video: A question for a theatre free Sunday

There isn't much theatre on a Sunday so here's a question for you about the back catalogue of plays you've seen.

Would love to know your thoughts in the comments...

This video also marks my first daylight appearance 'on film'. I'm expecting a sweet spot of 'still light' post-show reviews around the 21 June.

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Review: Ben Elton's Upstart Crow, Gielgud Theatre - a serious comedy that doesn't take itself too seriously

It doesn't matter if you've never seen Ben Elton's TV comedy series, Upstart Crow, (I hadn't) as the stage play is a stand-alone piece.

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David Mitchell and  Gemma Whelan in Upstart Crow the play. Photo: Johan Persson

Having some familiarity with Shakespeare's plays helps although I confess I couldn't tell you the plot of Measure for Measure or Alls Well That Ends Well.

Upstart Crow (the play) centres on Shakespeare's search for inspiration for his next hit but along the way has a rich vein of commentary on gender inequality, immigration, religion and the acting profession.

There are also a lot of cod-piece jokes and a brilliant dancing bear.

Elton cleverly weaves strands of Shakespeare's actual plays into the plot while simultaneously ridiculing them.  King Lear, Othello and Twelfth Night are mixed with nods to Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, A Comedy of Errors, The Tempest and more all of which have the more outlandish and suspect aspects of their stories exposed.

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Interview: Dr Jingan Young on her new play and why theatre is a crucial medium for political stories

Dr Jingan Young is a journalist and writer from Hong Kong and her latest play, which opens at the Vault Festival on 25 February, focuses on censorship in the media.

Here she talks about what inspired the story, communism and freedom of speech and why theatre is such a crucial medium for political stories.

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Dr Jingan Young speaking on the BBC

When did you first get interested in writing and specifically writing for the stage?

I didn’t grow up going to the theatre in Hong Kong. I didn’t see my first serious production until after I moved to London for university in 2009. I was transfixed by this world where words directed action and vice versa, where what actors pretended could affect and had affected lives.

And politics, rhetoric…to be able to argue or to explore topics about our lives through drama. I found it visceral, ephemeral, addictive...as I grow older, and as we continue to see the disconnect within the digital and real-world, I see the political importance of having a space for live theatre/live performance where audiences are forced to engage with what they're watching.

I applied on a whim to the Hampstead Theatre’s (now defunct) Heat & Light and rather extraordinarily was mentored by James Graham.

A month later I was admitted into the Royal Court Theatre’s Young Writers Programme. The training was invaluable.

I was later commissioned by the Hong Kong Arts Festival for my play FILTH (Failed In London, Try Hong Kong) on ex-pats in the city.

Later, I set up my own non-profit company Pokfulam Rd Productions, which for four years, championed new writing from South East Asian/East Asian writers & those inspired by it at venues like Theatre503 and the Arcola Theatre.

This culminated in the publication of Foreign Goods, the first British East Asian play collection published by Oberon Books in 2018, the foreword was by my mentor David Henry Hwang.

Tell us a bit about your new play The Life and Death of a Journalist?

Last year, I wrote about the political importance of writing a play about Hong Kong, the city of my birth and an ex-British colony whose freedoms are being eroded by the Chinese Communist Party.

I also discussed the anchor of the play, which is the CCP’s ongoing interference in Britain, specifically, in the media. 

My play follows a female journalist who chooses to align herself with a pro-CCP outlet because of her misplaced belief that she can change it from the inside.

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The shameless 'I love Johnny Flynn' post ie an excuse to reminisce about his stage performances

I saw the new film adaptation of Emma today. It's a Jane Austen book I studied for A-Level and love, and I really didn't think we needed another adaptation but oh my gosh it was brilliant, not least because Johnny Flynn is a really sexy Mr Knightley.

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Johnny Flynn as Mr Knightley in Focus Features' Emma

(I wonder what Miss Egan, my close-to-retirement teacher would have made of him.)

Now, I've long had a soft spot for Johnny since seeing him on stage in The Heretic in 2011 (I missed him in Jerusalem first time around but caught him when it came back that same year).

He's had an interesting stage and screen career to date, proving that he can play more than the quiet romantic (see Hangmen from his stage CV and Beast from his film CV).

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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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