128 posts categorized "Theatre thoughts" Feed

Who did you see in an early stage role before they became famous on screen?

The Guardian has published this great collection of photos of famous actors in early stage roles. It's one of the things I love about theatre, watching young actors cut their teeth in small stage roles, blossom into bigger roles and then go on to have success on screen.

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Although there is a part of me that does get frustrated when they gather a large fan base which makes it difficult to get tickets to see them when they do return to the stage.

So who did you see on stage before they were famous?

Probably my best haul was the first Hamlet I saw.

I was a student in Liverpool studying English and we went on a trip to Theatr Clwyd in Mold to see Hamlet.

This was the early 90s and it wasn't until relatively recently when I found the programme, I realised that playing the minor roles were none other than Toby Jones, Rhys Ifans and Jack Davenport.

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Trying to find my theatre-going mojo again

Going from seeing two or more plays a week to nothing was a huge shock. In those early days, I devoured whatever was on offer online, whatever was free, some paid stuff and I took free trials on some of the streaming services to see what they had.

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Photo by Claire P on Unsplash

But the longer lockdown went on I started looking elsewhere for different diversions. I didn't want to watch serious stuff or anything worthy I wanted escapism - popcorn movies on Netflix, fantasy, sci-fi, frothy teen dramas - anything that was far removed from reality.

My creative energy was being used up keeping my freelance business going which is what pays the bills - and pays for theatre.

Work didn't completely dry up but for a while it wasn't covering my living costs. Sorting that out had to be my main focus and it was as much adulting as I could muster.

So I found myself watching less and less theatre, cherry-picking bits and bobs.  I wrote less here on the blog, recording my weekly theatre questions videos was as much as I could manage most weeks. 

My theatre mojo was a pilot light rather than at full burn.

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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: 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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Is the Old Vic's choice of ticketing for Lungs reinforcing what is bad about theatre?

Anyone else wondering why the Old Vic has decided to sell tickets for the live-streamed performances of Lungs in the way it has?
 
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And by that, I mean pricing tickets and limiting the numbers as if people are actually coming to watch it in the theatre.
 
You don't get a better seat for £65 but you might have to pay that when the cheaper seats sell out.
 
Actors Matt Smith and Claire Foy who star are a big draw and the queues to get on the website have been in the thousands (I joined at 8,000+ and 7 hours later haven't made it onto the site).
 
Surely, given the demand, they could have sold unlimited tickets at a fixed price - say £20 - and made more money on an extremely limited number of performances.
 
It would open up theatre to a broader audience, not just those for whom the ticket prices are mostly prohibitive but also those who live too far away.
 
By adopting this conventional form of ticketing at such an unconventional time it feels like it is just reinforcing theatre's image of being an exclusive pass time for the affluent.
 
Or am I missing something?
 

10th Birthday list: My 10 (ok it's 11) favourite stage actresses plus who I'd really like to see on stage more

While there might not be quite as many meaty stage roles for actresses as there are actors (is that changing?) the plethora of acting talent I've seen over the past 10 years made this quite tricky to narrow down. Hence the list of 11 rather than a neat 10 (and presented in no particular order).

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Patsy Ferran in My Mum's a Twat, Royal Court Theatre. Photo by Helen Murray.

I've also added a few names I've only seen once or twice but really want to see do more stage work.

Who would you add, let me know in the comments?

1. Imelda Staunton

Who can forget Margaret in Good People or Martha in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Wolf? It's always a treat when she treads the boards.

2. Jade Anouka

She was the best Hotspur I've seen when Phyllida Law did her all-female Henry IV at the Donmar Warehouse. She also did a fantastic one-woman show at the fringe (Chef) and I still remember the bit of subtlety she brought to Jamie Lloyd's lively production of Dr Faustus.

3. Patsy Ferran

Patsy, Patsy, Patsy. Have seen her in fringe productions, small studio theatres, one-women shows and taking lead roles in classics which have ended up in the West End (and winning her awards). So pleased to see her career taking off and can't wait to see what she does next.

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10th Birthday list: My favourite theatre curtain call moments

I love curtain calls at the end of plays. It's a revealing time when characters are shaken off - or not - when faces perhaps show the person underneath the acting mask.

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View from the stage at the RSC Swan Theatre. Photo Rev Stan

They can also be a time of japes, fun and banter.

From time to time over the past 10 years of blogging I've mention curtain calls, they even have their own category in my end of year awards on occasions, so I decided to compile a list of  my favourites:

1. Only on the last night of the RSC's Richard II could the King (David Tennant) and his deposer Bolingbroke (Nigel Lindsay) have a final tussle for the crown. It was 2-0 to Bolingbroke in the end, David Tennant's curtain call lunge to take the golden circlet from Nigel Lindsay was not quite fast enough.

2. Another last night, this time the end of the run was all a bit too much for the cast of Mojo at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Daniel Mays looked like he'd been crying backstage and Ben Whishaw and Rupert Grint were fighting tears.

3. And another last night...Mark Strong couldn't hide his emotions at the end of A View From the Bridge at the Young Vic but instead of tears, he mouthed a satisfied 'yes' while making a fist.

4. At the curtain call of cold war drama Anna, National Theatre, there was a polite request from the cast who held up a series of cards which spelt out 'No Spoilers'.

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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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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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