125 posts categorized "Theatre thoughts" Feed

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?
 
Old Vic We'll be back soon sign
 
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.

Swan Theatre view from the stage
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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11 theatre turn-offs (or how I whittle down the list of what I want to see)

There is so much theatre to see in London it can be difficult to narrow down the choice but there are some immediate turn-offs, for me, and these are 11 of them:

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  1. The poster has only men on it
  2. The poster has men and women but the men are gurning in supposedly comic style and the women are looking exacerbated
  3. Words 'urgent' and 'vital' are banded around.
  4. Poetry is mentioned.
  5. The running time is 3 hours plus.
  6. It has two intervals.
  7. Described as a family show.
  8. It's a musical (obviously) or sounds like it might be a musically.
  9. 'A new play by Tom Stoppard'.
  10. Start time is 8pm or later.
  11. Tony Kushner is involved (because it inevitably leads to no. 5)

What are your theatre turn-offs?

 

Happy New Year and here's to 2020 - and an anniversary

I wanted to start off the year with a big thank you.

Bunbuns new year

Thank you for taking the time to read my reviews and bits and pieces.

And thank you for taking the time to comment or like posts on Instagram or Facebook.

My love of theatre and love of writing was the starting point for this blog but knowing that people read what I've written is the icing on the cake (and still surprises me).

This year Rev Stan's Theatre blog is going to be 10 years old and I'm not sure it would have made it this far without you.

I've got a few things planned to celebrate 😉.

Happy New Year here's to lots of theatre treats in 2020.

 


10 plays from the past 10 years that stand out - for a variety of reasons (not necessarily overly worthy ones)

Here is a snapshot of my favourite theatre from the past 10 years. I say 'favourite', I've tried not to overthink it, these are simply the plays that stand out most in my memory, the ones I talk about if people ask.

Theatre tickets
Stan's growing pile of theatre tickets


The list is not about plays that broke new ground or changed the theatre landscape - there are plenty of those lists around already - rather these plays just had something in them that I remember fondly.

To say that it has been tough narrowing it down to 10 is an understatement but I get another go next year because my blog is 10 in April. (There, I spoilt the surprise.)

In no particular order (the links are through to my reviews):

1. After the Dance, National Theatre

This is a play that gets talked about in 'theatre circles' a lot. It had a uniformly standout cast and I can still remember Nancy Carroll's snot crying.

But it has a particularly special place in my memory for being the play which turned Benedict Cumberbatch into 'one to watch' for me.

I'd seen him plenty on TV but this catapulted him from jobbing actor to leading man potential in my eyes.

This was before Sherlock hit the screens and as a result, means I can smugly say 'well I've been a fan since before he played Holmes'.

2. Hamlet, Stratford and Hackney Empire

I've seen a lot of Hamlets, more than one a year, and while technically I did see Ben Whishaw's Hamlet for the first time in 2010, it was a recording rather than the live performance so it doesn't count.

Paapa Essiedu's Hamlet for the RSC was the first, since Whishaw's, where I really felt he was a student and acting his age, he was also the most likeable which made the play all the more tragic.

Setting the play in an African country and having Rosencrantz & Guildenstern as 2 of only 3 white characters was also genius because it put them out of their depth in so many more interesting ways.

When I saw it for the second time, in Hackney, a group of teenagers were so swept up in it they leapt up to dance at the end. I don't think there is higher praise than that really.

3. The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studios

It's the play in which director Jamie Lloyd had James McAvoy unicycling around the stage wearing just his pants. Have no idea why that sticks out in my mind. Ahem.

The play was brilliantly bonkers too. Wish I could see it again.

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