101 posts categorized "Theatre thoughts" Feed

10 Very British Theatre Problems (inspired by @SoVeryBritish)

It's just sitting in the dark watching people talking on stage, right?

Wrong. Theatre-going is one huge mess of social awkwardness for us Brits and here's why: 

Photo by Shrinkin' Violet on Flickr

1. Feeling you have to apologise when you stand up to let someone get to their seat.

2. Or finding yourself apologising for not standing up fast enough to let someone get to their seat.

3. Sitting on the front row and trying to look 'interested and entertained' just in case one of the actors meets your eye.

4. Then deciding you can never see that actor on the stage ever again because they caught you yawning or accidentally pulling a face when they did look at you.

5. At the interval, apologising for disturbing the couple at the end of the row despite the fact that they failed to notice everyone else had stood up and was waiting for them to move.

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Comment: Is Mark Rylance right to say noisy audiences are the fault of the actors?

The Stage reports on comments made by Mark Rylance at a conference in which he laid the blame for noisy audiences on the actors:

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 18.27.10But is he right?

Yes, there might be occasions when the performances aren't engaging enough but to solely blame actors would absolve playwrights, dramaturgs and directors of any responsibility.

Not all plays are perfect. I've sat through several new works that should have had more development time.

Equally, I've sat through revivals of 'rarely performed' work that probably should have stayed on the bookshelf.

Plays not perfect

Sometimes the actors can be doing their utmost with what isn't a particularly good play. In fact, I've written reviews in which I couldn't fault the production but found the play was lacking.

Not everyone will feel the same way about a particular story and themes and no amount of good acting is going to change it. 

I'm not going to get noisy and disruptive when I'm not enjoying a play but others do.

Last week when I was enjoying Julie at the National Theatre the man sat next obviously wasn't. He was huffing and puffing and sighing in that way people do when they are bored or irritated.


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Highlights: May's London theatre news, casting, highs, lows and a Q shaped celeb spot

Theatre stuff that caught my eye

* Director Jamie Lloyd is back with more Pinter (at the Pinter). It's a season of the one-act plays with a cast including Tamsin Greig, Danny Dyer, Jane Horrocks and Martin Freeman and will run at the Harold Pinter Theatre from 6 September through to January 23. Directors joining Jamie Lloyd include Lia Williams, Patrick Marber and Lindsay Turner.

Southwark playhouse new venue rev stan instagram
Southwark Playhouse's new venue at Elephant & Castle. Photo: Rev Stan on Instagram

* Southwark Playhouse is to get not one but two new homes from 2019. Its current spot in Elephant & Castle is hopefully the last of a string of temporary homes but as well as having a venue back under the arches at London Bridge, it's previous home, it will have a brand new theatre in Elephant. In order to secure these permanent homes the theatre needs to raise some more cash - and in return for a donation, you get the chance to have your name or other message inscribed on the wall. Dig deep.

* The Young Vic's rather brilliant production of The Inheritance gets a well deserved West End transfer. It opens at the Noel Coward Theatre Sep 21 until Jan 5.

* Andrew Scott returns to the stage with Simon Stephens superb Sea Wall. This time it has a two week run at the Old Vic from Jun 19. It is a punch in the guts short play (30 minutes) with a breathtaking performance by Scott. Need more convincing? Here's what I wrote about Sea Wall when it had its last short run at the NT's The Shed back in 2013.

* Lenny Henry is back on stage next year (still fangirling after shaking his hand during Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui). This time he's heading to Theatre Royal Stratford East to star in a production of August Wilson's King Hedley II which opens May 17.

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Round up: That was April in London theatre - Monster casting and A-list actor spots

MTNEW* I'm excited and nervous about the forthcoming stage adaptation of Patrick Ness’s novel A Monster Calls (the book is a favourite) but I couldn’t think of a better actor than Matthew Tennyson to take on the lead Conor. The production will have a run at the Bristol Old Vic from May 31 and the Old Vic from July 7.

* David Haig’s play Pressure (in which he also stars) is transferring from Park Theatre to the Ambassadors following a successful run at the Finsbury venue. Malcolm Sinclair and Laura Rogers co-star.

* Stan-fav Adam Gillen has been cast in Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios, which stars Orlando Bloom and I'm really looking forward to seeing him in something very different to Amadeus. You can see photos of the cast in rehearsal over at What's On Stage and previews start on May 18.

* Kilburn's Tricycle Theatre has been renamed the Kiln Theatre post refurbishment with a new season that includes the UK premiere of Florian Zeller’s The Son.

* In a new twist on role swapping (recent role swaps: Mary Stuart, Almeida; RSC's Doctor Faustus and NT's Frankenstein to name just three) Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden are to alternate playing Isabella and Angelo in Measure For Measure at the Donmar Warehouse.

* There is part of me that is excited and really curious and part of me that thinks: 'Gimmick to get repeated visits'. There is one version I'd particularly like to see but no way of knowing, having booked at ticket whether I'll get it. Previews start September 28.

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Review: London theatre seat guides pros and cons

You want the best seats for your money, right? But what are the pros and cons of seat review sites?

13954901608_89dfc11ece_zThere are two main sites that cover London theatre: SeatPlan.com and TheatreMonkey.com.


What is it?

The site invites punters to upload reviews of seats and also pictures of the view*.

The seating plan is then colour coded according to how well or otherwise seats have been reviewed.

You can also buy tickets through the site and they invite reviews from the audience for current productions including a rating out of 5.


The site covers the main West End Theatres and it looks like between 50-80% of seats in each theatre has been reviewed.


The site is well laid out and the seating plans are clear and easy to understand. You can see at a glance where the best-reviewed seats are and reviewers rate on comfort, view and legroom.


Many of the seats have only one review so you are only getting one opinion rather than an aggregated score.

While breaking up the review into three key areas is definitely a plus, there is no way to allow for things such as personal preference, the height of the reviewer or staging for particular productions.

For example, the cheap seats at the front of the Lyttelton get you close to the stage but the seat rows aren't offset so if you are short or medium height and have a tall person sat in the seat in front, you will be peering around someone's head. 

There are also very similar seats next to each other that are given very different ratings for no other reason than one person found the discomfort more bearable than another. 

While the main West End theatres are covered there are some notable exceptions such as the Donmar Warehouse and Trafalgar Studios.

The plans also don't allow for changes in staging. While most of the main theatres keep the same seating, not all do. For example, Quiz at the Noel Coward has on stage seating which isn't covered.


Clear and easy to use but check out several different seats in the same row/same area of the theatre to get a general feel and perhaps check with the official theatre websites to see if there have been any changes to the seating plans to accommodate particular staging.

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That was March in London theatre-land with Hamlet actor spots but a Shakespeare theatre low

Theatre news highlights from March

* Mark Bonnar and Jane Horrocks have been cast in Instructions for Correct Assembly at the Royal Court which opens for preview on April 7.

Cw-24829-660x375* Samuel West joins the previously announced Romola Garai in Ella Hickson's The Writer, Almeida, which opens for preview on April 16.

* Not only is the Donmar staging a new adaptation of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, directed by Polly Findlay, but Lia Williams and Angus Wright are starring. Be lovely to see those two on stage together again.

* Stan-fav Jade Anouka has been cast in The Phlebotamist, the debut play by Ella Road at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs.

* It's bye bye to the Lyric Hammersmith for a little while (June to October) as it undergoes a refurbishment.

* Orlando Bloom has been cast in Killer Joe at Trafalgar Studios which opens for previews on May 18. I admit my interest in seeing this is more out of curiosity rather than being a fan.

* Another Stan-fav, Jonjo O’Neill, has been cast in The Prudes at the Royal Court Theatre which opens for preview on April 18.

Celebrity spots

There's a bit of a Hamlet theme to the spots in March. Game of Thrones's Joe Dempsie was watching the RSC's Hamlet at Hackney Empire and then he 'stalked' @PolyG and I nearly all the way home on the tube.

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Agreeing with Exeunt magazine's (irrational) theatre dislikes and adding one of my own

Exeunt magazine (@theatremagazine) asked its reviewers what their (irrational) dislikes at the theatre were and compiled them into this great list.

ColdThere are many I agree with (ovations, actors on stage as the audience arrive, real food...) but I have my own addition: Snotty noses.

Well, not so much snotty noses, there's (s)not much you can do about that, but the fact that actors never have a hanky or tissue.

Instead, they wipe their nose on their hand or sleeve...or on the shoulder of the fellow actor, their character is hugging, if they are lucky.

It's what seven-year-olds do. It's revolting. 

Only once have I seen an actor on stage with a hanky. Zoe Wanamaker obviously had a cold during when I saw her in The Rose Tattoo at the National Theatre but she made blowing her nose part of the performance.

An actor blowing their nose isn't going to break some magical spell, in fact watching them wipe snot on their sleeve or hand breaks the spell, grown-ups (mostly) don't do that.

They must know they are going to get snotty why not be like Zoe, make it part of the performance?

Photo by William Brawley on Flickr and used under a creative commons license.



That was February in London theatre - new plays, keeping it in the family and some wizard celeb spots

* Romola Garai has been cast as The Writer in... The Writer at the Almeida. It's a new play by Ella Hickson which opens on 14 April and is directed by Blanche McIntyre.

Wizard* The casting director for An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville is keeping it in the family with real life father and son Edward and Freddie Fox playing father and son characters in the play. Frances Barber also stars and it opens on 20 April.

* Ciaran Hinds and Aoife Duffin join Colin Morgan in the cast of Brian Friel's Translations at the National Theatre which opens on May 22.

* Nicholas Hytner continues an exciting first year at the Bridge Theatre with a new Alan Bennett play, Allelujah which opens July 11. I'm already curious about who might be in the cast.

* Hadyn Gwynne has replaced Linda Bassett in The Way of The World at the Donmar Warehouse which opens 29 March.

* Another cast swap, Rhys Ifans is being replaced by Ben Chaplin for Joe Penhall's new play Mood Music at the Old Vic. Jemma Redgrave and Pip Carter have joined the cast and it opens on April 21.

* The Royal Court has announced its new season (a good summary here from What's On Stage) but here are just a small handful that catch my eye: A new play - Ear for Eye - by Debbie Tucker Green, Rory Mullarkey's new play Pity (curious about this after St George And The Dragon), Game of Throne's actress Ellie Kendrick's writing debut Hole and James Macdonald directing Cordelia Lynn's One For Sorrow.

Celeb spots:

While January had a bumper crop of actor, director and playwright spots, February was quieter but had a magical quality.... Daniel Radcliffe and Danny DeVito were both spotted watching Fanny & Alexander at the Old Vic and Poly spotted Ian McKellan at Waterloo Station. But those weren't the only spots, oh no, Sam Mendes was at the Bridge Theatre watching Q (Ben Whishaw) play Brutus in Julius Caesar, Richard E Grant was at the Royal Court watching Carey Mulligan in Girls and Boys  and Nikki Amuka Bird was at the Almeida for Summer and Smoke.


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January theatre round up: Big (big) name castings, highs, lows and lots of actor spots.

The Inheritance Young Vic
Vanessa Redgrave joins the cast of The Inheritance, Young Vic

Theatre gets me through the dark days of January, here are my highlights from the new play and casting announcements, favourite things I saw (and the low moment).  And, thanks to the Julius Caesar press night, there was a bumper crop of actor, director and writer spots too...

* Forbes Mason, who will forever be known as the Lucifer in pants, thanks to Jamie Lloyd's Doctor Faustus, has been cast in the Almeida's Summer and Smoke which opens later this month. Did I mention how much I'm looking forward to seeing Patsy Ferran, who also stars, in that?

* Josie Rourke announced she is stepping down as artistic director at the Donmar Warehouse next year after eight years in the role. My highlights of her tenure, if you were to ask me for the first things that spring to mind, would be the Tom Hiddleston Coriolanus (incidentally my review of that is my most popular post and has been viewed nearly 15,000 times), the all women Shakespeare series and James Graham's Privacy. There are plenty of others but those are what stick most in my mind.

* Vanessa Redgrave (yes Vanessa Redgrave!) has been cast in The Inheritance at the Young Vic which opens next month. I could listen to her voice for hours. Also announced in the cast are Stan-fav's Kyle Soller, Michael Marcus and Luke Thallon plus a whole bunch of new names I’m looking forward to getting to know over a double play day.

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Attracting next generation of theatre-goers doesn't necessarily alienate older audiences

This headline for a Daily Express review of the Bridge Theatre's immersive Julius Caesar production implies that it is for young people, not people like me who are old enough to be a young persons parent.

Julius Caesar daily express headlineI have absolutely nothing against encouraging younger audiences. In fact, I much prefer to sit in a diverse group whether it is age, gender and ethnicity - the reaction and response is inevitably going to be more varied and more interesting as a result.

OK so perhaps it's nice to go to Hampstead occasionally and sit in the audience feeling young.

julius caesar bridge theatre ticketBut compartmentalising the generations is like saying that once you get to a certain again you only like Oscar Wilde revivals, productions of Shakespeare performed in ruffs and pantaloons and perhaps some Pinter if you are feeling daring.

I like all sorts of theatre; I love fresh interpretations, new writing, contemporary stories, twists on classics and innovative productions. I'm certainly not a purist or a traditionalist.

Being part of the crowd, standing for Julius Caesar was great fun. I wasn't the only 'older' person, we were a mixed group and that made it better - more representative.

However, if this production is trying to attract a younger audience and I believe it is, then it's somewhat ironic that the standing tickets are referred to as 'promenading'.

I mean this isn't the Victorian age and given that you can be just a few feet away from a murder and end up in the middle of a civil war, it's slightly misleading.