126 posts categorized "Theatre thoughts" Feed

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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Why I won't be renewing my London theatre friends memberships

For a long time, I've paid an annual fee to be part of various London theatres 'friends' schemes but over the past 12 months, I've been assessing their value. 

Theatre sign
Ultimately they are a way for theatres to raise extra money but I already buy a lot of tickets so the perks for paying extra need to be worth it. 

Early access to tickets is pretty much the USP for theatre memberships and the reason I joined so many schemes. I like good seats, I like to be as close to the stage as possible.

I guess the fear of missing out has kept me renewing the memberships over the years.

Barbican offer discounts

Only the Barbican offers discounts on tickets and given that membership also gives you discounted cinemas tickets and free access to exhibitions, it's the only scheme which can pay for itself.

In recent years, theatres have been making a concerted effort to be more accessible to a wider variety of people. Hallelujah to that, it is really important.

But sometimes it has eroded the perks of friends memberships.

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What has happened to rehearsed readings? And 3 of my favourites

Rehearsed readings have never been common but they were an occasional feature of the London theatre calendar.

Iliad live making of still almeida
Poly and Rev Stan's moment of fame in the audience of the Almeida's Iliad Live

I say 'were' because the practice seems to have disappeared or at least become a rarity in recent years.

Rehearsed readings, for the unfamiliar, are one-off play readings usually done with a day or less of rehearsals.

The actors perform, script in hand on a bare stage, often seated - but not always.

All-day reading

I've seen rehearsed readings for new plays before they go into production but usually, they will mark an anniversary or reflect a theme or season of plays.

The last one I remember going to was Iliad Live* in 2015 when more than 60 actors took it in turns to read the entire Iliad starting at 9 am, at the British Museum before moving to the Almeida for the evening, finishing at 1 am.

What notable rehearsed readings have there been since?

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London Theatre 2019 in review - the highs and lows so far...

So we are halfway through 2019 which means time to look back and reflect on what London's theatre scene has offered up so far and this year: 

5 plays I loved:

Emilia, Vaudeville Theatre

"Yes, Emilia is an angry play about the frustration of inequality and how it limits opportunity but the message and call to arms is served well with a mixture of sharp humour, merriment and music."

Downstate poster

Downstate, National Theatre

"This is a challenging, difficult play with humour and wit inflected with wisdom, carefully balancing entertainment without detracting from the seriousness of the subject matter."

Betrayal, Harold Pinter Theatre

"Hiddleston, Ashton and Cox deliver precise, layered performances in a production that grips with tension."

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Jake Gyllenhaal returns to the London stage...and a tale of how Poly just gets me.

You have to understand that I've been a fan of Jake Gyllenhaal's since seeing the film Donnie Darko 18 years ago.

He has appeared on stage in London before but that was back in my non-theatre going days. Hard to believe but they did exist.

I've waited a long time for him to return now that I'm a theatre-goer again. And he is back, in Sunday in the Park With George.

A musical. A musical. I hate musicals. You can read why here, although since writing that post I've realised that I also don't like songs as a form of narrative. I find it difficult to engage with them.

Musicals get under my skin in an irritating way.

Had to leave

I lasted 20 minutes into Hugh Jackman's The Greatest Showman before I had to leave the cinema.

Three songs for Rocketman.

See I do try.

Would I be able to overcome my dislike of musicals for Jake?

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No re-admittance vs permitting latecomers - a story of missing the plot

What's the difference between a no-readmittance policy and letting in latecomers?

Paul-green-126960-unsplash
Photo by Paul Green on Unsplash

It's not a joke waiting for a punchline, rather it's something I've been puzzling over ever since I had my view and enjoyment of a play disturbed not once but twice by latecomers.

On entering the auditorium the usher had taken pains to tell everyone that there was strictly no-readmittance if you decided to leave for any reason.

Someone getting up to leave is disturbing for the rest of the audience and potentially the actors which, presumably, is why there is no re-admittance.

No less disturbing

But latecomers are no less disturbing, particularly if the seating is such that people have to stand up to allow access.

The play I was watching was short, about 75 mins straight through and there was very little room for pause.

I was sitting in the circle and about 20 minutes in two people were allowed to their seats in the row in front which meant a completely blocked view and jolted me away from the play. 

About 10 minutes later the same thing happened.

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Equus returns to the London stage - the play that reignited my theatre obsession

A blast from my theatre-going past landed in my inbox today: A production of Equus at the Trafalgar Studios this summer.

Ethan Kai as Alan Strang in Equus. Photographer Credit - The Other Richard
Ethan Kai as Alan Strang in Equus. Photo: The Other Richard

It's a transfer of English Touring Theatre and Theatre Royal Stratford East's production and the play holds a special place in my heart because it is responsible for reigniting my love of theatre.

The Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffith's starring production of 2007 was the first piece of theatre I'd seen in about 15 years and it reminded me why I loved going to the theatre.

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Charity begins on stage: Special West London show aims to raise money for Pursuing Independent Paths

Head over to the Tabernacle Theatre on Saturday, March 30 for a very special performance.

Family Mis-Fortunes E-Flyer
Family Mis-Fortunes has been devised and is performed by adults with learning difficulties and proceeds from ticket sales and a raffle go to Pursuing Independent Paths.

PIP is a charity that supports adults with learning disabilities and autism helping them to achieve independence.

Its work includes empowering people to gain independent living skills such as cooking, managing money, travelling by themselves and being part of the community but they can't do it without help with funds.

Drama is one of the creative tools PIP uses to help the people it supports to achieve their potential, gain confidence and skills and express themselves.

The annual production is the highlight of the year and a real showcase of talent and creativity.

You can help support this important work either by buying a ticket for Family Mis-Fortunes, buying a raffle ticket or you can donate online.

Dig deep.

Family Mis-Fortunes is on Sat 30 March at 1.45 and tickets can be bought on the PIP website.

 


Cate Blanchett play at the National Theatre has an audience member fainting

Screenshot 2019-01-18 at 17.45.16
National Theatre content advisory warning


If a play is called 'When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other' you expect there to be some uncomfortable moments.

But apparently Martin Crimp's play, which is in preview at the National Theatre, is so explicit a woman in the audience fainted during a performance.

Cate Blanchett and Stephen Dillane star in the production and Katie Mitchell directs.

In fact, Mitchell's name should be a second warning for those of sensitive disposition as she isn't known for shying away from topics and behaviour that aren't an easy watch.

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