It’s a joint thing. Kirsty and Kim like to go to see plays. And some musicals. Maybe its just a hobby – or maybe its because we’re both doing a degree surrounding plays. Either way, we see a lot. The first we saw together was a musical – Matilda the Musical at the Cambridge theatre in London’s West End. We’d worked a long day 2 weeks prior – dressed in nearly nothing (some cheap rip off of a traditional German dress) serving pitches of mass-produced beer for £20 a pitcher. We were knackered, could barely feel our feet and by our second break were ready to give up. So, to keep us going we decided, when our payslips came through, to spend that money on a night out – I had a voucher for a free bottle of wine with dinner at a mainstream Italian restaurant and we went to a ticket booth on Leister Square – thinking we’d struck a bargain with £35 tickets to the hit show. Looking back we could have easily got those tickets (at the back row of the theatre) so so so much cheaper, but we’d only been in London for a month and didn’t know any better. The show – well it blew our minds. There was a transformative set, top-notch lighting and a child lead whose life was already 1000% more sorted than mine – all elements which sent us home singing, literally. And that’s where it all began – after Matilda it was Wonder.Land at the National (Olivier), Nell Gwynn at the Lyric, Waste at the National (Lyttleton), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time at the Gielgud, Reasons to be Happy at the Hampstead and most recently, People, Places and Things at the Wyndhams Theatre. I say most recently, last night we went and saw Mrs Henderson Presents at the Noel Coward Theatre, round the back of the Wyndhams – as a joint birthday night out (our birthdays are 24 hours separate, so two days of fun are completely allowed).
People, Places and Things is what I want to talk about. A title which gives nothing away. Turns out, the play is about drug and alcohol addiction. It’s been given rave reviews by all who’ve seen it, our tickets cost £17 each. We were in the Upper Circle – a very Upper Upper circle – that theatre is bloody steep. I was tired and annoyed – another mainstream Italian’s denied me student discount – something I don’t generally respond well to, and the bloke sat in front of me would not stop wriggling. Meaning I had to continuously move. Which sent my little temper through the roof. But the play – the play was really what knocked me for six. It scared me, it shocked me – and it left me with a metaphorical taste in my mouth, which I had never tasted before. Never before had I left the theatre feeling dis-satisfied. Disappointed and disinterested, yes, but dissatisfaction was a new one. And that was because of the ending. The play that had picked me up and thrown me around gave me an ending which, although logical, didn’t feel quite right. It left so much to the imagination. So much I thought this a criticism, but its also the thing that made it so powerful and provocative. Its been over a week now, and not one day has gone by when I haven’t thought about it, reconsidered the ending, tried to piece together what happened, piece by piece. By combining abstract and naturalistic storylines, it really created something that has the potential to change which audiences view what theatre for good.
But what is too much? Was the play too much? Without doubt the theatre industry needs to change – in the sense that more politically and socially mobile theatre needs to be shown. But it’s still nice to see something for purely entertainment purposes, sometimes. and after all, thats what musical theatre training is for. These performers work like machines to be able to do the splits, fan kicks and belting high notes that is required in auditions, which seems to have lost its place in modern theatre. Not that I’m critiquing modern theatre – particularly modern musical theatre – but it seems to be ignoring a huge skill set held by these people who are fresh from training, with dance, singing and acting experience. Triple threat is slowly becoming Double Threat – which to be frankly honest just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Performers need technique, which comes from triple threat training.
The end. for now.