I’m aware I am shockingly behind on writing a blog post- forgive me. Please. Here is a quick round-up of the shows I have seen this term-
How the Other Half Loves 07/9
Proscenium arch, clever set, all star cast. Outdated? Maybe a little, but the laughs from the audience (most middle aged in fairness) proved that it had a place and a need in the West End, and it was reasonably full for midweek. A classic, one perhaps not to everyone’s taste but fail safe money spinner.
The Threepenny Opera 08/9
Ah. Rory Kinnear. He is a master of pure unmatchable genius. As is Brechet, whether you agree with his practices or not. And so, I believe was this production, the value of the National’s production ability and a beautiful, more diverse than usual cast and music that lightened the mood of the plot which weaved its way through the underworld of London’s East End in bowler hats and giant moons.
Immersive! That’s fun, usually, only being in one place, however interesting and beautiful the language are, having something so heavy go on for such a long time was a bit of a struggle. I found myself reading all the little flyers pinned to the ‘pub’ corkboard- which to the set designer, Justin Williams, credit was wonderfully detailed- however, having to pay attention to and follow characters that were part of the audience required focus I just didn’t have, or didn’t feel willing to give.
Wow. The Globe is a special place to me as a Shakespeare fan, it’s an indulgence. Weeks before the announcement I went to see Imogen directed by the Wonderful Emma Rice and I was amazed having myself thrown into modern, breakdancing version of Cymbeline that even Shakespeare-cautious Kirsty enjoyed. The original text somehow doesn’t seem frightening when everyone’s wearing hoodies and doing drugs, and the traditional ‘jig’ (that was a very good, high energy street dance number) at the end had us leaving in high spirits, with me swooping in to try and get Kirsty to see more Shakespeare with me- I got a maybe, the conversion is underway.
The Railway Children 28/10
Adapted by Mike Kenny
Every year since I can remember I, me and my family have watched The Railway Children at Christmas, and so when I heard the show would be closing (January 8th) when my mum was down I knew she would appreciate it as much as I would. And we both cried at the end as Bobbie (Who I think if I had to play anyone, I would pick to play) ran down the platform and cried “Daddy, my Daddy”. It was inevitable really. It was a production aimed at kids, in a temporary theatre and so wasn’t the easiest thing to focus on as there was outside noise and people getting up a lot of the time, but oddly that didn’t bother me for once. I loved it, it took me back to being 7 sat in soft fairy lights in a post-christmas happiness coma. I’m so glad I went.
Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
I’m going to be honest, I tend to roll my eyes at obvious comedy, I’m talking slipping on a banana peel, sneaking out of the girl you’re in love with room while her beau is in the room type comedy. It has to be done very very well to make me laugh. And The Comedy about a Bank Robbery did make me laugh, it won my trust and the warm belly laughs surrounding me was infectious, with timing second to none the entire cast was slick and funny, somehow picking up on that evil streak that’s within all of us that finds the misfortune of others hillarious. The use of props and set was inspired, with a nice- neat surprising ending it was just a two hour long hug of joy for all generations.
In The Heights 03/11
Okay, I will admit, this was Kirsty’s call. Another show that is closing soon at the King’s Cross Theatre, In The Heights is a rap musical by the same guy that did Hamilton, something Kirsty is, to put it as bluntly as I can obsessed with. I’m always sceptical about musicals that attempt to merge modern day phenomenons such as rap or accapella whereas Kirsty loves them. Cue the City girl/Country Bumpkin comparison. However I am, most of the time, proved wrong and I was in this instance. Seeing the same theatre that had given me an Edwardian reflection of my childhood living by a railway suddenly transformed into multiracial, steam-train lacking area of New York was a beautiful reminder of theatre’s versatility. And although I didn’t catch every word, I gently prodded myself to get lost in the emotion, like I do with Shakespeare or Opera. And it happened- turns out I’m just a sucker for a good story, well told format be damned.
Shopping + Fucking 04/11
A trip out to the Lyric Hammersmith is always worth the distance to me, Herons which had been the last trip out had impressed me enough that when Shopping and Fucking was recommended to me I booked up tickets. The show lives up to it’s name, we walked out going what the fuck. A twisted, perverse tale on consumerism and human nature makes likable characters do shocking things when you know in your heart of hearts they didn’t have to do, if only you could change the ending, but I feel that says a lot about life too. Audience participation and use of green screen all added to the feel that this wasn’t in the slightest bit ordinary. And I enjoyed it, I suppose. It was smart and had a lot to say, and that’s my kind of play.
David Bowie/Enda Walsh
We lost a genius at the start of the year, and this was one of the last things he was involved in. Having turned down various offers to do a jukebox musical based on his work the concept of a play following on from his movie The Man Who Fell To Earth. He co-wrote and attended rehearsals before the New York opening and spoke extensively to Michael C Hall, which paid off phenomenally. The singing was second to none, and the use of lighting and projection was second to none but I personally felt a little lost, like I was down the pub and someone was telling me a really weird story. It also didn’t help that it seemed the entire audience had high, Bowie-esk haircuts that somewhat obscured the view. It was an experience, and I’m glad I went. Though if we hadn’t lost the great man himself at the start of the year, I would doubt it would have been as popular as it is.
Mama Mia 07/11
Here I go again- my second time of seeing live the musical that never fails to put a smile on my face. The theatre wasn’t full, but that is a reflection of most long running shows these days and I shan’t be surprised if it announces its closure soon, or pulling in a celebrity to boost sales. Maybe they could get Meryl in to play Donna as I really found it hard to appreciate her in the role- her singing voice was lovely but for me, personally I didn’t think it worked. Maybe the magic has worn off a little, but I’m glad I went, if only for the jazzy costumes and laughing at the audience making a fool of themselves
Peter Pan 23/11
JM Barrie devised by Companies
There’s nothing I love more than a bit of gender bending- and to do it without it being laughed at or made a thing of is even greater. With half price tickets for children Peter Pan is amazing, simply a must with the National’s production value shining again, the ‘flying’ gimmick wasn’t overdone and songs were catchy and had a purpose- overall we walked out with smiles on our faces and felt like it had tapped into our childhood in the same way on old book or film can.
A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer 26/11
There is more to come on this, I sharn’t say anything other than every single person should be made to watch this show.
Hans Christian Andersen adapted by Joel Horwood and Emma Rice
I, brave little me, went to the theatre all by myself! Kirsty had returned to Newcastle, and I had found £10 tickets to Emma Rice’s The Little Match Girl and other Happier Tales. Standing at the top of the building I studied the real candles flickering and the place filling up. A beautiful retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales Thumbelina, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Princess and the Pea and The Little Matchgirl. The stories are subtly laced with references to the Refugee Crisis, Child Poverty and Domestic Violence. Beautiful puppetry work and use of candles (one chandelier very early on dropped a few feet nearly onto a man’s lap which cause everyone to wake up a little bit) However one thing vastly upset me. The use of ones mobile phone when you have paid decent money for a seat is entirely unnecessary- so please, please turn it off.
So there, Kirsty- I know I’m in trouble for not writing this sooner and I hope you can take the Christmas spirit to forgive me. And to you reading this- Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays and A Wonderful New Year