Salomé

I wish this play was running last term! It fit perfectly with the discussion I had going in my essay, but never mind- that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Looking around me at 2pm on a Wednesday matenèe at the National Theatre most of the faces I can see are over 60 and white. I’ll leave you to draw what you want from that.

Yaël Farber is known for shaking up classics, and her retelling of Salomé is no different- rape, nudity and no satisfactory ending leaves the audience feeling uncomfortable in their own skin, being the person I am, I enjoy a play that challenges me- but I did feel a certain disconnect to the character- like an observer which only added to the lack of agency I was feeling, I felt like the play wasn’t relatable to my life and my world (despite some odd touches such as with guns in an otherwise accurate period piece) and the voice of Salomé, as she was dying, felt weak to me, despite having strong words which felt frustrating.

It was the programme, containing information about the history of the production and the reasoning behind those decisions that led to the final production being made that helped me make my mind up about how I felt about the play, that I found it a fascinating and deep play. However, I am aware that not everyone can afford £4 for a programme, and not everyone has or is doing a theatre degree. This leaves me toying with wanting nuanced and sophisticated plays, but also wanting those plays to be accessible to the average person on the street. Torn, just like the narrative about a woman we know little about.

-Kim

Carousel

I am getting used to sitting at the very top of theatres. I think I’d be confused if I sat in the stalls!

But the point is that these seats can cost from £10 to £30 in my 2 years in pursuit of the cheapest best seats in London and I am still confused by this seemingly pointless disparity, but I feel that’s an essay, not a blog post.

When two national treasures (Katherine Jenkins and Alfie Boe) were billed to be in the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein, Carousel, mum and I agreed we would make an effort to go and see it together. After a fair bit of logistical shuffling and wriggling we managed to see the show in the 5th of May and we were not disappointed, although very far back in the theatre in the scheme of things it meant we had full view of the stage, and an angle on the mesmerizing choreography by Josh Rhodes that made me crave to see a ballet again.

If I were to put my uni head on the play is riddled with misogyny and outdated attitudes about gender that weren’t addressed or even acknowledged in the slightest, but overall that didn’t matter to me- it didn’t give any pretence that it would tackle that issues. What it did offer, it delivered on- beautiful singing and set and acting. Just the thing you want and expect from a subsidised theatre.

-Kim

Starling Arts: Vocal democracy

Singing and me go way back. I had my first singing class almost 11 years ago at my old stage school back in Newcastle. It went from being an hours entertainment on a Saturday morning to singing in choirs, a capella groups and as a soloist until I left the north to head for London. Singing was something I was passionate about and I would have loved to pursue a career in musical theatre, but however far I could push my head voice, and however impressive I was at holding my own line in a 6 part harmony there was – and still is – no space in musical theatre for a 5ft 11″ tall woman.

Starling Arts believe that everyone can sing. A company formed with the ethos that singing can bring everyone together, regardless of ability, age, gender or background. There is a theory that when a group of people sing together that they’re hearts beat together in the same rhythm (how sweet!) and Starling Arts are putting this to the test with all sorts of communities all over London. In preparation for our outreach projects this term, they came into Central and gave a group of about 22 of us a masterclass in conducting, harmonising and having a general good time. The first question raised was how on earth do you make the word ‘singing’ less scary? A choral background is something I can often take for granted when facilitating drama with non-singers. It’s a pretty scary thought being asked to do something you’ve never been comfortable with, or haven’t attempted since the year 3 nativity play. Even if you think you sound like a honking duck suffering an asthma attack, the likelihood is you’ll find yourself humming along to a tune at least once a day. Which proves their point – music is connective; and a pretty common thread in order to unify a group of people. We found a connection as a whole group to the classic noughties tune that is Mr. Brightside (The Killers) – and then enjoyed singing it in 3 part harmony. I can’t even begin to explain how good it felt to be singing as an ensemble again. Turns out I still manage to tear sheet music to shreds the second I’m given it. However, it was when we put the paper down we really got to have some fun. Moving your body to the music, living in a world of your own yet still feeling like your part of the team is key when trying to create a sense if ensemble whether your working with professional actors or reluctant amateurs. It is imperative in making theatre smooth, rich and of a high quality. But it’s also just so important to feel that connection together in an ensemble. It’s a fun, indescribable – dare I call it a community, however temporary. And that proved Starling Arts point – everyone can sing, and everyone can enjoy it.

Music is everywhere. Literally. It is the background for the 2500 + adverts we are exposed to a day, and everyone will have a fond memory of using a rainstick in primary school. It is used to celebrate, mark occasions, mourn and miser. And its one heck of a tool for expressing emotions and speaking of self, place and community. You only need to watch Sister Act 2 to see that. And that should sum up my experience of vocal democracy. It was great!

Plays that change you.

It had been my desire to see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern since I watched the National Theatre’s ’50 years on stage’. And anyone that knew me during my GCSE’s knows I love Harry Potter, and so to have the opportunity to see Daniel Radcliffe do some stage acting I was dying to see the Old Vic’s production.

The Saturday before I went to  a workshop run by the School of Life called ‘How to Face Death’ that the Old Vic ran to complement the production and it put me in a situation similar to what I felt about the Dear White People. I was surrounded by views I was perhaps less familiar with and I learned so much, talking honestly and openly about death and especially people that have encountered more loss, and/or were older than me helped me to come to terms, a little more, with my own inevitable mortality.

The show itself was beautiful, the set design by Anna Fleischle, involving lots of dramatic curtains that caused beautiful shadows that worked to create places of mystery. Although Radcliffe doesn’t have the projection of his fellow cast the character lended itself to it and the chemistry between him and Joshua McGuire had me in stitches and the players were dynamic and added rather than distracted. I want everyone to have the same experience I had, I though I’m aware it’s a pipe dream,  I hope everyone finds something that gives them the same feeling this show gave me.

-Kim