Well this was an exciting one – twolasses first press night! And a very interesting press night at that. Bridled began with a woman dressed in sexy lingerie; wearing a novelty horse mask, reading escort magazines. Entertaining! It was quickly revealed as a woman in a dystopian interrogation about lesbian activity that was deemed illegal. So what had she done? The audience waited patiently as she explained her history, her relationships, her stance on society. The themes of toxic masculinity, patriarchy and white feminism were talked about – bravely articulating a multi-layered character and situation. This was clear, absolutely – but you couldn’t help wanting more of what was given. We were given answers to questions that were raised, leaving a feeling of audience satisfaction and cleverly also one of more questions for the audience to answer themselves. The staging was simple yet effective – and for a one woman show I don’t think I’d have wanted any more. There were a few staggered interludes of pop music (sex themed, of course) alongside the voiceover to remind you of where you were. I’m unsure if I wanted to be reminded of this to be honest – because you were able to be so involved in the story being told at that present moment. However, on the flipside it was an interesting political statement to have that reminder – a detachment from the depths of a story; a harsh and oddly realistic representation of how many women are still not listened to or heard, not allowed to be understood and demonised for enjoying sex. So yes, it got the point across in a lovely way without the audience being spoon fed. It was a challenging performance in the sense that there was so much you wanted from it, which it steered you to believing you were gonna get then robbing you of it as the last minute. However, I don’t think this is a bad point with this, and it reinforces an ambiguity that surrounds society’s expectations and allowances of femininity, men’s reactions to the ‘f’ *whispers feminism* word and the great taboo that is sexual excitement. So all in all, it was an intriguing and thought provoking show going boldly, if not querying into many of the inequitable issues faced by women today. If I could tell the show anything, I would say continue to be brave – don’t be scared by being brutal, because you have a great show and it’s gonna say a lot!
This year marks the second year that Kirsty and I will have been going to the theatre together. Quite an achievement considering that we have developed different tastes and opinions, as may be evident in this blog. Shows I love she doesn’t, shows I’m not so sure about, she raves for. To satisfy us both would be quite the feat, and one that when achieved is cause for celebration.
One of those shows is Our Ladies of Perpetual Scour at the Duke of York’s, Kirsty wrote about this one in her last blog, but I felt it was fitting to talk about it here. I’m very aware that I like to pick holes in things, and I always intend to do so in a loving way (whether it comes across like that is another matter, but I’m working on it!) I loved this show- so much I’ve seen it twice. Both times I have walked out high and euphoric with something swelling in my heart I couldn’t put my finger on. I might have been less of a fan if I didn’t like ELO, but the storyline, based on The Sopranos by Alan Warner is real and complex, with the most realistic sex-based story-lines I have ever seen, I recognise the characters; their story arcs and mannerisms could have been lifted from my own sixth form. The 5 actresses’ multi-role and are on stage for the whole 105-minute show- something to be admired before anything. The show reminded me of the value of friendship, and how binding female friendships are- no matter what you’re going through your girls will be there for you, something that seeks to counter the new ‘psycho’, possessive, jealous girl trend that frankly sends shudders down my spine. The play sets your spirits high, makes you thankful and gives you a glimpse into small town life, something that is rarely done in the West End.
Now, dear reader, for a show we disagree on- Terror at the Lyric Hammersmith is a play that has been translated from German into English, but the problem and the ‘gimmick’ remain the same: Which is right, upholding the Constitution under any circumstance, or, going case by case and weighing up the facts such as lives lost and saved. And the fact that you, the audience are the jury. The framing is a rather static dry courtroom based testimony/questioning format, but as someone who has observed a real trail at the Old Bailey, the actors and director made it just active enough to not send you to sleep, but slow enough that you could take in the points each person was making. It’s sparked late night debates and a lot of self-questioning and I don’t believe there is a wholly right answer- The only thing I’m sure of is that jury service would probably turn me grey, deciding the fake fate of an actor was stressful enough without it being a ‘real’ person to decide the future of. Terror is an important show in the wake of recent events, it brings into question our accountability, and attitudes to the power of the state and the power of having an enemy. Immediately after any major attack on The West, verdicts of ‘not guilty’ skyrocket. It’s not got long left, it closes on the 15th July but it’s worth a trek out to Hammersmith to see, promise.
When we began this blog over a year ago now, I was pretty sure that it would be a breeze – a walk in the park. Turns out, blogging takes time and effort. If you see something and your so totally uninspired by the whole affair you can’t think what to say, you can sit at your laptop for hours typing, deleting, typing and deleting, then writing a plain old grumpy review, which only makes the whole experience worse. But I do love blogging and the theatre – its a wholesome and worthwhile way to reflect on the wide-spread world of modern theatre in all its aspects.
I’ve just finished my second year at drama school (yay) and having spent every minute up to this nursing a fairly impressive hangover, I decided it was time to write again. Even though this term has been remarkably busy, and with myself working two jobs I still managed to visit the theatre a good few times. I just didn’t have time to write. However, this makes me think about the theatre in a (to me) forgotten sense. The concept of going the theatre for fun, pleasure and relaxation is why most people go. A critical eye is something I developed from learning how to make and develop theatre of all kinds at a professional level. I find myself booking tickets on a whim, and thinking “What sort of post will I write about this? How will marginalised groups be represented? Did the director have a political motive?” before I even stop to think if I will enjoy the show.
This was pretty apparent to me when I saw Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (at an absolute bargain for £15 a head – in a box). As a loud and proud feminist the thought of an all-female cast excited me, the storyline however, I had not bothered to research even one bit. And it grabbed me – a group of teenage convent-led schoolgirls going on a trip to the big city and getting in almighty trouble, mixed with grimly realistic sub-plots (poverty, unwanted teenage pregnancies) and exquisite choral singing. I watched, I laughed and I cried, and I left the theatre with an unstoppable, ear-to-ear grin across my face. I could happily coin it a great night out at the theatre, with a show that made you think yes, but also a show that fulfilled an experience – that of a night out at the theatre.
There was a bit of a different vibe around my trip to the Old Vic to see John Boyega in Woyzeck. A classic work on its own, the star plug of a formidable actor (who proved himself wholly in this performance) brought with it a varied and interested audience. An audience who couldn’t really handle the fairly graphic displays of sex on stage. This play is designed to get the audience thinking, and by featuring military discipline and highlighting institutional inequality was sure to shake you from your comfort. An entertaining performance – yes, but it was obvious that you were meant to be leaving with a very different attitude as to how you left Our Ladies. I was really left astounded by Boyega’s sheer talent and clear passion for his craft. Sometimes it appears ever more so prominent in the theatre than on screen, especially when you know the actor for playing a storm trooper.
Reflecting on why I go to the theatre and how I want to go the theatre highlights to me that there seems to be a bit of a blur going on with fringe and mainstream theatres. I saw the American musical Working at then Southwark playhouse, two days after the terror attack at London Bridge. Working was a stunning show, with new music by Lin Manuel Miranda added to a verbatim script by Steven Schwartz – covering testimony from all types of jobs – from a cleaner to a teacher there was something there for everyone to relate to. This show used a clever mix of shiny new faces onto the musical theatre scene, placed alongside seasoned veterans of the world stage. A move which at first I thought would be corny and cheap, but one that proved me wrong; it led to an emotional and meaningful performance from all actors and showed the commitment that all people of the theatre have to creating a fulfilling – at its most basic level good night of entertainment. To acknowledge the attacks and their impact on the area was absolutely necessary. An actor bravely stood forward after the performance and said a few very touching words, including a show of appreciation for the audience still turning up regardless of fear or danger in the area. People still want to go to the theatre and be entertained, and as long as there are people who will make it, there will be audiences who will enjoy it.
And when I have the time, I will write about it.