Wednesday, 30 March 2011

43. Woody Sez - Arts Theatre

This wasn’t a show I’d planned to see having little knowledge of Woody Guthrie and feeling a little exhausted by jukebox musicals, but having spotted a last minute deal I decided to give it a chance and I was completely won over. I’ve come away with a deep abiding respect for Guthrie – what an incredible man with so much drive and passion and social concern. Several of his albums (and those connected with him) have worked their way on to my “to buy when the theatre stops being such a demanding mistress” list.

Monday, 28 March 2011

42. Mogadishu - Lyric Hammersmith

At this point I have been staring at a blank screen for at least twenty minutes desperately trying to work out how to describe how powerful Mogadishu was. But as my twitter review – “Well... fuck” (in the best possible way) – certainly won’t do, I might as well accept I’m not going to do this justice and get on with it.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

41. The RSC Ensemble Revealed - The Swan Theatre

And now for something completely different... literally every 3 minutes or so, as those of us in The Swan Theatre on Sunday were treated to poetry one moment, comedy the next, singing, dance and some things that defy all description. Whilst I certainly hadn’t been planning to visit Stratford-Upon-Avon three weeks in a row (though I really don’t need much excuse) hearing that the ensemble were putting on a cabaret afternoon to raise money for James Gale and his family after his sad diagnosis with leukaemia, I couldn’t have imagined being anywhere else.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Shakespeare Masterclass at the V&A

Firstly, it was sort of amazing being at the V&A after hours so to speak, it’s a beautiful museum  anyway but there’s something special to feel like you’re exploring it in the dark and quiet and once the event kicked off it was equally amazing to hear it so filled with sound and to find people as excited as you about the theatre at every corner. I really love that more museums and art galleries are starting to events like this, I think it forces you to interact with them in different and more informal ways. Which for me, at least, feels like a good thing (then again I’m also the sort of person who always has to stop at the colouring table and finish a picture, complete with name and age – so you probably shouldn’t listen to me about anything).

Thursday, 24 March 2011

40. The Harvest - Play Reading at the Royal Court

This play reading at the Royal Court was a bit of a last minute booking for me, upon discovering that John Heffernan was going to be part of the cast and since my recent conversion to his talent. It also held curiosity for me though as it was written by Belarusian author Pavel Pryazhko and since seeing the Belarusian Free Theatre last year, I was definitely interested to see how the situation in the country was impacting other work. If you do have some free time I would highly recommend reading the following articles on the situation in Belarus and the work of the BFT:- here and here and here

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

39. The Kissing Dance - Jermyn Street Theatre

Oh god help me, this is a truly terrifying moment for I appear to have made no notes about The Kissing Dance, despite having thoroughly enjoyed it, and given that I saw it over a month ago and April has managed to be ridiculously crammed with theatre – my memories are a little vague. I’ll do my best though.

Monday, 21 March 2011

38. Remembrance Day - Royal Court Upstairs

I must admit that I’m starting to feel a little nervous that what seems like an almost miraculous run of excellent productions can’t possibly last. But the Royal Court is nearly always a good bet not to let the side down (though they really need to sort out a handful of health and safety issues that are making me twitch – less propping doors open with fire extinguishers, more actually accessible alarm cords in the disabled toilets). Plus I’ve had many good experiences with Eastern European plays in the last few years and with Remembrance Day by Ukrainian Aleksey Scherbak; I found a production that could almost have been tailor written for me. Which, you know, is always nice.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

37. The Tempest - The Swan Theatre

Oh, I truly loved this co-production between the RSC and the Little Angel Theatre and was shocked recently to see the London run getting a two star review. All I can say is that I think the reviewer was completely wrong and also possibly a bit of a miserable fart as comparing a brutal Russian production of the play to a version designed for children is rather missing the point, especially as part of the joy of the Tempest is that it can take such polar opposite productions. And this one was utter magic from start to finish, filling me with a childish sort of wonder and glee that is exactly what I want to feel in the theatre and exactly how I would want children to first experience Shakespeare.

Friday, 18 March 2011

36. Antony and Cleopatra - The Swan Theatre

I saw the original run of Antony and Cleopatra twice whilst it was in Stratford-Upon-Avon and was left with the feeling that I hadn’t hated it half as much as everyone else seemed to, even if it was deeply flawed. Still the idea of it being remixed for the Swan Theatre was utterly irresistible – it’s rare we get to see such a complete and dramatic journey for a production.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

35. After Troy - Shaw Theatre

Hmmm... I’ve been dreading writing about After Troy since I saw it as I’m struggling enough to get my own head around it, let alone to try to capture it in words or to explain it to others. This is a fusion of both Euripides’ The Women of Troy and Hecuba by poet Glyn Maxwell. Having studied the Greek plays at school and university, I find them fascinating and have been glad to spot a couple of them coming up over the next few months – but that doesn’t change that they can be problematic from a modern perspective. And even with the removal of the chorus, except in the form of Talthybius the Scribe, I think this more modern retelling maintains many of these issues.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

34. Sign of the Times - Duchess Theatre

There’s something slightly guilty about writing about a play that has already closed ignominiously, especially if it’s one that you didn’t particularly enjoy. Though I didn’t particularly dislike it either. In fact, the problem was really that it left me not feeling or thinking much of anything and has already sunk into the annals of the barely remembered (luckily I’ve at least been managing to keep notes about all the shows I’m seeing, even if keeping up with the diaries was a massive failure – as otherwise I would be glaring at a blank screen right now with no idea what to type).

Monday, 14 March 2011

33. In A Forest Dark and Deep - Vaudeville Theatre

This was another Masterclass marvellous press night deal, though sadly not one I enjoyed anywhere near as much as Flare Path. Partly this might have been down to the seats which were some of the most ridiculously uncomfortable I have ever sat in at a theatre (I was lucky that no one sat next to me, so I could sit sideways, as my not exactly ridiculously long legs wouldn’t fit otherwise – how the Vaudeville could ever charge someone £35 for those seats is a mystery). Mostly though my issues were down to the writing.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

32. Richard II - Tobacco Factory

Despite my frequently stated assertion that it would be silly to pay to travel outside London for theatre when I never manage to see everything I want to in London (a rule I break frequently anyhow) – I couldn’t quite bring myself to miss this play. Firstly it was a Shakespeare I’ve never seen (very exciting) and a history to boot (since the RSC Histories cycle there’s been a bit of a dearth of productions, tragically, as I find the kin strife element to the history plays quite irresistible). Secondly, it was starring John Heffernan, who I’d never seen before but who several people I respect rave about. And, thirdly, it was close enough to my hometown that I could pop back to see my family at the same time (also tickets are wonderful Mother’s Day presents – just a suggestion). The thing that really swung my decision though was the beautiful photographs on the Tobacco Factory website – the production looked stunning – good photos work wonders on my interest in productions, occasionally to my detriment.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

31. Flare Path - Theatre Royal Haymarket

I was lucky enough to get an absolute bargain of a ticket for the press night of Flare Path through the Masterclass offer – particularly lucky as the Theatre Royal Haymarket, despite being quite, quite lovely, is also quite, quite outside my price range. And it would have been a real shame to miss Flare Path as it was absolutely wonderful, in a beautifully sad, warm way.  

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

30. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - Donmar Warehouse

I rather suspect that you can’t get much further away from a First World War drama that The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (though it certainly completes my run of three plays with ridiculously long titles) - but what’s life without some contrast. Particularly as I was certainly won over by both productions – how could I resist, when this was just so bright and fun and clever and inventive - it was hard not to fall head over heels.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

29. Holding Hands at Paschendale - White Bear Theatre

My second foray into a pub theatre, the White Bear Pub Theatre this time, for the weekend and one that even more convinced me that it’s not exactly a happy alliance of two institutions. I’d headed down early, in the hope of trying out new ale and expecting a typical quite Sunday drowsiness and found that I’d completely forgotten the football was on. No quiet Sunday for me then and no ale either as I couldn’t manage to fight my way to the bar. Plus I was getting an all to familiar look from the regulars, suggesting that they’d twigged I wasn’t their for the footie (though it wasn’t a bad game, just don’t ask me who was playing) and that they were about as happy to see me as I was to see them. All in all not an auspicious start and unfortunately this time my reservations proved to be well founded as although the football finished before the show began, the crowd almost immediately afterwards launched into a disco, which half the time threatened to drown out the actors.

Friday, 4 March 2011

28. I Never Get Dressed Till After Dark on Sundays - Cock Tavern

This one was a bit of a last minute impulse purchase for me – though one I’m so glad I indulged in despite initial reservations (brought on by Kilburn seeming a bit rough, the resentful pub crowd seeming somewhat rougher and the fact that the entire rest of the audience seemed to know each other – I think, based on the fact that I was proffered a glass of something bubbly on my way out, that I’d accidentally stumbled upon a press night). I should not have worried, however, as I ended up really adoring the production.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

27. Ordinary Days - Trafalgar Studios

I suspect this new musical would have fared better, would have left more of a mark on me, in a month that had contained less really stunning (or, truthfully, utterly maddening) theatre. As it is, it’s fallen into the rather awkward position of being liked (I wouldn’t have hesitated in recommending anyone else who was interested in going to see it) but overshadowed and somewhat forgotten.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

26. Frankenstein - National Theatre

This is a bit of an odd one – in some ways it is one of the most spectacular production I have seen this year (and maybe last) but in others it completely fell apart for me. I think perhaps it was the contrast between these two reactions that overall made this so disappointing. It was like one player letting the entire side down and loosing the game.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

25. The Centaur and the Animal - Bartabas at Sadler's Wells

Another difficult performance to review as I feel utterly unqualified to discuss this one. Dance is not really an area of familiarity for me, let alone one where I feel any expertise and when it comes down to equestrian dressage, well... I saw the Spanish Lippizaners about 15 years ago, but beyond that I was completely lost.