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I hadn't been sure whether to see this play, given the hassle of getting to London and being out all day, but SM was going out, and I wasn't going to the theatre this month, so I decided to buy a ticket.  I was right about the hassle.  My train was cancelled - at least I found out the day before, so I didn't get to the station to find I had to wait an hour.  And GWR still haven't managed to add an extra carriage to a two carriage train which has to convey two lots of passengers, so the first part of the journey was cramped by the end.  At least I had a seat for the journey - having complained on Twitter.  It appears GWR are launching a new advertising campaign to encourage people to travel by train - I'd be more inclined to if I thought their 'Great Adventure' wouldn't be 'is there going to be a train'.

I had planned to go to the V&A to see a couple of their exhibits, but with the loss of an hour I changed plans and went to Leighton House instead.  There was an interesting exhibition of paintings by Lawrence Alma-Tedema (no, I hadn't heard of him either) and a beautiful Arab room in the house.  So that was worth doing, after which I walked through Holland Park from the Kensington High Street end towards Notting Hill Gate, to go to the Print Room at the Coronet to see the play.

Trouble in Mind was written by Alice Childress, an African-American playwright, in 1955.  It concerns an actress who challenges the racial stereotypes she is always given to portray.  Although set in 1955 it remains very relevant as regards racism, and those who believe themselves not to be racist, and yet unconsciously still maintain certain attitudes.

The attraction of the play for me was Jonathan Slinger, who played Al Manners the director of the play within a play.  In addition Tanya Moodie, who was Gertrude in last year's RSC Hamlet, plays the main actress Wiletta Mayer.  The whole cast was excellent, and the play was thoughtprovoking without being heavy.

The theatre was about two-thirds full.  It's not a place I'd heard of before, and outside the usual theatre haunts of most people, but I understand ticket bookings have gone up with some good reviews (which it deserves).  It's only on until 14 October, but one to bear in mind.

Against

Aug. 21st, 2017 07:08 pm
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A new play at the Almeida Theatre, starring Ben Whishaw, promised so much.  I went to the last preview, opening night being on the Friday.  Which meant I could read and compare the reviews with my own thoughts over the weekend.

For once I agree with the reviewers, which in this case is sad because most of them are lukewarm.  Whishaw was good, but for me the material wasn't.  The plot had some very deep and important points to make, but laboured them badly.  In writing the advice is to show not tell - and there were a lot of words, discussing the theme.  For me, one of the most telling moments was towards the end of the play, when two of the characters who haven't met previously meet up and share an important moment, and the audience finally gets to see how they feel, rather than being told how they feel.

Most of the play is separate scenes, which have little to connect them, rather like illustrations of separate points.  And Whishaw's character has good intentions, and speaks out against violence, but never seems to have anything to lose.

I have friends who are going to see the play, so I shall be interested to read their reactions.  Otherwise, if you're tossing up whether to see this or something else, I would recommend trying the other.
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Two separate productions - I saw the first Wednesday evening and the other Friday evening.

Jesus Christ Superstar )

#####

Ophelia: Madness (in Blue) )
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This is the first of my posts from my trip to London.

I normally go to one musical when I come up to London for my summer break, and having heard Gershwin's music in a concert we went to in February I thought this looked promising.  And it turned out to be the best performance I went to on my trip.

Performed in the Dominion Theatre, it was a traditional West End musical, although in fact it's a new musical, first performed in 2014 and had its UK premiere only a couple of months ago.  The music, of course, was excellent, played by a thirteen piece orchestra.

The staging was brilliant, so many scenes, conjured up apparently effortlessly.  The costumes were wonderful - I was especially taken with the ballet costumes for the show within a show.

I hadn't realised how much ballet there was.  I had expected lots of tap dancing, and there was one memorable number which was tap, but there was lots of ballet - not the very complicated solos and duets found in traditional ballet, but beautifully executed ensemble pieces (which are my preferences anyway).

There is a story, which is straightforward, but has surprising depth.  It is a real feel-good production, in which I was caught up in the action and the dance.  It does exactly what it sets out to do - entertain, but not in a trite way.

The programmes are quite expensive - £8 - so I didn't buy one on the day.  Instead, two days later I was back in the area and went in and bought one as a souvenir, because it's a performance I want to be able to look back on.  So, if this is a genre you like, I thoroughly recommend it.
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I wouldn't normally see two different productions of the same play within the space of two months - inevitably the two will be compared, and anyway there are lots of other plays out there.  But on this occasion it was inevitable.  I had already booked to see Greg Hicks when Antic Disposition announced their new tour.  We really enjoyed their production of Henry V last year, and I would have looked at seeing them again anyway, but since they were once more in Gloucester Cathedral I had to go.

The play was performed in the choir and right at the edge of the presbytery - the doors at either end providing entrances.  There was very little in the way of props, two thrones at one end, some boxes to give added height occasionally at the other, but their absence didn't matter.  Again it was in modern dress, suits for the most part, formal army dress for Richard on his coronation, battle dress for the battle.  The parts of the two young princes were played by two of the female actors, who also played two of the queens, so smart outfits as queens, torn jeans as princes.

Richard, played by Toby Manley, was excellent as the manipulative future king.  At one point, after his wooing of Anne he turned round smiling broadly at the audience.  I was smiling broadly too and he grinned at me.  We were sitting in the front seats of the choir.

There was plenty of engagement with the audience.  In anticipation of the young Prince Edward's arrival in London, Catesby handed out flags to wave.  I was slightly disappointed SM was given one and I wasn't - but he waved his furiously at the right moment.

One of the things I particularly liked was that as the various characters were killed they would take their place at one end of the space as silent witnesses to the following action.  The characters alternated, so it didn't become overcrowded, but I felt it was particularly effective.

Apart from the young princes, there were a number of other actors who had two roles, but it wasn't noticeable and without looking at the programme I wouldn't have been aware of who was who.  In particular one actor played both Rivers and Richmond and I would never have realised.

It was a really good production, very different from the last one I'd seen, and one I'd recommend.

Gloucester Cathedral )
It's taken from the Organ Loft.  We were sat about half way down at the front on the right.
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I hadn't originally planned to see the RSC's production of Titus Andronicus - it's really not a play you want to see too often, but when I learned they had cast David Troughton in the title role I decided I would go after all.  SM declined - he had come with me on the previous occasion, and as I said, it's not a play you see regularly.  On that occasion Stephen Boxer had been in the lead role, so I was interested to see how the two actors compared.  (I've seen them both as Gloucester in King Lear).  I find it quite hard to remember the last performance, but looking back it was nearly four years ago when we saw it.

It was a really good production.  It always feels slightly wrong to say I enjoyed the play, but I did.  David Troughton has an amazing ability to bring in the humour which acts as such a strong contrast to the horrendous events which are being portrayed.  It was a strong cast overall.  I was particularly taken with Patrick Drury, who plays Titus' brother Marcus.  Of the 20 in the cast, 13 are in their RSC debut season, and I would certainly be very happy to see any of them again.

It's a modern dress production and in fact feels quite up to date.  The themes of the play all seem very relevant to life today, even if the outworkings aren't as physical.  Once more the musicians were excellent, and the music adds to the play.  Even at one point having four trombonists marching on the stage (three trombonists are credited in the programme, I am assuming the trumpeter doubled up for this role).

The set is extremely well done.  At one end is the Capitol and the seat of power, enclosed by wire meshing, and very cut-off from the rest of humanity.  In the centre of the main stage (it's a thrust stage) a square section descends and ascends and thus provides for all the necessary stage furniture, which is limited to the small space.  This means that everything is merely a prop for the action, rather than dominating it.

As a play, Titus Andronicus is never going to be one that's much recommended, but I would certainly commend the production.  So, if you want to see every single Shakespeare play, this might be one way of doing so.

Common

Jun. 25th, 2017 09:34 pm
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Anne-Marie Duff in a play at the National Theatre - sounds good to me.  It sounded good to SM too, so we booked a night at a Travelodge for after and looked forward to it.  Since we were going to the matinée, and since SM only works Friday mornings at the moment we decided we'd go up the night before which would make it less of a rush, and I booked another Travelodge - in Teddington.  Do not stay there - I have just sent off a complaint.  If it wasn't for the fact we've never had problems before (odd hiccups, but they've always been resolved, and the one time that wasn't possible we instantly got a voucher for our next stay) we wouldn't use them again.  Richmond was fine the second night.

But I digress.  Common is a new play by DC Moore.  It's set in the 1810s at the height of the enclosure act, and Mary (Anne-Marie Duff) has returned to her home village after years away.  Mary is not what she initially seems - and even by the end of the play it's not clear what her role truly is.  And that is part of the problem with the play.  Although there are lots of different things happening, the play seems one paced and at times somewhat improbable.  The improbability would be okay if the play truly had a fantastical layer, but this is supposed to be very earthy and therefore, by implication, realistic.

The lighting is very atmospheric, and the music fits well with the action.  But I was neither swept up in the plot, or invested in Mary or any of the other characters.  As the play progressed, Mary felt more like a super-woman, with inexplicable abilities, which again didn't settle with where the play seemed to be going.  A play can take its audience in unexpected directions, but there needs to be reasoning as to why things happen (however bizarre the reasons may be) and we felt it failed.

The reviews have been mostly 2* (the Guardian awarded 3*, but liked the way it didn't make sense, calling it exciting, I beg to differ), but Anne-Marie Duff was good and did justice to Mary (the faults were in the characterisation, not the acting), and since we had £15 Travelex tickets I won't complain.  I'm glad we went - and we enjoyed our weekend away - but I wouldn't particularly recommend the play.
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SM has been off doing a singing workshop today, leaving me at home with nothing particularly pressing.  I have however been reasonably productive!

Apart that is from the usual puttering around on the internet, catching up with emails/LJ comments/fic reading, and the washing - which has dried nicely and is waiting for me to bring it in!

I have thought about the 'talk in the sermon slot' I'm doing next month and got an idea of where I'm going with it.  Have also thought about the talk for tomorrow's Combined Family Praise Fathers' (and Others') Day service.

I have written part of the chapter two of my Gen Bingo fic.  This is the one which follows on from Master Baggins the Baker's Son.  I have vague ideas, which are changing as I write, but so far I'm pleased with the way it's going.  Incidentally, Master Baggins is my most kudos fic for 2017, and my top five kudos fics this year are all The Hobbit and Bagginshield.

I have done the edits for my Not Prime Time exchange fic, with many thanks to [personal profile] thewhitelily  for her hard work in beta-ing it and saying 'this needs another sentence of explanation/reaction'.  All very true - I particularly appreciate her help, since it was a fandom she doesn't know.

I have booked tickets for a play.  This is put on by a new company Elliot & Harper Productions at London's Wyndhams Theatre.  The play Heisenberg will star Anne-Marie Duff (the reason for booking) and Kenneth Cranham.  The company are the ones who will also be putting on a play directed by Yael Harper, in which there are rumours Richard Armitage will star.  But ignoring that possibility for the moment SM and I are going between Christmas and New Year, and having a couple of days in London as well, which should be good.  I can see the run up to Christmas being busy, and learning from Easter, having a proper break afterwards seems like a good idea.

And lastly, apart of course from writing this blog post, I have ordered the Active Kids equipment for the Sainsbury's vouchers we collected.  It was quite difficult to decide what to get, but in the end we're having an earth ball - a ball with a map of the world printed on it, which should be good both for games and when we talk about Brownies around the world.  They also do gardening equipment, so I've ordered a set of small plant pots and saucers which we can use for a craft/gift/activity.  And with the remaining vouchers I selected a stop watch - we've been using a phone as a timer, but this would be easier - and a couple of food containers, which we can use for general storage.  Not a bad haul at all.

Hope your're all having a good weekend too!

Richard III

Jun. 4th, 2017 04:40 pm
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As soon as I heard Greg Hicks was going to be in Richard III I knew I had to see it.  Then SM talked about going to another singy thing (Vivaldi's Gloria) and suggested we stay overnight so he could be at Trafalgar Square by 10am.  So it seemed like an ideal opportunity to combine the two.

It turned out to be an even better idea.  The play was at the Arcola Theatre, which is in Dalston in east London, and thus the other side of London from us.  It also didn't finish until nearly 6pm (starting quite late for a matinée at 3pm) so getting a train home would have been a rush (we drove up instead).  A combination of bus from almost outside our Travelodge at Kew Bridge and London Overground meant the travel - although nearly an hour - was simple.

But to the play.  I am so very pleased I got to see it.  I went with a friend, and whilst we agreed the emphasis on Richard's disability was extreme and not entirely necessary, Greg Hicks performance was excellent.  He's an extremely physical actor - not in the leaping all over the stage sense, but in conveying much by subtle body movements.  He brought out the laughs, with a performance which showed Richard as very self-aware of exactly what he was doing.  And he dominated the stage, not denying the other actors, but in demonstrating that he was where the real power was held.  And when he spoke, a slight emphasis on certain words and the audience knew exactly what he was thinking.

The supporting cast were good too.  I was particularly taken with Matthew Sim as Catesby, icy and completely in control of himself.  However, I was not convinced with the way some of the characters were doubled up.  Having the same actor play Clarence and Stanley, while another played Rivers and Blunt was rather a jolt - especially when towards the end in one scene they are talking with Richmond as his supporters, and in the very next scene they appear before Richard as he dreams of those he's killed.  But that's a minor criticism.

The Arcola theatre is small, giving an intimate setting, and we were in the second row on one side, so had an excellent view and felt drawn in to the performance.  It's modern dress, but of no specific time, which I felt worked very well.

In conclusion, I'm delighted I got to see Greg Hicks on stage again.
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ust over a week ago SM said to me "Are we going to see The Hypocrite?"  I told him we hadn't booked, but he said he'd heard good things about it, so I had a look and rapidly booked, since yesterday was the closing night.  The production has almost completely sold out, but we managed to get £10 standing seats.  Which is probably a very accurate description - basicly you stand, but there's a sort of seat you can sit on, so it's not proper standing.  The seats are on the sides in the upper gallery, so there are areas which aren't visible, and I wouldn't particularly recommend them, but for £10 for something we couldn't have seen otherwise, I'm not complaining.

The Hypocrite is a new play, written by Richard Bean.  It was a joint collaboration between the RSC and Hull Truck Theatre, for Hull being UK City of Culture 2017.  The Hypocrite is Sir John Hotham, who in 1642 was charged by King Charles to take and hold the armoury in Hull for him.  At the same time Sir John is given a similar commission by the Parliamentarians.  This is historical fact.  The play is based on this action and builds on it, taking various historical truths and adapting some of them slightly.

It reminded me of some of the Restoration comedies we have seen, and was in a similar vein, although the language was modern, which meant following the plot was easier.  There were local references to Hull (the play was performed there first) and various modern allusions, including at one point the Duke of York sending a message to Sir John's daughter in text speak.  But it blended in very well and gave the illusion of being a Restoration comedy as seen at the time.

The play was a true comedy, with both verbal and physical jokes.  There were various references to Shakespeare - generally disparaging - and probably one of the best interpretations of Malvolio's yellow stockings cross-gartered I've seen.  The acts were separated by folk songs, played by a singer on a mandolin or guitar, which sounded period appropriate, although some at least were new, others may have been from the time.

We both really enjoyed it and were very pleased with the decision to see it.

 

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As soon as I saw Andrew Scott was going to be playing Hamlet, I knew I'd be booking tickets.  And with Scott being one of SM's favourite actors booking to go for his birthday also solved the constant problem of what to buy him.

This review contains spoilers for the production (and for the play, but a lot of my flist will already know the plot).

I have quite a lot of conflicting thoughts about this production - yes, it landed on the plus side, but there were negatives.  SM really enjoyed it - his preferences are different from mine - he analyses a production as it is happening far more than I do - so from the point of view of his birthday present it was a great success.

Reading the reviews afterwards, a lot was made of the director Robert Icke and how he is new and innovative.  And there was a lot of what he did which worked - the use of the screen for example, both as security cameras (this is a modern day production) and to show the reactions of Claudius and Gertrude to The Mousetrap work really well.  I was less convinced with the newsreel style reporting in Danish - I don't speak Danish, the actors aren't speaking Danish so why not show the news with English titles?  And yes, I appreciate good direction, but for me I should be looking back on the play and thinking "that was good, why was it" and realising it was the direction, rather than having it dominating the play.

I did like Andrew Scott as Hamlet.  He had the ability to pull me in and be there with him, which is what I look for in the main actor.  In a play of this nature, I get to feel what he feels.

As for the supporting cast, no-one really grabbed me.  And I think partly that was directorial decision.  One of the problems of having seen a play a number of times is there are certain things I look for.  Here my question was, what did Claudius think to gain by killing Old Hamlet?  Apart from his wife - and the way they were behaving together I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd been having an affaire.  And Laertes, when he became angry, was very indistinct - which happens, but isn't very helpful in performance when it would help to know what he's saying.

The play is long.  Originally it was over four hours, on press night it was about four hours and now it is three and three-quarters.  This includes two quarter hour intervals.  Which is all very artistic, and allows for time to be taken, but to me some of the pauses could have been cut down.  Also, the last act felt as if all the action had to be jammed in, having spent much longer on thoughts, so somewhat unbalanced.  Robert Icke is keen to make Shakespeare accessible, yet in fact by very length of this production I think he's failed in his aim.

All of this comes over as a negative review, which isn't really fair.  I'm very pleased I saw it.  Andrew Scott is an excellent actor and I'm delighted to have seen him in Hamlet.  The production had some great ideas, but it didn't manage to be outstanding.
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I have managed to make a photographic post each month, and so this is the last one.  It's not been as easy as I'd thought, and I don't plan to continue a specifically photographic post, although there will still be photos of things which catch my attention.  And next month I shall do the promised summary of my neighbourhood through the year, and possibly two such posts.

In the meantime, have some pictures of some of my recent theatre trips.  Except for The Play That Went Wrong, because it was dark and wet and cold and we weren't hanging around to take pictures ;)

Theatres )

Jersey Boys

Feb. 5th, 2017 12:54 pm
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When SM said he planned to drive up to London to go to a Saturday afternoon singing workshop thingy - don't ask me anything about it, all I know was it featured Thomas Tallis - and wondered if I'd like to go too and have an afternoon in London I had a look to see what plays/shows were on.  I'd been thinking of seeing Jersey Boys for a while, having heard good things about it, and when I realised it would be closing soon I decided that's what I would go to.

I have to say it wasn't as good as I'd expected.  The first act seemed very slow.  It wasn't helped by a constant stream of audience members (I was in the upper circle) going out and back in - they were worse than my Brownie pack.  I felt the performance didn't make enough of some of the big numbers and there was no attempt to share them with the audience.

The second act was better and the last two numbers include the band on the platform over the stage.  The band was excellent and I really enjoyed watching them play.  I'm used to the RSC having actual musicians on stage and so when the Four Seasons are played by actors/singers it doesn't really convince.  (In the same way, in a recent episode of Endeavour a shepherd walked away and his walk was all wrong).  Also, on occasions the choreography as the group was singing looked stilted - maybe that was deliberate, to show difficulties within the group, but it just looked awkward.

My overall feeling is that, like Mamma Mia, this is a play with songs fitted into it, rather than having the songs emerge from the action.  So, a pleasant afternoon's entertainment, but not one of the highspots of the year.
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Some time last year I saw TPTGW was coming to Cheltenham, but SM said it didn't appeal.  So when the daughter and I were meeting in London and deciding what to see, I suggested we see it in the West End.  Daughter had a look, said it was coming to Coventry (where she lives) in the new year and would I like to see it as her birthday present to me and I could stay over with her.  We had a plan.

Then, a few weeks ago, the daughter told me her house was too untidy for me to stay, but the hotel/gym complex two minutes down the road from her house (and where she's a gym member) had an excellent offer on rooms for January, including full breakfast, so we were staying there.  Fair enough - too untidy means it's practically impossible to get in the front door.

The play, which is at the start of a seven month tour, was hilarious.  It's very well scripted and acted with great precision (vital at some times) and enthusiasm.  Anything which can go wrong, will go wrong - muddled/forgotten lines, misbehaving props, dodgy scenery, the need for understudies to come on partway through.

But there's never the feeling of second-hand embarrassment when something goes wrong.  The running jokes remain funny, because although the audience knows what's going to happen, so do the actors, so the anticipation is in how they will be coping with whatever it is this time.  And there was never a sense of stupidity - everything was a plausible accident.

So, if you want an evening's entertainment, and are anywhere near a theatre where they are touring, I can thoroughly recommend the play.

We went back to our very comfortable hotel room, and were woken at 8.20 this morning by the daughter's phone buzzing.  It was her brother, whose first words were, "You're an auntie!"
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The Two Noble Kinsmen is a play written in collaboration by Shakespeare and John Fletcher.  When it was announced the RSC were going to do a production I decided to go to assist my goal of seeing every Shakespeare play and getting a complete set of play magnets on my fridge.  (Only six to go!)  Even better, [personal profile] lexigent was also looking to go, so we arranged to meet up.

I chose this particular week to go because there was also an Unwrapped session, which would go into a little about the rehearsal process for the play.  There will be some spoilers in this review, but nothing major.

The Unwrapped was again very interesting.  The director, assistant director and the two main actors (the Kinsmen) showed how one of the early acts had developed as they worked on it, and gave a bit of depth to the two characters.  The key was to arrange the action so they couldn't physically comfort each other (yes, there were plenty of slash possibilities).  It also introduced an appalling 'knock, knock' joke (which wasn't in the actual production):

"Knock, knock!"

"Who's there?"

"Interrupting cow!"

"Interrup ..."

"Moo!"

In addition there was some background to the play, which is set in ancient Greece, specifically in the battles between Athens and Thebes, and we learnt about the supplications to the various gods.  None of which explained the Morris dance in the middle of the play.

Shakespeare wrote the acts at either end, and these were the ones where the speeches were harder to follow.  Fletcher had a more natural style, with much shorter speeches ressembling normal conversation.

As a play it's not particularly exciting, although quite dramatic.  I muddled up two of the characters, but
[personal profile] lexigent straightened me out in the interval.  It was enjoyable, well done and the props/scenery worked well (and were not conspicuous).  But I probably wouldn't see it again.  The ending, however, was a major surprise and one which was carried off very well.

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The reason I spent the last fourteen months working my way through the Harry Potter books.  Because I was going with a group of fandom friends (technically Sherlock fandom, although we do a lot of other things too) to see the latest adventure of Harry Potter. 

[This is basically spoiler free.  I shall mention a few of the actors playing some of the main parts, but nothing more.]

Was it all worth it?  Definitely.  There are two parts to this play, and we saw Part 1 in the afternoon and Part 2 in the evening, going out to dinner in between the two parts.  We were all very glad we didn't have long to wait between the conclusion of Part 1 and the start of Part 2, not even enough time to write fanfic ;)  At the table one of our group of six asked whether it was worth getting a bottle of wine to share; since five of us said yes, we went for two bottles.

The plot (which I won't reveal) was satisfying, and, for those who have read my book reviews, didn't annoy me in the way the books did.  I was very glad I had read the books, as there were a lot of references.  As might be expected in a show involving magic there were plenty of illusions and special effects, which worked really well.  There were certainly some 'wow' moments and nothing jarred or grated.  I'm not a fan of special effects for the sake of it, but these fitted beautifully into the plot, and indeed at times much simpler effects were used extremely well.

There were a few characters I would have liked to seen who weren't there, and I wasn't impressed with the way a few characters were portrayed, but overall I really enjoyed it.  Having Jamie Parker as Harry Potter was definitely a plus.  And I particularly liked the Malfoys, Draco (Alex Price) and Scorpius (Anthony Boyle).

If you enjoyed Harry Potter, then I'd recommend seeing it - tickets for February to April 2018 go on sale in ten day's time.  If you know nothing of Harry Potter, it's still an excellent bit of theatre.

Oil

Nov. 21st, 2016 07:40 pm
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Yes, that was the name of the play we saw on Saturday.  I'm a big fan of Anne-Marie Duff, so I was very keen to get to see her on stage again, this time at the Almeida Theatre.

The play is a new one, written by Ella Hickson.  The theme is indeed Oil, from initial production back in the 1890s to its projected exhaustion.  The concept takes one woman, May, played by Anne-Marie Duff, and moves her forward through a total of five significant times.  I found the idea gripping, May ages slightly in each era, but not as much as the difference in the time periods, and each time her background and role changes to fit in with the time - but May herself remains the same person, rather like a series of AUs.

She has a daughter, who similarly ages slowly, from 'bump' to child, to teen, to twenties, to fifties.  The daughter, Amy, was played by Yolanda Kettle.  Part of the story is that of the difficult relationship between mother and daughter and how the mother seeks to protect her child, while at the same time ensuring her own wishes should be met.

There are a lot of questions asked - the nature of imperialism, the right to resources etc, but whilst the questions are there, the audience are left to make their own decisions.

We (my two friends and I) all agreed it was an excellent play, and Anne-Marie Duff was once again totally convincing, even though not generally a likeable character.  It's not a play which is easy to explain to someone who hasn't seen it - it needs to be experienced - which might be why some of the reviews weren't especially positive.  The premise sounds strange but worked very well.  And it was a play with a female writer, director and main character.
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Just over a week ago, on [livejournal.com profile] ushobwri it was suggested in view of all the negative vibes we should all try to shine a little light somewhere.  My contribution was the following poem, please excuse the dodgy metre on the last line:

As hopes are dashed and trampled underfoot
And fears held dormant climb back into mind
As tears are shed and sorrows overwhelm us
It is up to us to show love for humankind
Remember as you shed your tears today
A simple act is all it takes to show
That if the sun shines briefly through the rain
You too will see the glorious rainbow

[livejournal.com profile] browngirl has now illustrated the poem, and I encourage you all to take a look.


On Friday the daughter and I met up in London.  I told her to choose which shows she would like to go to and I would make the final decision.  Which is why we went to see Mamma Mia.  Her first choice was Matilda, but I've already seen it.

She enjoyed it a lot, which was good.  I decided I prefer the older style musicals, which in some ways seem to have more of a story to tell.  Lots of upbeat Abba songs, which were fun.  I wasn't too impressed with most of the singers and Sophie, in particular, didn't appeal.  However Tanya (Mazz Murray) and Rosie (Jo Napthine) both made me smile, they seemed to have more about them than the others.
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Another year gone, another year of plays seen:

Oct 2015   Charlie & the Chocolate Factory   Theatre Royal, Drury Lane   (Jonathan Slinger)
Nov 2015   Husbands & Sons   National Theatre – Dorfman   (Anne-Marie Duff)
Dec 2015   Queen Anne   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Swan Theatre (PUP)
Jan 2016   Guys & Dolls   Savoy Theatre   (Jamie Parker)
Jan 2016   Love for Love   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Swan Theatre
Jan 2016   The Dazzle   Found 111   (Andrew Scott)
Jan 2016   The Homecoming   Trafalgar Studios   (John Simm)
Feb 2016   The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time   Gielgud Theatre
Feb 2016   Good-night Mister Tom   Duke of York’s Theatre   (David Troughton)
Feb 2016   Doctor Faustus   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Swan Theatre
Mar 2016   Hamlet   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – RST
Apr 2016   Shadowlands   Malvern Theatre   (Stephen Boxer)
Apr 2016   Henry V   Gloucester Cathedral   (Antic Disposition)
June 2016   The Alchemist   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Swan Theatre
June 2016   3 Penny Opera   National Theatre – Olivier   (Rory Kinnear)
July 2016   Hobson’s Choice   Vaudeville Theatre   (Martin Shaw, Bryan Dick)
Aug 2016   Cymbeline   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – RST
Aug 2016   Yerma   Young Vic   (Billie Piper)
Aug 2016   Show Boat   New London Theatre
Aug 2016   The Seagull   National Theatre – Olivier
Sep 2016   King Lear   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – RST   (David Troughton)
Sep 2016   The Dresser   Cheltenham Everyman   (Ken Stott, Reece Shearsmith)
Oct 2016   The Rover   Royal Shakespeare Theatre – Swan Theatre (PUP)

23 plays in total.  The number continues to go up year on year, but only by one at a time.

And only 4 Shakespeare plays, which surprises me.  Plus a further 4 from a similar time period.  Which is roughly a third of the plays I've seen.  I have a mental points scoring mechanism for deciding what to see and clearly Shakespeare is losing weight compared to other points categories.

Destination wise, half were in London, and one-third in Stratford-upon-Avon.  And there was one each in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Malvern (a first).

The usual selection of favourite actors, as can be seen from the list, favourite big names being Andrew Scott and Billie Piper.  Real favourites, although not as well known, David Troughton, Jonathan Slinger and Stephen Boxer.

My three favourite plays for the year: Henry V, Yerma and The Dresser.

Mental points scoring mechanism: The play (so a Shakespeare will score higher than a new play); Actors (some I'll see regardless, others will sway me to see something); Location (cost of travel, plus time.  London means trains and a whole day, unless I'm staying up; Stratford is an hour's drive away, much more accessible, go in the day and the evening's free; Gloucester/Cheltenham is just the evening); Companions (if friends/SM want to see something I'll go to something I wouldn't see otherwise); Ticket price (which is where Shakespeare is now falling behind - tickets at the RSC, which scores highly elsewhere, are getting ridiculous except for the uncomfortable back rows).

As ever, my intention next year is to see the equivalent of at least one play a month.  There are six booked and nothing yet for the second half of the year.

The Rover

Oct. 8th, 2016 12:46 pm
smallhobbit: (Cat)
When we looked at the plays the RSC were doing for this season we saw amongst them The Rover by Aphra Behn, which was being produced as part of the celebrations of 30 years of the Swan Theatre.  Both SM and I prefer the Swan to the main stage.  SM spotted the Public Understudy Performance was a Friday matinée, which since neither of us work Fridays was a great opportunity to see the play at a reduced price.  Although the understudies will take the main roles, this does not mean a lowering of standards and we had already enjoyed one such performance.

Although I wasn't particularly taken with the play itself, it was entertaining and well acted.  And, since we didn't know any of the main cast, generally we saw no difference.  However the same actor understudies both Don Pedro and Don Antonio, so the main actor had to come on as Don Pedro during the duel - some things work with one actor taking two parts, duels are not possible.  And for this performance the main actors took on the minor roles.  It all went very well, apart from a non-firing pistol, but even then, it was 'third time lucky'.

There was lots of live music and dancing (the play is set within Carnival) and as ever the RSC musicians were excellent.  In keeping with the setting, the costumes were colourful and, though I would not choose to see the play again, it was a good afternoon.  And at £10 per ticket there could be no complaints.

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