London · performance · play · review · Theatre

Pity at the Royal Court

From the very beginning, I knew Pity was not going to be a straightforward play. Having collected our tickets we were sent back out of the theatre, down a side alley and straight onto the stage.

The performance had already started, a brass band were playing centre stage and an ice cream stall had a long queue of patrons. We were invited to pick up our tombola tickets, buy an ice cream cone and take our seats. It opened up the theatre experience and, with it, created a community out of the audience.

Of course, once the show began it was clear we were to expect the unexpected. But the unexpected continued to surprise me. It was a fast-paced show, making the 1 hr 40 running time fly by. There’s a skill needed to keep an audience engaged when a play is in one act and Rory Mullarkey did just that.

From the simple town square, we followed Alex on a day like no other. There was death, bombs, guns, ice cream, a wedding, snipers, actors and statues. Each scene questioned the world we currently live in; the people and the politics. The questions raised covered the why and how to the confusion and the mundane. The world can change at any moment. Teams are decided, alliances are drawn and the bystanders are left to put everything back together again.

Pity worked very well as a comedy, it needed to have the lighter elements to contrast the destruction of the world we’ve come to know. The stage design enhanced the show as it managed to weave in more surprises at every turn. This is a piece of new theatre we need to see more of.

This may have been my first visit to the Royal Court, but it certainly won’t be my last.

legend · London · myth · National Theatre · performance · play · review

Saint George and the Dragon

I thought I knew the tale of England’s patron saint, yet this National Theatre production alternated my preconceptions of the famous story.

While we may begin with dragons and armour, knights and fair maidens. The story soon shifts to convey a much deeper message; questioning the world that is to come. Saint George (John Heffernan) interjects comedy at just the right moment bringing light relief to this otherwise quite dark play. Rory Mullarkey’s writing is tactically clever, intertwining this historic story with many modern twists and relatable experiences. Perhaps, we too, live in the constant shadow of the dragon.

Yet, it was the set that craftily brought each element together, bringing with it the world we know and the world we think we know. Gradually turning the simple village into a busy town and a thriving city — each time with a new challenge to face. The backdrop enhances the tale and with it the perception of development, of a new and improved life, while hinting at the sacrifice this entails.

This may have been my first visit to the National Theatre — but it certainly won’t be my last.

manchester · Musical · Palace Manchester · performance · review · Theatre

Billy Elliot

It’s not very often that we get great northern theatre — theatre based in the north but also about the north. Now that Billy Elliot’s tour has made its way to Manchester’s Palace Theatre the north is in for a treat.

The tale of Billy Elliot is heart warming from start to finish, it explore issues covering the miner strike of 1984/5 to one boy’s dream to dance. Yet it’s the little things that also matter in this tale, Billy’s desire to be accepted by his family and a community fighting for justice in amongst the ballet and boxing lessons.

billy-elliot

I am continuously amazed by the talent in these productions; Billy can sing, can act, and boy, he can certainly dance. You forget in each scene change it’s the same incredibly talented boy who has just danced, sung and acted weaving humour and emotions when required. The set too almost comes alive, and is amusingly mirrored during Billy’s audition at the Royal Ballet School.

This tale is certainly a treat and a wonderful introduction to musical theatre, if you’re around Manchester this Christmas, I would certainly recommend a trip.

fiction · Harry Potter · literature · London · performance · review · Theatre · West End

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has claimed its place as the play of the year — it is quite simply magic.

hp-the-trioI am more than happy to admit that I am a Potterhead, I’ve read the books more times than I can count, watched the films; I’ve been to the studio, the wizarding world in Orlando, and most of the UK film locations too. So of course, I found myself online last year waiting patiently in the queue for tickets of J.K.Rowlings eighth story.

Wow, just wow, it was worth the wait.

From the emergence of familiar faces, characters we’ve seen grow up to the new; Albus and Scorpius create a duo based on strong friendship and a desire for justice. It’s a story that holds parallels to the series, that of bravery and friendship but also unexpected twists and turns. We return to some of the most memorable times of Harry’s world, in a totally new light, exploring the manner in which Harry, Ron and Hermione fight with the past. But this is truly a tale of Albus and Scorpius and a lesson on magic’s restrictions in today’s world. Albus’ determination mirrors Harry’s own adventures of bravery, and at times disobedience, with one of times biggest lessons to learn.

The theatrical side of this production is really where the play outshone. I’ve never witnessed such clever incorporations of dance, choreography and scene changes — allowing the story to flow continuously.

hp-hogwarts

Yet it is the magic of the show that takes centre stage, perhaps it’s the magic of theatre, the belief of the audience or the Harry Potter world the audience knows and loves. Spells from the good-old expelliarmus, to duels between Harry and Draco were dotted through the performance. My favourites included the use of polyjuice position, I still don’t understand how it happened on stage, to transporting into the Ministry of Magic in the famous red telephone box, and of course the use of floo power. Magic as I have never seen albus-and-scorpiusit before.

Writing about a show can never do it justice, especially a play embedded with magic from start to finish. Sam Clemmett captures Albus’ attributes perfectly, his sidekick Scorpius, Anthony Boyle, and their friendship is one of the strongest I have ever seen on stage. The golden trio are, of course, perfectly cast and captured. A production that shines with talent.

I laughed, I cried and I wanted to head straight back in for more. This was a most magical experience, brilliantly portrayed on stage — the perfect extension to Harry’s story.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is playing at The Palace Theatre, London – currently sold out until 2017 (with more tickets coming soon!). You can read about my ponderings of the play, and other Potter reviews here.

language · literature · performance · play · Shakespeare · sonnets · Theatre

Shakespeare Saturday

How can one begin to even describe the Bard? William Shakespeare is one of, if not the, most influential person of the literary world to walk the earth. He didn’t just give us plays and sonnets, but defined new genres, tested out stories, and produced characters that have remained in the public eye for four-hundred-years.

shakespeare quote 1Yet it is not just literature that he influenced, Shakespeare’s lexicon is incredible, he harnessed the essence of English to produce words and phrases that are vital to the English of today. We couldn’t be ‘tongue-tied’, nor suffer from ‘green-eyed jealousy’, let alone walk down the ‘road’, have a ‘gossip’ or carry some ‘luggage’. Such simple day to day activities would cease to exist; we wouldn’t be able to describe them, to create them; to be a part of them.

Looking simply at what the Bard has contributed to the English language in terms of numbers is certainly remarkable. Out of the 17,677 words he wrote, it is estimated 1,700 of these were created by Shakespeare; he changed nouns into verbs, coined verbs into adjectives, then invented new lexis altogether. This list doesn’t even cover the phrases he assembled. Statistically, Shakespeare has given more to the English language than any other writer, he allowed Middle English to be ‘set free’, to evolve, as it continues to each and every day. He created not only the fundamental aspects of the English language, but through his plays these new words were recorded, written down, and able to be viewed four-hundred-years later. No wonder he has such a fan base.

The Globe

It is extraordinary to see how Shakespeare influenced our language and impacted literature from his starting point in Elizabeth England. He altered our language and gave us literature for years to come. We have an awful lot to thank you for Bill; when most of us don’t even realise how significant one man can be.

Happy Birthday and Deathday Shakespeare! Here’s to the next 400 years…

HOME mcr · literature · Macbeth · manchester · performance · play · review · Shakespeare · Theatre

Macbeth

Is this a dagger which I see before me, its handle toward my hand?

Macbeth kingMacbeth, Macbeth oh worthy Macbeth. I do enjoy a bit of Shakespeare, and seeing the Bard’s work on stage overrides any understanding you can gain from reading alone. I therefore found myself at Manchester’s HOME to see a modern take on this violent and power-hungry play.

I’m always intrigued to see how a reworking of Shakespeare can be transported to modern day, this production made it look effortless. That Macbeth’s tale was written to be performed in a sort of dystopian underpass. It was clever, accurate and relatable. It gave the sense of the darkness of the play, both physically in the dungeon-like modern setting, and practically of the murderous rampage the tyrant goes upon.

Macbeth witchesBeginning, of course with the witches; who’s spirits appeared to move them, it was a clever incorporation of dance and choreography. They helped move between scenes, flawlessly being both apart and distanced from the production, it allowed their power to be felt through scenes without physical interaction required. I was, however, slightly disappointed that Hecat was removed from the play, I feel her scene allows the connection of the witches to be portrayed, adding determination to their part. Regardless, the three sisters appeared strong and feminine, mystical and alive carrying the spirits of the play through them.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth 2Equally the leads of Macbeth, John Heffernan, and Lady Macbeth, Anna Maxwell Martin, carried through the violence, manipulation and strength required by this play. Lady Macbeth may not have been quite the innocent flower she wished to depict, instead she was surely the serpent underneath, portraying her strength and ultimate madness Matin triumphed in her portrayal. Likewise Heffernan was equally strong and persuasive in the end, overcoming his previous fears to take on his name as tyrant. The two complimented each other, passing over the power, strength of their characters to form an unruly double act.

The production was a perfect retelling of this well-known tragedy, elegantly retold in a new setting; the stage clearly the battleground of power and determination. With a cast all holding equal power in their presentation of the story, the tale shone through the stage and transported the audience to the battle of Scotland’s sovereignty. Equally it was engaging to have the play going straight through, the lack of an interval kept the suspense and darkness of the play; allowing it to unfold at a quicker pace.

If you’re around Manchester, catch Macbeth at HOME until Saturday 6th February.

manchester · music · Musical · performance · review · The Lowry · Theatre · war

The Sound of Music

The_Sound_of_Music nunsThe Sound of Music bounced onto the Lowry’s stage in a musical extravaganza of a show for this Christmas. Filled with the classics of Do Re Me, Edelweiss and Sound of Music the music carried the show and transported the audience back to the 1930s.

Beginning in the Abbey, the nuns were serious and melancholy before being slightly mischievous in How do you solve a problem like Maria. It added a sense of cheer to the rather silent abbey, a distant past to the life Maria had expected to find here. Instead she’s packed off to govern seven Von Trap children and alter the expectations of a strict and repressive father. Music is of course the answer, teaching and guiding the children with her knowledge and love.

It is the love story of war, circumstances and needs, passion and short lives that bring this family together. Happy in the music and surrounding of the mountains, their perfect life becomes shattered by war.

For me, the Sound of music was at times a little too cheery in its portrayal, even in the shadow of war the characters continue with their music and life without care. Even the finale of their escape is rather modest, without much suspense or determination. I would have liked to see a slight twit in the portrayal of the story, something new and raw that could have been brought to the production. Yet the audience seemed spell bound, even singing along in places, it was the tale they expected and the tale they clearly wanted to see.

The Sound of Music is at The Lowry until the 2nd January 2016.