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.

London · play · review · Theatre

The Encounter

The last time I set foot into the Barbican was to see Titus Andronicus, this was an altogether different piece of theatre.

The Encounter is an experience of sound, a new way of storytelling which in turn, is the oldest form of storytelling we have. Sound is already an intricate part of a performance, but when it is allowed to take centre stage it can alter an entire perception. A whisper can become louder than a shout. A rainforest can appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly.

We follow the story of Loren McIntyre, an explorer in 1969, deep in the Amazon rainforest. His search for the local tribe is less of an adventure as a challenge. It’s an encounter like no other, isolating and terrifying. Broken only through Simon McBurney’s realisation of the modern day, his daughter and the very act of storytelling.

The whole story is told through headphones, making the experience both more intimate and more isolating. You are no longer a member of an audience, but a solo viewer of a solo show. The staging is minimal, the sound is left to convey everything and with it your imagination controls the rest of the story.

It’s a clever retelling, focused on sound and isolation, of the ways we can communicate without language. Simon McBurney captivates the audience through a journey like no other. This is an adventure you should join.

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.

books · fantasy · Harry Potter · literature · play · Preview · West End

Pondering about Potter…

Summer has certainty arrived, the nights are longer, the sun is shining that little bit more and I’m spending more time outside eating ice cream. I’ve also been doing a lot of reading, but very little blogging over the past few weeks… now it’s time to get back on track.IMG_7417

The biggest news, of course, has been the very eagerly awaited sequel in the Harry Potter series. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has been published for an entire week, if you happened to be on a desert island the news may not yet have reached you, but to everyone else I‘m far behind. Like all Potter fans, I got my hands on a copy on Monday morning (having missed a midnight release). Yet now I have a dilemma, do I read the script now, or do I wait until I see the play?

In my mind a play can never be read as a substitution to the performance, there’s something truly magical about it appearing in front of your very eyes that the written word is unable to portray. Maybe it’s the lack of descriptive detail, costumes, props and set that make a play so much more than its many utterances and stage directions. Regardless of the individual detail, it has been written for the stage and the stage alone, to take it away from its setting will always create a gap in the text.

I know I am very fortunate in having acquired the tickets, but it’s not making this decision any easier. Three months still feels like a little while to wait and see the story expanded into a new breadth of magic. So far I’ve avoided any spoilers, but most impressively have managed to keep the book tightly shut. For now, it will sit on my bookcase, while I wait for bonfire night and the magic to appear in front of my very eyes.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is currently playing at the Palace Theatre, London.

You can find my thoughts on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and my excitement to see the Cursed Child in London, I’m only a little Harry Potter obsessed, I promise.

Finding Neverland · Harry Potter · London · Musical · play · Preview · The Girls · Theatre · West End

Looking Forward to the West End

As Harry Potter and the Cursed Child begins to hold previews this week, it’s time to look forward to the plays and musicals that are soon to open.

cursed-child-palace-theaterI managed to gain Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tickets back in October, although I’ve still got five months until I see the play in November, the recent photo releases have certainly intrigued me. The world has been waiting for the next Potter instalment for nine years, and I am certainly excited to see what Harry has been up to. We will re-visit the magical world once again, it’s almost like going back home. The two-part play will be a first for me, an insight into splitting the story in two – but a whole day at the theatre can only be a good thing.

FindingNeverland0040_Rev02-OBC-1024x683Next on my list is Finding Neverland, I fell in love with the story, the music and the characters when I saw the original broadway cast in the Lunt-Fontanne theatre, New York. Thankfully, they’re flying the show over to London, landing in January 2017. I’m looking forward to re-emerging myself into the story of how Peter become Pan, a story within a story, full of life, laughter and sorrow.

Finally, Gary Barlow’s The Girls is ready to make it’s West End debut in 2017. Having seen The Girls premiere in The Lowry, Manchester; the musical was one destined for London’s stage. It’s depiction of Yorkshire was amusingly realistic, and the songs full of humour and heartache. It’s a musical to make you laugh and cry.

So I have a few theatre trips to plan, and many more plays to review this autumn and winter. Are there any new play you’re looking forward to?

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…

manchester · play · review · Theatre

Husbands and Sons

It’s not often I head to the theatre without really knowing what I am about to see, yet as I entered the Royal Exchange Theatre at the heart of Manchester; I knew nothing of the tale to come.

An adaption of three of D.H. Lawrence’s plays, Husbands and Sons may be titled with the patriarch, but the play itself I felt showed the strength and struggles of women. It was a celebration of the matriarch, the centre of each family who brought the individual tales to work as one. It may centre around a coal mine, but the overriding struggles are the people of this community, not the harsh surroundings they undertake. It showcases a world of physical labour, fierce pride and a sense of worth, but at what cost to the human race?

The production triumphed in its use of the stage, set in the round, the set becomes very intimate, stretching out towards the audience; allowing us to feel ever closer to the events we witnessed. The portrayal of each character, showing their strength and weakness echoed through the play as the tale span out before our eyes.

Husbands and Sons 1

It’s certainly not a production to miss, Husbands and Sons plays at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 19th March 2016.

Broadway · exhibitions · London · Musical · play · review · Theatre · West End

Curtain Up at the V&A

IMG_6145As the Olivier Awards turn 40, the V&A has created an exhibition exploring the last four decades of theatre, plays and musicals on West End and Broadway. It was evident I needed to go and have a look.

Featuring backstage details, first scripts, notes and editorial requests, I felt as though I was getting a small glimpse into the hidden side of theatre. The exhibition held design plans, amazingly scaled model boxes, costume designs and even lightening plans, it shows just how much work is required to begin the staging process, let alone the ongoing work once a production has started.

There were interactive elements, allowing you to arrange the sound of Hairspray, balancing the singers and musicians alike. Equally a lighting deck presented the many spotlights and various coordination of lighting available to the light managers each evening. It showcased the work required for each production to even exist, the detail of plans and notes to ensure each show is perfect.

I also learned a lot more of the world of theatre, various facts and figures were presented across the exhibition, showing the difference between West End and Broadway productions but also the similarities and incredible records some productions held to their name.

IMG_6147It was great to see the set and costume designs for one of my favourite shows: Matilda, to see the essence of the character in each sketch and the grand scale of the stage. Alongside stepping into the stage of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, allowing you to feel the confusion Christopher goes through on stage.

If you’re around London and a theatre fan, it’s an exhibition not to be missed. The exhibition is at the V&A until 31st August before it moves to New York.

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 · Musical · play · review · The Girls · The Lowry · Theatre · Yorkshire

The Girls

Gary Barlow, Tim Firth and the Calendar Girls credit John Swannell

The Girls held its world premier at The Lowry this week, having seen the West End play a fair few years ago, I was intrigued to see how a new production of the same story would be unleashed. I was pleasantly surprised. The music added a new dimension to the tale; it allowed the characters to express their thoughts and feelings in a deeper sense then words alone can convey. It encapsulated the humour and sadness the story manages to conquer, holding and carrying the story through the music.

Being a Yorkshire girl across the roses border, The Girls made me feel very patriotic to my county, the introductory number Yorkshire, shouting proudly of the dales and fells I call home. It shows the relationship people have with their home, the pride to be a part of the community and desire to belong. It is after all the community spirit alone that triumphs in this story, the daring to stand together, and it’s surprising just what can come out of it.

Gary Barlow, Tim Firth and the original Calendar Girls credit Matt CrockettThere was the expected sad delicate numbers that deal with loss, grief and sometimes the denial of death, beautifully written and projected to the audience. Yet alongside great sadness, comes great joy. The humour brought by Claire Moor as Chris, whipping her bra off on the fell, and the humiliation of our parents every teenager goes through is conveyed expertly by the young actors playing Danny, Tommo and Jenny.

Let alone to how brilliantly the calendar shoot is played by all of ‘The Girls’, it was done in elegance, amusement and humour. Yet, best of all I felt the audience were laughing with the nervous characters on stage, impressed and amazed by the bravery the actors put on show. It was tasteful; it was funny and entertained the whole audience.

Everything from the stage set, the music to the actors was brilliant, it deepened my current understanding of The Calendar Girls story, and proves the bravery and determination of one set of ruthless WI girls. It’s an incredible true story, which only heightens the pressure and exposure of the show, a musical that brings more to life then music and words, a story to be shared.

 

The Girls deserved its standing ovation; make sure to catch this show, while you still can. The Girls is playing at the Lowry until 30th January 2016.