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