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.

fantasy · fiction · manchester · play · review · Theatre

Inkheart

As a reviewer for The Mancunion, I got the chance to visit Manchester’s Home as it presented its first Christmas production, with the opening of Inkheart; a transformation of Cornelia Funke’s novel to the stage. Family friendly, full of humour and all the imagination of a child, this is a show to catch this festive season as an alternative to the pantomime.

InkheartIt’s clearly a child directed performance, but I did enjoy being taken back to my world of imagination of bad versus good and a quest of a story. The tale was cleverly self aware, with intertextuality twisted through the story and remerged onto stage. The school group at the front of the theatre greatly enjoyed the interaction of the cast as they helped direct them to Capricorn; for a moment removed from their script with some playful interaction. Mo himself appeared on my row in search for Fenoglio, the author of Inkheart, bringing the stage closer to the audience and carrying us into the story.

Inkheart 2The stage transformed fittingly to each new narrative of the performance, a tremendous pile of books one moment, to a beach the next before hiding Capricorn’s evil liar beneath it. Katherine Carlton, who played Meggie was passionate, determined and brilliant in her portrayal, holding the stage and delivering the tale. The cast were eager, believable and amusing, capturing many laughs from the audience while portraying a range of traits, personalities and passions.

You can catch Inkheart at Home until 31st December, a family festivity for christmas.

 

 

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

A summer of theatre

ProgrammesAlthough autumn has now crept its way to us, I wanted to revisit my summer of theatre. From London’s West End to New York’s Broadway, I’ve had the privilege of seeing some wonderful plays and musicals over the last few months.

I began with a revisit to a show I’ve already written about, Matilda the Musical stayed with me for weeks as I relived the songs and cunning struggle Matilda herself portrayed. It was equally energetic, thrilling and fast paced – a delight even more so the second time round.

MEMPHISMemphis had been recommended to me on numerous occasions, and it more then lived up to its name. A fresh and uplifting portrayal of race-ridden America, where inequalities are fought against, race is questions and Huey goes against all odds and expectations. Currently staring Beverly Knight and Matt Cradle their powerful voices carried the performance in their fight for justice – an incredible performance.

Next on my list was The Railway Children, currently set at Kings Cross station. The story remained as it has for years, simple and spell-binding, with the stage and steam train standing out as the highlight of this production. It was clever and self-aware, leaving the steam train to take central stage, physically and metaphorically.

GypsyI was also lucky enough to see Gypsy, starring Imelda Staunton, who triumphed in her role as Momma Rose. Her determination and power made for one of the strongest characters on stage, with such an outstanding cast the performance was mesmerising, covering themes of love, jealousy, rebellion and determination.

Finding NeverlandMoving across the pond, my very first Broadway show was the phenomenal Finding Neverland, this musical has stayed with me over the last month, as I play the soundtrack on repeat. I loved the storyline, the clever twist of incorporating the well-known tale of Peter Pan to J.M. Barrie’s own thoughts. The cast were brilliant, the songs and lyrics clever, lively and touching. It may well have over taken Matilda in my favourite musical, and that’s a hard feat to beat.

On a very different scale, Kinky Boots tackled much harder themes, gender, sexuality as we identify who we are. The set and use of stage adapted for each scene, the boots were kinky and the cast, especially Lola, impressive. It was a great adaptation, and not surprisingly now appearing in London’s West End.

HamletFinishing off my theatre trip was a play I’ve long been anticipating, Hamlet; having bought tickets over a year ago, it was finally time to see Benedict Cumberbatch in his lead role. As a fan of both Shakespeare and Cumberbatch, the play was always on my wish list, and lived up to its name. I found it easier to follow then any previous Shakespeare I’ve viewed, it was funny and dark- everything required by a tragedy. Cumberbatch was phenomenal in his role, passionate and moving; everything Hamlet should be.

Now my next challenge is to fill autumn with trips to Manchester’s theatres…

London · Musical · play · Theatre · West End

A Small History of London’s Theatre Land

As I head to London next week to begin an internship it seems fitting to research into my favourite London pastime- the theatre. Whether it be a play or musical, of old or young, I’m eager to see as much as I can in the next eight weeks. Yet how did our affection with the theatre begin?

Theatre LandThe very first West End theatre opened in 1663, sadly it burned down less then ten years later. However, it’s a clear starting point for London’s famous theatre scene. We’ve been venturing around Shaftesbury Avenue for over three hundred years. But we can do slightly better then that, Shakespeare’s play’s nearly 500 years later still appear to be timeless. We each know the love story of Romeo and Juliet, the revenge and jealousy of Othello down to the supernatural Macbeth. It’s an experience to be repeated, enjoyed again and again.

MousetrapSo it amazed me to discover that Agatha Christie’s murder mystery stands as the longest continuous play; currently in its 63rd year. That we continue to suspect, detect and manipulate show after show? The Mousetrap’s themes are echoed into our every day lives, relatable yet exaggerated. As we in turn take the role of detective for the evening, leaving our own life behind us.

Les Miserables stands behind in its 30th year but holds on to the longest running musical. How are we still being transported to France’s revolution eight times a week? Yet each audience fights alongside the revolution, witnesses the love story of Marius and Cosette all in amongst Javert and Jean Valjean’s quest for righteousness and justice; something is clearly working.

As new audiences arrive and others return, the theatre scene continues to succeed; we want to be transported to a different world, view a new scene and revisit tales told again and again.

What are your favourite theatre shows?

books · literature · play · review · Theatre

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Curious 1After reading Mark Haddon’s book many years ago, and in all honesty not really able to remember the story line, I was intrigued on Friday evening to see how the book could be presented in a play.  How the audience would be able to understand Christopher’s autistic mind? Alongside portraying a range of themes, characters and an all important detective story; who killed Wellington?

Much to my surprise, the audience was transported into Christopher’s mind, using a mixture of lights, sound and physical theatre, it made me feel as though I understood Christopher’s way of thinking, his logic and his sense. It allowed us all to capture his desperation in discovering who killed Wellington; woven within his own unknown story of a disappearing mother. It was certainly very clever. In addition the characters appear self aware, firstly of the written book, then its evolution to the stage, adding a further dimension to the incorporated story; of the many twist and turns in Christopher’s life. All of this engaged the audience, placing us into a world previously unknown. While simultaneously allowing an autistic viewpoint to take centre stage, something rarely done.

What I found most impressive, however, was the stage; its use of lights to depict the different scenes and just how many secret cupboards and doors it could hold (even squeezing in a table). It made me reevaluate the use of the stage, it’s ability to incorporate props rather then simply depicting the scene. How in turn this is reflected back to the audience, not just with flickering lights but how it cleverly takes us from Swindon to London by train, then imitates a tube station with precise details.

Overall I came out of the theatre beaming, amazed by the clever telling of the book, the acting, the staging and most of all the story. Curious certainly educated me on autism, of stories unknown and most importantly who killed Wellington.

CONFETTI!

curious 2               curious 3

Currently on a UK tour; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time dates and venues can be found at http://www.curiousonstage.com.

P.s There’s also a brilliant solution to a little bit of algebra and Pythagorus at the very end, with thanks to Christopher’s maths skills.