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.

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.

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.