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.

London · Musical · review · The Book of Mormon · Theatre · West End

The Book of Mormon

I’ve wanted to see the Book of Mormon for quite a little while now, it’s a musical that I know very little about. Although it’s been in London’s West End for four years, it’s managed to keep its plot fairly secret if you don’t go looking too closely.

book-of-mormon-2

Although I’ve stood in line for the lottery on two different occasions, failing each time to be the lucky one, I finally booked tickets for the show. It was certainly well worth the wait.

The show is a spectacular twist of comedy and musical – combining the very best of both. I’ve never laughed so hard while being sat in the stalls, and briefly I think even the actors corpsed on stage. Occasionally when at the theatre, you have an audience that heightens every emotion of the show, we laughed together, gasped in shock together, and stood together for a well-deserved standing ovation. It certainly added to the atmosphere and in response the actors put on a brilliant show.

The songs are incredible, brilliantly slotted into the plot of the musical. There are unexpected moments around every corner as the plot twists and turns at every opportunity. A hilarious and clever production.

 

 

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.

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?