Half A Sixpence.

I went to see Half a Sixpence tonight at the Noel Coward Theatre, starring Charlie Stemp. Half a sixpence is a classic rag to riches story concerning humble Kent man, Arthur Kipps, and the love triangle he manages to get stuck in the middle of.

As the show started, the overture began with banjos. This made me quite dubious, a musical overture beginning with banjos? However, the music transitioned into a very classical musical genre. Which, of course, is very catchy, although not particularly unique.  However a few songs did stick out to me, due to the emotional performances from the cast.

Stemp’s Kipps, is naïve, a tad daft, but extremely lovable. His childish allure, shines throughout the performance and brought so much energy to the show. I just wanted to hug him throughout the whole performance. The whole cast complimented each other, and the chemistry between all the apprentices was very playful, and their scenes were always enjoyable to watch. I really did enjoy the show; it was extremely feel good. It had me smiling throughout the whole show.

Although I do want to mention, also because I know it was a controversy during the casting process – It was extremely white. I do think Stemp was a perfect fit for Kipps, however the whole cast of 28 is seemingly white (I don’t want to assume anyone’s nationality). I don’t believe that they didn’t see any POC that were suitable for the show. And if an excuse is that there weren’t that many POC in 1904- They also didn’t break into song and dance in 1904…

Politics aside, I did enjoy the show immensely, and would recommend for a fun light hearted night. However, I would campaign for more diversity in the West End, as it is so ridiculously important, across so many shows. This one was just glaringly obvious

“The Theater must always be a safe and special place”

“The Theater must always be a safe and special place” – Donald J.Trump (via. Twitter) 

I type this, as I sit in an LCP seminar discussing this particular quote from the President Elect Donald Trump. This tweet followed the Vice President elect, Mike Pence’s  trip to see Hamilton, where he was booed by the audience, addressed at the end of the production by the cast. Brandon Victor Dixon addressed Pence, after the curtain call, as he tried to make a speedy exit.

“Vice-president elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us, just a few more moments. There’s nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen,We’re all here sharing a story about love. We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us.”

Pence reacted, not in anger, but instead asking whether this was appropriate, and called into question the position of Theatre in our society. Is it a place for political debates? Were the cast of Hamilton right to call out Pence in the Theatre?  As much as I dislike Pence, his reaction was commendable. He told his children, that the booing was the sound of freedom and complimented the cast. Trump reacted, oppositely, through his usual media, a rant on Twitter.

“The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior” -Donald J.Trump (via. Twitter)

“The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!” -Donald J.Trump (via. Twitter) 

There are so many things that make me angry about these statements. Firstly that the president elect is so petty, about some one respectfully calling out his administration, with their fears, that he will insult their career and art. Secondly, his definition of a ‘safe space.’ According to Trump, a safe space, in college, to stop women from getting raped and sexually assaulted, is political correctness gone mad, but the minute a middle-aged, straight, white man, is respectfully called out, it’s a necessity. Trump, was not the first person to call the Theatre a safe and special place.

In recent history, Theatre, has been considered a safe, special space, especially for minorities, with many mainstream performances having political roots. The production, that I think of, when discussing this, is RENT. The characters of which are made up of Black, Gay, Straight, Queer, Trans Americans in New York. A story that would have been hard to tell at the time, through other mediums.

Theatre is now used to challenge that norm. Trump wants it to be comfortable, to not invoke change. The statement felt drenched with irony, and made me uncomfortable. Who is he to say, what the theatre, can or can’t be? Broadway has always generally been democratic, rather than republican. Yes, the Theatre is and should be a safe and special place, but his definitions of safe and special, are not ones I agree with. It shouldn’t only be safe for the straight, white man. Which I and many others, think that Trump’s administration will lead to. How dare he use a phrase, so commonly used, in protecting minorities, when his campaign and his policies be so heavily rooted, in racism, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, and everything else.

The other question raised, is, were the cast right to get involved in Politics? Since the dawn of Theatre, it has always been used as a way to inform people, and discuss politics, from Greek Tragedy to Brechtian to Contemporary Theatre. I think the cast, of a show about politics, especially a cast made up of minorities, had a right to an opinion, and using their platform was admirable.  As I said, Broadway has never shied away from it’s democratic tendencies.  Addressing the issues of Trump’s policies, at the end of a show, which glorifies, and rightly so, immigrants, was particularly powerful, and amplified the core aspects of the show. Especially as Trump’s policies tends to target immigrant. I am constantly drawn back to the line ‘Immigrants. We get the job done’, which the reaction, to that showing, according to reports, was very lively.  The cast addressed Pence respectfully, and kindly, better than how Trump treated the cast.

Scrapping GCSE Drama?

First we began with the idea of scrapping A-level History of Art, which as an idea was a travesty, but still went through. However in the aftermath of National Youth Theatre leader, Paul Roseby, suggesting that GCSE Drama is irrelevant, it is now being reconsidered as part of the GCSE syllabus .

Reservations about art subjects as part of academic qualifications have always existed, with some universities not accepting certain arts subjects as part of an application. The suggestion from Roseby, is to integrate theatre into the more academic subjects, I have to question how? And what use is that? The best example of that for me, is English. But I still have to disagree, If my only experience of Theatre were the plays that we studied in English, Shakespeare, Priestly, Tennessee, I would have never come to study Drama at University.

As someone, who studied the Scottish equivalent of GCSE’s,  National Five, I am not sure, if I am outstepping my place discussing this, however, I can say, with a fair amount of certainty, that I would never have come to study Drama at University, if I did not have the access to studying Nat 5 Drama, or the teachers that supported and encouraged everyone’s passions in our school, be it theatrical or otherwise. For me studying Drama at school became such an important aspect of school for me, socially, academically and basically everything else. Without Nat 5, I would have not pursued Drama, it was so important in introducing me to the world of Theatre, and the idea that I could have a career in it, or at least further my studies in it. Without it, I would possibly be studying a degree that I didn’t want to do, or I would be completely lost.  And of course for that, I have to thank my school for having such a fabulous Drama department.

However of course that is not to say the GCSE Drama course is flawless, earlier this year, they dropped the requirement to see a live Theatre performance and analyse it for an assessment, this was replaced by a recording. As good as recordings are, you do not get the same effect, if you are sitting in the audience. I for one, generally think that a good performance will make you feel like a community with the other audience members. You do not get the same atmosphere watching a recording, and it will effect how you analyse a production. And some people, may think the content is irrelevant, or the fact that people see it to be soft or easy, are arguments enough to justify those people thinking it should be scrapped.

It would break my heart, if GCSE Drama was scrapped from the syllabus, people seem to consider it to be a soft subject? I don’t understand this, I think it requires the most of amount of work, from teachers and students alike. If GCSE Drama is scrapped, it would be the beginning of scrapping all drama in schools. Creativity and passion must be nurtured, so it can bloom, not cut at the root.

 

Shakespeare in our society

Since it was the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death on Saturday, I thought it might be appropriate to write a little thing about him to commemorate his work.

I love Shakespeare, as a pioneer and founder of British Theatre. A playwright who has influenced countless generations of practitioners. His work still stands strong in today’s society. I thought I would work through my experience of Shakespeare, and his work in theatre. The first interaction I had with Shakespeare, was my end of primary school production, my teacher wrote a musical, based around Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It was set during one of the final live shows of the X-factor, and it was 80s night, so all the music was from the 80s, I played the equivalent of Lady Macbeth, a pushy mother of the main contestant of the show. It sounds better than it actually was, and that is saying something, because it sounds terrible.  It’s funny that now, Lady Macbeth is one of my dream roles, when I played her 7 or so years ago. I then went on to study ‘The Tempest’ in my first year of secondary school, then ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Macbeth’ again, in my third and fourth year. In those two years, I also performed in the Shakespeare schools festival in ‘Midsummer Night’s dream’ and ‘The Winter’s tale’. The most vivid things I can recall from those past five plays of his, is that I hated Romeo and Juliet, and still think it is one of his worst plays, despite it being one of the more famous ones. I love the others though. Macbeth is still one of my favourite plays of his, along with Hamlet, which I saw in August last year. Now Hamlet, for me is my favourite tragedy of his. I love the characters, and the story, but the thing that stands out for me, more than his others plays his the language. The metaphors and imagery provided in the piece is so vivid and beautiful. Throughout all his work, the writing is iconic. And something must be said for his insults, which is a work of genius, exhibit a: Villian, I have done thy Mother, and exhibit b: Away, you starvelling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish! His work is full of sass and is just brilliant.  And then there is the more recent stuff that I have done recently, helping out with Macbeth and Midsummer Night’s dream,  my audition pieces and playing ‘Beatrice’ in Much Ado About Nothing. Every piece I have seen or been a part of, has influenced me as a practitioner, and as a person. I have chosen to go study Drama at Queen Mary, because the head of Drama there, is renowned for her work in Shakespeare, and I cannot wait to go study under her guidance.

Bu, I don’t want to talk about myself for 500 words or so. I wanted to explore his work throughout contemporary theatre, however that will be near impossible. Shakespeare is seen in almost all aspects of theatre and our society. Take for example, King Charles III, not my favourite play, however you can see Shakespeare’s influence embedded throughout the piece, or if you walk down the royal mile during peak season you can see wide assortment of different Shakespeare or Shakespeare related pieces, one notable one that has just transferred to the west end is ‘Shit-faced Shakespeare’. His work is surprisingly relevant, when it is staged the right way. And is iconic, in almost every sense. When people think of theatre, and British theatre, usually the first thing they think of his Shakespeare. And it’s not just plays Shakespeare has inspired, if you look at the lyrics to ‘Take a break’ from Hamilton:

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
I trust you’ll understand the reference to
Another Scottish tragedy without my having to name the play
They think me Macbeth, and ambition is my folly
I’m a polymath, a pain in the ass, a massive pain
Madison is Banquo, Jefferson’s Macduff
And Birnam Wood is Congress on its way to Dunsinane

You can clearly see how Shakespeare’s ideas have been woven throughout this piece, and all theatre really, and society. And his words have been an inspiration to people everywhere, especially aspiring theatre practitioners. One of my favourite quotes, from Hamlet,  which I have on my favourite mug remind me to keep going.

‘We know not what we are, but we know what we may be’

Signs and Doubts

I had been feeling really tense and stressed today, probably because I’m back at school and the impending doom of exams is looming. But there were a few things.

Firstly, as usual, after I’ve seen a couple of good productions, I go into a whole existential crisis. Wondering if I am following the right path, if I am talented enough, determined enough to follow that path. When I see extremely talented people on stage, all I want to do is perform with them, however I never know if I ever will. I came back to my boarding house yesterday, and left my family for a few weeks on Saturday. I wasn’t feeling the best on Saturday, and when I arrived in Edinburgh, I just wanted to sleep and do nothing else. And I had a mini-existential crisis, as I didn’t have one after In the Heights or Jersey Boys. Plus a couple of other things, just made me tired.

And today, I just felt like nothing was going right, I couldn’t revise, I had a list of things to do. And I got some of them done, I got my Drama dissertation in, so that’s the end of AH Drama for me. The second/third thing on my list was to order, Hamilton: A Revolution by Lin Manuel Miranda from the drama bookshop NYC. He is going there for a signing, and I thought there might be a chance, if I could ask the staff to ask him to sign a copy before they post it. But, when I tried to order it, it wasn’t working, the website. I couldn’t get it delivered, and when I called the shop they explained that they do deliver, and then the call dropped out. It sounds ridiculous, but it felt like a sign. I thought that if I could get a copy of the book, signed by one of my heroes, it would almost be like a sign, that if I tried hard enough I could do anything, for example get a signed copy of a book, from half way across the world, even though I won’t be there for the signing. And I couldn’t get it, I couldn’t even order it. And it feels like a sign. I am constantly doubting if to go into the theatrical route, if I should, what pathway do I take? I want to perform on stage. To be in the west end- but it seems so ridiculous and far away. And my backup subject (non-creative one)- Biology? It is just going terribly. It just all feels a bit distant. I work hard in drama, but I feel like it’s never going to pay off. I know it’s ridiculous to feel like the fact a website didn’t work is a sign and now making me rethink my whole future, but it does. Anyway, I’m just rambling and, I just needed to write this down and get it out.

-Charlotte

Hamilton

Hamilton: An American musical, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is about the founding father Alexander Hamilton, who is an 18th century immigrant. It is about Hamilton’s rise up from his illegitimate birth in poverty, in the Caribbean, to George Washington’s aid-de-camp and the first secretary of the treasury. Barack Obama said that Hamilton was “a striving immigrant who escaped poverty, made his way to the New World, climbed to the top by sheer force of will and pluck and determination” The music entirely consisting of the hip-hop genre, contrasting with the time period. For example, the cabinet debates are presented as rap-battles, encouraging an audience interest into mundane topics – such as the national debt. I love Hamilton. I can’t believe I haven’t written about it yet! I, unfortunately, have not had the pleasure of seeing it , however if and when it transfers over to the west end, I will be first in line to see it.

Now the reason, I brought it up, is that I read an article in The Observer about Hamilton providing insight into the parallel of the musical to the politics of America at the time. Especially now. Having an article such as this across a double sheet, in a mainstream form of media, brought me hope and happiness . It compared Alexander Hamilton to Donald Trump. When Michelle Obama was talking about how much she loved Hamilton, on the other side of America, a Trump rally was going on, ranting about a wall to keep out immigrants. The culture gap could have never seemed so wide. The liberals on one side spoke for inclusivity, and on the other, thousands of angry, frustrated and defeated Americans, putting their faith in a businessman with a flashy show of promising to make America great again.

The show has become a world-wide phenomenon, and more people talk about it than have actually seen it. It is also going to be used to assist education – the soundtrack becoming a tool in the classroom. Last year The New Yorker published an essay: Why Donald Trump and Jeb Bush should see “Hamilton”. “With its youthful, almost entirely non-Caucasian cast, and its celebration of the possibilities inherent in building a new nation, the poetry of Hamilton is a reminder of the gleaming sense of hope that the election of 2008 engendered,” the essay read.  The essay highlighted two lines from the show which mirror this bonkers election season. “Ya best g’wan run back where ya come from” This is said to Hamilton, however is refuted with “Immigrants, we get the job done.” There is something so empowering about that line. It is sung with such pride and truth in a time – reflective of now – where immigrants are shunned and shooed away. Obama remarked about the writing of Hamilton from Miranda “Lin-Manuel saw something of his own family, and every immigrant family.” I don’t really need to explain the politics of Trump, I’m sure. His racism, sexism, bigotry speaks for itself. One of the most worrying policies of his, is the wall that is to be built across the border of Mexico to keep out immigrants. However back at the White House, Miranda performed a freestyle rap with the first black president in the Rose garden. It could not have been a more vivid symbol of a modern, diverse, inclusive, creative and idealistic America.

“Trump’s ability to stir emotions around the wall and Mexicans is the opposite of Hamilton, which has this hopeful message that immigrants can do anything,” said Amy Austin, president of theatreWashington. “That’s what America is. Hamilton is so aspirational. Trump doesn’t have anything aspirational for the whole country.” When Obama was elected, there was optimism, and hope for change and progress forward. However Trump’s candidacy has depleted that hope and optimism. There is so much more I could say on the matter, but I fear it will become even more political. I love Hamilton, and I’m amazed by the support it gathers and how it parallels America’s political scene. How it’s getting people interested in theatre, politics and history.  It just makes me very happy, for it to be so popular to someone so deserving. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who loves theatre with a passion and works so hard, and has achieved so much. I just love it and I can’t wait to see it (hopefully).

Is Theatre obsolete?

Now, as much as I love theatre – I can’t help but question it. Especially when looking at political theatre. Do people still listen to theatre as a force of change? Does it influence people’s opinions. Does it still work in the same way it did – When Stanislavski changed it into what it is today? Or has it become an nonentity?

With Theatre rapidly being replaced by Media and Social networking – Who’s to say that it won’t become obsolete within the next few years? People go to the cinema often, and watch TV weekly, if not everyday. But how many of you can say that you’ve been to the theatre within the last 2 months? Or better yet – seen a political play within the 6? Theatre is a rapidly declining form of entertainment- especially as it is not as accessible as TV or film.  Theatre is expensive. To go to, to run, to be a part of. Shows in the west end are popping up and closing as soon as they turned up.

And when people do go to the theatre – the most common things are pantomimes or big commercial musicals – which as an art form – are brilliant. But they are a minority in the larger world of theatre. How many of you can say – if you’ve been to London – that you’ve seen a show in the royal court theatre – one of the leaders of theatre in the western world? How many of you can say you’ve been to the Apollo Theatre where Wicked plays? Or any equally as commercial musical? The numbers will be far greater – and I can’t talk. I haven’t seen a show at the Royal Court- however I have seen countless number of musicals – including Wicked.

…However. Theatre has survived so far. During depressions and economic crisis, one would think theatre would be the first to go, and theatre stayed strong – people thrived on theatre as a source of propaganda and hope in a time of need. I think this is because it provides a sense of community. When you are all gathered there to see a show. It provides an atmosphere that media cannot provide. And it has more influence than one might think. Seeing actual people on stage perform these stories – or even the words of real people, if looking at Verbatim theatre – it connects to the audience in a way that other art forms don’t. And in that way – influences people in what they think, and how they act in society.

Theatre isn’t obsolete and is actually thriving in our society – tackling relevant problems all the time- showing our society in a way that we will receive it and make us want to change it.  The classics stay timeless – and the contemporary stay modern and fresh.

“Art is not a mirror held up to reality
but a hammer with which to shape it.”

War Horse to close?

War Horse, after a seven year run, at the National Theatre is due to close in 2016. Producer Chris Harper said: “War Horse has wowed audiences around the world, and we are incredibly proud of what the show has achieved over the last eight extraordinary years. It has been a privilege to bring Michael Morpurgo’s beloved novel to the stage and to share this beautiful story of love and friendship with audiences.”

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A beautiful story of love and friendship indeed. However after it finishes it’s run It will go on a nationwide tour to finish the show. I have actually seen this show a few times and I adore it. It is very hard for me to have favourites when it comes to theatre and books and all that. This is definitely my favourite play, and it never fails to move me. It does what theatre should do and it makes you feel things, and think about the world we live. It doesn’t necessarily make you feel love, or sadness or even despair. But it makes you feel something. The story is heartwarming – The staging is innovative and creative, using a backdrop above the action to represent a soldiers diary. The lighting fantastic. The set simplistic, using Brechtian influences- partnered with amazing music, truly bringing it to life. It has an amazing atmosphere and I implore you to go see it, if you have a chance before it closes. I personally am very sad to see it go.  

“Maybe there are different ways to be brave. Did you know the French have the best carrier pigeons? And this could be the difference in the war. Our messages getting through. There are released from the front and told to go home. This is all they know. But to get there they must fly over a war. It’s like… you are flying over so much pain and terror… and you know you can never look down. You have to look forward, or you’ll never get home. I ask you, what could be braver than that?”

Why Stanislavski annoys me.

Yes. Stanislavski is amazing – and he founded modern theatre. And he tried something radical in a communist oppressive regime. And he changed the way people saw theatre as an art and a profession – turning a career that was once represented by drunken idiots – into one, which was portrayed with the highest level of sophistication and intelligence.

And I am grateful to him for that.

However after reading his books – I find him extremely vain, it being very easy to open a book of his and open it onto any page and find something ‘amazing’ about him. With Stanislavski writing it as him – ‘The amazing director that can put no foot wrong’ and ‘the best student in the class’.

But not just his vanity or pretentiousness that bugs me. He focuses mainly on naturalism and says everything must be done how it would be done off the stage… however – he also states that you must learn everything again for the stage – walk, talk, move, everything. There comes a point where everything is so meticulously planned and discussed – because everything must have a reason and a specific movement- that it becomes stylised and unrealistic. Stanislavski is so contradictory it hurts my brain to read about him.

Nonetheless – I still admire him as a practitioner – and everything he has done for theatre – just not necessarily him as a person.