Alex Morris:Apologies

This afternoon, I went to see Apologies, a sketch comedy show, part of the Edinburgh Free Fringe. Alex Morris is an emerging comedian from Kings College London, previous work includes his YouTube series, Teachurs.

In this sketch show, he portrays several different characters who are distinct, defined and notable in their own right. The costumes were a nice touch, however unnecessary as the acting was good enough to suffice.

I was pleasantly surprised by it, and kept laughing throughout the whole show and I would have loved to see more!


The Libertine

I wanted to write something about the writing of The Libertine. A collective of my favourite lines and monologues, because the writing is truly beautiful. The Libertine is based on the true life of John Wilmot, the earl of Rochester, and his relations with the actress Lizzie Barry. 

Mrs Barry: I want the passionate love of my audience. I want, when I make a sweep of my arm, to carry their hearts away, and when I die that they should sigh for never seeing me again. 

Mrs Barry is asked what she wants from the theatre, and she retorts very passionately, almost in a daze with this line. 

Rochester: I cannot feel in life, I must have others do it for me here

Mrs Barry: You are spoken of as a man with a stomach for life

These lines I feel, don’t need a caption. They are melancholic. 

Rochester: But in the playhouse, every action good or bad has its consequences; drop a handkerchief and it will return to smother you. Outside the playhouse there are for me no crimes and no consequences. 

I liked this bit, because I felt it showed the true tragedy of a man who has lost his love of life, who can do whatever he wishes. It showed the truth of the theatre. Everything has meaning, everything has consequence. 

Rochester: Here in this Theatre we can pretend that our lives have meaning…. The theatre is my soothing drug, and my cynic’s illness is so far advanced that my physic must be of the highest quality. 

This just has so much truth to it. To anyone, theatre people or not. 

Mrs. Barry: You gave a divine talent. And yet you choose to see only what is base and mean. You are one-eyes. You look at humanity and you see the monkey, but you close your eye to the angel. When I am on stage, I give wing to the angel, I let her soar over the rowdy Pit creatures until I have silenced them with the flapping of her wings. That is why they have begun to listen to me. Because they leave the theatre with a larger idea of themselves and they become more noble in their daily lives. You show them to be a scrawny monkey in a shabby coat who shits and mounts its mate and they go on their way meaner. 

This monologue is beautiful, revealing of what truly happens when the audience leaves a theatre. Of the effect Theatre has. 

Rochester: I love theatres. They remind me of ships, great rocking galleons floating into battle. 

Because society and life is a battle. And the theatre is your weapon

Etherege: Love gilds us over and makes us show fine things to each other for a time, but soon the gold wears off and then again the native brass appears. 

Love is nothing but an illusion, designed to lure the human spirit out of it’s hard exterior.

Rochester: I am nature and you are art, let us see how we compare

Art imitates life, and life imitates Art.  

Rochester: When I poured away the last bottle of wine I saw the blood of christ streaming onto the floor and it took all my effort not to throw myself on my face and guzzle. But I desisted and my mind cleared and I made an inventory of my life and found much wanting: injuries to divers people: want of attention to my affairs: a lifetime spitting in the face of God, and I knew I was to be cast down. I had long ago discarded the layer of formal politeness with which we negotiated the world, but now I had to wade through the slough of my licentiousness until I found level ground underfoot, a ground of true sensibility and love of Christ. Now I gaze upon a pinhead and see angels dancing. 

A man faced with losing his vice, and facing the darkest part of his life, begins to see God in his life. A gorgeous monologue, and a perfect ending- not really a spoiler.  Continue reading “The Libertine”

The Master & Magarita

So this evening I went to see The Master & Margarita at The Edinburgh Fringe. The Master & Margarita is a Russian novel designed as a satire to reflect the Russian bourgeois. It’s an interesting story which looks at two worlds. One set in Russia at the turn of the great war, and the other set two thousand years ago. It is an extremely complex story, and one very hard to translate to stage.

So it is no mystery that I may have gotten a bit lost in the story and found it a little hard to follow, however even when I wasn’t sure what was going on, I still enjoyed it. Due to the beautiful writing of the piece, and the heartfelt acting from the actors. The main aspect of this piece that I think was very artistic, was the use of space. The venue was a church, and the staging was promenade. I love promenade staging, and I know how hard it is to do. So I commend the company for that. I think it was done really well and I loved the use of levels in the venue. This was also complimented by the lighting. As it was a late night performance, the church was shrouded in darkness, the lighting was provided by the torches that each actor used. This meant that the acting areas were lit up according to what was performed, and it made the actors shadows dance on the walls behind them, adding another visual layer to this piece.

The puppetry and physical theatre aspects of the piece were really effective. There was one particular scene where Margarite was flying through the sky, transforming into as a witch. They used the company to lift the actor over the pews, creating a really beautiful scene, and the puppetress made the cat very realistic and life-like, even though it was just a floating head. A special mention must also be said for the actor who played Satan, creating a sort of sassy and suave satan, who I enjoyed very much, along with the actor who played The Master. The narration added another layer, which helped drive the narrative. The interaction with the audience made a very immersive production, along with caricature characters, combined with some beautiful singing, gave it a rather Brechtian feel.

The overall effect was a piece that was full of life, and passion. Somebody once said to me that passion of theatre always shines through and makes any performance transcendent. It cannot be rewarded by a single part, but by a lifetime of a dramatist. It may not be the best show in the fringe, but it sure is a good one, and not only because the company’s passion exudes throughout the performance.

The problem with Shakespeare…

It is extremely hard to fault Shakespeare’s writing,  – It is however easy to fault the way it is being performed and taught at schools. Now, don’t get me wrong – I absolutely adore the traditional staging of the best Shakespeare – as long as it is done well. I can however understand how people hate Shakespeare, when their only experience of it, is these productions and what they have learnt at school. Learning Shakespeare in English can be dull and repetitive. Without seeing Shakespeare how it’s supposed to be presented- in the theatre tacking social issues- it is extremely hard to fully appreciate Shakespeare’s work.

On a recent trip to Warwick University for an interview, I met someone who I chatted a lot to about Shakespeare- and I thought she was completely right in what she was saying – one of her ideas on to make Shakespeare more relevant- was to stage Romeo and Juliet in modern day America; Juliet would be a middle-class white girl, and Romeo would be a black boy from a rural background. To highlight the racial issues in America right now – bringing a dated plot into the 21st century. A similar idea that I had for Hamlet was to stage it in a second world country, looking at the government officials- to explore into the corruption of government – or even staged in a first world country. Shakespeare is so surprisingly relevant and can easily be used as a revolutionary tool. Yet people seem to feel that it is dated and boring. Shakespeare is so versatile- anything can be done with it; race bends; Gender twists; country changes- anything to bring it to the modern day- which is why I don’t understand why it is so taboo? The writing is beautiful, and the plots are generally very good. I would just like to see more Shakespeare, and it brought to the modern day so it can reach a wider audience. I want to see Shakespeare taught how it was meant to be presented. Not through some back-end irrelevant production of it.

Working Class actors earning less?

A new study has shown that working class actors are earning less than their middle-class counterparts. It suggests that almost three quarters of British actors come form middle-class backgrounds, despite the fact that only 29% of Brits are middle-class. This story has seeped into mainstream media, surprisingly, not just specific news sites, like The Stage.

The study conducted by LSE and Goldsmiths University claimed that there is a ‘class ceiling’ in British Performing arts, which deters working class actors. Researchers analysed the responses from 402 actors for ‘The Great British Class survey’ and interviewed a further 47 actors themselves. The responses showed that just 27% of actors were from a working class background, and out of the 47 actors interviewed –  5 of the working class actors had attended a major London Drama school or Oxbridge, compared to 15 of the middle-class actors. Government statistics show the proportion of middle-class in the UK to be 29%, however 73% of British actors are from the middle-class. This shows that succeeding in Theatre is heavily skewed towards the privileged.  This suggest a form of discrimination towards the lower-class that was previously seen in well paid or authoritative careers in Britain – such as Doctors and Lawyers. The paper also showed an average lower salary for actors from a working class background. Responses from the actors also suggested that they were offered a more limited range of roles – this could be due to acting skills, however it is more likely to be accountable to this division in the classes – This can also be shown in auditions, where some actors have said that having a working class accent has weighted against them- one actor being asked if he had ever considered going back to being a plumber.  The paper wrote that “The ability to call upon familial wealth shaped the experience of these actors in myriad ways. It provided insulation from much of the precariousness of the labour market, particularly the need to seek alternative work to support oneself between acting roles,” This can also be accounted to the fact that even just the auditions for drama schools are expensive, let alone the fees and living in London, studying as an acting student, where attending the right social events is crucial; and the need to see productions in the west end, or even putting on your own show and taking it up to Edinburgh  – See where I am going with this?

Last year Christopher Eccleston told the Telegraph that to succeed in the harsh profession “you need to be white, you need to be male, and you need to be middle-class”. This quote brings up two other very important discussions to have ; racial inequality in theatre and film- especially regarding the recent #Oscarssowhite; and gender inequality in theatre and film; I will, however save that for a later date, as to save me from getting in a bad mood, and a four page rant. But these are issues that need to be brought up and need to be discussed, by everyone, not just those in or interested in the profession. Which is why it is good that this story has leaked into mainstream media. In 2012 Julie Walters said “the way things are now there aren’t going to be any working-class actors [left]” And all that I can hope, is that with this discussion being raised, hopefully the division will shrink over the next few decades.

Kinky Boots – Adelphi Theatre

Last night I saw Kinky Boots, down at the Adelphi Theatre on the Strand, so lucky to go twice to the theatre within one week. Kinky boots is based on a true story, about a shoe factory in Northampton that is going to go out of business and so finds it’s niche in the market- producing ‘kinky boots’ designed for the Drag Queens of the UK. A 6” Stiletto boot that can hold the weight of a fully-grown man.

There’s not much I can say, apart from it being a brilliant production, however I wouldn’t expect anything less from a west end show. This production has transferred from Broadway and won several Tony awards. It was just such a fun night; I really enjoyed the music and the plot. I just wanted to run up and perform with them. The costumes were amazing, as you can imagine from a musical about drag queens. Intricate and Fabulous. The acting was brilliant, Killian Donnelly embodied the slightly awkward, uptight, but loveable Charlie Price, with a boyish charm. Complimented nicely by Amy Lennox, who played Lauren, a female worker, who always seemed to go for the wrong guy, she portrayed an extremely relatable character, that I’m sure had all the females in the audience going ‘I feel you girl’. However, they were both overshadowed by Matt Henry, who played Lola, the sassy, flamboyant, downright amazing drag queen from London. Matt Henry’s amazing voice, combined with his outlandish acting, and the brilliant costumes made it truly an enjoyable evening. I loved the character Lola and I, as I’m sure a lot of other drama people, related to her. Her flamboyancy and how she acted like she was always on stage struck a nerve with me, and one day I can only hope to be half as fabulous as her. The most impressive feat of this production although has to be the fact the all of the cast spent part or even the whole two and half show, dancing and acting in 6” Kinky boots, which is extremely Impressive, especially with the level of dancing and lifts featured in the choreography. I can barely get picked up and put down, in wedges with out falling over.

The last thing about this that I want to say is that it reminded me that mainstream theatre, west end musicals mainly, which I hate say, I could be a snob about sometimes, I enjoyed them, but was always unsure of the substance that they possessed, that they are just as society changing as other types of theatre. They could be used in the same fashion as a tool. The message of the musical was to accept people for what they were, no matter where they were from, or what they did. And in a way, this is even better than genres like political theatre as it reaches a wider audience, and possibly a more varied audience; younger and older and from different parts of society; meaning it would be more effective as a tool to change our society. It also assured me of where I want to be in the future. It’s no secret, I have doubts about going into Theatre, and I am sure many other people pursuing that career have similar doubts, but this production reminded me that I need to do Theatre. That I love it, and productions like this is one of the reasons why I am going into drama.

James III- Festival Theatre

Last night I got to see the third part of The James Plays, by Rona Munro. The James Plays is a trilogy of three separate plays, that can be watched in order, or as an individual play in itself. I saw James III, without seeing any of the other shows. They are about the first three James Kings of Scotland.

Now I don’t much about the history of the Scottish monarch, regardless, it was an extremely interesting piece of theatre, with political undertones reflecting the state of Scottish politics within the last few years – the referendum mainly. Showing what Scotland is really about, her people.

The audience were mainly seated below the stage in a traditional proscenium arch auditorium, however there was a small section for the audience to be seated at the back of the stage creating a semi- theatre in the round.  The audience seated on the stage completed the parliament of Scotland, with the throne in between the two sets of seats. It really involved  the audience into the piece and emphasised the idea that Scotland is about her people rather than anyone else.  About her citizens, the sort of people who go to the theatre, the civilians – they are the people who should be part of the parliament.

It had a playful tone, despite the political themes, which may strike a tender chord to some of the audience members, mainly provided by the comedic acting from Matthew Pidegeon, who played off the slightly nutty, reckless and extremely self absorbed King James very well. In a time of economic ruin, James is wistfully throwing away his money towards unnecessary  ‘pleasures’.  Marlin Crepin as Queen Margaret, however overshadowed King James, a tricky feat. A calm, but strong standing figure, turned stand in ruler of Scotland. Uniting the nation, and it’s people. Her acting standing out among the ensemble, bold, authoritative and powerful, and altogether just quite inspiring.

I loved the little touches, such as the traditional style music sung throughout the piece to bring it to a whole, along with the ceilidh-fied modern music played before and the performance and during the interval. It set a jolly and sort of communal atmosphere. Along with the set which was simplistic, but symbolic. The audience becoming part of the set, along with a large dagger sticking up off the stage. It was hard to miss, but really effective in it’s foreshadowing of the oncoming revolution by the future King Jamie. (Daniel Cahill)

All in all, I really liked this piece, in what it was trying to do. I really appreciated the political undertones and the community aspect of the whole piece, and I mean, it doesn’t hinder that Daniel Cahill got stark naked, albeit unexpected, on stage.

Unfortunately, yesterday, we lost one of Britain’s icons in Theatre and Film. Alan Rickman was an amazing actor, on stage and film, using his art to change the world. Alan Rickman trained at RADA and worked at the RSC, where is career took off. His work there, giving him a stereotype of a classically trained Shakespearean British actor. Before his cinematic career took off, some of his most famous roles of Hans Gruber (Die Hard) – where he has been considered to have redefined Action films, and Professor Snape (Harry Potter) – where in the last film he gave an absolutely amazing performance, embodying one of J.K Rowling’s most memorable characters. He has spent a huge time directing, in films and Theatre. In 2005 he produced and directed My Name is Rachel Corrie a political play looking at a corrupt political infrastructure in Israel, and how the underdogs often get beaten and beaten. His repertoire is endless, and the words from the people who knew him and worked with him are nothing but words of love and kindness. Describing him as loyal and kind and an actor above all.

Emma Thompson wrote in a statement “Alan was my friend and so this is hard to write because I have just kissed him goodbye.What I remember most in this moment of painful leave-taking is his humour, intelligence, wisdom and kindness. His capacity to fell you with a look or lift you with a word. The intransigence which made him the great artist he was – his ineffable and cynical wit, the clarity with which he saw most things, including me, and the fact that he never spared me the view. I learned a lot from him. He was, above all things, a rare and unique human being and we shall not see his like again.”

“If only life could be a little more tender and art a little more robust”

He was, for me, the embodiment of an actor that I aspire to be; Supportive of his fellow actors in such a harsh business; loyal to the people he had worked with; Kind; Intelligent; Ridiculously talented; Politically active. He gave everything he had to Theatre and Film. His life, his commitment, his love. And he used his talents to try and change the world into a better one.

“Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.”


Barbarians- Young Vic

This evening I watched Barbarians at the Young Vic in London. Barbarians is about 3 boys who have just left school in the 70s, and how their friendship shapes their lives. I came to watch this for my dissertation for AH Drama, and had read the script prior to seeing it. I went in, not sure what I was expecting, to be greeted by three young men from the 70s.

They were wandering around the space, walking between the audience members either looking at them intently or completely ignoring them, as it was Avenue staging. Then they started speaking. The change of lighting the only difference to indicate the beginning of the play. The set was very interesting. I loved it. It encompassed the whole space. Plywood and building wood, everywhere, with stairs going in between the audience members. Creating a desolate and trapped atmosphere working in lieu with the lighting. The lighting was very good. The dramatic changes created a suitable tone, and showed the isolation of them individually and as a group. The acting was brilliant. Amazingly intense. As an audience you were extremely close to the actors and could see their muscles tensing and relaxing. It was extremely intimate and raw.  I was fully immersed into the play, purely by Fisayo Akinade, Alex Austin and Brian Vernel’s acting. They interacted with the audience throughout the piece and got really up close and personal. The show was darkly comedic and upsettingly still extremely relevant, working well with Liz Stevenson’s directing to break the fourth wall. With the avenue staging you are able to see the audience’s reaction opposite you to the racist and sexist slurs said throughout the play.

The whole piece had this brilliant rhythm to it, with little to none actual plot, and actually worked. The auditory factor to the piece was brilliant, very punk rock, putting the feel of anarchy in the air. The music added a playful tone to this dark piece, the volume, combined with the genre and the lighting, made you want to get up and dance with them across the stage. And throughout the interval they continued to play football and crowd background noise – adding to the whole immersion thing they were doing. The actors entered the space again, before the interval had finished, again creating the idea we were sitting with them outside Wembley.  The last act was just amazing. I know I’ve said that more than enough times, but it really was a good show. The last act was funny, but intense. Intimate and yet absolutely terrifying at the same time. With the stylised transition into it, already gave the audience an inkling that a lot of time had passed, provided by the characters only costume changes throughout the show. The direction by Stevenson was brilliant – paralleling the characters and getting the rhythm of the writing, that could have dawdled, perfect.

The overall effect of the piece, left me wanting more by all of the cast and crew. They produced a brilliantly comedic piece, that was horrifyingly relevant. With a dark and anarchic atmosphere, and raw acting, it made me want to go destroy society when I left the theatre. A truly political piece. It was described as Punk waiting for Godot by The Telegraph, but I disagree. It was so much better. It left me with a feeling I can’t quite describe, like theatre should.

“We will not be ignored. They’ll talk about us, write about us, hate us.”


Waiting For Godot

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett is an absurdist play, just recently opening Lyceum’s 50th anniversary season with Brian Cox and Bill Paterson. It’s a tragicomedy in two acts about two tramps ‘Waiting for Godot’, whilst shenanigans go on, ranging from eating a carrot to contemplating suicide. I am going to see this tonight at The Lyceum as part of my Advanced Higher Drama course. I’m actually really looking forward to it. I have heard some amazing reviews. The Stage’s editor said it was a must see for this month- I will keep you up to date and post a review tomorrow.