Chatroom- SLAM Theatre

Last night I had the pleasure to see Chatroom by Enda Walsh, by SLAM Theatre, I went along, as a friend of mine was the rehearsal stage manager, so I’ll try to not be biased.

Chatroom is about a chatroom funnily enough. It’s an exploration of the problems a lot of teenagers face, and their different reactions to it, through the use of social media. This production by SLAM Theatre, produced by Andy Patterson and Anthony Papamichael, and directed by Hector Moyes, was produced in the charming etcetera theatre. The set was simplistic, which allowed the audience to focus on the acting. The use of the movement was a nice break from the intense story.

IMG_5686Pictured here, Anthony Papamichael, Emily Pearce (Rehearsal Stage Manager), Hector Moyes and Mark Teale, from left to right. 

The whole cast were brilliant, the acting was subtle, but intense, which was very effective in this small theatre space. I’d love to go into detail on all of the cast’s different characters, like how I hated Mark Teale’s, William, from the minute he came on stage (which may have to do with how insulted one of my childhood memories); and how Eddie Chamberlin’s Jack, was endearing, but well-meaning. Nick Pearce’s Jim, was nervous, and easily influenced, but also really likeable. Charlotte East’s Eva, had a lot more to her character, than what her lines revealed, very similar to Tania Van Amse’s Laura, who’s last speech, definitely had a lot of the audience in tears. Susie Barton’s Emily, had an air of innocence, and sweetness. I really liked her chemistry with Pearce.

The whole show dealt with very serious issues, and it would be great to do at schools, and after talking to the cast they told me that they have done a workshop with a school, and are hoping to take it around schools. Anyway, I’m hoping for big things- they’re a great emerging theatre company with lots of potential.

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Twelfth Night- National Theatre.

So tonight I went to see Twelfth Night, at the National. Another Review (lucky you, dear reader… Or Unlucky, depending on how you feel). This production, stars Tamsin Grieg, and turns the show on it’s head, into a wonderful, fast paced, and colourful queer-fest.

Directed by Simon Godwin, this new adaptation brings new life to the old classic.  It begins, with a simple, but effective outline of a ship. The attention in detail in this production was fantastic, from the way they made the smoke, seem like water, to the faint cricket’s chirping in the background in the scenes. The sound, and music was wonderful, and made the play not unlike a musical, with songs and music, aiding to the drama and the transitions. The transitions were very slick, mostly due to the fantastic set. Almost like a clock, the ‘ship’ rotated, to reveal different spaces in the island. And the dressing of the set was brilliant, again the attention to detail was fantastic. Each space, had a completely different feel to it.

The cast were brilliant of course. Tamara Lawrance, Viola, brought a brilliant innocence, to the role, whilst playing her fiercely, and wise. And her chemistry with Oliver Chris, Orsino, both as Cesario and Viola, bringing another aspect to the play, that I had completely disregarded. That Orsino, was so determined to marry Olivia, because he had feelings for Cesario. Oliver Chris, was a brilliant Orsino, and brought a David Tennant-ish quality to the role, somewhat reminiscent of Benedick. However, Daniel Rigby, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Tim McMullan, Sir Toby Belch, were fantastic. They were both energetic, bringing more comedy to the show. With the drunken energy, coming from McMullan, and an innocence to the ‘tyrants’ coming from Rigby.  Imogen Doel, Fabia, or the Fool, brought the whole piece together, with a beautiful voice, and fantastic physicality in her acting. Malvolia, Tamsin Greig, was of course brilliant, her Malvolia, was stern, but still, somehow, likeable. And her ‘burlesque’ reveal of the yellow stockings was worthy of it’s own act.

All the gender-bending in this production was really great, and highlighted so many different relationships, and emotions that are often tossed aside in this play. Although, it may have dawdled in parts. This production was brilliant, because it was fun – it didn’t take itself too seriously, and every detail was thought of- from the costumes, to the bottles that Sir Toby drunk from.

The 39 Steps- The King’s Players.

So tonight, I went to see The 39 Steps directed by the wonderfully talented Carys Hughes. I had seen this show done professionally, twice, and I’m afraid to say, slightly dubious of how this show was going to turn out, as it is a tricky show to perfect. I am so glad that I was surprised, I spent the whole night laughing, and in the second half cackling.

Carys Hughes, did a brilliant job, bringing this show to life, in a particularly odd space. Of course, helpful by her energetic cast. The devilishly handsome Richard Hanny, was played by Dom Rawson, who’s composure commanded the audience, and the few moments were ‘mishaps’ occurred, were always welcome. Annabella Schmidt, and Pamela played by Holly Ludlow, was a worthy partner, and their chemistry together, especially in the hotel, was brilliant. Speaking of chemistry, Margaret, Marie-Claire Harvey, added a sweetness, and innocence to the show.  However, the ones who stole the show, were the clowns, Alan Hall; Camille Hainsworth-Staples; Arsentiy Novak. They were absoluetly hilarious. From their over dramatic cockney milkman, to the old Scottish lady who loved her scotch (and dubstep). Their physicality, and over-dramatisation, was on point. And their accents, were surprisingly good. The change of the ending was a surprisingly nice change to the usual, ‘everything is awesome’ ending, even if it is slightly sadistic.

I absolutely love this show, and I’m so glad this production did not disappoint. If you have a chance, go and try and see it. It’s on at KCL, at 7.30pm until Monday Night.

Amadeus – National Theatre

Tonight I went to see Amadeus, at the National, after trying to get a ticket for ages. Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, follows the story of Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the 1700s.

The music, as expected, was spectacular. Having the musicians on stage is a great touch, and blurred the lines between theatre and concert.  The musicians also made up the chorus, and the ensemble movement pieces, were a nice touch, stopping it from becoming a two-man show. Speaking of the two men. Lucian Msamti, Salieri, was great, his powerful stature, meant that he addressed the audience with confidence, and in the second half, truly had power. Adam Gillan, Mozart, brought the youthfulness that the show needed, with it being set in the 1700s, this was all aided by the little modern elements, that were shown every once in a while. Where Msamati spoke to the audience, Gillan, commanded the audience, or he pandered to them – I honestly can’t tell. I loved it though. It lightened up the piece, and the language, felt more 21st century, rather than 18th.  On the other hand, Karla Crome, Constanze, was also brilliant, her presence was more subtle than her counterpart, Gillan, however just as powerful. Also Fleur de Bray, Katherina, had a glass shattering voice.

The musicians stayed on stage, for most of the show, in an orchestra set-up. The centre of the stage dipped for the performances of the operas. There was also a permanent secondary stage located at the back of stage, and in moments of climax it was pulled forward, shrouding the audience in some sort of angelic light. Michael Longhurst, the director, made no effort to hide that it is a theatrical production, with the costumes visible on stage, and the vintage, operatic style, backdrops.

 

Overall a very modern look, on a classic story. Showing a rollercoaster of human emotion and human life. The madness of genius.

Wish List – Royal Court

I went to see Wish List today at the Royal Court Theatre. Wish List, directed by Mathew Xia, provides a commentary on the benefits system and lack of care for people facing mental health issues in the United Kingdom.

The play was staged in Traverse, which I personally love, as it is so much more intimate and intense, than traditional staging. The set was simple, but effective, with the left shrouded in boxes, representing the factory, and the right, showing a simple kitchen and bathroom. The centre was left empty, and was adapted to depending on the scene. The scene transitions were inventive and fun – keeping the pace of the show fast and to the times. The music aided the transitions, keeping the show light at some times, however, almost unbearable to watch at other times. It portrayed the franticness of someone dealing with mental issues, without relying solely on body language.

The show made me feel very anxious and left me frazzled as I left the theatre. Erin Doherty (Tamsin) and Joseph Quinn (Dean) shone through their respective roles, important, as the show mainly depended on them. The comedic elements, were timed well, and a welcome break from the intensity of the show. However, there were, at times, I felt the play was trying to tackle too many problems at once, and lost the focus and message of the play.

There were lots of little details that I loved, such as the symbolism of the hair gel, or the fact the bathroom doors had no handles on the outside, so it could only be opened from the inside. Overall, I didn’t feel good coming out of the theatre. I felt anxious, scared, upset, and frazzled. I didn’t like how I was feeling, which was important. I didn’t enjoy the show, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I loved it.

Brains – Thick and Thin Theatre.

Brains, by Thick and Thin Theatre company explores the psych of the other people during pandemics. The people who exploit the public for money, rather than charity. It looks at a pharmaceutical company, not only surviving, but thriving through a zombie apocalypse.

Written and directed by Cameron Szerdy, the mix of the characters complimented each other well. The full ensemble scenes were the best of the show. Ursula, the cold, badass, ball-grapping, CEO (Stephanie Overington); Harry, the rich, drug-addled arsehole (Aidan Parsons); Tina, the young, social media obsessed, and slightly dim teenage intern (Aine Nettleton); Jeff, the punchline to most of the jokes, however definitely a character in his own rights (Jack Dent); Stewart, scientist, and friend of Jeff – a lot of the comedy coming from their duo (Tom Spencer); Rosie, the idyllic, moral-compass, new recruit (Jo Mance); and finally a cameo of a cleaner, who has to deal with the mess from the other characters.

The fast pace of the show, equipped with quirky one liners, and some wonderfully terrible puns, created a quaint, interesting performance. The actors themselves, had great chemistry and their strong performance as an ensemble, really made the show.  I loved the intimate environment, which connected us, as an audience even more. The plot was interesting, and a great exploration of the human psych, with dark undertones, and definite political undertones, looking at corporate exploration.

A great piece of Fringe Theatre, which I enjoyed thoroughly.

On a personal note, I went to see it on press tickets, granted it wasn’t through this blog, but regardless it was still very exciting, and I felt I should write a review.

Top productions of 2016

Another year has passed, and despite this one being particularly bad, there was still lots and lots of theatre. So here are my top five productions of 2016, excluding the fringe- it just became impossible to narrow down to five, if I included the fringe. I may do another post describing my top five fringe productions.

5. Lazarus at the Kings Cross Theatre

08lazarusjpsub-master675Now this may be, that it is the last production I saw, but at No.5, it’s Lazarus. The new musical, written by David Bowie, another icon we lost this year. It was a melancholic and thought-provoking story, with suitable music, and a very dystopic production. The visual images created were something to be in awe of. As I said a beautiful chaotic mess of a show.

 

4. I am Thomas at the Lyceum

I%20Am%20Thomas-103%20(c)%20Manuel%20Harlan%20-%20Liverpool%20Playhouse

Politically charged and hilariously funny, it’s I am Thomas from the Lyceum, which I saw in March. The Direction and the ensemble’s work pulled off a fantastic show with a great vision, all about freedom  of speech, in the height of the Je Suis Charlie movement. The music was brilliant, adding another layer to this piece- it was like an onion…

3. The Shakespeare Trilogy at the Donmar.

donmar-the-tempest

Okay, so I know I’m cheating a little bit, but I struggled picking just five shows, and they did have the same cast and director- basically. The Shakespeare trilogy consisted of The Tempest, Julius Caesar, and King Henry IV. It was an entirely female cast, and set in a female prison. I had some qualms about Julius Caesar, however the production was made clear, when I saw Henry IV. The Three shows worked as an entity, but also separately. The productions were creative, heartfelt and sorely needed. Setting Shakespeare in a modern environment was something that needed to be explored in mainstream theatre, also with a diverse and female cast it broke the stereotype of an old white english man performing Shakespeare.  The productions were fantastical, mythical and scary at some points. Definitely some of the best Shakespeare I’ve seen.

2. The Glass Menagerie at the Edinburgh International Festival.

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I wasn’t actually going to go see this, I absolutely  hated the play when I studied it – it was boring and nothing happened in it. The ending was not satisfying, and I just didn’t get the characters, except maybe Tom, though I even found him to be a bit of a lad. I even wrote an epilogue for it, which was how unsatisfying I found the ending. (It was a terrible epilogue by the way. When I was younger I was under the delusion I could write scripts…) Anyway a friend convinced me to go with the one sentence ‘there is such beauty in the mundane’  And he was so right. I managed to snap up one ticket for the last night- I may have left work early for it… oops, but I decided I had to see it. And I am so glad I did. It has to be one of the most poignant and beautiful productions I have seen this year. The set was unbelievable, the direction and acting was brilliant, and I saw the beauty in the mundane. In the characters I hated, I found redemption, and the ending turned from unsatisfying to almost hopeful. The music was amazing. The whole production was poetically serendipitous, showing these damaged characters as fragile as glass. It brought meaning to the meaningless. And a quote – “Time is the longest distance between two places” , has earned a place on my laptop.

 

Drum roll please for my top production of 2016…. (It won’t come as a surprise I assume…)

 

  1. In The Heights at The King’s Cross Theatre

In the Heights

In the Heights is at my No. 1. spot, as  I said is probably not a surprise. I saw this back in February, and I managed to get tickets for £15. In The Heights was written by Lin Manuel Miranda, and it set in the lower east side of Manhattan, in a Latino community in Washington Heights. The main selling point of this show, is of course the music. I watched it in February, and I am still listening to it constantly.  The complex lyrics, with Latino roots was the perfect way to show the core of the inspiration, as Lin Manuel Miranda is an immigrant from Puerto Rico.  I’m absolute sucker for Lin Manuel Miranda, but that is not the only reason. The actors were brilliant, and lovely as well. The youthful charm and energising tone to the performance made it an incredible night. I felt a part of the cast and the community. For once I didn’t want to run up and perform with the actors, because I was already up there. I cringed at what the characters said, and cried when they cried. I could not stop smiling, except you know, when I was crying.  The political connotations came through the comedy, and identity and immigration, were the core aspects of the show. It was full of life and symbolism, and I absolutely loved it.

 

Notable few:

Okay, so I said top 5, but here a few notable ones that I couldn’t just not mention. –

Aladdin: Full of colour and childlike imagination.

The Libertine: The writing in this was brilliant. The characters and story was so sad, but it was shrouded in comedy.

A Night in Miami: The political statements made in this were amazing, and heartbreaking. Along with a beautiful rendition of ‘A change is gonna come’ 

Kinky Boots: An extremely fun night, with fabulous costumes, and an amazing message to help change society for the better.

 

This was a longin. And this is without Fringe productions- eek.  There may be a post coming soon for that. But all in all. I hope 2016 has been great, and here’s hoping 2017 will be even better, and here’s to less loss in the arts world next year.  See you all in 2017!

-Charlie

 

Lazarus- King’s Cross

Where to begin? Perhaps a description of the show? That in itself is hard enough. Lazarus is a musical by David Bowie and Enda Walsh, based off the book, The Man Who Fell To Earth by Walter Tevis. It’s a fairly new musical, however calling it a musical, is slightly an understatement, as, I would say, it was indefinable.

The production, was very Bowie-esque, obviously, as it was written by him. The story, characters and execution was very futuristic and dystopic. The plot itself is not something I can describe. It is an absurdist musical, with a very odd plot, if you take it metaphorically or literally, it is still a beautiful story. If you look it, as the latter, it is a melancholic, and beautiful story of a man slowly losing his grip on reality, surrounded by characters doing the same. Either way it doesn’t make much sense. The music fitted surprisingly well, and of course, with Bowie’s passing earlier this year, it made the songs and the whole story, that much more emotional. (2016 really fucked us over didn’t it?)

Michael Esper, Valentine, was brilliant. His dark energy captured the psychotic elements of the musical, with such presence on stage, despite playing a socially awkward character for most of the show. I had previously seen him in The Glass Menagerie in Edinburgh, and it was such a different performance. Amy Lennox, Elly, again an actress I have seen before, perfectly portrayed the image of someone slowly losing her identity, and losing all sense of herself. Finally, Michael C. Hall, and Hannah Rose Thompson, Newton, and Girl, had brilliant chemistry with each other, a beautiful father/daughter relationship. Their wistful rendition of ‘Heroes’ at the end of the production, had me in tears. There are so many moments in this production that I could point out and exclaim how much I loved the images created, however I will refrain.

Speaking of images, visually, it was astounding. I don’t even know where to begin with it. The band where visible throughout the whole piece, through glass windows at the back of the stage. The use of projection throughout the whole piece was something remarkable, it immersed you within the show, despite the stage having very clear boundaries. It plunged the audience into Newton’s mind. I can’t explain it any further. It has to be something you see.

I went to see it, not sure of what to expect, actually thinking, that I wouldn’t even like it. I left in awe, I also got the chance to meet Michael Esper, which was amazing. But definitely go and see it if you have the chance, even if you don’t think it’s your cup of tea. It’s an experience.

A beautiful, incoherent, chaotic, mess of a show.

“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.

Julius Caesar – Donmar Warehouse

I went to see Julius Caesar, part two, of the Shakespeare Trilogy at the Donmar Warehouse, following The Tempest, yesterday.  Again I got tickets through the Young + Free initiative, which provides 25% of their tickets for free to under 25s. Julius Ceasar is about the rise and fall of the title character, and his betrayer, Brutus.

Again this production was set in a female prison, however it was a far less magical, mythical production, than The Tempest, which I think was very effective in the story it was telling. The theatre in the round aided to make a truly visually and audio immersive production. And the whole tone of the production was great Switching, from comedic, to eerie, to poetically tragic. It had a good pace, and the sound and lighting all aided to the shifts in the tone.

The whole cast were brilliant. I was so excited to see them again, as it is the same cast in The Tempest. Their connection to every audience member, I would have to say, made the production for me. Their interaction, their conviction and the true grittiness of their performance was perfect. There were moments that were just so realistic, you forgot that you were watching a performance in a theatre, you thought you were watching inmates perform Shakespeare, and it just made you really uncomfortable. Especially from Harriet Walter, who was usually the cause of this uncomfortableness. Also Jade Anouka, who played Mark Antony, brought a really playful aspect to the play. My favourite scene had to be the funeral. The rhythmic presentation, aided with the lighting and the rest of the cast, was very empowering and riling.

The production was full of different ideas and conventions, which I loved, individually. However, I felt like there were too many, and none of which, that they were really committed to. It mixed and matched too much.  I loved them all at the time, but in looking back at it, they didn’t seem to follow through in the whole production, and it just left me quite confused.

Overall, it was an amazing cast, and the director produced an extremely immersive and tense production, which was very enjoyable to watch.

Finally, I wanted to say, that I was really glad to go to the theatre yesterday, especially with all that had happened in the U.S. I thought Theatre is the perfect way to escape this, but the thing is, is every performance is influenced by outside events. As much as I tried to forget about Donald Trump, I couldn’t help but see his reflection in Julius Caesar, or at least the Caesar that Brutus paints. The rise and fall of his, and Brutus’ power and the eventual fall of Rome to Octavius, felt like a weird dystopia, that felt familiar, and oddly foreshadowing.