TheatreCraft 2016

As a part-time blogger and full-time Digital Coordinator at the Globe, theatre is very much a part of my world personally and professionally. I am aware that I have been very fortunate in the progression of my career: initially joining as a volunteer steward, I worked hard and made my way up in the company. To be working in this industry is incredible and it’s something I never thought I could do. Quite literally.

When I was at school, a career in theatre and the arts was regarded in one of two ways. If you wanted to be an actor, you might have been encouraged to pursue it. Though were warned about the cost of drama school, and told to take some ‘back up’ A-Levels. If you wanted to pursue a career in the theatre in a non-performing role, I didn’t know that you could professionally.

TheatreCraft is one project helping to ensure that this generation is well informed of the options available to them within this industry.

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Source: TheatreCraft

TheatreCraft is a free event in London, dedicated to young people pursuing a non-performance career in theatre. Taking place on 14th November 2016, it provides 16-25 year old’s with invaluable insights into the world of theatre ‘beyond the stage’.

From directing to lighting, marketing to stage management, you will learn everything about the world off-stage which contributes to the world on stage. The day will consist of workshops led by industry professionals, as well as one-on-one advice sessions. You will also have the opportunity to network with peers and theatre companies, which will be exhibiting at the Waldorf Hilton Hotel throughout the day.

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Source: TheatreCraft

Previous workshop leaders include Jessica Swale, Olivier award winning writer of Nell Gwynn. An advocate of getting young people involved with theatre, Swale has praised the importance of this project:

TheatreCraft is one of the few events that allows young people to fully explore all the possibilities of an exciting career in theatre making. It is events like TheatreCraft that inspire new voices to join the industry, bringing with them fresh ideas and breaking boundaries, ensuring that we have a diverse, representative and creative new intake every year. And every year it goes from strength to strength. Long may it continue.

The TheatreCraft 2016 Ambassador this year will be Adam Kenwright, Executive Vice President of ATG. He too spoke of the importance of this project and his journey in the industry:

As someone who first started in the business as a teenager and who has personally worked in the box office, back stage, front of house, publicity, casting, marketing and in production, I am excited and proud to have been chosen to be this year’s Ambassador for TheatreCraft. Helping young people discover the behind the scenes professions that make our great industry thrive is vital to the future of theatre. 

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Source: TheatreCraft

TheatreCraft is made possible and organised by partners from across the creative and cultural industries: the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust, the Royal Opera House, the Society of London Theatre, Mousetrap Theatre Projects and Creative and Cultural Skills.

For more information and to book your free place, visit TheatreCraft.

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Spoiler Free Tips

This weekend, I was lucky enough to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. As promised, I won’t be giving any spoilers, don’t worry! It was obviously incredible, the staging in particular is magic. Quite literally. Press Night is the end of July, so I will be doing a review at that point. But until then: #KeepTheSecrets

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Source: Pottermore

Instead, I thought I would give a few tips about the experience, such as time, stage door and what to do between shows.

Continue reading

‘Too Darn Hot’: Summer Playlist

If you’re in the UK at the moment, you’ll have noticed that’s it a little hot.

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Source: Gifs Lair

You might have noticed by the scores of sunburnt Brits walking round. You might have noticed from the sandals and socks combo rearing its ugly head. Or you might have noticed that a giant hole to hell has opened up below Forest Hill.

Basically, it’s very hot. Almost too hot!

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Source: Make a Gif

Too hot to even think of something to write really! So today’s second blog is a playlist of musical songs to listen to when it’s very hot…about summer and feeling very hot!

1) ‘In the Heights’, In the Heights

And oh my god, it’s gotten too darn hot, like my man Cole Porter said.

 

2) ‘Too Darn Hot’, Kiss Me Kate

It’s too darn hot, it’s too darn hot, it’s too darn HOT!

 

3) ‘Cool’,*  West Side Story

Got a rocket in your pocket,
Keep coolly cool, boy!

*Admittedly not about being hot…

 

4) ‘Piragua’, In The Heights

It’s hotter than the islands are tonight
And Mister Softee trying to shut me down
But I keep scraping by the fading light
Hey pana, this is my town

Piragua, piragua
Keep scraping by, piragua

5) ‘In Summer’, Frozen

Winter’s a good time to stay in and cuddle,
But put me in summer and I’ll be a…happy snowman!

Review: Into the Woods @ The Menier ****

Once upon a time,
In a far-off kingdom known as Southwark, 
There lay a small theatre
Quite close to Waterloo…

Into the Woods tells stories familiar to audiences: Cinderella, Prince Charming, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack just to name a few. Using these familiar faces, it explores new stories and new ways of telling stories in Stephen Sondheim’s revolutionary musical narrative. American theatre company Fiasco stages the story in a similar way: familiar stories told through innovative staging. You can’t help but follow as you all set off together into the woods…

Before the show, members of the cast come round talking to you. This continues as the play starts, with a Prologue of sorts which explains a slight discrepancy. The principal actress is pregnant, yet a crucial plot point is that her character cannot become pregnant after her husband’s family line is cursed by the Witch. It’s a very honest, open style of storytelling, asking the audience to use their imagination, making them complicit. Complicity is at the heart of this production: in other productions, a wood may actually be built for the production, though in the case of Regent’s Park open air theatre, this was not needed!

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Patrick Mulryan as Jack, Ben Steinfeld as the Baker, Claire Karpen as Cinderella, Emily Young as Red Riding Hood in Into the Woods. Photo: Tristram Kenton.

On entering the Menier, you’re hit with a very distinct smell: wood. I thought, for a second, they might have taken the theme a little seriously, building a wood in the middle of a theatre. I wouldn’t put it past the Menier! It’s quite the opposite as it turns out. A wood there is and made out of wood, but comprised entirely of musical instruments. Piano keys frame the stage, harps a ward. It’s a whimsical but also literal interpretation of the ‘woods’. And that’s what is brilliant about this production: everything invites the audience to use their imagination. It’s old storytelling and aware that it is, harking back to a child like sense. Shadow puppets, horses made of sticks, it’s all familiar. A nostalgic style and one which works.

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The cast of Into the Woods. Photo: Tristram Kenton.

It’s an ensemble piece through and through. Ben Steinfeld and Jessie Austrian lead the cast as the Baker and his Wife. Steinfeld has a beautiful tone to his voice, a certain wryness in his delivery but also heart. Austrian brings a real sense of drive to the Wife, one lacking in other productions. Whether it be in her pursuit of her the items or a prince, I believed her passion (even when questionably directed!) Other stand out ones include the best double act I’ve seen off West End: Patrick Mulryan and Andy Grotelueschen as Jack and cow, which evoked audible awwww’s from the audience. Emily Young’s Rapunzel is beautiful, as is her sharp witted Red Riding Hood. Finally, Noah Brady rounds out the honourable mentions doubling as Prince Charming and the Wolf. A very energetic portrayal of the wolf, his Charming oozed charm and is sensitive, clever, well-mannered, considerate, everything that maidens could wish for.

Verdict: a vivid set and familiar style of storytelling bring the world to life before your very eyes.

Friday Favourites: All Go, Go, Go

Apologies for the lack of posts the last two days. I’ve had a couple of late nights over the last few days and have a few more ahead (read on Macduff). In lieu, I’ll be posting through the weekend so we’re back on track by Monday!

PokemonGo

It’s been the news on everyone’s lips. Well, everyone who has access to a phone with decent signal, battery life and 3G package. I have none of these and even I’m talking about it!

Pokemon Go was released in the UK yesterday. It’s an augmented reality game, where you can catch pokemon. As in you can see the pokemon on your screen and then catch it! Essentially, it’s a game where you go outside and catch Pokemon. I HAVE A SQUIRTLE!

 

Big Fat Quiz…

The reason why I was late last night was that I went to see The Big Fat Quiz of Everything with Daisy.

Hilarious, brilliant, I can’t say more about the content than that probably for legal reasons or whatever. Seriously, they were more on it about mobiles than in any theatre ive seen.
Just have a massive security guy pointing angrily at phones, sorted!

It was a long recording and by that I mean long. 5 hours. We were promised doughnuts and red bull and got one of the above to get us through. Thanks to the stewards/runners for helping out. Less thanks to the compère.

Shakespeare Late

Late at the Library Spymasters Shakespeare Cabaret
Source: British Library

Tonight, I’m out late again. The British Library is doing an evening showing of their Shakespeare 400 exhibition: Shakespeare in 10 Acts.

It’s an evening of Shakespeare nerdiness. Early/modern mashups, Chris Riddell drawing Shakespeare caricatures, actors from the Complete Deaths doing pop up performances. I. Cannot. Wait.

I Did My Waiting…

12 YEARS OF IT!

Okay, so maybe not that long. But months of it. It does seem like ages since I booked tickets. Mainly because the actual process of booking took approximately two hours! And the big day is finally here!

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Source: Giphy

(I feel like that gif sums up my emotions a little too accurately…)

In case you hadn’t guess from those half-arsed puns, I’m seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child this week! This isn’t actually a full blown post, more a heads up. Obviously, I’m going to ‘keep the secrets’ after seeing it. I’ve already had to cover my ears when I overheard some colleagues discuss it, I may or not have uttered crucio under my breath! But I won’t be doing a review. I’ll be tweeting my thoughts on the day, vague as possible obviously. Basically, expect lots of Jamie Parker love! If you’d like, I’ll do a review after Press Night which will be ‘hidden’. Let me know if any of you guys would like that.

Way back when I bought the tickets, I set out the best way to spend the months, weeks and days leading up to the big day. None of which I followed! Instead, this week I’m dedicating one evening to watching A Very Potter Musical and I’ll be reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on my commute.

Review: The Threepenny Opera @ The National ***

There are two forms of theatre with which I am generally less than enamoured: dance and opera. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, such as Jekyll and Hyde at the Old Vic. But there are others which justify my dislike: Macbeth at the Young Vic. As the title suggests, The Three Penny  is an opera. Fortunately for the National, it is an exception to the rule, though mainly for the fact that it’s mocking it’s very form.

The opening prologue sets the scene: the dark streets of London Town, where crime, vice and lechery are given free rein. Enter stage left Macheath, the man at the centre of such sin. A renowned murderer, we are told of his ‘accomplishments’ through a familiar song: ‘Mack the Knife’. His London is a bleak one and Vicki Mortimer’s vision is stark. We see the bones of London: frames of buildings spin round, maze like. Pieces of scenery are wheeled on and off with ‘Flag for scene 17’ scrawled on them, mocking the form itself. Although can we stop with the set falling please. National, Old Vic and Barbican, I’m looking at you. Peachum’s darlings aka beggars are dehumanised, bags covering their heads. The other characters’ outfits mock the art form, with stylised make up for Peachum and horns adorning almost everyone in the penultimate scene. One notable effect lacking is the stage blood, which we have become so accustomed to. Guts and gore are replaced with red coloured wool, pulled out of costumes. We’ll come back its ‘effectiveness’ later…

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The cast of The Threepenny Opera. Photo by: Richard Hubert Smith. Source: The National Theatre

Originally written by Brecht, the opera has been translated for the version by Simon Stephens. And by translated, I mean both into English and into modern English. Expect a profanity laden narrative, which has some brilliant updates: ‘twat’, ‘shite’, ‘prick’ among others. These obviously get a few giggles from the audience, but lose their shock effect after the first couple of utterances. Of the songs, only a few really stand out (although, again, it’s an opera). Polly’s first song about the guns for one, and the song which closes the first half.

Rory Kinnear is excellent as Macheath: rough, raspy and relentless in his energy. He is able to command both an air of sheer malice and calmness which is terrifying. My only qualm is the characterisation. At the end, the audience is given a choice: condemn or show mercy. But to be honest, we didn’t see enough to gain a real impression of this character’s violence. Certainly, Kinnear’s mentality asserts this, but less in his physicality and action. Aside from the opening scene, we only see two other moments of violence. And none of these are shocking. The replacing of blood with wool removed any shock or disgust at his deeds. In fact it elicited laughter at points, removing the jeopardy from key scenes. At the end of the play, therefore, I didn’t not feel invested enough in his character to care of his fate.

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Rosalie Craig as Polly, and Rory Kinnear as Macheath. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith. Source: The National Theatre

Other commendable performances include Rosalie Craig as Polly, who is a revelation. The beautiful quality of her voice is entrancing, particularly at points where Kinnear wanders into Phil Mitchell territory, intentionally so I imagine. Her composure and eloquence in the scenes where we may assume her character is losing is brilliant. Nick Holder’s Mr Peachum is actually more scary than Kinnear’s Macheath. Likewise, we only see one scene of violence, though it gets a surprisingly visceral reaction from the audience. Denied of any physical violence with Macheath, when Peachum tortures a character for information as to his whereabouts, we gasp. With a grin like the Cheshire Cat, he smiles and smiles and plays the villain in spades. Finally, Peter De Jersey’s Tiger Brown is a bag of energy, darting around the stage and crashing through walls, while George Ikediashi is an ethereal narrator. Flying in on a moon, he takes the audience on the journey of the play, a deus ex machine character with charm and cheek.

Verdict: cracking fun at the expense of its own form, this opera is so tongue in cheek that it should almost take things a bit more seriously.

Review: Beetles From the West @ The Hope ****

There are some subjects which are difficult to stage. One of these is cancer. It’s so sensitive a topic, so uniquely individual to each audience member that to give one account may seem to occlude others. Falling Pennies approaches this issue from a different perspective, focusing not on the person directly by it but those around them. Directed by Phil Croft and written by James Hartnell, Beetles from the West does not deal in defining this difficult time, saying it’s the same for everyone. It deals with cancer in abstracts, articulating that which we so often cannot.

Kitty Hinchcliffe’s set design perfectly captures the sense of a hospital waiting room, clinical and confining. A small section of the theatre is marked out with tape, signifying the four walls; plastic seats, a table with some games and a clock the only set pieces. It all feels slightly claustrophobic, a sentiment felt by the characters as Boyd paces back and forth in this tiny space. Even the layout of the audience’s seats feels reminiscent of a waiting room; had they been the same make as those on stage, this would have been even more effective.

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The clock serves as a reminder that the show takes place in real time for the most part. In the 70 minutes of this show, we see the process of diagnosis of cancer and one of its aftermaths. It shows just how quickly everything can change. We wait with Boyd for news of his father’s condition, in this little room of hope. Fitting then it’s at the Hope Theatre. Cutaway scenes reveal insights into the characters and their memories: Henry who became a doctor to help those like himself when he way younger, Jenny who reflects on her own father’s mental health, and Boyd trying to cling on to happy memories with his father. Highly stylized language is symptomatic of these scenes, which include some beautiful metaphors such as ‘Everyone has a sea’. This contrasts against the every day dialogue in the main scenes, dominated with questions: What’s going to happen? Why is this happening to him? How do I go on? This is where Hartnell’s script works brilliantly: he doesn’t try to answer these questions literally, but abstractly. He shows that it’s easier to deal with things when they’re abstract: cancer is a beetle, depression a cloud. Hartnell is aware that this is in itself an issue, questioning the common comparison of cancer being a game, a fight you have to beat.

Hartnell’s script for the main part is brilliant, writing from various view points easily. However, it feels like there’s so much going on at points: cancer, depression, suicide, domestic abuse, the NHS, junior doctor contract disputes. In a show which lasts just over an hour, there’s a lot being explored. I would question the necessity of the doctor sub plot. While an interesting angle, the first monologue does not endear him to the audience, with rather strained metaphors of white knights and halos. In addition, I do not believe that one would try to compare their situation to a patient’s. Bedside manner is one thing, this is another.

It’s no easy feat, acting the utter destruction of one person’s life in one hour. Artistic Director of Falling Pennies Ryan Penny does an incredible job; his emotional truth in the role and dedication to this is so bold. From jubilation in his eyes, to sheer desolation, Penny takes the audience with him on this journey and is utterly captivating in the role. Shian Denovan plays girlfriend Jenny, bringing moments of surprising levity to a quite dark show. When we see her past rear its head with her, there’s a real anger and rawness which shines. Chris Machari rounds out the cast as Henry, a junior doctor. While I question the necessity of the character, Machari brings him to life in the cutaways.

Verdict: a personal and abstract insight into a less played subject. A much needed play for the London stage.

Beetles from the West is playing until 23rd July 2016 at the Hope Theatre. For more information and to buy tickets, visit the Hope Theatre website.

Thursday Favourites: Sondheim, Sandown & Sad4Sad

Bla bla bla, usual spiel of it being Thursday but doing Friday Favourites anyway!

Anyway, the reason I’m doing my favourite things today is because I have another favourite thing tomorrow. I’m off to see Beetles from the West tomorrow, which I am very excited about. I talked to James the writer and Phil the director of this new play, and I believe it’s a brave subject to be bringing to the stage.

On to other favourite moments from this week…


Ham4Ham (One last time…)

It’s a sad time for the Ham clan. Original Broadway cast members are leaving this week including Leslie Odom Jr., Phillipa Soo and Hamilton himself, Lin Manuel Miranda. Lin did his final Ham4Ham, reading a letter from Hamilton. Ham4Ham will stay alive though after him, as Rory O Malley is taking the reigns (get it?)

It’s a sad time but with it comes good news. Three new additions to the Hamilton family: Brandon Victor Dixon as Burr, Lexi Lawson as Eliza, and Javier Muñoz will take on the role of Hamilton full time, having alternated the role with Lin.

 

Into The Woods

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Source: Visit London

On Monday I got to see a brilliant version of this musical at the Menier Chocolate Factory. I’ve only been to the theatre a handful of times, but I’ve always been impressed with what’s on show and at how the space can be transformed.

The full review is coming next week after Press Night. In the mean time, I’ll give a little tease: the sweetest introduction, olde timey vibe and the best damn cow this side of the woods! Very…amoosing!

 

Sandown Races (sing this song, doo dah, doo, dah)

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Last weekend, I got to see one of my best friends and her family. And even better, at the races!

We go like once a year, bet on some horses, inevitably lose and basically say, ‘Same time next year!’ It’s lovely, good fun, and brings us all together. I only got two winners, but better than my friend who got less…well, none!

Plus, the British weather was as hilariously unpredictable as always. When we left it was sunny, on the drive their it rained, and by the time we got there, blue skies!

What I’m Watching: July Edition

HOW IS IT ALREADY JULY?!

I feel like I say this every month. But, oh my god. Where has 2016 gone?!

July is full of theatre for me. It’s only the 6th and I’ve already seen one show, Into the Woods. By the end of this week, I’ll have seen at least two more! Here’s what I’m seeing this month in theatre:

The Threepenny Opera, National Theatre

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Source: The National Theatre

A new translation of Brecht’s original text, this production has performed well with the critics so far. Starring Rory Kinnear, it’s the second production I’ve seen him in this year. Here’s hoping it’s slightly less…well, whatever The Trial was!

Beetles from the West, The Hope Theatre

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Source: The Hope Theatre

I’m off to my favourite little theatre of big ideas, the Hope in Highbury and Islington. The plot centres around the issue of cancer, though deals with it from the perspective of those indirectly affected by it: family members and friends of the person dealing with it. Examining male health and the stigma so often attached, it should be a thought provoking evening. To find out more and hear from the creative team, read my interviews with Director Phil Croft and Writer James Hartnell.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Palace Theatre

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Source: Pottermore

Words cannot express just how excited I am about seeing this show. I can’t even write a preview right now, because I literally know nothing about it! But I’m sure it will be…

Magical…

Unreachable, The Royal Court

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Source: The Royal Court

Can I remember what this play is about? No.

It has Matt Smith in it, I can tell you that much.

Will I be able to tell you what it’s about afterwards? Probably not, as I’m going to a midnight matinee performance of Macbeth the day before. But I like the Royal Court and have not been there enough, so it’s always nice to go back.