Big actions change the course of history. But as those of us with an interest in theatre know, so too can words. And though theatre is probably seen as the lesser cousin to the big speech in terms of political debate, there is no doubt an inherant theatricality in speechifying. The People (i.e. the audience) watch or listen to The Politician (i.e. the performer) and within that time they are either won or lost. Recently, a tutor of mine suggested that all speeches in Shakespeare could essentially be boiled down to one person persuading someone else. And it’s not much different in all the other places we look.
In BigMouth, SKaGeN theatre from Belgium have created something which speaks to the small scale of the theatre auditorium and the large scale of historical world events. Continue reading →
There’s something fitting about the fact that Will Adamsdale’s The Victorian in the Wall, a play which considers, amongst other things, property, middle class-values and the past, is the last play Dominic Cooke scheduled to be produced at the Royal Court, programmed jointly with incoming artistic director Vicky Featherstone. It acts like a Clybourne Park in reverse, a Pain and the Itch gone wrong, or a Jerusalem without the anti-hero. And here’s the thing: it’s all the better for it.
For unlike those structured, verbose pieces, Adamsdale’s play (presented in collaboration with Fuel) is imbued with a real sense of play Continue reading →
In the opening moments of David Farr’s production of Hamlet, currently playing at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Jonathan Slinger’s Dane takes up position centre stage, ostensibly in the middle of a fencing hall. In his hands he holds a small wooden sword, and as he hears a noise offstage, the first line of the play – ordinarily Barnado’s – is spoken by him: “Who’s there?”
“It’s an old space that relates very strongly to my father,” Slinger tells me as we sit down for a chat before the show, juggling personal pronouns so that he often speaks for his character, “so it’s a very emotional space for me”. Continue reading →
Around a third of the way through Caroline Horton’s Mess, I realised I’d seen the show during a Triggered scratch night at Warwick Arts Centre last year. The form, tone and set-up had felt familiar since the show started, but I just put that down to both seeing Horton’s You’re Not Like the Other Girl Chrissytwo years back and the style just being, well, familiar. Then, however, it clicked, as I figured out that I had seen it before, albeit in a more basic form. Instantly, I remembered loving it back in early 2012. Which perhaps goes some way to explaining why I couldn’tbring myself to love it this time.
Similarly, I’d heard a lot of talk about Mess at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Continue reading →
I see theatre which actually teaches me something less frequently than I’d like. Sue MacLaine’s Still Life, however, managed to do so this weekend, taking me through two personal revelations.
Revelation No. 1: I Can’t Draw
Having entered Warwick Arts Centre’s Mead Gallery and positioned the drawing board, paper and pencils I’d been given, a feeling of dread snuck in. I remembered those horrible afternoons at school when, hour after hour, I failed to use the simple tools of a pencil and a pad to render anything remotely life-like. But a small part of me believed that, with the passage of time, I had become a better artist without knowing it. Then, as MacLaine (previously sat in a robe, smiling at us as we entered) bared all and took her first pose, my hopes were dashed. Attempting to create something vaguely artistic, I ended up drawing what looks like a bad Picasso parody (apologies for the quality of the photo). Continue reading →
It’s easy to suggest that Fraulein Julie should be called Kristin. Katie Mitchell and Leo Warner’s production, which places a film set on stage, focusses around the secondary character of Strindberg’s original, as the cameras follow her around watching said cook partake in and overhear the events of the play. But it’s wrong to suggest a change in title; this is still Miss Julie’s story and the main events still happen to her. Though we are watching Kristin’s reactions, it is in response to Julie’s narrative, meaning that the ‘objective’ eye of the original play is shifted. In doing so, then, Mitchell and Warner open up the play whilst examining it in great detail, creating along the way a mesmerising, haunting piece of theatre.
Originally seen at the Shaubühne in Berlin in 2010, Alex Eales’ set here spans the width of the Barbican stage, Continue reading →
God I love theatre. About halfway through today’s performance of Children of the Sun, the show had to be stopped due to an audience member being taken ill. Now obviously, that in itself isn’t a good thing and I wish him a speedy recovery, but the instance added a certain frisson to the rest of the performance. Until that point, it felt a little bit like the actors were going through the motions, and to be perfectly honest I wasn’t really paying attention. As soon as the stage manager entered, however, a charge became apparent, and after a short five minute break the actors returned, this time with a punch. We were back on track.
Something about seeing the actors forced to break character means we consider more intently the artistry behind their performance, Continue reading →
They come in many shapes and sizes, but as far as I can tell all of them are one or more of the following: smelly, lumbering, yappy, excitable, dirty, cheeky or needy. Give me a cat any day of the week.*
For an hour earlier, however, I fell in love with a basset hound, a certain Major Tom. Lolloping around the stage during Victoria Melody’s solo show, he becomes more than just a dog. He’s one of us, and serves as a symbol for all the stupid things to which we as a species subject ourselves. Especially beauty pageants. Continue reading →
“If you have been entirely satisfied by something obviously mediocre, may it not be that you were searching for something less than mediocre, and you found that which was just a little better than you expected?” - Edward Gordon Craig
In the past week or so, I’ve managed to catch three of the “Big Openings” of the last month; Othello at the National (still in previews when I saw it), The Low Road at the Royal Court and Peter and Alice at the Noel Coward. They’re all perfectly decent pieces of theatre in their own right and each manage to hold the audience’s attention whilst saying something about their subject matter, but ultimately they each failed to have any kind of lasting impact on me. I’ll admit first and foremost that I’m probably not the target audience for any of these pieces. Continue reading →
Last year, when I saw Fuel Theatre’s Ring, I complained that it felt like a case of form over content, and that Glen Neath’s text did not quite match up to the brilliance of David Rosenberg’s concept. Though I’d still broadly stand by that, Sleepwalk Collective’s AMUSEMENTS has cast some light on why perhaps it didn’t work, and it may now be useful to reconfigure my thoughts on the matter. Both pieces, you see, ask audiences to place earphones over their heads so that they may play with questions of experience and utilise all the tools of an immersive sound design, which is used successfully by both SC and Fuel. I think my problem, however, lies in the fact that by putting lots of people in a room and aurally shutting them off to the world around them, what both companies do is create an individualised experience which shuns – to an extent – the theatrical context in which it takes place. Continue reading →