Monday, 4 April 2011

No Man's Land

So, the title of the play was "Greenland". I am always intrigued by new writing, despite never having been to the Royal Court. The last time I went on a theatre ticket spending spree, I spent rather a large amount of time (but a surprisingly small amount of money) on the National Theatre's wesbite. Because of the wonderful thing which is known to the cash strapped young people of London and the surrounding area as Entry Pass, I decided that spending £5 on a ticket to a new play about one of my least favourite topics, climate change, was a relatively small gamble when one considers the wider picture. With hindsight, I would have saved the money and just brought a nice book instead. Incidentally, I did manage to spend about thirty pounds on books on my way to the theatre, but that's another story. Anyway, I was more than a little disapointed with the play. It was a telling sign that it was the last day of the run, and yet there were still tickets available. Having somehow managed to be oblivious to the reviews, I had no idea that it had been panned until I overhead the couple behing me mention this fact, moments before the play began. However, I was not deterred. As soon as the play started, I recognised the directing style to be akin to Rupert Goold's high tech, flashy and sharp staging of ENRON. For ENRON, this worked so well, but here I found it to be almost trying too hard. It didn't help that the narrative was constantly switching between three different stories, so that everything felt like a constant scene change and, above all, little emotional investment in the characters was allowed for. I found myself constantly trying to look at my watch (luckily, I was in the second row from the front) to see how much longer I had to sit there for. The play ran for two hours without an interval, but I think it would have been so much better had there been a chance to get up and strecth my legs halfway through. The cast were good, but the script allowed them little chance to shine. There were no real stand out performances, and I felt like they were lost on the seemingly vast stage. Overall, I am at a loss. This review sounds harsh, but it's what I really thought. As I once said to someone, after I had insulted two people known to both of us, "people should tell the truth more often. I would say everything that I have just said to their faces". In the case of this play, the former is true, but where the latter is concerned I do not think my opinion would matter to anyone! Greenland: *

Saturday, 26 March 2011

I speak six languages...

....not yet. Ich spreche noch nicht sechs Sprache, bien que je veuille couramment parler English (well, I can obviously do that already), Deutsch (hoffentlich werde ich fast fliesend sein, bevor ich an die Uni gehe), le francais (oh la la, mon accent est terrible mais je sais que j'améliorerai énormement quand j'aurai plus de temps pendant les vacances), and then: Russian, Italian and Dutch? These are all languages which I have flirted with in the past, and failed miserably at, due to lack of time, resources and space in my head. Still, I will speak six languages one day. As the song, which is from the musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee", claims "it's as easy as making jell-o". Actually, I agree with that. I'm confident that I now know what works for me and that I have transferable skills which I could use to learn the basics of any language, if I put my mind to it. Languages are just amazing, and I am actually finding it difficult to put into words what makes them so special. I will work on it, and produce a proper post soon in which I discuss this.

Anyway, as you probably guessed, today was amomentuous, long-anticipated occasion: my first ever visit to the Donmar Warehouse. Despite my usual, easy, direct line train journey taking two hours longer than it normally would and having to change trains twice, I made it to the theatre with forty minutes to spare. This was very lucky, because I was able to sign up for the chance to become a guest-speller in the show.

I was actually chosen! After a quick photo, I made my way to my seat in the circle. I could hardly believe my luck when, five minutes before the show began, I was offered the chance to move to a seat in the centre of the stalls! Of course I accepted the offer.

As the show begun, I felt so excited. The venue was as I imagined it: small, yet so spacious at the same time. I loved the way that the whole auditorium had been decorated to look like a classic, high school gym, and how the cast mingled with the audience before the show.

The news of my Donmar Warehouse debut became apparent after the opening number. I had almost expected my name to be read out. I was so happy, for I got to spend the first half of the show on stage, with the cast and in the thick of all the action. Whilst on stage, I could see every movement and emotion, and hear every single sound that the cast made. As an aspiring director, this really was an invaluable experience, and I was stunned by the amount of effort the cast were putting in.

My participation was amusing, to say the least. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to stand up and interact with the actors, as well as taking part in an actual, choreographed number, albeit only by jumping in the middle of a circle. The first word I had to spell was "intercourse". As usual, I was wearing a scarf, hence why I was introduced as having received my first hickey the day before, which I unfortunately found hilarious. When I had to ask for a definition and the word to be used in a sentence, I could hardly suppress my giggles. Luckily, I did manage to spell the word correctly. I was rather disapointed when my spell on the stage ended by my misspelling of "hao", which is apparently a Vietnamese currency. Still, I did receive a complimentary carton of orange juice, which I am still yet to drink.

As I have previously mentioned, the cast were amazing. They worked so well as an ensemble, yet all stood out as individuals, and kept the energy up throughout. I really adored Katherine Kingsley's performance, for I could compare it to her portrayal of Rose in "Aspects of Love" and was able to see how versatile she is as a performer. Despite limited lines, Ako Mitchell was inspiring in his roles and his comedic talents were clearly displayed. For me personally, the most poignant performance was Maria Lawson as Marcy Park. I identified heavily with her big solo song, hence why I have given my post the same title, and found everything about her portrayal believable and convincing.

The set design was extended to the whole auditorium, and I really found this helped with conveying the sense of the piece. I am not sure that I would really call it a musical, though, it seemed to be more of a revue. It was the first time I had seen any of Jamie Lloyd's work, and I was not disapointed - each character was clearly developed as far as the script allowed, and the staging was engaging. I also really loved the choreography, paticularly the bits which involved me.

So, why am I only going to give it three stars? Despite having an amazing experience on stage, and the cast, direction and choreography being outstanding, I just don't feel like I really invested anything in most of the characters. I think the show was too short, and that everything could have been developed a bit further to allow for more of a plot. Everything seemed to be a bit too stereotypical, which would have worked better if we had learnt more about the characters.

Highly enjoyable, though, and recommended for sheer comedic/entertainment value! ***

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Make of it what you will

Finally, the first theatre trip of 2011 happened. Yesterday. Nothing wrong with that, except for two and a half months is a very lengthy time to have not taken in a single play. Also, this happened to be my busiest weekend of the year so far.

Anyway, the more observant of you would have gleaned from the title that the play in question is "Twelfth Night", and the production Peter Hall's 80th birthday celebration at the National Theatre.

As a matter of fact, it was my very first visit to the Cottesloe. I was already unimpressed by the persistent drizzle, so you can imagine my irritation when I had just taken off my coat and put away my umbrella, only to find that I would indeed have to leave the foyer to walk halfway round the building to get to the venue. Still, I at least managed to spot the location of the stage door.

On the subject of stage doors, I have never really been a stage door hanger, as one of my friends affectionately calls them. I could never see the attraction of standing in the freezing cold amongst millions of other screaming fans for the only reward to be a brief squiggle from a performer onto a soggy programme. Now, though, my opinion has shifted ever so slightly. Subsequent to receiving a wonderful personalised letter from Jenna Russell, I am intending to meet her by the stage door very soon, but only to thank her for going to all the trouble. She probably won't even remember it, and may not even have time to talk, but I just really want to say thank you in person.

Now I have got that off my chest, I will write about the play. "Twelfth Night" was the first Shakespeare that I ever encountered, and remains one of my favourites today. In comparison to the complexity of many of his tragedies, "Twelfth Night" is a light, comedic read which offers even the most reluctant student the chance to recognise Shakespeare's role in shaping the language of today.

With this in mind, I was a little disapointed. The production was good, but it was not amazing. I had never seen any of Peter Hall's work before, and was really looking forward to it, for he is of course one of the best known and decorated directors currently working in British Theatre. However, I actually nearly fell asleep at one point. And this was not to do with the soup I had had for lunch, or the fact that I was seated on the second level and had to lean right forwards onto the bar to see the stage properly.

The delivery was fantastic. The strength of the piece was really brought out by the actors, but at the same time I felt it lacked the sense of unrealisticness (if that is even a word) which I always considered it to have.

I can clearly remember three of the cast members: Rebecca Hall as Viola, Finty Williams as Maria and Simon Paisley Day as Malvolio. The rest of the cast seemed to fade into the background, even Simon Callow, whom I had been really looking forward to seeing. These three seemed to carry the play, and each time one of them was on the stage everything seemed to come alive.

So, a fairly negative first theatre of 2011. It was enjoyable, yes, but just not what I had hoped for.