Days Out · Theatre Stuff

Theatre thoughts.

I love going to the theatre. I always have, whilst I’d enjoyed going to see local pantos I think my love affair started when I went to see Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the London Palladium at the age of 8. My parents took me and my brother out of school for a couple of days and took us to London so that me and my mom could go to the theatre and I could see my then idol Jason Donovan in the flesh. I was completely wowed by the whole thing and I’ve been loving the theatre ever since.

It was pointed out to me recently that I’ve been to see some great things at the theatre in recent months and I realised that I haven’t blogged about any of them, so here’s my whistle-stop tour of the good, the bad and the ugly of my theatre trips this summer.

Macbeth – Everyman Theatre, Liverpool.
We booked to see this for the opportunity to see David Morrissey doing some Shakespeare. He did not disappoint, he was commanding and just downright excellent, he sported his beard very well and was very good at emoting the manpain that the role requires. Sadly he was the lone highlight of the show, the rest of the production ranged from being not very good to being dreadful – the three witches in particular were a real disappointment.

Much Ado About Nothing – Wyndham’s Theatre, London.
The casting for this play was announced on the day I moved back to Aberystwyth for the spring semester. The day passed in a flurry of texts, emails and tweets as plans to see it were made, our group ended up being sixteen strong! We all arrived full of anticipation and excitement, but unfortunately left at the end feeling a little underwhelmed. David Tennant as Benedick was fantastic and absolutely stole the show. Catherine Tate as Beatrice however seemed to suffer from some odd directorial decisions which was a real shame. The direction throughout was at times strange, including the addition of a couple of sequences that only acted to confuse the story rather than help it.

The Merchant of Venice – Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon.
If the first two parts of my summer’s theatre attendance failed to live up to expectations then this completely exceeded them. I studied parts of the play for my GCSE English, but couldn’t remember very much about it so it was like seeing something completely new. We’d seen and loved Rupert Goold’s Romeo and Juliet for the RSC last year so had high hopes for what he would do with this. The decision to move it to a more modern Las Vegas setting was excellent and made for a thoroughly entertaining evening complete with Elvis impersonator! We walked out of the theatre at the end with huge grins on our faces and a real desire to watch it again – we’re keeping everything crossed that the RSC will transfer this to New York in the same way that Romeo and Juliet did, and then there’ll be a rapid scrabbling round for a way to fund the trip!

Pygmalion – Garrick Theatre, London.
This trip was a proper girly weekend, complete with mothers. I was really looking forward to seeing this, I’d seen My Fair Lady on stage a couple of times so I was curious to see how this would compare. The production was excellent, both Rupert Everett and Kara Tointon played their parts brilliantly – I was particularly impressed with Kara who I only knew from her Strictly Come Dancing appearance. The costuming was beautiful, at various points our little group all gasped as Kara appeared on stage in yet another wonderful outfit. The section at the end which is just Eliza and Henry talking was a real example of direction at its best. A thoroughly enjoyable evening.

The Syndicate – Minerva Theatre, Chichester.
The final trip this summer was to Chichester to see Sir Ian McKellan as a mob boss. For years I have wanted to see Ian McKellan on the stage, and he was every bit as wonderful as I’d hoped. The play started in a relatively grizzly manner (I know a lot of people who would have been trying to subtly not watch what was going on) but then settled into a slightly odd plot that didn’t quite seem to know what it was trying to be. The cast was split with a few stand out performances and the rest pretty poor, the worst being two actors who played roles in the third act in the style of a comedy double act of the type last seen in working men’s clubs in the 1980s.

One Man, Two Guvnors – NT Live.
I wasn’t entirely sure whether to include this, but then realised that the whole point of the excellent NT Live scheme is that it allows people to watch National Theatre productions who are unable to get there in person. I didn’t know a thing about the play when I sat down to watch it, and I think I’m glad because it meant I had no preconceived ideas about what I was going to see. The play itself is brilliantly funny, and the cast pulled it off perfectly. There wasn’t a weak performance, but especially good were Daniel Rigby and Jemima Rooper. Then of course there was James Corden, star of the show and former History Boy showing once more just how very talented he is. I can not remember a time when I last laughed so hard or long, it was certainly the most fun I’d had in a theatre in a very long time.

Phew, so I think that’s everything. Whilst there have been high points and slightly lower points I really have had a fabulous few months of theatre going. We’ve already got our next couple of trips planned, I can’t wait!

Days Out · Theatre Stuff

Out and About : Frankenstein.

Where?The National Theatre, London.
How much? Tickets range between £12 and £45 for adults, discounts are available.
When?The play runs until 2nd May 2011. It is sold out but returns and day tickets may be available.

Over the last few weeks I have seen Danny Boyle’s version of Frankenstein twice. Once at the National Theatre and once via NT Live at my local cinema. The theatre visit came first, as soon as I got home from it I booked my cinema ticket to see it again.

The current production of Frankenstein has some very attractive features. The first of these is the fact it is the brainchild of Danny Boyle. He was directing for the theatre before he moved into tv and film so it’s a return to his roots. The second appealing factor was that the script was going to be telling the story of the creature, returning far more to Shelley’s original novel. Finally the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller as the two leads, alternating playing the roles of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature each night was intriguing.

A Tale of Two Creatures
When I saw Frankenstein at the National Theatre Benedict Cumberbatch took the role of Victor and Johnny Lee Miller played the Creature. The NT Live broadcast that I watched had them playing the opposite roles, so Cumberbatch was the Creature and Miller played Victor.

I enjoyed both performances thoroughly, though I would have to say that I preferred the first time that I saw it. I had expected this to work better, both actors were playing the roles that were the more obvious choice for themselves. I did find it interesting that the NT Live broadcast was live in the evening on the same day that the recording had been made for the transmission on the 24th March when the actors played the opposite role. I wonder whether it was hard to switch roles between the two performances – on the days when they normally do a matinee and evening the actors play the same role for both performances.

A Light and Sound Show.
Two of the most effective parts of the play for me were the use of light and sound. There was a lighting feature that hung above the stage with hundreds of light bulbs of all shapes and sizes hanging from it. These were used to punctuate the performance, flashes of light moving across the board in a range of colours and intensities to match the tone of what was happening down below on the stage. There were times when I found myself wondering how a simple looking piece of electronics could have such an effect.

Underworld provided the fantastic musical soundtrack to the play. From the eerie tones that accompany the build up to the beginning of the play to the joyful accompaniment of the Creature’s exploration of the world the soundtrack was stunning throughout. I have found myself humming parts of it at the most random of times, I’m thrilled it has now been released to buy.

Oh no they didn’t!
The only real criticism I could give to the production comes with the script for the minor characters. The scenes when the Creature learns from DeLacey were wonderful but they were interspersed with scenes featuring DeLacey’s son and daughter-in-law that sounded like something from my local pantomime. Elizabeth also suffered from the scripting, she had some weak lines to deliver and was clearly capable of more. This was a real shame as the plotting of the entire play was excellent and the dialogue given to the leads was far far better.

I thoroughly enjoyed this take on Frankenstein and I hope the National Theatre will be releasing the NT Live versions to dvd so I can enjoy it for years to come.