The End of Another Production :(

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All good things must come to their end. The Shakespeare Revue was no different. This has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my theatrical career so far. It’s not been without its hard work, but it has certainly been worth it.

Here are a few photos (taken by Avril Jones)  of some of the action:

A punk rock version of the Fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream

Me asking Hamlet via song, "Why are you such a Moody Dane?"

I'm being seduced by Cleopatra during our opera number - hard work I know!

Doing a revue has been a great learning experience, singing, acting and dancing all rolled into one. Acting as a character and then reverting back to “me” for the next scene/number has been a different and welcome challenge.

Most importantly it’s gone down well with our audiences, some seemed a bit apprehensive due to Shakespeare being in the title, but this production I feel actually made the Bard accessible in ways that surprised those that came. It was a privilege to make people laugh each evening.

I was surprised to hear that this was the first time a Revue had been put on at The Miller Centre Theatre, but due to this one’s success, I hope another is put on in a future season.  I’d be keen to be a part of it too.

Thanks to our hard-working backstage team, and our director Barbara, Musical Director David, and to our Choreographer Tonia. Thanks also to those that came and saw it!

As for what I’m next doing at The Miller Centre Theatre??? I’ll keep you posted.

London International Mime Festival 2012 – Lineup Announced

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Claudio Stellato

Exciting news, the lineup to the 2012 London International Mime Festival has just been published (go here for full listing) . As I’ve previously mentioned I love the LIMF, this year was the first year in ages I couldn’t make any of the events – booo!! So I’ll definitely be rectifying that in 2012.

Top of my list to see are Claudio Stellato in L’Autre. The Gandini Juggling performing Smashed. The Swiss Baccala Clowns performing Pss Pss.

I love the freshness and new ideas I see at the LIMF and it’s always a pleasure to see theatre that uses techniques other than just language to communicate.

One of the Baccala Clowns tries on a new hat for size

The Awesome Gandini Jugglers

Rewriting the Nation, British Theatre Today by Alex Sierz – Review

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On my recent holiday, one of the books (I’ve not got a Kindle or iPad, old school I know) I took was the above. Alex Sierz book In Yer Face Theatre, is the definitive book looking at British theatre in the nineties. I was hoping his latest book would fill a similar need to look back and comment on the “noughties “, which has been a varied and interesting decade for British theatre.

He starts out with an informative introduction, and a chapter on the context of modern British theatre, which is very helpful. Then he leads us into his personal definitions of “New Writing”. It’s his book and so it’s really helpful that he so clearly sets out his understandings and definitions. Personally I’m not sure I’d agree with what I feel is his narrow definition of new writing. For example he decides that plays writing about history are not “new writing”. I also totally disagree with his views on Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, there WERE (and perhaps still are!) schools like that. My own grammar school being a point in case. I had a lecture with Alex Sierz at a college study weekend a while ago and remember chatting to him there regarding new writing, I’ll certainly have some more to discuss with him the next time.

Even if you don’t agree with his definition of new writing, I commend him for stating it clearly and can understand his reasons. It also helps to keep the book focused rather than getting too unwieldly.

Part two covers various themes in British theatre over the last 10 years; Globalisation, Market Forces, Class divides, Relationships, Sexuality and an illuminating chapter on plays that look at our world from alternative realities. This part is superb, with references to an amazing gamut of plays, Alex Sierz draws out themes, observations and comments and gives a brilliant “birds eye view” of what British Theatre has been doing and saying over the last ten years.

My only gripe is his incessant praise and sycophantic comments on Martin Crimp, Mark Ravenhill and Philip Ridley. On reading yet another sentence about how brilliant they are, I wanted to scream “Ok, I get it, you like them!”. However I really don’t think he offers any grounding as to why they are so “good”. admittedly I’m biased as I don’t think their work is very good (although I agree with Alex Sierz on Caryl Churchill – my own views on her work changing in the last 12 months, and Sarah Kane). Unfortunately I feel a book like this will only continue to propagate the idea that this trinity of Crimp/Ravenhill/Ridley are the greatest British playwrights. It’s Alex Sierz book and he’s entitled to his views obviously, but I felt too often the book read as a tract promoting them to the expense of other British playwrights.

I really loved the conclusion where he again skillfully gives us an overview of what British theatre has been saying and I was struck how he also points out what it HAS NOT been saying. I found this very refreshing, as he points out, there may well have been right-wing playwrights who’ve written plays, but as the ethos of the major producing theatres is liberal/left-wing, perhaps the British theatre world is self censoring itself? I too agree that it seems odd that certain themes or views on them appear to be absent from British theatre during the last 10 years, I find it hard to think of the 20,000 or so new scripts the theatres that literary departments receive each year, none(or very few) have dealt with, the house-price boom, the ethics of choosing schools, global warming (although 2011 seems to have changed that with Greenland at the NT and The Heretic at Royal Court). As Alex Sierz says;

“Who spoke up for ordinary middle-class couples doing ordinary middle-class things?” 

 He goes on to add;  “The irony is that, in the final analysis, those theatres that were so proud of being cutting edge were often offering something very like escapism: gritty plays about poor people on council estates could be as unchallenging as a feelgood musical.” 

He’s not afraid to praise all that has been good in the last ten years, but likewise to point an informed finger at where there have been shortcomings or blind spots.

If you are a student of theatre or a practitioner, I’d say this is essential reading, likewise if you have an interest in theatre, this will certainly throw light on current trends in British theatre. As a reference work it’ll be invaluable and it also brought a large number of plays to my attention that I’ve noted down and will be working my way through their scripts to see what I think of them. I’ll certainly re-read this, he writes in a very accessible style with some laugh out loud descriptions. Whilst I don’t agree with everything, I love the fact that Alex Sierz gets me thinking “why do I disagree/agree/feel this way”. The other key point is Alex Sierz has seen these plays, he’s been involved in British theatre over the last ten years. It is invaluable book and well worth reading and pondering over.

I was fortunate to read this book in gorgeous sunshine on the banks of The Rhone, if only all the books I read could be completed in this way!

Salmonella, rehearsals, prancing and dancing.

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Greetings blog readers! Yes it’s been the longest break I’ve ever had from Theatre Thoughts, I trust you’ve missed me ??

As my previous post states, I’ve been in wonderful Avignon having a splendid time, and then on returning I visited Watford and was given Salmonella food poisoning – YUK!!! (the food poisoning and Watford) Now, getting food poisoning is bad at anytime, but in the week prior to your show opening, this is positively pants.

Come one, come all...

Today was our Tech rehearsal, and it went with only a few hitches, which was encouraging, although those of us in the cast all know where we made errors and need to sort those out ready for the Dress Rehearsal tomorrow.

This production is really hard work, lots of costumes changes, singing, sketches and worst of all DANCING – YIKES. My dance moves have certainly only ever been reserved for weddings, now I’m centre stage for one number! One reason I took this role was because I knew it would push me outside my comfort zone, at present its level of discomfort is akin to my shoes, socks and orifices being stuffed full of itching powder. THANKFULLY due to a very patient choreographer and helpful cast members I’m getting there.

Despite the pressure really being on, I’m pleased that the cast are still keeping a sense of fun and helping each other. Tomorrow night will be a real test, but I have a feeling we’ll pull it off (just), ready for the run to commence. Tickets are still available,  should the thought of me in tights and dancing be so compelling you wish to view it with your own eyes! (no DVD will be released – 🙂 )