Five Fave Featres

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A few critics/bloggers have been writing about their favourite theatres and so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and list mine. I’ll limit myself to 5 though.

This is an extremely subjective list, based not just on the building but the memories of productions I’ve seen in them too.

In at number one without a shadow of a doubt is The Royal Opera House Covent Garden. My first visit there was last year. It is such a magnificent building that has all the grandeur and impressiveness you expect.

Impressive outside

Resplendent inside too

It just oozes atmosphere and spectacle. I love the way the lights are beamed out of the central rose in the ceiling which closes up when the production is not on. I’ve seen several amazing productions here, most memorable were Manon and La Traviataboth last year. The Royal Opera House Orchestra are the best in the world in my opinion and so any visit to hear them play is worth it. I recommend everyone goes the ROH at least once, it’s a whole experience. I love it.

2) The National Theatre

I know it was described as looking like a nuclear power station by Prince Charles. What goes on inside this venue though is what counts.

The beauty lies underneath

I first visited this theatre back when I was in junior school, on a school trip to see Sylvester McCoy as the title role in The Pied Piper. Since then I’ve been back many times, seeing Wind in the Willows in the 90’s, I saw Every Good Boy Deserves Favour a few years ago and that re-ignited my regular attendance there. Other recent memorable visits include, London Road  and The Cherry Orchard.

One of the best things about The National Theatre is its food and drink options, I especially love the Terrace Bar. It also houses my favourite bookshop of all time. If you have an interest in theatre make the effort to visit their bookshop, I can often be found perusing its shelves.

3) The Miller Centre Theatre – Caterham

Know this place like the back of my hand.

Again not the prettiest from the outside but inside it’s a gem of a theatre. For an amateur theatre it is kitted out better than some professional theatres. I know I’m biased as I’m part of the production committee. This theatre is special to me. I’ve learnt much by being involved in its running and was there just this morning picking up some scripts for our 2013/14 season. I’ve met some wonderful people here, many who I count as close and special friends. I’ve also witnessed some extremely funny things happen here, both onstage and backstage – but best to keep those to myself 🙂

4) Theatre Royal Bath

There are many reasons to visit Bath, but the Theatre Royal is one reason I repeatedly go back there.

This theatre and its studio theatre The Ustinov and children’s theatre The Egg I went to regularly when I lived in the area. It puts on a varied and diverse range of theatre. I owe a large amount to this theatre as I developed my passion and appreciation of theatre seeing productions here. I especially liked being able to see plays preview here before going to the West End at half the West End ticket price! Hedda Gabler was the last production I saw in the main house. I must book a trip down to Bath soon!

5) The Abbey Theatre – Dublin

I was fortunate enough to visit Dublin last year and this theatre was a highlight of my time there seeing Translations. A vibrant, modern theatre that was buzzing the night I visited. Again I look forward to when I can next see something there.

Great City, Great Theatre

So that’s my top five, plenty almost made it into it, and perhaps if I do the list in a few years time, they’ll make their way into the top five. For now though that’s it.

Belong by Bola Agbaje – Royal Court Theatre – Review

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The Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre is a laboratory of theatre, it has its fair share of failed experiments BUT it can also work its alchemy and produce some really special and important golden theatrical pieces. Belong is one such golden nugget.

Bola Agbaje (whose play Three Blind Mice I saw last year) has written a powerful and resonant play. It follows the path of Kayode whose political aspirations come to a halt in the UK and on a trip home to Nigeria for a break, realises that perhaps his political calling is there.

His wife Rita, has her own views on this and what it means to be British and/or Nigerian as do his sister, mother and adopted brother. What follows is a tense, humorous and insightful journey into what it means for anyone of us to belong to any country, race or people.

However at no point does Bola Agbaje condescend to her audience or shirk away from uncomfortable portrayals of characters views and traits. The night I was there, a large proportion of Nigerians were in the audience, and they were audibly saying “people are just like that”, “that’s so true”. Despite the play featuring Nigerian references that I certainly didn’t get, at no point did I feel like an outsider, rather it made me think about my own identity.

What Bola Agbaje understands though is that a play should not be a soapbox, this is a piece of drama. It’s fast paced and had me guessing what would happen next. This is an entertaining play as well as one that gives you much food for thought, that is a RARE thing. She is an excellent dramatic writer. This play is full of colourful characters, tense emotions, well written and paced dialogue, and she realises that bad language is a dramatic device, it is never gratuitous or over the top but used to emphasise dramatic moments, and in one case close a scene with a HUGE laugh.

Thankfully her script is served by a cast who bring light, darkness and shade to their characters, each one is excellent, I especially liked Noma Dumezweni’s portrayal of her character Rita. Her speech on where she “belongs” is one of the most salient parts of the play.

I was really impressed by the simplicity of the set which seamlessly took us from London to a variety of locations in Nigeria, very clever and this helped keep the play’s pace moving. Well done to Ben Stone’s excellent design.

The play is sold out for its run at the Royal Court, which left me saddened as I think this play should be given as much opportunity to be seen as possible, so I was glad to see it will be on as part of the Royal Court’s Theatre Local run from 31st May to 23rd June. I suggest you get tickets for it there before it sells out again. At only £10 a ticket it is a BARGAIN to see top acting and a top play. I’m going to try and see it again I enjoyed it that much. It’s a brilliant play that has much to say to us all.

STARS : * * * * *