After the Dance – It’s Over

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Well another production is over – I’ve had the (very) small part of Lawrence in The Miller Centre Theatre Company’s production of the Rattigan masterpiece After the Dance.

I’m a HUGE Rattigan fan, so it was great to finally be in one of his plays. After the Dance is one of my favourite plays of all time as well. The more I watched it and observed the audience’s reactions to it, the more I learned about what a master of playwriting Rattigan was.

Small lines and pieces of stagecraft that on page looked quite inconsequential had major influences on the audience and piece. He really knew how to craft drama like few others.  For me it is an emotional play and there is specific moment that “gets me every time” – when Joan bursts into tears as she realises her marriage is over. It always brings a tear to my eye and lump to my throat.

Rattigan - no other writer's works speak to me like his do.

Rattigan – no other writer’s works speak to me like his do.

It’s always sad to come to the end of a production (I dubbed it “Post Production Depression”  previously) new friends have been made, much hilarity ensured over the course of the run and there was an air of sadness as we parted ways. I’m sure our paths will cross again. I’ve not got long to wallow in melancholy, as I’ve a read through and meeting regarding a production I’ll be producing in 2014 tomorrow, alas it’s not a Rattigan play however my time to direct/produce one of his plays will come!

 

 

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Rose Bruford Graduation 2013

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The graduation day finally came!

The graduation day finally came!

After 8 years of studying in my “spare time” the day actually came. I graduated with my BA in Theatre Studies from Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, yesterday!! To say I’m chuffed is an understatement.

It has been the most thrilling, exhausting, challenging, frustrating and fun 8 years of my life. I had no idea the journey I’d be on when I started back then. It’ll be a cliché I know but embarking on this course really was THE BEST decision I’ve ever made.

Graduation cupcakes - yum!

Graduation cupcakes – yum!

I’d never have started this blog if I’d not been on the course (and I’m blown away this blog has had over 100,000 readers since I started it). It really has impacted every area of my life. So looking back what were my most memorable moments and parts that stand out?

Firstly it’ll be the people I’ve met on the course, the tutors, staff and fellow students. I’ve got some amazing friends from this course and have had great banter with them, The tutors have stretched me and it’s been a good experience to disagree with some of them (especially on Stanislavski, Peter Brook, The Method), they’ve also helped me to hone my own views on theatre.

Myself and Kevin, we disagree on lots of things theatrically, but we always enjoy debating our differences!

Myself and Kevin, we disagree on lots of things theatrically, but we always enjoy debating our differences!

Top of the Class goes to our Scottish student Calum.

Top of the Class goes to our Scottish student Calum.

Programme Director Jayne Richards and Mary Lynch the Administration Manger a HUGE thank you to them. I really couldn't have done it without them.

Programme Director Jayne Richards and Mary Lynch the Administration Manger, a HUGE thank you to them. I really couldn’t have done it without them.

The course encouraged me to go and do all sorts of things such as, a trip to Dublin to see Brian Friel’s Translations  (and falling in love with that play and city). Getting up on stage and acting myself, becoming a theatre producer and spending a placement with Cameron Mackintosh Ltd. They’re the experiences that come immediately to mind.

There are 3 specific areas I’ll always be thankful to the course for:

  • My Theatre of the Absurd module literally changed my life – it’s not hyperbole, it’s true. The plays and philosophy I read for that module, just “clicked” with me. I found a philosophical outlook on life that made sense of this crazy universe to me. Devouring the works of Sartre, Ionesco, Beckett and especially Albert Camus has been life changing. A huge thanks to Dr Harry Derbyshire who taught this module deserves a special mention he was an amazing tutor, teaching my first and penultimate modules. Thanks Harry!
  • Encouraging my critical skills. I never imagined I’d become a theatre critic when I started the course. Eight years later here I am, critiquing away. It’s also led me to be invited to officially critique productions and be asked along by others to act as a dramaturg giving input and advice on numerous productions. Thanks to tutor David Chadderton for his Theatre Criticism module and helping me to think in a much more focused way about my theatre critic vocation.
  • Opening my eyes to such a huge variety of playwrights. It is their work that has been what has kept me going on these 8 years. Now I’ll be honest I’ve read a lot of tosh(that’s an academic term!)  also over the last 8 years on this course,  However these plays are special to me:

The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan – I remember reading this for a module and sobbing tears at the end of reading it. I dried my eyes and read it again immediately. My love and admiration for all things Rattigan is due to this course.

Oleanna by David Mamet – I read this very early on in the course and the confusing emotions and feelings it aroused suddenly made me realise the power that theatre has. Mamet’s wider writings on theatre have also been inspirational to me.

Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall – This caught me totally by surprise,  a tight, thought-provoking and dramatic piece. Seeing someone address mental health in such a clever way, blew me away.

Translations by Brian Friel – I owe my love of Irish playwriting to this play (and the Irish Playwriting module). As I said earlier, I took a trip to Dublin to see a revival of this piece as I was so keen to see it rather than just read it. That’s currently the furthest I’ve travelled   just to see a play. A testament to the power of it.

  • The work of director Augusto Boal also radically changed my outlook on life/theatre. Specifically for me, it has led to my active support of Cardboard Citizens. This has been an enriching experience for me and I’m blown away by the help and support they give those who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness.

So I’m sad to be at the end. It really has been a hell of a ride, but I’m grateful for it in so many ways.

President of Rose Bruford College Sir Richard Eyre quoted Sir Tom Stoppard in his address to us, it is a fitting end to this chapter in my life.

 “Knowledge is good. It does not have to look good or even sound good or even do good. It is good just by being knowledge. And the only thing that makes it knowledge is that it is true. You can’t have too much of it and there is no little too little to be worth having.

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The Winslow Boy – The Old Vic – Review

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twb

The Winslow Boy is to my mind one of the greatest “well made plays”. Written with a craftmanship that is lacking in so much modern writing. The “Rattigan revival” continues unabated I’m pleased to say with this outstanding production.

Lindsay Posner’s tight direction gives this story of injustice and battling against the establishment pace. He also allows the humour to shine through in places that were new to me. I assure you this is no dreary and dull period play. It had me laughing out loud and tugged my heartstrings throughout.

It was wonderful to see and hear an audience that didn’t know the play reacting to its twists and turns and the emotional journey the Winslow boy and his family embark upon. I was also pleased to see such a wide age range  present (literally 9 – 90). All being captivated by Rattigan’s masterful story telling.

If you’ve never seen a Rattigan play, this would make an excellent introduction to his outstanding writing.

Charlie Rowe as the eponymous boy gives a compelling and touching performance as does Henry Goodman his supportive father. They are finely supported by the rest of the cast.

Peter Sullivan as Sir Robert Morton

For me though I really think it’s worth going to see, just to witness Peter Sullivan  and his splendid portrayal of Sir Robert Morton it is tremendous.

With so many productions on in London and in a time where we’re all needing to think about what we spend our hard-earned pounds on. A superbly written play, that the director brings to life in new ways and acted by a stellar cast gets my vote for great value for money and a great theatrical experience.

STARS : ★ ★ ★ ★

The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan / South Downs by David Hare – Harold Pinter Theatre London – Review

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The first play I ever read of Terence Rattigan’s was The Browning Version. Several years ago it cropped up in a college module. I remember it vividly, I cried reading it, and immediately re-read it. Following that I’ve become a huge aficionado of Terence Rattigan and his work.

I’ve said it to people personally that I think The Browning Version is one of the 20th Centuries greatest plays. So it is no surprise that I went to see it at the Harold Pinter Theatre. This was the first time I’ve actually seen it live though, would it have the same impact on me that reading it did?

Nicholas Farrell plays Crocker-Harris the schoolmaster the play is about. It is one of the foremost displays of acting I’ve seen. He plays the prickly character perfectly and leads us perfectly to the moment when the emotion and humanity of him come out with the presentation by Taplow of a gift. Yes, it made me cry, I was moved so much.

A moving performance from Nicholas Farrell as Crocker-Harris

Anna Chancellor plays his wife with flare and drew audible disapproval from the audience when she treats her husband abysmally. The woman behind me uttering loudly “what a cow!”

Liam Morton as pupil Taplow was smashing playing the cheeky schoolboy , with just the right amount of tenderness when he presented the gift to Crocker-Harris. Mark Umbers as the adulterous Frank Hunter turned the tables wonderfully on Mrs Crocker-Harris and the scene where Crocker-Harris and he discuss Mrs Crocker-Harris’s infidelity was especially affecting.

The cast and director Angus Jackson, present here a definitive Browning Version. It took me on the intense emotional journey Rattigan has written and will be a theatrical memory I treasure.

As this is a one-act play it was originally paired with another of Rattigan’s plays Harlequinade . Which is a satirical farce about a company putting on Romeo and Juliet and was written for John Gielgud. Trouble is it is VERY dated and never really worked other than the first time when John Gielgud was in it. So there’s been this situation where the great Browning Version  has been paired with the sub standard Harlequinade. For the Rattigan centenary last year the Rattigan Estate asked David Hare to pen a new companion play for The Browning VersionSouth Downs is his response to the request.

For my most recent college assignment I focused on the plays of David Hare and so have read all his work, with the exception of South Downs as I wanted to see it before reading it (and its subject matter was not applicable to the assignment so I could afford to do that). I really admire Hare’s playwrighting and thoughts on theatre. Some of his plays are triumphs others less so, similar to Rattigan in many ways.

An astounding performance from Alex Lawther as Blakemore

South Downs is a fitting companion play. In this play we see the education system from the eyes of a pupil, Blakemore. Alex Lawther plays misfit pupil Blakemore, this was the performance of the night and may well be my performance of the year, he is remarkable. It brought memories flooding back of what school was like for me and how cruel we were to those that didn’t fit in or had interests/ideas different to “the herd” of the rest of us. Blakemore  is a cleverly written character because I felt I could identify with him as well as his other school friends. I’m sure we all had moments during our schooling when we felt different and uncomfortable with who we were.

Is education a tool teaching the masses to simply fit in and conform? Or can it be used to inspire and transform individuals and society? Is something I was left to ponder on during the interval, and many around could be heard to be discussing the merits of various systems of schooling. It’s an emotional and compelling piece of drama.

So we now have The Browning Version paired with its perfect companion play South Downs. I am overjoyed that this has occurred. Brilliant writing with superb performances makes for a memorable theatrical experience.

STARS : * * * * *

Masterclass with Thea Sharrock

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Thea with Olivier

With her Olivier award for Best Revival – After the Dance

I had the priviledge to spend time in the company of Thea Sharrock the other week as she gave a masterclass in directing Terence Rattigan.

The event organised by The Terence Rattigan Society and hosted by The Central School of Speech and Drama(or as a friend who’s an ex student talking to me refered to it “School of Screech and Trauma”)

Thea’s a gifted director who has directed numerous successes, most notably in this context Rattigan’s After The Dance at the National Theatre and Cause Celebre at the Old Vic.

We saw a few Central students act out scenes from The Deep Blue Sea and The Browning Version. Thea then directed them and worked on the scenes with them. I hope to direct(After the Dance as it happens) in the near future and watching her interacting and observing the actors was truly a masterclass in how to direct.

It was great to see a director so passionate about Rattigan’s work, and to see young students being inspired by his meticulous and vibrant writing.

I came away with many scribbled jottings in my notebook, which will be put into use I’m sure. A key point she made was that Rattigan’s plays need to be performed at pace. If they are presented in a slow style they become turgid period pieces, rather than the dynamic drama they are.

A pleasure to spend a couple of hours “drinking in” the advice and wisdom on offer.

All quiet on the blogging front – Why so??

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Hi,

What is happening in my theatre world recently a few have asked? Several things:

My college assignment for my Topics in Contemporary Theatre module is due in May and so the research for that has begun. I’m focusing on the theme of capitalism in the works of David Hare and Mark Ravenhill. I’m enjoying the chance to delve into David Hare’s work, and I’m actually beginning to appreciate Mark Ravenhill’s work a bit more than in the past, not sure I’d go so far as to say I “enjoy” it yet though. Although his play Some Explicit Polaroids, I really enjoyed when I read it last week.

I’ve also decided to “bite the bullet”, and I’ve signed up for Script Frenzy.

The challenge is to write an 100 page script starting on 1st April and finishing on 30th April. I’ve jotted down many ideas for plays over the years and even started a couple, but I’ve never got to the end. I’m using this challenge as a way of actually getting one DONE. I’m sure it’ll need editing and revising afterwards, but at least I’ll be a whole lot further on than I am at present.

I’m using March as a prep month and I’m currently reading three books;

Which I’m halfway through and I’ve found it REALLY helpful.

Is my second tome and I’m finding it equally as insightful and useful.

My third book is;

This book goes through each of Rattigan’s plays and as an admirer of his work, I’m finding this a valuable lesson. If I can write a play half as well crafted as Rattigan’s I’ll be happy.

My assignment is also helping as Hare and Ravenhill both have interesting thoughts on playwrighting. As are the last 5 years of studying theatre. On top of all the plays I’ve seen in my life too.

It’s a pretty daunting place to be, but I know at the end of April, I’ll be pleased to finally have a play written.

I’ve a few theatre trips planned in April and so will write my reviews here, but I’ll be quiet on my musings during April. I’ll certainly blog about what I think of the Script Frenzy experience in May.

Wish me luck 🙂

An Illuminating and Entertaining Car Journey with Terence Rattigan – BBC ArchiveVoices – Review

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Christmas came early for me this week as I noticed the above was now released, so I treated myself to it, as it wasn’t on my Xmas list.

I had a 90 min journey to drive this week and so used that as a chance to listen to it. I got through it all on my journey there, and I enjoyed it so much I listened to it all again on the way home.

It’s great to hear Rattigan himself speak, and he expounds on some of his plays, views on theatre and playwriting. I absolutely loved it and gained some real insights into his work, into the man himself and into the art of playwriting and theatre. In this his centenary year Rattigan has (quite rightly) resumed his standing as on of the 20th centuries greatest playwrights. His views may not always be in keeping with a great many of the current trends taught in theatre schools. Personally I think he talks a HUGE amount of sense and would recommend this collection of interviews to students of theatre aswell as fans of Rattigan as you’ll certainly learn something.

I’m currently writing a paper on the critic Kenneth Tynan, looking partly at his reviews of Rattigans plays and it’s great to hear Rattigan himself respond to Tynans criticism. It’s quite saddening to hear Rattigan talk about the effect the critics had on him and why he stopped writing for theatre for 10 years due to it.

In one of the interviews he talks at length about his creation of “Aunt Edna” and how that was misunderstood (which he takes the full blame for, he had a deadline to meet and rushed the preface where he wrote about her). A fascinating part of this is his emphatic insistence that the playwriter treats the audience as a single entity. He talks affectionately of John Osbourne and their friendship and speaks extremely highly of Pinter and his work.

As has been proved this year, many of his plays are classics and still have the ability to entertain, and speak to a 21st century audiences. I find it sad that he’s dismissed by many of the current academics in the theatre world. He was certainly given a very brief mention in my post-war British playwriting module, and that was the first mention of him in my course. I wish I’d come across his work sooner. His craftmanship is something I really admire and have learnt from.

This is a fascinating collection of interviews spanning a really important part of British Theatre history. I’m even more of an admirer of Rattigan having heard the man himself. Get yourself a copy, settle down in a comfy chair with a Gin and Tonic and enjoy being in the company of one of the greatest playwrights.

STARS : * * * * *

 I also recommend this brilliant documentary that was on earlier this year which Benedict Cumberbatch hosts all about Rattigan.