I managed to go see a lot more theatre in February than I had in January, which is great! Some of it was better than other bits, but I quite like going to theatre that I don’t enjoy (if only because it’s important to be able to see good things in art that I don’t like) and I’m pleased I saw every one of these!
I started the month well: I saw both performances of Cigarettes and Chocolate on 1 and 2 February. It’s a great play; funny, dark and interesting in its treatment of the relationship between speech and interaction, and how friendships function. I very much enjoyed both performances, and was particularly struck by the very different responses from the audiences on the two nights; the first audience laughed at the explicitly humorous moments, and were quietly uncomfortable during the darker moments, while the second audience were quietly amused by the jokes but laughed at the black humour which had left the first group uncomfortable. Part of that, I’m sure is that people are influenced by those around them, so if a few people laughed at jokes the first night, the rest of the audience followed suit, and vice versa the second night. Nonetheless, it was exciting to see the different possibilities the same performance can have on various groups of people, and the different things you get out of a performance depending on the audience there with you.
Then on 8 February I saw London Road at the ADC. I thought the production here had some good aspects: the set was very impressive and the cast were good performers, but I really disliked the musical itself. For anyone who doesn’t know it, it is the text taken from interviews with inhabitants of London Rd, where the accused and condemned perpetrator of the Ipswich murders (2006) lived for the 10 weeks preceding the murders. The text is taken verbatim, and not edited, so hesitations and repetitions are kept in, which was an interesting idea, but in my opinion it didn’t work. Each song took a line or two from the interviews and repeated it a couple of dozen times, and the interest of keeping the hesitations and repetitions got lost, for me, very quickly, after I heard them several times. Particularly as all the songs had this structure. The content was quite interesting; while I disapproved of the opinions expressed about sex workers (who were the victims of the crimes), they were the actual opinions of real people, and it is valuable to know what others think of certain topics, even if I disagree with them. (That said, I could have read the interviews myself, of course.) I didn’t like the musical’s structure (with slightly unclear flashbacks and cuts from one scene to another, and an entirely unnecessary final scene) or the structure of the songs, and despite being only just over two hours long, including an interval, it felt about 40 minutes too long, but I am pleased I went, because it was an interesting premise, and I was pleased to be able to hear the interviews.
I went to see Twelfth Night at the National Theatre on 18 February for my dissertation on the use of female actors in contemporary performance of Shakespeare: the big advertising push for the production was Tamsin Greig playing Malvolia, and there were a couple more female actors in originally-male roles: Doon Mackichan played Feste, and Imogen Doel played Fabia (all with changed pronouns). It was still in previews (the press night was on Wednesday just gone, as you read this) so a couple of bits of set didn’t quite work, and a couple of lines were slightly fluffed, but it had the energy of that not-quite-worked-in state, which was exciting. It is a great production, which does some exciting things with its ‘gender-bending’ and with its comedy in general. The music is great, and it’s a fun performance that doesn’t loose any of the darker aspects of the play. I don’t want to write too much about it here, partly because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who manages to go see it (and you should: look for tickets here) and partly because I will be writing about it in my dissertation and don’t want to end up accused of plagiarising my own writing (that does happen). I will post my full dissertation on this blog after I have graduated, and you can read all my thoughts on this and other cross-cast productions then.
I’m also going to be seeing Sex With Strangers at Hampstead Theatre on the 24th (tonight, for those of you reading it on the day it goes up) but it won’t start until after this is published so I can’t tell you about it now. I’m considering exchanging my ‘first week of the month’ and ‘last week of the month’ posts, so that recommendations come out before the month starts and reviews are in the following month, and will be doing that from next month, but you’ll have to wait for my next reviews post to hear what I thought of it. Sorry!
That’s all for this week, thank you as always for reading! If you enjoyed the post, please like it to let me know, and leave me a comment if you saw any particularly good theatre this month, or if you have any recommendations for the months ahead! Please follow the blog so you’re kept updated: I’ll be back next week with recommendations for March 2017!