Theatre I Enjoyed in May 2017 | The Addams Family Musical UK Tour Review

Theatre I Enjoyed in May 2017 | The Addams Family Musical UK Tour Review

I had my final university exams in May 2017, so I didn’t make it to very much theatre. In fact I went to see one thing in the whole month, which is the least I’ve been to the theatre all year. That said, what I went to see was great, and I’m so glad I went, even though it was less than a week before my finals. I went to see The Addams Family Musical at the New Wimbledon Theatre on the 19th May at 8.30pm, and came out, after a fun evening, thinking that it was a wonderful production of a mediocre musical.

I had a really fun night, and really enjoyed the production, which was colourful and detailed, and the performances which were mostly very strong. The set was striking, and impressive in its variation and slick movements, though it felt on the edge of being a little crowded on the stage when the full company (about 20 actors) were onstage. (This may well be because it is designed for a UK tour, and is going to theatres of varied sizes, and needs to fill stages significantly bigger than the New Wimbledon, I don’t know.) The costume design was definitely a huge, strong aspect of the show’s aesthetic, and it was spot on. Colourful and varied: I loved it.

The performances were all excellent, as far as they could be in fairly two-dimensional characters. I particularly enjoyed Cameron Blakely’s extravagant Gomez Addams, and Carrie Hope Fletcher’s forceful and alluring Wednesday Addams: the performers gave excellent renditions of the most interesting characters in the show. Blakely dominated the production with his charismatic rendition of Gomez and great comic timing, as well as the ability to bring in a little heart-wrench in Happy/Sad, a number he shared with Fletcher, about the complex emotions of watching children growing up. Fletcher’s singing was powerful and her presence was striking, though she, along with several other cast members, sounded a little vocally tired, perhaps due to the decision to have two evening performances in close succession (5pm and 8.30pm), which would exhaust anyone.

Samantha Womack’s Morticia was excellent, her singing was beautiful and her characterisation on-point for what she was given, but, unlike the characters of Gomez and Wednesday, she was less developed, leaving Womack seeming less inspiring than the other two lead characters, not through any fault of her performance.

The strongest supporting performances for me came from Grant McIntyre, as a childish but endearing Pugsley Addams, and Charlotte Page, as Alice Beineke (Wednesday’s boyfriend’s mother), who was endearingly uncertain until she drank the potion intended for Wednesday, and revealed a fantastic, feisty attitude. Les Dennis’ Uncle Fester was endearing and entertaining, though his singing left a little to be desired in the tuning department, and Valda Avik’s Grandma was enjoyable and amusing. Dale Rapley and Oliver Ormson as Mal and Lucas Beineke gave convincing performances of Ohioan Americans interacting with the unusual Addams family with horror and fascination respectively. Dickon Gough’s Lurch deserves special praise for excellent comic timing (slower than I would ever dare, but it worked!) and for some beautiful basso profundo singing in the final number.

The chorus of ancestors were strong singers and engaging dancers, though they occasionally seemed out-of-place, which I think is due to the musical’s writing leaving something to be desired, rather than the chorus themselves.

I did enjoy the musical itself, to some extent: it was funny in lots of places, and endearing in a few, but I don’t think it should make it onto your list of best musicals. It takes familiar characters, ages them a few years, and a familiar plot line (two families with opposing values meet because their children are romantically involved, awkwardness ensues, then everything ends happily ever after), which just feels a little lazy, compared to some of the other, outstanding musicals out there. There are some good numbers (Happy/Sad, Pulled, and Crazier Than You, were my favourites, in that order), but the musical as a whole felt, to me, a little bit too commercial and aimed at pure, meaningless entertainment, rather than discussing anything more serious. (The possible exception is the song Happy/Sad, which may be why it was my favourite.) The performers seem almost too good for the script, even when vocally tired, which is a shame.

That said, I encourage you to go and see it – I had a fun night, and am thrilled I went. You will get lighthearted amusement and fun, an amazing production in terms of design and excellent performances.

That’s all for this week, thank you as always for reading! If you’ve seen The Addams Family UK Tour, I’d love to hear what you thought in the comments! If you’ve seen any of the US versions, it would be fascinating to compare, so please tell me about those as well! Please like the post if you enjoyed it, and share it with your friends and family if you think they’d like it! I’ll be back next Friday with a post about the other thing I did on the 19th of May: a workshop about producing run by the National Theatre and Fuel. There will also be a bonus post in the middle of the week; make sure you follow the blog if you haven’t already so you don’t miss anything!

Emily xxx

The Six Best Productions I’ve Ever Seen

The Six Best Productions I’ve Ever Seen

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past months applying for and being interviewed for various jobs in theatre (either in companies making theatre, or in theatres [the buildings] or even in school theatre departments), and one question that almost invariably comes up, is “What have you seen recently that you really loved?”, or “What kind of theatre really speaks to you?”. Writing monthly blog posts has helped me with not feeling put on the spot with the first question, because I know what I’ve seen recently – I wrote all about it – but I find the second question a little bit more difficult, because I like a really wide variety of plays and productions. There are definitely also ones I don’t like, but it isn’t as simple as “I like political theatre from the 1980s” (I do, often, but I also like entirely different things…) I’ve spent a while thinking about this question, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I really like productions that make me feel strongly or think intently. This can mean anything from something where I came out thinking about something very specific about contemporary politics, to coming out of the theatre unable to stop smiling because something was so feel-good, to having spent a significant amount of time weeping in empathy with characters.

Looking back on theatre that I have seen in the past (almost) 21 years, these are the productions that stand out the most as having made me think or feel very strongly. That doesn’t necessarily make them the best technical successes, or the most polished performances I’ve ever seen, but they’re the productions I look back on months and even years later and think, “that was just incredible”. They’re more heavily weighted towards relatively recent things, because those are what I remember most distinctly, but I have been going to see plays since I was very young, and I’m going to start with one of my first memories of seeing theatre.

I remember going to see Romeo and Juliet in the Botanical Gardens in Sheffield in 2006, when I would have been 9 or 10, not long before the world cup, with the two families being dressed in football [soccer for my North American readers] kit. It was fantastic: I had a great time, and don’t remember having any issues understanding what was going on (possibly because the rivalry between the families was so explicit!) and I’m sure that having found that production so easy to follow helped with studying Shakespeare in school in the following years: I didn’t have the pre-conceptions many of my classmates did that it would be incomprehensible. (And I went on to write a whole dissertation about performances of his work.)

The Phantom of the Opera, June 2008. My parents took my brothers and I to see this as a twelfth birthday present for me. It was the first play I saw in London (I think), and it was incredibly exciting to get to make a trip down to London to go see a show. I remember being incredibly awed by the technical effects on the stage, and terrified when (***spoilers***) the chandelier came crashing down over the audience, before swinging and landing on the stage. My parents had got five tickets in the stalls, in a set of two and a set of three: my father and brothers were a few rows in front of us, and the chandelier came down right above their heads! It was one of my first experiences of theatre as overwhelming and overpowering (incredible sets, powerful music and a trip down to London as a treat would do that!) and it’s stuck with me to this day.

Our Country’s Good, National Theatre, September 2015. I’d studied this play at A-level, and loved it, and was thrilled when a year later it was on at the National Theatre. I went to see it with my family and it was really exciting to get to see this play I’d spent a whole year thinking about, and crafting what I thought was the ideal production of the play (design, direction…) so that, when set three pages of the text in the exam, I could say “This is what would need to be done here, so that the play could work overall”. I knew it backwards, and I had quite a fixed idea of what I would do: I spent a whole year debating interpretations with my teachers and classmates! Seeing it in the flesh, and thinking about where they had done what I would have done, and where they had done different things, and what I thought had worked, and where I thought my ideas were better was an experience I’m unlikely to get again: I won’t ever get to study a play in that much depth, and then see an interpretation of it, and it’s a memory I treasure.

Legally Blonde, ADC Theatre, June 2016. I went to see this a few days after I finished my second year university exams, and it was incredible. I had seen the film (once, and I didn’t remember it very well) and I wanted to see something fun and lighthearted to celebrate the end of my exams. I came out grinning (I tried to stop smiling and I literally couldn’t) and I actually started skipping on a deserted path home, I was put in such a good mood by it. (My boyfriend was slightly concerned I’d gone completely mad, but I was just happy.) I think it was the combination of humour, uplifting music, and slightly tongue-in-cheek, but nonetheless unashamed feminism that really made this one of the most memorable nights I’ve spent at the theatre. (Possibly the high from having finished my exams helped too.)

An Evening With An Immigrant, Soho Theatre, July 2016. I saw this on the first night of my first week with Fuel, and I was blown away. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect when, on the day I arrived, the team said “Oh, by the way, we’re all headed to the opening of this play we’ve worked on, why don’t you come along?”, but, as you do, I took the opportunity and went along. What I got was somewhere between a TED talk and a slam poetry evening, and it is probably my favourite of this list of favourite memories in theatre. It was raw, true, I cried at the story being told, I cried at the way it was told, and I was left with a lot of thoughts to unravel and process about immigration, racism, multiculturalism. I’ve recommended this production to everyone I’ve met since, and whenever I see that it’s on somewhere, I include it in my monthly theatre recommendations. If you get a chance to see it – I quite sincerely cannot recommend it enough.

The Shakespeare Trilogy, November 2016. I saw this for my dissertation on female actors in contemporary performance of Shakespeare, and I loved it. It was an endurance game (three Shakespeare plays in succession) for me, but even more so for the actors, who I remain in utter awe before: the amount of energy required for each one of those performances, sustained over three consecutive ones was incredible, and they were brilliant. The plays aren’t ones you necessarily correlate (Julius Caesar, Henry IV and The Tempest) but they had a lot to say, and the gutsy feminism of the all female casts was inspiring. As was what they showed about imprisonment. All three plays were set in womens’ prisons, and exploring what theatre can do for women (they were workshopped in real prisons with inmates). I went to sing a Christmas service inside HMP Thameside around the same time, and I thought what was said in the Shakespeare Trilogy about the power of theatre, which I had seen in music, was incredibly powerful. It’s something that has stayed with me, and will continue to beyond the dissertation.

These are the performances that have most marked me and that spring to mind when I think of theatre I’ve been changed by over the years: I started with Shakespeare and musical theatre, both of which I still very much enjoy, which opened the door for wider options which let me think and feel, and ideally which are engaged with society and its questions (be that political issues immigration, imprisonment, or wider, more conceptual questions like the concept of loneliness or how human relationships function).

That’s all for this week, thank you as always for reading! Please like the post if you enjoyed it, and I’d love to hear about what kind of theatre you are interested in, and what your most memorable theatre trips have been in the comments! Next week will be a bit different: I’ll be getting quite close to my exams and so have scheduled a quick life update for you all, and then some recommendations for theatre that might just turn out to be one of your most memorable nights are set for the following week! Follow the blog if you haven’t already to make sure you catch those!

Emily xxx

Theatre I Enjoyed in April 2017

Theatre I Enjoyed in April 2017

I didn’t get to all that much theatre in April, but I did see two plays, both of which I really enjoyed!

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, (Harold Pinter Theatre, 6 April)

I went to see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Harold Pinter Theatre on 6 April. I was in the £15 restricted view seats, which, for anyone wondering, are definitely worth it if you want to go, but aren’t sure about spending at least double that, for the next cheapest seats… Yes, you can’t see the entire stage in one go, because of the safety barriers, but you can see everything you need to, and more! If you can afford the more expensive seats, they may be worth it, but I would recommend the cheap seats as definitely worth it: £15 for outstanding West End Theatre is a great deal.

For anyone who doesn’t know the play, the premise is a middle aged couple invite a young couple who have just moved to their town around after a party and as the four characters drink more and more they explore their respective relationship struggles and issues with child-bearing/raising. Imelda Staunton plays Martha, the wife in the older couple, and I read a review before going which said that the play was ‘the Imelda Staunton show’. While I can see where they were coming from: she was brilliant, I disagree: every member of the cast shone (including Staunton, obviously, who was wonderful). The play was moving, particularly at the end, which was heartbreaking (I won’t spoil it for you) and hilarious throughout. I particularly enjoyed the long exchange between George (Conleth Hill) and Nick (Luke Treadaway), in which they discussed George’s troubled relationship with his father-in-law and Nick’s marriage to his wife Honey (Imogen Poots).

A Chorus Line (Yellow Arch Studios, Sheffield)

I also went to see my brother in Easy Street Elite’s A Chorus Line at the Yellow Arch Studios on the 11th April. My biggest takeaway was that I don’t think much of A Chorus Line as a musical. The plot was essentially a group of adults auditioning for the chorus of a Broadway musical, and behaving like sulky teenagers while doing so. PSA: If you do ever audition for a Broadway show, refusing to dance if you get moved from the front row is a good way to get yourself thrown out of the room, and not how you get the job. That said, the company did the show very well, and the musical does have several very catchy songs, and good numbers! The whole cast were very strong: the singing was fantastic all around, and the dancing was great, particularly considering how many people were moving on a very small stage! I particularly enjoyed Harry Foster-Major’s ‘I can do that’. He apparently learned to tap dance just for this show, and hats off to him: he was a better tap dancer on three months rehearsal than I was after several years of lessons. I also loved Emma Nielsen’s ‘Nothing’ (and in fact her ‘What I did for Love’): she was an outstanding singer, with a great sense of comic timing. I had a good evening, and was really impressed by the performances, but it isn’t a show I’ll go see again.

(Basically, if you’re going to see a friend in it, and their company is good, you’ll enjoy it, and there’s no harm in buying the soundtrack, which is quite good, but, for my taste, if you’re going to see “something” in the West End or elsewhere, and you have a choice of production, I’d chose something else.)

That’s all for this week! Thank you as always for reading, please like the post if you enjoyed it! I’d love to hear if you’ve seen any good theatre this month/if there’s anything you’d recommend: please let me know in the comments. I’ll be back next week with my most memorable visits to the theatre and the best theatre I remember seeing; follow the blog if you haven’t already so you don’t miss it!

Emily xxx

Theatre I Enjoyed in March 2017

I’m still a week behind my normal posting schedule, after my week’s holiday in the Lake District, so apologies for that, but everything will be back to normal from next week! I didn’t manage to see very much theatre in March 2017, which is a shame, because there were lots are marvellous things I didn’t make it to, in Cambridge and beyond. I did, however, go see two plays: Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone at the Cambridge Arts Theatre on 15 March, and How To Succeed in Business without Really Trying at the ADC Theatre on 18 March.

Escaped Alone, Caryl Churchill

If you’re a regular reader, or you know me in real life, you’re probably aware that I’m writing a dissertation about Caryl Churchill, and I’d originally booked to see this because I was considering including Escaped Alone in my analysis. By the time I went to see it, that was no longer the case, so I watched it purely for enjoyment. And enjoy it I did, despite it being, in true Churchill style, a bit weird. The couple sat beside me, and the group sat behind me clearly didn’t enjoy the structure (bitty and fractured) and hadn’t quite worked out that “indoor voices” (ie. speaking not shouting) can still be heard in an otherwise silent theatre, and if you do need to decide whether you want to leave a fifty minute show before the end (spoiler: they didn’t) you need to discuss that really quietly so as not to be heard.

Escaped Alone is a play written by Churchill very recently, which was first performed at the Royal Court in 2016, went to New York, and is now touring the UK. The play flicks between scenes of four women sat in a garden discussing their children, grandchildren, and lives (in shallow and deep ways), and monologues about horrors in the world, described in a surreal and dystopic way. The tra

It is only fifty minutes long, but it was followed by a Q&A session with the cast, discussing the possible meanings of the play, the rehearsal process, and their experience with Churchill.

How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying

I saw How to Succeed with mixed expectations… I discovered the musical on Broadway six years ago, with Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role of J. Pierpont Finch (I admit, we went to see it because we’d heard of him, rather than the show) and it was phenomenal. It’s a parody of 1960s business culture, and it’s hilarious. So, in that sense I had high expectations: I’d seen it done just about as well as it could be… But. The reviews for the Cambridge version had been very mixed, with some finding the production not clear enough in its tongue-in-cheek nature, and therefore enormously sexist. I’d also noticed that many members of the cast – including the student playing J. Pierpont Finch – had never been in a large scale musical. Those, in combination, left me a little bit worried…

I didn’t need to worry. The cast were very strong, particularly the men (leads and chorus). Toby Waterworth was fantastic as J. Pierpont Finch: he carried the show wonderfully, and I hope to see more of him on stage! Joe Pieri as Bud Frump was hilarious, as was Stanley Thomas as his uncle JB Bigley. Robert Nicholas was probably the strongest male supporting role (quite an accolade, given the competition) as Twimble/Womper. The women, on the whole, weren’t quite as good as the men, which may have contributed to the reviews which thought the production was sexist: the chorus were good singers, but poorer dancers, and Rachel-Marie Weiss as Rosemary was sweet but less tongue-in-cheek than she could have been. Heather Conder, playing Smitty, was wonderful: witty, and a great singer and dancer.

The set was impressive, as were the costumes, and on the whole the production elements were good. The opening recording of the book went wrong, and there were a couple of slightly late mic balance adjustments, which was a shame (particularly half way through the run), but on the whole it was a fantastic show and I came out of the theatre feeling very happy.

That’s all for this week. Thank you as always for reading: please like the post if you enjoyed it, leave a comment if you saw anything particularly good last month – I’d love to hear about it, and follow the blog if you haven’t already. I’ll be back on Friday next week with a post telling you about my favourite plays by female playwrights!

Emily xxx

 

Review: Sex With Strangers at Hampstead Theatre

Review: Sex With Strangers at Hampstead Theatre

Firstly, I should clarify that I went to see this because Hampstead Theatre provided me with free tickets through their development scheme to increase audiences under 30. They did not ask me to write this review in exchange for the tickets, but it seems more honest to be clear. If you are under 30, I would recommend looking into this scheme: all I did was retweet a competition tweet, and I had a great night in exchange!

I very much enjoyed Sex With Strangers: I had a fun night, and was left with a few things to think about. The premise is two authors, Olivia, a traditional paper-writing author who writes for herself and Ethan bestselling author of Sex With Strangers, a book based in blogging recounting a year of encounters with women, with a huge social media following, who meet at a writing retreat, fall in lust and have a lovely weekend together, while debating the various benefits/issues with their respective writing styles. (First act, succinctly.) In the second act, they have returned home, and the scene is Olivia’s flat, which is the scene for arguments between Olivia and Ethan, as each try to develop their careers. They end up separated, Olivia having benefited from Ethan’s popularity. The plot is a little more complicated than that, and twists and turns, but it wasn’t really the highlight of the production: it is a good play, but not a brilliant one. What made it a great production was the skill with which the actors brought the text off the page.

Theo James and Emilia Fox were outstanding. They were funny, playing the text in ways that one wouldn’t necessarily think of off-bat but the inventiveness was successful: it brought out the very good elements of the text and sold the less successful elements of the writing. Two handers can be a little tiring; it can become stilted to see the same two actors and the same two characters in interaction simply with one another for too long but this absolutely was not the case here: the production was two hours twenty, including interval and it was perfect: not too long, and so exciting throughout, not so short that you were left feeling cheated, simply the right length to watch these two actors master the stage. You wanted more, but knew you’d got the right amount.

The sets were phenomenally detailed and evocative and really added to the atmosphere. The living space of the writing retreat was appropriately kitsch and cosy and Olivia’s living room was perfect. It was also basically exactly what I want my future home to look like (walls lined with well-loved and well filled bookshelves) which helped sell it to me personally, but it was perfect for the character.

One small thing, which I want to say as well is that the programme is amazing. For full disclosure, I was also given a free programme (I think they were £3 or £4), but seriously! It contains the information about the cast and creatives you’d expect, but also contains a detailed interview with the playwright, a couple of essays about digitisation/media and writing (one of the focuses of the play), rehearsal photographs and some information about the theatre. It contains very little advertising, and almost all the advertising (only one exception) is for theatre which the reader/audience member might genuinely be interested in. This shouldn’t need to be a whole paragraph of praise, but really good, interesting programmes seem to be really rare now. If you have the few pounds to spare when you go to the Hampstead Theatre, the programmes might actually be worth the while.

That’s all for this week, thank you as always for reading, and please like the post if you enjoyed it! I’d love to hear your thoughts on more detailed reviews like this one: I usually put all my reviews into a single post at the end of the month, and so they’re shorter and less detailed: do you enjoy the more thorough ones? Is there anything I could do better when I write longer reviews? I’d also love to know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to read about in the weeks ahead!

Emily xxx

Disclaimer: I was given tickets, a programme, playtext and drink by the Hampstead Theatre, which prompted me to write this review, though I was not expected to write it. 

Theatre I Enjoyed In February 2017

Theatre I Enjoyed In February 2017

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!

Emily xxx

Theatre I Enjoyed in January 2017

Theatre I Enjoyed in January 2017

Edited to Add: This uploaded incomplete. Thank you so much to the commenter who pointed that out. Not totally sure why, but the full version is now here!

I’ve had a very busy January 2017: I was at home for the last week of my Christmas vacation for the first week of January, then came back to Cambridge a week early to record a CD with Selwyn College Chapel Choir and Regent Records (of the music of Iain Quinn, coming 2019 – more on that sometime nearer the time). During those two weeks I was also trying to finish off my first dissertation (on contemporary performances of Shakespeare and the use of female actors) and get the ball rolling quickly on my second (on the role of children in the work of Caryl Churchill). The final two weeks of January have been the first two weeks of term in Cambridge (my penultimate term, which is slightly overwhelming: it’s going so fast!). I’ve had my ordinary term commitments (essay writing, dissertations, lectures and seminars), ordinary choir commitments (3 services a week, and an additional rehearsal) and then extra rehearsals for a concert in Kings Chapel of Mahler’s Third Symphony (more on that later). As you will know if you read last week’s post, I’ve also been producing Cigarettes and Chocolate (on next Tuesday and Wednesday at the ADC theatre, you can book here). Oh and working as a Duty Manager at the Corpus Playroom for a couple of evenings as well! (To all my irl friends who read this and who I don’t get in touch with personally often enough – this is why. I’m so sorry.)

All that said, I’ve still tried to make some time to go to the theatre to see plays (well, a play)!

I went to see Annie Get Your Gun at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield before I came back to Cambridge, on the 3rd of January.

I had a fantastic night. I’m not sure what I think of the musical itself; I’m certainly pleased that the Crucible chose to use the modernised version which omits the racial slurs considered acceptable when it was first presented, and I suppose the ending is supposed to suggest that even Frank Butler comes to recognise that it isn’t actually fundamentally reductive of his talents to realise that Annie is still more talented than he, but I still wasn’t certain about some of the aspects of it. (Annie’s desperation to gain Frank’s approval, notably.) That said; the production was phenomenal, and, like I said, I had a great night. The choreography was absolutely outstanding, as was the singing. Anna-Jane Casey (playing Annie) particularly blew me away with her powerful voice and hilarious performance. I also enjoyed Ben Lewis’s performance as Frank, and Lauren Hall and Cleve September as Winnie and Tommy who sang well and danced beautifully. (Watch out for Cleve September in Hamilton in the West End if you’re lucky enough to have tickets!)

The set was very impressive, particularly the train which moved around the back of the stage: the seamless movement in a circle and by the time a carriage had made the whole way around it had changed entirely in content. The lighting and sound were less impressive; there were a couple of mic balancing issues in the opening scenes, despite this being well into the run, and while the lighting design was good, the hats worn by most of the male members of the cast left them with half a face in shadow a lot of the time.

All that said, it was still a great evening and I left feeling very happy. (Cue joke about showbusiness, nothing being like it and my aspirations…)

I’m hoping to see more theatre in February, and I’ll be back next week with my recommendations for theatre in February, and the following week I’ll let you know how Cigarettes and Chocolate went (did you buy tickets yet? If not, you can here!).

Emily xxx