THRIFTY THEATRE

I always think of a trip to the theatre as quite a fancy occasion. Since being young it was a treat, something I dressed up for. A visit to see something at the theatre can be rather expensive, and as a drama student it can appear really difficult to see all the amazing new shows you want, while living on a budget.

During my first year as a drama student, I worked out the best ways to see as much theatre as I could. Living in Canterbury, there is absolutely no excuse not to totally immerse yourself in all the brilliant productions surrounding you. You can get to the Gulbenkian theatre and cinema, without even leaving campus, providing plenty of entertainment right on your doorstep.

  1. Discovery tickets at The Marlowe Theatre
    If you are aged 16-25 you can go and see shows at Canterbury’s local theatre for as little as £5. Last year I saw plenty of these, including the RSC’s Henry V Part 1, starring Antony Sher… definitely not one to miss out on!
  2. Entry Pass tickets at the National Theatre
    With London being so close, you can’t escape this opportunity for upcoming theatre. Again, these tickets are available to us students for just a fiver! That’s less than most of the cocktails at Cuban… and it will certainly entertain you for longer. Keep your eyes peeled for these by registering online, and make sure you snap them up as soon as tickets are released, there are a limited number of Entry Pass tickets, so make sure they’re yours.
    Side-note: If you’re worried about transport to London being expensive, you don’t have to splash out on the train, you can get a coach from the main bus station for just £7.
  3. RSC Key
    Sadly not a local one, but still not to be missed out on. Register for an RSC Key card and you will receive opportunities to see shows at the globe for only £5. If you arrive at the Cambridge Theatre before 10am, they reserve 16 £5 tickets for Matilda, just for RSC Key holders. And if that wasn’t enough to persuade you to register for free, you’ll also receive discount  for all the RSC restaurants, shops, and many other attractions, and even youth hostels if you fancy staying the night!
  4. NT Live Screenings
    I’m sure you’ve heard of these, and if you’ve got any sense you’ll have been to one or two. Currently being shown is The Audience, a fantastic play concerning the relationship between the Queen and her numerous Prime Ministers, starring Helen Mirren. While it is obviously better to try and see live productions when you can, National Theatre Live has allowed theatre to be captured and shown again and again, all from your local cinema. These screenings are also significantly cheaper than attempting to go and see the shows on stage, and additionally allow you to see any shows you might have missed.
    Top Tip: If you haven’t yet seen DV8’s JOHN, go and see it! You won’t be disappointed.
  5. Always look out for free shows!!!
    Being a drama student, free theatre will always be advertised to you. Keep an eye on your emails and you’ll always be the first to hear about any free student productions taking place at the Gulbenkian. Kent’s graduate theatre company performed their original piece, Method In Madness last year, and gave out free tickets, and even held a Q&A afterward.

Finally, enjoy, absorb and be inspired. I urge you to revel in living in such a vibrant centre for the arts.

Bard on the Beach

A Comedy Of Errors by William Shakespeare-
Performed at the Bard on the Beach Festival, Vancouver BC. 

Here we have two sets of identical twins who have been separated, and as each set of siblings find themselves on the same island, a tale of confusion and mistaken identities ensues. Despite being Shakespeare’s shortest play, A Comedy Of Errors does not lack the high paced and chaotic energies that power that of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night. However, the natural madness of the play did not appear to be satisfying enough for director: Scott Bellis. He added quirks to each of the characters, which to me added a refreshing taste to the play without spoiling the timeless comedy of the spoken word. For example, Dromio of Syracuse travelled round the set on a wooden scooter, which encouraged a plethora of physical and slapstick style comedy, which of course coincided perfectly with the script, and provided light relief and change of tone between the moments of long monologues and detailed speeches. Additionally, possibly the greatest adaptation to the piece was the interpretation and development of characters Nell and Maud. Both were transformed from characters that barely appear in the limelight to such highly physical presences on stage that the humour was directed at them for the entirety of the play. With their clown like provocative physicality teamed with the ridiculous voices, these characters (played by Andrew McNee & Daniel Doheny) were an incredible addition to the play adding jest and light relief throughout. The physical humour and fierce character development was a fantastic way to create a more accessible version of a classic Shakespearean comedy, without altering the original work.

The majority of Bellis’ decisions as director appeared well developed and considered. Nevertheless, something which I felt needed much more work was the overall concept of the play. It had clearly been inspired by a Victorian Steampunk aesthetic, and had disjointed moments of nightmarish scenes including zombie like characters. This played out well to me, allowing for both moments of humour and darker substance. Although, the entire set was built to look like a machine of some sort, which was controlled and maintained by minor characters throughout, this conceptual factor was rendered partially unnecessary and seemed arguable lost for significant meaning. Nonetheless, the overall aesthetic was pleasing to the audience and physically challenging in some manners for the performers.

The undoubtedly unsung hero of the play had to be Choreographer, Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg. The standards of rehearsal and time that had been spent on perfecting the movement of the characters, both as individuals and in relation to one another, was what assured that the piece was so slick, adhering to its farsical structure. For instance, the two Dromio characters (played by Luisa Jojic and Dawn Petten)  resembled each other’s physicality and movement impeccably, and at times I found myself desperately trying to decipher which person I was watching on stage! This was also applicable to the Antipholus characters. This attention to detail created a much more believable performance which evoked confusion based hilarity that were unmistakable of a Shakespearean Comedy.

The Bard on the Beach Festival, based in Vancouver, BC is evidence that Shakespeare can travel the world and still bring people together to laugh, to learn, and to enjoy his timeless works, revelling  in the lighthearted comedy of this well-loved play.

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Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables: Stage or Screen?

Tom Hooper’s film, ‘Les Miserables’ was adapted from the West End success that tells a gratifyingly beautiful story about the struggle in 19th century France. Victor Hugo’s original story is a wonderful piece of entertainment both live and on the big screen. The film was stunning, its cinematography enhanced the strengths of the performers, and the realistic settings resulted in a more immersive experience, which is particularly difficult with film.  I believe that its loyal portrayal will encourage people to travel to London to experience it live. If this proves accurate, it will prove that theatre and film flourish off one another, each medium possessing unique qualities and not dampening the other’s successes. In an interview I constructed, actor Annie Sutton told me her opinion towards the comparison between the live and film version. “The theatre version of the same material is immediate and raw. You can see the performers sweat.”[1] Although I appreciated the good qualities of both versions, I could not ignore the large scale of attention the film was receiving, especially in comparison to the 25th Anniversary Concert in 2010, which did not seem to be deemed as significant. I personally found the live version better, but was aware that I was biased, being a Theatre Studies student. As a result of this, I created a questionnaire for students at my school as a way of gathering a more diverse selection of opinions in relation to the ‘Les Miserables’ film in comparison with the live performance. I gave the questionnaire to 20 Performing Arts students, and 20 students who did not take any Drama related subject, and my conclusion was that 90% of students who had seen both the live version and the film, declared the live performance infinitely better. This was mostly proven by each individual’s reaction to the live performance, which was repeatedly described as “cathartic” and left people in tears. This is because the live version created a more heightened atmosphere, and the applause at the end of each song allowed the audience to have a real involvement and interaction with the performers. The two groups (actors and audience) thrive off one another’s emotional state, resulting in a significantly more memorable performance. Craig Schulman, who has played the leading character of Jean Valjean on stage comments, “The audience can’t change what is on film but play a major role in a stage production.”[2]  The fact that in a cinema the audience is blocked out of the actor’s performance means that their emotional reaction is much less intense. My overall understanding in the case of ‘Les Miserables’ is that despite the developments in film, those who are educated and experienced in the world of theatre, will tend to place live performance in a higher rank to film. I was aware that the select few people who preferred the film to the live version appeared to be students who had limited experience of theatre, and whose main attraction to the film was the Hollywood names advocated by the film makers, such as Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe. This suggests that people who are not cultured in theatre will generally be enticed to a piece by names and stories that they recognise. Therefore, Hooper’s adaptation of ‘Les Miserables’ is both a brilliant film but also a great tool for the theatre, as it introduces a wider audience to the imagination of the story, and inspires people to see it live. The capabilities of film will not diminish that of the theatre, because theatre is a much more visceral experience, and as someone in my local theatre worded it, “It’s kind of the difference between having the feel, smell and texture of an old book, or the impersonal, changing screen of a Kindle, with files that can be recovered if it’s damaged or lost.”[3]  This perfectly summarises the thing most people prize most about theatre; its unique and personal quality which cannot be replicated in any other way.

[1] Annie Sutton- Actor and Director (Personal Interview)

[2] Craig Schulman, The Observer, 2013.

[3] Anonymous- Harrogate Theatre (Personal Interview)

Is theatre really dead?

In an age of digital entertainment, why do we still have theatre?

“One can dare anything in the theatre.”[1] We have all seen some form of theatre, with friends, or with family, and one can only hope that you were entertained and inspired by what you saw. However, technology is rapidly advancing, and in this day and age, children and adults can be perfectly entertained by Hollywood’s latest motion picture from the comfort of their sofa, rather than going to the theatre. So why does such a thing still exist in our society?

Many people would argue that the special effects and high definition in film today renders a trip to the theatre unneeded. But I feel that they are wrong. I am fortunate to have received a varied education and from this, my experience of theatre was born. Theatre fascinates me, and when I had the opportunity to explore Paris earlier this year, I admired the breath-taking buildings where theatre is brought to life each night, such as the comedie and the odeon. I found it astounding that some people’s lives had not been touched by theatre, and these people did not understand the concept of live performance, or even why we have it. Richard Eyre remarks on the atmosphere of Peter Brook’s ‘Bouffes de Nord’ theatre, “The stone steps layer on layer of human presence, a touch of oriental in the tracery above the proscenium”[2] The aesthetics of a traditional theatre and the entire formality of the experience differ entirely from film, in that theatre is a much more inter-communicative thing. While reflecting on this thought, I wondered, would theatre ever die? Those who are involved in the theatre industry appreciate its meaning and importance, and seem to know why it is regarded a higher pleasure in our culture. Yet, some people are ignorant to the world behind the stage doors. Through an interview I constructed myself; I was able to ask Mark Rylance: the former artistic director of the Globe Theatre, why he thought theatre remained strong. His response was, “Theatre unites people in a space where greater, deeper, emotional and soulful communication can take place- As technology isolates us further from each other, the theatre will become even more popular.” I must agree that in an age of faceless communication through technology, it is important for us to try and maintain that area of life which focuses on human interaction and communication. Theatre thrives on glorifying human talent, and expressing what we as a species are capable of. During the process of making a film, a scene can be shot numerous times before it is perfect, and any glitches can be cleverly edited out. In theatre, however, anything can happen, and we must revel in the fact that what we are watching is truthful and real. “Theatre is to celebrate what it is to be human, spontaneous, and fallible and brilliant.”[3] At its most basic, I believe the human condition to be about communication, we like telling and hearing stories. Getting together with a group of people you have never met before, yet have all made the decision to watch the same story is extremely special. Witnessing people explore their true talent without multiple takes and clever effects make theatre something that will never be absent in our world.

[1] Ionesco, E. Notes and Counter Notes: Writings on theatre, January 1964, Mary ProQuest UMI, Fifth reprint ed.

[2] Eyre, R. Talking Theatre: Interviews with theatre people, October 18 2011, Nick Hern Books, Reprint ed.

[3] Anonymous- Harrogate Theatre (Personal Interview)

BROKE

The Paper Birds are a Leeds based theatre company who use interviews which they have conducted to create theatre which is about real life.

BROKE is a three man play which brought stories of poverty to its audience. The show opened with the narration of a child’s voice talking about money and its meaning.

The small set of only a child’s bunkbed with toys scattered around, encapsulated the feeling of the mother and child who’s debt was trapping them and leaving them unable to escape from the struggles of every day life.

The actors combined a child’s perceptions of the world with the politics of money and poverty to place emphasis on how innocent many people can be to the problems that so often go on behind closed doors. The best scene to exemplify this was a sock puppet show of yellow, blue and red socks to recreate a debate in the House of Commons about the working class under the rule of Margaret Thatcher.

This was a rather thought provoking and educational piece which shone light onto a largely ignored sector of society. However, it lacked a moral message and did not provoke any particuar emotional response within me.

Altogether BROKE is a successful piece of fringe theatre, the first in a trilogy which I look forward to experiencing. JS56021209

Curious Incident…

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time based on the novel by Mark Haddon was a spectacular piece of theatre which was an attack on the senses and a wonderful performance.

Graham Butler’s performance as the protagonist, fifteen year old Christopher, compared with lighting desginer, Paule Constable and set designer Bunny Christie, took the audience on a visceral journer inside the mind of an individual with autism. The combination of sounds, movement and colours evoked an emotional response from the onlookers creating humour, inspiration and sympathy.

The restrictive movement of the supporting characters along with their monotonous voices exemplified how an autistic person can often perceive others.

The intense light show and pace of the piece perfectly epitomised the superb creativity and imagination of Christopher, and made each audience member feel like a personal friend of the character.

This piece is a must-see, you will find yourself gasping for breath with laughter, to feeling your heart sink as you watch the relationship between Christopher and his father disintergrate.

Overall, a wonderfully memorable performance that I could watch again and again.

JOHN – DV8

Dv8’s latest production, JOHN at the National Theatre was a mesmerising piece of physical theatre that addressed serious topics of society in a beautiful and creative way.

This company never fail to skirt around the harsh realities. Within the first few moments of the piece, there had already been a rape, physical abuse, and harsh drug use.

The performance slowly turned to the central character; John’s search for love, and questions the realtionship between sex and love. As his life falls apart and he loses people closest to him, the performers movement becomes lathargic and deliberate, without sacrificing its meaning in conjunction with the lyrical words.

No review can do this piece of theatre justice, you just need to see it for yourself and take from it what you will.

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