Priscilla: Queen of the Desert UK Tour

The stage show UK tour of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert had a stop off at the theatre near me so I thought it rude to not go and see it. I’d never seen the stage version of the show or even seen the film, but the premise of three drag queens having a road trip across Australia on a bus they nickname Priscilla sounded brilliant.

The show itself was brilliant – full of life, energy a great vibe and at its core a great message about acceptance. The soundtrack was filled with well-known pop songs and the theatre was alive when the cast launched into number after number. The costumes were also a huge standout point for me – flamboyant, colourful and beautiful. The three main cast members as well looked great together, a nice chemistry and flow between the three and more importantly all three men looked comfortable in heels.

The cast was led by Jason Donovan who has been in and out of the West End version of this show; he was great with the acting side, hamming it up well, but also showing the emotional side of his character as he struggles with his fears of meeting his son. However, certainly during the first half he sometimes seemed a bit awkward with the dance moves whilst his fellow leads were putting a lot more effort into it. Whether this was done to a personal choice to portray the character like this, or because he’d had a few days off I’m not sure, but he seemed more comfortable in the second act.

Priscilla is still touring the UK and if it’s coming to a theatre near you, then I’d highly recommend this show – it’s a guaranteed feel-good night as I certainly left the show with a huge smile on my face.

Coriolanus

Gone are the days where you could only watch West End theatre in person; now with the art of digital downloads theatre is so much more accessible. National Theatre live are taking the process of bringing people closer to theatre by bringing it into cinemas. Across the UK and worldwide, various operas and stage shows have been available in the cinemas and my first venture into this new genre of theatre in a cinema was to see the Donmar Warehouse production of the William Shakespeare play Coriolanus starring Tom Hiddleston in the title role with support from Mark Gatiss.

The production itself was absolutely fantastic – with such a small theatre space it was utilised to its full potential, keeping the set quite minimal and using only a small array of props (chairs were very well used, and I enjoyed the Brechtian style of having the company sit across the back wall for most of the play). The company itself were great, with several of them having dual roles; Hiddleston was the main reason I wanted to see this production and he didn’t disappoint. The Shakespearean language rolls of his tongue as if he were born to say it, bringing wit and comedy but also passion, anger and Coriolanus’ ignorance to the role.

There was some stand out moments in the production; it was quite physical at times, particularly an early fight scene between Coriolanus and Aufidius which was quite complex. The end scene between Coriolanus, his wife, his son and his mother was really beautiful to watch; you could feel the emotion pouring from all of the actors, with genuine tears from Tom Hiddleston. The end which sees Hiddleston stringed up with blood dripping from his throat is powerful and signals the end of a power driven play.

As well as the actual production being amazing, another element to consider in this review is the element of live theatre steamed into a cinema. It of course made it slightly less authentic, having carefully placed cameras surrounding the theatre space, but it also made the audience feel as if they were there. A movie experience but with live theatre – you wouldn’t have seen facial expressions that close up, everything’s a lot bigger, more focused. However that doesn’t mean to say at time there were some awkwardness; there was one moment which caused a small commotion in the cinema when the gay overtones in the play were explored in which Aufidius kisses Coriolanus. Of course this wouldn’t have been allowed in the theatre (or at least you would have got some dirty looks off fellow theatregoers). We also wouldn’t have had the annoying lady introducing the play and the constant promos for other plays but that’s just an outside aspect.

The thing that stuck out the most was the very end; the curtain call. Of course you want to show your appreciation, and there are only a few occasions I’ve wanted to clap or have at the end of a film in the cinema but this was live theatre – do you clap? They won’t be able to hear you so what’s the point? Nonetheless I clapped, and so did others, but it wasn’t sustained or particularly enthusiastic despite the brilliant performance. Perhaps this is where the notion of theatre in cinemas falls down – the live appreciation is lost.

A fabulous production, however and I left with an invigorated love for Tom Hiddleston (who has the most beautiful blue eyes)

Mojo

I love theatre. As a former drama student, I live for live theatre, be that plays or musicals. When you realise you haven’t seen any live theatre for 6 months, something must be done about it. When I heard that Rupert Grint (Ron from the Harry Potter series) was going to be making his west end theatre debut, and what’s more be appearing alongside 4 other brilliant British actors from stage TV and film, I knew I wanted to go see it. The play had just been extended and I jumped at the opportunity to get tickets.

Mojo is a play by Jez Butterworth and is set in the 50’s entirely in a sleazy club, around a 24 hour period. When club owner Ezra is murdered, his son Baby (Ben Whishaw) and club workers struggle to remain calm after drink and drug infused partying. The play really highlights the power plays between the group, as they panic between themselves.

As I said above, the cast really are absolutely fantastic in this, and the show is certainly one of the best ensemble cast performances I’ve seen for ages. As well as Grint who gives a brilliant performance as Sweets, a man that tends to follow the crowd and who gets freaked out easily. The comedy flair he showed in the Potter films flourishes in this role and he bounces off Daniel Mays who plays Potts brilliantly. Daniel Mays has a flair about his performance and gets some brilliant gags in the play. Colin Morgan (best known as the title role in Merlin) plays Skinny usually calm but constantly being abused by Baby. At one point Morgan is tied to a record player with his trousers down as Whishaw’s Baby brandishes a sword at him. For me, Whishaw gives a powerhouse performance and steals every scene he’s in. Baby is quite unhinged, and Whishaw is amazing in the role, and what’s more he sings and dances. Rounding off the cast is Brendon Coyle as Mickey, the calmest of the bunch, he self-appoints himself as the leader and remains quite menacing throughout.

The conclusion of the play is a shock but is performed wonderfully; Baby discovers that it was Mickey that helped kill his father and in an argument with Skinny he shoots him. Despite trying to help and calm him down, Skinny dies and the group disperse, Sweets and Potts running into the night; and Mickey breaking down in despair. The final member of the cast is relative newcomer Tom Rhys Harries as Silver Johnny – it’s a shame the character didn’t have a bigger role as even though he is mentioned throughout he’s only in two scenes. Helping to uncover the mystery of Ezra’s death, he and Baby disappear into the night.

The play was absolutely fantastic and a brilliant ensemble cast. The show ends its run this week, but I’m so glad I saw this play – a funny comedy but with a stellar cast that managed to make every moment count.

The Cripple of an Inishmaan

Early on in July, I took the opportunity to see another play in the Michael Grandage season at the Noel Coward theatre, this time to see Daniel Radcliffe (better known as the boy who lived, Harry Potter) appear in The Cripple of an Inishmaan.

Daniel Radcliffe stars as Billy, a cripple that lives in a small community in Ireland. The play says a lot about the way a small community interacts together and presents it in a very humorous way, as well as creating a sense of sympathy and pathos for the character of Billy. All the cast are great in this production, and it is a very funny play. Some of the actors use authentic accents and the ones that don’t put across great versions of it. The accents are a little hard to understand at first, but you get used to it soon enough.

To be honest, after coming out of the play I thought about it and I found I cared more for the other characters that I did for Billy, despite the fact the play is named after him. Having said, the character doesn’t feature that heavily in the play, with periods at a time where the character doesn’t appear.  Even though Dan put in a great performance, squashing the last of the critics claiming he can’t act, I connected more with some of the other actors on stage, particularly the aunts.  It’s also certainly a play that you have to pay attention to – a lot of the jokes tend to be ongoing one’s so if you missed the link the first time, then you may not laugh as much as some audience members.

This play was great and I had an enjoyable evening, although it was interesting to see that Radcliffe was not the best thing I enjoyed about the production, despite the fact he was the reason I had booked it. If you do go and see it, you’ll have to be quick as the production only runs to the end of August. If you have hopes of trying to meet him at the Stage Door after the production however – don’t hold your breath. I’ve never seen a scrum like it – disorganised, poor and quite frankly a little dangerous.

A Tale of Two Plays and A Lesson in Stage Door Etiquette

Easter weekend saw a trip to London that I had planned for weeks – I had booked to see two star-studded plays and coupled with the long weekend, what more could a girl want?

First up was Peter and Alice, a new play by John Logan starring Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw; it tells the story of when Alice Liddell Hargreaves met Peter Llewelyn Davies – the inspirations for Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan come face to face and it is through this brief encounter that their lives are explored and laid bare.

The play is part of the Michael Grandage season in the West End – a series of plays with high profile actors, aimed at bringing more members of the public back into theatre at affordable prices. The play is a solid 90 minutes with no interval and Whishaw and Dench are on stage pretty much from the start and don’t leave until the end. Peter and Alice explores issues surrounding life and death, growing up and the contrast to experiencing the world through a child’s eyes and then looking back on it with an adult perspective. It’s an intense emotional rollercoaster, and I can only imagine how exhausting it is for the 6/7 actors in the company performing it (particularly Dench and Whishaw), as I felt exhausted just watching the play. It’s also quite a thought-provoking play as Alice and Peter explore their lives from childhood up until the present day, experiencing some memories in a new light. It’s definitely a play that thinks outside the box, with the present and the past overlapping, and at times this made it hard to keep up with the play.

Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw as the two leads are incredible – both manage to emotionally provoke the audience and maintain their stamina throughout the 90-minute performance. At one point Peter comes up with a great theory regarding the lost boys and why they never grow up – he says it’s because they die. This theory certainly sticks with you and you leave the theatre feeling as if you’ve been hit with a freighter train of emotion. It’s a brilliant new play, and made even better by the two leads. The play runs until the beginning of June, and although it is sold out, there are cheap tickets for sale on the day of the performance, so if you’re visiting London this month, I strongly urge you to give this play a try.

The next night I was treated to a more classical play – William Shakespeare’s Macbeth starring Scotland’s own James McAvoy as the lead role. The play was located in quite a small theatre which has been recently renovated. The space was great, slightly in the round with approximately 80 seats actually placed on the stage. Overall, the theatre only sat around 200-300 people which made the play even more intimate and personal.

The production itself was particularly physical, it felt like McAvoy never stopped moving around the stage, and it added to the madness of the character. It was also set in a Dystopian, near future with combat costumes and minimal lighting and had some great fight scenes. McAvoy in the lead was fantastic and convincing as a man desperate to survive –he also had great chemistry with Clare Foy who played Lady Macbeth. Unfortunately, the play ended at the end of last month but I’m sure it won’t be long until McAvoy comes back into theatre and when he does, be sure to go see him – he’s a fantastic British talent and his blue eyes are mesmerizing.

After both plays I was lucky enough to meet Ben Whishaw, Judi Dench and James McAvoy at the stage doors. Now I love meeting actors at the stage doors after seeing musicals and plays, to show my appreciation for the actors on stage. I’ve done many a stage door so, as a side note to this post, here is my helpful tips with meeting some of your favourite actors and some stage door etiquette:

  1. Be patient – at times it can take up to around 20 minutes for them to get out of make-up and get all their stuff together to leave. Other times actors have friends/relatives visiting so it takes longer – don’t be disheartened (and keep warm).
  2. Make friends – nothing wrong with a bit of a chat to other fans/theatre-goers.
  3. Don’t surge – it is a major pet hate of mine. If you’re stood in an orderly fashion and an actor comes out, suddenly everyone forgets the personal space rule. Actors are real people too! Again, be patient – their much more likely to be appreciative of this.
  4. Be prepared – it’s a 50/50 chance that an actor will carry a pen with them. If you haven’t got one then this is where tip no. 2 comes in handy!
  5. Finally, charge the batteries in your camera – and smile!

Comment below if you have any stage door tips or suggestions of what to see theatre wise in London.

Audience Participation At It’s Best – Rocky Horror

The Rocky Horror Show’s 40th Anniversary tour appeared at my local theatre and shivering with anticipation (get it?) I went along to my first ever live viewing of Rocky Horror.  Now I’d seen the movie a couple of times, but that doesn’t compare to showings of the movie in local cinemas or performances of the stage show. The theatre was packed, the audience dressed up as their favourite characters (including men in stockings and suspenders); the show brings a whole new meaning to the idea of audience participation.

So, imagine my perplexity as the audience actively sang loudly along to the songs, shouted “arsehole” and “slut” when the 2 main characters, Brad and Janet, were mentioned and when it was time for the most infamous song associated with the show “The Time Warp” the whole audience-including myself jumped up to dance to it. As a past drama student, I was infectious with the idea of this kind of audience – an active, lively and passionate one. Although it times I just wanted to concentrate more on the performances and what the characters were saying, I couldn’t help but enjoy the overall experience.

The production itself was also great featuring Ben Forster as Brad and Roxanne Pallett as Janet. It was a small cast but they worked together efficiently, and the set pieces were good, utilising the space and using clever props to create various scenes. The Rocky Horror Tour is touring around the UK until October and if you’re a fan of the movie and have never experienced it live, I fully recommend you go.

 

Riff Raff: With a bit of a mind flip…
Magenta: You’re into a time slip…
Riff Raff: And nothing can ever be the same.
Magenta: You’re spaced out on sensation. HAH!
Riff Raff: Like you’re under sedation!
All: Let’s do the time warp again!  (The Time Warp, from The Rocky Horror Picture Show)