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.

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British Espionage at it’s Best – Skyfall Review

That familiar theme tune. Gadgets and fast cars. Action and espionage. Oh and a charming, delectable leading man. It can only mean one thing – James Bond is back and wow is he back with a bang. After work and a weekend away stopped me from seeing it earlier, I patiently waited and last night I finally got to see it and it did not disappoint.

Daniel Craig’s stint as Bond has for the most part been highly praised. Casino Royale explored Bond’s beginning’s, telling the story of how he procured his 00 status, and also silenced the many critics of Craig, who believed Bond could never be blonde. Quantum of Solace was a stumble, with some good aspects to it, but certainly not as good as Craig’s first outing. Now British director Sam Mendes takes the helm and in Bond’s 50th anniversary year he creates what some critics are calling one of the best Bond films in history, filled with a new modern day Bond and one that nods to the nostalgia and history of the series.

The film opens with a grand chase involving cars, motorbikes  a train fight through Istanbul (once I saw those rooftops and recognised them from Taken 2 I had to laugh – does everyone go to Istanbul now for action movies?) It results in Bond being shot accidentally by fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) and presumed dead, the world moves on without him. He escapes death but decides to return after hearing about trouble brewing back in London – an attack on MI6 and an enemy from M’s past stirring up trouble.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins gives this movie an epic feel, with beautiful shots of locations such as Macau, and Istanbul and creates an atmospheric, moody London and rural Scotland. It totally brings you into the heart of the film, carrying you along with the story. Thomas Newman does a terrific score, encompassing new dramatic pieces with the familiarity of the classic Bond theme. And Adele’s theme song is stunning against the opening credits and gives the atmospheric feel that extra boost.

As for the acting, Daniel Craig leads this cast with leading man charm, giving a fantastic performance; he makes the character of Bond look as ruthless as ever, but gives him humanity, humour and vulnerability, particularly as he is brought back into the ‘game’. The film delves into Bond’s roots, taking us to the rural Scotland of Bond’s childhood. Craig also has a great on-screen chemistry with Judi Dench who also returns in this movie as M, as their relationship develops into that of a surrogate mother with her child, and both actors convey their character’s care for the other. Dench has been a firm element to the Bond movies since her introduction with Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye, and she gives a tremendous performance of a woman in power who suffers in this movie for her decisions that she could have made or did make. Her sparring with Bond and her motherly connection to him is engaging and great to watch. She is perhaps the true Bond girl in this movie – the matriarch of MI6.

Javier Bardem as the villainous Mr Silva is maniacal, revenge-driven, and genuinely terrifying with his erratic, but eerie calm behaviour and with his fixation on M. Even though he doesn’t make his entrance until an hour or so into the movie, his opening interrogation scene with Bond is an entrance to remember. It’s a role Bardem clearly relishes in playing, and one that he fully sinks his teeth into, making him one of the best Bond villains in recent years.

Other key players in this movie include the sexy witty MI6 agent Eve played by Naoemis Harris-her sparring with Bond and the sexual chemistry between the two of them keep the audience guessing on what (if anything) will happen. It seems that we may be seeing more of her as well and if this is the case then it will be a welcome return. Ralph Fiennes was great as always, and Ben Whishaw as the new Q is a breath of fresh air –he brings youth, wit, charm and yet intelligence and a belief that he is a genius. (He is also extremely cute!)

Skyfall as a movie has great pace – it is roughly 2 and a half hours long, but the story moves well and points in the movie that could have been dragged out mercifully weren’t. The action set pieces are fast-paced and thrilling including the Istanbul opening, and an elaborate chase through London, incorporating the London underground. The humour is also still there, witty lines and amusing moments pop up through the film, including a reference to the exploding pen from Goldeneye which had me grinning stupidly. I can say so much more about this film and the twists and turns but I don’t want to spoil it for you all.

A theme that continually pops up in this film is the idea of ‘the old vs. the new’ with Bond and in some ways M representing the old ways. It is continually suggested that Bond is perhaps ‘too old’ or that he is past his best. After 50 years of Bond, if this movie was not a success, perhaps that is what critics would have said about the franchise. However, after 50 years, the James Bond franchise has become an integral part of Britain, and the film celebrates this by having a British director take the helm, British actors such as Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes taking leading roles and by using London as a prominent location throughout the movie (London also looks beautiful on screen). Add to this is Daniel Craig’s involvement with the Olympic Opening Ceremony, escorting the Queen to the ceremony as James Bond and it solidifies the franchise as a cornerstone of British cinematic history.

Bond is definitely back with a bang and I can totally see why it has been called one of the best Bonds in history. The 50th anniversary outing mixes the old with the new, and lays down fresh foundations for the future, which makes you feel that the series has come full circle. This is certainly Daniel Craig’s best performance yet as Bond; an amazing movie that makes up for the slight disappointment that was Quantum–definitely worth the wait despite the product placement that happened in the movie. Bring on the next Bond and the next 50 years of 007!

 

“She sent you after me, knowing you weren;t ready and that you would likely die – Mommy was very bad” (Silva)