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The Theatre, dahling.


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In the meantime, I am planning another trip to the ADC Theatre Cambridge, in July, for a performance of an old favourite - Hobson's Choice.

I've seen that a few times over the years, and always enjoy it.

That was yesterday's outing.

For an AmDram production it was very good,and they coped with the Lancashire accent admirably.

Maggie Hobson is a favourite heroine of mine. A bit of a rôle model, too, I think. Pity my husband has never been as amenable to being improved as Willie Mossop is :D;)

 

Found myself in the next seat to the lady I sat next to for Pygmalion a couple of months ago. We both commented on the poor attendance (under 50), and wondered why we felt guilty about it. We've both had that experience before, me at the Jim Crace/Toby Litt talk during the Wordfest, and her at a concert by a choir from Leningrad when the choir outnumbered the audience.

 

Perhaps people can only be bothered to go out if it's to see some TV 'star'? It's very sad :(

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Not exactly a play, but I saw the stage version of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue at the theatre this week. I can't recommend it highly enough. Anyone who knows it from the radio will see all their favourites, but even if you don't know the radio show, the intelligent humour will win you over. Humphrey Littleton is a star - dare I say "see him while you can". ;)

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Our holiday in Suffolk (have we been back for a week already? :eek: ) included a visit to the little Summer Theatre at Southwold for a production of Noël Coward's 'Private Lives'. Not a total success, as the seating is a little cramped, and not lavishly upholstered, and much of the second act was, quite frankly, boring. It may have been the production, but I doubt it, as although I have seen the play a few times before, on TV and in the theatre, my memory of it stops at the end of the first act - which is quite amusing.

 

We finished the holiday with a couple of days at Bury St Edmunds, where we had a conducted tour of the restored Theatre Royal. It was interesting to see the changes that have been made, and great to stand on the stage, and to go below it, and 'behind the scenes'. The tour ended with a climb up to the 50 seat (benches) gallery, from where we looked down on George Baker (to our surprise and his!) reading through a piece for the opening celebrations

We will be returning there for a production of 'Northanger Abbey' in November

 

The new programme for the coming season at the ADC Theatre, Cambridge arrived yesterday, it looks varied and interesting. I am particularly tempted by 'A Winter's Tale', 'The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe', and 'David Copperfield'.

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I went to the Citizens Theatre yesterday to see Hamlet. It was performed by the Citizens' in house production team. I was also going to meet our very own Minxminnie there but she regretfully came down with a virus - hope you are feeling better MM!

 

Anyway, I really enjoyed the show, the actor playing Hamlet was very good, but he is always very good, I last saw him play Johnny Stark in No Mean City at the Citizens. A few of the other actors were a little bit clumsy and wooden in delivering their lines which did spoil the show a little, Guildenstern and Laertes to name a couple. The actor playing Guildenstern also played Fortinbrass, again not very well. But Hamlet, Polonius, Ophelia and Claudius were all very good.

 

The King's ghost scared the bejesus out of me; the stage filled with smoke and what I can only describe as one of Romero's zombies was lit up amongst the smoke. Plus I was in the third row, so was enveloped in smoke myself.

 

The most amusing part was the gravedigger preparing the grave for Ophelia, and leads Hamlet into his "Alas, poor Yorick...". He was very funny and handled his lines with great skill and timing. The actor playing him was also Polonius - which he was very good at also, he clearly excelled in the comic roles. All together a very good show. I'm sorry you missed it MM!

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I'm sorry you missed it MM!

 

Atchoo! Thanks, Hazel. I'm well on the mend today - well, at least I've got over the anti-social sneezing and nose-blowing phase. I was really sorry to miss it! Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

I heard that the production starts with the "To be or not to be" soliloquy - how well did that work?

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I'm well on the mend today

 

Good to hear.

 

I heard that the production starts with the "To be or not to be" soliloquy - how well did that work?

 

It worked quite well I thought. It threw me right into the play and Hamlet was very good. It is always a little odd to hear the lines of Shakespeare plays that have become cliches in themselves. You almost cringe to hear them delivered and a sign of a good production is that you don't cringe. I didn't cringe at this particular part, but when "Alas, poor Yorick.." was delivered, I did.

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I heard that the production starts with the "To be or not to be" soliloquy - how well did that work?

Now you see that would annoy the pants off me! How can they do that?!! The very core of the play is Hamlet's psychological journey so to stick this crucial part of it at the beginning would be like having Macbeth plotting to kill Banquo before he'd even met the witches.

 

Still, glad you had a good time, Hazel!

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Now you see that would annoy the pants off me! How can they do that?!! The very core of the play is Hamlet's psychological journey

 

The focus really, David, was on the plot of Hamlet, and not at all on the psychological workings of anyone's mind - especially not Ophelia who went bonkers rather quickly.

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The focus really, David, was on the plot of Hamlet, and not at all on the psychological workings of anyone's mind - especially not Ophelia who went bonkers rather quickly.

I think the purist in me would have squirmed, but I know I can be a bit too anal about these things!

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I suspect, David, that you probably wouldn't like this.

Actually I'd be quite interested by that, Gram. As a 'play within a play' it's obviously doing something a bit different in its own right rather than just messing around with the original text and pretending that's the way Shakespeare wrote it.

 

Mind you, I think the 'anti-semitic' angles on Merchant are rather overplayed. I'm not saying there isn't a level on which this is true because Shakespeare knew his audience and was perfectly capable of playing to their prejudices, but then in every play he also ensures we are given food for thought and we're rarely allowed to remain comfortable in any of our assumptions. Antonio doesn't actually present a very positive picture of Christian attitudes and the play sees Shylock being mistreated just as much as he acts villainously. He actually has personal motivation for his poor behaviour, whereas the Christians only have long-standing prejudice. Some of the most eloquent and thoughtful speeches come from Shylock and I believe Shakespeare was actually taking the easy stereotype that would get a predictable response from a contemporary audience and then subtly twisting that.

 

I'll be interested to hear what you think of this production, Gram!

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Mind you, I think the 'anti-semitic' angles on Merchant are rather overplayed. I'm not saying there isn't a level on which this is true because Shakespeare knew his audience and was perfectly capable of playing to their prejudices, but then in every play he also ensures we are given food for thought and we're rarely allowed to remain comfortable in any of our assumptions.

 

I agree. I think it gets focussed on as a way into the play and its a mistake to view the depiction of Shylock with modern sensibilities.

 

I doubt Shakespeare set out to be offensive. It has to be borne in mind when viewing the play there were few Jews in Elizabethan/Stuart England. They were expelled from the country in 1290 and were only allowed to return in Cromwell's time. There's a very high probability that Shakespeare would never have met a Jew, or at least not one who would have admitted to praticing the faith, so he would have had little conception beyond the stereotypes of what they were like.

 

I saw a more conventional production of "The Merchant of Venice" at the National Theatre many years ago, so it'll be interesting to see how they develop the theme.

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The production of "The Merchant of Venice" I saw last night did tamper with the play, but then the writing is credited to Julia Pascal, not William Shakespeare. There were some additional scenes written into the play interleaved with the original. I haven't seen a production of the original since the mid-90s, so I'm not sure I spotted all the joins.

 

A framing device was used of an ex-Warsaw Ghetto resident and Holocaust survivor coming across a modern dress rehearsal during a visit to the Venice Ghetto. The actress playing the survivor was, in fact, both these things herself and something of an inspiration for the production. She occasionally interrupts the action, for example to appeal to Jessica to stay with her father rather than eloping with Lorenzo, but largely stayed in the background, so overall this didn't add much.

 

The actor cast as Shylock was physically imposing, quite different from the type normally cast (think Dustin Hoffman's screen version), suggesting this is a Shylock who will not be pushed around and is standing up to Christian bullying. This comes through especially strongly at the trial and the speeches where Shylock defends his status as a non-Christian. His forcible conversion at the play's end is staged as being quite brutal. He was the best thing in this version of the play.

 

However, the rounding out of Shylock as a figure did make some of the others look slightly cartoonish in their anti-Semitism. The lighter scenes, such as those with Gobbo or Portia's suitors, didn't even raise a titter from the audience. Another curious change was to give Antonio and Bassanio relationship a quite homoerotic subtext, even though Bassanio is pretty much stealing from under Antonio's nose in order to pursue Portia.

 

All in all, it was a bit of a muddle really. It remained ambiguous on whether, to use another Shakespearean phrase, Shylock is more sinned against than sinning. Maybe this does support David's assertion you shouldn't mess with The Bard!

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I booked our tickets for Northanger Abbey before we had done our tour of the restored theatre, so had booked front row centre of the gallery - not knowing that the gallery 'seats' were actually benches. My back wasn't going to cope with sitting upright on a bench throughout the performance, so my first action on arriving at the theatre was to try and change our seats.

 

The chap in the booking office didn't seem quite to have the hang of the computer, and it took ages. There were seats, he said, but not two together. I was a little concerned, as Mr meg has not read the book so might find the plot difficult to follow, however after a brief consultation we decided that comfort should prevail over togetherness, and took seats in separate balcony boxes.

 

As the time neared for the performance to start it became clear that there were several places where seats were still empty, including one in Mr meg's box, and three in mine :confused: As these seats still hadn't been taken at the end of the interval, he transferred to my box. Goodness knows how many seats remained unnecessarily unsold because of the chaos in the box office!

 

The play:

Was delightful! While the 'real life' events were taking place on one part of the stage, Catherine's interpretation of them, seen through her imagination and her reading of 'Udolpho', were being played out on another.Extremely good use was made of a row of door panels stretching the full width of the back of the set. Furnishing was very minimal.

There was a cast of eight, and the two actresses who played Catherine and Isabella made very realistic girly 'best friends', Isabella was particularly good at veering from sweet innocent to blatant flirt. Both Thorpes, and General Tilney were suitably venal, and Mrs Allen quite delightfully obsessed with her apparel.

Mr meg and I enjoyed it very much.

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Just back from taking the boys to see Peter Pan at the Citizens Theatre. It was the in-house production team. I really didn't know what to expect but it turned out to be absolutely fantastic. The sets and lighting were magical and illustrated each of the locales perfectly. The costumes were boyish and gothic enough to be both fun and scary. The best thing by far, was Tinkerbell, who was a little light that flitted about the stage and when she landed on something it immediately lit up, like a unlit Xmas tree, wall lights, a bed-knob etc. Sometimes a character would catch her and they would simply be holding a little bulb that glowed wonderfully.

 

At the end, the lost boys, Wendy and Michael were being read a story by the Darlings, and Peter was looking down at them from the mirror in the room. It was really moving.

 

Andrew Clark, played Captain Hook, with menace and bravado. I have seen Clark before playing Stark from No Mean City, and he never fails to entertain.

 

I see from the programme that the Citizens are doing the Wizard of Oz next Xmas, and I would wholly recommend choosing this over any Gerard Kelly or Elaine C Smith-helmed panto at the Kings or Pavillion. We all enjoyed this production tremendously.

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I have tickets for a couple of theatrical things lined up. Next Monday, I'm off to see the production of "Glengarry Glen Ross" currently running in the West End and starring Jonathan Pryce and Aidan Gillen.

 

Although as much comedy as theatre, on Friday I shall be at the Trafalgar Studios to see "X-Files Improv". It's a one man show by Dean Haglund, who played Langley, one of the Lone Gunmen, in the TV series. Supposedly, he will make up an entire episode of the series based on audience suggestions. I was a big fan of the show, and supposedly this was a hit on the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe. It sounds like my idea of fun.

 

For those in the vicinity of the West End, the "Get Into London Theatre" promotion is about to start selling lots of cheap(er) theatre tickets. I got £20 off each of my "Glengarry Glen Ross" tickets through it.

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I am terribly envious of you Gram, getting to see GGR with Aiden Gillen - I hope it is fantastic.

 

A couple of things coming up at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow I fancy seeing:

 

The Blue Room, David Hare

Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett

The Sound of my Voice, adapted from Ron Butlin's novel

 

which reminds me, I must get my butt in gear and actually get the tickets.

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I'm very much looking forward to it, Hazel.

 

"The X-Files Improv" was brilliant. The show is essentially a series of sketches parodying events that were common to "X-Files" episdoes e.g. an autopsy, Mulder facing a mutant foe (for us, a llama penguin badger hybrid).

 

The show relied heavily on audience participation. Each audience member was handed a slip of paper on the way in, asked to write a sentence on it, and then the ppaer was collected and the slips used in a later sketch of a visit from Mulder (a selected audience member) to the Lone Gunmen office. For other skits, audience members were asked to provide sound effects, move Haglund's body around for him and provide his arms.

 

Anyone who's seen an episode of "Whose Line is it Anyway" will be fmailiar with the format of some of the sketches, but Haglund brings enormous energy to the show and familiarity with the source material would not have been a pre-requisite. Enormous fun.

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As I mentioned above, I saw "Glengarry Glen Ross" last night. Since we're about to discuss the play text elsewhere, I'll try and focus here on this production.

 

This was my third encounter with the play; in addition to seeing the film version, I remember hearing a radio version a couple of years ago. It's such a talky play that it worked really well on the radio.

 

The key to a good production of this play is that the cast tune into the rhythms of Mamet's pin sharp dialogue, and this cast are up to the challenge. The (admittedly sometimes foul) language is the play's strength; one can tell the likes of Quentin Tarantino and "The Sopranos"' scriptwriters were taking notes.

 

As well as delivering the lines, Jonathan Pryce as Shelly Levene convincingly managed to seem increasingly haggard and downtrodden as the play progresses. Aidan Gillen, as superslick ace salesman Ricky Roma, sports a bizarre haircut and a thin moustache and brings a suitable oiliness to the role.

 

However, as an ensemble piece, "GGR" needs more than just the guys whose names are above the title to deliver the goods, and I wouldn't single any member of an excellent cast out for special praise.

 

It's not a long play - 80 minutes of stage time overall - so the interval felt a little superfluous and broke the flow, but I guess is needed for practical reasons in order to set up the office after the early scenes in the restaurant.

 

For the first half, the set was reduced to film screen size with a black curtain, but since each scene in the first act is two characters conversing (first Levene and Williamson the office manager, then Moss and George, finally Ricky Roma and potential customer James Link) this actually works well. The office, messily strewn with paper, is a full stage set.

 

The play is only on until this coming Saturday (12th January) so you'll need to hurry!

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I forgot to mention that I saw Waiting for Godot at the Citizens Theatre last month. It was very good, except a girl next to me had obviously dragged her mother along, held the text in her hands as the play progressed and explained every...single...little...thing to her mother. It drove me crazy. But the play was excellent, the Glaswegian accents gave it a humour that really made the play for me.

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I went to see "The Thirty Nine Steps" in the West End on Saturday. This is an ingenious production, written by Patrick Barlow (aka Desmond Olivier Dingle of the National Theatre of Brent - catch their "The Arts and How They Was Done" on Radio 4 at the moment).

 

Four actors play all the roles in the story - well, one plays Richard Hannay, three play the rest of the cast, requiring them occasionally to have dialogues with themselves as two different characters represented by changes in hats.

 

The props are similarly minimalist - a ladder suspended between two step ladders represents the Forth Bridge, for example. Lovingly ripped off from the assorted film versions, with references to several other Hitchcock films chucked in for good measure, this has its tongue very firmly placed in its cheek. It's all very silly and very good fun.

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I went to see Felicity Kendal in Noel Coward's The Vortex today. I had read most of Coward's plays last year, but it is always better to see them performed rather than read - you don't get the nuances or the pauses etc.

I really enjoyed the witty banter and Felicity Kendal was great. It was a bit unfortunate that her toyboy lover's name was Tom, as you couldn't help thinking of The Good Life. The homosexual undercurrent was something that, although Coward, I'm not sure was originally intended.. but it worked fine.

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