Friday, 13 March 2015

2015 in theatre

Theatre is, and always has been, my passion. Ever since begging my mum let me join the school drama club aged 7, I've been hooked - on the magic, the talent and the beauty of the theatre. These days I'm more of a spectator than a performer, and living in London has given me the perfect excuse to revel in the theatre:

This is my year in theatre:


1. BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL
I first saw the show 8 years ago and fell in love with it. This February marked my fifth viewing, and I think it was the best one yet. There is nothing not to absolutely adore about this show - it combines the unrivalled charm of fiery, raw theatre with a strong soundtrack, exceptional wit and the most amazing dancing. Despite knowing the story, the lyrics to all the songs, and being prepared for the intense emotion, every time I see the show I'm affected a little bit more. I shed an extra tear, there's another giggle and I'm consistently amazed. It's the perfect and my absolute favourite musical!

2. THE BOOK OF MORMON
I've been aching to see this show since it opened in the West End in 2013, and it did not disappoint. Having never seen South Park, I wasn't sure what to expect - but within 2 minutes of the opening my cheeks were sore from laughing. The Book of Mormon offers a great story, some excellent stagecraft - but what makes it is the hugely varied, catchy and hilarious songs. Trey Parker and Matt Stone have done an incredible job of creating a show that's so close to the mark, yet offends none - and is loved by all.
P.s. I still have maggots in my scrotum


3. THE NETHER 

I went to see this play by chance, stuck for ideas for Mother's Day, and feeling like I should get in there quickly before it finishes in London after 12 weeks. I had no idea what to expect, aside from 'internet, future, paedophiles'. It was really bizarre, and it took me a little while to get into it and fully understand quite how these issues were being addressed. The Nether is a futuristic, virtual space in which 'The Hideaway' exists: an arena in which paedophiles can express themselves within the safe, distanced confines of the internet. Initially it seems hideous. Eventually you begin to consider if it's actually morally responsible - if we don't have the power to harness and control individuals' imagination, we can at least restrict their actions. I was thrilled to see a play this risky and challenging in the West End and not stuck in various fringes. It confronted an issue often avoided, asking a question that we, one day, may have to deal with. 


4. WAR HORSE
War horse is artistic, moving and refreshingly childlike. Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, War Horse tells the tale of one man's journey through WWI in search of his horse who has been sold to the cavalry. But this time, the focus is not specifically on the soldiers, but the horses - those who also didn't sign up to fight and experienced similar horrors. War horse is famed for its stagecraft, and very rightly so. I quickly became lost in the puppetry: the birds flying overhead, the horses so lifelike, and the comedic Barbara the goose as enchanting as the actors on stage. It is a tale of friendship and hope more than it is a typical, graphic war story. War horse offers a new perspective, a new heart, an innocent challenge to a complex existence. 

5. NIRBHAYA

We all heard the media accounts, some of us watched the documentary, but neither does justice to the story quite like the play. Nirbhaya, meaning 'fearless', was the name given to the girl gang raped (and ultimately killed) by a group of men on a Delhi bus in 2012. This play is part of the consequence: the rising up of Indian women, who will no longer be silenced, telling their stories. Nirbhaya traces the stories of 5 women with shocking tales they can finally tell. But the most torturous thing about these stories, is that they are their own. Sitting in front of a woman who tells you how she was consistently raped as a child, or covered in kerosene and set on fire by her husband is genuinely one of the most distressing things I've done. Through powerful narratives and physical theatre, the company brings to light the horrors faced by the women and girls of India, questioning ideas of belonging, the presence of the self and rejection of the body. Though arguably too graphic in parts, it achieved its purpose. It made me angry; it made me feel sick; and it made me want to help and be part of the change. Nirbhaya is a show I never want to see again, but I'm grateful for the chance to see it once. 






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