Thursday, 2 March 2017

February: At the Theatre

Living in one of the theatre capitals of the world, this would be the year that I would make the most of it. Be it watching a 5 minute snippet of new writing in a crowded cafĂ©, embracing amateur theatre, or treating myself to a seat at a West End show, London is bursting with opportunities to engage with the stage. My interest (and bank balance) in the last couple of years has been primarily afforded to musicals; I feel like if I’m going to pay £40 for a seat, I want to see a show. I want songs and dancing and an impressive set, and I want to leaving feeling warm and uplifted and singing catchy tunes for days after. Maybe it’s a new found maturity, or maybe it’s gradual disappointment with the superficiality of some musical theatre, that’s made sickly sweet ballads just too nauseating and pushed me back into the realms of cold, hard plays. And it’s been one of my most fulfilling months of theatre yet.

Ok, so there were songs in this one…recorded and performed…but it wasn’t actually a musical. Written and performed by two creative and funny women, I’ve had the privilege of seeing this play evolve over the last couple of months into the heart-warming and hilarious piece it is today. SPLIT is about the power of having, and being, a best friend, and the development of that relationship from your first day at secondary school, through your teenage years, to adulthood. It’s brilliance lies in its realism, and the ability of every girl (and some boys!) in the audience to say ‘yes! I remember that’ – be it a traumatic experience with tampons…or a boy, or the pill. Each scene change was complemented by a song that inevitably reminded you of your teenage years (Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson…you know the rest), which really complemented the comedy, maintaining an upbeat and involved audience throughout. I was massively impressed at what Emma & Tamar had managed to do in the evenings and weekends I’d just spent scrapbooking and binge watching Billions, and I can’t wait to see where they take it next. Keep your eyes peeled for the best comedy duo since Dick ‘n Dom in Da Bungalow.

T H E . G L A S S . M E N A G E R I E
love Tennessee Williams, and I’d never seen The Glass Menagerie. So when I found out that it was doing a 3 month stint at the Duke of York’s and it was being directed by John Tiffany, I got myself some tickets. The morning before we were due to see the play and Simon asked ‘is it going to be depressing, because I’m fed up of depressing stuff?’ I was worried. Williams is not exactly known for his feel-good uplifting work, but I used the words moving, thoughtful and challenging as a distraction. And actually, I was right. It was a beautiful performance, and a prime example of the way Tiffany captivates an audience so well. Cherry Jones played a fantastic ‘mother’ character, worrisome and vexatious, but well-meaning and with perfect comedic injection. Tom (Michael Esper) and Laura (Kate O’Flynn) have very different problems of their own, and wonderfully created a melting-pot of love, guilt, fear and loss in this suffocating space. What I love about Tennessee Williams is that, often, not very much happens in his plays – but that they’re about memory, and people, and relationships. The Glass Menagerie succeeds at creating and truly delving into characters through a seemingly simple, but moving and intricate story. It was the best piece of theatre I’ve seen in a long time, and would absolutely recommend you try and catch it before it ends in April.

T H E . K I T E . R U N N E R
I think I was about 14 when I first read The Kite Runner, and it’s always stuck with me as one of those books that really made me think and feel, and sparked my interest in literature set in the Middle East. It felt like one of those novels that would make a good play or film, and when its 11 week run in the West End was announced, I was excited to see it. And it wasn’t really what I expected – in some ways – but that’s not to discredit it. I can only describe it as a cross between a narrative and a play. Whilst there were extended periods of immersion, the story being played out in front of you, there was also a lot of telling, as though someone was narrating their life story to you. If I’m being brutally honest, I could have done with a bit more showing than telling; but it was an interesting adaptation, and perhaps emphasised the stark normalisation of abuse, war and separation in times and places not too distant from us. My memory of the story was blurry in places, and that definitely added to my enjoyment of the play. I knew what was going to happen without knowing exactly, and remained shocked and touched and disgusted by all the scenes and characters I was supposed to be. There is definitely value in not knowing with this story. The character development, and the acting, really was faultless, and I loved the decision not to include children in the play – rather using infantile language and movement to indicate the growing of the characters. The broken, yet unbreakable, friendship between Amir and Hassan was portrayed beautifully, and established a really interested platform from which to compare all the other relationships in the play. It’s not the most conventional piece of theatre, but in its understated interpretation lies it power, its charm and its horror. 

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