Friday, June 06, 2008

All My World's a Stage

Last year, I only went to the theatre five times. When I say "only" I'm well aware that I still went more an the average person, but I live in London, I work in the industry and do occasionally get free tickets. I even drink out of a "Chicago" mug (as do most people in our office - we were sent a shipment of them).

So one of the things I was determined to do this year was to go to the theatre more. So far, I'm level with last year's record, which is still probably way less than most people in our office, but then I am limited in my choices as (whisper it) I don't really like musicals.

My theatrical experiences this year have been as follows:

Spamalot - I'm aware that this is a musical but it is more Monty Python than musical, and I like Monty Python. This is rather a double-edged sword though, because you have to like Monty Python to enjoy this, but if you like Monty Python, chances are you will already know all of the best jokes.

Ring Around the Moon - A farce about mistaken identity by Jean Anouilh. It was funny, but I couldn't help but think that if I'd been directing it, I'd have done it darker as there was definitely potential in there for the comedy to be blacker. Sadly, as it wasn't a musical or a play starring a big name from television (just lots of good actors), it closed pretty quickly.

Festen - I returned to my old theatre, an amateur place that prides itself on producing to professional standards. I used to do backstage work there but hadn't been back for about four years. I was the youngest person in the audience by about 30 years, although there weren't many in the audience anyway. According to the programme notes, many members had vowed to stay away as they did not like the subject matter - incest basically. It was a good production and I was reassured to find that the old place hadn't changed a bit - I'd worked with the director and a few of the actors back in my time there.

Billy Elliot - I was at the 3rd Birthday Party for the show, which meant it was introduced by the director and there was a special performance at the end by the new set of Billys who are going to New York. The show is excellent, that is undeniable. However, I did have problems with the casting. Its terribly un-pc to even mention this, but in some pieces such as this "colour blind casting" just doesn't work. If you have play set in a precise time and location, especially one in such recent history, to me it looks frankly odd if one member of a family from a white working class area is black. The dialect coach should also be fired. The accents, on the whole, were woeful and kept hopping over the pennines. There were about four people in the cast with a north east accent, and only one with the correct accent for that area. Obviously, being from there, I'm more sensitive to this than the average person. In fact one of the snooty "never been out of London" types in my office said they didn't like it because they couldn't understand a word that anyone said. But so long as you aren't from the north east but have heard someone who speaks with anything other than an RP accent before, it is a brilliant show.

Fat Pig - A comedy by Neil La Bute starring a trio of people currently very popular in the world of television comedy. This promised more than it delivered. It was entertaining enough for the first half, but after the interval it dipped and it really didn't have anything special to say.

I had the chance to see "Gone with the Wind" but decided that free ticket or not, I didn't fancy sitting there for over three hours.

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