Sunday, 27 February 2011

Last 10 things seen at the theatre: #001

The purpose of starting this blog was to see if I could keep up any sort of regularity in reviewing the various plays, musicals, and other things I go to see at the theatre. My output thus far, however, has served mostly to suggest that I was trying to run before I could walk.

While I'm mostly keeping on top of my weekly "Friday 5" opinion posts (apart from this week, when illness got in the way), I'm finding it an extraordinary challenge to actually write coherent theatre reviews. It's not so very difficult when you absolutely adore a production, and it's even easier when the production goes out of its way to hit you over head with flaws. But the vast majority of productions - for better or for worse - land somewhere between the two extremes. Hence the difficulty in knowing what to write.

I'm going to keep working at it. I actually have a mess of unfinished reviews tucked away in my drafts folder, and I'm expecting to write a great many more in the future. But for now, I want to do something that publicly lists what I've been to see and records opinions I have. So I've dug out this questionnaire that I like to fill in every now and then, and I'll be redoing it every ten theatre trips, even if I do manage to get up to speed with my reviewing. I hope it'll somewhat serve as an interim opinion post despite not being especially indepth.

Review: Frankenstein, National (Olivier)

The hot ticket for spring 2011 is Danny Boyle's triumphant return to theatre directing with an adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Not only does it have Benedict Cumberbatch, not only does it have Jonny Lee Miller, but they're both playing the Doctor and the Creature! In turns! For anyone who's a fan of either actor, or just intrigued to see how the dynamics differ according to who's who, this crafty gimmick has ensured that Frankenstein is now a doubly hot ticket. And at Wednesday's second press night, the 1,000+ seat Olivier was absolutely crammed to the gills with people curious to see if this production is really worth all the hype.

The casting combo for this particular performance saw Benedict Cumberbatch as the Creature and Jonny Lee Miller as the Doctor.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Friday 5: time travel theatre - 2004

If they invent time travel and make it available to the masses within my lifetime, then I am going to seize the opportunity to fill some gaps in my theatrical history. And I know I'm not the only theatre fan who gets all daydreamy and sad at the thought of all the amazing shows that have passed by either! So if they invent time travel and make it available to the masses within my lifetime, then my first stop is going to be 2004, to see (at least) these five amazing-sounding shows.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Friday 5: the "reviewing previews" debate

If you're reading this, odds are good you'll have stumbled across Matt Trueman's rather contentious article on the Guardian website this week - Theatre bloggers must leave previews alone. There's already been an array of responses to this article, but I'm still going to add my tuppence (or fivepence) nonetheless.

If we ignore Trueman's inflammatory language and logical fallacies and just look at the basics, there are two real responses to the question "is it ethical for theatre bloggers to review a production they saw in preview?". The "yes" side point out that they are writing more for themselves than a national audience, that there may have been a discounted ticket price but they were still charged money to see the show, that a show may be in previews and have a lot of work to do but if they're charging audiences money then they should be ready for the audiences, and that they always make allowances for shows being in previews and point out to their readers when they're reviewing a preview.

The "no" side, on the other hand, would like it to be known that a preview period is for the production to iron out its flaws - which may involve more than just a few seconds on the theatrical ironing board - with the added bonus of getting to find out what does and does not work for a real live audience. Indeed, it is possible for a show to change so much between the first preview and the press night that it is nothing short of disrespectful and rude to form and publish an opinion in a public forum before the production is properly ready to go.

Both sides of the argument have their merits. Everyone who has an opinion on this subject has thoroughly thought it through, and there have been some good debates on the subject. For the record, I fall down on the "yes" side for myself, and will be offering up reviews of preview performances when applicable. If you'd care to click the "Read more >>", you'll find five reasons why this works for me.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Friday 5: shows to look forward to (and the women to watch)

There's still a lot of interesting-sounding shows coming up for 2011 and my bank balance is still quivering with fear at the sight of them. So this week, as last, I'm going to be picking out the ones that have the most interesting casting to me and talking them up a bit.