Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet

Ballet and Shakespeare: what could be more perfect? Thrown in with Matthew Bourne’s skill if setting his productions in unusual settings, you have a great evening of theatre.

Bourne’s ballet is set in an aslyum, which may not be the usual setting for one of Shakespeare’s greatest love stories, but it worked. Now, I do not claim to be an expert on the deeper ideas about the interpretations but for me this was about the patients versus the establishment, and the forbidden love comes from the ‘Girls’ and ‘Boys’ being divided.

Whatever the interpretation should be, the point is the fact that this is an enjoyable production. The choreography is engaging and tells the story beautifully at every stage. There is humour, raw emotion and devastating tragedy.

The staging is simple but powerful, the stark white of the patients costumes and their ‘prison’ is a great contrast to the tale unfolding on the stage. The dark form of Tybalt casts his shadow over the lives of the patients. And a violent, heart-breaking tale unfolds.

Having seen this and ‘Sleeping Beauty’, it makes me keen to see more of Matthew Bourne’s interpretations, as he is clearly not restrained by conventions.

Have you seen any of Matthew Bourne’s productions? What are your thoughts of his style?

Theatre Club – Fiddler on the Roof

Regular readers will know that there is a tradition between myself and Mrs M, known as ‘Theatre Club’. Twice a year, without fail, we go to see a show in London as a birthday treat for each of us. As it was my birthday earlier in the summer, it was my turn to be taken to a surprise show.

And, Mrs M did an amazing job with her choice, as we went to see ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ at the Playhouse. There are so many reasons that this was a treat but mainly because I have never been to this theatre and I have never seen ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, but it has always been on the wishlist.

Wow, what a production and what a musical. It was clear before it even started that this is a musical that holds a special place in the hearts of so many muscial theatre fans. I now totally understand why; this is a show that I am not going to forget for a long time.

The songs are wonderful and I especially enjoyed hearing ‘If I was Rich Man’ performed so fabulously by Andy Nyman. The choreography was stunning, you almost wanted to join all the cast on the stage. But, for me, it is the actual tale that struck me the most. I have never seen the film or any previous production, so I wasn’t totally aux fais with the story. However, it is so emotional, the idea that the Jewish people had to fight for their traditions and culture. And, although some progress can be good, the destruction of culture and a way of life is never okay. The musical is so beautifully humourous and heart-warming that, as it reaches its conclusion, you can not help but shed a tear or two.

‘Fiddler on the Roof’ is evidence again that the most surprising subjects make the most powerful and memorable musicals. If you can find an opportunity, I would highly recommend seeing this show. Absolutely brilliant from start to finish.

Measure for Measure

Our summer trip to the RSC was to see Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse’s favourite play, ‘Measure for Measure’. A probloem play, so I am told, as it does not appear to fit perfectly into any category.

This production, by Gregory Doran, is set in early 1900s Vienn. Angelo has been left in charge of the city to deal with the brothels and low morals that the citizens appear to be demonstrating. However, is he in fact, any more morally superior than the people he is accusing?

This production was certainly played for laughs (including actors corpsing which, for me, always makes the show more enjoyable). However, what struck me through some of the action and the soliloquies is that, again, Shakespeare’s plays could have been written for the age we are living in. Are those in control really deserving? Can we believe or trust anything we are told?

As always, the production was superb. The cast engaged the audience in the tale, the set so simple but yet so versatile, and the music creating the perfect atmosphere.

Overall, a highly enjoyable, yet thought-provoking evening.

Six: The Musical

I love the opportunity to go to London and see a musical. As Miss W had mentioned that she fancied seeing ‘Six’, I jumped at the chance to plan a little trip (especially as even students I teach had been telling me ‘to see that musical about Henry VIII’s wives’).

‘Six: The Musical’ is at the Arts Theatre on the edge of Leicester Square. Quite an intimate theatre, which is perfect for this show as it is more a brilliant rock and pop concert than a traditional musical narrative. In fact, it is such a simple idea that it is incredibly effective.

The wives act out their own singing contest to allow the audience to decide who the most hard-done-by wife of Henry VIII was. Historical fact is set to amazing music to allow each wife to tell their tale, in a way that would probably suit their character if it was the modern day. The songs are catchy and the audience really does feel like it is at a rock concert.

However, what struck me the most was not just the amazing all-female production but the excellent ‘political’ statement made about ‘his-story’. All of those women are connected by Henry VIII, the man who fact brought them to hsitory. Yet they are part of ‘her-story’ and are figures in their own right, none more significant than the other but each having made their contribution. We just, unfortunately, often remember what those who write ‘his-story’ want us to remember.

This show deserves all the praise and dedicated following it has gained. And, if it is causing people to become more interested in history well, then it has done a fantastic job.

Grease: The Musical

Despite my love of musicals ‘Grease’ is one that I have never seen. I’m not really sure why; after all, I was in the chorus of a school production many years ago. So, when I was given the chance to see the current touring production at Birmingham Hippodrome I thought: why not?

It really was an ‘electrifyin” production. Grease is one of those shows that has a cult following; really dedicated fans who ensure they see it every time it is on as it is a show that engulfs the audience in the nostalgia of the age of rock ‘n’ roll. As well as involving a love story which is always a popular narrative.

Let’s be honest – when the first tune is ‘Grease is the word’, you are addicted to the show. The whole performance was wonderful, high energy, colourful, and fabulous. There was even a ‘flying’ car during ‘Grease Lightin”. The whole company were great, with Dan Partridge taking on Danny Zuko and Martha Kirby playing Sandy (you would not know it is her professional debut – she WAS Sandy). However, I am not sure I have ever heard an audience get quite as excited as the moment that Peter Andre appeared as ‘Teen Angel’, a short but sweet appearance which made the audience squeal.

I really enjoyed this porduction, and the nostalgia of rock ‘n’ roll and the start of teenagers as their own group. I am not sure that the ‘love’ story is one that works for the modern age, but it is good fun and I am not sure why I have waited quite so long to see it.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019 – Part Two

There is so much at the Edinburgh Fringe – it is like an assault on the senses – but this also means that there is lots of choice. So, the main theme of the rest of the trip was music.

All the King’s Men

From the moment I finally caught up with the real world and saw ‘Pitch Perfect’, I became fascinated by ‘a coppella’ music. So when we spotted the opportunity to see the all male a cappella group ‘All the King’s Men’, we could not turn it down.

Their covers of a range of tunes were brilliant. They engage the audience with their slick choreography and amazing vocal talents.

The favourite for me was the cover of ‘I wanna dance with somebody’. Who can’t enjoy a singalong to such a classic? However, every song was brilliant, and you can not help leaving with a smile on your face and singing some tunes.

Avenue Q

This is a musical I have seen before and this production did not disappoint.

Avenue Q is Sesame Street for adults (and is certainly full of adult themes – this is not a family show). Part of the charm is that we all remember Sesame Street with rose-tinted glasses, and this gives us an excuse to enjoy such things again.

The laughs in Avenue Q are continuous (even if you are not sure if you should laugh at every song and joke). The talent of the puppeteers is impressive, the taking on of their puppets’ characters as well as working the puppets themselves.

It was a great production with a minimal set that worked for all the scenes, and talented actors who took on more than one part.

The Dolly Parton Story

Miss W is a huge Dolly Parton fan, so we could not turn down the chance to see ‘The Dolly Parton Story’. This is a show which tells the story of Dolly Parton’s career up until the 80’s – and, as we go, songs are sung along the way.

The songs in thsi show are sung by Hannah Richards, and she does this beautifully. Dolly would be proud of the show that is put on for the audience.

The audience is offered the stories behind some of Dolly Parton’s famous songs, as well as learning what a real rags-to-riches life the Queen of Country has led, with its ups and downs.

It was wonderful to see the audience really embrace the chance to have a singalong to end the show. After such a brillaint morning, it was an afternoon of Dolly Parton earworms.

Unfortunate

This was a surprise favourite of the Edinburgh Festival for both of us, I think. A friend recommended that we should go and see the offering from the ‘Fat Rascal Theatre’, and so we went to see ‘Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch’. As ‘The Little Mermaid’ is my favourite Disney film, this seemed like something I would enjoy!

And, oh my word, we enjoyed it. It was laugh-out-loud funny from almost the very first moment. The songs are truly wondeful (and, no, you won’t them before you arrive), as they create quite a parody of that classic film. This is not a family show – it has rather adult humour – Ariel has a whole different character to the film.

The show is wonderfully presented with a brilliantly simplistic stage, and costumes and all parts played by one of five members of the company. It is brilliant how they manage to play such a range of characters.

I am really keen to go and see more shows by ‘Fat Rascal Theatre’, because it was all comedy gold.

Legally Blonde

Our final show was a production of ‘Legally Blonde: The Musical’. This production was put on by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. This is a full production and is good fun.

This is the tale of Elle Woods as she wants to prove she can be the woman her ex-boyfriend wants. However, she shows she can be so much more. The tunes in Legally Blonde are good fun and were performed beautifully. The jokes were brought right up to date for the audience. It was a great production of a fun musical with very talented actors on the stage and another simple but impressive set, and was a great way to bring our awesome Edinburgh experience to an end.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019 – Part One

At the start of August, I went to Edinburgh with the lovely Miss W. She had planned a little trip for us to attend the Edinburgh Fringe; something that has been on my bucket list for years. Having grown up listening to brilliant radio comedy, I had always heard of the Fringe and it always sounded like it would be great fun – and the event did not disappoint.

So, in order to share my thoughts, I have decided to create two posts – one that focuses on the spoken word events we saw, and a second that share the music and theatre we saw. So, I guess I should begin…

Evil Genius with Russell Kane

Attending a recording of radio show is something that (again) has been on the bucket list for quite some time. So, I am over the moon that I have managed to tick that off by attending a recording of ‘Evil Genius’ with Russell Kane. This started life a BBC podcast, but is moving to BBC Radio 4. The concept of the show is that the panel must decide if a celebrity of choice is ‘evil’ or ‘genius’ – there is no grey area.

The focus of our show was Bernard Manning (not the turkey man, Miss W). I won’t spoil the outcome but the panel chaired by Russell Kane, discussed the subject with a balance of humour and serious focus to make for a very entertaining show.

I am looking forward to the episode being broadcast to remember I was there (and love Russell Kane, Miss W even let me swap seats so I could see – haha).

The Empathy Experiment

One of the great things about the Edinburgh Fringe is that there are a number of shows that are free. One such show was ‘The Empathy Experiment’.

This was a spoken word show by Rose Condo, sharing her experiment that suggests if we give up our phones, we will show more empathy.

The audience are taken through the steps of the experiment. An interesting comment on the world of modern technology we live with every day. This show certainly makes you consider the pros and cons of a world of devices.

Will you leave looking at your use of devices or level of empathy differently?

Age Fright: 35 and Counting

Wow, this was a brilliant piece of stand-up comedy as, let’s be honest, it spoke directly to me and Miss W. We were the perfect target audience (and even managed to get over our fear of being involved).

Jaleelah Galbraith leads us through the nineties again, reminding us of all theose things that made grwoing up in thet decade great fun. (Dean Cain was one of my first crushes too). It was such a giggle as we all together remember the retro decade.

However, something this show did well was not just to focus on the rose-tinted nineties, Jal also thinks about make the most of our age and the life we have, because not everybody is so lucky to see all the ages that they could go through.

Buffering

The final piece of spoken word stand-up comedy we saw was ‘Buffering’. A show based on the idea that the women feel that their life is buffering, waiting for their children to leave home, or caught in the middle of elderly relatives and children (and maybe the odd glass of wine).

Jenny Laville and Pauline Eyre take to the stage as a double act who then split into their individual stand-up acts. They use their experiences to create a relateable set of routines for all. There were so many laugh-out-loud moments and jokes for all.

There is a great chemistry between both Jenny and Pauline, which make it even more fun, and giggles galore.

We were lucky that every show we saw was absolutely brilliant, and I would recommend each one to anyone who see a good show when in Edinburgh enjoying the Fringe.

Sir Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen is currently on tour to celebrate his 80th birthday. Also, his aim is to raise money for the arts, allowing theatres and companies to decide what the money raised will be spent on.

I have been a fan of Sir Ian McKellen as long as I can remember. He is someone who I rank with many of Britain’s great classical actors such as Dame Judi Dench, Sir Michael Gambon, Sir Patrick Stewart, the list is endless. And when the opportunity came up for me to see him on the stage of the RSC theatre, I was over the moon. It has been on my theatre bucket list to see Sir Ian McKellen on the stage, and what better place than Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home town?

From the moment he took to the stage, the audience was fully captivated. Especially as he opened with a passage from ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’. McKellen held the audience’s attention as he told tales about his journey to stardom. There was so much humour and emotion as he took us on a tour of his career, we were even given the chance to see his Dame Twanky. I was grinning all the way through the first half – and possibly a little starstruck.

The second half was a wonderful nod to Shakespeare and all his plays. Sir Ian McKellen told anecdotes of productions he had performed in, as well as performing extracts from plays – he must be one of the only actors who can create a Shakespeare medley. In fact, I may have shed a little tear when paid tribute to some of the family and friends he has lost over the years. It was beautiful.

An evening in the company of Sir Ian McKellen is one of the best moments I have spent in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (and that’s a bold statement). Everyon around me was also having an amazing time, which was a true tribute to the talent of the star that is Sir Ian McKellen.

The Taming of the Shrew

Well, a rather cutural weekend in mid-July started with a trip to my happy place (The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, for any newbies to the blog). The play of choice was the latest version of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ from the RSC.

This was an interesting adaptation of the classic tale, as the roles were gender-reversed. Kate and Bianco were the focus of the tale, men who came to the attention of the powerful women of Italy. However, still set in Shakespeare’s day, and the matriarchy of Elizabeth I. To begin with, I fully embraced the idea of strong females playing the game, having all the skill and focus to tame the men and achieve what they want. However, as you watch it, you realise that it is actually not a particularly friendly tale (as it is often romanticised as), but actually a tale of manipulation.

Now, this is a sign of a good production, as it makes you reflect and think about the tale that is unfolding in front of you. And maybe, as a female I was more aware of the tale as the women took the lead.

This was an excellent production. Purists may not enjoy the change of genders, but this does not take away from the tale at all. There is comedy and emotion in the production, and you are invested in the tale from the moment it begins. Bianco is fabulously vain; Kate is fabulously rough and ready, but goes through the transformation like a butterfly, and Claire Price makes Petruchia her own.

There was, of course, everything else you would expect from an RSC production. A simple but engaging set and a great use of music and costume to bring the tale to life. A clever reflection of past and present, I would recommend catching this porduction if you can, as I think it will lead you to reflect on this story a little differently to before.

Although, I have to admit that this experience was probably enhanced by spotting Sir Ian McKellen in the audience which will conviently lead to my next post…

Hobson’s Choice

Many years ago in Mrs Dove’s English class, a group of students (including me) studied the play ‘Hobson’s Choice’. We also watched the wonderful black-and-white film with Charles Laughton and Sir John Mills. Therefore, when I saw that the Birmingham Royal Ballet was putting on the ballet as part of the summer season, I knew it had to be a treat for me and my Mum to go.

It was perfect! A fairly modern ballet as it was first composed, choreographed and performed in 1989. It is absolutely magical, totally reminiscent of those old silent movies. The story is told completely through the music, the choreography and the perfect expressions all the dancers performed. And, any ballet that can get ’10 Green Bottles’ into its score is good fun. Every dancer on the stage performed their character with great humour and emotion, and it really brought the whole story to life. The whole ballet was completely engaging and the audience were enthralled. There was even a little sing-along too.

‘Hobson’s Choice’ is such a delightful story which actually has a very strong female lead in the guise of Hobson’s daughter Maggie. This could be considered quite unusual for its time. But she is certainly the one behind sorting out her father and helping Will Mossop to really be appreciated for the talented boot maker that he is. She was performed brilliantly by Beatrice Parma.

Although, this may not be your traditional ballet tale, it was wonderful and I would absolutely love to see it again, as sometimes it does not feel like you can take it all in when you just watch it once.

Do you enjoy the ballet? Do you have a favourite?