Theatre: Noises Off

December 28, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Posted in London, Theatre | 1 Comment
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Went to the Old Vic and watched Noises Off and it was a great farce set behind the scenes over the run of a theatre show. How very meta. The first act was funny but not necessarily consistent. However the second act had set all the pieces in motion so the physical comedy and jokes could run thick and fast. Thus ending on a very strong note and allowing the audience to leave with a grin on their faces (and mine).

Theatre: The Ladykillers

December 28, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Posted in London, Theatre | 1 Comment
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Went and saw The Ladykillers after getting some reduced tickets from Tkts in Leicester Square. The theatre wasn’t packed which was a shame as the play is a fun black comedy of a doddering widower who gets inadvertently involved in a criminal gang’s heist and the subsequent deaths as the gang turns on each other. Not constantly laugh out loud but certainly a pleasant evening out.

All new people

December 27, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Posted in London, Theatre | 1 Comment
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Went and saw Zach Braff’s play “All new people” a (few) years ago. Memory is a bit fuzzy so obviously take this quick review with a grain of salt.

To be honest I found it all a bit tiring. The story of someone who wants to commit suicide and the effect that some random interlopers have on that decision. Combining this with the interplay between the characters revealing all their own secrets and issues felt a bit predictable and didn’t seem to connect into a seamless whole.

It felt like the actors were trying though and maybe if you got a cheap ticket but in the hypothetical world where this was still playing I wouldn’t recommend it. Sorry. I wanted to like you!

Book of Mormon

December 27, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Posted in London, Theatre | 1 Comment
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Book of Mormon is a musical from the creators of South Park. It’s very funny and appropriately touching too. It’s the story of a Mormon fresh out of missionary school going to Africa to spread the word of god, with predictably mad cap results. Having watched a lot of SP I expected it to be very crass but it’s been tamed down a bit for the Broadway/West End theatre goer. Having said that it is definitely not for children.

If you can go do try to. However the price point you’re comfortable will be up to you. Apparently some tickets are now in the hundreds of pounds and if I paid that I’d feel like I’d not got my money’s worth. Though that’s my price point and I’d not pay that for any event. Each to their own and all that.

Play: Big and Small

July 20, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Posted in General, London, Theatre, UK | 1 Comment
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Last year at the Barbican, Cate Blanchett performed in the Sydney Theatre Company’s “Big and Small“.

Much of the time spent is with the audience and a solo Blanchett, occasionally other actors break up the monologues. The story follows Lotte (Blanchett) as she seeks out true relationships with those around her.

Personally I didn’t find the character of Lotte as redeeming as perhaps I should, nor was the overall play something that would be work in less skilled hands. However Cate Blanchett’s skill and presence on stage is so strong that you easily get caught up in the experience and it was a joy to watch her be Lotte and perform. I have to wonder if it had it been another actress I don’t think Big and Small would have been as successful.

Definitely worth seeing or trying to watch Blanchett in her next performance.

Play: In Basildon

July 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Posted in General, London, Theatre | 1 Comment
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Over a year ago I watched the play, In Basildon, at the cosy in the round style Royal Court Theatre. Having some Essex heritage it seemed like an appropriate piece of theatre to go and see. Having a few drinks beforehand/throughout did help to pass the time. Was it dramatic? Pretty much yes. Did it feel like it was playing to condescending stereotypes? A little bit yes but not massively. The play is basically the story of a family coming together as the patriarch lies dying. The standard family issues dramas then unfold, it’s done reasonably well and rather depressingly no one is that pure so I found I couldn’t root for anyone in particular. Perhaps not having a cheery ending was my biggest bugbear? I guess that day I needed more Disney than drama. Overall it was decent but not a must see.

Musical: Matilda

July 20, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Posted in General, London, UK | 1 Comment
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About a year ago I went and saw the smash hit musical Matilda. Was it worth the money and did it live up to the hype? Short answer yes. The energy of the performances, both the young cast and the male lead in heavy Trunchbull attire deserve praise. The set design is well crafted making excellent use of space while bringing us into Matilda’s world of learning and childhood. Even if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie you’ll quickly get to grips with the story. Definitely try and see it.

Avenue Q

February 11, 2009 at 12:49 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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On Monday I went to my first performance of Avenue Q at the Noel Coward Theatre in London’s West End. I’d heard rave reviews and by the end of the performance I was not disappointed.

We had good seats centrally located on row K (tickets purchased via Get into London Theatre) and could clearly see the screens that dropped down periodically throughout the performance.

While it took a few minutes to get into the musical and the unique nature of the puppet/actor-puppeteer performance by the time we reached “It sucks to be me” everything had fallen into place. The plot follows Princeton as he struggles to find his purpose in life and love with Kate Monster. However, at the climax of the first act he’s broken up with his love and fallen into despair at finding said purpose. This dramatic high-point provides an excellent bookend for the Act and its earlier comedic points.

After intermission we’re back with more comedic songs about love and life, as to be expected by the end of the musical resolutions abound for Princeton, Kate and all the other characters. I won’t spoil it!

All of the songs are funny, endearing and/or identifiable (from “What do you do with a B.A in English?” to “There is Life Outside of your Apartment” and “The Internet is for Porn”). The content of the lyrics and performance in general is adult themed (like “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love)”) so if you think that may offend you then “Avenue Q” probably isn’t your type of musical.

My only complaint is that some of the lyrics weren’t that clear – although this was in the minority and I put it down to the audio system or my mp3 impaired hearing! 

The actors and puppets provide excellent performances with the puppets and handlers all having their own unique mannerisms. The actors are often having to work with multiple puppets at once or within moments of each other thus switching quickly between personalities and rapidly moving around the set. As a result it’s quite physical and there’s a constant sense of energy and drive pushing the performance onwards. The 2 hour performance goes by in a flash!

“Avenue Q” is set in NYC and there are very few changes from the American version; certainly it didn’t seem to affect the audience’s reaction. Overall all of us loved the musical and the other people in the crowd definitely agreed as well! After such a great performance I’ve even developed a crush on actor Daniel Boys!

London’s “Avenue Q” will be closing on 28 March 2009. Make sure you see it before then!

West End Live

June 24, 2008 at 10:03 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Random, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Thanks to a well placed sign at the Cartoon Museum I was reminded of the West End Live event going on at Leicester Square. For anyone not in the know the West End is where all of the theatres are located and is basically adjacent/around/in close proximity to Leicester Square. So of all the places to hold an event promoting the West End this seems equally wildly unnecessary and perfectly placed for the fan/tourist.

As it was free I was for it.

Basically, within the square there were a range of stalls either promoting businesses, movies (e.g Kung Fu Panda) or Art Galleries or alternatively being kind of kitschy, like playing dress up and pretending you’re attending a premiere or taking your photo with Batman and other impersonators (Batman was considerably shorter than Indy – is that right?). On the outer ring of the square were a range of famous movie cars to take photos with like the Flintstones and the 60s Batmobile. Finally, the main stage had various performances like the musicians from the Globe.

The bulk of these stalls were definitely geared towards children but apparently the organisers think children only want to colour and draw. Strangely, Jet Li’s movie The Forbidden Kingdom had a stall, no the fact that it had a stall wasn’t the odd thing. Rather the activity there seemed to be showing and/or teaching martial arts and/or stunt fighting and there was only one boy participating – not even any spectators. Clearly today’s children aren’t fans of violence! Video games must be having the wrong effect, well that or today’s children are not enthused by physical activity.

On my way out I grabbed a swag bag which consisted of a random collection of items, honestly I have no idea what this is meant to say about the movie/theatre tourist:

  • Wilkinson Plus catalogue – because you need somewhere comfy to sit at home when watching DVDs
  • 1x Sammy Dodger snack bar, 1x Maryland munch bar and 1x salt and pepper Crips (yes crips) – at least they know snacks are important
  • Kiwi brand foot silk and 4x Comfort Concentrate – clearly you stink! Thanks for coming to West End Live!

Overall West End Live was a nice, quick and free diversion and fortunately it wasn’t too crowded. Next year if it’s back you can easily do a loop or time it for when a performance you like comes on. If you have children this will probably be a fun activity but marshaling them around may be a bit tiring.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

January 23, 2008 at 10:34 am | Posted in General, London, Out and About, photos, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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It may be a replica but that doesn’t detract too much from Shakespeare’s Globe at Southwark near the Tate Modern and over the river from Saint Paul’s.

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Unless you’re going to a show you should pay the £9 allowing you access to the museum and the 45mins tour. Otherwise it’s about £4 for each part.

I arrived about 20 minutes before the tour and this was just enough time to do a quick whip around the museum. The museum discusses the history of the Globe (and its reconstruction), theatre in Shakespeare’s day and surprisingly the theories of whether Shakespeare wrote the plays were delved into.

There were also sections on clothing, artisians and music in the theatre but I only glanced through them so you may want to devote a little more time if you’re interested in these topics.

Touch screens as well as a few video screens are also available for more information.

Lastly, on the ground floor before going on the tour you may be able to take a few minutes and watch some stage combat and chat to the actors.

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At the beginning of the tour I was a bit concerned that the guide was only going to reiterate items from the museum but this wasn’t the case. Although my lack of intensive reading could mean this isn’t entirely accurate.

Although there were quite a few of us on the tour the guide projected his voice well and was friendly and engaging. He gave us a brief overview before taking us into the ground floor of the theatre with progressively more information as we moved higher into the Globe.

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Apart from the sprinkler system, concrete floor and fire escapes (oh health and safety you are so irritating) the building is largely the same as the original and was constructed using methods and materials available to Elizabetheans. Quite the task.

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While the theatre predominantly runs Shakespeare’s work they also develop their own original perfomances which they use to explore the theatre’s unique open space and natural lighting.

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For the actor or English major the Globe will be particularly interesting but for everyone else it is only an average exhibit. Despite the history of theatre and the excellent efforts of the staff it is difficult to significantly upsell the fact that at the end of the day it is only a building.

A lack of extensive historical information about the Globe means that there are only limited contemporary anecdotes and these could have brought the theatre even more to life.

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