Friday, 24 August 2012

Theatrical Interlude 14

Richard III, The Globe Theatre, August 2012

I was a little concerned going into this play - it was the third play in just over 24 hours after all. Could this, the second play in as many days, really be as good as Henry V?

I must learn not to doubt - it was truly wonderful, but a departure from the preceding plays I've seen in this location as it was played with an all male cast.

I'd seen a few cast photos from this play before we went and I did wonder if I'd be able to believe that the female characters were female.  It was a little be of a shock at first but as with any good play this quickly became irrelevant and it was the lines that were important.

In my mind I'd always seen Richard III as a dark sinister character who was an archetypal villain but in this version Mark Rylance expressed his ruthlessness and madness through humour. Admittedly dark and often inappropriate humour but it was an intriguing way to play the role.

I also wonder if this play came closest to showing off The Globe as it would have been in Shakespeare's time as Richard III, and other actors, are constantly turning to the audience and encouraging participation.  It could have turned into a Shakespearean pantomime but the quality of the acting prevented this and I just felt I'd travelled in time.

The one thing I noticed with this performance was how relatively static it was - the actors didn't leave the stage and use the groundling area at all. This play is transferring to a traditional theatre in the West End later in the year and I do wonder if this has altered the staging at all.

All in all another wonderful production at The Globe, and I think a great introduction to the venue for my dad who accompanied us on this visit. I can't wait to introduce my mum to the venue when we see Taming of the Shrew in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Theatrical Interlude 13

The Doctor's Dilemma, Lyttleton Theatre at the National Theatre, August 2012

After leaving the stirring production of Henry V at The Globe my theatre going friend and I strolled along the South Bank until we got to the National Theatre.  We did intend to only visit the shop but the lure of the theatre was too strong and on discovering that there were reduced price tickets to a play that evening we were too weak to resist.

The joy of this play was apart from the playwright, George Bernard Shaw, we know nothing at all about it.  It has been quite a time since I've gone so 'blind' in to a performance.

The play itself was very good and very thought provoking, a lot of valid ethical questions were raised and yet at the same time the play was very funny for much of the time. I wasn't quite sure about the ending but I suppose that was the point Shaw was making - doing the right thing, even for the wrong reason, doesn't always get you what you want.

The real star of this play for me was the staging, the sets were beautiful and moved so cleverly that I at least felt I was walking between locations rather than the scenery changing!  This year has been the year of incredible scenery at the theatre, and the use of light through windows especially often makes me forget I am in a dark theatre and not actually in the house/garret.

All in all a surprise evening of theatre that was very enjoyable and proof that if a play is good then it doesn't matter if you don't know the story (or the actors) in advance.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Theatrical Interlude 12 - reprise (2012)

Henry V, The Globe Theatre, August 2012

A day out at The Globe Theatre is always a treat and as I've discovered seeing a play twice here is no hardship either so I was very excited to be seeing Henry V again.

It was just as good the second time around, and in a way even better as currently there is such a swell of pride in being British that when Henry calls "Cry 'God for Harry, England and St George'" the whole theatre seemed to become one.

Seeing this a second time allowed me to see the wonderful way the battle scenes were choreographed and just how clever the staging is in that you can imagine a full battle when there are less than 20 actors involved.

The play finishes in a week and I am sad that I won't see it a third time - I will however have everything crossed that the Globe release this on DVD sooner rather than later so I can enjoy it again.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Theatrical Interlude 11 (2012)

Hector Goes to Hollywood by The Blakeney Players, Blakeney Village Hall, August 2012.

I can never give an unbiased review of this show - even if it had been the most dreadful thing I'd ever seen (and it wasn't by any means) - as I've known one of the actors since she was born!

As ever the play was a fun romp with a daft story line which can easily be forgiven due to the passion that the whole cast throw into the performance.

The Players write, direct, choreograph their biannual shows as well as creating their own costumes and scenery.

If you haven't seen one of their shows before, or you aren't from Norfolk/Blakeney then you will be a bit lost at first but sit back and enjoy the ride, I guarantee that you'll laugh lots and find your toe tapping.

Overlook the imperfections, the corpsing and the missed lines and rush to book your tickets for the Christmas show as soon as they go on sale.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Theatrical Interlude 10 (2012)

Hamlet (Globe on Tour), Bungay Castle, August 2012

After a break of two months I was more than ready to go to the theatre again and so I'd been looking forward to seeing this production a lot.

The chance to see a play from the Globe that I'd missed in London was a real bonus and the setting for this was lovely - in the grounds of Bungay Castle.  Picnics with wine were positively encouraged and all that was needed was some nice weather...
...the drive from Norwich was not looking hopeful with torrential downpours. Stopping to pick up a friend and the picnic gave the weather a chance to improve and by the time we got to the venue the sun was out - hurrah!

I think that it has become clear that I am very fond of Shakespeare as performed by the Globe and this was no exception. The whole production really had the feeling of coming from Shakespeare's time - all of the props, costumes and staging could have fitted on to a couple of waggons and travelled around the country. The actors were also all talented musicians and I could imagine them earning their bread and board in Tudor England.

I'd not seen any version of Hamlet before this and I liked the staging and 'take' a lot.  While not in conspicuously period costume it seemed to me (and my theatre companions) that the clothes did have a definite 1940s feel and whilst not stating anything overtly this version was drawing parallels with wartime events in Scandinavia .

The cast was tiny and most of the cast played two roles at the very least, there was no time for costume changes and sometimes the two roles were even appearing in the same scene but thanks to clever use of body language and accessories you could always tell who was being portrayed.

The take on Hamlet was interesting and a lot of the time he came across as a very spoiled, petulant teenager, but as the play developed this worked wonderfully in his descent into confusion/madness. I recognised a lot of the famous lines in the play but in my ignorance hadn't realised that they came from Hamlet - the line 'Alas poor Yorrick' was a real treat to hear in context.

This was a really lovely evening - even with the torrential rain in the interval - and I am so pleased that the first play I saw after a break was so good.  One worry before the start was how would we hear the actors, they had no amplification and the stage was a distance away in open country. With only a couple of exceptions there were no issues at all - hats off to the actors who projected so well, even when competing with a flock of geese and an attention seeking pigeon.

My only (small) regret is that I saw Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead before Hamlet, I think I would have got so much more out of the former having seen the original first.

I already can't wait to see if The Globe brings a play to Bungay next year!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Book Review

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

This was a last minute addition to my eReader before we went away. There had been a lot of interest on Twitter about the book and after several people who's opinion I trust praised it I thought I'd give it a go.

I am so pleased that I did. The premise is simple: after receiving some sad news in a letter the recently retired Harold Fry writes a reply and sets off to the post box to post it. However he finds that he can't post it and starts to walk from Devon to Berwick on Tweed.

It sounds a preposterous premise for a full length novel but this gentle novel worms its way under your skin very quickly, why are Harold and his wife so unhappy, why is there son estranged, what was the relationship between Harold and letter writer Queenie...? So many questions that are gently answered as the story goes on.

I was sniffling a lot by the end, but in a good way. I have recommended the book to a lot of people since we've been back and I am so happy that it has been included on the 2012 Booker Prize Longlist.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth

The Olympic Games

I think that it is fair to say that I was not really looking forward to the 2012 games.  I'd failed to get tickets in 2 rounds of the ballots and then there were no affordable seats left for the sports I wanted to see.

Even though the Opening Ceremony was being directed by Danny Boyle and scored by Underworld I wasn't that bothered. Like so many of us the whole ticketing fiasco had made me lose any interest.

On Friday 27th July Mr Norfolkbookworm and I decided that as it was such a historic moment we would at least watch the first few minutes of the opening.  We flicked it on about an hour before the start and to be honest it didn't look great, we crossed our fingers that it would get better.

In our opinion it did. We were both captivated at the spectacle, it was wonderful on so many levels. The artistry of the the countryside becoming an industrial nightmare, the celebration of children's books (and the NHS), the humour and cameo appearances and most surprisingly of all the wonder of the modern dance sequence.

I'll admit the arrival of the athletes did get a little dull - but hey they are what it is all about after all!

The arrival of the torch and the lighting of the cauldron was a masterpiece and from talking to other people I know that I am not the only one who had goosebumps at this point.

The only downside was letting Paul McCartney finish the evening...he might be a talented songwriter and musican but after this I have my doubts, and I don't think he can sing!

All in all my cynicism has vanished, I'm hunting through the website looking for tickets to the Paralympics and hope to get to at least one event. I knew holding on to that day of annual leave was important.

The thing that made Mr Norfolkbookworm and I laugh the most (apart from Mr Bean) was the recognition of the influence last year's Frankenstein play had on the spectacle - we're both still waiting for the train to appear...