Words: 0 (but as I said, Friday is NaNoWrimo day so I was expecting to have anything written today)
Today I went to see the matinee of ‘Urinetown’ at the Apollo Theatre. I originally had tickets when it was at the St James Theatre but because of various circumstances, I ended up having to pass the ticket off to a friend. ‘Urinetown’ has been one of those odd little shows which has been on my radar ever since I was back home studying technical theatre at college (and back when I still liked musicals). I remember reading about it on the old Phantom of the Opera forums at she.net, then somehow I got hold of the cast recording (possibly through the early P2P sites…where someone would have a list and you’d trade them through the post…lots of bootlegs ;)).
I was fascinated by the idea of a meta-musical, and at the time it was my first exposure to such a thing. I would browse the Dress Circle website for hours, occasionally looking fondly on Tower Records (I think it was) who seemed to have all these obscure musicals I was just desperate to hear. One of my first trips on arrival in London (2002) was to the Dress Circle shop where I bought a copy of ‘Avenue Q’ and my musical theatre wishlist promptly became all about ‘Avenue Q’ and ‘Urinetown’.
I got my wish with ‘Avenue Q’.
Never thought I’d see ‘Urinetown’.
It’s a very, very good show and it’s been staged brilliantly. The cast were all fabulous (although I have my doubts over Officer Lockstock’s accent), the set was beautiful and I rather liked the lighting – they could have benefited from followspots though, there were scenes I were I was just aching to put a nice tight head shot on people (that sounds wrong if you’re not a followspot…sorry). Anyway, the theatre had about 80 people in it. Very disappointing for the cast and it’s a show which deserves a bigger audience but one of the biggest problems the show has is it’s not a West End show.
‘Urinetown’ was born on the fringe. It’s very much a fringe musical and I think by putting it in a commercial West End theatre it’s killed the show. It was a hit at the St James Theatre and they clearly thought that the audiences would be the same, they’re not. People going to the West End fringe are going because they want something not offered in the West End, those shows are not the ones the tourists are looking to see.
When I was young, I wanted to be a hedgehog.
I didn’t understand that the mantra “you can be whatever you want to be” had limits.
I don’t remember going through a phase where I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or a fireman. I don’t ever remember wanting to be something. Once, I wrote down that I wanted to be a cricket umpire as I was fed up of the teachers asking me! I wanted to shout “I’m only fourteen! I don’t know what I want to be!” and I think a lot of people have felt the same.
I’d been involved with youth theatre for many years but I definitely didn’t want to be a performer. I hadn’t really given much thought to how productions are put on and my experience with theatre was simply the annual pantomime at the Liverpool Everyman (it was a rock n’roll Liverpool themed panto – Rockin’ Robin and the Babes of Hale Wood will forever be cemented into my brain). I’d seen Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat but it hadn’t made a huge impression on me.
When I was fourteen, my school announced it was doing a trip to see The Phantom of the Opera at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. I decided to go along and the moment the chandelier rose from the stage I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to do that – not the performing, I wanted to make the ‘magic’ happen. I briefly became a Phantom ‘Phan’ and scoured message boards for information about how it all happened and how you could do that for a living.
Eventually I found out about stage managers, lighting technicians and all sorts of wonderful technical positions.
At sixteen, I went to Preston College to study technical theatre. I’d been stage managing at the youth theatre for a good two years by then and hadn’t really explored the other aspects of theatre. I thought I wanted to be a stage manager and focused my first year on those roles. That first year was also the year I saw my first West End productions – We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre and Bombay Dreams at Apollo Victoria. The following year I was picked to light the big outside directed production, after a brief moment of panic and frustration because I’d never lit anything before I soon realised that I not only really enjoyed it but I was quite good. Going to see two more iconic West End productions (Les Miserables at the Palace Theatre and the Lion King at Lyceum Theatre) cemented my feelings about lighting.
I made the wrong choice in choosing to study stage management at drama school, I probably should have chosen lighting design or lighting production but if I had, I wouldn’t have met the person who got me my first West End job so I think I’ve been very lucky to have spent the last ten years working on several large scale West End productions.
I am still disappointed about the hedgehog thing though.
Well. It’s that time again. Time to dust off the ol’ CV and walk around the West End handing CVs to stage door keepers, hoping that you’ve got the timing just right so your CV is the first one the Chief sees.
The first show I worked on to get its notice was Dirty Dancing and I decided not to stay until the end. I took a job on a new musical called Lend Me a Tenor which unfortunately got its notice four months into the run – so far the only show I’ve opened and closed. The next show was The Wizard of Oz. We found out it was closing via the posters – no one ever actually came and told us that we were closing!
It’s a strange feeling when you do finally get confirmation that you’re going to be out of work. During the lead up to the actual meeting there are rumours flying around the theatre, the West End and annoyingly on message boards like Broadwayworld and WhatsonStage. When the announcement is made or the poster is put up at stage door letting you know there is a full company meeting you know what’s coming – now it’s really just a question of when.
Dirty Dancing got five months notice. Lend Me a Tenor got two weeks. I’m not sure what The Wizard of Oz was, I think the date went up on the posters maybe six months before. We Will Rock You has three months, which has been the biggest surprise. I always thought that WWRY would be the type of show to go out with a huge advertising campaign but things have changed a lot in the West End.
WWRY has been a fixture in the West End my entire professional working life and was the first West End production I ever saw (in 2002, not long after it opened). I never really thought that I’d end up not only working it but seeing it out at the end.
It’s going to be very strange going past the Dominion Theatre and not seeing Freddie.
Julian Fellowes (who wrote one of my favourite films ‘Gosford Park’) is in hot water over comments he made about understanding the language of Shakespeare. He’s filmed a version of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ where he’s changed the language, but for the people at Shakespeare’s Globe this is apparently insulting because ‘”Shakespeare’s for everybody. We can all understand him.”‘ Fellows has basically said he wanted to make it accessible to everyone, no matter their level of education or if they feel they’re not able to understand the language because they weren’t “trained to”.
I thoroughly disagree with the Globe that you don’t need to make anything accessible and if that’s truly what they believe then they’re misguided, not Julian Fellowes. Many people do find Shakespeare inaccessible and the Globe should support every effort to make Shakespeare accessible, or to show people it isn’t boring nonsense (though admittedly, I do think ‘Romeo & Juliet’ is one of the most boring plays I’ve ever had the misfortune to read or see performed.)
I don’t like Shakespeare and part of it is the language which I find hard to follow and at times completely impenetrable. This has led to my decision to avoid any further degree study of Shakespeare because I don’t feel I can write suitable levels of analysis because I just don’t understand most of what I’m reading. You could easily argue that it’s because I’ve not seen it performed, which is true I’ve only seen productions of ‘Macbeth’, ‘Twelfth Night’, ‘A Winter’s Tale’ and ‘Othello’ (‘Othello’ was at the National Theatre so it was a good production) – but I have the same lack of comprehension with Thomas Middleton, Christopher Marlowe and Aphra Behn but I don’t struggle with Molière or Samuel Beckett (neither of which I’ve ever studied, just seen performed) who are apparently hard to understand.
If it was entirely true that “we can all understand” Shakespeare, why are there hundreds of books available which will help you understand the plays? Last time I was in a bookshop there were many side by side translations of Shakespeare, Shakespeare for Children and similar all available, as well as hundreds of guides.
So, Globe Theatre:
Presented by Rumpus Theatre Company at the Greenwich Theatre.
‘Sherlock Holmes – A Study in Fear’ by John Goodrum (adapted from ‘The Final Problem’ by Arthur Conan Doyle). Staring Nicholas Briggs as Holmes and Ian Sharock as Watson.
“When Holmes arrives unexpectedly at the door of his olf friend and colleague Dr Watson he begs the good Doctor’s assistance for one final case…and an exhilarating evening of mystery, chase, disguise and detecting are the inevitable result, culminating in a breath-taking showdown at the tumultuous Reichenbach Falls. The world’s most successful detective takes on the world’s most notorious villain…
Sherlock Holmes, brilliant, flawed and inclined to justice, finally confronts Professor James Moriarty, brilliant, flawed and wholly inclined to evil…”
Tuesday 2nd October – Sunday 7th October
Tues – Sat @ 7:30pm, Sun @ 6pm, Sat mat @ 2:30pm.
Tickets £17.50, £15, (concessions) £12.50
(Please note, I left at the interval and this was technically a preview.)
‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ adapted by Tim Kelly, presented by Sell-A-Door Theatre Company at the Greenwich Theatre, Monday 2nd July, 2012.
Following from their somewhat lacklustre but “staggeringly competent” production of The History Boys I was apprehensive but optimistic about their presentation of Tim Kelly’s adaptation of Hound of the Baskervilles.
Kelly’s adaptation is by far the most popular with amateur companies but it’s hard to see why. Kelly removes us from Baker Street and introduces Holmes and Watson at Baskerville Hall as guests of Watson’s old hospital associate, Lady Agatha Mortimer (Camilla Simson). The mystery of the legend is gone, Holmes is wholly familiar with the story and enlightens Watson (and the audience) of poor Sir Hugo’s fate and the legendary curse of the Baskerville’s. The genderswitch and promotion of Dr James Mortimer makes little sense, and makes for a large plot hole – why would Lady Agatha be performing Sir Charles’s autopsy and why would a court accept her findings? Presumably this is to introduce her as a viable suspect in Act 2 as Sir Charles was going to meet a woman (thought to be Laura Lyons but there always needs to be red herring, and alas – I’ll never know).
Last time I saw Sherlock Holmes on stage, it was the Peepolykus production of ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ at the Duchess Theatre. I’ve just booked to see ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ (and ‘The History Boys’) at the Greenwich Theatre.
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Mon 2 – Sun 8 July 2012
“Sell A Door Theatre Company returns to Greenwich Theatre following sell out productions of Spring Awakening and Lord of the Flies to present Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic mystery, The Hound of the Baskervilles.
After the death of his father under inexplicable circumstances, Sir Henry Baskerville returns to his family’s manor house on the lonely moors where he is confronted with the mystery of a supernatural hound hungry for revenge upon the Baskerville family. Fearing for the safety of himself and his family, he calls upon the world famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his ever dependable assistant, Doctor Watson, to help get to the bottom of the mystery.
Holmes agrees to take the case as it becomes apparent that Sir Henry’s life is in immediate danger. It is up to Holmes to uncover the truth behind the curse of the Baskervilles before it claims its next victim.
David Hutchinson directs this London revival of Tim Kelly’s faithful adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s terrifying thriller.”
Tickets start at £17.50 (concessions £15 – all tickets on Mon 2nd July are £10)