Tag Archives: theatre

LWWkids

‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – LIVE!’ (Review)

Opening Night for this fabulous production took place just a few days ago on the 29th May in Kensington Gardens, London.   I actually went to see the very first preview performance on 8th May but have been embargoed on writing a review until after Press Night.  Since I saw it, the radio station I work for has taken a couple of parties of listeners and journalists to see the show and the reactions from everyone was ultra-positive.

I must admit to having some trepidation at seeing one of my favourite childhood books turned into a theatre production.   So much of the magic of C.S. Lewis’s classic children’s stories rely on the imagination.  How exactly were they going to create the journey into the magical world of Narnia in a big circular tent with no curtains to hide away scene changes?

The answer is – very cleverly.  Threesixty Theatre Productions wonderfully bring Narnia to life through a mix of acting,  puppetry(a la ‘War Horse) and projector animation that turns the entire theatre around you into the magical world.  The show happens in front of you, around you, above you and behind you.

Theatre productions start their run with a number of preview performances in front of live audiences while they iron out any problems in the production, iron out technical glitches and the Director and Producers get to see what works and what doesn’t and how the audience reacts and engages with the show.   The viewing I saw was the very first in front of members of the public and it was ropey to say the least.  Certain props malfunctioned, actors crossed over their lines with each other and the giant Lion Aslan (played by 3 puppeteers) had a technical breakdown when the pre-recorded voice over (played by actor David Suchet) stopped altogether at one point.  The Producer halted the action, they reset the audio and we were off and running again.   First time I’ve ever encountered something like that.

 

Despite these hitches, a good indicator for me as to how well the show would do once the glitches were are smoothed out was watching the reactions of the many kids who were in the audience.  Bearing in mind the show was around 40 minutes late starting, was 2.5 hours long (with interval) on a school night…yet it held their attention all the way through.

Subsequent shows we have taken people to see have been near perfect and any performance now that we are after Opening Night and the critics have all seen it will be stunning.   The reviews from the Critics has been superlative:

‘Rupert Goold’s adaptation is spectacular.’ Evening Standard

‘Dreamy, exciting and funny in equal measure.’ Tatler

**** ‘Had me as hooked as when I read the book aged 7.’ Times

‘Will have adults as well as children on the edge of their seats. Kids will be enthralled by the show’s energy and flair.’ Time Out

‘A magical setting: an elegant white circus tent in the lush green parkland next to Kensington Palace’ Independent

‘A magical space – it looks wonderful’ FT

“Aslan’s big moment was a show-stopper. A superb coup de theatre’” Guardian

‘A magnificent Aslan even gives War Horse a run for its money.’ Metro

‘What a magnificent Lion!’ Daily Mail

One of the key things I was looking out for in the production that would largely decide my verdict on it was how true it was to the plot and ethos of the book and the faith allegory intended by the author.   It did not disappoint.   A few variations and innovations but by and large true to the book and Narnia traditionalists need not fear.

On one of the performances we took our guests to, the show was filmed for promotional purposes and this is the trailer that Threesixty have made from the performance that night:

Click this to see the trailer.

All in all, a brilliant production well acted.  A deliciously evil White Witch, 4 perfectly selected Pevensie kids and a very cleaver working of Aslan including a scene which literally made the audience gasp wondering just how they did that.

For more info click here

 

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Moon on a Rainbow Shawl

Ever wondered what it would be like to be a fly on the wall listening in on the grime & grit of other people’s real life situations? I got a feel of that this week. It was intriguing, compelling, unsettling and at times very, uncomfortable. It was also one of the best theatre experiences I’ve had in ages. All the photos on this page bar the poster shot to the left and the cast shots below I took inside the theatre but did not want to take during the action as I was so close to it I might as well have shoved my iPhone up the actors’ noses.
 
The National Theatre’s production of ‘Moon on a Rainbow Shawl’ by Eroll John is currently playing at the Cottesloe Theatre on London’s South Bank. Written in 1953 and set in Trinidad as troops from the island recruited into WW2 in Europe returned home. Native islander, Eroll John, sets his drama among the ‘backyards’ of Trinidad’s capital, Port of Spain. The ‘yards’ are small communal areas where the city’s poor live cheek-by-jowl with families and individuals living almost on top of one another in one room ‘homes’. It’s a place where everyone knows everyone’s business amid the stifling tropical heat.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The story centres around some thrown together in one of these ‘yards’. Ephraim, a bachelor of the strong silent type desperately seeking to escape his life..and guilt… for a new start in England. Sophia, a wife and mother trying to keep her family together and the unintended ‘matriarch’ of the ‘yard’. Rosa, Ephraim’s love interest living in her own space with her own secrets and finally Mavis, a lady of the night with no secrets using her quarters ‘working for the Yankee dollar’ with the ‘help’ of US servicemen stationed there. The loose Mavis and devout Sophia are set to clash horns. But this is not just a set to watch the gossip of others but to discover their laughter, sacrifices, hidden pain and dreams.
 
The setting and staging of the play are one half of why I came away from it moved and pensive. The Cottesloe is a small and intimate theatre and you are never far away from the action as you are in larger venues. I was close enough to have physically touched the lead actors at one point. OK, I had a front row seat but the rows back from me could have been spat on (had this been a Shakespeare). The stage is set in between the audience. There are no scene changes, no curtains, special effects or gimmicks. So what is it that keeps a packed audience enthralled for 2.5 hours (including interval)? A compelling script and powerful performances. I’ve watched the trailer of the play on the National Theatre website after I saw the show. Believe me…NOTHING close to the performance I watched this week when the actors were so close to me I could see real tears in their eyes and see them physically shake with emotion. There were at least 3 occasions when there was a corporate audible intake of breath among the audience at the intensity of the acting.
 
This is an adult play with adult themes and strong language. It touches on many themes including faith and hence my interest in reviewing it for the radio station I work for. I  think people across cultures will enjoy and be moved by this play on a number of levels – whether from cultural appreciation or a piece of art or entertainment, social concern or history. The play transcends race and culture. It’s a human story and the packed performance I attended was multi-ethnic though predominantly white audience. Writing as a mixed-race person myself, I found that hugely encouraging for a play with a black creator and 99% black cast.
 
Oh…and the title of the play? Well I’ve read up on a number of interpretations. The Rainbow shawl for me is the people of the island, a rainbow nation before South Africa claimed the trademark. Trinidadians hail from South America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, India and China. A diverse people of many colours with many hopes and dreams and despairs…all under the same Sun and the same Moon as day by night goes on…
 
For more information visit here.
 
  
 
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37, 37 and 37.

To all my culturally deprived colleague/co-worker scuzzos and to the wider world (who are probably far more cultured than the irritating riff-raff I have to contend with on a daily basis as part of my Community Service sentence), a lesson or two in culture of the kind I like wot Bill Shakespeare wrote: “Amici! Romani! Concittadini! Prestatemi vostre orrecchie.” Impressed huh? OK then, so how’s about “Una praga em ambas suas casas!” (gob and spit). U c…. I iz kultured, U iz not.

Well you could be after this Summer and you might even be in 37 languages and cultures too.  This week I had a fascinating meeting with the guys at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, located on the south bank of the River Thames that splits London’s heart in two, north and south. The theatre is a reconstruction of the type of theatre in London that William Shakespeare and his contemporaries would have performed their plays in. I have yet to see any performance there, but that goal is on my score card for this year (and will more than probably be fulfilled in May). I’ve had a couple of business meetings there and I tell you I really love the place. It is surprisingly unpretentious and bursting with youthful energy. On my first visit, I got to sneak into the open air, timbered walled auditorium while a show was in rehearsal. What I experienced, even for those short minutes still resonates and since then I’ve wanted to experience more.

My meeting with the Globe guys this week was about a project I find really exciting and I don’t know how on Earth they have pulled this off.  ‘Globe to Globe’ at Shakespeare’s Globe kicks off in April and runs through ’til June.  This project has been 2 years in the making and preparation.  It is part of the run-up to the Olympic Games here in the Olympic City of London. As their marketing speak puts it: “The Globe to Globe Festival will be a carnival of stories”.  What started in Midlands England in Elizabethan times has spread to the far corners of the world and just 37 of those tongues will arrive in London to bring Shakespeare home until the United Kingdom ends the Festival and kicks off the domestic Globe Season.   It’s coming home for sure. If only that were true of every English endeavour.

37 international theatre companies  will descend on London between April and June this year to perform 37 Shakespeare plays in 37 languages. The Insago Ensemble from South Africa will open the season performing ‘Venus and Adonis’ in the 6 official South African languages including Afrikaanse and English.  Then prepare for a spin across the planet as the other theatre troupes arrive from: New Zealand, Russia, Kenya, Greece, India, China, South Korea, Italy, South Sudan, Hong Kong China, Palestinian Authority, USA, Bangladesh, Poland, Zimbabwe, Serbia, Gaza, Macedonia, Albania, Mexico, Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Brazil, Japan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey, Israel, Spain, Afghanistan, Germany, France, Lithuania and ending the whole season…the United Kingdom.   All the plays are the works of The Bard, William Shakespeare and each play is performed in its entirety in the language or languages of the performing troupe.  There are some amazing coups here and I did not have time to get to the bottom as to how they pulled this all together, but look at some of the troupes they are bringing to town….out of Gaza…..out of Afghanistan…….out of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.

Personally, I think this is a brilliant venture and should be a celebration for us in this country at how far and wide our culture and history has spread across so many nations. One big downer for me, though, is that if I were to take a straw poll from the British youth of today as to how many even know  who William Shakespeare was…   I can hear some of my colleagues chastising me already.  Well, prove me wrong guys.

I’ll be working with the Globe Theatre to promote the international season. I know already we’ll have tickets to shows to give away and I’ll also be working on bringing some of the international troupes on air into our various live radio shows. I know that sitting through a 2 hour Shakespeare play entirely in a foreign language is a tall ask for some but there is something humanly universal in Shakespreare’s plays and something that make them watchable and understandable in whatever language and even in none.   One of the bravest and most interesting productions of the whole season will happen on 22nd and 23rd May when ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ will be performed by Deafinitely Theatre entirely in British Sign Language.

‘Globe to Globe’ at Shakespeare’s Globe starts 21st April and runs through to 9th June. For more information visit here.

Oh….almost forgot. The fancy speak in the opening paragraph?  Listen up you culturally challenged plebs (go Google):

“Amici! Romani! Concittadini! Prestatemi vostre orrecchie.” – “Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your ears.” (from the play ‘Julius Caesar’ in Italian [and ‘Carry On Cleo’!])

“Una praga em ambas suas casas!”  – “A plague on both your houses!” (‘Romeo & Juliet’ in Portuguese)