Tag Archives: Shakespeare

2016: reminiscing

29 Dec

As we reach the end of 2017 and I take a bit of time to sort things out and tie up loose ends, I like to look back on theatrical adventures throughout the year.. then I realised that on this blog I didn’t do it for 2016! I realise this sort of post is not really interesting to anyone else but I like to do it as it means I have a record somewhere other than my head of the things I got up to.

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I’m going to do 2016 first and hope my memory serves me ok.

So.. ACTING: I was in 3 plays –

Thaisa/Bawd/Fisherman in Pericles with YSP in the Spring

Lucy in The Beggar’s Opera with York Theatre Royal for their Secret Play in May.

Lysandra/Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Well Fangled in July.

[Then teacher training took over for a while..]

DIRECTING:

I adapted and directed Much Ado About Nothing for my school’s Drama group concert.

I also assisted on A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Youth Theatre and assisted on Gates of Gold with Wildgoose Theatre (more from them in 2017).

No writing this year! At least nothing performed.

I did do some filming for I Am Tim (for their episode, The Hugalope) and did some radio recording for Henry V though.

And some things I WATCHED (unlikely to be an exhaustive list!):

When We Are Married, 9 to 5, The Rivals, The Mystery Plays, Let it Be, The Mai, Wild, Barnbow Canaries, Rent, King Lear, The Donmar’s Shakespeare Trilogy.

HIGHLIGHTS OF 2016: Without a doubt, a trip to Stratford Upon Avon to perform Pericles on their outdoor stage, The Dell. Belting out Once More Unto the Breach at the top of a deserted Middleham Castle for Radio York. Being invited to the York Cultural Awards as Henry V was shortlisted for an award. As an audience member, watching Harriet Walter and her band of sisters in Julius Caesar, Henry IV and The Tempest in the Kings Cross Theatre (Donmar Warehouse). Best £50 I’ve ever spent. Thoroughly inspired. 

LOWLIGHTS: Getting phone and purse nicked backstage, dripping with sweat in Friargate during the year’s heatwave, not meeting Harriet Walter.

 

 

2015 – A Theatrical Year.

4 Mar

So, as I did after 2014, I felt it was time to write a summary of theatrical exploits in 2015. As I said before, a lot of this is for me to look back and reflect on what went on, and to look forward to the next lot of fun! So without further ado..

 

January- Started the directing journey for Drums in the Night by auditioning the cast.

I entered my short script Blu to Script Factor and won the heat.

February- Rehearsals for Drums in the Night began. I was flattered and excited to be working with such a strong cast and crew on a text which I had studied in the original German at university.

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March- See above!

April- Drums in the Night opened at Friargate Theatre. It was fantastic to be back in the directing chair but the joy of the play was everything coming together as I had envisaged thanks to lots of hard work from everyone.

May- Drums in the Night came to a close and I had my audition for Henry V..

June- Henry V rehearsals start!

July- This always seems to end up being a busy month!

We had the Drama Club Summer play at school – called The School Trip which I co-wrote and co-directed.

Also, it was the 8-11 Youth Theatre’s performance of The Hairdo That Got Away which was great fun.

I put on Blu as part of The Love Arts Festival at Friargate Theatre with my company Bird on Head Theatre.

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.. and it was the Script Factor final. I wrote a play called The Absolute which was based on the theme of Relativity and was about a couple’s relationship, told from after one of their deaths. It came second place!

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August- Henry V rehearsals started up again.

September- See above. That was literally my life for the second half of the year.

I also began to co-run Script York.

October- Henry V with my Barnbows. What more can I say? I loved loved loved this experience. It is hard to put it into words.

November- A bit of a rest but with Script Factor and some Shakespeare meet ups thrown in!

December- Assisting on the school production of The Wizard of Oz to round off the year.

And some of the things I watched..

– South Pacific (York Theatre Royal)

– Les Acteurs et La Dispute (TFTV York)

-Hamlet (Royal Exchange in cinemas)

-Romeo and Juliet (Flanagen Collective)

– Shakespeare in his Cups (YTR)

– Timon of Athens (YSP)

– The Comedy of Errors (Handlebards)

– High Society (Old Vic)

– Henry V (RSC Schools/Hull Truck)

– The Maids (Hedgepig)

– Richard II (Bronzehead)

– In Fog and Falling Snow (YTR/NRM)

– The Railway Children (YTR/NRM)

– Avenue Q (West End tour/GOH)

– Bend it Like Beckham (Phoenix Theatre)

– Dick Whittington and his Meerkat (YTR/NRM)

– The Great Gatsby (The Guild of Misrule)

 

And 2016??

The first project of 2016 is Pericles with The York Shakespeare Project in April. More about that soon…

 

 

 

Henry on the wireless.. #ysphenry

23 Oct

Listen to Maggie (Henry V Director) and me talking about the play and the experience of setting it in World War One with an all-female cast. (From 2minutes 30secs in).

See my last post for details of tickets – on in York until 31st October.

Henry V – Upstage York – 21st-31st October.

14 Oct

I’m currently playing Henry V in this production at Upstage (41 Monkgate York). Watch our trailer, like our page and come along!

YSP Henry Facebook Page

Goodbye 2014

17 Jan

Wow, so I haven’t updated this blog in ages, so I thought I would write a short post even just to jog my memory and remind me that I DID do theatre last year! Actually, it’ll be remembering it all and sorting it into vague dates that will be the hard bit!

My year in theatre 2014..

January- Auditioned for The Stepmother with YSCP and got the part of Lois Relph. This took up most of the first third of the year and was a brilliant experience. Also continued work with YTR Youth Theatre 16+.

February- See above!

March- See above!

April- The Stepmother at York Theatre Royal. So much love for this play and the people involved.

May- Entered my first Script Factor heat with my play Butter-side Up and won the round!

Butter side up John Saunders

June- In rehearsals for July…

July- A very busy month! It was the final of Script Factor at York Theatre Royal, and my play Going Up got the runner up place which I was really happy about.

Going Up - John Saunders

Then more acting with The Envelope Project and Richard Kay’s play Good Grief. Then there was The York Mystery Plays, acting as Annas in YSCP’s production Christ before Annas and Caiaphas – just about managing to escape the rain and eating many satsumas disdainfully in the process.

August- Assistant Directed on a YTR Play in a Week – Persephone, which was a really fun summer project. Also took Going Up to the Arts Barge Riverside Festival, although we’ll know to have microphones next time!

September- Took Butter-side Up to Leeds Corn Exchange as part of West Yorkshire Theatre Network’s NEXUS festival. It was a fantastic experience to take a little play of mine to an arts festival and get some good feedback – it was performed under my company Bird on Head. I also started assisting with the 8-11s at Youth Theatre.

October- In rehearsals for November…

November- Treading the boards again with York Shakespeare Project as the pretty sadistic Morgan in All’s Well That Ends Well. Some great people and a play in the round, which was really fun to do.

December- Co-writing and co-directing the school play for the Christmas concert! And also receiving some exciting news regarding 2015…

And some of the things I watched..

– The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (National Theatre in Cinemas)

– The Crucible (Old Vic)

– 1984 (Headlong)

– Bondagers (Lyceum Edinburgh)

– Where the White Stops (ANTLER)

– The Importance of Being Earnest (Theatre Mill)

– Fiddler on the Roof (Hull New)

– Les Miserables (Rowntree)

– Twelfth Night (YSP)

– A Number (YTR)

– Blithe Spirit (YTR)

– The Wind in the Willows (YTR)

– Betrayal (YTR)

– Mother Goose (YTR)

TakeOver and beyond…

18 Jan

2014. Wow. I’m a little bit behind with this blogging business aren’t I?!

TakeOver stuff…

I realise that the last time I blogged was around week two of three of TakeOver festival. The third week came and went in October, during which I ran a Play in a Day session for 10-14 year olds based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was, in the words of one of my wonderful actors, an “absolutely tutley awesome” day!

I am very grateful to have been involved in the whole process on a Senior Management level, and proud of what the whole team achieved. To have such a hands on experience in a professional theatre (York Theatre Royal) for over a year, including the three intensive weeks which we programmed and managed ourselves, was at times exhausting and frustrating, but at others extremely exciting and an invaluable insight into how a theatre works. Beyond that, I met lots of amazing people and saw some brilliant shows, most of which would never have come to York if it wasn’t for us. Some personal highlights include the irreverent Self Service by Milk Presents, Bitch Boxer written and performed by the multi-talented Charlotte Josephine and Titus Andronicus by the all-female Smooth Faced Gentlemen, who basically came on stage and defined why I want to do theatre.

I’m sure I will have more thoughts on TakeOver as the evaluation process still continues, but I felt a little blog post to round things off at this stage would do nicely. Also it’s kind of a way to make up for not being able to attend a discussion day today.

Non TakeOver stuff…

Towards the end of TakeOver I also completed my MA in Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance, which I graduate from next week.

I also assisted for a short while on A Winter’s Tale by Common Ground, adapted and directed by two of my university tutors, which will be touring York and rural Yorkshire in the coming months. I’m looking forward to seeing how it has developed since I last saw it in its exciting early stages a few months ago.

I’ve also got more actively involved in the York Shakespeare Project, performing in their Measure for Measure in November, and becoming a committee member.

November also saw Twice Upon A Time performed in the York Theatre Royal studio by the 16+ Youth Theatre, on which I assistant directed. I love doing Youth Theatre, it never feels like work!

Finally, my first theatrical endeavour of 2014 will be taking the title role in Githa Sowerby’s The Stepmother, to be performed in March at York Theatre Royal which is hugely exciting! More about that in my next post…

Review: Timon of Athens

9 Nov

Timon of Athens, National Theatre (I saw it with NT Live)

Nicholas Hytner’s revival of Timon of Athens couldn’t have come at a better time. It is a rather unloved Shakespeare play, rarely performed and probably rarely read. Thought to be a collaboration with Thomas Middleton, Timon has none of the familial or romantic relationships which endear us to other Shakespeare texts and it almost invariably has to be cut, rejigged and added to in order to make it more streamlined and coherent. Yet its themes of money, greed, credit and corruption, among others, make it fit, almost seamlessly, into a 21st Century context.

It is this idea that the National Theatre production has great fun with. Despite the references in the script to Athens, Tim Hatley’s design is a recognisable London, complete with sky scrapers, swanky bars and art galleries, gift bags labelled with ‘Fashion Week’ and even logos on visitor passes for ‘The Senate of Athens’ which seem to be taken straight out of the House of Commons. It is the small details, such as this, which highlight the care that has been taken to achieve the vision. Sometimes, updating Shakespeare to a modern setting can look cheesy and gimmicky, but this production, for the most part, avoids that. There were a few decisions that jarred with me. Timon finding blocks of gold was left in, rather than him finding wads of notes that he chooses not to spend but to give away to those who come grovelling. In a production that had taken great care in printing lookalike £50 notes for the earlier scenes, I found it strange that the rioters would scramble on the floor for gold discs that they couldn’t go out and immediately spend. Equally, though I appreciated the relevance of making the rebellious mob akin to the London rioters, the cutting of Alcibiades’ part in Act One meant that when he finally appeared in Act Two, it felt as if the ‘sub plot’ had been shoehorned in, something which the production tried to get around by occasionally making the rioters march around the stage during scene changes which got rather tiresome and a bit obvious. However, the Alcibiades plot is also rather awkward in the text itself and Hytner did what he could with it.

The majority of the acting was good, but I almost got the impression that you were meant to leave the theatre/cinema with an appreciation for the play and the staging than for the acting. Simon Russell Beale as Timon was impressive at showing the protagonist at the two ends of the spectrum of wealth. His Act Two Timon, shuffling around in his beanie hat and cast-off clothing, sifting through the rubbish bags for a cold takeaway to eat, was affecting. I also enjoyed Hilton McRae’s Apermantus, who captured his character’s misanthropy and droll wit effectively. However, some performances were more irritating and distracting. Deborah Findlay, as Flavia, for example, and Tom Robertson as Ventidius. Though I liked his Sid Vicious style characterisation at first, it increasingly looked as if he were overdoing the accent and playing for laughs.

Overall, though, an enjoyable and stylish revival of a relevant play. I found it hard to believe it was written in the 17th Century.

Summer’s lease hath all too short a date

21 Aug

As my long summer suddenly speeds towards its end and my approaching birthday once again warns me that I don’t actually have that long until I need to begin studying again, I felt now would be a good time to continue to put off said studying and write a blog post about my theatre experiences this summer.

Summer is the time of year where many theatres close to prepare for the new season but is also the time when audiences get to sample the delights of open air or site specific theatre.

In July, I went to the grounds of Ripley Castle to experience my first Sprite Productions show; ‘Macbeth’. I say ‘experience’ because this was more than just a play. I have seen, and performed in, the Scottish play countless times and can quite geekily quote passages off by heart, but the set up of this particular production, directed by Charlotte Bennett, made the audience see this well known play with a fresh pair of eyes.  ‘Macbeth’ was a real day out – we sat in the grounds to eat our picnic before being ushered by the three weird sisters to the first location; this was to be a promenade performance through the woods which surround the castle and lake. The audience moved between large areas which represented battlefields to more secluded and intimate corners of the wood for Macbeth’s palace and the witches’ lair and even were invited to sit down and eat the food at a banquet table for the scene where Banquo’s ghost appears. There was not a weak link in the cast – Catherine Pugh as one of the weird sisters was a small but standout performance – and every detail had obviously been clearly thought about. I look forward to getting up to Ripley to see future Sprite productions.

The very next day I was on to more of the Bard! This time, back in York but still outdoors (Rowntree Park) for the York Shakespeare Project’s latest offering of ‘Much Ado about Nothing’. The project, made up of mostly amateur actors but often employing professional directors, aims to stage all of Shakespeare’s plays in a twenty year period (of which it is now half way through). As is the case with British weather, the performance we had originally booked for was rained off but happily we managed to catch it on their last night. What I like most about the project as an audience member is that it always looks as if the cast are having a really good time and are passionate about what they are doing. Yes, there was the odd line stumbled upon and a couple of projection issues but it was fun and enjoyable. The director had chosen to set the play in post war Britain which worked rather well and the songs and dances that were included were well choreographed. Stand out performer was Sebastian Hulkkov as Benedick. He really did the character justice and seemed the most at ease with Shakespeare’s verse. An entertaining evening.

I’ve been getting into a bit of Shakespeare myself with a summer workshop at Upstage Centre where we performed ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. It was a challenge to get a show up in a short amount of time with an age range from 8 years old to 20 (me!) but it was rewarding for everyone when we had a very appreciative audience who weren’t afraid to laugh! I enjoyed playing two roles- Lysander and Starveling – it was fun to be playing a man again!

So, it’s been a bit of a Shakespeare overload this summer (not that I’m complaining!). I’ve also seen York Theatre Royal’s summer show in the main house in the round, ‘Peter Pan’. Since ‘The Railway Children’ in 2008, the theatre has created a reputation for good family shows in the summer months (adapted from well known favourites by Mike Kenny) and this didn’t disappoint, although I have to say that ‘The Railway Children’ is still my favourite (it’s now in London and Canada). Unlike ‘Wind in the Willows’ last year which really drew you in with the storytelling, at times ‘Peter Pan’ almost threatened to descend into panto which clearly entertained the children in the house and the Down’s boy that came with us loved Martin Barrass as Smee and the big crocodile at the end. I enjoyed the Belt Up actors as the pirates and the youth cast were also very accomplished. As usual, the stage design, effects and costumes were obviously well researched and executed. ‘Peter Pan’ didn’t exactly blow me away but it is a magical family show for a summer evening, rain or shine! (On until Saturday 3rd September).

Much Ado about Nothing?

8 Jan

It was confirmed today that David Tennant and Catherine Tate are to star in Much Ado about Nothing at the Wyndham’s theatre this summer (where Avenue Q has sadly recently departed). The online ticket system has been down already and tickets are already selling like hotcakes. A similar frenzy surrounded Tennant in the RSC production of Hamlet in 2008. We cannot naively hope that the speed at which tickets are being snapped up is purely down the Bard’s talents. The lure of a famous name, let alone one who is in any way attractive (swoon), often makes people pick up the phone and hurry down to the box office quicker than the same play with less than household names.

Many of these people are going to see the face, or other body part perhaps in the case of Daniel Radcliffe in Equus, and we can only hope that they will come out with an appreciation for the play itself and the standard of the acting, being able to distinguish Tennant from the Doctor and Radcliffe from the Boy Wizard (not that I am in any way comparing the standard of Radcliffe’s acting to Tennant). If bringing big names into the theatre brings more people in to the theatre this can only be a good thing. I know many people who would normally only venture into the theatre during panto season and a big name can help lure them into watching a show they perhaps wouldn’t normally. Indeed, one of the comments today on twitter read: “Wanna change from panto – Tennant and Tate in Much Ado About Nothing in London – wanna go with me?”. Sat in York Theatre Royal the other day, a lady next to me asked if they did other productions at other parts of the year- a question which amazed and astonished me as there is a wealth of great productions out there which may get overlooked simply because they don’t all have the pull of a former Doctor Who and the bright lights of London.

This is also not to say that actors like Tennant should feel like they cannot return to their roots in the theatre or that actors like Radcliffe and Keira Knightly should not experiment treading the boards. TV and film are very different from theatre, sure- but if theatre can get the audiences of TV and film then the industry is on to a winner. Just please do not turn up at stage door with a cardboard cut out of a Dalek to sign. Cheers.

Happy New Theatrical Year!

4 Jan

It’s 2011 which means lots of theatre for us to gobble up! I’ll be in Germany until the end of May and I promise I will update you with the shows I’ve seen so far but until then here is a small selection of some of my picks for the coming year and what will be going in my diary…

So first up, my home town theatre, York Theatre Royal who have released a really exciting programme for 2011! From April to November, the main theatre will be transformed in to a magical ‘in the round’ space which it saw this summer for its lavish Wind in the Willows and the equally beautiful Youth Theatre production of Coram Boy. The theatre looks entirely different in this state and opens up a world of possibilities for actors as well as designers. Whilst there are still Proscenium Arch type shows before this period and events in the Studio space, I would recommend seeing at least one of the productions in this configuration.

I’m especially excited about Peter Pan (29th July-3 Sept), adapted by Mike Kenny, who adapted both The Railway Children and Wind in the Willows for the theatre, and which I can almost guarantee will be a truly magical delight for all the family and no doubt also a visual spectacle. Following that, I’m definitely booking a seat for 40 Years On (23rd Sept-15th Oct) purely because it is written by Alan Bennett. Can’t really go wrong there.

Further South, in Oxford at The Oxford Playhouse where I spend a lot of my time and where I was a student rep last year there also seems to be a varied and interesting programme. I’ve got my eye on Aykbourn’s The Life of Riley (7th-12th Feb) and Polly Teale’s Bronte (24th March – 2nd April) although I’m not sure I could get back to see them.

As a Shakespeare geek I’m also looking forward to the new shows on at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, especially because of the recent transformation of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The first ‘new’ production in the space will be good old Macbeth (16th April-6th Oct) which was, incidentally, the first play I ever saw by the RSC in the old Royal Shakespeare. I’m not sure if I will go down for this, purely because I have seen the play so many times, but I’m sure it will be well worth it if I do. Although it’s not Shakespeare, one play I will definitely be seeing there this year is Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss (14th Oct-5th Nov). I’m hoping to do my dissertation on German theatre post Brecht and the opportunity to see one of the set texts in the flesh, albeit not auf Deutsch, will be foolish to miss. A play which is shocking and challenging, I think my challenge will be persuading a virgin of German theatre to come along with me! Other straight Shakespeare offerings include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (29th July-5th Nov) which I have a feeling will have a handy Oxford student coach-trip along with it… (16-25 year olds can also check out the RSC Key scheme which you can find on their website and which I will blog about soon)

Unfortunately I don’t often get the chance to see much theatre in the capital, but a long and lazy summer might lend itself to a few trips! Having followed the ‘Dorothys’ I would quite like to see The Wizard of Oz (from Feb 7th) with my favourite Dorothy, although there are many other musicals I should really catch as well. As for straight plays, I’d really like to see Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch alternate the roles of Frankenstein and his monster in Frankenstein (from Feb 5th) at the Olivier/National Theatre after all I really ought to see something there at some point. The downside, or perhaps the upside?, of this of course is that if you want to see Miller and Cumberbatch play both roles opposite each other you have to go twice! Closing on the 19th Feb is Wilde’s An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville featuring Elliot Cowan who should be seen around more in my opinion! I’m off to educate myself in London theatre happenings now seeing as I clearly do not know enough. Please post your tips here.

Happy Theatre-going!!