Archive for the ‘Shows’ Category

Oh my, I am still sighing nearly 24 hours later. Lovely, pretty boys singing so beautifully in a half restored building. Paying carefully attention to the witty score with it’s parallels to the government coalition of today the all-male cast provided joy, mirth and the occassional tear from beginning to end. Like their version of Pirates of Penzance there was no drag,  no high-campery or screeching falsettos, just fairies seducing peers in the house of lords. The costumes reflected the stripped back nature of the hall and all the cast protrayed great feeling with the smallest gestures and facial ticks. I want to watch it another 14 times, so I can spend time following each individual actor. They all had some wonderful moments

And the venue is just perfect, if you’ve never been to the oldest musical hall, then it’s worth it just for that. Go to http://www.wiltons.org.uk/ for more.

There’s nothing else to say, except go see it (you’ve got until 7th May, for a wonderous evening that will have you smiling inside for the next week.

I just wonder, given the gender imbalance in my musical theatre group, whether an all-female Gilbert and Sullivan show could deliver the goods.

Iolanthe, Wilton’s Music Hall, April 1st to May 7th

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This show made me want to go and read, a lot, which is maybe why I’ve delayed writing up this review. Alongside Emily Dickenson’s poems, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein I yearned to pick up another book that had always caught my interest but never quite got around to picking it up. Lisa Appignanesi’s Mad, Bad and Sad was published in 2008 looks  biographically at individual women’s and so explores mental illness not through their diagnoses but through a complete survey of the individuals and the societies that surround them.

Both Barefaced Theatre’s play and Mad, Bad and Sad pose awkward questions; Why do women seem to be more prone to mental illness than men? Is this caused by something innate? Or by ‘female’ life events like childbirth and menopause? Or because of the way we have viewed and treated women for centuries? Whilst Mad Women in the Attic focuses on historical periods these questions should still concern us today. Appignanesi  quotes a 2004 study in which girls’ suicide attempts in the UK outnumber boys’ by nine to one. We may have moved beyond 19th-century practice of observing and cataloguing ‘female hysteria’, but we have not lessened the incidence of mental illness in women.

Taking these four writers in context enabled the company to explore the women behind the writing and how their mental states influenced their work and in turn how their writing was so integral to their personalities. The attempts by those around them to constrain and confine these women were created in such away as not to vilify the individuals but demonstrate wider societal views of women and madness. Charlotte Perkins husband’s attempts to get her subscribe to the doctor’s rest cure and stop writing seemed misguided rather than fuelled by patriarchal fervour.

The act of being confined to the attic by the world around leads all of our women to an increased creativity and production of writing that has been absorbed by countless readers over the generations. In our dreams the attic is said to symbolise the higher self, in contact with the most ethereal and least grounded parts of our nature.

Getting into the minds of these four women and what inspired their writing might seem like a daunting task for one play with a cast of six. And it indeed it proved to be, an experience much like a tapas meal of interesting morsels, each one picked up and over before we could get to any real emotions or passions. That the company wrote, produced, directed and performed this work should indeed be praised, it was a treat to see something new on the stage and I’m intrigued to see what they do next. With this piece I was left wanting so much more which explains my desire to go and read.

Mad Women in Attics, New Wimbledon Studion, 9th to 12th March 2011

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‘I just didn’t get any of that’, ‘But what did it all mean’, ‘What was that all about’ mutters the audience as they stumble out of the smoke. In an absurd play where logic and rationality have broken down there will always be a sense of profound disengagement. It is all too easy for the critic to cry ‘I didn’t understand it, it was brash and incoherent’.

But why do we need meaning? Why is it so hard just to let the action play out without having a clear beginning or end?

To attempt to make any sense of a play like Throats you have to leave any expectation of plot, narrative, structure or rational meaning at the door and then see what jumps out at you. Each of our seven characters lacks a coherent linear background, so we don’t have the opportunity to prejudge their dialogue or actions. Yet through the course of the play they do each inhabit their own skin and create a sense of an individual in this chaotic blood soaked world.

Beyond the characters there are some themes, lots of blood, lots of drinking, a car crash, an explosion, an encounter with a blind boy and it seems that Benidorm holds some significance.

I however found it hard to grasp much more than threads. There seemed to be a commentary on terrorism and 9/11 but it is all a bit vague. A constant nagging at the back of my mind made me feel that perhaps I was missing quite a lot, maybe had I seen more absurdist plays or been a drama student or not been so ignorant I may have understood more. Or perhaps in truth it was all too disjointed to leave the viewer with anything other than the feeling of an evening separated from reality.
I am quite happy to never know.

Throats is at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington 18th February to 27th March 2011

Find out more about Gerald Thomas here – http://geraldthomasblog.wordpress.com/

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