Last Friday I got dressed up, drank champagne, ate ice cream and explored the gloriously odd world of The Grand Budapest Hotel. I did in my living with with 1000s of people from around the world thanks to Secret Sofa.
Secret Sofa is a new branch of the highly acclaimed Secret Cinema. It is obviously slightly different as you cannot possibly get the same level of interactivity without the incredible amount of work that goes into the standard Secret Cinema experience, but this is all about what you make it and if you put in some effort, it is blooming brilliant.
The premise is this:
Every Tuesday you receive an email telling us what the next film is. You are given some activities and instructions which we can choose to do, or not, it is up to you. You find a place to stream the film and then on Friday night, the community gathers on Facebook. Announcements are made throughout the afternoon/early evening. This week that included a fabulous Spotify playlist to get us in the mood. 15 minutes before you start the film, a member of Secret Sofa immerses you in the world of that film. This week it was the Lobby boy, Henrik. ( Kieran Mortell). He welcomed the guests, told us of the happenings in the hotel, promised to hold any sordid secrets until his death, and taught us to waltz.
Tweetingit: 5* Victor Hugo’s sprawling epic seamlessly transfers from stage to the stadium rock atmosphere of London’s 02 Arena. A perfect production showcasing rare genius.
Once upon a time I acquired the hardback version of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Needless to say 1,232 pages stayed in pristine condition as I contrived excuses not to read it. Hugo’s masterpiece had so many alternative uses – mine was primarily a doorstop before its convenient loss during a house move. Any literary guilt was assuaged by the brilliant stage version that first graced the London stage in 1985. My own twisted logic dictated that I no longer needed to read the book. It is after all a brilliantly distilled version of the novel that marries narrative with beautifully constructed songs.
This film made in 2010 marked the 25th anniversary of the show’s first production at the Barbican. The transfer from theatre to the stadium like 02 Arena might at first present a challenge. However, Les Mis easily fills the 20,000 capacity venue as the songs grow bigger and better. Two giant screens flank a full orchestra and huge choir stretching across the stage. Sets are stripped away as cast members take the stage in authentic 19th Century costume. The unique atmosphere was obvious even on the small screen and one could sense the film captured a very special night.
Ok, so before I begin this, there is no questions that this C-19 and lockdown is horrendous for the arts and for actors, musicians, theatre makers and so on. BUT I want to try and think of some positives so that is what this is about.
I have been speaking to a lot of people recently about how “this” will all affect things in the future. These have included how will it effect the way we work – will we all work from home more? How will it affect the views on home schooling? But the one which is the most interesting from our point of view is how will we consume culture and make theatre in the future? I guess much of this is being considered with the view that we might be in lock down for a while longer. But what about after that? How will, this affect theatre long term?
The other reason I began thinking about this is because last week I attended a fabulous reading of a play, Night of the Living by Dave Lankford, performed by House of International Theatre (HIT)
Afterwards there was a Q&A to get the audience talking about how it worked, how it could be developed for the future and what would make the experience of theatre in this format better.
And the shows available for you to stream just keep rolling in.
One of the only positives I can see about this whole thing right now is that people who might not usually get the opportunity to go to the theatre (too far away, too expensive) have the chance to see some of the best shows around.
So here are the next batch for your enjoyment.
We will of course get reviewing as many as we can.
Tweetingit: 3* Two generations collide and ultimately bond through a shared love of football. A neat two hander draws out a moving story of the beautiful game and its effect on our lives.
Two people on opposite sides of life can learn much from each other if they only take the time to listen. Billy the Kid is a neatly executed two-hander that shows how football can sustain people through the highs and lows of life. Billy (Dudley Dutton) is an 80 year old with attitude and a fund of stories to tell. Sam (Sam Donovan) is a bright young thing about to join the Chelsea Football Academy. He confidently looks forward to cash on the hip, flash cars and WAG girlfriends.
Meanwhile, Sam discovers that Billy has done it for real. He played for Chelsea before the war and quickly became a darling of the Shed. But then the Second World War broke out. His brother Joe happily enlists but Billy is not so sure. Their father fought in the Great War, and he endured a premature and painful death; it turned Billy into a pacifist. Nevertheless he joins the army as an ambulance driver to care for the wounded. But what happened to Joe; did Billy resume his playing career and did Sam make it into the Chelsea Academy?