Seeing the positives – the things I hope theatre will take from lockdown! #staycreative #cultureinquarantine @HIT_CPH #theshowmustgoonline @robmyles

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 new normal for theatre?

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. 

Continue reading “Seeing the positives – the things I hope theatre will take from lockdown! #staycreative #cultureinquarantine @HIT_CPH #theshowmustgoonline @robmyles”

Rhiannon Reflects on 18 months without theatre and BEING BACK!

#Tweetingit – Rhiannon reflects in 140 characters – What on earth have I done for 18 months? Some fun things, but the theatre void was odd. Get to the theatre and enjoy everything it brings!

Since 23 August 2014 The Roman Catholic Church beatified Pope Paul VI, Cuba and the US re-established diplomatic relations, ending 54 years of hostility, Princess Charlotte was born. Richard Attenborough, Joan Rivers, Leonard Nimoy, David Bowie and Alan Rickman died, Lip Sync Battles became a thing, I’ve been a bridesmaid 3 times, got three new jobs, and I haven’t written a single review. In fact, I have only seen a couple of shows in that time!

But as you will have seen, as of Monday, I AM BACK. I took a bit of an hiatus from theatre, and reviewing but I am back into the swing of it, ready and raring to go with a diary full of shows to see and lots of ideas for things to write about and I am a bit overly excited about it!

So, this is me reflecting on what I have been filling my time with, and, mores to the point, what it’s been like not going to the theatre in 18 months.

Now, I know I am incredibly lucky to go to the theatre so regularly and that the majority of people  don’t go to the theatre so often –  that 18 months without the theatre is a normal thing, and so I don’t want to make a big deal out of it but a number of people have asked me what on earth I am filling my time with, that prior to my last blog post, my answer to “what are you up to tonight” was always “I am going to a show at x.” and then it stopped.  In reality, it is my main hobby; the thing I talk about most, and love talking about, the hobby which results in me getting to spend one on one time with my friends, pre and post show, allows me to see a selection of amazing (and some not so amazing) shows with them, chat about them afterwards and then spread the word afterwards to colleagues, family and, sometimes, complete strangers. I love it and part of why I write here is to encourage others to try out something new, go to see something they wouldn’t usually choose to see and explore all of the amazing little theatres around London.

So, what have I been doing? As I said above, I have been a bridesmaid 3 times; three hen dos to plan, three dress shopping trips to do, and three of everything else that comes with being a bridesmaid! This has taken up a lot of time and was amazing to be involved in! And the person I was bridesmaid for prior to stopping blogging has had a the first baby if it friendship group and I try to see him as often as I can!

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I have also changed job a couple of times. I moved to the Ministry of Justice and had two jobs there and have just started at TfL. This most recent move is allowing me slightly more time to get back to this

I have also watched A LOT of TV. For starters, Making a Murderer took over my life for a month while I binged watched it and then raved about it to anyone who would listen! Serial was basically the same (if you haven’t watched/listened to these shows, DO – go now, you won’t regret it!)

But ultimately, I have missed theatre. I have avoided Time Out so that I didn’t see what was on or what I have missed. I neglected Twitter for similar reasons. When you’re at the theatre seeing a show, whether that be a play, musical, ballet, cabaret or whatever else floats your boat, you’re not thinking about the world outside beyond the curtained off auditorium doors; you’re focussed purely on what’s going on stage; sucked into the world created by everyone involved, whatever else is going on, no longer matters for a couple of hours. And it isn’t just the show itself, it’s the whole experience; drinks prior to the show, discussing it after, recommending it to people,  fondly remembering it later. Ok, so there are shows you will see which you will remember for them being awful, but in the main, there’s always something good you can find in all theatre trips – even if it’s that you found a great new restaurant next to the theatre or got thoroughly drunk and had a giggly time with the friend you’re with to get through it.

And so, after my 18 months of no theatre, I would like to encourage everyone else to not leave it that length of time and experience everything that the theatre brings with it. I have been chatting to some colleagues who told me they didn’t go to the theatre often because they aren’t “educated” enough in theatre; they don’t know what to go to, where to look or where to begin choosing. I explained to them my views on it –the problem is that people go to the theatre as a treat, spending 100s of pounds on a huge West End show which ends up not quite hitting the spot or that they feel wasn’t worth the money and then another year goes by before they go again. Yes, West End shows are fabulous but why not find some of the amazing studio or pub theatres which are scattered around London and go to an off west end show which will cost you the same as a couple of pints? Often, they’ll be the best show you’ll ever see (see Translunar Paradise which I saw in the studio at The Marlowe Theatre Canterbury and continues to be the most incredible production I have ever encounteredhttps://playhousepickings1.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/translunar-paradise-november-2013/)

Have a look in Time Out or www.londontheatre.co.uk/londontheatre/whatsonor designmynight.com  ( no sponsorship here, they’re  just my go to for everything that’s coming up in and around London) and just pick something at random. You’ll soon find a theatre you love or a genre you didn’t know you would like.

So that’s me – I am so happy to be back and looking forward to all the incredible shows I have booked in to review.

Rhiannon reflects on…the great drama teacher behind every great actor

‘Tweetingit – Rhiannon Reflects in 140 characters

“All the world’s a stage” and those who guide you on to the stage and prompt you when you stumble over your lines, will never be forgotten

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As you may have gathered from previous posts, I have been “into” theatre for a long time. My parents were both in CAT (Campaign Amateur Theatre) in Ely and I was occasionally drafted in to play a small role –  a skipping little girl( Gigi) or a member of the lollipop league (Wizard of Oz). Alongside this was both of my parents’ love of theatre, and musicals in particular, meaning that I was exposed to it from a young age.

I wasn’t, however, a confident child. My dad often says he doesn’t remember that I was shy, but I certainly didn’t like being in front of strangers. When I was 3, I spent an entire holiday “preparing” for the holiday talent show. I had the whole of “The Ugly Duckling” down to a fine art. I could quack away with the best of them, and not just saying the word “quack” – oh no, it was more than an onomatopoeic word – I could make a very good duck sound.

It came to the night, I was in a party frock ( I imagine, I don’t remember, I am just setting the scene), up I get to the front of the cabaret hall with an entire holiday camp of people staring back at me and, I open my mouth…..and I bottle it. Much to my parents’ dismay, I couldn’t do it (this has been mentioned on a number of occasions since 1989). A whole week of torment; me singing the same song over and over again, came down to me only managing to utter Humpty Dumpty. I’m sure there’s no need to say it – but I did not win that talent show (although I did win “Miss Haven” a few years later. I am not sure what I did, but I remember saying how much I loved Jason Donovan – see earlier “Rhiannon Reflects” https://playhousepickings1.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/rhiannon-reflects-on/)

Nothing really changed in the confidence stakes until I got to high school and met a wonderful array of influential people and was thrust into drama classes with Mr Maughan – Keith.

Keith was completely mad and not everyone “got” him. He was a massive character with a massive heart and a bonkers sense of humour. Going into his studio, you would find him bouncing around the room, waving his arms around, playing a character he had just made up in time for the next drama class.  Every moment with him was entertaining.

Later on in high school we started cleaning his drama studio for him – we would find coffee cups that were god knows how old, piles of papers, photos, books – some probably quite important – littered around his “office.” But life was too short to spend oodles of time worrying about such trivial things when there were so many other more exciting things to do. Obviously there is a balance to be had but he certainly taught us to have fun and not to worry.

During our 6th form drama piece, he encouraged us to spend entire days acting like 7 year olds ( we were performing Blue Remembered Hills – a play designed for adults to play children). Running around the school, pulling pigtails, sliding on our knees down corridors, finger painting and constantly fidgeting – I am sure the rest of our teachers loved it.

Other than ensuring we did the best we could in this piece, I think the idea of getting us to play out these roles as 7 year olds, was to make us feel free – adults worry too much about what other people think, children don’t care – so just think and act like a child. Obviously there are times for being sensible – and the moral of Blue Remembered Hills is that you do have to grow up eventually –  but what Keith taught was that you should have fun and don’t let the world get on top of you. As we got older, other good lessons were given – ensure you drink plenty of good red wine (something which he ensured we did after his funeral when his wife and daughter kindly decided that his friends and family should make the most of his wine cellar), eat good cheese and make sure you have good friends around you (all of which he did and had in abundance)

Keith was the life and soul of everything. He looked after his students and friends (many of whom overlapped), drew them out of themselves, and developed everyone in some way or another – even those who had no hope in going further in the drama world.

There were a handful of teachers who had a profound effect on the person I have become and, for this, I cannot thank them enough. But they do say that behind every great actor, there is a great drama teacher. I may not have become and actor in the tradition sense, but life is just one big play isn’t it – mine being one he helped devise, the lines for which he helped me learn and which, with changing times, has been adapted, developed and rejuvenated. In part to him, my play has not been a flop. I know I am not the only one of his friends and students who feel like this. I wonder whether he knew, before he passed away, that he prepared so many of us for the theatre and stage of life, how much he affected those he taught and what an amazing teacher he was – I really hope he did.

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Rhiannon Reflects on…immersive theatre

#Tweetingit – Rhiannon’s reflections in 140 characters

Immersive theatre – however we got so immersed, give it a go, there’s something out there for everyone

I blame Deirdre Rachid. What was is about that storyline that got the nation so riled up and wanting to actually get involved in the show?

Over the last decade or so, we have been given control over all forms of entertainment which we partake in. We vote for the next pop stars, the next person to appear on the Royal Variety Show, what dish someone is going to have cooked for them or the outcome of a storyline on a soap. Computer games “remember” the decisions you make and these decisions affect what experience the player has in the next edition of that game.

Just like in these games, in immersive theatre, everyone can have a different experience depending on how much is expected from them and how much they are willing to put into it. Every person who plays these games, has a slightly different experience.

Has it been decided, or have we decided, that we must have control, some sort of interaction, over the entertainment we are enjoying? We must be completely immersed in it, we can’t just sit back and watch what is going on in front of us.

When I was younger, there were much more simple versions of this immersive style -“pick your adventure” books – “turn to page 15 if you want to take the blue drink, turn to page 84 for the red one.” And then the drama unfolds depending on your choice. I was always concerned, however, that the more exciting option was available on the other route. Is this the problem with immersive theatre too? What if you choose “incorrectly” and you don’t see the best. Would it be better for a writer to tell you what the “right” option is and let you experience it?

Now, I have to say, I love immersive theatre and, in my book, there isn’t enough of it, but I do understand why some people don’t. You never know what you’re going to be faced with, how much you will be expected to do or to what extent you will be immersed. Youmebumbumtrain have done a show where you are the star; going around the rooms on your own and experiencing various different situations; being interviewed, running an exercise class, getting thrust into a working kitchen. What is the theme, the story, the point? What if the situation you are faced with, completely throws you?

I guess it depends on the type of immersion you experience.

Immer_city immersed their audience in their show, Wyrd, weeks before the “real” performance began. Facebook and Twitter profiles were set up for the characters, “pre show” events such as hen and stag do’s as well as false websites with clues about what you were going to experience. And then on the day, the performance began in the pub, meeting the cast to have your palms read, learning the backgrounds of each of the characters – if you were willing to question them.

wyrd

It wasn’t necessary to have read everything or even to throw yourself in at the deep end and join in fully in the performance, but it certainly helped and really made for a fantastic couple of weeks of entertainment.

My review of Wyrd: http://the-void.co.uk/theatre/wyrd-487/

http://www.immer-city.com/wp/

The Drowned Man has been incredibly well received but there are still a handful of people who just don’t get it – possibly not helped by the fact that one person might say that they were involved in a naked rave, that they found the roof top bar, that they were hurried away into a caravan to watch someone put their make up on.…. and yet what did you see? None of this? How can you possibly have got the same experience, did you miss some of the show, something important which made the whole thing make sense?

Some immersive/promenade shows just ask you to walk around and look into theatre spaces and watch what is unfolding. The immersive bit here is just that you are moving around. This was the case at St Pauls Church in Covent Garden where Iris Theatre put on various shows including “Alice in Wonderland” and “Julius Caesar”

My review of Julius Caesar : http://everything-theatre.co.uk/2013/07/julius-caesar-st-pauls-church.html

http://www.iristheatre.com/

So what are we in for next, how can these companies go even further? Upcoming immersive shows include an overnight performance of Macbeth where the audience get to eat with the Macbeths, sleep in their rooms and watch as the story unfolds overnight. Rehearsals have begun and everyone who is going has started to receive their passports for the event. There are still some tickets left and I truly think this is going to be one of the most interesting immersive shows that there has been for sometime. Get your tickets before its too late. http://macbeth.in/collections/Macbeth and follow them with #RiftMacbeth on Twitter.

Also, part of the Festival of Theatre (LIFT 2014) is  “Roof”. Occupying a purpose-built ‘panoramic performance space’ on top of the car park opposite the National Theatre, it has been conceived by the mastermind of the incredibly successful “Ring”, David Rosenberg. Ring used clever panoramic headphones to create an incredibly unique  and almost  hallucinogenic experience, and set completely in the dark. Roof is set to be just as exciting.

My review of “Ring” http://www.whatsonstage.com/off-west-end-theatre/reviews/03-2013/ring_868.html

So back to the start of this reflection, to explain my first comment. I don’t know when this immersive theatre malarkey began. What it with Deirdre Rashid going to prison in 1998 in Coronation Street? “Free Deirdre” placards and protests being carried out by viewers. They wanted to get completely involved, have a say in what happened and immerse themselves in the storyline. Have we created this phenomena of immersive theatre ourselves?

deirdre-rachid

Some people think theatre is becoming “too immersive” whatever that means. I have to say, I disagree. There is still plenty of “straight” theatre out there if that’s what you want and you needn’t attend these sorts of shows if they aren’t for you. Don’t like ballet? Don’t go. This is exactly the same – just another genre of theatre. As I said, I absolutely love immersive/promenade theatre and think everyone should at least give it a couple of tries. I cannot wait for my next installment (Rift’s Macbeth)

Let me know what you think.

 

Rhiannon Reflects….on Miss Saigon – 4 days

#Tweetingit – Rhiannon Reflects in 140 Characters

OMG I AM GOING TO SEE MISS SAIGON IN 4 DAYS

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I have been listening to the music from Miss Saigon, for as long as I can remember. I know the songs (and all their harmonies, much to the annoyance of everyone around me) off my heart; I listen to it when I am angry, sad, happy – there is not a time when listening to Miss Saigon doesn’t make everything better.

When I was about 4, my parents got their glad-rags on and, much to my disgruntlement, went off, without me, to see Miss Saigon.  I seem to remember not really understanding why I wasn’t going; it was my favourite musical afterall (These Rhiannon Reflects are showing what a madam I was when I was a child)

A few years on, I went to see it for the first time. Having just Googled when John Barrowman was in it (I believe he was the first ‘Chris’ I saw beginning my lifelong love of him), I would’ve been about 8. Perhaps I was a bit young for the show considering the content but I don’t think I really knew what was going on for a lot of it.  I was with my dad who loves the show about as much as I do. We got to the end and were both sobbing and we left the theatre still crying. The second time I saw it, I was at an age where I really got it. I was a wreck. Three songs in, knowing what was coming up, I was crying. The people around me probably thought I was somewhat unstable. In the years since then, I have seen it another 5 times, all bar one, with my dad.

We have extensively debated the show – that’s right, we have actually had debates about it. For instance, when thy first changed Ellen’s song from “It’s Her or Me” to “Now That I’ve Seen Her”, we were horrified. What did they do? Ellen now seems more reasonable and understanding. I am not sure I would be terribly happy to be visiting the first love of my husband’s life…AND HER CHILD. The change in song changed the way I had always seen Ellen and I wasn’t sure why they have done it. I am still not sure, and everything I hear “Now That I’ve Seen Her”, it annoys me.  But now, they have done the unthinkable and, rather than going back to the original, there is a new song. Ok, I get it, things have to change, we have to move on, but cutting a whole song? Thankfully, they have done it with, as you can see above, my least favourite song but what might this do to Ellen now? I am hoping that this change makes more sense and makes Ellen a more rounded character – I can but wait and see.

I am beyond excited about going to see the new incarnation of Miss Saigon – but disconcertingly I am going on my own…lets hope the 7th time is the time it stops effecting you emotionally and I will be tear free…I think it highly unlikely but, for the sake of those around me, I can but hope.

Have you seen it in previews? Let me know what you think.