Is Theatre A Dying Art Form?

Written by Sophie Reed

Earlier this week an article written by Stuart Heritage caused anger throughout the musical theatre community. The article was in response to the announcement of the cast of BBC’s 6 Part version of Les Misérables. Heritage said he was thankful for the BBC for the adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel that doesn’t have the ‘annoying singing.’ The most dreaded line was ‘theatre is a dying art form.’ This statement shocked and angered actors and fans alike, even I had a few words to say about it. This is what encouraged me to write this. There is so much you can write about it, you can’t fit it into a single tweet, or a thread.

There was a time, I believe, when it could be argued that theatre was a dying art form. Where musicals on the West End and Broadway were barely lasting a year. If I were to put a date on the most recent decline, it was probably around mid to late 2000’s. Maybe it’s because the shows weren’t good quality, or maybe even that audiences weren’t interested in seeing shows at the time. Right now, the West End is solid. We have shows that are staying because of the popularity with the audience. I can name loads off the top of my head: The Lion King, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Thriller, Les Misérables, Kinky Boots.

The dedication of the fans makes all the difference. Especially when the musicals have been on the West End for a long time. I’m taking from my own personal experience here. Although I had seen musicals before then, the musical that made me fall truly and deeply in love with musicals was Phantom of the Opera. My mum is a big fan of the musical and even saw the Original Cast 7 times! Seeing the show justified why she was so captivated by it. Because My Mum was in her late teens/early twenties when these ALW and B&S musicals came out, like so many people, their children grew up with the songs and now we have a whole new generation of fans who have now grown up and now seeing shows.

I really think I can’t do this post without talking about Hamilton. It took the world by storm and interested people that wouldn’t listen to musicals and because they like Hamilton, they listen to other musicals. Hamilton has brought in more people into the community. Also, how can you say Theatre is dead when Hamilton is sold out until May? Like, seriously?!

Original Broadway Cast

Hamilton

It’s not just musicals, The Mousetrap, The Woman in Black, The Play That Goes Wrong. All Plays that have been running on the West End for more than a couple of years. The Mousetrap is the West End’s longest-running show. Yes, plays don’t usually have a long run, but there still are some that stick. Even The Ferryman, which opened last year is doing amazingly well!

Yes, the recorded performances and film adaptations have probably stopped people from seeing the stage show, however, there is nothing like the exhilarating thrill of live theatre. The film sometimes encourages people to see the show live, because the film will always be different to the musical.

I wanted to write a response to this statement because it made me really think about my degree. I’m studying Film and Screen Media. This degree doesn’t just teach me about Film and the Media as a whole, but question it. Even though I’m looking forward to the adaptation of Les Misérables and I do watch live broadcast television, it can be argued that live television is a dying art form. Everything is going online, Netflix, Amazon Prime, IPlayer. People don’t want to sit in front of a television and watch normal TV.

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Charlie’s Top 10 Shows of 2017! 

By Charlie White

So this year I have been lucky enough to see some incredible shows and trying to rank them  has been one of the toughest decisions ever! But here we go, my top 10 shows of this year are…

10: The Wild Party

The Other Palace

A rather adult themed show involving a group of people in the 1920s throwing a party which got a bit out of control (to put it lightly). I think the general concept was good and the people were great, just didn’t really have enough substance for me.

9: Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Courtyard Theatre, Hereford

A fun loving heart warming story which tells the tale of drag queens making there way across australia to perform their act. But for one of them, there’s a slightly more personal motif for heading on the road. Even though this was just an amateur production, the talent was amazing and it was such a fun show with all the cheesy hits you know and love.

8: The Wedding Singer

Touring

I managed to see this on tour with the wonderful Jon Robyns playing ‘casualty of love’ wedding singer Robbie Hart who gets his heart broken on his wedding day. He then meets a certain young woman who might just be able to fix it…whilst helping to plan her wedding! Classic 80s vibes and really enjoyable show (plus Jon Robyns is super talented and hilarious in this role).

 7: Mamma Mia

Novello Theatre

Using the great well known Music of Abba, this show takes us on a journey to a Greek island where a young girl is about to be married, but before she does , she wants her father to walk her down the aisle. The problem is, she has invited all 3 possible dads! Great night out with all the Abba hits and loveable characters with a heart warming story.

 6: Aladdin

Prince Edward Theatre

The classic Disney tale of the diamond in the rough who goes from ‘street rat’ to Prince Ali and shows Princess Jasmine a whole new world whilst trying to stop the evil doings of the royal advisor, Jafar. Great show stopping numbers like Friend Like Me, this is a perfect pick for the younger ones.

 5: 42nd Street 

Theatre Royal Drury Lane

With the biggest cast in the West End, 42nd street is a spectacle of dancing feet as they try to get to Broadway but with the leading lady Injured, can they convince newbie Peggy Saywer to step in and wow the audience. The sheer size of this cast makes it very impressive with toe tapping numbers like lullaby of Broadway, it’s a definite crowd pleaser.

 4: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Duke of York’s theatre

When a group of young Scottish girls go to Edinburgh for a choir competition, they decide to see what sort of trouble they can get up to (the answer is quite a lot). But whilst beautifully singing classic songs from ELO, we see how each of the girls find themselves as we witness this journey of discovery. The music was a great accompaniment to the story and the harmonies were spot on!

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 3: Half A Sixpence 

Noel Coward Theatre 

Years after Arthur Kipps leaves his childhood sweetheart to work selling haberdashery, his life changes when he discovers he’s come in to a large amount of money. Living the life of luxury, he courts a fine young lady from a wealthy family. However, when he is reunited with his childhood sweetheart, he wonders if he’s made a mistake. I actually thoroughly enjoyed this show, Charlie Kemp really does shine and the energy in this show is fabulous!

 2: The Toxic Avenger 

Arts Theatre 

A town called Tromaville in the state of New Jersey has a new smell in town..it’s giant vats of toxic nuclear waste! So who will save New Jersey? Melvin ferd the third! After being tossed in to the nuclear waste, he came out a ‘big green freak’ but luckily he’s in love with a visually impaired librarian (thank God she’s blind!) and he uses his new found powers to save the town from Jersey girl mayor Belgoody and the toxic nuclear waste. This show was so hilarious my cheeks actually ached from smiling and laughing so much and David Bryant did a fantastic job with the soundtrack.  Click here to read our full review of The Toxic Avenger!

 1: Lizzie the Musical

Greenwich Theatre

The infamous story of Lizzie Borden and the unfortunate death of her father and step mother told in unique way. With a cast of just 4 incredibly talented women, a fantastic rock score goes alongside this gothic mystery based on a true case of what might have happened in the House of Borden. I have to admit I was a bit unsure when I first went to see it but by the end I absolutely fell in love with it. The girls rocked it with insane voices,  a unique story and it’s such a shame it didn’t get a longer run. Click here to read our full review of Lizzie The Musical!

Nathan’s TOP 10 SHOWS of 2017!

By Nathan Deane

Ah, yes. The time has come for us to look back on what we saw in 2017 and put together our top 10 of the shows we saw.  I’ve been working on mine for the past week, and now I’ve seen my last new piece of theatre for the year, here’s my top 10!

10: tick, tick…BOOM!

Park Theatre

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“tick, tick…BOOM!” is Johnathan Larson’s autobiographical musical, often overshadowed in the success of his other musical, Rent. The production was directed by Bronagh Lagan, produced by Aria Entertainment and Joe C Brown, and starred Chris Jenkins, Gillian Saker and Jordan Shaw. This production was immersive, minimal and wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

9: Bananaman: The Musical

Southwark Playhouse

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Based on the comic strip and animated TV series, Bananaman tells the story of Eric Wimp, an average schoolboy, who turns into a superhero (the titular Bananaman) whenever he eats a banana. Directed by Mark Perry, produced by Sightline Entertainment and starring a large cast, the show is brand new for 2017 and was an extremely fun, camp and silly night out.

8: Hair

The Vaults

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Back for it’s 50th anniversary, Hair tells the tale of a tribe of hippies in New York’s Central Park. This production was fresh, vibrant and extremely fun. Read my full review of Hair here.

7: Lady Day At Emmerson’s Bar and Grill

Wyndham’s Theatre

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Starring the incomparable Audra McDonald, Lady Day shows us one of Billie Holiday’s very last concerts before her death in the 60’s. The show is painfully beautiful, and Audra’s performance as Billie Holiday was truly spectacular. The play made me cry, laugh and feel many different emotions. I was lucky to have been able to see the show twice.

6: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Apollo Theatre

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One of London’s newest musicals, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie tells the true story of Jamie, a 16 year old boy who wants to be a drag queen and go to prom in a dress. The story was relatable, emotional and often funny. John McCrea is a real star in the making, and Dan Gillespie-Sells’ music is catchy and modern.

5: The Toxic Avenger

The Arts Theatre

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Taking the mick out of superhero movies is a tricky game, but The Toxic Avenger does exactly that. And it’s hilarious. Read my full review of The Toxic Avenger HERE!

4: The Wild Party

The Other Palace

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Gin, skin, sin and fun are four words to describe this devilishly delightful show. This show was sexy, emotional and…wild. The cast were sensational, and Michael John LaChiusa’s music is terrific. It tells the story of Queenie and Burrs, two love-birds stuck in a relationship going nowhere. To spice things up a bit, they throw a party fuelled by bathtub gin, sex, and cocaine. It also features themes like murder, racism, and various other things…some worse than others.

3: Pinocchio

The National Theatre

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Colourful, wonderful, and magical. This show can brighten even the darkest winters. Read my full review of Pinocchio HERE!

2: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Duke of York Theatre

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What happens when 6 Scottish schoolgirls go out on the town in Edinburgh before the nation’s biggest choir competition? Well, that’s what Our Ladies is all about. The fiery cast of 6 girls backed by a 3 piece band, singing songs ranging from Mendelssohn to ELO made hairs stand on end. The story is wonderful, it’s not just about girls getting wasted, it’s about discovering yourself in your teenage years. And that’s a tricky thing to get right, but Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour did it beautifully.

1: Lizzie

Greenwich Theatre

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4 women singing killer rock and roll songs in tight leather whilst telling the story of American murderess Lizzie Borden? Sounds epic. And this show was epic. Only playing 20 performances means only a small handful of people got to experience this fierce production. Let’s hope it gets a revival soon! Read my full review of Lizzie HERE!

REVIEW: Venus In Fur @ Theatre Royal Haymarket, London

Reviewed by Sophie Reed

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Don’t mess with a goddess. That’s the tagline of this play. And boy should you take that advice! The play, written by David Ives, tells the story of playwright Thomas and actress Vanda. Vanda comes in late to the audition for Thomas’ new play adapted from the 1870 novel Venus In Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. and this is the man we get the word Masochism from.The play is filled with Marxism, sex and Greek/ Roman mythology.

Natalie Dormer, from Game of Thrones and Hunger Games fame, plays the role of Vanda. As well as being stunningly beautiful, she’s an extremely talented actress. The difference between her Vanda and her acting Vanda (her character had the same name as the character she was auditioning for) was so evident. The way she changed her voice from American, to British, to German so easily requires a lot of skill.

Victoria star, David Oakes, plays opposite her. His commanding stage presence is perfect for the opening show. His fluidity to change between dominating and submissing is so flawless. The two actors have such a good connection and the fight for dominance is so quick and clear. The overall play has an amazing plot and set out beautifully, using such a simple set. In addition, I was glad there was no interval because it was so intense the whole way through it would have broken up the dynamics of the show.

I give this show 5* for a beautiful, sexy, intense night out! You can catch it a the Theatre Royal Haymarket until the 4th of December.

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