Do you HEAR the people sing?

Written by Charlie White

So, I recently went to the theatre and unfortunately…I struggled to pick up the dialogue and therefore missed parts of the story. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the actors didn’t wear mics (as it was a play) and they had extremely strong accents. This then sparked the idea for a blog focusing on the sound/hearing aspect of shows.

I myself am a hearing aid wearer and have had problems with my ears since being a child, so this is quite an important subject to me (especially when it comes to hearing in a theatre) as I’m sure it is to most theatregoers.

The majority of the time, most shows are pretty good at making sure things are at a suitable volume and of course there is the well know lesson of projection and ‘making sure your voice hits the back of the theatre’ (I assume…is this still a thing now?)

However, there are times when maybe the music can be a little overpowering or perhaps the characters might be deep in conversation and you can’t quite catch everything they are saying.

If any of you reading this are familiar with hearing aids or anything along those lines you’ll know most theatres now have what’s called the loop system, which if your hearing aid has it activated you can connect to it and the sound will be sent straight through to your hearing aid (I’m also an Audiologist so fit hearing aids for a living).

 

 

 

Some of the shows I’ve seen recently have varied a lot hearing wise. Firstly, the Ferryman. As much I loved the show and was extremely shocked by the ending (you have to be there), I did have a bit of trouble hearing it all. Yes, this is the play I mentioned at the beginning and I’m afraid I did struggle at times to understand what was being said. Despite this, you do get used to it by the end and I managed to follow the gist of it. My advice if you’re going to watch this is maybe trying to have a little idea of what it is about beforehand and have your concentrating caps on when you see it!

Another show I recently saw was the Cursed Child. I am pleased to say most of the actors in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child spoke very clearly and the sound was pretty good throughout the show! Occasionally if the characters were having an argument or got a bit carried away with emotion certain things might not come across quite so clearly.

Overall, musicals tend to be at an appropriate level in order for us to take in the beautiful scores or talented voices so generally, I’m sure a lot of people will manage fine. For those who do not or those who are interested in knowing a bit more about this side of things, there will be a short section on the sound/hearing quality included in our upcoming reviews. The aim is to hopefully help and guide people who may struggle so they know what to expect when going to see a particular show. So please keep an eye out for that in the future and be sure to hear the people sing!

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REVIEW: SeatPlan

Written by Nathan Deane
Contributions from Charlotte White

A useful tool for UK theatregoers, SeatPlan is a website that takes the average auditorium plan and makes it interactive, allowing users to add photos from the seats and leave reviews of their seats. Users earn rewards from each photo uploaded and can also enter competitions and buy tickets via the website.

Despite a quite confusing interface, the tool is extremely helpful to the average theatregoer, if you’re based in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Manchester or Oxford. Whilst SeatPlan isn’t limited to those 6 areas, it doesn’t go much further than them, leaving people outside of those areas with local touring theatres in the dark of where to sit.

The site only has the major theatres, so you can’t get seating maps for some Off-West End venues such as Southwark Playhouse or Greenwich Theatre, which limits the usage to some theatre-goers.

The rewards are enticing, you earn 40p for each photo you add to the site and the pennies go towards theatre tokens – an exciting reward for any theatre fan. For an extra 40p, make sure you take a photo of your ticket stub!

The new, updated interface makes it hard to find the interactive seat plan, a feature I couldn’t find and had to ask my Facebook friends to help me find it when the update happened. Nevertheless, now I know where it is I can use the tool whenever I want.

The seat reviews are informative, usually accompanied by photos of the view and star ratings of the comfort, view, legroom and the show itself, providing a deep enough insight so that when you book your ticket you’ll know whether the seat is right for you.

The ticket booking system is easy enough, with discounted prices scattered around and easy to use seating charts.

I use the SeatPlan site quite frequently and, although it has a few minor issues, it’s a brilliant tool that anyone who is able to access a London theatre should use, and with the rewards system it’s a great way to fund your theatre-going!

4stars

REVIEW: Randy Writes A Novel @ Theatre Row

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

The purple puppet, Randy Feltface, played hype man, MC and special guest for his comedy show ‘Randy Writes A Novel’. The glitz and glamour of 42nd Street didn’t discourage my countryman from putting himself in the vulnerable situation of performing a comedy show in the Theatre district. Randy warmed up the crowd with some honesty, explaining that if we didn’t like the show we could leave, and he wouldn’t know- not having functioning eyes and all. Randy’s honesty and self-awareness were a clever form of introduction to a different and unusual sort of show.

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Randy banters and makes conversation, as he slowly moves towards the core purpose of the show; to read an excerpt of “Walking to Skye”. Before he can get too far, Randy finds himself falling down a dark hole of Wikipedia research; truly one of the most relatable things about this show. Recounting Hemingway’s epic life, Randy keeps the audience in suspense for a little bit longer. The curiosity of the crowd is kept at bay by Randy (and by extension Heath McIvor)’s engaging storytelling. Randy avoids the possibility of a poor book review by perhaps alienating the audience- he won’t give us what he promised.

Randy continuous on his self-professed “90-minute stream of consciousness”, something I am all too familiar with. He rants about spiritual appropriation, the infallibility of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, and after some heckles, he addresses the pros and cons of singing some Amy Winehouse, acapella style (deciding to give us only a tantalizing few seconds of melody). Randy masters the nuance of time and tension building, and eventual tells some tales of the homeland (Australia).

It’s about an hour and 20 minutes into the show, Randy hasn’t read a line from his book, and I am beginning to suspect I will never learn about Skye, as woeful as that seems. Randy’s masterful procrastination that at times felt slow, ends with some astute observations, most relevantly that my friend and I will leave the Theatre and discuss the nuances of the show, focusing on the different factors that impacted on its quality. Naturally, we did, only to come to the conclusion that as Theatre lovers we are sometimes clichéd and that Randy knows his audience.

Randy moves around behind his desk in a life-like way. It’s easy to forget that there are complicated skills at work whenever Randy makes a gesture. It is truly a testament to the crew and cast of this comedy show that Randy feels to me as fun, charismatic and charming as the next purple man. It didn’t hurt that I’ve missed the easy flow of conversation that occurs whenever I meet a fellow Australian, even if he’s not quite the average Australian bloke.

4stars

Randy writes a Novel is playing at Theatre Row until June 9th. Get tickets here

REVIEW: Fishbowl @ Kings Head Theatre

Reviewed by Charlotte White

So we go straight in with a conversation about whether George called his neighbour Hatty over for sex or not. George is adamant there is a leak in his ceiling, but Hatty thinks there is something more going on, but is there? Or is it simply just, a leak?

Fishbowl, a play by Jenna Kamal and directed by Alice Wordsworth and Erin Blackmore is a truly simple yet quite brilliant piece of live theatre. Essentially we watch as the only two characters in the play discuss various issues at 4 in the morning.

George is played by Nick Cope who portrayed the awkward but loveable character in such an endearing way and did such a great job of showing us as the audience how everything in life can be affected by so many little things. Felicity Green took the role of Hatty and I felt her performance had such a natural flow about it (much like the play in general). I particularly enjoyed her little cardio work out dance break!

I wasn’t expecting the show to make you think about so many things in life. As the show appeared so much like a casual conversation it made it more relatable and made you reevaluate things in your own life as you were watching it. Lots of quite deep elements of life were discussed. For example, does change only come from conflict? Or can it come from positivity?
I liked the fact that these deeper moments were contrasted by witty one liners and again some great dance moves from Hatty!

Fishbowl is a thought provoking, clever, unique piece of theatre with a natural flow that makes it that much more enjoyable to watch.

REVIEW: Mirrors @ Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed by Alex Kirk

Written and performed by Siobhan McMillan, Mirrors is a clever and humorous take on the classic Snow White story.

In Snow White, the Evil Queen discovers that there is another maiden in the land who dares to be fairer than she, and begins a hunt to kill her. In Mirrors, the Evil Queen is one of many personalities living inside the head of an enthusiastic yet entirely unoriginal and naive YouTube vlogger called ShyGirl, with a grand total of 30 subscribers.

When she is stood up by her ‘boyfriend’ (who merely uses her for sex and shows no romance at all), she becomes Shivvers – our ‘Evil Queen’ – a much more confident and down to earth character, who guides us through the story when her mirror tells her that she is no longer the most gorgeous woman alive, and begins her pilgrimage to kill her.

McMillan’s writing is clever and endearing, using mystical fairy-tale language to narrate the story, interjected with insults and stereotypes more commonly found in Facebook memes and ‘trash’ humour; the first woman that Shivvers believes is her new enemy is given the name ‘Bitchface’, and later in the play we hear all about another character’s love for chips and hummus (which was served to the audience after the show!). McMillan gives a strong performance throughout the play, in all of her characters, sometimes switching between them on alternating lines. She gives a masterclass in characterisation.

Gabi Maddocks’ direction is brilliant as well, and utilises the space superbly. The Lounge at the Leicester Square Theatre is a highly intimate space, and yet every single corner of the room is used throughout the show, thoroughly gripping your attention. The fairy-tale language in McMillan’s script parallels the fake oh-so-perfect world that YouTube vloggers pretend to have, and Maddocks’ direction heightens this further with some brilliant comedy moments – a personal favourite moment being ‘magical’ bubbles coming from a techie blowing very loudly at the back of the theatre. This is a production that is very self-aware and embraces its innocence and intimacy, and it is this that makes it such an endearing piece of theatre that will have you invested in ShyGirl’s journey.

Snow White parallels aside, I cannot compare this show to anything else. It’s thoroughly unique, totally personal, and I really enjoyed it.

4stars

REVIEW: Banana Crabtree Simon @ Drayton Arms Theatre

Reviewed by Leyla Damirel

“Banana Crabtree Simon” – these are the three words that Alan is told to remember. These three words are also the title of a new, one-man play that I was given the lucky chance to review. The play follows the character of Alan and his ongoing condition of dementia.

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Other than that, I knew nothing of the play, and went in with an open mind, although I was intrigued as to how the actor would captivate and keep the audience’s attention all on his own – it is a great deal of pressure for one person to captivate the audience and tell a story and keep the audience interested with no other cast members to help, but CJ de Mooi (Alan) managed to capture it perfectly. His characterization is flawless – in a short amount of time, you can see an almost healthy 50-year-old man in front of you deteriorate with his condition to a man who is rapidly becoming weaker as his memory fades. At one point in the show, Alan is under the sure belief that he is once again a little boy who has just attended his sister’s funeral. The way this scene was portrayed was breath-taking – I was not watching a man perform as a man with dementia. I was watching someone who truly did have dementia. The lines between acting and reality were completely blurred.

From the word go, you’re thrown right into the heart of the story; granted this is not necessarily a high energy show, if you’re expecting grand sets and orchestrations, this show is not one for you, but if you want to truly get invested into a story and really feel something, then this is right down your street. The simplicity of the setting and the lack of ‘theatre glamour’ adds to the intimacy of one man telling you his dementia journey, and being able to see his dementia increase as the show gets on is truly something special. I feel if the play were to transfer to a larger theatre, the intimacy would fade and the effect the play had on me would be lost. The use of music throughout the show only adds to the mood – as the play becomes more intense and tense, the music builds and only adds to this; every aspect of the production of this show has been accounted for, so while at face value it may seem that this is a simple play about a man with a degenerative condition, when real attention is paid to the finer details, they can truly be appreciated and the hard work that has been put in behind the scenes which is often overlooked, can truly be noticed. A beautifully heart-breaking piece of theatre, I know for a fact I shall never be forgetting the time I went to see Banana Crabtree Simon.

5stars

Banana Crabtree Simon runs until 14th April 2018. Tickets and more information can be found here.

Eight Powerful Shows that I Love

Written by Annie Zeleznikow

I have seen a lot of theatre throughout my life. I was lucky enough to have parents who valued theatre, and grandparents who could afford tickets for us. I travelled a lot as a child and my dad took great pleasure in finding shows in strange and wonderful locations. My life has always been filled with show tunes, and so here is a sneak peek into some of my favorites, and some stories about why they mean so much to me.

8) The Sound of Music

The loveliest musical. Julie Andrews is truly a fabulous gift to the world. I think the best way to sufficiently explain my love for this show is to first watch this recreation, made by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s father, Luis.

This was a musical that taught me the value of perseverance. Maria and the Von Trapp’s feared for their lives, so they climbed mountains and escaped, all while singing.

When I was about 13 my family went to Saltsburg. This is where the movie was shot, and where the story is based. There are Sound of Music tours, and we went on one. It was magical, we danced and sang where Ms. Andrews had danced and sung. The story came to life as we ran across the fountain and looked across the mountaintops. The Sound of Music is a movie that I have watched countless times, and I know I will continue to watch it, as it never gets old.

7) Guys and Dolls

When I was in twelfth grade I spent one weekend procrastinating. This was a week before a major exam. And I spent both Saturday and Sunday watching guys and dolls. I watched it on repeat. I watched it over and over again. It took me away from the chaos of my life, and it gave me an escape. I got to watch Marlon Brando fall in love, again and again. And the music was an enchanting combination of cabaret, soulful ballads, and sappy love songs. It was the perfect distraction from a horrendously stressful time. And it brought me such joy and relief from the stress of the real world around me.

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6) 13

This was the last musical that I participated in during high school. And I loved it. It was my introduction to the wonderful Jason Robert Brown. I had never really been exposed to a pop style musical before this show. The quirky characters fill the show with clever songs and funny numbers. The ballads are fantastic, and the lyrics are catchy. I was so lucky to be involved in such a fun show.

NOTE: While trying to find photos to add to the article I found the whole show, which was recorded and put on YouTube. Please enjoy my minor role as a preppy (chorus member), that’s me in the green blouse.

5) 1984

A most terrifyingly moving play. I saw this during my first week living in NYC. It was powerful and overwhelming. At one point the house lights went up, and it was clear that this terrifying dystopia that was created within the show was seeping into the real world. It was powerful and moving and I thought it was amazing.

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4) The Mountaintop

This was a play about the final day of MLK’s life, and it was my first introduction to MLK and the Human Rights Movement that occurred in the US in the 60’s. The Melbourne Theatre Company produced this show in 2013. I saw the play with my grandmother, sister, and cousins. My grandmother would buy season tickets to the theatre each year for my sister, cousins and myself. There were many amazing and powerful plays during the years that we went to the theatre, but when I started writing this list The Mountaintop jumped out at me. I remember it concluding with a video montage. And the montage included footage of Obama, and I started to tear up. The contrast of MLK and Obama was powerful and provoked powerful emotions within.

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3) Kinky Boots

My mums favorite. No way around it. She adores Callum Francis, the Australian Lola. We speak of him like an old friend, we speak about how he is doing, where he is living etc. I took a class called LGBT Community through the Life Span. During one class we were asked to write up different thing that affected how LGBT communities are viewed. I proudly wrote “Kinky Boots”, and although some of my classmates laughed, the Professor acknowledged it, this show impacted worldviews, and empowered people to live and be themselves. This show brought LGBT rights to the forefront, exclaiming to the world that we should all “Be who you want to be.” The unconditional acceptance in this show acts as such a powerful tool. Each time I’ve seen the show I’ve had an involuntary grin on my face.

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2) Dear Evan Hansen

This is one of the most powerful shows I’ve seen. I, like most audience members, found myself in tears. After all, Evan just wants to connect, and I can understand that. He gets caught up in a lie that he can’t escape, and he just wants to be seen and loved. I felt connected to Evan. The pop music is also a pleasant addition to the wonderfully classic repertoire of my favorite musicals. I keep coming back to this show. Each time I get excited about a new musical that opens in NYC, I get drawn away by Dear Evan Hansen, I find myself wanting to see it again and again. Despite the high costs. Each time I’ve seen it it’s been dynamic. All parts of this show make a mark; the music, the story, the acting- each connect to a deep part of me.

Dear Evan Hansen

1) Hamilton

I really owe so much to the genius work of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Although I was brought up with musicals, my obsession with the genre didn’t blossom until I heard the exquisite lyrics of Miranda’s tantalizing show. I am not American and knowing the history of America didn’t excite me in the same way it might excite a history teacher in the US. But this show lit a flame under me. And my desire to see the show quickly turned deeper and became an unquenchable thirst for Miranda’s materials. I moved to New York. I waited in line for 7 hours. I saw Hamilton. From my bedroom in Melbourne, Australia, I had made it! Hamilton is everywhere now. Rapping “My Shot” to the 4-year-old that I picked up from school brought me joy, and I hope to continue doing it. My favorite TV shows make jokes about how hard it is to get tickets. NYC appreciates and loves Miranda, and I do too.

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Olivier Awards Nominations: MY PREDICTIONS

Written by Nathan Deane

It’s not common practice to predict nominations for awards ceremonies. But the 2017-2018 theatre season in London was so great that the Olivier Eligibility is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I feel like I have to tell everyone (is predict the right word? Oh well.) what I hope is nominated for the Theatre section of the Oliviers this year! I’ve limited myself to 3 or 4 nominations per category. These are not the official nominations; just my predictions/wishes.

Best Revival

The Birthday Party – Harold Pinter Theatre

Frozen – Theatre Royal Haymarket

Glengarry Glen Ross – Playhouse Theatre

Stepping Out – Vaudeville Theatre

New Play

The Ferryman – Gielgud Theatre

John – National Theatre (Dorfman)

Lady Day At Emmerson’s Bar & Grill – Wyndham’s Theatre

Pinocchio – National Theatre (Lyttleton)

New Comedy

Labour of Love – Noël Coward Theatre

Mischief Movie Night – Arts Theatre

The Miser – Garrick

Musical Revival

42nd Street – Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Follies – National Theatre (Olivier)

On The Town – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

New Musical

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Apollo Theatre

The Grinning Man – Trafalgar Studios

Hamilton – Victoria Palace Theatre

The Toxic Avenger – Arts Theatre

Entertainment & Family

Dick Whittington – London Palladium

Five Guys Named Moe – Marble Arch Theatre

The Hunting of the Snark – Vaudeville

Affiliate

The B*easts – Bush Theatre

tick, tick…BOOM! – Park Theatre

Room – Theatre Royal Stratford East

Disco Pigs – Trafalgar Studios 2

REVIEW: Trainspotting LIVE @ The Engine Rooms, Southampton

Written by Nathan Deane

Take any pre-conceived notions of Trainspotting LIVE and throw them away, as this play takes both book and movie and smashes them to bits.

Trainspotting LIVE is an immersive piece of theatre in a traverse environment with the audience sat on raised platforms. This allowed for the cast to interact with the audience, and they took every liberty they could to interact with every scene, including the infamous toilet scene. The play is primarily based on the book, with passages being directly lifted out of the text and placed into the play, often paraphrased.

Harry Gibson did an amazing job at adapting the source material, adapting the novel from Irvine Welsh into a punchy, non-stop 75 minute experience. Adam Spreadbury-Maher‘s direction was intimate and intense, and allowed for scene changes to occur smoothly and with minimal fuss.

Trainspotting LIVE tells the story of a group of Scottish heroin-addicts in the late 80’s. This show is filthy, intimidating, often funny and extremely well-done.

 

Frankie O’Connor played Renton, a part made famous by Ewan McGregor. O’Connor took McGregor’s performance and blew it out of the water. The arc that the character goes through is immense, and O’Connor plays it perfectly.

The piece is an ensemble piece, yet each actor in the small cast had shining moments. Finlay Bain as Tommy gave an extremely emotional performance, Chris Dennis as Begbie was extremely intimidating, James Boal as Mother Superior was comedic and quite eerie, and Rachel Anderson as Laura was often the comedic relief of the piece, lightening the often tense mood. The two actors that stood out of the ensemble for me were Andrew Still as Sick Boy and Erin Marshall as Alison. Their performances were stellar, their chemistry felt super developed and their story together closer to the end left me tearing up and shaken.

Trainspotting LIVE is an experience not for the faint hearted, but if you dare brave it, you’re in for a wild ride.

Trainspotting LIVE is touring the UK before heading to London for 2 months. For tickets and more information, click here.

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.