owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 10:58am on 21/04/2016 under ,
I went to my first immersive theatre performance on Friday, a combination of trusting the parameters of something based on The Tempest and supporting a friend. It turns out that immersive theatre, at least this instance of it, is everything I hoped for from LARPs but never quite found there. I loved it. I loved it enough that I went back again, and would go back still more, but the run is only on for two weeks, ending this Saturday, and I can't fit another trip in.

"Such Stuff As Dreams are Made On" is an exploration of the island of The Tempest from many angles all at once, with the original plot underlying it, to give it structure and pacing. Each audience member explores the world as they wish, lurking in the corner of rooms or chasing after specific actors, often with the added challenge of crowded corridors. There is no way to see everything happening, and that gives depth to the world. What were those distant cries? Where are those people rushing? Who is that character?

The set is lushly realized with a satisfying deep level of constructed reality. There is real sand and origami boats, the scent of herbs and the glow of colored glass. And there is the lushly complex soundtrack tying all of the spaces together.

My favorite moments were the intimate ones. Just three of us and an actor. Just me and an actor. All parts of the story braid cohering the island into an atmosphere, into placeness.

Sedos is a long-running amateur theatre company; the "amateur" is why the work they have put into this experience is so transitory. They all have day jobs.

It's too late to buy tickets - they're all sold out - but when I showed up at 6:15 yesterday to queue for returns (cash payment only, £16 full price), I was only the second one there and we all got in.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:26pm on 19/02/2012 under ,
In the last week-or-so, I've seen two stage productions which involved a human in a full-body ape costume. With that strong - if entirely unexpected - commonality, I'm putting them both into one post.

Cirque du Soleil's Totem )

ENO's Tales of Hoffmann )
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Sometimes, it all works out better than plannable. Friday was one of those nights. As of Wednesday morning, I could not have told you I would be at the sold-out Much Ado about Nothing at the Wyndham, but someone else's inconvenience was my fortune. (It was very generous of you to have a conflict, [livejournal.com profile] ashfae!)

Dinner at Hawksmoor Seven Dials... )

After a little bit of suspense, we found L, who had the tickets. It required texting since it was a busy pub and we had not previously met her, and K, whom I do know, had gone to look for me when I was looking for her. L was a delight, and we had more time to get to know her and the rest of the group at another pub afterward. Anyways, the important thing is that it worked out just fine.

Much Ado about Nothing at the Wyndham sold out long since because it stars Catherine Tate and David Tennant as Beatrice and Benedict. It was a giddy romp of a production, adorable and delightful and ridiculous to the degree that the serious parts were often overshadowed. They often are in this play, but they particularly were in this version. The scene in which Hero tells Beatrice that Benedict loves her - I didn't hear a word of it because all attention was on the aerial hijinks of Beatrice. Poor Hero.

I wonder how many tunes there are out there for "Sigh no more, ladies". The Branagh movie had one. This version set in post-Falklands Gibralter had an '80s rendition (as, indeed, was the entire original soundtrack). These are surely not the only two. There were lots of '80s jokes/references/homages built into the visuals, from heavy Princess Di/Hero paralleling to an electronic keyboard to a Rubik's cube. I missed the Super Mario Brothers homage (a costume in the masked ball/dance), but there was one, apparently!

In any event, a really lovely evening.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:01pm on 04/05/2010 under ,
owlfish: (Actors inventing more history)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 04:12pm on 13/07/2009 under
I spent Saturday afternoon in the park with a picnic, a play, a smidgin of rain, and approixmately eighteen people, almost all of whom were previously strangers to me. We read A Midsummer Night's Dream, with parts of costumes and props and improvised acting, music, and dancing. It was a rather impressive production under the circumstances, organized by [livejournal.com profile] mirrorshard, with some might fine actors participating. I have no idea when I last was involved in any way other than audience in theater; possibly my brief stint as dramaturge when an undergraduate? In this, I played a minor fairy, which gave me more time to watch the rest of it, a cohort to loiter with, and also the fun of having a role in the dance.

Which is how C. came to ask me about Shakespeare, and I come to give you the question on his behalf: Why Shakespeare? "Genius" alone never explains much of anything; PR makes all the difference. What are the major historiographic developments which made his work, in particular, the subject of such modern renown?
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 10:38pm on 18/01/2009 under ,
I'm like the Befana. She arrived twelve days after the Wise Men did, and that's how her day is celebrated every year. For the second year running, I went to the Birmingham Hippodrome panto, following the [livejournal.com profile] crabbyoldbats there, one day later. I follow the same star they follow, and C. and I had such a good trip the first year than we went back for another.

The Birmingham Hippodrome takes its pantos very seriously. The budget is lavish, and that's part of why they're so amazing and worthwhile. With John Barrowman in the lead role, Dancing on Ice stars, and a t.v. ventriloquist, the cast is a sound one. It's lavish: I mentioned the Dancing on Ice stars. That's because they're there to ice skate, there on stage, in an entire ice skating sequence, complete with bubbles. The Dame had a costume change for pretty much every day he came one stage, complete with different shoes and hair. There was a turning waterwheel on stage in the opening sequence. For the finale, there were fountains with real running water. The production values are sumptuous.

it's fun: there are jokes aplenty, and all the actors really looked like they were enjoying themselves. They found some of the jokes pretty silly too, even after doing the play for so many weeks, stopping scenes for a moment to get over their laughter at a gag that was funny all over again. The Sheriff of Nottingham, the bad guy, was played by Pete Gallagher, the same actor as last year; he was fabulous evil fun.

In search of plot... )

Despite my extensive listing of frustrations, they were, in the scheme of things, minor enough not to mar the fun of bubbles, glitter, ice skating, silliness, fun songs, and wacky hijinks. I do like a good panto. Last year's was better, but this was still pretty good.
owlfish: (Corn rows)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 06:00pm on 08/04/2008 under
A group from the Des Moines area visited London this past week, from the Des Moines Art Center and the Civic Center. They were here to see plays and exhibitions, gallery tours, London tours, and choice theatrical highlights. At the last minute, they had a cancellation, which is how I came to spend my weekend in a whirl of theater-going, seeing God of Carnage, Speed the Plow, and The 39 Steps.

I lucked out in other ways too. For months I've been meaning to see the terracotta warriors exhibit at the British Museum. About a month ago, I finally checked the website and realized that all the advanced booking tickets were sold out. To see it, I would have to get up early in the morning and stand in line. Thanks to that cancellation, however, the group had a spare advanced booking ticket for the second-to-last day of the show. I'm so glad I was able to go. I knew a certain amount about about Qin Shi Huangdi's tomb from having taught it for "History of Civilization" several times. What I hadn't realized was that the tomb itself remains unexcavated, and is not likely to be dug up in our lifetimes. The terracotta figures come from pits spread over a few kilometers around the tomb, thematically grouped by their roles in Qin Shi Huangdi's afterlife. I loved seeing the segments of drain, the lavishly huge bricks, and, of course, a sampling of the terracotta figures themselves: a muscleman, an acrobat, charioteers, horses, archers, generals.

I went along with the group to the new show at the Britannia Street Gagosian. I could take or leave most of Howard Hodgkin's work at a distance, but up close, they become immersive, eloquent paintstrokes evoking movement and light, with beautiful handling of the paint's texturality.

Several of the people on the trip were long-term family friends. Many more are friends of my parents I'd not previous met. It was a wonderful way to spend a weekend, talking of Des Moines to people who care, and seeing shows and exhibits.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 05:20pm on 07/04/2008 under
You don't need to have read the book or seen the movie to thoroughly enjoy this - I hadn't. The 39 Steps, currently playing at the Criterion Theatre at Piccadilly, is a wacky remake of a Hitchcock thriller, using four actors to play 139 parts. Whoever thought of adapting it in this fashion did so in a moment of inspired genius. And with talented and versatile actors, the production works very effectively.

The plot is this: A man of leisure, in England after his adventures in Canada, finds himself exceedingly bored with life. For entertainment, he goes to the theater, where he meets a mysterious female German spy who talks him into taking her back to his apartment. She speaks of a secret which risks endangering all of Britain if not safeguarded, and a mysterious place in Scotland which is somehow tied into this. Thus it is the no-longer-bored gentleman is swept up into this plot, a warrant on his head for murder, in a madcap chase up the trainline to the Highlands and back again. There's a chase atop a moving train, a plane chase, romance, police, betrayal, and lots of humor in this action-packed production.

The actors are absolutely amazing, most of all the two actors who play most of the cast. Martyn Ellis is versatile and funny, while Simon Gregor is a polymorph, with phenomenal control over his facial expressions, which evoke the range of people he plays almost even more than do his costumes. Josefina Gabrielle - as many of the show's beautiful women - and Simon Paisley Day as the main character, the no-longer-bored Richard Hannay, complete the cast.

This funny, scintillating show showcases the acting skills of a talented group of four, balancing humor with suspense. It made me happy. I recommend it.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 10:59pm on 04/04/2008 under
The Old Vic has been packing in audiences since the beginning of February when Speed the Plow opened. The line for returns wrapped around the corner of the building when I arrived. A one act, three scene play with a cast of three, it boasts serious star power. Jeff Goldblum plays a newly-promoted head of production at a Hollywood studio. Kevin Spacey plays a would-be producer who has an easy-to-sell offer for the studio, starring a major actor. Laura Michelle Kelly completes the cast, playing the temporary secretary who goes out of her way to seem naive about the whole business.

The script is by David Mamet. I don't know that I've seen any of his other work, but I certainly know of him as one of the world's foremost satirists-in-play-form. Thing is, satirizing business practice in Hollywood is like shooting ducks in a barrel. It's too easy. Because it's too easy, the barrier for achieving insight is far higher than for many other topics, and as a result, the topic never achieved anything sublime for me. It was too pat, too obvious. The sure moneyearner vs. the incomprehensible communing with the nature of the universe plot for a potential movie to promote. Everyone in Hollywood has an agenda.

Kevin Spacey was easily my favorite part of the show - he occupied the character, and has wonderful control of his limbs and twitches. That sounds wrong - he twitched only appropriately, not compulsively. Jeff Goldblum has good comedic timing, but was less interesting as a serious character. I don't know how much of it was Kelly's interpretation and how much the character, but I found her hypersweet earnestness almost sickly. It could have been the satire, but I didn't fully appeciate it. I was also distracted by a heavy-handed by-product of the casting. Goldblum is insanely tall, a good eight to ten inches taller than Spacey. Spacey, in turn, was a good eight to ten inches taller than Kelly. That dramatic height differential mirrored their respective nominal power roles within the play.

It's a fine, competent play and production. Spacey was impressive. I'm glad I've seen it. But I liked last night's play better.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:31am on 04/04/2008 under
One boy hits another boy, breaking two of his teeth. The next day, the parents of the boy who was hit invite the parents of the hitter around to discuss the situation. Over the next two hours of this one act play, opened this week at the Gielgud Theatre on Shafesbury Ave., the situation deteriorates. The strain in marriages, parenting priorities, past histories, and the world at large show up as politeness dissolves in the face of true personalities. The play is all character study, held together with token plot, but is, nonetheless, a satisfying production. Janet McTeer plays a passionate do-gooder; Ken Stott, her husband is a hardware store owner who embraces his inner coarseness; Tamsin Greig is an uptight wealth manager who does what she ought, but doesn't necessarily like it; and Ralph Fiennes her husband, a lawyer who could care less about the whole meeting and spends most of the time glued to his mobile, helping with PR salvage for a dodgy pharmaceutical company.

The script is translated from the original French, and the play still still set in France. Characters address each other as "M'sieur" and "Madame" even though dialog is in English. These touches only occasionally distracted me, more often rooting the play in its location. I liked many of the ongoing themes, including an inspired use of a hamster. The satire was funny - the audience laughed a lot, whether or not the characters on stage had any reason to do so.

The set was dramatic, a cloud of red up into the eaves, a wall of cracks providing a strong diagona, defining the living room in which all the action occurs, and the strong contrast of the white and off-white sofa, chairs, tables, and tulips. The blocking was well done, a visual flow of changing alliances and interactions.

The play was good - satisfying - but not great. And I would have liked it a whole lot better if it had had no vomit; but then that's always true.


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