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Showing posts with label national theatre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label national theatre. Show all posts

In Conversation With... Kirsty MacLaren | Interview

In Conversation With... Kirsty MacLaren | Interview

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I'm back with another Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour post (see my recent interview with Karen here)! Today I bring you a chat about all things Our Ladies with the lovely Kirsty MacLaren who plays Manda!



For anyone that doesn’t know, can you explain a little about your career and what your highlights have been so far?

Well, for me, doing Our Ladies has been the highlight. I’ve covered so many career goals on this job, from working with National Theatre of Scotland, performing at the National Theatre, touring internationally and now working in the West End. Plus originating a role is a pretty special experience. It’s been the job that has kept on giving, to be honest.

Before I started Our Ladies, and during the breaks we’ve had, I’ve been lucky to do some really diverse work where I’ve learned so much. I’ve worked at Pitlochry Festival Theatre for a year, played Lulu in a series of radio dramas and performed with companies like the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh. These experiences give you the chance to really learn what it is to be an actor.


Were you born wanting to be a performer or did you have another career path in mind when you were younger?

I always has lots of energy as a child and was sent to dance lessons to tire me out. I come from a musical family so was always exposed to different types of music, although I didn't really know anyone who had acted professionally. I loved doing amateur dramatics and going to acting classes when I was little, but I had always wanted to be a lawyer until I sort of fell into doing the arts. I went to a Knightswood Secondary, which has a performing arts school attached, and knew then that I had to go down that path.


Our Ladies is just epically brilliant. When you first started working on it did you know it was something special?

I think that we were all so excited with this piece we had made that we weren’t really thinking about how much of a hit it might be. We certainly couldn't have imagined the success that we have had over the 2 years of doing it. The team that are on it are amazing and we were having such a good time creating this piece of theatre that was totally different to anything anyone had done before. But the reception that we got on our first night at the Traverse is something I’ll never forget.




I saw the show at both The National and at the Duke of York and it didn’t lose any of it’s intimate feel or charm. Does the way you work and rehearse change for different venues?

The show relies so much on story telling so whether you are in a small 100 seat venue or an 800 seat venue, that principle stays the same. What changes is how much you have to project in each venue, but as long as you think about telling the story to the person at the very back or top of the theatre, you can’t go wrong.


There are so many styles of music in the show. Does this come naturally or did you have to learn to sing different styles?

I’m trained in different vocal styles, but rarely do you have to mash them together in one show. It’s tiring on the voice, but once you build up the stamina, it becomes much easier.


How do you keep your voice healthy? Do you have any vocal rituals?

We always do a big group warm up together before the show which gets you ready. It’s really important to rest when you can. I’ve also got a vocal steamer helps stop your voice drying out.


Besides yourself, who would you like to see play your role?

I’m a big fan of Morven Christie. She’s seen the show and tweets about it a lot. I think she’d fit right in with us girls.


Can you sum up Our Ladies in five words?

Bold; life-affirming; hilarious; heartbreaking; female



Have you had any funny onstage or offstage mishaps in the show?

Often! We are always laughing at each other on stage. I remember going on with my mic on the outside of my clothes. The other girls didn't tell me until quite a bit through the show. I didn't know what they were laughing at until I eventually realised, and by that point, it was too late.


Is there a musical or play you’ve seen recently that you loved?

I’ve been able to see quite a lot of theatre this summer while I’ve been in London. I loved The Glass Menagerie and Half a Sixpence - both very different, but both brilliant.


Whats a fun fact people might not know about you?

I work as a fitness instructor in my spare time. Its a great job when I’m not acting as its flexible, plus I can fit classes in during the day when I’m working in a show.


What’s your best piece of advice for an aspiring performer?

Every opportunity is a good opportunity. Whether you're at youth theatre, am-dram, drama school or a professional show, you can learn from every experience. Listen to any advice you can get and never be scared to ask for help.



A huge thank you to Kirsty for doing this interview! 
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour runs at the Duke of York's until September 2nd 2017

In Conversation With... Karen Fishwick | Interview

In Conversation With... Karen Fishwick | Interview

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I am an absolutely massive fan of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (it was number 5 in my Top 10 Shows of 2016) and its incredible cast. One of its members is Karen Fishwick who plays the role of Kay spectacularly. She embodies various other characters brilliantly and is just a fantastic performer. Karen was lovely enough to sit down and answer some questions and the show, the music and advice for aspiring performers.


For anyone that doesn’t know, can you explain a little about your career and what your highlights have been so far?

I went straight from high school to Motherwell College where I did two years of Musical Theatre (HND) and rounding off my BAhons on the Acting course. Before that, all through high school my summers were filled with any creative short courses I could possibly apply for - acting, opera, contemporary dance, circus. I wanted to do it all. I think these were valuable training without noticing it at the time.


Were you born wanting to be a performer or did you have another career path in mind when you were younger?

It was always there though I do remember a brief spell of hoping to become a zoo keeper. I remember playing defense on the school football team; everyone chased the ball to the other end of the pitch while I'd stand there on my own and sing. And thus my dazzling football career came to an end.


Our Ladies is just epically brilliant. When you first started working on it did you know it was something special?

Thanks, that's kind. No, I mean, you never know do you? You, of course, always hope a piece will be received well but if you go in thinking "this could be the next big hit" you're kinda focussing on the wrong thing. When I first read it, I was amazed at how different it was to anything else I'd ever auditioned for and that was thrilling. That made it stand out for me. I don't remember rehearsing and thinking oh wow, this is going to be nuts. It was really hard work, that's all we were thinking. Gotta nail this bit, then this bit. When the first audience response came at the Traverse in 2015, that was the moment. I'll never forget it.


I saw the show both at The National and at the Duke of York and it didn’t lose any of it’s intimate feel or charm. Does the way you work at rehearse change at different venues? 

Absolutely. With every single new venue we played, as soon as we got onto the stage it was "ok, what are we dealing with here". We need to know there isn't one corner we'll miss flinging this story at. Eye-balling the audience is one of my favourite parts of the show. The sound would feel different depending on how big or small and venue was. The huge rock moments or intimate confessions need to carry the same wether we're at the brilliantly close Live Theatre in Newcastle or the Theatre Royal in Brighton. Vicky always made sure it was the first thing we'd address.


There are so many styles of music in the show. Does this come naturally or did you have to learn to sing different styles?

A mixture, I think. The classical to rock stuff has different demands. Even within the ELO numbers themselves, they're songs are eclectic! Martin Lowe, our beyond wonderful MD leaves no stone unturned there and we worked hard with him on each sound. His attention to detail for each different style is what makes the show so successful. 


How do you keep your voice healthy? Do you have any vocal rituals?

I didn't sing in the play I did before this so a few weeks before we started rehearsal, I made sure I was strengthening it up. I found YouTube videos for that (thank you Verba Vocal Technique). I drinks tonnes of water and try to keep on top of tension in my neck and shoulders. Steaming is good. And not being hungover.


Besides yourself, who would you like to see play your role?

Can I pick anyone? Christopher Walken.


Can you sum up Our Ladies in five words?

Messy. Honest. Loud. Touching. Empowering.


Have you had any funny onstage or offstage mishaps in the show?

For sure. I panicked and took off one shoe once. Did a couple scenes without it. I really didn't know when I'd be able to put it back on. Another time, I accidentally threw a box of candy sticks straight into the face of a girl sitting on stage. Other venues didn't have a chair there, it was muscle memory gone daft! She lived.

Karen Fishwick (Kay), Caroline Deyga (Chell), Melissa Allan (Orla), Frances Maylie McCann (Kylah), Kirsty MacLaren (Manda), Dawn Sievewright (Fionnula)

Is there a musical or play you’ve seen recently that you loved?

I freaking loved Book of Mormon! I thought it was so funny and done so well. There's so such much I wanted to see but can't make; Angels in America, Hamlet


What’s a fun fact people might not know about you?

My great, great, great, great grandfather was a tiny little mushroom.


What’s your best piece of advice for an aspiring performer?

If you work as hard as you possibly can, you will not fail. You will not. What about luck? Work hard to generate it. Nothing will happen if you don't work for it.


A huge thank you to Karen for doing this interview! Keep your eyes peeled for another Our Ladies interview coming soon!
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour runs at the Duke of York's until September 2nd 2017

Wig Out: Rehearsed Reading, National Theatre | Review

Wig Out: Rehearsed Reading, National Theatre | Review

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Wig Out: Rehearsed Reading
Lyttleton Theatre, National Theatre
Reviewed on Friday July 7th 2017 by Jessica Harris-King

As part of National Theatre's Queer Theatre month, a rehearsed reading of Tarrell Alvin-MCcraney's, Wig Out was performed in the Lyttleton Theatre. Having attended on the strength of being a huge fan of Tarrell's oscar-winning film Moonlight, I was unaware of what to expect and ultimately more than pleasantly surprised. The play centres around the house ball culture mostly based in the US, and takes place over the course of 24 hours. We follow the journey of the House of Light *snaps* as they get ready for a ball thrown by their rivals, House of Diabolique. 

The residents of the House of Light include the colourful characters of 'mother' Rey-Rey (Tarrell Alvin-McCraney), 'father' Lucian (Ukweli Roach) daughters, Venus, gay drag queen (Craig Stein), Ms Nina/Wilson (Kadiff Kirwan), a gay person who presents as feminine and identifies as gender non-conforming, Deity (Kobna Holbrook-Smith) a gay man, who is Venus' love interest and DJ to the House of Light and the three fates (Alexia Khadime, Abiona Omonua and Cat Simmons), a trio of women who often act as narrators for the show, telling the story through humour and singing throughout.

The opening line of the show, as said by Venus "By the time this play makes its way to you, most of the language will have been antiquated" sets the tone of the piece as time (or lack of it) is very much a theme in the piece. It’s presented obviously to us through the fact that the house only has until midnight to prepare for the ball, but also more subtly later in the show, as Rey-Rey’s struggle as an aging member of her house is clearly seen to be getting to her. 

The theme of gender is also presented to us when we, along with Nina, meet Eric (Tunji Kasim) a gay man who although likes Nina, is uncomfortable with her presenting as feminine, resulting in her going as ‘Wilson’ during their time together. Kirwan’s performance is truly one of the highlights of the show and his on-stage presence is mesmerising, he brings both equal parts humour and vulnerability to the role, making Ms.  Nina one of the stand-out characters of the show. 


Venus comes a close second, especially during the second act when she and Deity do a hilarious lip-sync to a Beyonce and Jay-Z song. Craig Stein and Kobna Holbrook-Smith have great chemistry and in this scene it really shows. Throughout the piece, there a various modern pop culture references, reminding us of the fact that the culture being portrayed on stage and the issues, are happening right now in the present day. Jonjo O’Neill and Tom Rhys-Harries also perform expertly as, House of Light rivals, Serena and Loki, their performances in the second act being particularly entertaining. 

Overall this performance was a treat to watch and one can only imagine how incredible it would have been, seeing it in all its glory.

Andrew Garfield and Denise Gough on Angels in America | Platform Review

Andrew Garfield and Denise Gough on Angels in America | Platform Review

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Andrew Garfield and Denise Gough on Angels in America
Lyttleton Theatre, National Theatre
Post by Olivia Mitchell

The National Theatre have begun a series of talks and events relating to their mammoth, hit play Angels in America, starting with Tony Kushner discussing his plays and work in conversation with Ola Animashawun and continuing with other members of the cast/ crew of the play.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend a talk chaired by Kate Bassett, as Andrew Garfield, who plays Prior Walter, and Denise Gough, who plays Harper Pitt, discussed their experiences of performing in the epically relevant show. It is clear from the praise and awards both actors have been receiving that they are masters of their craft and at the top of their game but sometimes this level of 'celebrity' status can make people seem sort of mystical. So it was lovely to see them in an intimate, laid back setting to prove that although they're supremely talented, they're just like everyone else. Kate, Andrew and Denise sat on the stage in front of the angel set of part two: Perestroika whilst we filled the auditorium of the Lyttleton theatre.

The pair spent the majority of the time praising one another, their other cast members and the incredible writing of Tony Kushner. It's truly lovely to see how passionate they both are about the work they're doing with Andrew describing it as "the most fulfilling experience [he'll] ever hope to have." When asked why she initially took the role of Harper, Denise explained that after her Olivier award winning role in People, Places and Things she thought Angels would be a walk in the park. However, soon discovered she was wrong and didn't realise how much the role would take out of her. Despite having time off stage she said she is so mentally attached that time isn't a break, stating that "profound writing has a profound effect" with Andrew echoing the amount of work and energy that goes into playing Prior and that Kushner's writing "demands you to surrender".


This led into a particularly interesting discussion when an audience member asked how the cast take care of themselves to perform in such a demanding and long show. Andrew spoke candidly about how actors are expected to answer that it's a breeze but how it really is draining to give that much on stage all the time. He spoke about the effects on his mental health and how completing the play is his form of self care. Although it's long, especially on a two show day, he explained how getting to the end is somewhat of a therapeutic experience. Denise agreed with this, also laughing about the amount of self-care remedies she has, including massages, reflexology and air purifying!

A personal highlight of the talk was when the pair spoke about the need for connection and how this play provides that. "People flock to certain shows in the West End and I think that's all about connection." This is certainly true and in the dark times the country is going through at the minute I think it's really important to have an escape and a safe place where we can all unify over shared interests. Both actors said how they feel that the audience are really part of the play, especially on two show days and that the curtain call feels like an applause for both the cast and audience. Andrew described it as a "communion with the audience. Us all going through the same things together and how prevalent and necessary it is to tell this story right now."


Andrew and Denise are both hilarious, frequently taking the mickey out of themselves and again proving how normal they are. Especially funny moments were when Andrew exclaimed "Jeremy Corbyn for Prime Minister" and when he explained how although he doesn't identify as a gay man, he is basically living as one "just without the physical act" and how Ru Paul's Drag Race was an extensive and essential part of his research process: "every Sunday I would have eight friends over and we would just watch Ru".

Overall this was a wonderful and enlightening talk on one of the theatrical highlights of the season. It's incredible to see such passionate performers talk so candidly and emotionally about the struggles of their roles as well as what goes into performing such a colossal play. The National is one of the most accessible in the West End and this series of talks is just another example of that. If you haven't seen Angels in America then you better get in that returns queue because you don't want to miss out!

Read my review of Angels in America here: http://www.rewritethisstory.com/2017/05/angels-in-america-lyttleton-theatre.html

Angels in America, National Theatre | Review

Angels in America, National Theatre | Review

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Angels in America
National Theatre, Lyttleton Theatre
Reviewed on Saturday May 13th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★

Angels in America has got to be one of the National Theatre's most eagerly anticipated productions and one of the hottest tickets in London right now. The production boasts a line-up of incredible stars with the entire run sold out apart from lottery and day seats. Due to the sheer size and epicness of this play, it is rarely staged so seeing this revival from director Marianna Elliott is a once in a generation opportunity.

The show is big. The glossy A4 programme is big, the set is big, the cast names are big and the length is big. So much is packed in and the scope of the production and the ideas within it are vast and although slightly overwhelming at times, it's an extremely well put together and a mesmerising production.

The cast includes Broadway's Nathan Lane, Olivier-winner Denise Gough, NT stars Russell Tovey and James McArdle and Hollywood film star Andrew Garfield, who had performed in shows at the NT before heading to Hollywood. The acting is utterly sublime, with ridiculous talent and confidence that is breathtaking throughout.

Tony Kushner's two-part play tells the story of the emerging AIDS crisis of the 1980s as it hit the gay community in New York, by as cast of both real life and fictional characters who are living through it. Both parts are dense but liberating in the way they play with form, moving from domestic realism to hallucinatory fantasy, especially in part two Perestroika.

Part one, Millennium Approaches is full of angst and drama but is extremely humorous at points. A homeless woman chaotically exclaims "In the new century I think we will all be insane", when get to part two, Perestroika, twenty-five years later we see that that premonition may have come to be.

Nathan Lane manages to have both our hate and sympathy as the vicious, closeted lawyer Roy. Denise Gough lives right up to her superstar name and she embodies the role of the drugged out, angry and upset, Harper, giving a mesmerising performance. James McArdle is wonderful as the infuriatingly sensitive Louis. Russell Tovey brings pain and innocence to the confused Mormon Republican Joe and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett is fantastic as Belize who is perhaps the only sane one of the group. But it's Andrew Garfield who steals the show. He is breathtaking as the shows lead, Prior Walter. Garfield is intense and committed to the role with just the right amount of wit and grit to make this somewhat wacky character come to life in perfect colour on stage.

Although the context of Angels in America is different in 2017, especially with regards to AIDS, the play feels extremely relevant and the revival couldn't have come at a better time. The action looks back at the time Reagan was in office and studies his right-wing policies which are scarily analogous with Donald Trump's. This makes everything even more resonant and emphasises the fractured America where opinions on gender, wealth and race have unfortunately not changed.

This play is unlike anything else, with a mix of angsty, sardonic, gloomy surrealism which is a roller coaster from moment one. There are so many moments of shock that jump out like an endless stream of consciousness and it's really like being inside Kushner's brain as his thoughts vomit out. Although that doesn't sound particularly pleasant, it really is. There's something magical and truthful about the craziness. This play is not likely to be seen again in the near future and this production of the modern masterpiece is sure to stay with everyone who sees it until the next one comes about. Angels in America is epic but the most important thing is that it promotes discussion and remains relevant.

Angels in America will be broadcast to cinemas by NT Live from 20 July.

Ugly Lies The Bone, National Theatre | Review

Ugly Lies The Bone, National Theatre | Review

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Ugly Lies The Bone
Lyttleton Theatre, National Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 1st March 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★

Unless you've ever been on a tour of Afghanistan as a soldier, I would assume it's pretty impossible to ever know what it must be like. To experience pain, death and sadness so up close must be truly horrific and coming back to a family and community who have changed and moved on without experiencing that? I can't imagine.

Ugly Lies The Bone, a new play by American playwright Lindsey Ferrentino, aims to shed light on this as well as exploring virtual reality therapy which trials show, has been successful in reducing pain levels in those who have suffered serious injuries.

The play tells the story of Jess played by Kate Fleetwood, who has come home after three tours of Afghanistan to her Florida town in the heart of Nasa county. Awfully disfigured and struggling to deal with the constant pain, she must learn to adjust to her life which is not as she remembers it.

In a bid to move on with her life she agrees to take part in an experimental virtual reality therapy programme which aims to reduce her pain levels. She is taken into a virtual world of snow capped mountains and delicate, falling feathers where she begins to experience life without pain again.

Over the course of 90 minutes we watch the story of Jess and those around her adapting and recovering both mentally and physically.

Kate performs the cynical, frustrated character very well, showing the struggles very truthfully through a stunning performance. Ralf Little is also wonderful as the bumbling Stevie who is facing an internal struggle of his own.

For me, I found the play fell a little flat. Because we didn't get to see Jess before her injuries it was hard to see any character development and therefore hard to see how the virtual reality therapy worked. Overall there was just not enough character development and I felt that there was not enough solid dialogue or storyline to make the audience empathise with them.

The set and stunning design are brilliant and really do immerse the audience in the virtual world but I would have loved a stronger storyline to back it up. The whole cast give extremely solid performances but no real plot means there isn't a final resolution and overall there is a flatness.

Ugly Lies The Bone is on at the National Theatre until June 6th.

Photo: Mark Douet

Peter Pan, National Theatre | Review

Peter Pan, National Theatre | Review

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Peter Pan is an imaginative production, brimming with life and enthusiasm... Sure to thrill every audience member who witnesses it!


Peter Pan
The Olivier Theatre, National Theatre
Reviewed on Friday 2nd December 2016 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★★

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, National Theatre | Review

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, National Theatre | Review

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Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour
National Theatre, Dorfman Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday 18th August 2016 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★★

If you love the feeling of leaving the theatre in a mass of smiling, contented, glowing audience members then this is 100% the show for you. Its an hour fifty minute show with hilarious dialogue and exuberant singing which combines music by Jeff Lynne, Handel and more, all of which contrast and take you on the journey of these girls. The show, an adaptation of Alan Warner's 1998 novel The Sopranos is an absolutely joyous time and a celebration of life and living.
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