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Showing posts with label plays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label plays. 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

I Loved Lucy, Arts Theatre | Review

I Loved Lucy, Arts Theatre | Review

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I Loved Lucy
Reviewed on Monday July 24th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★

Just transferred from the Jermyn Street theatre to the Arts Theatre, I Loved Lucy is an autobiographical play, adapted from Lee Tannen's memoirs about his relationship with cultural icon, Lucille Ball.

A massive fan of the comedy star, Tannen uses obscure family ties to meet and form a friendship with Lucy. They bond with stories and fantasies over their games of backgammon as Tannen becomes a close confidant and sees a side of 'Auntie Mame' that very few got to see.

As someone who wasn't alive during any of Ball's life and who until writing this review, had never seen an episode of I Love Lucy, I don't suppose I'm the target audience for this play. There were a number of anecdotes and names which meant nothing to me purely because of my age and I felt I was an outsider looking in on the jokes. However, for most of the times I didn't laugh, something else came along which had me in hysterics proving you don't need to be a Lucy fan to enjoy this show. Tannen's script is witty and uses repetition extremely well to generate laughs.  Alongside the laughs there are also more heartfelt moments, especially in act two when Lucy realises she has peaked and can never achieve the same levels of fame and love again.

Tannen as the narrator is humorous and he doesn't shy away from showing his dark side as well as Lucy's but I found it strange at times how closely he paints the relationship. Tannen is shown as being one of Lucy's only confidants and the only person in her life. With her children and partners barely mentioned I feel that Tannen is an unreliable source and although it may have been true that Lucy had very few other relationships, it would be interesting to see why the others are so absent.

Sandra Dickinson captures Lucy's mannerisms and iconic laugh perfectly. She gives a truly wonderful performance and remains committed to the role throughout. Her comedic timing, although sometimes ever so slightly off is good and she delivers Lucy's slicing asides and witty quips with ease.

As the celebrity obsessed, excitable, Tannen, Matthew Scott is great and he gives a beautifully emotive performance. He not only plays his main role but a number of smaller roles such as the hotel receptionist and chauffeur where he shows off his versatility well. Dickinson and Scott's chemistry is great and although the stalkerish fan becoming best friends with the star is kind of strange, it somehow works and comes across in a natural way.

Anthony Biggs' direction makes good use of the black box Arts Theatre and he is unafraid of stillness for dramatic effect. Gregor Donnelly's simplistic set design adds just enough drama whilst keeping the flow of the piece.

I Loved Lucy is a joy to watch- great fun with an air of drama, glitz and glam.


I Loved Lucy runs at The Arts Theatre 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.

Voices Off: Woyzeck, Old Vic | Platform Review

Voices Off: Woyzeck, Old Vic | Platform Review

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Voices Off: Woyzeck
Old Vic
Post by Olive Scott Whilde

The Voices Off series at the Old Vic is described as ‘a series of talks, debates, workshops and conversations’ held at the beautiful Old Vic theatre. On Thursday, I attended a talk titled ‘On Nature’ that delved into the makings and meanings behind the Old Vic’s current mesmerising play, Woyzeck starring the enigmatic John Boyega

With around 100 people in attendance at this intimate event, we were joined by Matthew Warchus, the Artistic Director of The Old Vic, Joe Murphy, the director of Woyzeck, and Professor Laura Marcus, professor of English Literature at Oxford University. Absent was Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman of Mishcon de Reya, who presented this talk in association with the Old Vic. They sat in front of the stage’s curtain as we sat unassigned in the stalls. 

I learnt many things about this exciting play from this talk and the first thing I found particularly fascinating was about how massively the script was adapted. The original script was written by Georg Büchner in 1836, but due to his untimely death in 1837 the script remained unfinished and in fragments. Many different productions in the last 100 years have adapted it with different interpretations but this script by Jack Thorne is likely the boldest yet, setting it in 1980s Berlin and around the British Army’s part in the defence of the Berlin Wall. This more modern take on an 19th century story meant that a lot of the story is completely new and delves into more modern ideas of mental illness and poverty and how that affects the working class who do not have access to basic needs. Complete with a 10 minute duologue that closes off act one, and an entire manic monologue in German (an exert from Büchner’s original script), it takes you on a journey from your average British working class dialogue to, as Woyzeck’s madness heightens, something almost poetic and inhuman. This script, as well as the impressive staging and set, gives the audience a unique look into Woyzeck’s head as his health worsens. 




The staging and set was talked about too. The set is very simple, as it is with most modern theatre, with insulation-covered walls being lifted up and down by wires to represent the ever-changing setting with some even having a gruesome surprise inside. The director, Joe Murphy, spoke about these walls representing the Berlin Wall. The staging, whilst looking chaotic, is actually very meticulously planned and has actually been changed since the first previews. I was lucky enough to see it at its very first preview and then again midway through it’s run (which ends on June 25th) and one difference I noted was the absence of a strange, lucid dance sequence in act one. This was no accident I learned, as Murphy explained that they eventually found it just one step too weird, especially for the first act. 

Matthew Warchus, the Artistic Director at the Old Vic, talked a lot about the issues of class difference portrayed in Woyzeck, which led to the casting of John Boyega. They wanted an actor for Woyzeck who was young, able to take on such an emotionally and physically demanding role, and came from a working class background. Boyega, who grew up in Peckham and who’s debut performance was in 2011’s Attack the Block, set in a South London council estate, was the immediate first choice. As someone who has been a fan of Boyega since his first movie, I thought this was a genius casting decision for this adaptation and made even more sense with this explanation. 


Warchus also talked about how Woyzeck is the start of a new direction in how the Old Vic presents itself, doing more modern plays and appealing to a wider, younger audience. You can definitely see that in the posters and pamphlets around the theatre, presenting a cleaner and bolder design. Although the Old Vic is, well, old, I believe this will bring it into a new era and bring new possibilities and opportunities for a wider range of theatre to be presented on such a stunning stage. 

I really loved this production and learning more about it in such an intimate setting, with which we could ask any questions we may have, was a great experience. I’m excited to see more from Joe Murphy and Jack Thorne and of course, John Boyega, who puts on one of the most extraordinary and captivating performances I’ve ever seen on stage in my lifetime. 


Check out Woyzeck at the Old Vic Theatre in London before it closes June 25th.

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

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, Wyndhams Theatre | Review

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, Wyndhams Theatre | Review

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Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Wyndhams Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday June 28th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell

Honestly, I don't know how to start this review because I'm still in shock and awe of what I saw last night. Seeing a six time Tony award winner up close on stage is already a spectacle but seeing her transform into Billie Holiday and embody a heartbreaking character was just another level of incredible. The queen of Broadway, star of screen and most recently the wardrobe in the Beauty and the Beast remake, Audra McDonald is the embodiment of talent and to see her perform on stage is an honour.

Lady Day was originally meant to make its, and Audra's, West End debut almost a year ago exactly but with a surprise pregnancy turning things around, the opening of the show was cancelled.  Whilst this was a huge disappointment at the time, the extended wait for Miss McDonald to perform our side of the pond just built up the excitement and made her debut even more triumphant. 

Originally premiering in 1986 at the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta, the play by Lanie Robertson tells a version of a concert performed by Billie in a dive bar with a tiny audience just a few months before her death. Visibly drunk and high its a story about a star falling so low in her last moments.  Robertson described it as "a monologue; a continuation of her thought process." Whilst the plot of the play may sound boring- starting before Holiday enters the stage and concluding 90 minutes later with her final song- it doesn't drag at all and is so affecting and powerful that you could keep watching and listening forever.


Audra McDonald is without a doubt the reason this play is so brilliant, can we give her every award going right now!?  However, when I first heard she would be playing Billie I was a little skeptical, as I learned, was Audra when she was first approached with the role. But from the moment the first note came out of her mouth, there was an audible gasp from the audience and we were wrapped round McDonald's finger. Audra transforms her voice to present Lady Day's elusive phrasing and raw timbre perfectly. This transformation is even more impressive when you know Audra's natural singing voice as a soaring, powerful, high soprano. She is so real in her performance, not only performing Billie but living and breathing her with every fibre of her being. She's truly in a league of her own. 

Of course the music of Billie Holiday would be a fraction of itself without the fantastic band supporting it. The trio of musicians- Neville Malcolm on bass, Frankie Tontoh on drums and Shelton Becton on piano and playing the role of Jimmy Powers- are wonderful and show off jazz music in a stunning way. 

A one woman show, set in a single dive bar is unusual and could become stagnant but Lonny Price's direction allows a flow and movement throughout, which along with little audience interactions creates a truly stunning piece of theatre. This is helped by the wonderful set and lighting by Christopher Oram and Mark Henderson which combined, create not only a wonderful set to look at but, but immerse you into the world and allow you to feel a part of the magic happening on stage.

Billie Holiday is brought back to life on the stage of the Wyndham's theatre as Audra McDonald gives a masterless in acting and musicianship in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and GrillAudra's performance is completely faultless and you know she's a star when even the adorable pup Pepi can't steal her moment! This is certainly a highlight of this theatrical season and I will be shouting from the rooftops for everyone to go and see this masterpiece on stage. 

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill runs at the Wyndhams Theatre until September 9th.
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