Sunday, 28 October 2012

6 Cheap Restaurants in Theatreland

We theatre-goers have learned its possible to eat cheaply in the West End if you know where to look. Check out these restaurants, sorted by West End region, for a cheap meal before your West End show.
The Haymarket area - Royal Haymarket, Prince of Wales Theatre, Her Majesty’s Theatre
The Stockpot
A lovely little cafe restaurant, the original is just off Haymarket. The two-course set menu is very fast, particularly if you tell them you’re on a pre-theatre schedule. The food is quite simple, but hearty and tasty.  £20 for a meal for two, and soft drinks.
38 Panton Street
One Man Two Guvnors is now showing at the nearby Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Friday, 26 October 2012

5 Decades of Band Breakups

We look back on some of the most memorable, dramatic, sad and crazy band breakups of the last 50 years!
70s – The Beatles
The Beatles broke up in 1969 after the ‘Beatlemania’ that they had caused was starting to die down. Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s wife and her heavy involvement with the band was said to have alienated Lennon from the rest of the Beatles. Awkward! The death of their manager also caused friction between the four bandmates as Paul McCartney put it upon himself to lead the band, which apparently didn’t go down very well. The band filed string of lawsuits against  each other, including their former manager.  Although we will never really know exactly why they broke up, it’s clear their resentment of each other grew more than their love of the music.
80s – Blondie
Although one of the defining Punk bands of the 70s, Blondie’s popularity began to fade in the early 80s. Their album, The Hunter only reached number 9 in the charts, which compared to their past records wasn’t great. The extreme amount of media attention on Blondie’s frontwoman, Debbie Harry was also a sore point for the rest of band who seemed to be forgotten. This, along with financial difficulty in the band as well as guitarist, Chris Stein contracting a skin disease, the band unfortunately split in 1982. However their music still lives on and is still iconic of the decade.
90s – Spice GirlsBeing one of the most most successful girl bands was sure to put a strain on the  Spice Girls relationship.  In 1999, Geri Halliwell left the band due to ‘differences’ with bandmate Mel B. The following year they announced that the band would go on ‘hiatus’ and were not splitting up. Since then they have had numerous reunions, all as successful as their heyday! Most recently they have announced Viva Forever! – a musical about their rise to fame, featuring all of their hit songs!
Naughties – Oasis
Brotherly love isn’t really what comes to mind when we think of this band! Throughout their days together, Noel & Liam Gallagher were fighting on and off with each other. Their brawls included insulting each other’s wives, hitting each other with tambourines and even assaulting a policeman!It seems that 2009 was the final straw for the two brothers. Before headlining V Festival, they got in another argument, forcing them to pull out of the festival. Since then Liam and Noel have no contact, and although invited, Liam did not turn up to Noel’s wedding in 2010. Noel has since started a new band named Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds which is clearly no invitation for Liam to join!
Teenies – The White Stripes
Only a little way into the decade and already we hear of great bands breaking up! The White Stripes announced their split in 2011, not due to any disagreements or drama, but to preserve all the great music they had made. Jack & Meg White said at the time,“The White Stripes belong to you [the fans] now and you can do with it whatever you want.” It seems what they wanted to do was to leave the band on a positive note – rather unlike the bands above!
Other equally dramatic band-splits that could have made the list include-
- Take That, who are now “back for good” (Sorry!!)
- S Club 7 and Steps for the 90s kids out there
- The Clash and the Sex Pistols for you punk rockers!
Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Moonshadow, The Cat Stevens Musical, Destined for the West End…?

I’m being followed by a Moonshadow
Moonshadow, The Cat Stevens musical, has been playing in the Princess Theatre, Melbourne, since May. It was reported in Noise11 that it will be moving to the London West End.
This has been denied by the official production team on twitter.
… but wouldn’t it be great?

The musical is the ten year brainchild of Yusuf (formerly Cat Stevens) himself. He has said he was inspired by the ‘great’ musicals of Gershwin, Benstein and Sondheim, and Rodgers and Hammerstein:  The Sound of Music, South Pacific and West Side Story. His songs definitely show influences of musical theatre: powerful, tender, nostalgic and heartfelt.
Cat Stevens has a large following in the UK, and we think Moonshadow, if it were to come to the London, could do really well. It includes over 40 songs by Cat Stevens, including Father and Son, Wild World, and The First Cut is the Deepest.
The story is a fantasy adventure of a young man fighting to overcome the darkness, and find the land of the sun. The set is fairytale-like, and seems similar to the land of Oz, which is adorning two West End stages this summer, Wicked and The Wizard of Oz.  A similar style, appealing to a similar audience?
Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Celebs on Stage: Positive or Negative?

It is no secret that celebrities in theatre is a growing trend, that often ensures audiences fill the theatres. We give you a list of recent TV personalities, singers, actors and comedians who have transitioned to the stage, but do celebrity casts put you off theatre productions?

Rob Brydon is to make his stage debut in Alan Ayckbourn’s new play A Chorus of Disapproval alongside Extra’s and Ugly Betty actress, Ashley Jensen and Eastender’s Nigel Harman. The former Gavin & Stacey actor will be right at home in the comedy. The comical play set within a play seems right up Rob’s street and we think he’s going to do really well on stage and be a massive hit with audiences.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Newsies Musical Coming to the West End?

The hit 1992 Disney musical film, Newsies, has inspired a stage adaptation. It is playing to full houses on Broadway at the moment.  It is rumoured that the musical is looking for a West End venue – a London Newsies Musical might be on the cards!
A True Setting
The story tracks the Newsboys Strike in 1989 New York, where thousands of young newspaper sellers went on strike. The young lead, Jack, is played in the original Disney film by Christian Bale, who is best known today as Batman. On Broadway, Jack is played by Jeremy Jordan.
Anything like Annie?
The film was a failure at the box office in 1992, but it has since generated a cult following – enough to transfer to a profit at the Broadway box office. Following this success, could there be a Newsies London in the pipeline? It sounds like a 1980s Annie, the famous Broadway musical set in Hoover-era NYC, and Britain is a big fan of Annie.
Not the First Disney Show…
If a London Newsies musical does make it, it won’t be the first time a Disney film successfully makes it to the West End stage. The most famous of the Disney films to become a stage show is, of course, The Lion King. The Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins are also Disney classics that have made successful musicals in the West End.
Christian Bale’s days as a 17 year old Newsie Jack are sadly behind him – but who would you like to see as the young lead?
Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Our Essential Guide To Theatre Conduct

Here is a short guide to everything you will need to know about London theatre! What to expect inside the theatre, what is expected of you. These helpful hints will help make you and your fellow audience members’ theatre experience even more enjoyable.

She obviously didn't read our phones!

2 Michael Morpurgo Plays – Private Peaceful and War Horse

A revival of Private Peaceful, adapted from a Michael Morpurgo book by Simon Reade, is back in the West End, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, in September, for only two weeks.  As one of our favourite authors, we explore what makes Michael Morpurgo’s books such childhood treasures, and so good for stage adaptations.

Adaptations – Out Of The Ashes, The Butterfly Lion, Why The Whales Came

Michael Morpurgo was one of our favourite authors as a child. We still remember recommending for him in 2002, when he became the Children’s Laureate.

The first book we read was ‘The Butterfly Lion’, at school, but over the years we read most of the ones then published.  Among favourites were ‘My Friend Walter’, ‘Why The Whales Came’, ‘Kensuke’s Kingdom’ and ‘Private Peaceful’.

Many have been made into television or stage adaptations, showing the true dramatic potential of Morpurgo’s heartfelt characters.  ‘Out Of The Ashes’, a poignant book about plight of a family of farmers during the outbreak of the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, made a compelling children’s drama; a play adaptation of ‘The Butterfly Lion’, the one that started my love of Morpurgo, recently showed in the Derby Theatre, and ‘Why The Whales Came’ was made into both a film and a play.

The stage and screen success of ‘Why The Whales Came’, and more recently ‘War Horse’, shows that Michael Morpurgo’s war stories are particularly magical. His settings, stories and subjects are disparate, from exotic islands to hospital beds, but Word War I does seem to be a favourite of his.

War Horse

While war is merely in the background of ‘Why The Whales Came’, it is the subject and the feeling of ‘War Horse’ and ‘Private Peaceful’.  ‘War Horse’ is in concept very like ‘Black Beauty’.  We see through the eyes of the horse the close bond between himself and his boy owner, Albert.  The horse is thrown into war, but the bond remains strong.

Though the book has been made into both stage play and film, in my opinion the play is more successful. The emotion of the horse remains palpable, so when characters such as Albert drop out for long sequences, the emotional focus of the play remains on stage.  In the film, the emotional centre is moved from the horse, to his owners, so when the owners begin to change, the film’s plot lost the emotional impact of the novel.

Indeed, the film met mixed critical success. Despite doing well at the box office, it has not matched the runaway success of the National Theatre play, by Nick Stattford, 2008, which transferred to the West End in 2009, where it is still running. The play is also running on Broadway.

Private Peaceful

The stage production of ‘Private Peaceful’ is adapted by Simon Reade, also the author of Michael Morpurgo adaptations ‘Toro! Toro!’, ‘Twist of Gold’ and ‘The Mozart Question’.  It originally shown at the Old Vic in 2004, produced by Scamp Theatre, and was followed by a successful tour, including seasons in the West End.  It is now being revived by the National Theatre, but on a limited run.  The same writer is also behind a screen play of ‘Private Peaceful’, due to come out in December, which might be the explanation for this revival.

It is the first person account of Tommo, a private in the First World War, who tells his life story from the trenches.  The book’s dual focus, of both human relationships and harsh wartime realities, makes it one of the most poignant of children’s novels, and makes a great stage adaptation.  Simon Reade’s production is a one-man show, which fits the lonely retrospective of the book.  It is miles away from the spectacle of ‘War Horse’, but with as much heart.

Michael Morpurgo is a truly magical author.  While I will always, at heart, be a bigger fan of the books than the theatrical or film adaptations, ‘Private Peaceful’ captures the feeling of the book with clarity, heart and precision.  It absolutely does credit to what remains one of my favourite children’s books.
Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Theatre: a social or critical experience?

Everyone talks about shows and movies they have seen or books they have read.  How has twitter changed the way people talk about theatre, the way they recommend theatre for their friends, and the authority of professional critics, now that everyone has something to say?

Lone Theatre-goer

In this post from superb ayoungertheatre blog, the Lone Theatregoer goes to the theatre seven times in seven days, makes friends with the person sitting next to her, and concludes that although you don’t talk to your companion in the theatre, the process of going is a social experience thanks to the conversation it generates.

Theatre and the twitterverse

In the blogosphere and twitterverse these days, such conversation can come from doing a similar thing online: tweeting, discussing and showing your appreciation or criticism for shows with a community of people you have never met.  The lone theatre-going experience is definitely a surreal one, though there is no shortage of discussion on these topics on the internet, and you are alone only in the physical sense.  But is the internet-conversation on theatre a good substitute for the real thing?

Blogging previews – the debate

Firstly there is the possibility that theatre is being over discussed and over criticised in this way.  Here, Matt Trueman argues that amateur theatre bloggers should not attend previews, suggesting that the criticism of such bloggers generates online momentum that can be damaging to box office figures even before the show is ready.  However, this works on the assumption that there is an obvious split between the theatre blogger and the professional critic – surely the point of online criticism is that the gap between the two is closing; anyone can tweet an opinion, and everyone does!

Sharing the experience with people you love

Secondly, theatre is also about sharing experiences with friends and loved ones.  Surely the opinion of your friend, your partner, or your daughter will mean more to you than the random person tweeting about the show you’ve seen on Twitter, the amateur-but-experienced review blogger, or even the professional critic, however golden their opinion.

The power is in the audience

Whether you’re taking a loved one to the theatre, or tweeting about it after, it is all publicity, and eventually cash, for the box office, and therefore the show itself.  The ‘golden critic’ has limited power where footfalls are concerned – as Mark Kermode, a favourite critic for thousands, has said in relation to genre films – ‘for as long as you keep going (to bad films, mainly) they’ll keep making them’.  This is particularly true for extending runs in the West End.
In the end, the social feedback from a show has always been a tried and tested way of deciding what gets shown in the West End – twitter and blog sites just speed up this process!  Surely the future, even the present, of criticism is social.
The authority of the critic is just the ability of the critic to get their point across.