Live theatre

  • I'm a huge fan of live theatre but tend to find it's not an interest many tend to share on forums such as this. Any other theatregoers out there willing to prove me wrong?!


    I'm not long back from a week at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where I went to 23 shows. The Fringe is my personal heaven - being in my favourite city and going to loads of shows usually in odd little venues that aren't usually venues, such as upstairs and back rooms of pubs and bars, church halls, shops, restaurants - in the past I've been to shows in a small caravan (6 audience), a parked car (4 audience), and this year one took place in total darkness in a shipping container, and another took place on a park bench with me as the only audience member.


    This sort of stuff is more my thing but I'm not averse to plays in bigger, 'proper' theatres and while I'm not a great fan of musicals I do occasionally see them.

    Abandon all reason

  • I like your story about the Fringe Festival. My wife and me love theatre as well. But basically we visit "proper" theatres as you call them. I can see anything from classic to modern comedy but also classic drama. We have a fantastic theatre scene in Dresden and a beautiful venue, which always makes it a treat to go there...

    First we learned to walk on water.

    Then we tried something harder.

    - Red Seven -

  • I like your story about the Fringe Festival. My wife and me love theatre as well. But basically we visit "proper" theatres as you call them. I can see anything from classic to modern comedy but also classic drama. We have a fantastic theatre scene in Dresden and a beautiful venue, which always makes it a treat to go there...

    I don't know Dresden at all, I just looked it up - which of the theatres is the one you refer to?


    I'd love to visit, sadly I won't be able to fit it in before the insanity of Brexit becomes official at the end of March and makes EU travel more of a hassle.

    Abandon all reason


  • This is the Staatsschaupielhaus, where most of the classic and modern performances take place. We also have a Boulevard Theatre, which offers comedy and political satire performances. There is also the Theaterkahn, which is a ship on the River Elbe, where comedy and political satire is offered. Dresden is in Saxony and the Saxons are quite well known for their special often cynical sense of humour. You will find a wide range of it over here.

    First we learned to walk on water.

    Then we tried something harder.

    - Red Seven -


  • This is the Semper - Opera house. Not quite according to topic, but so famous, that I thought, I should post a picture.

    First we learned to walk on water.

    Then we tried something harder.

    - Red Seven -

  • Those are pretty impressive buildings.


    The main theatre company I know is Schaubühner in Berlin. They've occasionally visited London and done some great productions.

    Abandon all reason

  • We used to subscribe to both the Sydney Theatre Company & the Australian Opera before they both got too expensive. We go to occasional comedy shows at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney's inner west or at the Opera House (in recent times, Ross Noble & later this year Bill Bailey. I am also seeing Michael Palin's show at the Enmore). Other than that we go to concerts. Most of what passes for theatre at the moment is of no interest to me. I am a Shakespearean & will rush straight back to the Globe if I ever return to London. I saw Henry IV Part 2 there in 2010.

  • We used to subscribe to both the Sydney Theatre Company & the Australian Opera before they both got too expensive. We go to occasional comedy shows at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney's inner west or at the Opera House (in recent times, Ross Noble & later this year Bill Bailey. I am also seeing Michael Palin's show at the Enmore). Other than that we go to concerts. Most of what passes for theatre at the moment is of no interest to me. I am a Shakespearean & will rush straight back to the Globe if I ever return to London. I saw Henry IV Part 2 there in 2010.

    That's a shame about those companies' ticket prices becoming too high, that's happened with one or two in London too. West End theatre prices are largely hysterically high but I usually arrive on the day and queue up for 'day seats' which are normally front-row stalls sold on the day to personal callers only, for very low prices - £10 to £25, on rare occasions even £5. For the more popular shows you have to arrive quite early and wait for maybe 3-4 hours for the box office to open but I quite enjoy doing that as you can make a nice day of it. On a matinee day, arrive about 7 to 7.30am when I'm usually the first in the queue, listen to music or read, chat with other queuers as they arrive, get matinee tickets then treat myself to a nice big leisurely breakfast. Then have a wander, browse shops, sit and relax with a coffee etc, see the show, then an early dinner and home by about 8. It's a very agreeable way to spend a day. And even adding together the ticket price and the meals still doesn't equal the cost of a premium ticket.


    I'd heard Ross Noble often tours Australia. Have you ever seen a performer called Daniel Kitson? He's one of my favourite stand-ups though that's a very limited way of describing him. He often does 90-minute story shows rather than just doing jokes and they are usually really captivating and often very touching as well as very funny. He's toured Australia too.


    I went through a phase of seeing productions at the Globe but came to a decision to not bother any longer. I got a bit fed up of it, to be honest. In one way it's quite an achievement and testimony to the commitment of Sam Wanamaker. But I can't help feeling that slavishly re-creating an Elizabethan playhouse is in some ways pointless. I also dislike the other attempts at authenticity they sometimes make, such as costume and occasionally even pronunciation. I believe Shakespeare wrote for a constantly evolving present, which is why his work endures, and I therefore see no problem with modern practices and indeed some of the best Shakespeare productions I've seen were as such.


    Do come back to this thread when you've seen the Michael Palin show and let us know how it was. I recently read an absolutely heartbreaking interview with him. He was talking about Terry Jones having dementia, and broke down crying during the interview. As you might know, they were friends at university and wrote together for TV and film. He said it was the hardest thing to see someone who was so full of ideas and energy, now being unable to express himself.

    Abandon all reason

  • While I agree that Shakespeare constantly evolves, there is something about me which prefers his work performed in period costumes. I am not against modern dress if it's done well (the recent BBC production of King Lear was done in a fascist state setting) but I don't like it overshadowing the plays.


    I am a devoted Python fan & Palin & Jones were always my favourites. The idea of Jones who was always so voluble being unable to talk is heartbreaking.


    I am unaware of Daniel Kitson. Hubby is more the big comedy fan. Noble is from his home area (sort of) the North East.

  • While I agree that Shakespeare constantly evolves, there is something about me which prefers his work performed in period costumes. I am not against modern dress if it's done well (the recent BBC production of King Lear was done in a fascist state setting) but I don't like it overshadowing the plays.

    I do see the appeal to many of the period dress etc. And I agree that modern settings and practices work best when they complement the play and help to bring out the key elements - indeed any sort of staging must avoid overshadowing or overwhelming the play.


    Shakespeare, like any good theatre I suppose, should in theory still have an impact even with the most bare minimal staging. I always liked Peter Brooke's comment, to paraphrase, "Just give me an empty space". Mark Rylance's final production at the Globe as artistic director was a controversial rendition of The Tempest featuring just him and two other actors, and a length of rope. I didn't get to see that one but would have liked to, it's a great idea but I think it was disliked by many. I did see a few of his productions there, including another contentious one where they did Hamlet with emphasis on the humour within it. I heard people complaining about it, but for me it worked. Best of all though was a Richard II (probably my favourite Shakespeare) which the Globe company, with Rylance as the lead, performed it at Middle Temple Hall, the last remaining Elizabethan hall in London and in which it's known Shakespeare performed with the King's Men. Seeing my favourite play of his in a space where he'd performed was spine-tingling.

    Abandon all reason

  • Re: Shakespeare, my favourite is Julius Caesar. Can't stand Titus Andronicus, that's splatter-Shakespeare. Yes, I know he very probably write that first play of his like that to out-do the competition, but it should neither be a revelation nor a genesis (groan) that first attempts are not always successful.


    King John is extremely funny in places. Imagine the scene: A town with high walls and closed gates. Outside, the English king and his army demand entrance "because he is the lawful king". Enter the French king and his army, also demanding entrance because "he has the lawful king with him". What do the citizens do? They tell both kings to battle it out. When that idea threatens to turn both armies against the town the citizens suggest that the one king's daughter could marry the other king's son and everything would be fine ...


    Anyway, I haven't seen a play for quite a while. The last one was an emotionally exhausting, but absolutely brilliant performance of three plays by Sarah Kane in a row (Cleansed, Crave, 4.48 Psychosis). I used to try and go at least once a month, but life interferes.

    ...cried a voice in the crowd.


  • Anyway, I haven't seen a play for quite a while. The last one was an emotionally exhausting, but absolutely brilliant performance of three plays by Sarah Kane in a row (Cleansed, Crave, 4.48 Psychosis). I used to try and go at least once a month, but life interferes.

    Bloody hell. Seeing just one of those can be quite brutal and draining. All three??? You're braver than me! I always try to see 4.48 Psychosis when I can, it's such a good demonstration of how different companies handle the same piece, especially in this case given the free-form text. I've seen it 4 or 5 times and the best one was a student group, all dressed in surgical gowns in a highly choreographed production, at the Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago. This was a year after seeing a professional production at the Barbican in London which was inferior.

    Abandon all reason

  • Why is Richard II your favourite? Perhaps we should have a separate thread about Shakespeare now. Mine is Macbeth.

    I do love Macbeth, we studied it at school and it stayed with me.


    There are layers of complexity in Rii that really appeal to me, without making it seem like an impenetrable piece. One of the main ones is the ambiguity of the central character; a good production, with a well-cast Richard, should make you feel some pity for him even though he is ostensibly the bad guy.


    One of the three most stunning stage performances I've ever seen was in an RSC production of Rii. Jonathan Slinger played Richard with an intensity that was absolutely gobsmacking. A colleague at the time knew some members of that company, who told him some of the cast were missing lines and cues because while they were meant to be focusing on their own performance, they were too mesmerised by him!


    Slinger is one of our most unsung, unrecognised actors. That year when I saw that production, I was one of the judges on the Olivier Awards panel. No, honestly, I really was. The panel were unanimous that Slinger be nominated for best actor. We couldn't see anyone coming near him. The trouble was, the panel only got to list the nominees, from there it went into the Society of London Theatre mincer. He was deemed too unknown and the award went to Derek Jacobi for his Malvolio in Twelfth Night. His perfectly serviceable performance was dwarfed by Slinger's Richard, but Jacobi was a big recognisable name. The process sealed my distaste for awards ceremonies in the arts, especially theatre ones where too often the awards reflect the organisers' desperation for theatre to be seen as glamorous as film.

    Abandon all reason

  • Bloody hell. Seeing just one of those can be quite brutal and draining. All three??? You're braver than me! I always try to see 4.48 Psychosis when I can, it's such a good demonstration of how different companies handle the same piece, especially in this case given the free-form text. I've seen it 4 or 5 times and the best one was a student group, all dressed in surgical gowns in a highly choreographed production, at the Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago. This was a year after seeing a professional production at the Barbican in London which was inferior.

    Cleansed was indeed brutal - about a third to half of the audience left during or right after the performance, disgusted with what they saw. It was the play I liked least of the three. Cruelties aside, I found it hard to find out what exactly was going on in the play. There are very few clues in the text that give you an idea of where whatever is happening there is supposed to be happening or for what reason. In the end I sort of decided for myself that it is about the general possibility or tendency of people to manipulate other people using or abusing love as a tool. It was the least satisfying of the three.


    Crave was the one I was looking forward to. I found the idea intriguing: Four people, no, four voices. They talk, and you don't know whether they are talking to you, to themselves, to each other, to no-one in particular, you don't know whether these voices know each other... How can you stage a text like that without boring the audience stiff? At the Kammerspiele Munich they played it like a piece of music. The voices mix, blend into each other, fade out, fade in, interrupt. If I taught acting, I'd set this play as an exam for my students. It requires perfect timing. The performance was a treat.


    4.48 Psychosis had only two actors (Sandra Hüller and Thomas Schmauser) in evening dress who spoke the text. Very clear, very distinct voices. They were accompanied by a string quartet who occasionally played a bit of calm and slow music and underlined that this text, too, had a musical quality.

    ...cried a voice in the crowd.


  • Really interesting description of the Kane trilogy, especially the take on 4.48 Psychosis, again showing what a gift it is for companies.


    Very happy today. As my usual Edinburgh apartment isn't available for the 2019 Fringe, I was having to look elsewhere and not succeeding. Good, reasonably priced places get booked a year ahead. But I managed to find one today so that's me sorted for my 2019 fix. Yay!


    (And by the way, the owners of my usual rental have reserved it for me for 2020, the first time I've ever booked something 2 years in advance).

    Abandon all reason

    Edited once, last by Backdrifter ().

  • Last night I went to one of the programmes of Pinter short plays currently running at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London, as part of the Pinter at the Pinter season. This one gathered together short plays, sketches and poems with a political theme. The programme was Press Conference, Precisely, The New World Order, Mountain Language, American Football, The Pres & an Officer, Death, One For the Road, Ashes to Ashes.


    Anyone who knows some or all of these pieces will probably realise what a stark and uncompromising evening it was with these often brutal, upsetting and dark pieces gathered together in one programme. In some ways I'm reminded of @martinus's comments on his Kane trilogy. But there was humour too, although fairly grim humour.


    The evening was a benefit show for the Stop The War Coalition and as an extra treat we got the brilliant Mark Rylance performing Pinter's 2005 Nobel Prize speech Art, Truth & Politics. He performed it as Pinter, rather than simply reciting it, which I didn't expect. It's a powerful speech and the 'performance' approach made it seem we had Pinter there on stage speaking the words. This was before the show, then after the show Rylance came back with two members of Stop the War for a discussion and Q&A which got rather tense at times, but Rylance is such a warm and engaging person he was able to handle it very well.


    Overall a terrific evening. I'd like to get along to some of the other programmes in the season.

    Abandon all reason

    Edited once, last by Backdrifter ().

  • My most recent theatre outing was Long Shadows, the first staging of an Inspector Rebus story, featuring characters from the crime novels by Ian Rankin. This wasn't an adaptation of one of them, it was a new story created by Rankin for this play and adapted by Rona Munro, known for her 'James Plays'.


    In the first half I wasn't too sure about it, but it really took off in the second half which featured a gripping battle of wills between Rebus and his gangster nemesis, 'Big Ger' Cafferty, who'll be familiar to anyone who's read the novels. I'm very glad I saw it and recommend it, especially to anyone who's a fan of the books.

    Abandon all reason

  • Getting back to you as promised on the Palin show. I was front row, directly below him. :love:He's still OK to look at but never mind that. The first half of the show he talked about his new book Erebus which was one of the ill fated ships on Franklin's North West Passage expedition. In the second half he just told stories from his career from being at Oxford to his last trip to North Korea. It ended with the German version of the Lumberjack Song & then we all got to sing the Lumberjack Song with him.


    Oh, and he mentioned Genesis along with Zeppelin & Floyd when he talked about the financing of Holy Grail. It turned out the guy next to me was a big Genesis fans & has been on a couple of Steve's cruises & will be seeing Phil in January at the show I'm attending.