A Highly Theatrical week in London (flashback from February, 2007)
Again cut and pasted from live journal. I’d like to combine these recent two archival entries into a “then and now” post to be made here on this blog.
One of the best things about this particular week was that each day was theatre centered,
On Monday night, I caught one of the final performances of Therese Raquin, a mesmerizing thriller that was the best directed show I’ve seen since returning to London. Last year I was similarly impressed by Pillars of the Community done by the same director. The show was preceded by an intriguing Q&A session with the two main female stars, and it was fascinating to see them “out of character” and then completely inhibiting their roles just 45 minutes later.
Tuesday night I finally made it down to the Battersea Arts Centre, a boiling pot of contemporary theatre work. Every Tuesday night they have an “after-hours masterclass”, which is essentially a short lecture about a different topic of theatre-dom. This week it was playwriting, taught by Julian Fox, and I was pleased to get back in the groove of creative writing, crafting a stream of consciousness piece and then editing it down to something more concise. It will also likely be an effective precursor for a “play in a day” writing workshop which I’ll attend all day tomorrow at the Soho Theatre. On the way home I ran into a friend from Hampshire on the tube (the number of coincidences needed to make that work was extraordinary) and we exchanged contact info to hang out sometime soon.
Earlier on Tuesday night, I got a 24-hours notice email about a special question and answer session that would happen the following evening at the Old Vic Theatre. It sounded like a perfect way to get more professional advice about theatre company work, so I emailed back that I wanted to attend. Wednesday mid-day brought a reply that the event was “regretfully fully booked”. On hearing that news, I felt both annoyed that they had given such short notice, and also ambitious and daring – I really wanted to hear what those people had to say. So I decided to go anyway.
Getting into the event was much easier than expected; I simply walked up to the stage door of the theatre, signed in, and then went upstairs to a top floor rehearsal room, and joined the crowd already there to hear the panel. Their advice was fascinating and informative – some of it familiar, others consisting of pr/marketing/publicity angles I had not considered.
Thursday night brought a trip down to the Shunt Theatre, located underneath London Bridge railway station, to see my former professor Mick Barnfather’s show that he directed, called Bitches Ball. I’d seen an earlier version of the play when I was here in December, 2005, which had been focused on the physical comedy and overly grotesque elements of the storyline. Mick had let me know that this version was quite different, and I was impressed how he (and the actors, presumably) had changed the focus of the play completely. They went from deriding the main character, Mary, to humanizing her and making her story captivate the audience as she had various misadventures along her career track to being an actress. I thought that some deliberate parallels were drawn to current “actresses” who are in fact more famous for only being in the gossip pages. The performances were typically high-energy and as they’d just finished a UK tour, I sensed a contentness of being back in London.
The SPACE for the show was INCREDIBLE. I walked into a dimly lit long corridor that had the appearance and atmosphere of a subliminal cathedral, with very little lighting and lots of stone and some brick in the walls. I could see a light at the end of the tunnel (literally) which turned out to be the performance space, a large room converted into the equivalent of an indoor ampitheatre. One rounded the corner to reach the bar area, also carved into the walls with ease, and flanked by numerous tables lit by candles, as there was very minimal natural lighting in the entire club. It felt like a film set inhabited by extras there to enjoy the atmosphere (instead of just to be seen) and I have full intentions of going back there for a drink and show again sometime.
Tonight it’s back to the Donmar Warehouse for a production of Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman with Ian McDirmid (better known as Star Wars’ Emperor Palaptine) taking the lead role.
Tomorrow I’ll return to the Soho Theatre for a special “write a play in a day” workshop, which should be exciting and a fun opportunity to meet some like-minded peers.
On Sunday afternoon, am planning to see the final performance of Rock’n’Roll by Tom Stoppard. I hope it will be better than the last play of his I saw, which was the aptly named Travesties in SF.