“Another openin’, another blog.”
– Cole Porter (sort of)
So this is where it begins. Again.
To be completely honest with you, I am already a failed author of two other blogs; Watch Me Watch, a blog of me reviewing films, and The Bookworm that Blogs, where I reviewed (surprise, surprise!) books. Although that did end up being a YouTube channel, however now it’s just me making rambly videos about theatre rather than books.
Anyway, this blog is no different to those other blogs, as this time it is me reviewing *drumroll*… all things art! Where it be film, theatre, or even a TV series that was relevant a year ago that I finally managed to binge watch, I will write a review about it! … Can you tell I’m an opinionated person? It’s not even like I am a qualified person to have an opinion anyway. Though I guess doing Musical Theatre for four years at The BRIT School, and then doing a theatre degree at the University of York, I guess I have had enough exposure to the theatre to have some form of an educated guess as to whether something was good or not. Who knows. I sure don’t.
I have always been a lover of the arts, ever since I can remember. From the days of me singing ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’ at karaoke bars on holiday, to my debut role playing ‘Tree #2’ in my school play, I knew I wanted to be on the stage. It is fabulous pretending to be someone else, to then having somebody else watch your work and slaughter it in their reviews. Well now the tables have turned, I am doing the slaughtering now*! The plan is, every time I see anything ‘arty farty’ as my step-dad calls it, I stick the ticket into my scrapbook and I shall do a review for you, then add a witty caption on my ticket to summarise my thoughts. Simple as that! There will be no schedule as to when I post, as I am a student and cannot afford to see something once a week, don’t judge me.
As a little prologue into this blog, I thought I would go through my scrapbook and tell you my top 10 shows that I’ve ever seen in my entire life (well, of all the tickets I managed to salvage throughout the years).
10. Urinetown, 2014 (written by Mark Hollman & Greg Kotis, directed by Jamie Lloyd)
I had heard about this musical before, as my youth theatre had the choice to do either our own production of Urinetown or Bat Boy. We chose Bat Boy because it sounded less gross. However, I was highly entertained by this show. The sound design and set provided a dystopian ambience to the silly (and literal) toilet humour, which really highlighted that even though the premise is absurdly humorous, it is still a dire situation. Plus, the songs were very catchy, and Richard Fleeshman was in it, who I, for some reason that I cannot recall, had an obsession with at that time.
Caption: RICHARD FLEESHMAN! Fab.
9. Something Rotten, 2015 (written by Karey Kirkpatrick, John O’Farrell & Wayne Kirkpatrick, directed by Casey Nicholaw)
I went to New York with my school for five days, which meant that we got to see a lot of Broadway shows (a lot for me, anyway). Something Rotten combined great comedy, with musical theatre homages, and a love for Elizabethan literature. I can tell you that there was never a show better tailored to my taste in theatre. Who knew Shakespeare was such a rock star.
Caption: All the references.
8. As You Like It, 2015 (written by William Shakespeare, directed by Polly Findlay)
Nicola, my flatmate at the time, had a spare ticket which she kindly gave me, and my inner thespian rejoiced at the prospect of seeing a play by the Bard. What makes this production stand out to me was the ensemble. From them making birds noises with only their voices and bodies to Fra Fee doing a great impression of a sheep on stage, it was a magical time. Plus, the final dance sequence was a bright and cheerful end to a lighthearted evening of thespian-ism.
Caption: Colours & Dance. Fra Fee as a sheep.
7. Unreachable, 2016 (written and directed by Anthony Neilson)
I had a whale of a time during this show. Whilst I thought the ending was quite rushed (as with most Neilson plays), the comedic timing was spot on, and was accentuated by the minimal set and sound design to let the actors have breathing space. I did not realise until after the show that I actually saw the last performance of this play, which explains why there were mounds of Matt Smith fans crowding the stage door with Doctor Who merchandise. However, I did manage to get his signature on my ticket, after walking backwards directly in front of him for 5 minutes due to everyone shoving their merch in his face before him eventually seeing my exhausted but smiling face (to clarify, I was not exhausted because of the play, but because of my patience with the British public being tested).
Caption: Matt Smith. Trapped.
6. It Shoulda Been You, 2015 (written by Barbara Anselmi & Brian Hargrove, directed by David Hyde Pierce)
When I found out my Broadway idol, Sierra Boggess, was performing in an original musical whilst I was in New York I went nuts. I had a free evening to see whatever show I wanted and I approached the box office and asked the lovely man what was the best seat available. He said the third row from the front. I asked how much. He said $142. Best $142 ever spent. I met my idol afterwards and got a picture with her, I even wrote her a little letter to say how much I loved her work and her never-ending positivity. Whilst the music is a tad forgettable, the story tackles topics like body issues and LGBTQ+ rights sensitively and entertainingly. And has one of the greatest plot twists I had ever witnessed in a long time.
Caption: Sierra Boggess.
That is literally all I wrote, am I really that much of Boggess trash?
And I promise that I had never ever spent that much money on a ticket before, and have not done since. And hopefully never will.
5. The Ferryman, 2017 (written by Jez Butterworth, directed by Sam Mendes)
I think I had never seen a show with such as big of a production value as The Ferryman. With a massive ensemble cast, numerous animal cameos, and endless props and set details, I was surprised at how nothing was compromised for this show. Whilst it may have been a little too long, the payoff in the final sequence was worth it. There were amazing performances across the board, including Fra Fee as one of the brothers! I am a great fan of his, though I never book knowing whether he will actually be in them, which makes it even more fun when I spot him on stage. It’s like an Easter egg. Anyway, lastly, the show told me so much about the time it was set without shoving facts and projections in my face, which is what most contemporary theatre seems to do nowadays. Hands down, best-written play I had seen in a while. It does help with the fact that it was set in Ireland. I love a good accent, me.
Caption: So Irish. ❤
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, 2014 (written by Simon Stephens, directed by Marianne Elliott)
For people who do not know me in the real world, I was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder when I was 2 and a half. I was told about my autism when I first started high school, but I only really managed to grasp what that actually meant in sixth-form. What helped that was when I went to see Curious Incident. I had never seen anything that captured my brain so damn well. I actually teared up at the train station scene, because I had been through that so many times, and the video projections of how Christopher was processing the overwhelming stimuli was exactly how my brain would function. Simon Stephens actually came to Uni of York to do a masterclass in playwrighting, and I told him all of this afterwards, and he seemed genuinely very touched about it (he also knows now that I am a die-hard Judi Dench fan, but that is a story for another day). All in all, it is a brilliant play that helped me come to terms with my autism and encouraged me to talk about it more often and educate everyone I know (#sorrynotsorry). I am deeply saddened that it is now closing, but for anyone who is curious (pun not intended) about learning about autism, catch their UK tour that is going on this year.
Caption: Autism therapy. ❤
3. Wonder Woman, 2017 (written by Allan Heinberg, directed by Patty Jenkins)
A lot of people were worried that the hype leading up to this film was going to raise the bar too high for this DC, female-led film. I can say now that I absolutely loved it. I think what I loved the most about it (other than the fantastic score) was that the romantic plot line was written and directed so tenderly, and nothing felt 2-dimensional or forced. Steve protects Diana because he knows the harsh reality of war, not just because he wants to be Diana’s hero and save her. Which I think is how most Hollywood romance is depicted, textureless and picturing sex as the pedestal of a successful relationship. I teared up in that cinema, knowing that one of the most celebrated superhero films at the moment has a strong, female role model for young girls to grow up with. And young theatre/filmmakers. I.e. me.
I actually went to see this on a Tinder date. I never did message them back…
Caption: Yay women!
2. The Play That Goes Wrong, 2015 (devised by the Mischief Theatre Company)
I went into the theatre expecting to have the odd piece of set broken, and actors fluffing up plot lines because of something or other, and I would leave the theatre mildly entertained. Boy did I not prepare for what was in store. When you think it could not get any worse, it just keeps on going and going until everything just collapses in on itself. I not only laughed but laughed then gasped, then cackled, then jumped in my seat, then maybe even screamed with panic, then absolutely wetting myself with laughter and fear at the same time. Maybe because I fear one day I will knock myself out on stage and have the stage manager replace me. It’s a reasonable fear, right?
Caption: Chaos. Loved it.
1. Sleep No More, 2015 (devised by Punchdrunk)
A last-minute addition to the New York trip, I went into a small building where it was renovated into a 40’s nightclub. With a mask on my face, I was separated from my friends and had no clue where I was going, all I knew was that the piece/experience was based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. After a good 15 minutes of wandering aimlessly, I discovered my curiosity to follow one of the characters around the building. The audience also had the opportunity to just wander into every room and look at tiny details in the set, giving you clues about the story through different viewpoints of different characters. It was something I had never been a part of before, and it was without a doubt the best theatrical experience I have ever experienced. I even got to be selected by one of the ‘witches’ to have a special scene where I was on my own in this room with her, as she guided me towards the next room.
I don’t actually have a caption for this one. But if you ever get the chance to go to a Punchdrunk production, I recommend you run to your nearest computer, buy your tickets online, and run over. The running and gasping for breath will be worth it.
I hope this gave you an insight into my taste in theatre. Even though I have seen more musicals generally, I still only had three musicals in my top 10, which is blasphemy, to be honest. Basically, I love me some Shakespeare, and I love a good educational experience, be it a part of history or of different cultures. I’m just a curious bean who likes to learn, I guess. Anyway, I should stop waffling. Until then, see you at some point in my life.
* = No actors were slaughtered in the making of this blog.