Thursday, 28 February 2013

Miss Saigon, Joseph Rowntree Theatre York

Celia, Alison and I saw Miss Saigon touring in Aberdeen about 6 years ago. It was magnificent, I'd already seen the same production in Bradford and so knew I had to see it again. It had been the first time I'd seen the show though I had a recording and knew it all off by heart. Seeing it had been a life changing experience though. Seeing it blew my mind. Miss Saigon became my favourite musical. So after seeing Les Mis for the third time and discussing with Paul and Anna "So! What's your favourite musical?" Paul liked Les Mis and Anna suddenly remembered Miss Saigon which of course is written by the same folk; Boublil and Schonberg.
When I saw the poster up in the Theatre Royal the next day I went mad and had to tell Celia- who on her life-changing first experience of Miss Saigon had wept with old women in the audience and fallen in love with the creepiest character; Thuy.
We soon learned it was a local amateur group and that all the cast would be between 14-18 years old. This made us book instantly.
It was going to be hilarious. We got to the Joseph Rowntree Theatre (so called because it's opposite the Nestle factory), all the staff were elderly men in bow-ties and looking at the £1 programme none of the cast members were asian- brilliant.
Except I'll tell you what, it actually WAS brilliant.
The singing kids of York were cast by ability not just because one of them was asian so she got to be Kim, none of that got in the way, everyone just sang really really well and they WERE the parts! No offensive make-up, costumes or accents, just great singing!
That's the good thing about Miss Saigon and Les Mis and Evita, there's no talking in between the songs, that's why Madonna was good in that film because all she had to do was sing and dance, no acting was required and so the kids in tonight's Miss Saigon were all fantastic in their parts because they didn't have to worry about being great actors, they were already great singers.
There is only one part that required comic timing and sort-of-acting and the boy playing the Engineer was really good, the America Dream was fantastic and choreographed so well that I think I might actually have preferred it to the version I saw in 2007. The kid playing Thuy really got into his part as well, he was evil to the point that when he died we were all pleased and I didn't really get why Kim still felt guilty a year later, usually he's her cousin and she is a bit sad that she's had to kill him but in this he was so frickin' evil there was no way she'd ever regret it! Good fun though and he was ace as a dancer in the American Dream, he was REALLY into it!!
I'm going to see more stuff at the Rowntree Theatre, the staff were lovely, all the seats were great and it was so cheap! I look forward to seeing Evita there soon!!
Goodnight Mr Tom tomorrow! Theatre trip five of five!

The Woman in Black, Theatre Royal York

Celia and I watched the film a couple of days before I went to hospital last year, I with I hadn't seen the film because then I might have actually found the play disturbing and frightening, as it was I wasn't really affected at all which is a shame because I could see how good it was and how frightened I should have been!
Another thing that ruined the atmosphere was the ridiculous Wednesday night York audience. The kind of audience who rolled boxes of maltesers, crunched sweeties, coughed and screamed at all the wrong moments. Too much nervous laughter- FAR too much. It didn't create the right atmosphere at all everyone guffawing after every tense moment.
Anyway, the two actors were great and it was really well staged, even from the very back of the gods it was a good view and a good play to look at.

People (National Theatre)

By tomorrow I'll've seen five plays in six days, I really regret not seeing the Mousetrap on Tuesday now, it might have been a record or something. The Mousetrap will have to remain a mystery for me, it's been on for 60 years I'm sure it'll still be on the next time I've got a Tuesday afternoon to kill!
I went to London on Monday to see Alan Bennett's latest, it opened in November so I was ready for the actors to be bored with it, and maybe they were but they hid it well as everyone was really good.
I was expecting the play to be rubbish to tell you the truth, I didn't enjoy the Habit of Art and the NTlive trailer for this one made it look absolutely cringeworthy and appalling. I liked the History Boys of course but preferred the lighter BBC-friendly film because a lot of the wheelchairs and paedophillia had been cut and it was essentially a showcase of handsome young talent!
People wasn't quite that.
But it was good, the showcase of older talent did not disappoint, good comic turns from Linda Bassett and Nick le Prevost and of course Frances de laTour was the best, a great play for her. Alison was taken with the hairdos and next morning went to work with her hair done up like Dorothy Stacpoole.
I'm not sure how I feel about the National Trust any more, I've had a membership card delivered to my house two years in a row now, it's not mine, It's Mrs Francis Williams', but I feel like I should use it because she isn't.

Julius Caesar, Donmar

My first trip back to a real theatre was a trip to see a play I'd heard reviewed on Front Row before Christmas. I didn't know it was happening and I don't know if I'd be interested in it if I hadn't heard a clip of dialogue on the radio and thought 'is that Harriet Walter?' I'm a big fan of Harriet, she's got amazing stage presence. Not many women do it for me on stage but she totally does, as does Fiona Shaw and Nancy Carroll.
An all female cast of Julius Caesar? I haven't seen many gimmicky plays before but I'd seen Julius Caesar twice (and reviewed it twice I think!) It was terrible and boring both times. I thought perhaps if I saw someone I really like (and trust) as an actor doing it I might actually like it.
And I did! It was the first time I'd seen the language really well done, the actors were all good enough that they knew how to deliver Shakespeare! Harriet was great as Brutus and Cush Jumbo (who I once saw as a fab Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion and more recently saw doing a good comic turn at the National in She Stoops to Conquer) was an amazing Mark Anthony, totally fab.
The concept was still a bit iffy at times and I wasn't sure about the rock numbers- though at least they passed the battle scenes without the usual boredom when men do it!
Good actors make good Shakespeare.

The Magistrate, NTLive, January

Anna and I missed out on a lot of theatre recently because of my bedridden-ness, but when I knew I would be better-ish by January we booked cinema tickets to see John Lithgow's National Theatre Pinero farce. And boy were we glad we only saw it at the cinema. Yet again that was another NT Live show that I thought was tat (so far only She Stoops to Conquer and The Kitchen were ones I'd wished I'd seen for real).
I enjoyed Nancy Carroll's performance and John Lithgow of course but otherwise it was nothing special at all. The Pinero I saw in the summer (Dandy Dick touring) was a very similar pay but the pacing was much much better- it was much shorter, the sets were much better, the songs were better and the acting was the same. The only draw the Magistrate seemed to have was that this one had John Lithgow, an American movie star. When Anna and I tried to think which British actor could play the part (double-taking, eyebrow-raising caricature) we could only think of Nicholas le Prevost who had done Dandy Dick, but of course, he can't headline at the National! That would not bring in the crowds (sorry, Nick).
Anyway, glad I saw Nancy Carroll, she was my favourite. I love a good female comic turn, makes a nice change!

Les Miserables (2012)

(Gif of Bertie Carvel- on my first viewing, the highlight of the film for me. Nothing beats the Trunch)
I think it's probably too late for me to think about reviewing this. And anyway it'll be completely bias, I've seen it five times and each time thought 'that's enough now, I don't need to see it again' but then, sure enough, about 6 days later I always thought 'I must go and see... IT!!'
But this wasn't what I thought would happen. As soon as I found out it had a gimmick, live singing, I'd decided it would be terrible. After all, I've never liked the musical, when I finally did bow to pressure and go and see it I thought it was rubbish, ok songs but terrible staging. The prospect of a film at least had that in it's favour, it would at least have amazing scenery and fighting and things even if actors were sobbing through the songs they were attempting to sing.
But as you can guess I realised that as well as the excellent art direction which I expected the singing and the actors were all excellent. Hugh was of course wonderful, again, as expected! He was great in the National Theatre's Oklahoma, a video I watch annually. But I was really surprised by how good Russell Crowe was! And even more surprised that people don't rate his performance! He was brilliant! Javert's songs have become my favourites because of him! What a pleasant surprise!
Can't wait for the video!