Archive for April, 2008

Great deal for tickets to Pinter’s “The Lover” and “The Collection” at The Comedy Theatre – only £ 15!

April 29, 2008

It’s the last week for Pinter’s “The Lover” and “The Collection” at The Comedy Theatre -a show that I really enjoyed. Delightfully, tickets can now be had for £15, a privilege I did not enjoy when I went. Just go to The Ambassador’s web site, pick the date you want to go and the number of tickets, and enter promotion code: Lover when prompted. Enjoy!

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A message from your sponsor – apologies and upcoming features

April 28, 2008

To regular readers: an apology in advance for the lack of posting you’ll be getting until about May 12th. I spent the last weekend in Barcelona and will be in Florida for a conference for all of next week. That said, this Friday I’ll be off to see home town favorite Dina Martina at the Soho Theater, then catching up for my lost week in Orlando with a fury, hitting the Young Vic for Jane Horrocks in the Good Soul of Szechuan with the West End Whingers, the Royal Ballet in a mixed rep program (new work by Kim Brandstrup, ooh!), then “The Only Girl in the World” and “The Lady from the Sea” at the Arcola Theatre the week of May 12th. I think I may toss in an article on the best places to eat near Covent Garden while I’m in Florida just to keep the flow going on the site, though – I’ve certainly become an expert, at least if you’re dining on a budget.

Hamlet – Northern Ballet Theatre – Sadler’s Wells

April 23, 2008

I have to say I was a bit worried about how a ballet interpretation of Hamlet would come out. I’d gone to see Christopher Wheeldon’s “Elsinore” last year, and it just had no emotional power at all. How could such a neat tale, one of the most powerful tales in western literature, come off so damn flat? It almost made me feel like modern choreographers should just stick with plotless ballets. But since “Romeo and Juliet” is really so good, and I think ballet/dance really is good at story telling, AND I have this bizarre wish to see the repertory of story ballets extended beyond the old chestnuts (I mean, seriously, Matthew Bourne has done so well – with retreads), that I just queued right up for tickets for this show, based simply on a desire for wish fulfillment. (And right beforehand, I turned to J and said, “God, I hope this is good!” – the theatre-goer’s eternal prayer.)

To my pleasure, Northern Ballet Theatre’s Hamlet (choreographed by David Nixon and new this year) was really good. They had moved the story up to World War Two and Occupied Paris – a fairly common resetting for Shakespeare, at least in terms of the World Wars – but then made several changes to the story that could irritate purists but served to drive the story much better than a slavish adherence to the original would have. Hamlet’s dad (Steven Wheeler) was Paris’ head of police, killed by his uncle Claudius (Darren Goldsmith) in a blatant act of career climbing/toadying when the Nazis moved into town. This means that Hamlet (Christopher Hinton-Lewis, phwoar) is not a prince in this show, but, as a commoner, his grief at the loss of his dad is actually much more moving. I also found the women quite intriguing in an environment in which dealing with powerlessness and being, essentially, prisoners so strongly informed their actions. Gertrude (Nathalie Leger) was a fool, to be sure, but she seemed so much less of a conspirator than just another person trying to survive in very bad circumstances, and at the end, her affection for Hamlet seemed quite genuine (despite the fact that during the, er, sex scene with Claudius, she looked most unmotherly and quite sprightly in her vintage 40’s unmentionables).

And, of course, there’s Ophelia (Georgina May). Oddly, I’ve just come off of reading the book Something Rotten, which is a meta-literary comedy in which Ophelia and Polonius attempt to become the stars of the “play formerly starring Hamlet,” and it’s somehow left me with this idea that Ophelia isn’t satisfied with her role in the play (even though this is totally an artifact of the book). I felt like Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia was much better realized in this ballet than it is in the play – their love dance in the first act was just … beautiful (*gets goosebumps*). The way Hamlet lifted and carried her over his back (once he’d finally engaged with her through his sorrow), the way they held each other’s faces, the way he slid above her and she grabbed ahold of his body to lift herself right up off of the floor – it showed a degree of affection and tenderness that I never saw in Shakespeare. In addition, her mad scene in act two was FANTASTIC, a total star turn for Miss May. I’ve never seen changing the way someone walks so perfectly capture someone who’s gone over the edge – clip-clopping flat-footed in her toe shoes, hiding behind pillars, and of course handing out her bizarre little Nazi posies to the various guests at the dance. She put Lucia di Lammermoor to shame and, frankly, pulled far more of a star turn than the original Ophelia ever managed. Complain about lack of faith to the original? You’ll not hear me make a peep. This adaptation was nothing short of fantastic.

There was a lot more to this show, though, including leaping leather clad Nazis, black gowned Cabaret-style chanteuses, torture scenes, and men dancing in boots up to their knees – not really in the style of either a typical R&J (for some reason as a ballet Romeo and Juliet is ALWAYS Renaissance Italy) or a sexless Swan Lake. I can’t really say that the dance was outstanding other than in the Ophelia scenes – there was a near total lack of dancing on pointe, which made me sad – but it was good, in general, there was a rockin’ duel at the end, and it was a coherent work of theater that came complete with an original score. In short: highly recommended, and I hope it passes into the general ballet repertory.

Review Preview: Northern Ballet Theatre’s Hamlet – Sadler’s Wells

April 22, 2008

While I will be fleshing this review out tomorrow, I want to quickly say, for those people who are considering going, I VERY much enjoyed this evening. It was a great adaptation of the story of Hamlet to the dance medium, the choreography, sets and lights were good, and, basically, it was a good night out. I was caught up in the emotion of the story, and it did exactly what it was supposed to – make me care about what was happening and actually get involved in the emotions of the – dare I say it – characters (the one item so often missing from story ballets!). At any rate, with 15 pound seats available, I’d say anyone who likes story ballets or Hamlet should really make the effort to get up to Sadler’s Wells to see this thing.

That said, all of this writing is hard on my sleep schedule, so I’m going to wrap this up and hope I can add more to it later!

Marguerite the Musical – the search for cheap tickets continues!

April 22, 2008

My uncle, a big fan of new theater, is coming to visit in June, and I’m planning to have a week full of fun for him. He’s retired so very cost conscious, which makes him extremely amenable to cheap seats up near the roof. I’ve managed to book us some decent seats for The Revenger’s Tale on Saturday the 14th of June. It’s not really new but since it’s £10 a pop, it hits a lot of other criteria quite nicely. (The summer season just went on sale at the National, so now’s the time to grab those £10 Travellex seats for the prime Friday and Saturday slots.) This puts me back to figuring out how to get us tickets for two other shows – Powder Her Face (an opera at the Linbury) and Marguerite, a brand-new musical based on La Dame Aux Camelias, which I’ve heard of but otherwise no nothing about (not being so big on opera).

Now, official tickets for Marguerite (per their website) are in the pricey range – £63 and £58 for stalls, £43 for upper circle, £27 for “cattle class”/nosebleeds. LastMinute.com (which has screwed up by not listing it in the musicals section) is not really doing better, but does have an amusing £25 deal in which (it appears) you get the equivalent of a free meal at Pizza Express along with your crummy pigeon-loft seats. This is a real disappointment to me because when I see shows at the Haymarket, I like to eat across the street at Galileo, which has genuinely good Italian food and a killer £10 prix fixe pre-theater meal deal (plus the owner is really funny and always very welcoming to me). So I did a search for “Marguerite the Musical” on Google, and what did I find – gallery seats on some site called DiscountTheatre.com for a mere £15. That will get me dining at the restaurant of my choice. Next stop, the Royal Opera House for Powder Her Face tickets, perfect for that hard to fill Sunday afternoon slot. Now, when will they release some more tickets?

“Major Barbara” review – the National Theatre

April 22, 2008

After last Thursday’s outing, I found I was feeling a bit nervous about going back into the Olivier. Would I be obliged to listen to horrible rhymes for an hour and a half? Would I spent the evening looking at people I didn’t care about moving around on the stage? Would I have to listen to my friends’ scorn as we dashed out into the night mid-show?

Thankfully, I am restored to grace among my theater-loving associates with Major Barbara (a good thing too as I had a pack of six out with me). While I’m sure it’s just as easy to ruin Shaw as any other play, starting off with such a strong script really does get you off on the right foot. And I found myself very interested in what was happening to the characters, so much that by the intermission, I was just as much on edge as if I’d been left hanging at the end of a chapter of a serial novel (or the last episode of a TV show) – what had wrecked Barbara? Would she end the play happy? What about her dad?

And while Shaw did indulge rather a bit in his penchant for end-of-play speechifying (blah obvious point for a socialist to make while on his bandstand blah blah), leaving me feeling just a bit worn down fifteen minutes before it was all over, still, it was an invigorating evening, what with all of that great dialog and stabs at politicians and journalists and people who watch plays but aren’t bothered about the poverty in their midst. And didn’t it all end in just such a bittersweet way for London, with our hero spouting his Armorer’s Creed, sell to any man, while surrounded by the bombs that would one day leave this lovely city smoking rubble? I felt a little fist clenching around my heart as the lights went down and the Olivier’s truly impressive sound system reminded us of just what those little silver cannisters were for. Then we walked out into the night, ignoring the poor around us, talking about theater, and thinking hardly at all about the grim implications of the heartlessness of capitalism.

“Fram” review: or, Much Ado About a Sleeping Bag – The National Theatre

April 18, 2008

Once upon a spring night dreary, after work, my friends so weary,
All of us in line awaiting the grand opening of Fram
In the theater, softly sitting, programs clutching, ushers flitting
With the house lights now unlitting, fitting one more in a cram –
To watch a play in verse, I muttered, will need no departure plan –
Fear not Fram

Then the silliness fast started, couplets rudely from stage darted,
Brave explorers bitched and farted killing huskies with a blam –
Some sad ghost on stage expounding piles of twaddle, vowels a’rounding –
And my head has started pounding like a door shut with a slam –
Caught in a seat Olivier at the opening of Fram
Self loving Fram.

Freakish ballet – why now dancing? Oh, the misery of chancing
Upon tickets, which now glancing, seemed too much at ten a man!
My friends twitched and muttered while a Todd-like tale was uttered –
Human pies all freshly buttered, shouts the actress, “Eating man!”
Samoyed round her neck, frail white on white, and never tan –
Utter glam.

And the sad ironic poet with his words that couldn’t show it
Forced the audience to blow it, pulling out of this black jam.
It weren’t funny nor amusing! It was my poor ears abusing!
All those bad rhymes he was using! T’weren’t a play, it was a sham!
Such self indulgent wankery, I cannot help but damn! Run from Fram!
Damned Fram! Poorly Fram!

(Better options for your evening: The Lover and The Collection, which has some £10 seats available, or The Importance of Being Earnest, which you can likely find at the TKTS booth for £25.)

“Fram” review preview – and notes on Wayne Macgregor

April 18, 2008

Fram: in short, no. I can see why they were offering free beer on top of 10 pound tickets to get people in the door. (If you’re interested: £10 tickets plus a free beer for performances from 10 – 29 April. Call 020 7452 3000 and quote ‘Free drink offer’. Be warned that the free beer is a small bottle of Carlsberg and not worth the price.) Inspired by the play itself and the writeup the WestEnd Whingers did, I’m going to work on my own rhymed review for later (I’m leaning toward a villanelle, couplets are inherently too comic) but I had to warn people about this show in case they were trying to figure out what to see tonight. It’s sad to think this play is by “Britain’s Foremost Theatre Poet” – I can only think the list of contenders for this crown is very short. I also have a theory that Fram is the Norweigan word for “Bollocks!” but have not yet checked this on Babelfish. (LATER: rhymed review here, using “The Raven” as inspiration – much more difficult than rhyming couplets!)

I also want to mention that there is a very misplaced ballet section in the first act which is choreographed by Wayne Macgregor, who was there last night. I let myself fangirl to him while he was buying ice cream at intermission and he was SO rude to me! I was going on about how great he was and how I saw his show last weekend and how I’d love to see his work at Pacific Northwest Ballet – and he looked me in the eye and said, “I’m really just not interested.” I stopped dead in my tracks and said (after a pause), “Well, I guess I’ll let you get back to your friends.” What a cock! I’m going to go back and delete my “Wayne Macgregor is God” and replace them with something like “Wayne Macgregor is an ungracious asshole who should spend the rest of his life laboring in obscurity,” even though I’ve already bought tickets to see his next little ballet at the Royal Ballet in May.

Anyway, poem to follow, but I need some time to let it cook in order to fully convey the horror.

Pre-battle jitters (FRAM)

April 17, 2008

I just found out that FRAM, the play we’re going to see tonight at the National, is all in verse. The review the West End Whingers have posted has got me thinking that the free beer I got with my ticket may not be nearly enough.

I am afraid in a way a play about ships and icebergs should never make me be. Frankly, actually being on a ship surrounded by icebergs wouldn’t scare me as much as the idea of a play in which all of the dialogue rhymes. Well, I guess I could be going to see Gone with the Wind

I am having a cup of tea right now, at 5:45 PM, in preparation for what may be a very long night.

Northern Ballet’s Hamlet at Sadler’s Wells – ticket deal

April 16, 2008

I was just informed of a great deal – tickets for £15 to Northern Ballet’s Hamlet. Details are here. I’m going on Tuesday the 22nd and already have my tickets bought – unfortunately! I am really hoping to see a new Shakespeare play entering the ballet canon, especially after the disappointment of Wheeldon’s “Elsinor.” Which such interesting characters, surely there’s a good ballet in Hamlet somewhere. At any rate, it’s a great deal, so come pack the house.