Woman in Black – #ThrowbackThursday

So November 14th 2015, I had the opportunity and pleasure of watching the Woman in Black live in the theatre, and today I am throwing it back to this theatrical experience.

Let me make it explicitly clear that I am awful with anything horror. I sat through the movie Woman in Black with a scarf wrapped around my head with just a gap for my nostrils where I could breathe and the tiniest slit in my eyes so I could barely see it. The sound of it alone is just agonising let alone the visual impetus. I felt that in the theatre it was made ten times worse, seeing as I could also smell everything and the performers are at arms reach.

The play itself is actually really different from the movie, in that is it all a recollection of a story and uses metatheatre as the story telling device. For those who do not know, metatheatre is when you are watching a play about a play, so theatre within theatre. This is how the piece is originally written and it works so well, with two primary actors taking on all the roles and making it a very intimate setting, which only adds to the creepiness of the whole affair.

Now I am painfully aware that OBVIOUSLY there is a third performer who plays the woman in black HOWEVER, theatrical license is everything and the performer who plays the woman in black is not mentioned AT ALL in the programme nor do they appear at the curtain call. This only adds further to the creepiness of it all. I did some extra research into this and found out that in the actual script she is not written in either. This is far too much for me to deal with, it is too creepy.

The production was amazing and they were all fantastic and really delivered the spooky story successfully. I for one will leave this behind as one of those things I have done and watched that I do not have to do again. That is how much of a wimp I am. That being said, I have to say that in the end – SPOILER ALERT! – for those who have watched it – she comes out, for the scariest bit after all the build up, the sound team are pressing those buttons with all their might, there is a fog machine going, you do not see her coming from anywhere but she appears in all her might, scary as hell, and she accidentally – or I am hoping it was accidentally – revealed her face and got lit up with a weird green light and no word of a lie, the woman in black looked like Elphaba the Wicked witch of the west. That really did help me go home less paranoid so I am so grateful, and I hope no one else saw that and it was just me.

You can watch Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre in London. Tickets are available on www.thewomaninblack.com

It started with goodbye…

2016 has already brought people such joy and anguish. We are 21 days in as I sit here and write this piece. I only just returned from my trip 10 days ago, and have been so bogged down with work that there has been no time to be here. Aside from being occupied I have been consumed by grief for the icons that have left us behind this year.

Already, in such a short space of time, 2016 has brought us tears and the realisation that the lives of those that seem so phenomenal and amazing beyond comparison, are also lives that are frail and taken away from us at any time. I feel that it has been a bit of a shock as in 20 days we have all said goodbye to huge influences in all our lives, but three in particular have struck me as particularly shocking. So today I dedicate this art post to the loss of huge talents to the world wide entertainment industry.

David Bowie

What an absolute icon! I can still remember working at the Victoria and Albert museum when the Bowie exhibition was taken down and booking its trip around the world. I believe that it is currently being shown in Rio de Janeiro, but do not quote me as it has been a while and I might not recall the dates as well as I wish.

Bowie was a huge fashion icon, film talent and a musical influence and god that evolved with time and released some of the most awesome music ever. Bands can only dream of creating the unique sound that Bowie continuously honed, and his break through musical techniques are of huge influence to the music industry. It seems bittersweet and a planned goodbye that he released his 25th album on his 69th birthday, just days before he passed away. It is with memories of his sweet voice that I whispered goodbye to his name and remembered a well phrased Bowie quote:

“… And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through…”

Alan Rickman

A theatrical and film icon, known for many roles but loved globally for being the unsung and unpredictable hero of the Harry Potter series, Severus Snape. Has there ever been a man who’s voice could lull me into a different Universe altogether… maybe my dad’s but not anyone else. He played a huge part of my generation’s coming of age and is such a phenomenal loss to the industry and the world and fantasies of many growing children and dreaming adults. I will ALWAYS be waiting to take a potions and defence against the dark arts class with you. Mostly, Alan Rickman, I will never forget how you forged and paved the way for so many British actors and actresses, a true talent and your grace both on stage and screen will never be forgotten. As you once said, in the most beautiful, sincere and simplistic way – Always.

Glenn Frey

Finally, but not least, Glenn Frey. This may seem like an odd one, but my mom and dad brought me up listening to the melodious and harmonic abilities of The Eagles, and I have the fondest memories of this music. This music that I still have on my car when I do long drives, this band who graces my headphones every day with some of the most iconic and legendary pieces of music. When you write a piece like Hotel California, you know you’re about to make a record that is going to be historic, just like Rumours for Fleetwood Mac and The Wall by Pink Floyd. Glenn Frey is a lyrical and musical talent that has left a great big, thundering and aching gap in the music industry and in my heart. I leave you here with some of the very best of The Eagles.

Miss Saigon – theatre review

Miss Saigon has only earlier this year returned to the West End and has taken the box office by storm and it is already set to shut by February 2016. As the production costs and maintenance are huge and the venue is not enjoying full houses all the time it is only natural to see it go away as fast as it appeared. So before it shut, I had the pleasure of watching it on the 19th of September 2015.

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Miss Saigon is the story of a Vietnamese girl, Kim, who is working in a brothel in Saigon. She falls in love with an American soldier, Chris, they quickly get married and try to move to the USA as the troops are vacating Vietnam, but she stays behind and unbeknownst to him, she is pregnant. The musical then follows the plot to their reunion and everything that happens in the mean time, politically in Saigon, now Ho Chi Min, and to the characters’ romantic entanglements in their own countries.

Knowing the history and background of the musical, I have to give the biggest praise to the creative team! Choreography and set played with each other beautifully. One of the most phenomenal numbers The Fall of Saigon is set with a set of moveable fences that rotate and change positions as we to and fro between Kim outside the fence and Chris stuck inside. With dancers flinging themselves fearlessly at the fence to truly demonstrate the desperation and desire to escape as well as the fear of those who wanted to keep the gates shut. It was beautifully created and truly showed that not only are the cast extremely talented, but are supported by a creative dream team. From Bob Avian, musical staging, Geoffrey Garratt, additional choreography, Totie Driver, Matt Kinley and Adrian Vaux, set design; this incredible group of people enable the cast to perform in a stage that not only supports the narrative and contextualises it. they are truly able to embellish the performance and add to the brilliant production of this musical. This also shows why the production is having to shut early, as cost wise I can only imagine the rotating sets and the live helicopter must cost a fortune to uphold. Regardless, for this alone, the sheer detail, flexibility and creativity of the set, the entire production was worth watching. In my opinion, one of the best uses of space in theatre I have seen in a while in terms of stage, set and choreography design. Bravo!

Let me talk about Jon Jon Briones. Jon Jon took upon perhaps the most iconic, comedic and full character of the entire show, The Engineer. A character that does not have a name per say, but leads and drives majority of the plot by his sheer cunning and desire and belief that he will go to the USA and pursue the American dream – fantastic number by the way. He is, in my opinion, the true star of the entire cast. The small nuances that made the character and he maintained throughout the show, from small hand gestures, quick flicks of the wrist and a nasal pronunciation of only certain words.He kept the character true to his sleazy self, but always with a flair of superiority and class. Jon Jon completely captured the Engineer, his slimy, self centered egotistical ways, his way of pretending and demonstrating himself as superior but then cowering at the first sign of fear. A true talent, with an amazing set of pipes to add the mix, I am proud to say he held his own to show the performing excellence that comes from the Philippines.

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Eva Noblezada was fantastic as Kim. Kim was a character that started off for me as truly irritating. I cannot stand women that are lead entirely by men in their lives, from the Engineer, to her father, ex husband Thuy and even driven only by potentially being with Chris, the entire first act of Miss Saigon truly makes Kim for me a very difficult character to like. That being said, political context and all she was very well written and developed. In the second half, as she has grown as a mother and we are introduced to her son Tam, we begin to see that not only out of love for a man who left her, but mostly an ideal of that, it is truly the love for her son that drives her forward. This for me is incredible. There are many people, feminists, that will say she should not need this incentive to move forward, but being a mother is the one thing that truly distinguishes us from men, it is a capacity only we have and a connection that only we can have with our children. As the presence of this boy nearly brought me to tears, I was interrupted from my potential crying by my mother and sister seated either side of me sobbing and sniffling relentlessly for Tam. Noblezada, accompanied by her phenomenal, awe provoking and goosepump causing voice, took on this challenging, powerful and multi dimensional character beautifully. She embodied Kim entirely, and I had the pleasure of seeing her transform from a quiet, shy but filled with morals young innocent girl to a woman with a purpose in 2 hours. It killed me to watch Kim’s end, but it was very much where the story was leading and Noblezada showed us a fighter and warrior the entire way. Truly fantastic.

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Disappointingly, her leading man left much to desire. And I LOVE THIS! I love that this man was a failure to his first love and child, I love that this man isn’t even man enough for his current partner. I love that he is torn apart and has no clue what to do with himself, and that even in war, he was weakened by his emotions, weakened by his desire to leave and love. I think this is a TRUE character. In that this person actually lives amongst us. A man with difficulty to accept and remember the troubled past of war, and that struggles with something that was ripped out of him. I am just saddened that they cast Chris Peluso to portray the fantastically real and failed character of Chris. A nasal voice, not much in terms of delivery of character development, it is a shame that he was not left in the background as an all swinging and singing chorus member. I feel this was not the role for him because he perhaps did not understand the complexity and wonderfulness of playing a character that is so completely damaged, a MAN in theatre that is so devastatingly broken. A man who was not capable of being the hero.

I had not come across Miss Saigon in film or stage before, and although I had some idea of the type of music and setting I was so overwhelmed by how well constructed it is. It was a true delight to watch it and be able to now share with you my views. It is an outstanding piece of theatre and music and I can see why it returns to the West End regularly, in spite of how costly it is to run. A genuine tear jerker, set in the woes of war we know devastated and destroyed a lot of families, people and countries, and that today we still see remnants of it. Overall one of the most phenomenal pieces I have seen, but do not think I could go through that much emotion again on stage. Give me 5 years to recover.

Miss Saigon is set to be removed from the Prince Edward Theatre in February 2016. It would be a true shame if you did not spend 2 hours of your time going to watch this. Click here for info and ticket details.