Chess: in concert #TheatreReview

Thursday 14th of April 2016, I had the pleasure of watching Chess, in concert, a production by my favourite – I am very biased! – Amateur Dramatics Group, The Hitchin Thespians

Chess is a musical with music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus from Abba and lyrics by Tim Rice, which is set in the cold war era and comments on the political status of USA and Russia during that time through the parallel of a chess tournament. Historically the musical was a huge success in the West End where it played for 3 years, opening on 1986. No major attempts at reviving the musical have been made, but it continues to be one of the most relevant musical placing 7th in BBC Radio 2’s “Number One Essential Musicals” list, demonstrating its strength as a piece.

The Thespians, an operatic amateur dramatics society that has been around for over 100 years and decided to tackle this incredible piece but in a concert version. I loved every second but have to be analytical of a few things that theatrically did not work.

The space at Woodside hall where the thespians perform is rectangular, usually the stage is located at one of the narrower ends of the stage but this time they decided to go for a long stage and long seating. This allowed them to add the members of choir either side of the central stage. However, this caused a huge unbalance in the sound where audiences on either side could only really hear the choir directly infront of them. Audience members sat in the central area were welcomed with a fantastic wall of sound however.

Performances were excellent from the main cast, as usual the pool of talent in the society oozes and they never cease to impress. The band again was incredible, giving the sound of a full orchestra and musical band with just two pianos and a drum set. Overall for an amateur production, with limited space and flexibility they tackled their issues head on and tried to make it work as best as possible. Still a completely enjoyable performance and I think that for any growing theatre producer, actor, practitioner, director etc it is important to see as many productions that can show you the type of challenges that you can encounter. However, it is s much fun to come up with alternatives to make it work. So if you don’t come and watch the Hitchin Thespians, go watch your own local theatre group, to watch some incredible untapped talent and to learn more about the basics of the beautiful thing that is theatre and live performance.

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

Into the Hoods remixed – theatre review

Saturday 24th of October, The Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, London

How can I review something that was I was already pre-disposed to love? I am suppose to be unbiased here and give a critical analysis, but I am afraid that in this case I might fail. So this is a short one but good one, full of love for a company that I completely biased towards.

Zoonation is my favourite dance theatre company. They are mostly a hip hop dance company who reinvent and re-write very well known scripts, musicals to fit their genre. They put together narratives that not only fit the genre and the dramatic nature of hip hop, but also use stories that that still have some sort of echo in current times and issues.

Into the Hoods is a hip hop take of the popular Sondheim musical Into the Woods – if you had not guessed that already. The story in this case took place in a council estate in East London. The parallel was drawn with the witch as the Landlord who refuses to help two kids who are lost get home until they acquire 4 items for his daughter’s birthday.

Now none of this sounds extremely amazing, but it is quite outstanding to write some fantastic adaptations to fit such a specific genre. This is huge and Zoonation do it incredibly! I cannot say much more than continue sharing my love for Zoonation, a company that I try to always see shows from. As a lover of hip hop dance and theatre, this company really is everything I love in one and it makes me completely inadequate to form any coherent opinion about them.

I took my boyfriend with me to watch them and he was very constructive and had some opinions on the performances, but his opinion in this occasion matters not to me as I was as always completely mesmerised and taken by the company. I thought the dancing was fantastic, the characters embodied perfectly through the dance moves and shapes created with their bodies. I loved it. If you hadn’t guessed that already.

I would have to say that I was a bit upset that the show started a bit delayed due to technical issues, but only because I was getting a bit too anxious, other than that it didn’t deteriorate the performance at all. I would have to say as well that narrative wise, it is not the strongest production of Zoonation, Some Like it Hip Hop continues to be their best one and my favourite. However, the performers were incredible and really carried the piece through. I can’t say much more as I will just continue rattling on about my love for them, so I am going to leave you here with some trailers of their shows! Try to watch them live, it is pure joy on stage.

Zoonation, Into the Hoods Remixed

Zoonation, Some Like it Hip Hop

Note: The images are from Google and the videos from YouTube, not owned by me.