Sunday 1st March 2015 - Secret Theatre - 'SE7EN DEADLY SINS' at a secret London location.
As the website for this group are still referring to a secret London location, I can't tell you where it was performed (well, I could but I choose not to). I will add that it was in a private members' club and that I attended with a friend. Needless to say, minimal information was given, just an address and a password if I recall correctly. We were also advised to bring along masks. Fortunately, my sister had a lovely golden mask, which covered my eyes. Initially, everyone who entered the club, which was essentially an old pub were essentially pounced on by club promoters trying to persuade you to fork out lots of money to drink in a venue which looked like a cross between a colonial outpost and your friendly local saloon bar. Needless to say, I do not have an annual membership for this drinking establishment.
The production itself was basically a rip-off of 'Se7en', the David Fincher film. It was interesting experiencing the events as they happened and the occasional moments of audience participation but I tend to appreciate seeing something that is more original. Having said that, I have subsequently learnt that the company have created site specific events based on other films, so I hope that they have secured the rights to make theatrical performances of them. My one abiding memory of this performance is the ending, which mirrored the film, 'Se7en' in terms of its dialogue and content. It could have been so much better.
Wednesday 4th March 2015 - 'The Caucasian Chalk Circle' at the Unicorn Theatre.
I attended this event with two friends. It was the first time that I had seen this Brecht plays and the first act of the performers was to engage in a dialogue with the audience explaining why they had decided to abridge the prologue (basically owing to its length). The Unicorn Theatre is a delightful theatre near to London Bridge Station. It is apparently a childrens' theatre but it is important to mention the fact that they do not 'dumb down' the performances, owing to misconstrued notions of how intelligent or otherwise children are. They assume rightly that children engage on multiple levels with the productions they see. Some are attracted to movement and the use of props, whilst others are interested in the dialogue and script. Like adult audiences, no child is the same as any other.
The play was typical Brecht; political, darkly funny and regularly quite disturbing. Also very long. The set was relatively minimal and the one thing I have noticed about Brecht's plays is the playwright's reliance on the actors and their craft. Any props used are never simply cosmetic, pretty frills covering up discrepancies in the plays. No, in Brecht's plays they are integral to the plot. Anyhow, this performance worked well and appealed to the diverse age range of the audience on different levels.
Thursday 5th March 2015 - 'White God' at the Barbican.
Think of this film as a canine version of 'The Birds'. Basically, a group of dogs retaliate against years of abuse by their human owners. The 'White God' of the title probably relates to the decent young man who doesn't involve his dog in dog fighting and acts as the mediator between the humans and dogs at the end of the film. It's a strange film but well worth seeing.
Friday 6th March 2015 - 'Happy Ending' at the Arcola Theatre.
A paradoxically upbeat musical about cancer sufferers and treatment. The Arcola Theatre is one of my favourite venues. I remember leaving the venue feeling quite optimistic about life despite the subject matter. Of course, I can remember none of the songs but if you think about it, the only reason we do remember musical numbers is owing to the constant airplay or staging of the musicals in which the songs appear. There are so many musicals and some of the low key ones are surprisingly good.
Saturday 7th March 2015 - 'Still Alice' and 'Antigone' at the Barbican.
Yes, I attended two events this Saturday. 'Still Alice' was heartbreaking. Julianne Moore deserved the awards she won for her role in the film. She plays a linguistics professor who is diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. Her memory throughout the film gradually breaks down as does her ability to communicate. I seriously recommend this film if you haven't seen it yet.
'Antigone' was a stage production starring Juliette Binoche. All I remember about this production was the fact that it was okay. Not exceptional. It seems wrong to say that but it's the truth. It has subsequently been widely toured.
Monday 9th March 2015 - 'Closer' at the Donmar Warehouse.
One of my least favourite venues in London. Hard to get tickets for the performances, the staging of the various productions often creates restricted viewpoints and some of the seating is dubious to say the least. I will add now that the current trend of certain theatres to overpack the audience by adding a row of what I can only call raised seating with a bar to put your feet on is not designed for the comfort of the audience. This was the first performance I have seen at the Donmar Warehouse that I would describe as very good. Most of the productions I have previously seen have been either pretty good or passable. The subject matter of this play involving pretty horrible characters and their intense relationships is fascinating. I also recommend the film.
Tuesday 10th March 2015 - 'Abigail's Party' at the South London Theatre.
My first visit to this theatre as recommended by my friend and work colleague. Great version of Mike Leigh's play about middle class folk and their aspirations. I strongly feel that it is imperative that audiences continue to support fringe theatre, whether the shows produced are professional or amateur. If we don't, very significant venues will close down for good. I have fond memories of a version of 'The Maids' I saw once at a theatre above a pub in Greenwich, which has subsequently closed. Anyhow, 'Abigail's Party' was well acted and I found the bar area in the theatre, quite cosy.
Thursday 12th March 2015 - 'Radiant Vermin' at the Soho Theatre.
Philip Ridley is one of those playwrights I always keep an eye on. His works are challenging, interesting and fun. This one explores the current housing crisis and the lengths that a couple will go to, to improve their lives and property. It's funny how killing seems to be an option and also how appealing Faustian style contracts can be to some people. A very entertaining and cutting exploration of a morally bereft society. Also beautifully acted and the set was very minimal allowing the actors to truly shine.
Tuesday 17th March 2015 - Highbury Cemetery.
A solo trip to Highbury Cemetery. I went on the guided tour then visited the other section of the cemetery on my own. As ever, the experience of visiting a new cemetery was edifying and moving. The variety of symbolism used in the construction of gravestones indicating lives ended too soon or the occupations of the deceased fascinated me as ever. Also unusually this cemetery is on the side of a hill, so getting there involves quite a steep walk. I was quite moved by the small stone of the folk performer, Bert Jansch, who I met awhile ago when I saw him perform with Bernard Butler at the Boogaloo in Highgate. Also Douglas Adams' gravestone was accompanied by a container that various visitors had placed pens in. The idea of tributes and offerings seems to be an integral part of how we choose to remember and celebrate the dead.
Wednesday 18th March 2015 - 'Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter' in Leavesden.
I visited on my birthday with my sister. This was a magical experience. This is an interesting place to visit whether or not you like 'Harry Potter' even if you just find the film making process fascinating. It contains full size sets, costumes and lots of other objects associated with the film series. They also sell over-priced merchandise and the delightful 'Butterbeer', which tastes absolutely disgusting (an even more sickly version of Cream Soda, which I can't stand). My sister and I spent several hours wandering around taking lots of photos and basically just enjoying ourselves. A good way to pass a birthday.
Thursday 19th March 2015 - 'The Father' at the Trafalgar Studios.
Typically cheerful Strindberg play involving a husband and wife arguing over their daughter's education. It has a happy ending involving the husband being driven mad etc. I like Strindberg. This was well acted and did have some humour, despite the ill fated destiny of the father of the title.
Friday 20th March 2015 - 'Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty' at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (First visit to exhibition).
I attended this exhibition with a friend who is a member of the V and A. Now everyone seemed to be overawed by this exhibition, which makes me feel like the outsider a little. I found it an interesting exhibition, although somewhere along the line, a creative team veered heavily towards style over content. When I attend an exhibition, I want to feel as though I learn a little about the subject of the exhibition. Unfortunately, text was minimal and primarily limited to the odd quote. Alexander McQueen's work was submerged in a heavy duty Gothic sub-text that permeated most of the exhibition. Don't get me wrong, it was visually stunning in places but sometimes, I want to get a sense of the creative process and of the man behind the work. It seems strange for me to say this but you got no sense of the artist behind the work, only the work and the vision of the V and A curators. My friend felt the same up to a point. At my most cynical, I referenced the 'Emperor's New Clothes' in relation to this exhibition, which seems a bit harsh but it could have been so much better.
Saturday 21st March 2015 - 'Rules For Living' at the National Theatre.
A fun play by Sam Holcroft in the Dorfman Theatre set around Christmas time. It reminded me of an Alan Aychbourn play, only this was more entertaining and shorter. The cast was excellent and unsurprisingly for a play set at Christmas, the strange family antagonisms start to come into play. The food fight at the end, the inevitable yet necessary catharsis for a family at the end of their tether. A play that's worth seeing when it is performed again.
Tuesday 24th March 2015 - 'The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny' at the Royal Opera House.
I attended this event with a few friends. We had seats in the very highest sections of the Royal Opera House. Those seats where you begin to realise that being scared of heights can be an issue when you are buying cheap seats for productions. A very entertaining Brecht/Weill opera. The production team wisely used shipping containers, which helped to create a highly modern setting. A typically moral and scathing attack on capitalism.
Friday 27th March 2015 - 'The Great Gatsby' at Saddler's Wells.
A rather splendid dance performance based on 'The Great Gatsby'. Admittedly, it did require an understanding of the narrative that inspired it but like its source, it had moments of tremendous pathos.
Monday 30th March 2015 - 'Stevie' at the Hampstead Theatre.
This was a much maligned performance at the Hampstead Theatre, which is probably one of the best of the theatres in London. It starred Zoe Wanamaker as the poet, Stevie Smith and Lynda Baron as her aunt. I loved this play and the set. I think the objections focused on the pace of the play. I think some critics fail to realise that the life of a writer is not the same as the life of an actor. As such, a play that focuses on the day to day experiences of a poet with a bleak world view is not going to be fast paced.
Tuesday 31st March 2015 - 'The Devil's Passion' at St James's Church in London.
This play written and performed by Justin Butcher explored the Easter narrative from the perspective of the Devil. Possibly one of my highlights of last year. It was a one man show and it worked. I attended with a friend and I remember having a very moving conversation with her about death and the bereavement process. Maybe, it was the church that led to the conversation?
Barry Watt - 4th March 2016.
Douglas Adams' grave at Highgate Cemetery.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour.
Any references to cultural events, places, plays and films etc are copyright to their respective owners.