Throwback - Antigone UK Tour (Pilot Theatre, Derby Theatre and Theatre Royal Stratford East)

When I was informed that Roy Williams' new adaptation of Antigone was a not-to-be-missed show for my uni course, I have to admit I was really excited. I'm a sucker for a modernised retelling, and Antigone was a play that I had studied way back at Key Stage 3, and loved! I bought my ticket well in advance and when the time came for me to see the performance, I couldn't wait.

Stepping in to the theatre, I was immediately draw to the set. It was a dark, metallic structure reminiscent of a futuristic Doctor Who episode. Quiet, clunky, tinny noises were echoing from somewhere backstage, and smoke was trickling ominously down from the stage and in to the first few rows of the audience. The overall effect was sinister and forbidding. 

However, from the moment the action on stage began, I was taken out of the moment. Firstly, for whatever reason, be it the fact that the volume of the music was suddenly increased, or that the actors were not wearing microphones, the first few lines of the piece were completely inaudible (This was an issue whenever anything remotely scary/tense was happening on stage - and I was only sitting in the third row!). When the music finally did quieten down, and the audience could get some clue as to what was happening, they were met with Roy Williams interesting dialogue. Every character's lines were peppered over generously with slang which made it difficult to understand anything of what was going on. Regardless of status or situation, throughout the performance actors grimaced their way through (probably not short of) thousands of colloquialisms which 99% of the time didn't even make sense or seem to fit the character at all. I'm really sorry to say that the effect was laughable in retrospect. Not even the performers seemed to believe what they were saying. One character which particularly comes to mind was Mark Monero's menacing Creo. He gave a brilliant performance, and physically he oozed terrifying coolness, but his lines were made up of an overabundance of fillers and idioms that had an almost comical effect. Even Savannah Gordon-Liburd as the eponymous main character (obviously renamed 'Tig', because, y'know, slang'n'stuff) was afflicted by the less than brilliant dialogue issues. It seemed forced. It was unnecessary. I was less than impressed. 

Overall, I was disappointed. The original story is brilliant and lends itself perfectly to a modern retelling, and the majority of the cast was talented and charismatic. Unfortunately though, when all of the elements came together the result was less than brilliant. 

Verdict - 1 Star

Twitter: @OddJazzShoes
Bloglovin: Talkstageytome

Throwback - Book of Mormon (November 2014)

Okay so I'm very into musical theatre, and for years I found it hard to point at one musical in particular and say "that's my favourite!" But then I was introduced to The Book of Mormon, and all of that changed. 2 years later, I can definitely say that I am OBSESSED with that show, like I've never been obsessed with any other. So when my friend asked me if I'd like to go with her on her birthday to see the show again, this time with the currently leads, I agreed wholeheartedly!
If you aren't aware of the show at this point, then a) where have you been for the past 2+ years? and b) get booking right now! The story follows two Mormon teenagers as they head to Uganda on their mission, their aim being to baptize as many Ugandan people into the Mormon church as possible. Unfortunately though, once they arrive they realise that their mission isn't going to be as easy as they envisioned.

The show starred American leads Billy Tighe as perfect Mormon boy Elder Price, and A.J Holmes as his hyperactive and unpredictable mission brother Elder Cunningham. Stephen Ashfield played the closeted Mormon district leader Elder McKinnley, while Lucy St Louis played Nabalungi (the role normally played by Alexia Khadime). The main cast was utterly top notch, and the ensemble was outstanding, especially the ensemble of Ugandan villagers whose frank line delivery and super enthusiastic dancing got some of the biggest laughs of the night. Billy Tighe's Elder Price was very different to other interpretations which I had seen. He was very angry, self righteous and mean and it worked perfectly, especially when paired with A.J. Holmes' super sunny, likable and bouncy Elder Cunningham, who you root for from the moment he steps on stage. Tighe's impressive and hilarious performance of You and Me (but mostly me) solidified his character as selfish, deluded and downright brilliant, while Holmes' end of act 1 number Man Up was so enjoyable that you could FEEL the audience buzzing in their seats. The chemistry between the pair was glorious! Lucy St Louis was also wonderful as Nabalungi, her innocence and naivety was very sweet, and she absolutely shone during her act 1 solo Sal Tlay Ka Siti. Her heartbreaking reprise of Hasa Diga Eebowai was a standout moment too.  Of course Olivier award winner Stephen Ashfield was brilliant as Elder McKinnley, and his solo during the fan favourite number 'turn it off' had me in tears of laughter. Truly this cast is one of the strongest on the West End right now.

The show was still as enjoyable this time as it was the last, and I found myself laughing points where I hadn't done previously, as a result of the new cast members fresh takes on the character.

I can't wait to return to the Prince of Wales theatre to see this hilarious show again, though with ticket prices starting at almost £40, I doubt I'll be going back for a while!

Verdict - 5 Stars

Twitter: @OddJazzShoes
Bloglovin: Talkstageytome

Throwback - The Wild Duck @ The Barbican

Okay so in the midst of pretty much all of my first essay uni deadlines, I saw a lot of great theatre (and some not so great) but due to my immense disorganisation, I never reviewed any of it. Until now!

I was fortunate enough to win a pair of tickets to see The Wild Duck at the Barbican, thanks to  +WhatsOnStage's weekly twitter competition (which is definitely worth entering by the way). So on Friday 31st October, while the rest of my housemates dressed up for Halloween, I headed up to London to meet a friend, grab some Wasabi (also highly recommended! According to London students it's the place to eat, and I can't say I disagree!) and see the show.

'Hjalmar lives in a flat with his wife, senile father, visually impaired daughter and a duck. Still he’s reasonably content, until his old friend Gregers returns to town, armed with disturbing revelations that threaten to blow their lives apart.' (plot summery from The Barbican website)
Now, despite being a fan of Ibsen's writing, prior to winning the tickets I know almost nothing about this production other than the fact that it was a reimagining by Simon Stone. The plot didn't really jump out at me, and I wasn't exactly buzzed for it beforehand. Having said that, I really enjoyed it! The plot was very relevant to present day issues, touching on corruption, affairs and confusion surrounding paternity in a way which was both effectively dramatic, and thoroughly entertaining.

What was particularly striking for me though, was the staging. Almost all of the play's action is performed inside a large glass case on stage. Although the 'glass case' was quite a ham-handed metaphor for the play's themes, it did a great job of allowing the audience to be a fly on the wall, especially during some of the darker, more uncomfortable moments. It also highlighted an element of the plot which this play is quite famous for. Typically Ibsen's play focused on the Bourgeois society, yet The Wild Duck followed the lives of mostly lower middle class people. For an Ibsen fan like me, it was an interesting and refreshing twist on what I was used to seeing. 

The cast was made up of a number of very talented actors, although the two performances with stood out to me were those of Dan Wyllie as Greggers Werle and Anita Hegh as Gina, Hjalmar's wife. I loved the fact that although Greggers was the first character the audience was introduced to, you were never sure whether to empathise with him or not. All of his actions, although questionable, somehow seemed justified. Hegh's performance stayed with me though, due to the raw emotion with which she performed. Even in one scene where her character did nothing but slump against the glass case distraughtly, my eyes were still draw to her. Of course, the star of the show it has to be said was the live duck which appeared in multiple scenes, splashing and waddling and causing multiple unexpected laughs (the actors played against the duck very well, and despite the unintended comedy of multiple actors getting slashed quite violently in one scene, I never felt that this distracted for the performance at all.) 

All in all, the show was definitely worth a watch, and I thank +WhatsOnStage and +Barbican Theatre for my free tickets. A delightful yet devastating way to spend Halloween.

Verdict - 3 Stars

Twitter: @OddJazzShoes
Bloglovin: Talkstageytome