The Theatre of 2010 – My Hopes

December 31, 2009

Whilst people are making their New Year Resolutions, and institutes are celebrating what 2009 held for theatre listing the best of the best, and even the worse of the worse… I’m looking beyond all of this. We’ve already seen several Hot Tips appearing for theatre in 2010, and with new season announces each week the anticipation for the first big sellers is getting exciting. For me, I’m hoping 2010 will see the start of change in theatre.

So without further hesitation, here are A Younger Theatres’ Hopes for Theatre in 2010…

#1 Continued West End Ticket Sales – Recession was a hot topic on everyone’s lips during 2009. We saw numerous companies go into Administration and disappear off our high streets. Purses and wallets were firmly kept shut, yet somehow the West End saw an increase in ticket sales and remarkably out riding the recession. They say that theatre is a form of escapism and perhaps audiences were inclined to spend their money on musicals and plays to forget their woes. Whatever the reason, let’s hope that 2010 continues with the sales and theatre shows us what it is really made of during finical crisis.

#2 Lighting In The Lime Light – The forgotten talent in theatre. I hope that in 2010 lighting gets the recognition that it readily deserves, that critics take up their pen and paper and focus on how these wonderful shows they are writing about are seen through the designs painstakingly made by lighting designers. It’s as if this area of theatre gets completely lost in the lime light of the actors who are being lit. Lighting is atmospheric, stunning and highly creative – so lets see people talking about it more, instead of leaving it in the dark. (Let’s also hope the lighting puns/jokes stop too… lime light?! What was I thinking?)

#3 Younger People Breaking Through – The very nature of this blog is for myself to have a platform to express my thoughts and feelings on something that I completely adore. I admit wholeheartedly I am young, at 21 years old, and writing about theatre in the best fashion I can. 2009 has taught me that there is a gap within theatre that is slowly being filled with the younger generations, be it through youth theatres gaining greater success, or the new breed of playwrights getting younger. What I hope for though is that we start to see the written form of the younger generations as critics such as myself having a greater platform in discussing both theatre and the arts.  We might not have the many years of theatre under our belts like Billington, but we do come with passion and a whole new point of view. 2010, let it be the Year of the Younger Generations!

#4 Internships On Top – The recession might not have dampened ticket sales in the West End but jobs in the arts are drying up, where a single advertisement can get several hundred people applying. 2009 saw the boom in the Internship, something I discuss here. My hopes for 2010 is for Internships to continue with the increasing number of applicants but also to begin to evolve with this demand. Internships allow for much learning, but lets not squash that learning by it becoming the norm. Let 2010 keep Internships on top form.

#5 Ecofriendly Theatre – Our climate is changing, but what are theatres doing about it? The Arcola Theatre is one of the leading theatres in taking the green initiative and adapting their theatre to tackle climate change. I hope that 2010 sees other theatres taking up the greener side of theatre – LED Lights anyone? What more, I’d like to see bigger theatres doing their bit and proposing how they will tackle a more enviromentally friendly theatre for 2010.

#6 Social Media For Better – Phenomenons such as Facebook and Twitter have changed the way theatres are now engaging with their audiences. We saw the first devised opera through the means of Twitter – a great collaboration between audience and the Royal Opera House. Twitter has enabled theatres to tell us more, to give insights into what lies behind the walls, deep in the offices and backstage areas. It has allowed voices to emerge from the depths of theatres. Let’s hope 2010 brings more engagement with audiences through the joys of Social Media, and better improvement on how it is effectively used in marketing campaigns.

#7 The London Fringe Festival – The talk of the town after an announcement was made that there is to be the London Fringe Festival in August 2010. What can I say to this? My hope is simply this: The organisers realise that their attempts at putting on a Fringe Festival in London during August when the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is taking place is barbaric. If they want to make this a success, they have to base their model on something that is not already in place. My hope for 2010 is that this festival either completely flops or completely blows all our minds. Whatever the outcome – let it be a lesson learnt. (Let’s also hope for a better website, better organisation, and better ideas for this 2010 Fringe Festival…)

So here are a few of my hopes for the Theatre of 2010… what are your hopes?

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Review: Phedre

July 3, 2009
Helen Mirren as Phedre

Helen Mirren as Phedre

It’s not often that I will clap my hands together for a performance and truly mean it. A full hearted clapping where I hope that along with everyone else clapping we can truly give our praise to a performance.

From the moment the safety curtain parted, revealing the brightly lit stage I was captivated. Completely enthralled on so many different layers leading Nicholas Hytner’s Phedre starring the wonderful Helen Mirren as a hit, for me at least.

Bob Crowley’s scenery must be mentioned first, a vast dominating stone chamber reminiscent of Ancient Greek [handy that..!] covers the Lyttelton’s stage, coupled with the cyclorama it causes the actors to seem like tiny mortals against this god like structure. There are no scene changes, for there is no need for any, and I’m grateful that the beautiful set is kept in one piece.

Lighting is often not mentioned in reviews, but it has to be when discussing this production of Phedre. Paule Constanble does a fantastic job at manipulating the light upon Crowley’s set to produce the hot atmospheric nature of what Greek plays should hold. During some moments the boundaries between the open expanse of light becomes a character within itself when numerous characters of the play shrivel from the ‘sun light’ or bask in its glory. The lighting is just superb that compliments the whole piece flawlessly.

Mirren is Tragically Beautiful

Mirren is Tragically Beautiful

Moving onto Helen Mirren. Well what can be said? Her portrayal of the fragile character of Phedre shifts between madness, desperation and hope within a flicker of eyelid. Mirren is outstanding. She captures the essence of a Queen lost in a tide of incestuous thoughts and desires. Phedre betrays the scared bond of marriage through lusting over her step-son, and Mirren does so with such ease it was as if the part was destined for her. Mirren’s ability to show a fragile aging woman is beautifully tragic. She immerses herself into the role and truly depicts everything that theatre is about – this living, breathing theatrical moment.

Margaret Tyzack as Oenone is a perfect piece of casting to play opposite Mirren. Tyzacks has the ability to create the balance between Mirrens’ madness and obsessions to the love and support she needs, and craves. What is remarkable is the way in which Tyzack uses her hands in the duration of the performance. From clasping at the chairs positioned on stage to the covering of her face repeatedly. It is these simple directions that became captivating to watch.

Dominic Cooper as Hippolytus plays a strong part in being the handsome step-son, and whilst he fits the part of this ‘stunning’ chracter, he offers little else. This isn’t a negative point, he merely fits the role for the part. Equally Hoppolytus lover Aricia played by Ruth Negga creates a sound performance, where her beauty seems to radiate under the lights at the National.

On the matter of sound – this is either a love or hate when it comes to this production. Adam Cork’s use of music and sound is completely captivating for me. He manages to punctuate the dramatic action perfectly with booming resonance during the climax of the piece itself. Some people will find it intruding, but for me it only goes to push the emphasis of the tragedy upon the looming deaths of the characters.

On a different note: This blog is aimed at the Younger Critic/Theatre Goers view point, and I was so quick to say “We want more younger people out there”… but sitting in the theatre last night, I was watching a generation of actors whose disciplines run deep and routed in a style of acting that not many younger actors find today.

Mirren and Tyzack are of a breed of actors that I crave to see more often.

So whilst I will talk until I am blue in the face about the need for a young generation in theatre’s, I can’t recall the last time I was so blown away by a performance – especially not by an ‘older actor’.

The striking set and lighting against Mirren and Cooper

The striking set and lighting against Mirren and Cooper

Phedre has to be one of the best productions I’ve seen this year. Whilst I am bold enough to announce this, I realise that not everyone will be quick to agree. There is only so much desperation and strained voices discussing Gods, Love and Incest that an audience member can take – but maybe I am weak for a good piece of text, where Ted Hughes translation is just beautiful.

Conclusion: Dramatically beautiful. Captivating and appealing. 2 hours passed by with such ease that I was left hanging on my seat for more.

Bravo Mirren.

Phedre is running at the National Theatre until the 27th August.