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?


Review: War Horse

October 12, 2009
War Horse

War Horse

Does War Horse live up to the hype and five star reviews? Surely a West End transfer, a merchandise stand complete with magnets, t-shirts and mugs, and a storyline to make the hardest of men shed a tear would be worth a praising review from A Younger Theatre? I wish it was true…

War Horse has been critically acclaimed since it touched audiences hearts at the National Theatre last year. The show quickly became sold out, and a highly anticipated West End transfer to the New London Theatre was made earlier this year.

And yet I was rather disappointed by the production.

There is no doubt that the puppets of the horses are crafted with such skill and are equally moved/mastered by extremely skilled puppeteers. The movement within these puppets, and the sheer size of them can be quite difficult to focus on at first.

Like any object manipulated into ‘life’, there is adjustment needed to both accept that there is someone control these bits of materials, and equally when you look beyond the manipulators that what you are seeing is ‘believing’ in the creature itself.

The horses are the closest looking things that we’re going to see of horses galloping around a West End stage anytime soon. They are lifelike, yet equally have a skilled puppet craft applied to them. So the horses are obviously not the problem within War Horse, and if anything, the puppetry within the piece as a whole is what drives the piece along but also gets the audiences into the auditorium in the first place.

What War Horse lacks is that of substance.

The story is a little thin on the ground, with moments that really could have been expanded, and equally moments that could quite have easily been cut. The connection between Joey the horse and it’s owner, the young lad Albert is lovingly nurtured within the production, and becomes a delight to watch. Yet other occassions within the piece I struggled to stifle my yawning. The rambling monologues from the German Captain seemed to drag the production into the depths of history.

War Horse

War Horse

War Horse is clearly a good production, especially with the level of skill from the puppeteers, and a notable performance from Kit Harington as Albert, leading the ensemble piece. Despite the five star reviews, and the hype surrounding War Horse, I failed to connect to the piece. It lacked something for me.

I think if anything it is more a personal connection than stating that this is a downright bad production. After all, one person may love a piece of theatre, and equally their friend may despise it. That is the very nature of arts and opinions. So this time, the National Theatre just didn’t pull it off for me.

Perhaps it goes back to my inability to relate to horses? Having never been up close to one more than once in my life, nor through having any desire to ride one… but surely that wouldn’t put me between what is an outstanding production and one that needs more work?

For me the emotional connection to the story was a start/stop affair. I wanted to enjoy this. I wanted to get lost within the magic of the various uses of puppetry onstage, and I wanted to be caught up in the emotive story of the first world war and the soldiers who lost their lives. But I didn’t, and this for me was the killer of heart and soul for War Horse. Others might have been crying and wiping their eyes at the end, but sadly I was trying not to laugh at whoever awful idea it was of having smoke billowing from either side of the stage and thus making a quarter of the audience blind to the action onstage during the second half.

However this isn’t all negative, and far from it. What Marianne Elliott and Tim Morris as directors have done is direct a show that brings into the main stream theatregoers eyes the use of full scale puppetry of high quality, allowing this artform to be more widely accessed. Also their simple stylistic approach to the play could be worth a note to some over-heavy productions seeking to represent every last bit of life on stage.

War Horse is well worth a visit, and with ticket prices seemingly dropping slightly, its worth spending a night engaging with horses made from an assortment of materials. Is the production child friendly though? Hmm… personally I wouldn’t take a young child along, not with its numerous methods of death and imagery of war wounded soldiers splattered across the stage…

War Horse … the five stars reviews, or the sagging storyline? You decide.

The New London Theatre is playing War Horse and booking until next year, 2010. Tickets can be found on the National Theatre website.