It’s been a busy work week for me, but I did manage to squeeze in some socialising (and shopping: I could have happily bought up the whole of Fenwick’s Christmas department…)
First up was A Christmas Carol at Northern Stage, a 20s set take on the story with a great jazz soundtrack. It took a little while to get going and was – as everything seems to be – a bit too long, but once it hit its stride it’s a delight of a show, with some really impressive physical theatre and I particularly enjoyed seeing a classic in my native accent. (Review here).
Next was Mixtape Xmas at Live Theatre. A raucous sorta pop quiz, I went with my friend L as a birthday celebration – although the show could have been much tighter, and some of the audience were frankly a bit twatty, it was good fun and for once my arcane knowledge of 80s and 90s pop lyrics came in handy…
Back to Northern Stage! This time for a production of Under Milk Wood (and a sneaky portion of chips and garlic bread beforehand). I didn’t love the show as much as some critics seemed to – the video projection seemed gimmicky to me, and
reminded me of those ‘arty’ videos you used to get back in the 80s when bands couldn’t make it to Top of the Pops and video was so new that we would be excited about anything, even if it was just a close up of a boiling kettle – but the performances were a thing of loveliness.
Another day of theatre yesterday – I am rather loving the fact that I am seeing so much. I had a meeting at Northern Stage in the afternoon, where I got to do one of my favourite things (rant about theatre and class) in good company. I hadn’t, however, reckoned with the fact that the theatre is currently showing Dinosaur World Live, so was mobbed with excitable kids. I was actually quite jealous – not only would I love to see a show featuring ‘live’ dinosaurs – but it was only an hour long! I did at least get to see one of the dinos roaming wild in the cafe, which made up for some of the commotion.
Then after a quick stop at Pizza Express on Dean Street – a place I haven’t been since I went on a date there 25 years ago with a bloke who actually fancied my flatmate more than me (good times), I was back at Live Theatre for the press night of Clear White Light. It’s quite an odd concept – a retelling of the Fall of the House of Usher, set against a backdrop of NHS cuts and to a soundtrack of Alan Hull (of Lindisfarne fame) songs, and it took a while to find its feet – the first half dragged a bit (and you know I already think everything is 15 minutes too long), but it bounced back with a very strong second half that had some proper surprises, and the acting was strong throughout. The rousing finale, a song exhorting us to ‘bring down the government’ ended the evening on a high note. (“I think every play should end with an ode to revolution,” said one of my fellow audience members, as we were leaving.
It’s sold out now, so if you haven’t got a ticket you are probably out of luck, but if it does come back or you can get returns, it’s worth catching.
Why, yes, apparently I live here, now, because I was back at Northern Stage last night to see a show called Future Bodies, which was a fascinating look at the potential impact of technology on the human body.
I didn’t love all of it – it was too long (Dear theatre- and film-makers: everything can be shorter than you think it should be) and the slightly random approach to captioning annoyed my inner subtitler, who favours practicality over style every time when it comes to reading captions. (Subtitles shouldn’t be whack-a-mole: you shouldn’t have to guess where they will next pop up). But it was a bold, thought-provoking piece with a talented and charismatic cast from two companies whose work I haven’t seen before, so I am definitely pleased I saw it. I also got to meet and chat with a couple of female theatre makers beforehand, so all in all a very profitable evening…
It’s been a busy week of theatre for me. I’ve seen three shows, all a Northern Stage – it’s definitely becoming my local. The first up was The Lovely Bones, a visually stunning adaptation of the Alice Sebold novel. I liked it a lot, though it didn’t quite effect me as much as the book, and it was a little overlong – in my experience anything longer than 90 minutes without an interval makes the audience get twitchy, and it would have benefited from a bit of a trim.
The same applied to The Mountaintop – another compelling production grounded by strong performances (Rochelle Rose in particular blew me away), but that would have been stronger with a tighter edit.
Last night was a very different kettle of fish – and, at an hour long, certainly didn’t overstay its welcome. The Elvis Dead wasn’t the kind of thing I normally go see – to be honest, I only suggested it as my friends L & D are fans of The Evil Dead. It’s a musical romp through the movie, told via Elvis songs, and it actually works incredibly well: we were all in stitches throughout, and Rob Kemp is a performer of real charisma.
All three productions are touring, so worth seeing if they end up in your neighbourhood…
As regular readers will know, I am already a local at Northern Stage, and if I am not seeing a show there, I can still regularly be found in the cafe, writing over a cup of coffee.
But there are other treats in the building, and downstairs at the minute is a fascinating photography exhibition celebrating 25 years of BalletLORENT, on display before the venue hosts a four-night celebration in November.
Even if ballet isn’t your thing, the black and white photos are a interesting look at performance and bodies – and since it’s free and on the way to the ladies loos, you might as well have a look.
Although I have made regular use of the delightful cafe/bar, I haven’t actually been to see a show at Northern Stage since my return. I was excited to see The Last Seam, a verbatim play about the decline of the coal industry, and pleased to be accompanied by my fellow Last Ship / local history enthusiast friend U.
The play itself – staged in the smaller studio space, which I hadn’t been into before – was powerful and moving, though the evening became more dramatic when the performance had to be halted as a member of the audience became seriously unwell. Impressed as I was by the play, I was even more so by the empathy and efficiency of both the cast and staff, who sprang into action immediately, and emptied us into the bar while medical attention could be sought and given.
It was a nervy, enervated crowd that returned to what was now a fragmented play, though we were relieved to be assured that the audience member had been taken to hospital, and seemed to be OK. The cast recovered from the shock and disruption admirably well to finish the piece – everyone was pretty shaken, so I can only imagine how they must have felt. Here’s hoping the poor man in question made a full recovery!
It’s a powerful piece and is touring, so if you get a chance to see it, do so: but I have to say the night gave me renewed admiration for actors, carrying on when most of us would just want to sit down with a large glass of wine for our nerves…