**** (4.5 Stars)
Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent - 28 October, 2013
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats is based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and tells the story of the Jellicle Cats who reunite with their leader, Old Deuteronomy, once a year to celebrate their lives both as a tribe and as individuals.
This award-winning show, first staged in the West End in 1981, still remains a hit right up until this day. After watching the superb opening night, it is safe to say that this musical will definitely not be using all of its nine lives any time soon.
As the show is sung-through (no spoken dialogue) the story relies on the expressive cat-like movement and acting of the performers. Director Trevor Nunn alongside choreographer Gillian Lynne set the movement superbly, ranging from moments of captivating simplicity to mind-blowing gymnastic and ballet tricks. The cast did not fail to deliver with confidence or energy as they prowl and pounce across the stage as well as out into the audience.
The cast’s articulation whilst singing is phenomenal, especially from the duo Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer who manage to effortlessly three successive slick somersaults. However, it must be mentioned that at times, words are not executed precisely and notes are not always acute during company numbers ¬– but then again that could be excused as it is technically a cat’s chorus!
Webber certainly challenges both cast and orchestra in tackling the complex irregular metre of many numbers. Sophie Ragavelas undoubtedly steals the show as Grizabella in her dazzling and tear-jerking performance of “Memories”. Her pristine voice and acting talent shine as she sings in the spotlight of longing to go back to a past that held hope and happiness.
Visually, the show is extremely impressive even though the scenery remains the same from beginning to end and with floor is decorated in a collage of newspapers and advertising leaflets.
The lighting is extremely colourful and exciting and uses hanging light bulbs, which extended out into the auditorium. It is a nice touch that the colour of the lights change depending on the mood and pace of each scene.
For those that enjoy much dance and singing combined with magic and high-energetic storytelling then this show is definitely not to be missed. As the cast sing the final spine-tingling harmonies and the orchestra play their last chord, it is fair to say that the goose bumps spoke for themselves.
Two of my Vanishing Point cast mates and I crammed into the tube, each of us carrying a 2 litre bottle of water and clutching our sheet music. It hadn’t hit us yet that we were about to audition for Mountview, for one of the country’s most prestigious musical theatre courses. Our nervous energy seemed to attract other hopefuls as we made our way to the school and by the time we got there we were in a group of ten.
Any nerves we had completely disappeared as we were separated into two groups and given a work shop on improvisation and then one on movement or vice versa. The improv session led by Jonathan, an improvisation teacher at Mountview, was amazing. The energy in the room was great and through all the different exercises we bonded as a group and completely relaxed, something probably totally unheard of in a typical audition. We focused on the ‘Circle of Expectation’ and were told "don’t be afraid to be boring". The second workshop focused on movement, we became a variety of different materials, focusing on how they move and can be manipulated. The sessions were not only very helpful and enjoyable but gave us all a taste of how life at Mountview is.
The actual audition process began after lunch and because of the morning we had had, it was all a lot less daunting. While there were still nerves it was so nice to audition in such a friendly and welcoming environment. We went through each part of the audition (acting, singing and dancing) in a rotation 3 in groups of about 13. The entire day was so much fun and such an incredible experience. We all gained so much and will be able to take all of what we learnt onto further auditions to be able to do our best in the world of musical theatre.
***** (5 Stars)
Studio Theatre at York, Theatre Royal - 25 October, 2013
“Remember when we used to measure time, in laughter, smiles and dandelion clocks.”
It is safe to say that I was truly moved by the unforgettable performance of Richard Cameron’s Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down at York Theatre Royal‘s Studio Theatre.
Can't Stand Up For Falling Down is a one-act play set in 1970s Yorkshire and is made up of monologues told by three females: Lynette (Lucy Phelps), Ruby (Faye Winter) and Jodie (Sarah Vezmar). Each character’s story starts off completely different but within time unfolding and intertwining, eventually building up to the shared fact that their lives are all being shattered by the same man. The characters show little interaction with each other until the final scene, this is a style I have never seen before in theatre but found that it worked amazingly and made the play unbelievably gripping.
Director John R. Wilkinson manages to transform a collection of monologues from a script and create such an effective and successful show. Wilkinson shows each character's emotional progression after each scene through the use of a tableau (a still image). Each character would freeze creating a realistic yet sometimes disturbing still image. Sarah Vezmar in particular shows this exceptionally well, at one point capturing a moment of bursting into tears, for a second the whole audience had the desire to jump in and save the character from this moment of distress. It was moments like this that really involved the audience in the emotional journey of the show.
The set is a four-layered thrust studio space decorated with an array of rubbish, including a metal bin lid, a tipped chair, and an old table. Weeds also run in the cracks of each layer of the set. The set represents the women’s thoughts and memories, at first seeming like a harmless place where children would play but then transforming into the representation of Lynettes’s breakdown: her mind a mess, like the rubbish filled space, a place full of memories that she did not want to visit. The lighting is simple yet effective and consists of three lights, each used softly on the character in turn of their monologue.
The contrast of simplicity and depth is what makes this play so beautifully unique - along with the outstanding acting performances from all three women. Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down is a show I will always remember, a definite five stars out of five.
Can't Stand Up For Falling Down is showing until 16 November 2013 at Theatre Royal, York. Tickets are available here: http://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/handheld/shows/Cant_Stand_Up_For_Falli...
We spoke to Sean Holmes, Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith, about his role as well as the Lyric’s adventurous new season, Secret Theatre.
After taking over the position from David Farr in 2009, Sean has produced some of the most exciting and thought-provoking shows in recent history – winning the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre in 2011 for his production of Sarah Kane’s Blasted. After studying English at the University of York, he did a MA in Text and Performance at King’s College London and RADA. Before working at the Lyric, Sean worked at the Oxford Stage Company (now Headlong), the Donmar Warehouse and the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, to name but a few.
Whilst the Lyric undergoes a major £16.5 million project that will redevelop the organisation, the company has embarked on its new season with hopes of shaking-up the way that theatre is produced and consumed. Entitled Secret Theatre, a company of 20 actors, writers, directors, and designers has created a series of shows. The audience is not told what the shows are, who has written them, or who is playing whom – it will be a genuine surprise!
How did you get into theatre?
Like most people, I got into theatre at school. We weren’t a very impressive year, but we had a brilliant drama teacher at O-Level and we were lucky enough to do theatre studies at A-Level. My school didn’t actually do theatre studies, so we had to ask our head teacher for permission; it was really exciting. We also had a very enlightened English teacher who took us to various theatres, particularly to the Bush Theatre where we saw five or six plays. Robert Holman’s Making Noise Quietly made a big impression and I can absolutely still see it on my memory. It really opened my eyes; I didn’t realise you could have a theatre above a pub or that you could see people naked on stage, it was really exciting. He also took us to the National Student Drama Festival, when I was 17 or 18, which was great.
What did you do after University?
After I finished at RADA I applied to be a Trainee Director for the Orange Theatre, Richmond. I was there for a year as the Trainee Director and then another year doing various different things, like education. Then I did a lot of assistant directing, including working with Max Stafford Clark and Out Of Joint on The Libertine. I learnt a lot, it was a very different process and way of working. Then I was an assistant at the Royal Shakespeare Company for two years, which again was a great learning experience. I was, weirdly, quite a successful assistant director, and it has taught me a lot. I then did painting and decorating for a few years. Looking back I wouldn’t want to go through that again, it really tested whether I wanted to be in theatre.
I had a few years of struggling, it’s really hard. Then in 1999/2000 a few things coalesced. I did a Shakespeare tour for the National and then became Associate Director at Oxford Stage Company (now Headlong) under Dominic Dromgoole and started directing mid-scale twentieth century classics. Suddenly, from being a bit aloof, I had a couple of homes. I was really lucky to do big plays with big casts about big things. There wasn’t the ‘hot-house’ environment that you find in London. It’s about giving yourself space to make mistakes and develop your work, working with good people on good plays in a less-pressurised environment.
I’ve worked as Artistic Director at the Lyric for nearly five years and to a degree you inherit your predecessor’s work. We wanted to continue the Lyric tradition of work that was more unexpected and left-field. Under David Farr it was more about the devising, whereas we’ve tried to marry the best traditions of new writing with a broader way of working; it was more evolution than revolution.
How would you describe Secret Theatre and what are you trying to achieve?
It’s very difficult to explain, because normally I’d do the work and let the work do the talking. The structures of British theatre work in a specific kind of way – you have a text, you get a cast together and then after a two-or-three week rehearsal period you put on the show. We did a production last year called Three Kingdoms with German theatre company Munich Kammerspiele and Estonian theatre company Teater NO99. It was a mind-blowing experience and it really split people; mainstream critics hated it, whilst a younger generation thought it was great. What I realised was that you can’t just copy, you need to create the right conditions. The central plank of that is to make a permanent company. The idea being that you can have longer rehearsals, people who are in the same frame of mind. Secret Theatre is about what you can do with a play as opposed to just doing a play. It’s about being loyal to the spirit of the play, rather than the letter of the play. It’s more about there are other ways of working that we don’t look at because the structures are very confining. It makes us question whether it’s possible to change the structures and if you change those structures does it lead to a different kind of work? We’ve had a really interesting response to the first two shows. Show 2 in particular. It’s a very well-known show that comes with lots of expectations. Every time it’s been done, the frame has been very much the same. If you remove that it becomes those people experiencing those things, and I would argue it’s more powerful. It’s an experiment to see if you can treat these well-known works in a different way. Can you provoke it?
How many shows are you doing and how do you decide which shows to put on?
We’re doing between 5 and 6, until April. We have decided the shows to a degree but the bulk of our next plays will be new. It’s going to be interesting. They might be adaptations, they might be completely new. Part of thing with Secret Theatre is that you’re learning as you go.
Do you think it’s important for young people to get involved in the theatre?
Well, if they want to. A really important strand of the Lyric is about having more spaces to do work with young people. Young People are at the heart of this building; it’s part of the identity of the Lyric, which manifested itself in our audience. What I’ve realised over the last 4 or 5 years is that successful shows usually resonate with a younger audience. Like Saved, Blasted and Mogadishu. Younger actors at the centre of the work we do. It wasn’t deliberate. It felt right that the Secret Theatre should have a youthful energy. That spirit feels right for the Lyric.
One of the things with Secret Theatre that I think is brilliant is that there will always be five men, five women, disabled actors, and black actors. It’s a diverse cast that reflects our diverse audience.
What advice would you give to our young people interested in working in theatre?
It’s about perseverance and working hard. Contacts are only so good. You may get a job if you’re somebody’s child, but it can also hold you back. It’s about being ready to fail, and not being afraid. It’s the ability to separate success, celebrity and fame from what you want to do. Success has to be that you are fulfilled by the work and you believe in it. We really believe in our show and it is what it is. If people don’t like it, that’s fine, but it’s what we’re trying to do. If you’re interested in what theatre can do and achieve, it’s about that.
To find out performance dates and times go to http://bit.ly/16llWvX or call the Ticket Office on 020 8741 6850. All tickets are £15 and seating is unreserved so book early to make sure you’re a part of the secret!
Call us cheesy, but here at YMT we believe that every artist and performer needs a little inspiration from time to time!
Here are some of our favourite quotes from actors, writers and famous figures from around the world. Feel inspired today!
“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
“A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
“You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
“The thing about growing up with Fred and George," said Ginny thoughtfully, "is that you sort of start thinking anything's possible if you've got enough nerve.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“What's the world's greatest lie?... It's this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.”
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”
“Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music.”
Have you got an inspirational quote? We would love to hear it, please share with us in the comments box below..