Sunday, 2 February 2014

Theatre Review: Wendy & Peter Pan

(Image: Manuel Harlan from the RSC website)

I know, another theatre review! I guess I've just seen quite a lot recently that's been worth talking about. Wendy & Peter Pan, so called as it's supposed to be Wendy's side of the children's classic story, was the RSC's big Christmas show this year but the run doesn't finish until March. I was really interested to see it as loads of people from my youth theatre had seen it and returned with very mixed opinions - some said it was fantastic, others hated it and described it as throwing round feminist terms for the sake of it. With that response, I had to see it for myself.

I have to say, I really liked it. To be honest, I was struggling to see what people could hate about it as there was nothing that stood out to me as being awful! First off, the set used throughout was incredible - complete with skull-encrusted pirate ships and slides into underground grottos, it was very visually impressive. I loved all of the flying and the use of physical theatre as well as I think it made it really magical. I actually thought that although it was aimed at kids 11+, I definitely wouldn't want to take anyone much younger than that as parts of it were quite dark and there was some more adult humour included for the parents. I thought parts of it were quite funny and that the script was well-written. Although it pretty much stuck to the original story of Peter Pan, they included some backstories such as why the Darlings' parents were unhappy as they were which were really interesting and added to the story, I thought. Now, for the feminist thing: yes, Wendy was arguing that she shouldn't have to be the damsel but as for bandying around feminist terms unnecessarily, I didn't think that was true at all. It touched on society's constructed male and female roles but other than that it really wasn't mentioned explicitly. I thought that Sam Swann and Fiona Button who played Peter and Wendy respectively were brilliant and really threw themselves into their roles.

In summary, I really enjoyed it and would say that it is well worth watching. I thought it was really magical and an interesting retelling of a well-known classic. It's on in Stratford until the 2nd March if you're interested in seeing it.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Theatre Review: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

(Image: On Fife)

Last Saturday I went to see a company called The Showstoppers improvise a musical at the Warwick Arts Centre. How is that possible?! I hear you ask. I thought the same thing before I saw it which is exactly why we booked tickets in the first place. But, I can assure you, it works. The company has been performing together since 2008 and the goal is to create a musical each night purely based on the suggestions of the audience. This means, of course, that no two performances of the company's are the same, which has sparked conspiracy theories amongst sceptical audience members suggesting that they have fifty rehearsed musicals on rotation and such. However, the night I saw it a lady behind me said at the end, "That was so different from last time!" so they obviously don't keep repeating the shows!

So, we sat down not really knowing what to expect. A man came out in the role of a director and asked us different things about that night's musical such as where we thought it should be set and what kind of music should be in it. The audience voted that the show would be called That Sinking Feeling and it would be set in Atlantis with music in the style of Danny Elfman, Puccini, Avenue Q and the Spice Girls. A very eclectic mix that would surely be impossible to base a musical on! He wrote all of these up on a board and then the show began.

At the end of the opening song, I was sitting there absolutely gobsmacked. How on earth had the actors just performed an entire song about Atlantis, complete with harmonies and dancing and no rehearsal? The rest of the show continued in the same way, i.e. with me being completely astounded at how they were pulling it off. It was really funny as well, we could see the musicians sitting at the side laughing as it was obviously their first time seeing this particular performance as well. Speaking of the musicians, they were equally impressive with how they were able to keep up and fit in with the actors' improvised songs; I think you'd have to be a really good musician to be able to do that. It was a little blue in places to perhaps not ideal for small children or easily offended grandparents but great for everyone else! They did a great job at incorporating all of the musical styles we had suggested into the show; I noticed at the end that the director had been ticking them off on the board throughout to make sure they had covered everything.

I was just so impressed with the performance and its very high standard considering that the cast had had absolutely no rehearsal. It was a shame because it was a really small audience the night I went, probably because it's a fringe show and not many people have heard of it. However, if you do get the chance to see it I would definitely recommend it as it makes for a really fun night out.
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