Tag Archives: theatre

8 Tips on How to Behave at the Theatre

Theatre-Audience

 

Ever wondered how you should behave at the theatre? Well, here’s a beginners’ guide based on my most recent trip to the Edinburgh Playhouse…

 

1. The overture is just background music. It’s just there so that you don’t have to talk to your friends in a silent room while you wait for the show to start. Same applies to the Entr’acte.

2. Letting your phone ring during the performance just adds to the music and makes the show more dramatic. There’s nothing quite like the tension created when everyone starts looking for the ringing phone.

3. Leaving your phone on vibrate creates a really fun game of “where’s that coming from?” for the people sitting around you to play during the boring bits. Everyone will really appreciate your efforts to make the show more interesting.

4. In a musical or opera, the spoken dialogue isn’t part of the show. It’s a nice pause for you to have a cough, or chat to your friend.

5. Everyone in the theatre loves to know what all the other people think about the show, so you should keep a running commentary going to your friends.

6. It’s really important to let everyone know that you have the best possible sweets by buying the ones we the really rustly plastic and opening them up at the quietist possible moment.

7. Moving your head around all the time means the people behind you get to have a nice stretch and shuffle too as they readjust to make sure they can see. You should do this regularly to help your fellow theatre-goers stay healthy.

8. If you have a really bad cough, it’s much better to let it all out. It’s really uncomfortable to hold back a cough, and your neighbours will be really glad they caught your germs because they didn’t want to go to work tomorrow anyway.

Ok, so maybe that’s not the best way to behave. Instead, here are some key tips that mean everyone in the theatre including you, the actors, the musicians and the rest of the audience are able to really enter into the moment and enjoy the show:

  • Listen to the overture and the entr’acte. Just because you can’t see the musicians doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect. Plus, the composer has constructed it to give you a flavour of the music to come.
  • Switch you phone off or to silent. Vibrate makes a really, really loud noise in a quiet room!
  • If you need to cough, talk or rearrange your position, try to do this at the end of a scene while nothing is happening, or during the LOUDEST points of the music.
  • If you’re coughing or sneezing so much you can’t do this, don’t go. Or at the very least, ask to switch seats to sit to the end of the row, so you can slip out to have a coughing fit and then sneak back in again.
  • If you must bring snacks, bring sweets which are unwrapped and preferably, switch them into a box before coming so you don’t even have to rustle the bag.
  • Remember, in the theatre, the actors are putting on a performance for you. Imagine if they were your sibling, parent or child – how would you want the audience to behave? Model that behaviour by being quiet and respectful during the show and applauding really loudly at the end.

What are your real bug-bears at the theatre? And is there anything you’d add to the list of good ways to behave?

Movement for Non-Actors (Part 2) – Where?

Mary Poppins

As we talked about on Tuesday, movement isn’t normally part of a singer’s repertoire, but it becomes vitaly important in musical theatre.

However, once you’ve worked out why you’re moving, it’s time to work out where to go.

Geography of the Stage

In this post, I’m going to give a quick run-down of some of the different places you can move to, and ways in which you can move there to help you develop a plan for your song.

One of the first considerations is where on the stage you will stand. Will you go for front and centre, or back and off to the side? Each choice says something different about how you character is feeling, and how s/he relates to others.

Stage Geography

Front and centre is the most powerful location on the stage. No other actor can get in front of you, and you can speak right to the audience. For a song like Maybe This Time from Cabaret, you might want to select a front and centre position, and stay quite static too. Something more tragic, and uncertain such as I Dreamed a Dream might feel a bit odd sung from that location.

Conversely, the back of the stage suggests weakness. You’re easily overshadowed by other actors and the set from the back of the stage, and you need to really project to be heard. It’s rare to find an entire solo sung from the back of the stage, but many a number begins at the back and moves forwards as the character develops.

Character or plot development pieces like Daddy’s Girl from Grey Gardens often end up in the middle of the stage. Front and centre breaks the imaginary fourth wall of the room, and speaks to the audience. If a song is directed at a character on stage, then it makes sense to be mid-stage, well inside the imaginary room.

Off to one side or the other of the stage is a good location for narrative songs, or for introspective songs, as the character has removed themselves from the action and can look from the side of the stage over to the events of the story.

Levels

It’s important to consider not just where on the stage you are, but what kind of position you take in that location. When directors talk about “levels” they are referring to whether an actor is standing, sitting on a chair, sitting on the floor, or lying down. You can think of it as what “level” your head is on. In some shows, such as the opening number of Wicked, levels can even mean flying in from overhead!

Standing up is a confident and pro-active position. A big solo number with a very definite mood like I Am What I Am might be stood throughout. Character and plot development numbers might also involve standing, depending on the context.

Lying down on stage

Sitting down is often a sign of meakness or uncertainty. It can also be a sign of reflection or introspection. A number like Still Hurting usually starts with an actor sitting down as it’s a reflective song, dealing with painful issues. Sitting down on the floor can have a similar effect of sadness as in With You from Ghost, or it can be a relaxed and optimistic act as in By The Sea from Sweeney Todd.

Lying down is either result of the events leading up to the song, or absolute emotional brokenness. Being horizontal can make breathing difficult, so this should be used with care, but it can be very dramatic and communicate strong emotions.

Making the Move

Movement means choosing where you’re going to start and then when and where you’re going to move to. Go back to the score you’ve marked up and start by thinking where you are going to be when the introduction plays, or you say the preceeding lines. From there, at each point where the emotional story of the song changes, you should consider moving to another part of the stage, or changing your level. If you get sadder, move away from the centre of the stage or sitting down. If you get angry, stand up and move forward. Happier people also tend to move more, and faster. Think about how you move when you feel particular emotions.

Don’t be afraid to move while singing too. If a bridge or chorus builds towards a new emotion, you could make the transition as you sing.

Whatever you decide to do, make a note in the music as to exactly when you are going to move, and where you are going. Practice the movement to a recording of someone else singing before you try the movement while you are singing.

I hadn’t intended this, but there’s so much to say that I’ll conclude this with a third part next Tuesday talking about smaller kinds of movement such as eyecontact and gesture.

In the meantime, are there areas of the stage that you think have particular meaning? How do you map out the stage, or use levels to show emotion?

Review: Dark Road

The Royal Lyceum’s 2013-14 season gets off to a World Premiere start with Ian Rankin’s debut play, Dark Road.

Dark Road

Where & When: Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh; Friday 27th September 2013; 7.45pm (Preview show)

The Show:

It will come as no surprise that Ian Rankin’s theatre debt is a tense crime thriller set in Edinburgh. However, this is the only predictable part of this show. Isobel McArthur, the first female police chief constable of Edinburgh, is considering retirement after 30 years service, and this brings her to recall the case which made her career. Alfred Chalmers was convicted of murdering four young women in 1988, but as the play progresses, it seems she is not as comfortable with the outcome of the case as it might have seemed. Through reviewing the case files, Isobel becomes increasingly convinced something is not right, and this is compounded by the actions of her daughter and colleagues.

I don’t wish to give away too much of the plot, but it has some great twists and some startling moments (it’s been a long time since I’ve heard shrieks in the theatre from the audience!). The action is well paced, and the dramatic conclusion resolves the story very well.

There were weaknesses in the script, as is to be expected from a writer who is new to this genre. However, I think Rankin could go on to write excellent theatre, and possibly even better television and film scripts. He certainly has a flair for the kind of edge-of-your-seat drama needed, but has not had to compromise on the complexity of his characters to achieve it. Perhaps some roles were more incidental, but then this was really a play about the strange and co-dependent relationship between the cop and the criminal.

The set had some teething problems, but given that this was a preview, it was forgivable. However, the set was complex compared to the Lyceum’s usual style, and perhaps this was overambitious.

The Cast:

Taking the lead role of Isobel, Maureen Beattie captured her character’s depth, complexity and human fragility well. There was a high level of subtlety in her acting that was clearly communicated to the audience, drawing out a sympathy with her that made the shocking moments all the more hair-raising.

Sara Vickers as Alexandra and Robert Gwilyn as Frank provided excellent supporting characters, although neither were as well-developed in the script as Isobel, and consequently had less to work with. I did enjoy Phil Whitchurch as a deeply insane Alfred Chalmers. The other characters were all more cameos than anything else, but all were well acted – especially the lighter moments provided by Nicola Roy and Jonathan Holt in their roles as Janice and Brian, the young police officers.

Overall:

If you don’t take this too seriously, and enjoy it for what it is, Dark Road is a great night out at the theatre. The story is engaging, the staging provides some real jump-out-of-your-skin moments and the two central characters of Chalmers and McArthur keep you gripped to the end. Shakespeare, it is not, but it is definitely more enjoyable than many other new works at the Lyceum in recent years which have tried to be intelligent, but fail to captivate the audience. I look forward to the TV adaptation in the future that this script is crying out for.

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 

Review: Histoire d’Amour

This is the first of two shows I’ll be reviewing from the Edinburgh International Festival.

histoiredamour

EIF RUN: 15/8-18/8; King’s Theatre; 19:30 [£12-£30]

Where and When: King’s Theatre; Thursday 15th August 2013; 7.30pm

The Show

This show is literally like nothing I have seen before. The stage is set up with a large screen, on which a projection is shown, as though the audience is going to watch a film. However, once the titles have rolled, a live actor appears on stage, surrounded by a projected animated set drawn in the style of a graphic novel. The story proceeds to unfurl with only two actors interacting and moving within their film surroundings. I think the closest things I have seen prior to this are films like Mary Poppins and Bednobs and Broomsticks which have portions of film with live actors in animated sections. This was, however, a far cry from Disney.

The plot, titled “A Love Story”, is really the story of an obsession, more than romance. The monochrome graphic novel projections, and the virtually monologue script create a Film Noir effect that only darkens an already deeply disturbing and twisted story that does not have a happy ending. I found myself spell-bound (or should that be curse-bound?) by the dark but uncomplicated plot, though I know for others it was really too depressing, or did not give enough background to the characters.

The Cast

There is nothing I can criticise about the cast. The chorography of this show is demanding and challenging, with sets flying around the characters. Neither Julián Marras nor Bernardita Montero put a foot out of place, using projected props with absolute precision. Julián Marras is virtually the only character to speak, as he narrates the story in a way which leaves you feeling that we are not so very far away from evil as we would hope. Although his character’s acts are horrific, his inner monologue shared with the audience gives a disturbing insight into how easy it is to justify such behaviour. Bernardita Montero plays the virtually silent victim, and the play raises some important challenges about the nature of consent, and the implications of silence.

Overall

This was a dark and disturbing play, which would not be suitable for all audiences (there is a substantial amount of strong and explicit language and depictions of sexual violence) – it is harrowing to watch even as it is gripping. I adored Teatrocinema’s innovative form of blended theatre, and this alone is worth seeing. Definitely one of the best things I’ve seen all festival season.

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Review: A Concrete Jungle Full of Wild Cars

Thanks to Trinity College London, the sponsoring organisation for this show, I was offered two free tickets in exchange for a review. The show wasn’t on my original “must see” list, but the Fringe is all about the unexpected!

concrete-jungle-full-of-wild-cars_31197

FRINGE RUN: 3/8 – 10/8 @ 19:10; The Space on the Mile (39); [£8.50/£6.50]

Who, Where and When: Trinity College London/Wac Arts; The Space on the Mile; Wednesday 7th August 2013

The Show

A Concrete Jungle Full of Wild Cars won the 2012 Trinity International Playwriting Competition in the category “a play for teenage audiences”. Written by an author of Sierra Leonian origins, the play follows the arrival of three teenagers who have been sent from Sierra Leone to London in the mid 1990s to keep them safe from the civil war.

The most outstanding aspect of this play was the use of language. Characters spoke in both Sierra Leonian creole and in English with a wide range of accents. This rich linguistic variety helped to transport the audience right into the cultural melting pot of London and highlighted key information about the characters quickly, which is vital in a short play (this one runs to 50 minutes). Music was also used to great effect, with a simple folk tune used throughout the story to bring the two worlds of Britain and Sierra Leone together.

In terms of plot, this show is clearly aimed at a teenage audience. The supernatural element of the charm bracelet which Zina is given lifts a story that might otherwise be very dark, and makes it more accessible for teenage audiences. Although the play touches on issues around immigration, child soldiers, and even peer pressure and teenage drinking, it never feels like an “issues” play – it’s just a good story about characters you care about, told really well.

The Cast

Although the cast were largely young, I was exceedingly impressed with the standard of acting. I absolutely loved Elizabeth Alabi as the creole-speaking Gran – a vibrant performance. Sophia Thomas also performed wonderfully as Zina, capturing the conflicted emotions of a young migrant with sensitivity. There,were some weaker performances, Simone Thomas’ Aunty was a little too tentative, and Lula Mebrahtu as Kosey lacked some of the subtlety of the actors playing his sisters.

Overall, however, the cast certainly lived up to the excellent script. The accapella singing was excellent, and there was some brilliant West African dancing too. All in all, impressive performances, and much better than many others I’ve seen at the Fringe over the years.

Overall

The script was excellent, and the cast lived up to its demands without difficulty. I enjoyed the simple but effective plot, and went away humming the catchy African melodies sung by the cast. I do, however, wonder if this show did not attract large audiences (and better reviews) because it is, ultimately, a play for 12 to 16s. There isn’t the depth and complexity in the script that the subject matter demands for this to really challenge and engage what is, at the Fringe, a largely adult audience. However, I hope that the cast continues to enjoy performing and that this play is picked up by schools and youth theatres in the future, as it certainly deserves to have a long life.

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (4/5)

Review: I Need a Doctor: The Unauthorised Whosical Adventure

In honour of the 50th year of the Doctor, a whole new adventure comes to Edinburgh…

i-need-a-doctor-an-unauthorised-whosical-adventure_30371

FRINGE RUN: 2/8 – 26/8 (not 14,20) @ 14:30; Pleasance Beside (33); [£11.00/£10.00]

Who, Where and When: Stormy Teacup Theatre; Pleasance Beside; Friday 2nd August 2013

The Show

Being a somewhat dedicated Whovian, spotting I Need a Doctor: The Unauthorised Whosical Adventure in the theatre section was my Fringe planning discovery of the day. We made it only by the skin of our teeth, but it’s not the Fringe if you’ve not “only just made it” at least once!

A smile-inducing voicemail message preceeds calls from various Doctor Who stars (well impersonated, I presume, by Jamie and Jess) declining the offer to be in the show by way of introduction. This is followed by the first scene whereby Jamie (James Wilson-Taylor) receives a “cease and desist” letter from Stephen Moffat and as a result has had to rewrite the whole show to avoid using any BBC Copyright terms. This provides a number of funny jokes, but thankfully avoids becoming overused. There are some lovely references to other musicals including Wicked and Les Miserables which will please theatre geeks in attendance.

The songs are brilliantly done, and I still have the theme song of “I need a Doctor” as sung by Jess (Jessica Spray) running in my head days later. I particularly enjoyed the Bossa Nova version of the Doctor Who theme tune as played by the tireless keyboardist (who, sadly, I don’t know the name of).

The story runs through a delightfully Whovian (if Scooby Doo-vian!) plot, but while the Doctor and his Companion are vanquishing the monsters, Jamie and Jess’ friendship seems to be underpressure…

The Cast

Jamie and Jess not only do a fabulous job of bringing life to the (Non-BBC Copyrighted) companion Fiona McFeisty (Jess) and the Slime Monster, the Doctor, the Master and a few others besides (Jamie), but they also genuinely appeared to be good friends trying to put on a show together. I can’t fault their boundless enthusiasm or their acting as its their personality which brings life to all the comedy.

Notable Songs

If only there was a hope of a few of the songs being released, but alas that might induce a real cease and desist letter. So, I can’t list any notable songs, but why not be inspired to write your own Who-inspired tune?

Overall

This is an excellent family show and an excellent fan show with two charismatic actors who seem set to carry of this show to great applause right to the end of their run. In fact, I’m almost tempted to go back this weekend to see how the script has evolved to incorporate the latest Doctor Who news. If you’ve come to the Fringe for postmodern theatre, edgy issues or shocking theatre, this is not it – but there’s definitely something in it for everyone else.

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (5/5)