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Wednesday, 20 January 2021

REVIEW: Always On My Mind for the Living Record Festival

This short playlet is a perfect product of the Lockdowns in 2020 in its theme and its technical execution and the end result is an intriguing piece of drama. Taking its cue from the Willie Nelson song Always on my mind where he sings. “Maybe I didn’t love you, Quite as often as I could have, and maybe I didn’t treat you, quite as good as I should have”, the play explores a couple who have split up reconnecting after six months. It resonates as a living record of the time as so many couples must have found the strains of lockdown together, or apart, difficult to deal with and all of us have tried to connect with people over the ubiquitous Zoom call and found while it allows you to see and speak to each other it inhibits real communication.

Although this started as a four-person sixty-minute play it feels like it was written for the medium as two-hander socially distanced awkward first meeting after a painful breakup. If anything, it leaves you wanting a second and possibly third act as when their call together ends abruptly you really want to know what happened next. The devise for the online version of having an actor play themselves as well as their alter ego self-watching over their shoulder and revealing their real feelings works really well and would have been fascinating to explore this more in subsequent acts.

REVIEW: How do you make a cup of tea? Online at Graeae

In Spring 2020, leading UK disabled-led theatre company, Graeae launched Crips Without Constraints, an online weekly series of new works championing deaf and disabled artists. Following its success, on January 19, Graeae launched Crips Without Constraints: Part Two, a series of five new online plays. Each work will star a selection of UK’s finest performers including; Dame Harriet Walter, Sharon D. Clarke, Mandy Colleran, Naomi Wirthner, Cherylee Houston and Julie Graham.

How Do You Make a Cup Of Tea? written by Kellan Frankland and performed by Dame Harriet Walter and Mandy Colleran is the first of the bunch to launch. Clocking in at just under twenty minutes long, it is a powerful, frank and necessary expose of issues regarding the representation of disabled people by non-disabled actors in film and theatre. It takes the form of a dark comedy masterfully jostling between absurdity and realism. Frankland ultimately serves up a sobering reality experienced by many.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Frozen the Musical delays its West End opening at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

Frozen, the stage adaption of the hit film of the same name by Disney, has postponed its West End opening. The show was due to open at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in April 2021. A new date has not been announced. 

The statement reads as follows: 

"As we start a new year, we are all excited about the time when we will be back in the theatre together enjoying the magic of live performance. In light of the recent government implementation of a full national lockdown, it has become necessary to postpone the opening of Frozen, which was planned for April, just a little longer.

The health and wellbeing of our audiences, cast and crew are paramount, and we cannot wait to share the production with you as soon as we are safely able to without current social distancing regulations. Therefore, we have taken the decision to temporarily take the show off sale, and to reassess our timeline. We will announce our new opening date as soon as possible.

Guests do not need to do anything at the moment – they will be contacted at the earliest opportunity with their revised performance date. We will do this in chronological order so that guests booked into performances in April and May will be the first to be notified of their new date. If the new date is not suitable, guests will be able to request an exchange into an alternative performance or to request a credit voucher, or a refund if necessary.

REVIEW: The 39 Steps - A Radio Drama for the Living Record Festival

The Living Record Festival is a celebration of ground-breaking grassroots digital art happening between the 17th of January and 22nd February 2021 with a range of audio stories available to listen in to at home. My second visit was for Blackbox Theatre’s radio play of The 39 Steps adapted by Chris Hawley from John Buchan’s book. This familiar story, wonderfully adapted for the stage by Patrick Barlow which ran for nine years at the Criterion Theatre, suits the radio medium and is a very well-produced show with a fun tongue in cheek script and plenty of sound effects to bring the story to life.

The premise is that the cast are due to assemble at a radio station in 1962 when the snow prevents the cast arriving at the station and with five minutes to go Julian decides to put it on air using Brenda, the Tea Lady for all the female parts and the sound effects, “I was just doing tea and biscuits”, with Roy for all the male parts, “he’s good at voices”. The set up suggests a radio version of The Play that goes wrong, but they play it straight, just as ordinary folk doing silly accents and it works very well.

REVIEW: Bully Beef & Whizzbangs for the Living Record Festival

The Living Record Festival is a celebration of ground-breaking grassroots digital art happening between the 17th of January and 22nd February 2021 with a range of audio stories available to listen in to at home. My first visit to the Festival was for the World War One play Bully Beef and Whizzbangs commissioned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War and set in 1916 in a front-line trench on the Somme.

Over the years since the end of the War there have been some powerful and moving plays written about the events in France and Flanders. The 1928 play Journeys End by RC Sheriff remains one of the finest dramatic portrayals of life in the trenches and the 2007 play War Horse portrays the conflict on a more epic scale. The 1963 musical 'Oh what a lovely war' brilliantly combined a music hall style presentation with a sharp critic of the General’s tactics and more recently in 2016 Wipers Times by Hislop and Newman comically told the story of the front-line publication that soldiers produced in Ypres. This new play written and directed by Chris Hawley takes a closer more personal view of a soldier who has been on the front line since the start of the was in 1914 and last went home to blighty over a year before. It has the feel of Verbatim Theatre, a view of survival through one mans eyes and the interactions he has with fellow soldiers during a lull in hostilities.
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