Review: Romantics Anonymous

I’m officially living in London now – still feels a bit surreal if I’m honest! Everything has happened very fast and up until now I haven’t had a moment to breathe. Thankfully, I don’t start my new job until next week, so I have spent this week doing life admin, catching up with London friends, gymming and of course – watching a bit of theatre!

And what better place to start than The Globe? I managed to nab tickets for £20 to Romantics Anonymous, a musical adapted by the wonderful Emma Rice from the French-Belgium film Les Emotifs Anoymes. Tickets would have normally been around £40 for seats near the front, but because I’m part of The Globe mailing list, they gave me a voucher code to get £20 tickets – pretty neat. For ticket deals, I definitely recommend joining theatre mailing lists, as well as some of these money-saving tips from a blog I did a while back!

Anyway, I couldn’t have asked for a better show to welcome me to London. It’s a quirky, tongue-in-cheek romance between talented chocolate maker, Anglique (Carly Bawden) and Chocolate Factory owner, Jene-Rene (Dominic Marsh) – both very socially awkward people, fumbling blindly through the small challenges of the every-day. It’s so charming, my cheeks hurt from smiling. It’s so rare that two introverts are placed as the stars of a show, but it works wonderfully, shedding light on the characters who struggle to have a voice. Here are some quick reasons why you need to book your ticket to see this show NOW:

The Characters

Angelique is truly adorable. She’s a ridiculously talented chocolate maker, but shies away from the pressure of taking credit for her work. Jene-Rene is lovingly hopeless, listening to meditation tapes while his chocolate business he inherited from his cautious (and hilarious) father (Philip Cox) begins to crumble around him. 

The supporting characters tie the whole show together. Each has their distinct charm, but two in particular stand out for me. Marc Antolin plays Ludo, a sassy Welshman who works at the Chocolate Factory, rolling his eyes and passing judgement. He’s gutsy and mesmerising to watch. Similarly, I can’t take my eyes off Joanna Riding who plays both Magda, the strong and stable Chocolate Factory worker, and Angelique’s powerhouse mother. Her presence is astounding and her singing voice, incredible – a microphone isn’t necessary!

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Magda (Joanna Riding) Sourced from The Globe Website.

The Set

Designer, Lez Brotherston hit the nail on the head with this one. Everything about the set is charmingly vintage, with neon light signs for each establishment the characters encounter. It’s jazzy, bold and camp – summarising the show as a whole really, but it’s absolutely gorgeous. It also adds to the comedy of the piece as characters announce where they are, gesturing above, and the neon light sign they require lights up. So camp, so wonderful.

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A good view of the stage. Sourced from The Globe Website.

The Music

The classic French accordion undertones go hand in hand with the folky music – Emma’s staple style. Overall, the music by Michael Kooman, and the hilarious lyrics by Chrisopher Dimond capture the whole essence of the show and bring it all together.

So what are you waiting for? Romantics Anonymous runs till 6 January 2018, so book your tickets!

Don’t forget to follow and tweet me at @theatregirl_94

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Moving Cities & Self Belief

Many moons ago, I wrote a blog about how London isn’t necessarily the theatre capital and that regional theatre holds just as much promise – with a particular bias to Bristol of course.

And naturally, my opinion still stands, but folks, I have recently had to accept defeat and move to the dark side…Yes, I’m moving to London. Although Bristol boasts culture and a multitude of theatre options from the big musicals at the Hippodrome, to the independent and quirky at The Wardrobe – there still isn’t enough opportunity for me here.

Marketing is something I think I’m quite good at – actually, scrap that, if I was a white, middle-class man I’d say I’m bloody fantastic at it, so let’s go with that. My dream was always to market something I was passionate about, so I had three options: theatre, cats or tea.

After some pondering as to whether I was an old woman trapped in a 23 year old’s body, I decided that theatre would be the most exciting venture for me – so the job hunt began. I soon realised that Bristol, although artistic and cultural, did not hold enough job opportunities for me. I became restless. Thus, Plan B came into action…

There were jobs aplenty in London – many that ticked my theatre marketing needs. After some browsing on the Arts Jobs website, I eventually stumbled across one for a Marketing Officer role at ArtsEd – a theatre school based in Chiswick. I never thought I’d hear back – but the following week I got called to interview, competing against five other candidates. A day later, I was called for a second interview, battling against only one other. Safe to say, I was bricking it. Did they call me back by mistake? Did I really make it to a second interview? There was self-doubt all over the place.

But I got it. I got the damn job.

And I suddenly realised – I did this all by myself. Me, myself and I (as to quote Queen B herself)

As women, our self-belief, as a rule, is ridiculously low. We’re constantly questioning our skills, abilities and life decisions. So I’ve come to the conclusion that enough is enough. I got this far because of me, and I’m going to OWN it. I came across this really interesting article on the Forbes website, written by Margie Warrell about the gender confidence gap, which pretty much sums up what I’m trying to say here:

  • Women tend to have less self-confidence in their ability to complete a task than a man does.
  • “Women are less likely to take a risk on their career. Over time they end up missing out on opportunities.” – Judith Beck, an executive recruiter in the financial services industry and CEO of Financial Executive Women (FEW)
  • The way to fix it? Warrell explains: “Too often women overestimate the risks and underestimate themselves. Only by doing the very things we’re afraid of can we come to realise how little reason we ever had to fear. The only way to build confidence and courage is by acting with it.”

And so, that’s exactly what I’m doing – the very thing that scares me the most: new job, new sector, new city, new house = brand spanking new me.

Hello world, I’m coming for you. It’s a new chapter for @theatregirl_94

I can’t afford theatre tickets – help!

Before I begin – it’s been forever since my last blog, I know. However, I’m working on the second draft of my play instead, so I’m forgiven slightly, right?

Anyway, let’s get crackin’.

As you can probably tell, I love nothing more than seeing live theatre. You can’t beat the atmosphere, storytelling and energy – but unfortunately, it’s addictive. And like most drugs, it’s damn expensive. This can be tricky when it’s been a few weeks and you’re getting the itch to see something new but your bank app is telling you otherwise (I’d rather not look at it at all if I’m honest.)

So, I decided to hunt for ways and means to see slightly cheaper theatre – I’m aware it’s an expensive hobby anyway, but it’s nice to save a few pennies here and there. So here goes…

1) Stand-by seats: Now I know not all theatres do this, but I always manage to get cheap £6 tickets for big shows at the Theatre Royal Bath. They’re not the best seats in the house, granted, but times are tough and you have to go see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime somehow. If you want to attend an evening performance, you have to call them at midday that same day, however, if you want to book a matinee, then you can call and book at any time.

2) Filler seats: Big shows need to look busy on press night; both for the venue and the actors sake. This is why there are sites dedicated to selling last minute cheap seats. You have to pay a membership fee, but the insane savings will make up for it – with some tickets flogged for just £1! It’s first-come-first-serve though, so you have to be on the ball. Some useful sites to check out are: Play by Play, The Audience Club and My Box Office.

3) Small, independent theatre: Size doesn’t matter; it’s not all about the big shows. In fact, when it comes to watching plays especially, I prefer a smaller, more intimate space. What’s even better is that tickets tend to be cheaper. Some examples of small, independent theatre spaces in Bristol and Bath are: The Wardrobe, The Rondo, The Alma Tavern and The Bierkeller Theatre.

4) Work in progress/previews: Artists are always wanting to test out their work to see what works and what doesn’t – which means you get to see elements of the show most audiences will never get to see, and for much cheaper! I managed to purchase cheaper tickets for both Michael McIntyre and Russell Howard’s work in progress shows and they were incredible. Also, a lot of shows tend to put on a couple of ‘preview’ performances before they start their run, so It’s worth keeping an eye out for those, as preview tickets tend to be heavily discounted.

Woo hoo!

I hope this helps all the theatre nerds out there on a budget – believe me, I will do all I can to save the dollar, yet still do the thing I love most.

Like, comment, share and tweet me @theatregirl_94 – Merci Buckets ❤

Review: 946 The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips

I met Michael Morpurgo when I was about twelve years old and he signed my copy of Kensuke’s Kingdom – it was the best day ever (at the time). Ever since I have been in awe of him as a writer and storyteller. He has this incredible knack of evoking every emotion in you; his books make you laugh out loud and sob uncontrollably all at the same time. For this reason, The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips is not simply a ‘kids’ book, it’s a story that uncovers some cold hard truths about World War 2. I went to see the production of it on 12 August at The Globe and thought it would be a nice one to mention in my blog, especially because it was my first time at The Globe.

The tale is based on a real life event that happened on 27 April 1944. American troops ventured over to Slapton Sands in South Devon to practice and fully prepare for Operation Overload on 6 June 1944, the D-Day landings on Utah Beach, France. However, this didn’t go quite to plan as German ships launched a torpedo attack in the Lyme Bay area, resulting in the deaths of 946 American soldiers. This mistake was kept under wraps until 40 years after the Normandy landings, thus the story of Adolphus Tips is partly a reminder of what actually went on at that time.

But this adaptation by Emma Rice and Michael Morpurgo is far from doom and gloom. Naturally, this is helped a lot by Kneehigh, who utilise their familiar tropes; live music, puppetry and physical theatre. The show opens with a live band led by Adebayo Bolaji wearing a slick black satin suit; he proves to be an excellent frontman and interacts throughout with Lily Tregenza (Katy Owen), who is the protagonist of the story. She’s a twelve year old girl brought up in Slapton around the war; we follow her throughout her life as she is constantly on the look out for her cat, Tips and eventually makes friends with the adorable evacuee, Barry (Adam Sopp).

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Katy Owen as Lily Tregenza with Tips the Cat. (Sourced from Variety.com)

The live music aspect proves to be the highlight of the show; it ranges from folk to American inspired jazz. One of my favourite parts is when American soldiers, Adi (Ncuti Gatwa) and Harry (Nandi Bhebhe) come to visit the Tregenza’s to celebrate Thanksgiving and it turns into a lively, vibrant party with jazz music and tap dancing. It’s a all swinging, all dancing extravaganza. The actors genuinely look like they’re having a lot of fun, and so are we! The idea that a group of people from very different backgrounds can still unite in times of turmoil is an ever-present theme in this story. In fact, the famous quote by Martin Luther King is mentioned to highlight this:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

And of course, as I previously mentioned, it wouldn’t be a true Kneehigh production if puppets didn’t make an appearance somewhere. I’m always amazed at how seamlessly the cast work them into the piece; you barely notice the puppeteer at all! You end up falling head over heels for Tips the cat, which is very much down to the incredible level of puppetry from Nandi Bhebhe.

At the beginning we’re introduced to Boowie (Adam Sopp), Lily’s grandson in the present day as a miniature puppet running around the farm kicking a ball around with his sheepdog. This tiny puppet scene is transfixing and so cleverly done; it really helps set the scene as we are then introduced to the life size Boowie and puppet sheep dog. In my opinion, this technique could have been used more throughout. However, for a large space like The Globe, I can understand why they avoided doing it too often.

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The Set (Photo taken by me)

The Globe proves to be an incredible venue for this type of production; there are propellers attached to the front of the stage which are powered by cast members and are used to dramatise the battle scenes. This and the metal baths full of cold water at the front make it an all-encompassing experience. Here’s why. Naturally, it’s difficult to portray a battleship scene on stage, but Kneehigh tackle this with ease; while Bolagi narrates the action, the other cast members dive small battleships into the tin baths, splashing water over all of us in the yard; it’s an incredibly immersive experience. We feel physically and emotionally taken over by the whole event and it’s absolutely breathtaking.

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Ncuti Gatwa as Adi and Nandi Bhebhe as Harry. (Sourced from theupcoming.co.uk)

I honestly can’t imagine any other theatre company doing it better; Kneehigh add fun and energy as well as moments of thoughtfulness and peace. As always, the cast are incredibly talented in the way they multi-role, pick up instruments on the fly and burst into song. Katy Owen as young Lily is a burst of life with a touch of mischievousness about her, although she could do with a little toning down as she tends to be a distraction. Another favourite of mine is Ncuti Gatwa as young Adi; he’s instantly charming with a smile that could stop a bus. Honestly, just look (the one on the left):

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Sourced from birmingham-rep.co.uk

Anyway, if you do get a chance to swing by The Globe, it’s on till 11 September – so get your tickets now! It’s only a fiver to stand in the yard, and the show is so good that you don’t even notice you’re standing for that long.

Whether you’ve read the story or not, it’s an enchanting show that’s guaranteed to pull on those heart strings.

If you liked this, then follow, like and share! 🙂 Also, follow and tweet me @tesshenderson94

Review: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Touring Production)

Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s was brought gracefully to life in Richard Greenberg’s adaptation in the touring production, starring Emily Atack as Holly Golightly and Matt Barber as Fred. This story clearly reflects Capote’s own lifestyle of gossip, glamour and cocktail parties. Not only this, but there are a lot of parallels between himself and Fred; both of them struggling writers who found trouble in their respective newspaper publishing houses. You can really sense Capote’s heart and soul within this story, which explains why it has resonated through generations.

The main thing I appreciated about this adaptation was that it didn’t shy away from the gritty and melancholy truth of the story. Although hopelessly lovable, the 1961 film sugar-coated the poverty and desperation experienced by the two protagonists, and swerved the bitter-sweet ending replacing it with the typically romanticised Hollywood kiss.

At first, Holly and Fred couldn’t be more different; Holly, the fun-loving, extroverted girl about town and Fred the brooding, introverted writer. Nevertheless, their lives are practically mirrored throughout as they are both forced to sleep and charm their way to the top. Emily Atack, best known for her role as Charlotte Hinchcliffe in The Inbetweeners played a very convincing Holly with her light and airy movements, charming smile and stunning singing voice. She sang all three songs in the show, one of them of course being the dreamy ‘Moon River’; her voice had a slight pop influence which brought it into the 21st Century, and she showed off some rather impressive vocal runs, as well as a little guitar playing. Overall, I was very impressed with her performance. The only thing I would comment on was that her accent took a little while to warm up; she sounded obviously American in the first scene, then slipped into British in the next, attempting to perfect the posh American accent that the character had been trained in. However, beyond the second scene, Atack was flying and everything about her performance was on-point.

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Matt Barber and Emily Atack as Fred and Holly. (Sourced from the Bath Chronicle Website)

Matt Barber, best known for his role as the dashing Atticus Aldridge in Downton Abbey played Fred. He seamlessly narrated the story; sharing his woes as a writer, his obsession with Holly and his darker moments through his quest for success. He didn’t simply stick to the introverted writer stereotype, but branched out with confidence; standing up to Holly’s selfish behaviour. Like Capote, Fred shows homosexual tendencies, which was very much hidden in the film.

Naturally, there was a real life cat that (almost) stole the show! Bob the cat was greeted to the stage with a chorus of “awws”, startling him at first; poor Fred had to try and keep him from running off stage. I honestly couldn’t tell you what conversations occurred in that scene; I was completely transfixed to the fluff ball.

On another note, thanks to designer Matthew Wright the set was simply gorgeous and truly captured the grittiness of the play. It wasn’t overly complicated and didn’t detract from the action at all; all the transitions were perfectly smooth. I also appreciated the spotlights used throughout; they had an art-deco edge around them, subtly alluding to the style and time of the play. Oh, and naturally the costumes were to die for; Holly had a different outfit for practically every scene and oozed class every time.

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Emily Atack with Bob the cat. (Sourced from the Bath Chronicle website)

Nevertheless, there were some drawbacks to the production. The play was advertised as showcasing ‘memorable songs from the era’, almost passing it off as jukebox style musical…which it obviously wasn’t (it’s a pretty dark tale). There were only three songs in the show, and although beautifully performed, I wouldn’t describe them as being ‘upbeat’. I can imagine that if you bought tickets with the intention of seeing a play with some lively songs from the era, you’d be a little disappointed, (which is what I gathered from a conversation I overheard as I left). Furthermore, on the subject of liveliness, I couldn’t help but feel that the party scenes lacked, well…life. Before the iconic party in Holly’s apartment, Fred announces that ‘the whole of Manhattan were there’, yet only a handful of people were on the stage. There wasn’t even a great deal of upbeat party music or any sort of ‘buzz’ for that matter. I understand that with a touring company, there’s only so many cast members you can afford to have, so in that case, adding some more jazzy music and a ‘bustling party’ sound effect in the background would have livened the whole scene up a bit. After all, Capote was known to be a bit of a party planner himself.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with this production. Breakfast at Tiffany’s has always been a film close to my heart, so I wasn’t sure how I would react to this adaptation. For one, I appreciated discovering more about Fred’s back story, which was practically ignored in the film. Although the ‘Hollywood’ ending was absent, I felt that the bitter-sweet tone fit in with the whole ambience of the play.

Is London Really The Theatre Capital?

I recently went to London for a few days with my better half, James.

I wouldn’t say that we’re natural London people; the hectic element of the city isn’t quite for us. However, for entertainment purposes, you can’t really fault it. Our main purpose for going was to watch the popular musical, The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, which was as hilarious and outrageous as you can expect! Then the night after, we went to Club 99 to watch some stand-up comedy. So overall, we had a really enjoyable time.

However, while we were walking amongst the main strip of theatres, it got us thinking. We could see why London has this reputation for being ‘the place’ for theatre, but were frustrated as to why other arty cities (our hometown, Bristol, being one of them) are ignored.

The reasons why London is the theatre capital is arguably clear; shows are more accessible, there are a million productions to choose from, theatre is advertised like new film releases with massive posters plastered around tube stations, and most actors study and develop their work there.

But, surely that shouldn’t detract from great theatre shown elsewhere? This brought to mind an article by Mark Shenton from The Stage I’d read a few weeks back. He explained that due to lack of theatre funding, theatre critics have been forced to down-scale, thus mainly reviewing the big shows in London. This unfortunately segments the rest of the country from the capital and gives the illusion that theatre outside London either a) Doesn’t exist, or b) Isn’t worth watching.

However, Shenton stressed that if Londoners could be bothered to make the effort and (God forbid!) explore life outside of the capital, then they would be pleasantly surprised by the wealth of talent elsewhere. He talked about his trip to the Mold’s Theatr Clwyd in North Wales and how the level of work produced there was on par with shows at the Donmar Warehouse or National.

On a personal level, my experience of theatre in Bristol has been really varied, inspiring and in my opinion, well worth exploring. The Theatre Bristol newsletter is always jam-packed with new shows to go and see; whether it be plays, musicals, dance or circus.

Circus performance has a really big presence in the city; it’s something that makes Bristol stand out from the rest. Local Circus school, Circomedia, produces amazing talent and adds a different element to the theatre we experience. I watched an outdoor circus show not too long ago, which you can read about here, and I plan to go and see a lot more.

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Circomedia School. Sourced from: http://www.visitchurches.org.uk

Another local success is the Bristol Old Vic’s production of Jane Eyre, which eventually went on tour and was even aired live at some cinemas; it was a raging success.

Another brilliant thing about local theatre is that The Bristol Old Vic and Tobacco Factory Brewery open up opportunities for local people to showcase their creativity through scratch nights and open space events. For example, in honour of the Bristol Old Vic’s 250th Birthday this year, some friends of mine are getting involved in an Open Space event where they get to express what Bristol means to them. I expect that this event will be completely original and independent of anything you would see in London, simply because Bristol has its own living, breathing and creative personality. You can find more about the event here.

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Bristol, Clifton Suspension Bridge. Sourced from: http://www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk

On another note, I’m really looking forward to seeing a local production at the Wardrobe Theatre next week called 1972: The Future of Sex. It was really well received at the Edinburgh Fringe last year where it received The Stage Award for Acting Excellence. I’m expecting outrageous behaviour, Ziggy Stardust and plenty of polyester!

So…who said London was the only place for theatre?

Tweet me @tesshenderson94 and follow my blog for more theatre reviews and opinions!