Theatre Week... Oh the drama...

Last week was a week for Theatre. Four plays and one Musical. This is what happens when friends who are mad theatre-goers drop in to London and have been dying for some cultural pursuits... Well Adrian comes from Melbourne where all they have been playing down there of late I think is re-runs of Menopause the Musical and Phantom of the Opera, so his desperation for some culture was understandable...

First play up was Rookery Nook at the Menier Chocolate Factory. It was still in preview last Tuesday and I couldn't help but think that they had yet to get the pacing right. Part of the problem might have been sitting so close to the action. While it was harder to fall asleep, it also meant that the over the top acting and other shenanigans was right in your face. Sometimes a little distance helps. Still the flag seller, the dog and the biscuits strewn across the floor kept me intrigued with the show. Perhaps a trim of the play might have helped with the levels of enjoyment.

I left Adrian to watch Spring Awakening and Priscilla by himself on Wednesday. He wasn't as impressed with Spring Awakening as I was and did not see the point of the all that teen angst and levitating chairs. I hope however that seats on stage become more popular (provided that the stage audience doesn't have to do anything). Adrian did like Priscilla and commented that the bus had more lights than it did in Australia. Well, it was a much more expensive bus I gather. Still it is a bit sad when you have to say that an expensive bus and some lavish costumes are the main reasons for seeing a show...

Thursday night we caught A Little Night Music which I saw late last year at the Chocolate Factory. Alas it is still underlit so you can hardly see the actors at times. This seems a little odd given the golden hues used throughout the publicity materials... And the show is set in Sweden in the summer when the sun doesn't set. The set looks even less impressive at the Garrick with some sensible handles and brakes in clear view of the audience which evokes the charm of a high school musical on the cheap. Still the acting and singing is so good that you can almost forget these flaws. There was some charm to the performances that made the material still seem so fresh and witty and light. Adrian had to tell me to stop tapping my foot at various points as it was easy to get carried away.

Friday night we had the opportunity to enjoy Alan Bennett's Enjoy at the Gielgud Theatre. When this play was first staged in 1980 it was a flop, but for some reason it seems to have found its time now. It has been revised and trimmed since then, but perhaps a play that focusses on absurd government programmes and the odd fascination with preserving anything for heritage rings more true now than it did then. The performances are all excellent, particularly Alison Steadman and David Troughton in the leads. Reflecting on the show both Adrian and I enjoyed it.

On Saturday while it was a glorious sunny day, Adrian and I would have none of that. Instead we headed to the Leicester Square Theatre to see Stop Messing About. Billed as a Kenneth Williams Extravaganza (whatever that is), it was more of a cheap laughs bazaar. I had been warned that this show was torture as it was just an assembly of old sketches padded out to two radio shows with an interval thrown in for good measure. It did feel like torture at times (particularly since the theatre issued more than one ticket for the same seat so we had to sit further back), but there were some laughs to be had with it.

On reflection it felt much better after seeing Plague Over England. The play picks up on John Gielgud's arrest in a public toilet during the 1950s and uses it to highlight Britain's changing views on sexuality. You can only wonder if next we will be seeing a play about how dogging opened up Britain to appreciate the great outdoors. Despite the terrific acting and simulated gay things (that sitting so close as we were also looked rather smashing), it was a bit hard to see the point of it all. A dreamy sequence set in a latrine had me tittering (not twittering like in Gone With the Wind) as it was desperately grasping for meaning and significance. I had to pity the poor actors with the laughable dialogue they had to deliver at times. The creaky sets and spinning latrines also must be a new low for West End production design (after A Little Night Music too).

On Sunday Adrian wanted to see something on the West End but after all that I decided it really should be a day of rest. Well not counting photographing all the hot sweaty bodies at the London Marathon...

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