Wicked: A Play Review.

For years, I had been dying to watch this play. I had never gotten around to it and my school wasn’t cool enough to take us to theatre productions. That and my family never had enough money. Luckily, in recent years’ things have been better, so I was able to see Wicked. For longest time, I loved classic stories like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, so to see a different telling about the Wicked Witch of the West, who was not really wicked, was wonderful.

A play that featured songs and adventure, great heart and moving moments, it was definitely one of my favourite productions I’ve seen on stage. It was funny and shocking, heart-breaking and sweet, with a bittersweet and hopeful ending, I would recommend to anyone that it is a must see. Laced with political symbolism centred around society’s views on anyone to is, in their view, different to a norm, that they have decided is the only way, it was very telling of the time we currently live in.

As the play proved, it does not matter what colour your skin is, your gender, sexuality, religion, place you’re from, disability; whatever it is that society thinks deems you lesser, is not and never will be true. You are 100% deserving of freedom, opportunity and equality. Society’s views on people of ‘other’, a.k.a., those who do not conform to the white, upper class, male privileged, heteronormative ways, has always tried to restrict, control and oppress those who do not follow their way, and this play, proved that there is always another way. A freer, better, more understanding path to follow, that provides happiness for all.

Elphaba is a loveable and compelling character, the witch born into a family that does not show her love, due to her being different and a mistake that her mother made. She becomes friends with Fiyero, a man she sees to be the opposite of his egotistical front, he is actually smart, caring and loyal, while Glinda, the good witch, is far more cowardly and annoying during her younger years, until she matures, learning the error of her ways. Glinda betrays Elphaba and does not defend her friend when the land turns against her, instead she is banished and has to fight her way back in.

Even then, she is shunned and is wanted dead, as she is blamed in the change in the animals, when really the true villain is the Wizard and Madame Morrible. In a twist of events, Elphaba is given the one thing she was neglected to have her entire life.



The Play That Goes Wrong: A Review.

Never have I seen a play that made me laugh so much. It was absolutely wonderful. Centred around a murder, the play unfolds in a disastrous way. Everything and I mean, everything goes wrong. An inspector is called around when the body of a man is found in the living room. And while the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society tries to stage the complex mystery, the over top Thespians struggle to hold the stage together, while several forget their lines or knock each other out.

The annual production of the murder at Haversham Manor proves to be particularly difficult to keep under wraps, as the murder has been committed in a country house, isolated in a terrible snowstorm and what should be a dramatic thriller, turns out to be a hilarious jumble of mayhem.

With a dramatic woman playing the wife of the ‘deceased’, an inspector that loses his nerve and screams at everyone, a dead man who isn’t really dead, the sound guy who plays the wrong music, the butler who doesn’t know what’s going on and the brother of the wife knocks people into broken walls and ceilings, it proves to be a comedy of slapstick humour. What should be a horrifying murder, just makes the audience cry with laughter, in a relaxed atmosphere, there was never a dry moment in the house.

Macbeth: A Play Review.

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is one of my favourite plays and probably is in fact one of the first plays I ever studied. Well, that and Romeo and Juliet. Personally, I’m drawn to Shakespeare’s darker plays, ones that question religion, government and focus on corruption, so for example, Titus Andronicus, Hamlet, Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice. But Macbeth has always been one close to my heart. The magic and strangeness of it is something that I was drawn to. The witches were odd and powerful; their songs are forever imprinted in my mind, while Macbeth’s evilness and Lady Macbeth’s insanity are forces that will always prompt great discussions.

Recently, I saw a production of Macbeth at The Globe Theatre and though the adaptation has had mixed reviews, citing differences from the original plot, amongst other things, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. Seeing plays performed brings the original story to life, now they’re not just characters in a book, but they are real, live and warm blooded beings up on that stage, performing their hearts out.

That’s what I love about The Globe. I am never disappointed whenever I visit. As an English Literature student that is something I treasure, being able to watch one of Shakespeare’s plays, at his theatre (though, the original one was burnt down) it still holds a connection, a link, a voice that harks back to the playwright. And Macbeth, known as the Scottish Play, due to superstitious theories that the play itself was cursed, came to life only a mere few steps from my seat.

Though there were small things that prompted confusion or distance from the original text itself (for example, it is known that Lady Macbeth is childless and yet, in this production she has a child with Macbeth), I found that the actors themselves were amazing. I loved that there was a diversity of people – in race and gender, more female characters in military roles and in this production, it was clear that racial diversity was something important. In that way, the production itself, had a bit of an update from its original creation.

By far, my favourite characters were the witches. They were mysterious and dark, elegant in a way that I hadn’t seen before and their songs were enchanting – as they are supposed to be. The music production of this play was one of the best I’ve heard, extremely original and odd; it was a treat for the ears when one moment it was a beautiful melody, tainted with darkness, only to end in a more violent, malicious tune – hinting at danger.

Finally, I’ll leave you with one of their lines – be careful, it would not be wise to recite these lines out loud. After all, only bad things come from those delving in dark magic – just look at what happened to Macbeth.

“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble…”

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: A Play Review.

A/N: Mild spoilers ahead! 

Yesterday was in every meaning of the word, magical. Being one of the many that grew up alongside Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, saying goodbye to the magical world when the final book was released, and then film, was an emotional and heartbreaking experience. To be honest, I had always held out a little bit of hope that one day, if the time was right, J. K. Rowling would revisit the magical realm that so many of us escaped to for a sense of home. Turns out, that hope wasn’t useless, as I had been told by many, that she’d never return to the Potters – they were, of course, wrong.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is at the moment in its preview stages, meaning that we saw it before official release to critics and others alike. And I can tell you, in my opinion, it was absolutely wonderful. Going in, I had no idea what to expect. I’d seen no fan reviews, no pictures; everything had been kept a secret from my prying eyes. And if there were spoilers around, I did my best to stay away from them at all costs. I’ll try and keep this as open and reader friendly to those that have yet to see the play, but honestly, it is just spectacular. Granted, I might sound biased because of my love for the Potter world, but I am being completely truthful here. I felt like I was eleven years old again. Like I’d stepped back in time and was looking up at Hogwarts’ hallowed halls and grand staircase. Like I’d somehow managed to grab a ride on the Hogwarts Express and entered a home that I would never, physically at least, be able to step into. Seeing the play, brought back a whole world of nostalgia, of course it did. How could it not?

I had been skeptical about the plot and form (that it being a play); I’m not going to lie. I was worried about how this would affect the canon that we all know from the Potter novels, and having it on stage and not screen where the magic was made to seem real, how would that be translated to something that would be raw, open and right in front of us? I was blown away. The set was amazing, they had special effects, they had the moving staircases, they had magical wands, floating people, snow, they had the black lake, they had a wonderful soundtrack, they had magical tricks that seemed utterly real, they had everything to make the play itself seem like it was taken right out of the films themselves.

Spells were cast, potions were taken, floating brooms were seen, people floating in the air, dementors flying and swooping towards and from the audience, they had fire and wind, they had the time turners which when used made the whole theatre feel like it had somehow visually shaken to adjust to the time change. The costumes were spot on and the billowing cloaks just added to the magic of it all, people appeared as if from nowhere, people changed into other people, they had a talking bookcase which grabbed people and churned them out. They had doorways and trinkets, talking portraits, they seemed to change costume on stage, without us even seeing, people were thrown in the air, floating as if they had that ability, and chairs moved on their own, tables too – it all held a very supernatural tone. Of course, these have all been orchestrated and we know that magic is not real (well, who knows?), but just sitting there, being in the thick of it all, made it feel real.

I don’t want to talk about the plot too much, due to spoilers for those that haven’t seen it yet. But I can say that the characters were wonderful. The sorting of the new characters was interesting, the new friendships formed made sure that old hatred and prejudice had died with the dark lord. Characters and story were played out like a mystery game, you were always second guessing what was going to happen and that was the Rowling stamp all over it. I loved the people they had cast for each character, especially those who played Scorpius and Albus. The two of them were hilarious and had us in fits of laughter, along with that, they brought friendship (hinted towards more, seriously, it was), love, family, emotion, tears and a whole array of feelings. Revisited was Godrics Hollow and Harry’s past, old enemies came together to save the lives of others, Hermione had just gone from strength to strength, Ron was his usual eating too much, funny, guy with the biggest heart and Harry was, well, Harry. A man now, who still thought he wasn’t good enough, still the self-sacrificing man we had grown alongside and the undyingly loyal person he always had been to those he loved.

There were some things that bothered me. Some of the sorting I didn’t agree with and relationships, but overall, I loved it. For anyone in doubt, it really is a film you need to see to understand just how magical it was. Of all my somewhat limited theatre going experience, this by far, has topped all of them.

I mean, of course it would. It’s Harry Potter at the end of the day.

The Woman In Black [A Play Review].

It’s October, the time of pumpkins, ghosts, witches and spells, the time for magic and festive parties, horror stories told at the dead of night, or creepy films watched with friends or family, ones that chill you to the bone, leaving you with nightmares.

And so, this month I’ve taken it upon myself to watch and review as many frightening things as I can, starting with The Woman in Black. I’ve read the novel and seen the film, that were especially frightening, and seen as I’d heard nothing but good reviews for the play, I decided to take a trip. Sitting in the front row of a theatre production is usually something fought for, but in this case I wasn’t so excited to be so close to a ghostly woman, who haunted and murdered young children.

The theatre was small and intimate, lit up only by dim overhead lamps, while seats were arranged so that the audience were as close as possible to the stage, and to each other. In the dark, the fog crawled up the walls and covered our feet and legs; it made me feel as though I was standing in a graveyard. A rickety old stage, haunting music and the screams that the audience heard, or made themselves, was enough to set the scene, not much else was needed. The production was quite reliant on the audience’s reaction to the woman and to their own imagination, the sound effects and visual props and actions were enough to install terror and panic in the many faces watching the action unfold.

On stage watching the story unfold was a different experience, reading the book allows you to imagine the tale, to see the woman, to see her in the darkness and hiding in the black corners of your room. Watching the film, opens your eyes to another interpretation, except this vision plays on your mind more – the woman is right in front of you, on the screen, the music is chilling, creeping into your ears, she appears in the shadows and screams loudly, her eyes stare into yours and follow you wherever you look.

Then, seeing it on stage, just makes that process all the more frightening, you’re in the same room as the woman, the woman who is mentally deranged, who feeds on the souls of young children, as revenge for her child being taken away. The deeply terrifying tale is told by an old man, Arthur, who was a lawyer and needed to travel to sort out the woman in black’s, Jennet’s affairs after her passing. What he didn’t expect to find was Jennet, who still haunted her old house, the neighbouring town and all who lived and breathed. He is haunted by the ghostly woman and discovers Jennet’s dark past – her son being taken away by her sister, Alice, her sister’s death and son’s death and then her own death.

While he struggles with what happened to him, he hopes to let it go once he hands over his manuscript of the events to a theatre production. But the woman, it seems has not left him, and haunts him while they act out the play. In the end, it is revealed that the woman killed Arthur’s son and wife, leaving him alone and broken, with nothing but their memory and her frightening face. Her face is probably the last thing he sees, as the play cuts and ends, darkness filling the room, before the lights come back on, and the play is over.

And the woman in black disappears into the shadows, never to be seen again, or so we hope.

Titus Andronicus [An (Old) Play Review].

Titus Andronicus is undoubtedly one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest plays. It returned toThe Globe Theatre this summer, showing from 24th April to the 13th July. The audience was hooked from the beginning and as the acts passed, I found myself falling for some and hating others. With the sound of drums, two pivotal characters, Bassianus and Saturninus, argue over who should take over as Emperor due to their father’s passing. The victorious Titus Andronicus walks on stage, triumphant over a war with the Goths and dragging along four captives – Tamora, Queen of Goths and her three sons. Titus is hell bent on making them suffer due to the deaths of his sons, which inevitably leads to a vicious cycle of rape, murder and mutilation. This fantastic adaptation revisits Lucy Bailey’s 2006 Globe production and it’s better than ever.

Immediately, the audience is greeted with a fantastic cast line up and these are just a few of those wonderful faces:

William Houston’s revival of Titus Andronicus is memorable and a lovely highlight of a brutal but excellent play. With his vibrant and energetic movements, his fantastic ability to convey emotion through speech, brilliantly versed in Shakespearian, he brings this flawed character to a whole new level. Houston pays special attention to Titus’ hysteria and reminds any Shakespeare academic of the “gleefully deranged King Lear” as Lyn Gardner, The Guardian so rightly points out. With his hysteria and high pitched singing voice, the audience cannot help but love him, resulting to fits of laughter despite the morbid scenes playing out in front of them. Through all the torment and horrors he has faced, in the end he finds justice and is able to dish out his revenge on those who have wronged him.

Indira Varma’s portrayal of Tamora is perfect as she plays on the character’s cruelty, manipulative nature and even throws the audience jokes. Varma tricks us all into thinking Tamora is an innocent woman who has been taken from her home, however, she is the complete opposite. Vindictive and harsh, she plots right from the beginning. Not only does Varma bring Tamora’s brutality and cruelty to light, she also shows her intelligence and cunning attributes.

Bassianus in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is a noble and likeable character. He is able to win the hearts of those around him and was one of my favourite characters. Played by Steffan Donnelly, Bassianus is shown as a charismatic and intelligent character who fights for what he wants. Donnelly is able to win the audience over with his love for Lavinia, his ability to emotionally connect to the crowd and his excellent acting. He is a character you wish had a different end.

Dyfan Dwyfor plays Lucius, an honourable man who helps his father achieve justice; he is a character you side with from the start. You want them to win. You want him to win. Dyfan adds a powerful spark to Lucius, making him both strong willed and soft hearted when it comes to his sister. The audience falls for his charm, wishing him on and agreeing with every word he says, through his anger, his pain and misery. Dyfan’s acting brings a great character to stage, more likeable than ever.

Matthew Needham plays Saturninus, an easily persuaded, emotional and excitable character.  Saturninus is a character who is not as liked as those above; you either feel anger towards him or sympathy. Those who feel anger towards him see him as a man blinded by love for an evil and vindictive woman, a person who cannot see what is happening around him and therefore, someone who is easily manipulated. Those who feel sympathy for him see that he is quite childlike and helpless; it is not entirely his fault. Matthew Needham brings both sides of this character to stage, making the audience laugh at his childish actions – his jumping up and down, side jokes and his use of strange noises. Needham also highlights Saturninus’ need to rule and the power that he holds, even if it is taken from him to a certain degree by Tamora.

Finally, Flora Spencer-Longhurst plays the innocent Lavinia, earning the audiences love and sympathy. Her character is one everyone wishes would’ve had a happier ending. No one deserves what happened to her and Spencer-Longhurst plays her beautifully. Firstly, her powerful voice and ability to stand up for herself and husband is something that is well liked. She is not a woman who cowers; she fights her case, even if she ultimately loses. Throughout the play, you find yourself agreeing with her decisions and when she suffers, you wish you hadn’t seen it. The harrowing and haunting scene that reveals her after her torment leaves you feeling sick and angered. You want justice for her. Spencer-Longhurst moves the audience with her performance, making them cry and gasp at what they see and finally, making them hate who did this to her.

Furthermore, the stage design by William Dudley wraps us in darkness to represent mourning and the horrors that are about to unfold. The music by Django Bates evokes emotion of the highest degree, making this play one to pull on every string you own. We are spared from none of the gore. Lavinia is shown after her mutilation and rape, her tongue and hands cut off, covered in blood and shaking from her torture. Previously in Shakespeare’s time, death or drastic acts of violence were not shown on stage, however here our eyes are shown it all. Characters are killed on stage in horrific and unthinkable ways, body parts are discarded as if they are were nothing and blood covers the wooden floor. Thankfully, no one fainted but it is fair to say that there were faces of shock, horror and fear, as the audience’s hearts were pulled left, right and centre.

In spite of this, the play was funnier than ever. Most of Shakespeare’s plays have ‘comic relief’ scenes, where you have subplot characters who are there to relieve the tension, while having some part in the play’s focus. In Titus Andronicus these scenes are not as prominent, so it is up to the cast to lift the mood through their acting and interaction with the crowd.  When the cast wink at the crowd, speak directly to an audience member, share secret jokes and their cunning plans with us, it helps to diffuse the tension that has built up. In addition to this, Houston uses Titus’ hysteria to his advantage with dances, prances and a frequent singing voice. The comic banter of Tamora’s evil sons, Chiron and Demetrius, has the audience in fits of laughter. Saturninus’ childlike behaviour and Tamora’s quirky comments seem to soften the bloody blows that occur throughout the play. There’s even a lumbering nature messenger with pigeon’s flying around and an old drunken man who spills his drink on the crowd. Therefore, despite fearing for your favourite character’s life in one scene, in the next you’re laughing hysterically.

Due to all of this, there is a real difference in watching a play as opposed to reading one. When watching a play the characters come to life, emotions are expressed and personalities shine through. Facial expressions, speech and body language all help to bring the characters to life. Actions such as hugs or fights mean a lot more on stage than they do in writing. Everything seems real, you’re more emotionally attached to your favourite characters and you’re able to see them as people, rather than just words on the page. We feel as if we are part of the play, especially when the cast interact with us by means of speech or action. There’s no separation between the eye and action, blood seems real, death seems real. It was definitely both a fantastic play and experience, so go along to The Globe Theatre, trust me when I say, you’ll leave feeling scarred but oddly elevated.