Tag Archives: Birmingham

As the World Tipped – Victoria Square Birmingham, Friday 6th September 2013

As the World Tipped - Victoria Square Birmingham, Friday 6th September 2013

Every so often Birmingham has some fantastic free outdoor Arts events. The weekend just gone was just one example with 4 Squares celebrating the opening of the new library. I was only able to attend one event, ‘As the World Tipped’ – a stunning aerial piece in which the performers interacted with some stunning projections on the theme of climate change. For more info see: http://www.wiredaerialtheatre.com/as-the-world-tipped#!__as-the-world-tipped/the-show and for more photos click on the photo to see my flickr set from the evening.

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REVIEW – PEOPLE by Alan Bennett @ Birmingham Rep (NT Tour) [Updated]

I was fortunate to be asked to go review the National Theatre’s production of Alan Bennett’s play ‘People’ at the newly reopened Birmingham Rep a couple of days back.  I will link to the full review when it goes live but for now, follow the jump for a little preview and for the link to the full review at WhatsOnStage.com

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REVIEW – Up4aMeet? Crescent Theatre Birmingham & Tour

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Up4aMeet? – Crescent Theatre Birmingham, 22nd July 2013

Up4aMeet? Is the finest example of a play that doesn’t take itself too seriously, is very aware of what it is, but also genuinely funny.  What could have been a production that was funny for the wrong reasons, this is a very humorous piece of theatre packed full of topical references and some very accurate observations.

The play, set in block of flats, follows the lives of 3 very different (stereotypical) gay men, their mutual friend the celebrity booker, her failing client and the new flat mate of the oldest of the 3 men.  Along with the use of ‘Cock Shop’ aka Grindr on their phones and websites to find sex and dates the action becomes farcical with cross communication, mixed identification and the need to succeed.

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Carousel – BMOS at the New Alexandra Theatre, BIrmingham

Earlier this week I went along to see BMOS’ production of Carousel to review for WOS.  As a fan of amateur theatre, being involved in it myself, I always have hopes for companies to push themselves to their maximum ability, but to also have realistic expectations and not to take themselves too seriously.  Whether or not BMOS fit in with my personal point of view n am-dram is to be decided.  The full review can be found on the Whats On Stage website here – but for a sneak peak follow the jump…

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The Lion King is almost here!!

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So it’s almost time for Simba and co to come to Birmingham! The Lion King opens at Birmingham Hippodrome next Friday (the 28th June).  It’s the big summer show this year, running until September 28th.  Having seen the show in London I can assure you that it is a fantastic production that brings the classic film to life.  I still need to get my tickets for the tour (hint, hint to any generous readers!) but let me know what you think if you see it.

I  came across this video on YouTube – it’s by an amazingly talented guy called Nick Pitera who has done several videos in which he performs as multiple people – including a lot of Disney.  In this video, made to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Broadway production, he got a little bit of help to make a special Lion King video…. Enjoy!

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Being Tommy Cooper (Review)

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Earlier this week I shuffled down to the New Alexandra Theatre to see and review a new play about the life of Tommy Cooper.  Only knowing Cooper through seeing clips on TV and hearing things from my Dad to base my knowledge of him on, the play provided a new insight into the sometimes troubled life of an entertainment giant.

Although not really my cup of tea, the play was really good with some brilliant performances from the small cast.  I think it would have been better in a smaller theatre as the audience only filled a very small percentage of the seats in the auditorium and it may have made certain parts of the production more effective, but would highly recommend the show to Cooper fans everywhere.

My full review can be found on WhatsOnStage.com (follow this link!) and here is a small snippet to wet those whistles:

 Williams’ performance as a drunk Cooper is sublime and the closing image of the play of him slumped in a drunken stupor alone in a hotel room is moving, even if the end of the play just seems to fizzle out.

It’s also lovely when people share the review – I got a smile seeing this tweet from Ben Richards (he from Footballers Wives, The Bill and currently in 9 to 5 the Musical sharing the review!)

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3 stars

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West Midlands Theatre This Week – W/C 3rd June 2013

WMTTWThis week I’d thought I’d try to start a new feature – hopefully I’ll remember to do this weekly – showcasing some of the fantastic array of productions gracing stages across the West Midlands.  Being Birmingham based I’m in a fortunate position (literally) to get to some great theatres hosting or producing theatre of all sorts.  So new month, new blog name, new feature – kind of makes sense!

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Directing Soldiering On – A Talking Heads by Alan Bennett

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I have been so blessed to have been given an opportunity to direct one of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues, and feel very lucky to have been given Soldering On as the one to make my directorial début with.  This week as we enter the week of dress rehearsals and welcome audiences to our performances I thought it’d be time to reflect on the past couple of months of rehearsals and bringing our interpretation of Muriel to life.

The Crescent Theatre is an awesome theatre – both as a building and as a company.  They’ve given me opportunities in the past to perform in a family show, a show that was so dark even the most cold hearted people may have found it difficult and also appear semi naked in a calendar due to me appearing in Calendar Girls at the start of this current season.  I’m also in rehearsals for my first Shakespeare for Merchant of Venice opening next month, but for the last few months I’ve had the chance to direct – something I’ve wanted to do for several years.

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Directing is strange but exciting.  You can read a play and imagine it in so many different ways, and your way may and will vary from another’s perception.  When you’re working with a cast, whether it be of one in this case or many, you have to try to persuade them to give your way a try and it might work, but it might not work too.  You have to be able to let go of ideas you may have had for a while to give something else a try and those things, more often than not, work better!! It’s not compromise though – both director and the cast and anyone else involved are all trying to create the best thing possible.  Ideas don’t get compromised, they get improved and they evolve.  One that has become apparent is that the role of director isn’t to dictate ideas, but to be the ringmaster of the ideas and to work out the solutions, transitions, the props and the furniture, the routes the actor takes and to discuss things through with the wonderful team of creative people working behind the scenes.

Anyhow, let’s go back to how this all started.  I originally had submitted to direct another play in the season – as did Ellaina, the director of the second monologue (Cream Cracker Under the Settee) that’s playing alongside Soldiering On. As both of us were first time directors it prevented us from getting the other play but the theatre’s art managers still wanted to give us a chance to train us up as it were.  There were two Talking Heads monologues left over from the last season and so these were offered to us.  On the same day both myself and Ellaina were both involved with the opening night of Calendar Girls, both appearing towards the end of the play and so we spent a lot of that week in discussion about which one of us would direct which and coming up with some very early ideas.

It might not be the right way to do things, but one of the first things I did was think about music.  My original idea was to use sections of Bach’s Cello Suit which didn’t last long before I considered Gymnopédie.  Both well known pieces of music which would suit the monologue quite happily.  But then by chance I stumbled upon the Cinematic Orchestra’s ‘To Build a Home’.  The first thing that struck me were the lyrics and how they reflected the general plot of the monologue and then the music had haunting tones and also managed to sound like time passing that I felt as though this was the music I needed.  I debated for a while whether to have the lyrics too but made the decision early on that it could be distracting and so instead chopped up the instrumental version to give us different variations to use throughout.

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After casting Jo Hill to play Muriel we started rehearsals and for the first few rehearsals all we did was talk. We would find questions we wanted to answer in the text and discuss them coming up with our own ideas.  These answers might not be what Bennett would want us to come to, but they helped us interpret the text for our production.  We also produced a time line detailing all the important family events and details from when Muriel and Ralph met up to the end of the monologue.  We created back stories for all the characters mentioned, some more serious than others though, but all the same important steps for us to take.  Quite by coincidence we managed to spend a full rehearsal on each scene so that by our Christmas break we had had a concentrated rehearsal on every scene and managed to run it through a couple of times. Seeing words come from a page to a performance is really quite exciting.  Jo has done a fantastic job of bringing Muriel to life and to take on constant changes and suggestions as well as bringing in her own ideas.

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It’s been apt that I have been directing a show called Soldiering On as just before the auditions I found my personal situation changing massively.  If it wasn’t for the play I don’t think I’d have hung around in Birmingham for long.  This project has at times been the one thing that has kept me going when times have got really tough and the one thing I would leave my house for on some occasions.  I remember keeping a lot to myself and it wasn’t until a couple of weeks into rehearsals when I admitted what had been happening.  The support I had from everyone – whether they know they’ve helped or not – has got me through an incredibly tough time and has kept me motivated for the future ahead.

So, tonight I go to the theatre to see the first dress rehearsal.  I cannot wait for Thursday to come along and I can share my experiences with an audience.  I’m not usually one to blow my trumpet or to self promote, but I’m so proud of what we have achieved with this and want audiences to come and enjoy the show as much as I have enjoyed directing it.  I will be a very proud director at the end of this – in fact I already am.

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Talking Heads by Alan Bennett at the Crescent Theatre Birmingham.

Thursday 21st February to Saturday 23rd February 2013 at 7:45pm
Matinee Saturday 23rd at 2:45pm
Tickets £8

www.crescent-theatre.co.uk

Rehearsal photos taken by Graeme Braidwood

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Unrestricted Views: The Crescent Theatre for the Guardian

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I know I’m not the world’s best writer.  This is a hobby of mine to give me an excuse to dwell on my interests and try to make something of it, which is what makes this article/blog post I wrote very special to me.  For those in the know the Guardian is a very well respected newspaper with a website to match.  Last year they asked readers who were interested to send in blogs about their favourite theatres or those theatres that are unknown about.  As a member of the Crescent Theatre I’ve grown to love it and it has fast become a second home so I jumped on the opportunity.  Not thinking anything of it I sent it off and got on with things.  A month or so later I had a message from the boss at the theatre thanking me for the article and that it’d gone online.

As I try to collate things on here and get it started I thought I’d better link over to the Guardian website so you too can read why, for me, the Crescent Theatre is the best theatre!

The Crescent Theatre is now in its 80th year, making it one of the oldest theatre companies in Birmingham. It’s more than just a building; it’s a community of members who are passionate about every aspect of the theatre. Not only are productions produced and performed by the company members, the building is also run by volunteers. The Crescent Theatre company may be “am dram”, but audiences often comment on how professional the productions are.

Read the rest of it here.

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Trivia fans The first picture shows a poster for my directorial debut ‘Talking Heads’ next to the poster for my Shakespeare debut ‘Merchant of Venice’.  The second picture has the image used in, potentially, the best show I’ve ever been in ‘The Pillowman’ on (the apple and razorblade).

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The Voyage – Victoria Square, Birmingham

A free, outdoor dance spectacular finally managed to set sail after having the first night rained off – and the wait, well it was so worth it. The Voyage helping to launch the London 2012 festival is set upon a ship that spans the length of Birmingham’s iconic Town Hall and uses the space of Victoria Square (and its audience) to show the ship setting sail launching its passengers into a new life.  Produced by Birmingham Hippodrome and created by dance company Motion House and featuring stunning aerialists and performers from Australian performance company Legs On The Wall it’s a massive treat for the eyes and with performances from the Town Hall’s own gospel choir and a stunning orchestra and soundtrack it’s also a treat for the ears.

Stunning projections that have been carefully mapped onto the side of the ship and the Town Hall to make it feel as though the ship is actually setting sail.  From waves crashing against the hull, to cities forming on the Town Hall you really get the impression that you too are going on the journey.

The narrative of the piece is sometimes lost in the amazing visuals, but it is easy enough to follow along with when you get back on track but every single performance in the huge cast is brilliant.  The cast includes a large number of local youngsters taking part alongside the professionals of Motion House and Legs On The Wall and all looked to be really enjoying themselves in taking part in such a fantastic event.

I could go on about this for a long time – but I’d only start spoiling things and repeating myself.  It is honestly one of the best things I have ever seen and is a real life example of the word spectacular.  The weather might not be looking too great for tonight (Saturday) but keep an eye out on the weather forecast and the website/twitter/facebook of The Voyage (links to follow) for the latest news.  It’s on till tomorrow night ONLY and will not be seen again in Birmingham after that.  It starts at 10pm but last night reached capacity by then so get there early.  And as for the best place to stand? I was in line with the Victoria statue (which probably wished it had turned around to watch it – like the CCTV!) and had a great view, too close and you won’t have the full affect of the projections.  And if it rains? Try to use a hood rather than a brolly.

The Voyage – 5 broken champagne bottles smashed against its hull out of 5!

The Voyage is performed (weather permitting) at 10pm on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th June 2012 in Victoria Square, Birmingham.  It’s FREE!

Website: www.thevoyage.org.uk (Includes MUCH better photos than my grainy iPhone ones!)

Twitter: @TheVoyage2012

Facebook: TheVoyage2012

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