Separated by War. Tested by battle. Bound by friendship.’

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On Tuesday night I had the privilege of watching ‘War horse’ live on stage at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. I was fortunate enough to have a fantastic seat, only three rows from the front, giving me a fantastic view! I could see everything!

I had seen the film and read the book a while ago, but had heard great things about the stage version and I was not disappointed!

The story follows the tale of Albert, a young man living in West England with his parents who farm for a living and are constantly struggling to pay the mortgage. Albert’s father wins a young, small horse at an auction, and thus begins the friendship between Albert and his new found friend he calls Joey.

Joey must learn to earn his keep on the farm, and Albert is more than willing to dedicate hours on end to ensure he turns into a farming horse. Joey grows into a magnificent, beautiful horse whom Albert has grown to love, believing they will be together forever! That is until one day when Albert’s father sells Joey to the British army, leaving a devastated Albert speechless. Little do they both know that their friendship is far from over and that their journey together has only just begun.

Each horse was guided by three actors, but the movement and likeness to real horses was so realistic it was easy to forget that they were just made of wood. The noises, the way they glided not he stage was so life like, it really threw me!

Given the story involved the first world war, it showed a lot of men and horse dying not he battlefield, which was as sad and dramatic as it should be. The crescendo of the music supported the actors and the way the portrayed what war was from the soldiers perspective.

The big cast was involved in so much of the show, many taking on the horses, controlling and running around with the annoying yet funny little goose on the farm, and many stood during scenes to hold props and change the set according to each setting.

There was no need for this story to be developed into a musical, but the war songs and melodies that played were emotional enough and added a certain something to the atmosphere on stage.

Albert and Joey’s friendship is endless and its so refreshing to see a love between a boy and his horse rather than a boy and a girl, which is what we are all used to! It is strong and binding and clearly one that is worth fighting for until the very end!

I had decided to go on my own to see this drama, as I have no problem doing anything or going anywhere on my own and lets be honest no one wants a friend talking to them all the way through a play anyway, right?

Im glad I did venture alone as it enabled me to give my full attention to the story, despite the fact that I could hear constant whispers and giggles from 3/4 middle aged women sitting behind me. Now I’m all for a chat with my friends, but NOT during a performance and it is NOT FUNNY when a man or a horse is shot dead! Yes, the bang might have been a surprise to you but is it really something to giggle about? This story is intense and heartbreaking and in no way humorous! It drove me mad and I really wish I had asked them at the interval to stop it, especially as at a crucial moment in the last scene I overheard one woman say ‘Don’t worry he doesn’t do it!’

Thank goodness I had seen the film and knew of this, otherwise it would have spoilt it for me and I really would have lost my patience with them. *Rant over*

I smiled, laughed, gasped, shrieked and welled up on more than one occasion throughout the play, it was so much better than I could have ever anticipated! The theatre was packed and it is no wonder, and I am so glad I booked my seat to see this spectacular show!

I know this particular stage production is touring the UK, and I must insist you buy a ticket and see for yourself why I cannot stop raving about it!

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Romeo & Juliet – theatre review

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Having never read or seen a play of ‘the greatest love story ever told’, I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially as this production was an all men one!

The Lord Chamberlain’s Men formed in 2004 and named themselves after Shakespeare’s original troupe or travelling players. Their humour, wit and professionalism towards the arts was shown throughout the play and it was obvious that their hearts were in it.

We arrived to Cardiff castle in what we thought was plenty of time, only to find the only places left were on the floor right in front of the stage, which turned out to be an excellent view.

Cardiff castle was a perfect setting for this tragic love story, blocking out the loud city noise, the infamous lines were echoing from wall to wall, really encompassing us in the story itself.

The actors announced that given the grim weather conditions, if the rain persisted they may have t take a break, but promised us the show would go on having never cancelled a play before.

With less than five minutes to go, ‘Juliet’ broke character and stated that a break would be taken, to much relief of the actors and us the audience. Yes, we had umbrellas and hoods, but there’s only so much rain a person can take and we were soaked to the skin by the end.

Each of the 7 actors played great roles, and began each act by singing in harmony with each other. This worked really well and was a great way to take us back in time with them to really believe we were part of the drama.

At first I didn’t know how I would react to men playing women in such a tragic love story, but it was not an issue. Juliet was gentle and kind and the nurse was as caring and over the top as I thought she would be.

Mercutio and Romeo were amongst my favourite characters. How they kept their energy and enthusiasm through all the rain and delivered each line as though it was the first time was astonishing!

The fight scenes were great, but each time they plunged to attack their opponent, I was terrified they would slip on the water and off the stage!

It might be too late for you to see this production in Cardiff, but I know they tour all over the UK and would definitely recommend them!

If you think you’d enjoy their performances, check them out at: http://www.tlcm.co.uk/index.html

The Last days of Troy

What a performance!

I knew the jist of the play before it began and had performed in ‘Women of Troy’ in school, so I had an idea of the history and the type of story to expect.. but I didn’t know the effect it would have on me!

The Globe Theatre was the perfect setting for the Greek play. The wooden stage and seats took you back to older times, really making you feel a part of the drama.

From the opening line said by Zeus himself, I was hooked. It really felt like the actors were giving their all throughout the whole 3 hours. Perhaps they upped their game as this was their last performance, but nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed.

Personally, the comedy elements from Zeus, his wife and daughter weren’t particularly necessary. The story, the mythology is not a happy one and as light hearted as they tried to make it with a few jokes and puns, I could have done without it.

My eyes were glued to the stage during the battle scenes. The tension had built up so much between both sides, the second act was intense and enthralling to watch! The eye gauging, the blood spilling from their throats looked so realistic, I squirmed but at the same time could not look away!

Lily Cole, the model/actress, was just as pale and beautiful in real life, and took the lead role as the infamous ‘Helen of troy’ very well. She wasn’t on stage as much as I thought she’d be, but when she was, she did the part justice.

Having said this, I will definitely try the £5 standing tickets for a performance and I know now to come well prepared with an anorak, umbrella and comfy shoes!

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Theatre Review: Equus

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Last night I was fortunate enough to see ‘Equus’ live on stage at Chapter Arts, Cardiff – and I’m so glad I did!

Without knowing the plot or the characters, I was weary as what to expect.  I had only heard that the reviews from the London shows with Daniel Radcliffe, were brilliant and it was one of those plays that was worth seeing. Saying this, I did know that the main character stripped off, so being a big Harry Potter fan, I’m pleased Mr Radcliffe wasn’t in this production!

Written by Peter Shaffer, this drama is based on a conversation he had with a friend. His friend told him of this young boy who blinded six horses, without a seemingly good reason for doing so. Dr Dysart, a psychiatrist,  begins the play by introducing us to the unusual case of Alan Strang, a young man yet seemingly a child like character from word go.

Alan is clearly a confused and troubled young boy who has had an unusual upbringing. His mother read him stories from the Bible, and his father, an atheist, was strict and worried that he never really understood his son.  Throughout the play we see how Alan’s sexual attraction to these horses has effected his life and has sculpted the person he is and how Dr Dysart tried desperately to help him escape his own mindset.

Six cast members acted as horses, trotting elegantly onto stage, wearing plastic wired horses heads. Their noises and movements were so life like it was easy to look past the human bodies and see 6 magnificent horses standing before us.

The intensity of the play had the audience on the edge of their seats, staring at the drama before us. As Alan revealed more and more of what was in his head, the dramatic atmosphere had grown and grown and the excitement was almost too much to bare. What a drama and what a story.

If you ever get the chance to see it, you should definitely take it. Do not hesitate or worry over the slightly awkward nude/sexual scenes, this story is a powerful one and one not to miss.

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Theatre review: 1984

 

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I remember hating this book when I studied it for AS Level, oh so many years ago. It was a hard book to like, to follow and to say that I enjoyed it would be, well , lying.

I have never watched the film, as George Orwell’s ideas scared me enough into not wanting to watch it, especially with what went on in ROOM 101… But when the opportunity came up to see a drama production of the book, I jumped on it! I thought “It’s been a good six years now, maybe its time to give it another chance!”

I dragged a friend along with me to The Playhouse theatre in London, where I had previously seen “Spamalot”, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t leave laughing and feeling giddy after this drama..

It began with around 6 characters sitting around a table discussing the protagonist Winston Smith, which appeared to be the youngest male on stage. They talked and talked, until they flowed into the play and the real drama began.

I could not look away from the stage, my eyes were drawn to anything and everything that was going on. Big Brother was as terrifying and as real as I had imagined he’d be, the mere sound of the klaxon or the ruthless shouts at a traitor were hard to hear and watch a the same time!

Bright white lights flashed on and off, blinding the audience, shining with no warning causing us to turn away, but then turn straight back in case we missed something on stage.

Winston and Julia’s characters came alive and they were just as I imagined they’d be. Both daring but frightened of what would eventually happen. The use of cameras on stage to show their safe place offstage worked well and the creepy atmosphere was felt throughout the play, making me feel uncomfortable and uneasy, something I’m sure Orwell was trying to do as he wrote these ideas in the book.

No one laughed, no one coughed, it was like no one int he audience even wanted to breathe in fear Big Brother would accuse them of thinking bad thoughts against the ‘Party’.

I left feeling glad that I had given the book a second chance, this is definitely one that is better on stage, acted out, so that we can really see what Orwell was trying to convey. I left the theatre believing in the ‘Party’, being scared to think anything bad, and whilst walking home alone across Hungerford bridge, I had a horrible feeling I was being watched. And I couldn’t shake it.

 

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Theatre Review: Birdland

(Note: This is not my review. My good friend Christine wrote this review after seeing the play twice, and from what she has said I don’t blame her for going again! I wish I had the chance to!)

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Birdland, a play by award winning writer Simon Stephens, continues its run at the Royal Court Theatre until the end of the month.

It stars Andrew Scott, who recently starred in hit BBC show Sherlock, as Paul, a rock star on the final leg of his world tour.

Paul can have whatever he wants whenever he wants. And he wants it all right now.   He also believes that all worth, human and artistic worth, can be quantified by a monetary value.

Inevitably, that sort of attitude has consequences.

From the very first lines of dialogue between Paul and his bandmate Johnny the audience is engaged and immediately absorbed into the drama by Stephens’ superb writing.

The pace is fast yet very easy to follow and the lack of interval for the two hour duration ensures that the momentum is kept up throughout.

Scott is aptly charismatic in his portrayal of the narcissistic superstar whilst all five of his fellow cast members also give completely flawless performances.

The clever script is full of funny exchanges but never strays into being light hearted.  There is always an underlying darkness to the drama that unfolds on stage that keeps the audience intrigued until the very end.

Indeed, there are one or two moments where the whimsical quickly turns into the unsettling and Scott does an excellent job of making this happen.

The play is directed by Carrie Cracknell who brings the script to life in a satisfying way as well as doing a marvellous job of really utilising the talents of the actors.

By keeping all the actors on stage the whole time the flow of the drama was kept without any awkward scene changes.

It is never clear, until right at the end whether our protagonist feels any remorse for his actions but interestingly one still feels a bit sorry for him at intermittent points.

From the start, Birdland draws the audience in. The exceptional script and the outstanding acting from the cast make this compelling play one not to be missed.

by Christine Dorisamy-Pillai