Sunday, 5 May 2019

WHAT'S SO IMPORTANT ABOUT THEATRE?



WARNING: This is gonna be one long, mushy and self indulgent tale about my love affair with theatre. I’ll answer the post title question at some point (probably right at the end when I remember that there was an actual point to this ramble). Oh, and I'm also going to be talking about theatre quite a lot more on this trust ol' blog.

As I write (most of) this, I’m on my way to London again. This afternoon I’m seeing Betrayal, and Waitress this evening. I’m ridiculously excited about both, seeing Waitress again on home soil will be fun and I adore Katharine McPhee (back from her Smash days), and seeing Tom Hiddleston on stage? Let’s hope I don’t pass out.

So let’s start from the beginning.

It’s been around 10 years since I first fell in love with musicals, I don’t know why it took me so long, but amidst all my emo-ness, long black hair, sight-hindering side fringe and My Chemical Romance loving persona, I was utterly obsessed with Hairspray. I’d just seen a school production of it (only because one of my best friends was in the chorus) and I wondered why I hadn’t paid any attention to musicals before then. I also really wished I had the confidence to get up on that stage and perform too, because it looked a blast and all I wanted to do was sing (it’s probably for the best I don’t though).

During Christmas ‘11 I received tickets to see The Lion King at the Lyceum in London, and for those who know me, you’ll know that TLK has been a long time love of mine since ‘94. I didn’t know how I’d feel seeing it acted out on stage - or if I was really a theatre type of person - but I cried from the opening number, virtually until the end and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It’s safe to say that was one of the best experiences of my life.

In August 2012, the day after my A Level results came in, my mama and I saw an evening show of Wicked in the West End. I was utterly obsessed with it at the time and I cried seeing Matt Willis as Fiyero (and Rachel Tucker at Elphaba, whaaaaat?!).

Everything started to escalate around then, I didn’t attend much theatre but I was enjoying musicals more than I ever imagined, it was virtually taking over my life. I spent all my free time watching Glee, listening to OBC’s and cast recordings and the odd bootleg I could find (mostly How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying with Darren Criss) and fantasising about being the next big star (whilst doing absolutely nothing to help that dream along).
I’ll never forget the moment my mum took me to Shaftesbury Avenue - under false pretences may I add -, stood us outside the Queen’s theatre and produced 2 tickets for Les Miserables from her bag. I don’t think I stopped crying for a good half an hour, I was sobbing and giggling into my Subway sandwich. And then set off again as soon as the show started.

The theatre love only seemed to stop at musical theatre though, I really couldn’t ever entertain the idea of sitting and watching something on stage without them bursting into song. I’m used to live music, I was practically raised on it, so people standing on stage and just talking? Not for me thanks.

Fast forward to late 2016, I was in my first semester of uni and one of my favourite actors announced that he was going to be making his theatre debut in January, with another announced for the following month. Play interest or not, I was seeing George Blagden even if I was bored to tears. Turns out, Platinum & The Pitchfork Disney not only enabled me to meet one of my idols, but also opened my eyes to how interesting and diverse that side of theatre could be. And I wasn’t bored to tears once. In fact, after seeing TPD at Shoreditch Town Hall, I went home and booked tickets to see Alex Vlahos (George’s onscreen brother) in La Ronde at Southwark’s The Bunker and another ticket to see TPD. I was suddenly hooked.

I should mention that amidst the first 3 months of 2017, I also saw Waitress on Broadway(!!!!).

As the year went on, I saw The Ferryman (which was utterly unbelievable), I’d been wanting to see it since before it’s transfer to the West End but the Royal Court tickets went like hot cakes (I just wanted to see Fra Fee and Paddy Considine). That was also the same year as my Dunkirk hype, (I was horribly obsessed, yep) so I snapped up a ticket once I knew the date of Tom Glynn Carney’s final performance. And then went home and made a Twitter account to connect with more like-minded theatre folk like myself. Little did I know that would be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

January 2018 I got my first day seat. It required a 3am coach from Cardiff to get to the Gielgud for a reasonable time in hopes of grabbing a £12 ticket to see The Ferryman, it was cold and miserable (and I knew some folk had been there since about midnight) but I got a front row ticket and was seated amongst a tonne of people I knew from Twitter which was surreal in its own right.
My love affair with the Gielgud ain’t over yet.

By the time May came around, I was ready to see Tartuffe to support George Blagden again, fully deciding that I was going to see every piece of theatre he did in London (and probably further afield because I love to support that honey) and then an announcement came out that my favourite actor was to do a two-month Shakespearean theatre stint at Donmar Warehouse. I’ll never forget the excitement amongst myself and a bunch of Twitter friends, we all freaked. the. eff. out. In total I saw Measure For Measure seven times during the 10 week engagement, including opening night, original closing night, amended closing night (it was given a one week extension) and three times in the final eight days of the run. 

I can’t even begin to explain the importance of that time, it was insane, I made a bunch more friends, made incredible memories with some of my best friends and met my idols more times than I can even recall. To see Jack Lowden & Hayley Atwell on a small stage as many times as I did is something I’ll never forget, nor will I forget the emotions I felt or the in depth chat I had with Hayley about her portrayal of the MCU’s Peggy Carter and MFM’s Isabella, and how important both roles are. Shortening those two months to three sentences seems unjust, but I still don’t know how to articulate how incredible the whole experience was.
Somewhere in between I fell in love with Company too, the gender-reversed Stephen Sondheim musical that briefly flew into the Gielgud for a few months, it was far more than I expected it to be, such incredible talent - hello, Patti LuPone was in it!! - and a whole stage show that had me smiling from ear to ear all throughout. And also finding Bobby relatively relatable. Seeing that twice was such good fun, both times I booked tickets were on a whim but so worth it, especially seeing it front row (oh, did I mention that George was in this too??)
And then that brings us to this year. Another whim trip to see The Woman in Black with one of my good friends. It’s not something I’d particularly wanted to see but when Elle said “let’s go see this!!!”, I saw a theatre trip opportunity and said “count me in”. Honestly, if you get the theatre on a good night (when there isn’t a class trip of kids sat behind you) then it’s amazing. Two actors (three if you actually count the title woman), a few props and an eager audience is all it takes, it’s immersive and captivating and I love the storytelling of it. I’d definitely contemplate giving this a go again and I love putting myself out of my normal comfort zone. Side note: It really wasn’t as scary as I’d expected. Thank Moses.



Olivier Awards. What a tiring, fun, soggy experience that turned out to be. Okay, so it wasn’t a tiresome patch on the BAFTA’s from last year, that was a whole weird time in itself that made me think I was gonna keel over and have to nap an inhaler from someone. Thankfully the whole wristband situation was a lot easier for this awards show. For this who don’t know, if you want to stand in pens along the red carpet to see the guests arriving, and hopefully nab a few selfies, then you can, you just have to get a wristband on the day. BAFTA’s was a nightmare, Oliver’s was far easier. Amy & I arrived at the Royal Albert Hall at just before 7am, got our gold bands and then sat in McDonalds for three hours before anywhere else opened. It felt poignant to do this particular awards ceremony this year, after how important theatre has been to both of us over the past 12 months, it was the thing to do. There were many “I know their face, who are they”’s and “Is that who I think it is?”, a lot of rain and most importantly, a lot of actors that had been doing the West End circuit around the time. Meeting Jay McGuiness was a total highlight of the night (okay, of my life!), and Harry Judd, Rosalie Craig, Danny Dyer and my OG Elphaba, Rachel Tucker, made the whole thing worth it.

Who knows, may I’ll have to head there again next year.

Finally, this week I saw Betrayal which was an interesting play, a Harold Pinter one as part of the Pinter at the Pinter season, I started off unsure and by the end I was hooked. Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Cox & Zawe Ashton were a great trio to bring the story to life. In all honesty I didn’t think I was going to get to see this, the tickets were so far out of my price range and I couldn’t justify £90 on a “cheap” seat, but thankfully the #RushTicket system is in place and I was lucky enough to purchase a Stalls seat for £15 making that little dream come true.

So, as soon as that was booked I decided to make a day of it in London and booked for Waitress in the evening. I’m not lying when I said that I started crying as soon as the opening bars of Opening Up rang throughout the theatre. Maybe it was the emotions of the day, my tiredness, the fact I was dripping wet from the vile weather outside, the fact my nosebleed seat had been upgraded to the Stalls or the fact that I just really love this musical with all of my heart. I really cried a lot throughout, and spent more than I intended on merchandise, but it’s a special one and I can’t wait to go back even just to smell the beautiful scent of freshly baked pie in the foyer (I remember that well from the Brooks Atkinson!). Oh and meeting a bunch of the cast, Katharine McPhee included, didn’t harm the evening at all.

There’s now no concrete theatre plans in my future - just yet - but hopefully over the next few weeks I’ll have the opportunity to either make another trip to London or tack some shows onto the end of my existing trips so I can see my girl Hayley Atwell & Tom Burke in Henrik Ibsen’s Rosmersholm and my new fave musical Come From Away. And then I definitely need to find something to see in NYC next month!

To finish the year I’m hoping to take a cheeky London trip with my mum to see BIG the Musical (because we both love Jay McGuiness and I don’t think she’ll forgive me for meeting him until she does herself) and then I have to see Jeremy Jordan play one of four shows at London’s Cadogan Hall because I love that chap so damn much.

Now the answer to the big question.

So what’s so important about theatre? It’s like film and any other form of entertainment, there’s nothing like shutting off for a few hours, immersing yourself completely in something and being entertained. For me, it’s helped me get through the stress of uni (sometimes the amount of travelling has added to it and I’ve panicked I wasn’t going to finish work but it’s not hindered me in the slightest), it’s given me a tonne of new friends that I can go to the theatre, film premieres, Comic Con, London trips for hanging out with and people to talk to online, and it’s given me such joy and happiness that I can’t even begin to express how much it’s changed, and impacted, my life.

I’ve met so many new people, supported new talent, met so many actors that I admire wholeheartedly, and theatre has put a smile on my face so frequently that I don’t know what I’m gonna do when London isn’t so cheaply accessible to me as it is right now. 

I like to think I’ve made the most of only being a 4hr coach ride from the capital though.

It may seem like a short answer but I’m sure my theatre accounts go some way to explaining just how important it is to myself and others just like me.

It's one of the world's oldest forms of entertainment, so here's to theatre never dying out.

S xo
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