Saturday, 14 May 2011

Grease Really Isn't The Word... I Assure You

So they gave us another bank holiday this year, I was only natural use it wisely in meeting a friend, and spending the day in London. Though unlike the other many millions who had descended on our drab and smelly capital city, we were not there for the royal wedding. Rather it was a chance to catch up and see two shows.

I hadn't seen James in almost a year, so we had a lot to catch up on and being the big kids that we are, what better place to do this than the Rain Forest Cafe! They have kitted the place out to look like a rain forest, loads of plants, and models of animals which move. The lights flash when there is a "thunder storm", and all the sound effects are there to go with it. Ok I will admit, it would probably have been cheaper to fly to a real rain forest as the place was hardly cheap... but the food was good, and it was a nicer environment to eat in than the scummy McDonalds you find on every other corner throughout the city. It set up the day and after a brief wander around we head towards our first show of the day.

Knowing it was soon to close our first choice was for the iconic West End Musical - Grease. Well at least we considered it to be iconic as it had survived for so long. Little did we know, we were about to see the theatrical equivalent of a train crash. The first indication that this show was really failing was the door numbers. By 5PM much of the wedding celebrations were over, and whilst some planned to revel into the night, I really didn't expect to see a show this empty. The upper levels were closed and even in the royal circle and stalls the number of empty seats far outnumbered those which were occupied.

The longest overture in the world kicks in, and all sounded good. The band were tight, I recognised a few of the numbers - and though the auditorium lacked atmosphere, I could imagine on a good night this would get the vibe in the theatre going. Though this really is where the good experiences ended. The opening number "Sandy" was simply awful. It seems that the guy playing Danny, and the girl playing Sandy were never taught to harmonise... at odd intervals they even drifted out of time with one another. I have heard drunken football hooligans sing better... well at least in time with one another.

The downhill spiral had started, from here the singing was awful, the choreography a messy. Maybe it was the fact that these actors knew they would be on the dole queue come Monday as the show was just 3 performances from closing. Maybe it was the complete lack of paying customers that bought the moral of the actors down. Though had this have been the case, the paying customers had been robbed of their money, especially the fools you had spent out in excess of £60 for a top priced ticket. I felt robbed having only paid about £22!

Come the interval James and I could bare it no more. We had to leave. It was embarrassing watching actors die on stage like that, not to mention boring to watch. The storyline is less than gripping, but tied in with a poor performance it is verging on being suicidal to watch. I have never walked out of a show before, but this really was awful. Your local primary school could manage something better, I assure you!

The good news however is the show has now closed making way for Ghost The Musical later in the year. No doubt the show will tour, though if you want my advice? Save the money for a show worth seeing.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Gareth Vs Shakespeare

I have never made a secret of how much I have always hidden from confronting the work of Shakespeare. There has always been an element of fear which I have never really understood. It could be the language, the structure or that god damn iambic pentameter he used... I really don't know. None the less I have always progressed in drama in the knowledge that one day I would have to face up to Shakespeare. After all if I want to go further I will have to embrace his work, as it forms a fundamental part of any actors training. Having put it off for so long, I have decided that this summer is my D-Day!

For one of my end of term assessments, we were tasked to take on a duologue. There was no strict guidelines given as to the style of this piece, and I will be honest throughout the lesson I gave it little thought, planning on thinking it through over the long weekend I had ahead of me. I guess had it of been left to me, I would have picked something from a modern play or some text from a musical. Though I guess in hindsight, playing safe will not push me and test me in the same way that taking a risk will. Though it wasn't until the end of the lesson that I realised there would be an opportunity to do this.

Nick Windsor - a fellow student approached me asking if I would be interested in tackling the final scene of Henry VI. The first thing that crossed my mind was "I really didn't know this play". Then it dawned upon me that I really don't know much of Shakespeare's work having avoided it for so long. With the exception of Orthello, I have not read any play in full since senior school, and even then I used to skim read Shakespeare. I got away with copying other peoples work back then so I saw no point in reading the books!

Though what was it that made me come to the conclusion that now was the time for me to tackle Shakespeare in performance? Maybe it was Nick's compliments of my dialect and articulation which won me over, (I do love flattery) but deep down I knew that this was my calling to finally tackle Shakespeare head on. I was also keen to work with Nick having only really started to connect with him at the end of the spring term. Nick is great - very talented, hard working and I feel he has a real connection with classical plays of this sort. If I had to pick anyone in the class to do a Shakespearian piece with - it would certainly have been him. I know he has a love for script work and shares a desire to win, so I am relishing this opportunity.

What's more is I actually have a burning desire to make this work for me. I think previously I would have had a defeatist attitude of "oh well this is my weakness" - but I really don't want this to be seen as me confronting a weakness rather an opportunity for me to impress people in an area I have yet to work in. Whilst classes are not about competition, I really do want myself and Nick to stand out as being the best by a long margin, after all second best is the first looser!

I will no doubt put a write up in a couple of months saying how it has all gone! Who knows, if its good enough there may be a video also! There are just two other videos of me on youtube which I keep hidden from the world. (I challenge you to find them.... it is close on impossible) Though now I am keen to build up a profile of my work, so I am more keen to have my stuff online if I deem it to be of a high enough standard, though I am a tough critic.

This isn't my only confrontation with Shakespeare this term however. In a couple of weeks I start another module which studies Shakespeare in performance. We will be studying "Much To Do About Nothing" and another play which we will read, analyse then see them in performance on the West End. This can only add to my Shakespeare tool box which is currently somewhat empty. I guess I will keep you all updated!