Theatre Review: The Misanthrope by Roger McGough

The Misanthrope is an adaptation of Molière’s classic. The adaptation was formed by popular poet Roger McGough, who brings flair to this piece. Currently showing at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre, The Misanthrope shows the story of poet Alceste and his views on 17th French aristocracy. Although it sounds quite dull, McGough pulls this potentially drab story into a pleasant ride with his elegant wit. The use of rhyming couplets, combined with some interesting world-aware humour brings out the life of the play and makes it more accessible to the non-historical audience. The wordplay is surely a sight to behold.

What displeased me about this play was not the play itself, but the audience. I looked around and saw no people of my own age. It dawned on me that young people were missing out on the beauty of wordplay due to strict-mindedness. I could see how the sound of the play might put people off, but I think that people should turn their attentions to the movement of the English language. We should appreciate our language and hear how beautiful it is. It saddens me that we aren’t open to performances we think we might not like. If we thought ‘why not’ every once in a while and opened our minds to theatre, we might just gain some appreciation.

The play itself sounded beautiful. The visuals however could have been better. The majority of the play took place in one set, which meant you had to force yourself to concentrate, at times. The only time they did change set, it was for such a small amount of time. Nothing really happened in the second setting, and then we reverted back to the previous after the break. Although there was a lack of change in setting, the characters were wonderful. Colin Tierney (Nowhere Boy, Splintered and Cracker) was amazing and played the role tremendously. All actors should be appreciated for remembering the vast amount of lines and for bringing their characters to life.

I’d definitely recommend this play, especially so if it sounds like it’s ‘not your thing’. We should open ourselves to experience this type of theatre and I could watch it over and over, hearing new brilliant words every time.

Edit Additional:

On a similar topic, a fellow blogger wrote about the use of words such as ‘shipping’, ‘yolo’ and other words in a place other than the internet. I think this fits in quite nicely with how people, mainly young people, aren’t listening to language. They’re using cut-off words as thats what they’re seeing used. Keep lol-language to the internets and take your kids to see Misanthrope!

Link to the fellow blogger’s post: http://jadedapothecary.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/welcome-to-hell-english-fans-mankind-has-conjured-up-yet-another-way-to-take-our-beautiful-language-and-shoot-it-out-of-the-cannon-of-stupidity-shipping-is-now-part-of-our-vernacu/

Rating: 7/10

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Theatre Review – The Rocky Horror Picture Show by Richard O’Brien

I had heard many good things about the stage performance of the cult classic Rocky Horror. I’d seen the film and found it entertaining and so when my friend offered to go see it live, I agreed readily. If only I was a bit more of a fan. My only issue was its very ‘clicky’. As in, you get the best experience out of the show if you’ve been several times. There’s a whole world of the ‘Rocky Horror Fan’, with shouting out certain phrases, in-jokes and audience participation than can leave a newbie clueless. As with any clicky group, this means you can get a little bewildered by viewing the group’s antics.

The show was less of a show and more of an activity centre for sex-indulging teenage adults, which was neither bad nor refreshing. Many people yelled out various phrases throughout the show. Phrases that were largely incomprehensible from the theatre tiered layout. It would have been better, being so interactive, in a more suitable setting. The security team of the theatre were running around with panicked faces, hoping no-one toppled from the circle seats. Even though the shouting out was strange, the occasional dancing was fun. It was nice to be able to join in with the fun and not just sit and watch. However, it changed the essence of the theatre. Theatre, to me, is best when you can forget you’re in a theatre and can get involved in the story. It was impossible to forget the thousands of screaming, shouting people around you when they wouldn’t be quiet. Then again, saying that, the interactivity is what makes Rocky Horror what it is. Let’s be frank, the story isn’t that prominent. You couldn’t really sit and watch it like a normal theatre piece.

While I’m dwelling on the negatives, I did actually enjoy myself. The environment of excitement was infectious and it was generally a good night. A lot of people dressed up and everyone was fairly smiley and welcoming. It was only later when I considered the price I paid and compared the actual performance with other musicals I’ve seen that I realised just how many gripes I’d have with it. The tickets were around about £35, which could get you a cheap seat at other classic musicals…and you’d get a lot more to look at. Compared to others, the costumes were much less elaborate, the stage wasn’t used as well and the stage was very minimal. I think they could have had a climbable tower for the floor show fairly easily, for example.

However, despite its difference to other shows, I appreciate and endorse its message. It allows people to be who they want to be and not be afraid of expressing themselves. I just think they could do it a lot better. Though the actors were excellent and the singing was great. I guess, what more do you want from a theatre piece?

For the 2013 tour dates, see:
http://www.rockyhorror.co.uk/tour_dates

This review was based on the Liverpool Empire Theatre performance. For more information about the Empire Theatre:
http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/liverpool-empire/

Rating: 5/10

Theatre Review (Script only) – Waiting for Godot by Samual Beckett

Waiting for Godot: a play that could also be called ‘waiting for plot’. It’s notoriously known as the play where nothing happens and it sure lives up to that expectation. Waiting for Godot depicts two, what we can presume are human males, who are waiting on a hill for Godot to arrive. As they wait they meet two characters, Pozzo and his slave Lucky. Just reading the script of this play, I was quite shocked and disappointed to learn that the story wasn’t set in a post-apocalyptic world. The characters seem so strange and almost insane that you think they can’t possibly be real people in everyday life. And it’s not even insane in the good sense, but where it just makes things confusing. I wouldn’t want to see this play performed for the fact that how you could imagine the characters (as odd creatures that stalk the night) is a lot better than how they were meant to look.

A good aspect about this play is its dialogue. Beckett was well known for closely looking at the ways in people speak, to replicate dialogue effectively. So, the characters speak in a natural way, with re-phrasing, repetition, stumbling and forgetting… but what they say isn’t worth listening to. Well, he got one out of two. It was nice, too, to have so few characters. Despite their strangeness, you did spend a lot of time with the four and so got a lot of opportunities to get to know their character.

Repetition was a big part of this play and act one is very similar to the second. This made the play stagnate, as it wasn’t so much looping around as making you think “oh no, not this again”. Then there came the most random and boring monologue in act two that more or less finishes the reader off. I don’t know… maybe Waiting for Godot is simply out of its time. Perhaps at the time, the audience Beckett aimed his piece at would have made much more sense of it. But whether time, or something else, has killed the sense of this play, all it’s done for me is to push me more towards more modern playwrights, as if Beckett is known as ‘one of the best’ historically, It seems to be a sign that looking to the past is the wrong direction for theatre.

4/10

Theatre Review: Held – written by Joe Ward Munrow

There are not enough non-musical plays available in theatres lately, and ‘Held’ is a clear example of why we need to change that. Wonderfully performed by Ged Mckenna (David), Alan Stocks (Simon) and Pauline Daniels (Mary), this play greatly surpassed expectations. This was the first play written by Joe Ward Munrow after taking part in the Young Writers programme and it is being performed at ‘The Playhouse’ in Liverpool until the 1st of December, 2012.

The play centres around Mary, an elderly mother of two sons, who is suffering from a type of dementia. We see her sitting in a chair of an elderly home with her sons visiting her. Suddenly, strobe lighting flashes and there is a quick chilling buzz that makes you feel uncomfortable. This buzzing seems to indicate a change of perspective from Mary’s mind: that is running through memories, to the sons’ perspectives: who are making the painful decision on their next steps. The sons each have their own character monologue, where we see their contrasts. Both are intricately and sub-textually described through the aspects of their speech. Simon talks of the vastness of science and how he ‘just doesn’t want to think about it’ while David talks about a new hob design where the water and pan get hot, but the hobs don’t. Both are drenched in beautiful metaphor that creates powerful messages. However, the writer should maybe think about making these more succinct as some speeches got to their climax half way through and the effect dwindles thereafter.

The actors did extremely well. It seemed at first that they were ill-casted: as Pauline Daniels could never look old enough to have mothered Stocks and Mckenna! However, as we learned more about the characters, the family unit began to slot together beautifully. Each character’s traits caused brilliant contrasts and the relationships were greatly strengthened as we learnt about the individuals and heard their thoughts and feelings. Daniels (Mary) switched from absent and disorientated, to child-like and happy, to stressed and angry in an instant and never missed a beat. One thing that came off as less effective was that Simon’s character seemed to be at a point of high drama for most of his speeches. It might have been a good effect to have a softer side seen: increasing the shock of his louder points.  However, when emotion was required he was extremely effective. Mckenna also brought the spirit of his character alive and performed well.

Overall, I was extremely impressed with this piece. The stage and sounds, along with a part at the end where all actors were talking at the same time, were truly haunting. The character development and monologues were effective and use of pacing and perspective were used well. The acting was also astounding, and they interacted with the audience perfectly. I greatly encourage people to see ‘Held’ and to keep watch for more from this promising playwright.

To buy tickets: http://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

Rating: 9/10