Continuing adventures in Podcast Land

How very exciting (well for me, I will leave further excitement up to reader discretion), after a week hiatus I ended back in the world of podcasts and a repeat visit to the As Yet Unnamed Theatre Podcast. This time play’s under discussion were Face The Music! and An Oak Tree (both previously reviewed on the site), and Violence and Son.

Joining our host, Tim Watson (http://www.londontheatregoer.com), was Nick (Partially Obstructed View), Gareth (http://garethjames.wordpress.com/) and Johnny Fox (www.johnnyfox.co.uk)

You can listen here: As Yet Unnamed Theatre Podcast 

Enjoy (and, as always, thoughts and feedback are welcome)

Distant Voices, Still Bloggers

It has been a quiet few weeks for Civilian Theatre as the rigours of work and the first signs of Spring have being jostling theatre for my attention; providing a distraction from the questionable pleasures of spending precious free time sitting in darkened rooms with strangers having a shared experience (in a way distinctly less kinky than that may sound).

What it has done is allow time to catch up on the rest of the blogosphere. As I have mentioned previously the rather wonderful, and supremely energetic, Rebecca at Official Theatre has circled the wagons around #LDNTheatreBloggers and an increasing number of bloggers are gathering around the Twitter campfire

It is quite depressing how talented – and young – most of them are but (deep breath) it’s about collaboration not competition. Although I am sure that the desire to rewatch Theatre of Blood (96% on the Tomatometer people!) is purely coincidental.

This being the Internet there is naturally a blog for every niche interest imaginable and below are just a few of my favourites.

Making money from being brainy

For a long time Matt Trueman has been writing comment and criticism that has been the model for Civilian Theatre’s own output. Quite regularly a review will be uploaded, only to discover that Matt Trueman has written a far more perceptive and challenging article that gets to the heart of matter with half as much pseudo-intellectualism. Read him and weep – no wonder he is actually making proper money from this. The new Michael Billington (with all due respect to the existing Michael Billington). http://matttrueman.co.uk/  

Victoria Sadler, writing at The Huffington Post, is one of these infuriating bloggers who have demonstrated themselves as a master of all trades, jack of none. As articulate and interesting writing about art exhibitions as she is about theatre, if you are looking for another regular weekly columnist then Victoria Sadler’s articles for The Huffington Post a well worth a look-in. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victoria-sadler/

Thinking about theatre

James Waygood – the self-styled Grumpy Gay Critic – is somewhat less churlish in person than his Twitter handle may suggest. Luckily his critical faculties are, if anything, all the more potent as a result and he is always willing to give the plays he watches the write-ups they deserve. If you prefer in-depth commentary about what makes a production work to a 400 word plot synopsis and the casual awarding of 4 stars then Grumpy Gay Critic may be the blog for you. And now with added videos! http://grumpygaycritic.co.uk/

Laura Peatman is part of the aforementioned brigade of young and talented bloggers. However I try to keep my jealously intact and not to hold it against her as we have a tendency to swim in the same waters and Laura is always good value for a refreshing, perceptive and informed take on anything from ancient Greeks onwards. https://laurapeatman.wordpress.com/page/2/

I am sure that neither would thank me for mentioning it but Webcowgirl and There Ought To Be Clowns are relative veterans of the theatre blogging scene. There Ought To Be Clown’s first review dates back to 2003 – Trevor Nunn’s magical production of Anything Goes, which happens to be still the only musical production that Civilian Theatre has been to more than once – whilst Webcowgirl was in full flow by 2006. Early adopters indeed. Both blogs were key to encouraging Civilian Theatre dipping his toes into the murky world of internet blogging. Still the original and still often the best.

There are a number of multi-reviewer sites and these are often a mixed-bag. Views from the Gods is worthy of mention due to its impressive commitment to reviewing plays from the fringes of London’s theatre scene. The array of reviews at Views from the Gods acts as an important reminder that you can barely swing a cat in London without someone labelling it as site-specific theatre and charging £16 a ticket, and they offer a valuable service in telling you whether that would be a good investment of your precious time and money.

…And they just keep coming

There are obviously loads of other great sites. Exeunt is good for pretentious elitism, Everything Theatre is good for bite-sized reviews and A Younger Theatre is good for my developing Dorian Gray fantasies.

As part of the single-blogger army I am always happy to see others confidently carving their own individualistic furrow and so the final three recommends go to Mingled Yarns, The Bardette and Hello Emma Kay.

Happy reading folks.

LDN Theatre Bloggers Unite – Together We Are Unstoppable

In the spirit of full disclosure, this post skirts very close to the edge of an advertorial. The good people at Civilian Theatre will always strive to review fairly whether the tickets are press freebies or bought out of our hard-earned cash. However the line does blur when it comes to what to write about events that have been set up by companies that clearly have a vested interested in bloggers talking about their products and are happy to liberally apply free wine and food. So read the following in whatever spirit you wish and just remember – like any theatre – these views are my own, and I encourage everyone else to form their own opinions about things by following the links and finding out more about them.

It is always slightly strange going to press nights, sitting in the dark for ninety minutes and then rushing off home to write up some thoughts before crashing into sleep, waking up to go to the job that actually provides the money for you to do all of those cool (read expensive) London-y things, and starting the cycle all over again.

So last night provided a rather fun change of pace as I was invited – as part of the #LDNTheatreBloggers community – to a little soiree organised by the Duracell-bunny made flesh, one-woman human dynamo, @rebeccafelgate, to meet, mingle, natter and mix with other members of the online theatre blogging world.

The lovely Rebecca has been grafting away trying to get us nameless, faceless people to be that little bit more sociable – so that when we see familiar faces out and about we might actually go and say hello. I know it all sounds terribly un-British but there you go.

The good people at Official Theatre (www.officialtheatre.com or @theatreofficial) are the brains trust behind a lot of this loveliness. They have already done a fine job in hooking up bloggers with shows to review, and have crafted a nifty line in video reviews (see link below for a rather amazing Lord of the Dance video response).

http://www.officialtheatre.com/dominion-theatre/lord-of-the-dance-dangerous-games-2015/

Regular readers of this blog will probably notice there is something of a disconnect between what they offer and what we review. However if you do like West End shows then it is a pretty useful one-stop shop for getting the low-down on what’s on and buying tickets. Plus it turns out that not everyone wants to see miserabilist 3-hour plays performed in a mixture of mime, interpretative dance and Latvian folk song. Well who knew?

Also worthy of a mention is Seat Plan (www.seatplan.com or @seat_plan) who are a service that I really don’t mind doing a little schilling for. Basically if you have ever sat in the gods then you will probably recognise the experience of wondering whether the cheaper (but still not that cheap) ticket price is really worth the two and a half hours you are going to spend with you knees forced up to your chin and half the stage obscured by the edge of the balcony. Basically it is a user-led seat review service. People can upload photos of the view from their seat and give it star ratings (because everyone loves turning things into 5 star metrics).

My only beef is really with the fact that a lot of the theatres I go to are not currently on the site. So a plea to the guys at Seat Plan – we don’t all go to the West End. Have words with the National, Donmar, Young Vic, Old Vic and Barbican. I want to tell you what they are like.

But anyways I must rush to get a train to Cardiff (the fun literally *not literally* never stops), so just a final mention that if you are here and you want to read other people’s reviews then check out #LDNTheatreBloggers and #Stagey on Twitter to find more like-minded people than you can shake a stick at.

Toodles

 

 

The Civil Awards – Winners

Competition has been fierce. Tears, wine and blood have been spilt. Not necessarily in that order. All that remains, with votes cast, arguments played out, and money in brown paper bags tallied and accounted for, is to dust off the golden envelopes and announce the hotly anticipated (umm, by who? – ed) results.

If you are under the suspicion that these awards don’t have any real meaning and are just another internet blog’s attempts to round off the year in a show of unnecessary and undeserved self-importance then, well, you would be right.

However I rest happy knowing these are the views of someone who has seen, and written, a lot about theatre in 2014. And that has a meaning above and beyond those offered by a certain awards ceremony funded by a bearded Russian billionaire whose questionable wealth accumulation tactics enabled them to buy an entire newspaper for seemingly the sole purpose of indulging twin fantasies of being a cultural impresario and being photographed with an arm around attractive celebrities.

So mea culpa over, follow the link to check out the winners.

Find out who won here

The Civil Shortlist – 2014

Well the plays have been revisited, the little grey cells put back into action and the oracle consulted. In short and without further ado, Civilian Theatre is proud to present the runners and riders in the second annual shortlist for The Civil Awards. [Cue much fanfare, fireworks and underhand, dirty trick campaigns]. Bribes, whilst having little effect on the outcome, will still be gratefully received.

It has been ferociously competitive in some categories and this year it is female performers who have far out performed their male counterparts. The honourable mentions list is arguably be a top 5 in itself.

In the end – having combined Best Support Actor into being for both men and women – it was impossible to reduce it to just five. So six have been shortlisted in another high calibre selection.

Another new category is Best Musical, which reflects the fact that below the surface and away from the big theatres, musical theatre is still doing some pretty interesting stuff. Last year’s Civilian Theatre Play of the Year ‘The Scottsboro Boys’ has transferred to the West End and it feels the form deserves its own categories.

Winners will be announced in the run-up to Christmas.

Best Actor – Female

Honourable Mentions:

Harriet Walter (Henry IV), Helen McCrory (Medea), Lisa Dwan (Not I, Footfalls & Rockaby), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (The One) and Anita Hegh (The Wild Duck).     


Best Actor – Male

Honourable Mentions:

Andrew Scott (Birdland), Andrew Twaites (The Libertine Has Left The Building) and Simon Russell Beale (King Lear)


Best Supporting Actor (Male/Female)


Best Director


Best Musical

 

Mimetic Festival Banner

Mimetic Festival Launch Night

One of the bonuses of being a blogger is the occasional freebie. For the more successful / perky / young dynamos of the modern day vlogging world this may be tickets to the VMAs or a sample from the new Topshop-designer collection. For those of us whose age, as like a tree, can be ascertained by counting the lines carved into our forehead, are already well prepared for hip, scarily precocious twenty-something marketing --RWD13-Where-the-White-Stops-023execs to at best acknowledge our existence with the occasional eye roll, dramatic sigh and mandatory thirty seconds of feigned interest.

Which is why it was a pleasurable surprise to wander down Leak Street (home to some of London’s best graffiti) and into the Vaults; home for the next two weeks to Mimetic Festival 2014. Invited to the launch party and plied (well at least offered) something fizzy in a glass is generally a good way of getting me onside. However they really pushed my buttons by offering a cabaret bar (impressively thrown up in just over 24 hours) that could have spirited out of an art deco museum (or at least out of Poirot’s apartment).

Marion-Deprez-web1-150x150Mimetic Festival is “a celebration of the very best emerging devised, physical and visual theatre, puppetry and cabaret”. Like all the best festivals it is growing year on year, and this time it can claim to be offering up 120 shows from over 50 different countries. If slightly alternative theatre is your thing then Mimetic Festival is somewhere you ought to be over the next two weeks.

Showcased for our entertainment were snippets from the fortnight, and it really did demonstrate the range of acts vying for our attention. From the knowing beautiful clowning of Marion Deprez to the intriguing Greatest Liar in all the World there is something for everyone (even those who think that only way to improve Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights video would be to recreate it using a highly sexualised puppet).

Civilian Theatre will be reviewing a number of Mimetic Festival productions over the next year and is one of a number of Mimetic Festival Awards Partners. We will be tweeting and posting to the blog throughout, and you can find all of the latest reviews at:  http://civiliantheatre.com/mimetic-festival/

 

Mimetic Festival runs from 17 – 29 November 2014 at the Vaults, Leake Street, SE1 7NN.

For more information about Mimetic Festival: http://www.mimeticfest.com/