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.

Around the Web

To fill the gap in the Civilian Theatre reviewing schedule (taking some respite before the Cultural Olympiad kicks off:

1) For those who like their reviews laced with a splash of acid then those good folk at West End Whingers are more than happy to oblige. They have cast their eye over Bingo and most appropriately have been to the Menier to see Abigail’s Party; a play that Civilian Theatre’s middle-class squeamishness means it cannot be endured:

2) Digital Theatre have been adding to their collection of downloadable plays, and now  Much Ado  About Nothing (with Tennant and Tate) and the wonderful David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker headed production of All My Sons are both available in glorious HD. Given that top price tickets can set you back up to £65 then how about enjoying it in your own house with a glass of wine for £10?

3) Over at the Guardian, there is an editorial praising Stephen Sondheim to tie in with his lifetime achievement from the Critics Circle. Little needs to be said apart from…West Side Story, Gypsy, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music. Oh yes and Sweeny Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Into The Woods and Sunday In The Park With George. The last remaining great American lyricist even if his career has slowed down dramatically in the last decade.

Here are a couple of clips from two of his most best-loved works:

4) Webcowgirl over at Life in the Cheap Seats discovers the perils of reviewing student shows. Student + Sarah Kane = Pretension – Original vision. As much as I admire Sarah Kane, there can be few artists that have had such a devastating effect on the originality and interest of drama students.

This week Civilian Theatre has been mostly…

…listening to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (the Jason Donovan version naturally). Don’t judge me, blame the BBC’s fantastic The Story of Musicals, which does everything it says on the tin and more.

…watching Game of Thrones Season 1. Again. It’s all worth it for lines as amazing as…“The  next time you raise your hand to me will be the last time you have hands.”

God bless fans with time on their hands

…making my own Salt Beef thanks to Hugh F-W.