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)

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Whose line was it anyway? A Tim Crouch theatrical experience

An Oak Tree – Temporary Space @ National Theatre, until 15 July 2015 (Tickets)tim-crouch-97210

Whether you would enjoy An Oak Tree might be best based on the response you’d give on learning that the play is named after a Michael Craig-Martin artwork in which an artist asks the viewer to suppose a glass of water has become a tree, and that Crouch is someone who described theatre as ‘a conceptual artform. It doesn’t need sets, costumes and props, but exists inside an audience’s head’.

There will be many who find the 70-min play – where Crouch performs opposite an actor who he meets an hour before and arrives on stage not having seen the script, or knowing anything about the play – exactly the kind of pretentious garbage that justifies the swingeing cuts currently being delivered to the Arts Council. However those who see in theatre a medium naturally open to the world of almost infinite possibility will surely be invigorated by this revival of an early work from one of the most formally inventive writers of the 21st century.

In recent years we have seen the flowering of a new generation of playwrights, with few ties to the in-yer-face dramatists of the 1990s. Nick Payne, Lucy Prebble and Lucy Kirkwood have burst onto the scene with superbly delicate plays that balance strong writing with inventive design and narrative trickery. Yet for all their skill none have come close to Crouch’s assault on the nature of theatre.

Coming in under the radar, Adler & Gibb – his most high profile play to date – was a shock to the system and a welcome reminder that there are still people willing to use theatre as a means to interrogate itself. It was infuriating, brilliant and radical. Exactly what theatre ought to be.

<Continue to full review>

 

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

 

 

2014: A Year in Facts and Figures

A very quick snapshot of Civilian Theatre’s year theatre, as captured by WordPress.

73: Plays Seen  (36% up on 2013)    

69: Plays Reviewed

This includes:
8 Shakespeare Plays (11%)
10 Musicals / Operas (14%) 
37 were new works (50%), of which 22 were not based in existing literature or historical events (30%)
6 were in a foreign language (8%)

 

Most popular posts of 2014

1. The Crucible

I am sure it was the popularity of Arthur Miller’s classic play and not the appearance of chisel-jawed Thorin Oakenshield in the cast that propelled this to the top of my most read articles of 2014.

2. A Dream Turned Sour

Anything that increases the popularity of The Tiger Lillies is fine by me. This production, orchestrating World War One poetry, was all the things that they do well. Bringing a new and revealing power to well known works by filtering it through their atmospheric baroque soundscapes.

3. The Nether

So it appears I am the only one who thought this play was entirely average and not nearly as interesting as it seemed to think it was. Other bloggers appeared to have loved it and it has got a West End transfer, so it shows how little I know about such things.

 

Top 10 Countries by Visitors (thanks guys!)

  1. United Kingdom
  2. United States
  3. Brazil
  4. Germany
  5. Australia
  6. France
  7. Canada
  8. Italy
  9. Spain
  10. Russia Federation
  • Civilian Theatre was visited by people from 112 countries in 2013. Up from 83 last year. This represents 58% of all countries recognised by the United Nations.
  • However I hope the one person from Nepal will visit again next year. A lot to do in Africa with the majority of the continent not finding their way to the site. Better news in the Middle East where we even managed to get multiple views from Iraq and Syria. Clearly Civilian Theatre is part of the bumpy road to democracy.

The worldwide reach of Civilian Theatre

Countries