Stratford

As a course we all went on a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon to watch 2 performances at the RSC. Firstly we went on a small tour of both theatres and were lucky enough to see onstage, and backstage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. We discussed the lighting, seating area, and a little bit of history of the theatre itself.

We were given a little bit of free time before the first show which was Love for Love by William Congreve. It was a restoration comedy, so very relevant to our 18th century project, and I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The set was quite minimal, but the costumes were bold and colourful and I feel this was a big inspiration for my own design project. I really understood the play and its humour which I wasn’t expecting so I felt like I wanted to achieve this for an audience seeing Man of Mode which I have been designing.

 

The second performance I was really excited about as I’d heard good reviews and was familiar with the actress playing Wendy as she had been in Hamlet, which we studied last year, as Ophelia. The most astounding thing for me was the set; the moving floor, the ‘human mobile’, the ship, and the angled window where the boys fly in and out of. It was very spectacular and for me personally the set was more impressive than the performance itself. I thoroughly enjoyed it and there were some incredible performances, but I was personally more enthusiastic about the design as a whole.

Dead Dog in a Suitcase

During skills week, we also went on a trip to Warwick Arts Centre to watch Kneehigh’s production of Dead Dog in a Suitcase. I didn’t really know what to expect however I thought it was absolutely amazing. I got told beforehand that i would either love it or hate it, and I definitely loved it.

The performance had so much humour, and energy, and I truly believe it’s a whole new kind of theatre which is worlds away from the traditional Shakespeare which people associate with going to the theatre.

The set was also very lively and interactive, with moving pieces of scenery and a slide which the actors could use to enter different scenes. It all had a very makeshift, yet professional feel to it.

The Ugly Duckling

As a year group we went to the Playhouse to watch The Ugly Duckling, which is a play based on the original tale and associated with the anti-bullying campaign. Although the play was relatively amateur, I was impressed with the children’s performances and I thought the set was simple but effective. I really liked how they used different children in each scene to represent the ugly duckling, in different scenarios, so that the children in the audience could relate to the story more, rather than just seeing it as an actual duckling transforming into a swan.

This was done through use of costume and props, e.g. one child had a guitar, other children had various pieces of uniform so we got the impression we were in a school environment despite the set being relatively ambiguous.

There was also an intereting use of time within the play, as the story seemed to be narrated by Hans Christian Anderson, who wrote the original, and he was wearing period costume which contrasted with the modern uniforms of the children. Towards the end of the production he became a child himself and merged in with the others, which suggested to me that he may have felt like the outsider himself, as we had discussed when reading the Tin Soldier.

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OpenCity Project – Audio Tour of Nottingham

Yesterday we experienced the OpenCity Project by Andrew Brown and Katie Doubleday. It was an unusual experience which involved downloading an mp3 file onto our phones, setting off at a specific time with a group, and listening to the recording along the way.

Although we encountered some initial issues such as actually downloading the file, and then the recording would stop and start because of the internet, we finally got it working in time with the rest of the group.

It was unusual to be performing instructions from the recording at the same time as the others, without knowing what we were going to do beforehand. It gave us a chance to appreciate the city, without actually having to be anywhere. It was also quite funny watching members of the public reacting to us moving in ‘silence’ but in sync with each other.

Here is the map which we had to follow:

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Maxine Peake as Hamlet

As part of the course we were recommended to go to the Broadway cinema to see Maxine Peake as Hamlet, at Manchester’s Royal Exchange. The show was apparently a hit, and had an interesting stage design.

We checked this out online and here is the trailer which made us really want to see the show.

We also had a look at the Cineworld in the Cornerhouse and it turned out to be cheaper there so we decided to go there instead. The film lasted around 3hr 45mins and so it was quite long, however I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was better than the film adaptations which I have seen. Maxine Peake’s performance was outstanding and I also enjoyed Katie West’s interpretation of Ophelia as I have seen her perform at the Royal Exchange before as a completely different character.

The stage design was really interesting, particularly as it was set in modern day Denmark as opposed to the Elizabethan period. The lightbulbs created tension when the ghost of King Hamlet appeared, and the removable plastic meant the stage had different layers. I was also impressed by the use of specific costume, such as the bin men inspired wear for the grave diggers.

‘Mermaid’

As a course trip, we went to the playhouse to see the production of ‘Mermaid’ which was written and directed by Polly Teale.

We also received a pre-show talk from Tom Piper, the designer for the play. He talked about his processes and inspirations, and showed us slides of some of the reference images which he used.

I enjoyed the play, and its unusual twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale. It wasn’t ‘princessy’ or ‘Disney-esque’; it was raw and honest and sometimes a little uncomfortable. I felt the stage was unique, however from where we were sat we couldn’t see much of the ‘underneath action’ and could only see the actors either when they were on top of the platform, or just emerging out from underneath it.

Nonetheless, I appreciated the musty mirrors, and the way they got rid of the furniture by incorporating it into the play. It was an unusual interpretation which I’m glad I saw, especially as fellow course mate, Nikki, was a part of it so we could cheer her on.