Daisy Bowie-Sell is Time Out's former London Deputy Theatre Editor.
Backstage with David Morrissey
When were you last on stage?'"Macbeth" at the Liverpool and Everyman in 2011. That theatre was a very emotional place for me, it was where I grew up and they were knocking it down [to rebuild it]. But my romanticism disappeared after working there because I thought: You have to knock this place down, it’s a death trap! I’m not an actor who does a lot of theatre, so "Hangmen" feels a bit arse-clenching.' Have you ever had a terrible onstage mishap?‘In "Macbeth", one of the actors fainted and I had to carry him off. I turned around and he wasn’t there and I thought: where’s he gone? He was on the floor, so I picked him up, rather unceremoniously, and threw him offstage. Luckily it was at an opportune moment and no one really noticed.’ Does doing a play get a bit routine once the show’s opened?‘Sort of, except you have to re-mint it every day. It’s constantly in your brain. With TV and film you can leave it behind. I feel with theatre it’s harder to engage with my life. It disrupts your inner clock.’ Do you have pre and post-stage rituals to deal with that?‘I tend to have a siesta before the show. Working out when to eat and when to have a wee is also always an interesting one. In this play the wee is going to be tricky because we drink a lot during the show.’ That’s presumably because it’s set in a pub?‘Yes, the body of the play takes place in a pub in Oldham on a day in 1965 when hanging is abolished. I play a character called Harry Wade and he is the last hangman in Britain a
#Hofest: Hofesh Shechter tells all about his four-part dance festival
Israeli-born Hofesh Shechter is the kind of genre-busting creative who only comes along once in a bright blue moon. In 2010 he blew the dance world apart with ‘Political Mother’ – more of a rock gig than a dance piece – and continues to stir up the dance world. He’s back with #Hofest, an entire festival of shows. Here’s what they are all about.
Cerys Matthews on 'Our Country's Good' and stage mishaps
Cerys Matthews was the party-girl frontwoman of Welsh band Catatonia. Since then she has been awarded an MBE and charms multitudes with her Sunday radio show on BBC Radio 6 Music. She makes her debut as stage composer with the National Theatre’s revival of the modern classic ‘Our Country’s Good’. Do you have any backstage rituals?‘Food is an absolute no. You can actually feel it if you have a proper meal before going on stage. Which is terrible because by the time you have come off stage nowhere is open. I’ve a lifelong hatred of sandwiches and Ginsters pies, because that’s all there ever is.’ Any terrible on stage mishaps? ‘I’m awful with cables. The worst stage mishap I had was probably playing Glastonbury in front of tens of thousands of people. And I think it was televised. Kept singing. Didn’t break anything, though. Only my ego.’ What drew you to this project?‘I’m such a huge fan of Timberlake’s [Wertenbaker] play. It’s about the redemptive quality of art and that’s always been close to my heart. The play is about convicts who arrive on the shores of Australia in the eighteenth century. They are there to help build a colony and serve time, but one of the officers decides that it would be a good thing for the civilisation of the colony to start to teach them how to act and put on a play. And you actually see the convicts start getting back in touch with their humanity. It’s wonderful.’ Have you written all the music? ‘I’ve written and curated the music. I’ve brought a
Stephen Merchant on The Mentalists, Britishness and stripping off to sell tickets
Lanky comic Stephen Merchant shot to fame after co-writing smash sitcom ‘The Office’ with Ricky Gervais. Since then he’s won three Baftas and an Emmy, and hit the big time as a stand-up. Now he’s about to star in a West End revival of Richard Bean’s 2002 comedy ‘The Mentalists’. Are you particularly nervous about your theatre debut?‘As nervous as I am whenever I have to go on stage for my stand-up shows. I know I’ll probably regret ever doing it within two days, because I’ll just be so tired. But my grandfather was a builder and my dad was a plumber, which was proper work, so I’m not going to fuss about two hours a night.’ Do you have any backstage traditions before you go on?‘I like to have a bit of Steve time before I go on, and I normally pace about a bit and use the toilet a few times, but I’m not superstitious. I will probably also do some absurd warm-up exercises. I’m actually quite enjoying some of the stuff that you read about in Theatreland – pretending to be a tree and rolling around on the floor shouting “om” and “um”. When you’re doing it, it makes perfect sense.’ So theatre could be your thing?‘I think I’ve grown to appreciate acting more over the last couple of years and I feel a bit more accomplished, a bit more ambitious. I quite like the idea of being a grand man of theatre. I’ll start wearing cravats and holding court at Joe Allen, that’s my dream.’ Is ‘The Mentalists’ anything like Richard Bean’s recent plays?‘“The Mentalists” is not really cut from the sa
James Graham: the writer putting the sexy back into political theatre
You may not know the name James Graham, but you’ve probably seen his work. The 32-year-old has the magic touch when it comes to distilling stuffy political events – from the Winter of Discontent to the coalition government – into sparklingly funny dramas. So how, exactly, does he do it? Your breakthrough play ‘This House’ was about the 1974 minority Labour parliament. Were you worried it wouldn’t get the audiences? ‘I was terrified, because it was about politicians no one had heard of in a parliament where nothing happened. But if you can tell a good story with humanity, it will be engaging. The ’70s were one big enthralling identity crisis for Britain.’ Mark Gatiss starred in your recent TV drama ‘Coalition’. Do you find it easy to dramatise our politicians? ‘I love Mark. He was my Peter Mandelson. I’ve always felt the freedom to catch the essence rather than the specifics of a person. With “Coalition” I hope I was fair, I never feel like it’s my job to judge the characters or their motivations. It was really about how the British system coped, not about sending up Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg or David Cameron.’ Who was the ’70s terrorist group at the heart of your new play? ‘The Angry Brigade was a group of young people who were part of the 1970s counterculture revolution. They set off 100 bombs in London. The police enforced a press blackout on them and Time Out was one of the few to break it.’ You wrote a Broadway musical, ‘Finding Neverland’, with Gary Barlow. Did the muted
How to be a zombie in ‘The Generation of Z: Apocalypse’
‘Must have excellent staggering skills’ is what I imagine the advert for this acting job said. Whatever it was, it worked: I’m with a crowd learning how to play reanimated corpses for new zombie experience ‘The Generation of Z: Apocalypse’. The show shoves audiences into a huge warehouse that’s inhabited by a gang of infected bodies. And I’m discovering how to be one of those dead dudes.
Stephen Mangan on ‘Rules for Living’, onstage mishaps and backstage riders
From ‘Green Wing’ to ‘Jeeves and Wooster’, Stephen Mangan has made us laugh a lot over the years. Now he’s back as a neurotic ex-cricketer in chaotic new comedy-drama ‘Rules for Living’. Do you have rules backstage? ‘I’m generally just delighted they’ve given me a job and am hoping they aren’t going to fire me. I don’t have crazy riders, like two grams of coke.’ What do you do before you go on? ‘Music is important. I always find the song that gets me into the mood for the role. When I played Bertie Wooster I used to listen to the theme tune for “The Muppets”.’ Have you ever had any onstage mishaps? ‘I did a play once where I had to fight the most uncoordinated actor in Britain. It made me so tense. Every day I’d get whacked in the face or kicked in the groin. I also accidentally made an actor fall eight feet off the front of the stage during a performance of “As You Like it”. It was terrible, but pretty funny.’ You’re padded up in rehearsal pictures. Is ‘Rules for Living’ a bit dangerous? ‘It looks as though we’re in “Starlight Express”! But no, the knee pads are being used because of the National Theatre’s strict health and safety guidelines. We won’t be wearing them on stage.’ What is ‘Rules for Living’? ‘It’s a dramedy, or whatever you call it. We’re siblings going back to our parents’ house. The rules are our characters’ coping mechanisms.’ Sounds complicated… ‘Yes, it is. My character can’t take anything seriously, so he has to put on a silly voice. This may have been fu
Listings and reviews (11)
‘The Vote’ returns in reworked, recast form for one (election) night only in 2019. At 10am on Sunday December 8, 166 tickets only will go on sale at www.thevote2019.co.uk. There will be a further release of tickets on Wednesday December 11 at noon. This time it will star Catherine Tate, Nina Sosanya, Mark Gatiss, Michael Shaeffer, Tommy French, Hadley Fraser, Llewella Gideon, Rachel Denning, Rosalie Craig, MyAnna Buring, Aicha Kossoko, Jackie Clune, Joanna Griffin, Yusra Wursama, Rita Balogun, Paul Chahidi, Stephen Kennedy, Heather Craney, Fisayo Akinade, Bill Paterson, Eddie Arnold, Wanda Opalinska, Nicholas Burns and Lisa Caruccio Came. It will run 8.30pm to 10pm, with the results of the exit poll announced on stage at the end. If you’re heading to the polls today, spare a thought for the people who hand you your ballot papers. Not only do they have to enforce a series of almost unenforcable rules – No phones! No politics! No selfies! – and deal with angry, possibly drunk members of the public, their role allows pretty much no room for human error. And smart political playwright James Graham is all over the dramatic potential. Graham sets his ambitious, star-saturated ‘The Vote’ in a polling station in the 90 minutes before voting finishes on Thursday May 7 2015. (Recognise that date? Haven’t voted yet? Don’t bloody forget.) As well as a short run at the Donmar, the play is being screened live on TV during the the exact time the play is set, so chances are a lot of peop
This Is How We Die
This review is from June 2015; 'This is How We Die' returns for five shows at Ovalhouse around Hallowe'en in 2019. Here’s fair warning: definitely don’t watch Christopher Brett Bailey’s ‘This Is How We Die’ on any kind of drugs. There’s a real chance you might explode. The Canadian’s extraordinary motor-mouth monologue music piece is an annihilation of the senses. His rapid, funny and surreal narrative messes with your head before his exceptionally loud music messes with your heart – vibrating your entire body until you think your vital organ may have missed a beat. You don’t need artificial stimulants anyway: ‘This Is How We Die’ is enough of a trip. From the moment Brett Bailey stomps on to the stage to sit at a table with a microphone and reads from pages of a script, it’s transfixing: a fast stream of irony, barbed words and fucked-up narratives. He tells of an intensely visual, often smilingly brutal magical realist journey through England and America. There are hilarious tangents – when someone tells him to go fuck himself he tries it, swapping out of his and her roles in a twisted solo duet. He creates weird, impossible characters: his girlfriend’s dad is a walking swastika, literally shaped into one after a car crash; her mum is the strong silent type, a bodybuilder with her mouth stapled together.‘This Is How We Die’ is a lot of things, but what I took away most was its riff on the way we use language, its signifiers and its cliches. Brett Bailey’s imagery is minutel
Am I Dead Yet?
The old cliché goes that death is life’s only certainty. But does that still stand today? In their new piece, Unlimited Theatre explore the possibility that death may not be the finale we all think it is. Which is a comforting thought until you begin to imagine a world that’s filled to the brim with people who are stubbornly refusing to pop off. Despite dealing with the most morbid of subjects, ‘Am I Dead Yet’ is actually quite genial. The two-hander has Chris Thorpe and Jon Spooner standing together on a stage scattered with microphones, amps, guitars and a piano. They get dressed into all-in-one suits that make them look a little like racing drivers, they perform songs, tell us facts (they’ve been creating the show with the help of a resuscitation expert) and get a trained professional to teach us CPR. Everything within the piece is a way of demonstrating how death isn’t what it once was. Where once it was an ending, these days it can be a mid-way point. Modern science is getting better and better at bringing back to life those who have died. Thorpe’s skill at provoking a vivid image in the mind of an audience is firmly at work here. He and Spooner tell two separate tales involving dead people. In the first, two coppers in the late '70s search for the body parts of a man who has jumped in the way of a passing train. They’re still looking for his head. He’s definitely dead. Then there’s the young girl who slips through the ice on the top of a frozen lake and disappears under
Tonight With Donny Stixx
'Tonight With Donny Stixx' will be on at The Bunker in November 2016. This review is from the Edinburgh Fringe run in 2015. The latest play from master of the dark monologue Philip Ridley is this companion piece to 2013’s ‘Dark Vanilla Jungle’. Like its sister-work ‘Tonight with Donny Stixx’ is hard to stomach: a shattering story of one vulnerable young person pushed to a violent edge. And like the most recent production of ‘Dark Vanilla Jungle’ it’s directed by David Mercatali who again elicits a vein throbbing, red-faced, sweat-soaked performance from the lone actor onstage. Sean Michael Verey gives a superbly shocking, intense and all-encompassing performance. The piece begins as if Donny were hosting a talk-show; he smiles and gurns, he charms the audience, he laughs hollowly at his own jokes until he cracks and suddenly he’s screaming. Angry, mad, vicious and bitter he begins to relay his tale of neglect, spitting out a story of mental abuse, grief, breakdown and horrible violence. To begin with, when we get the glimpses of what Donny has done – some sort of shooting, maybe in a church, some sort of mass murder – we think he’s a monster. But, as always with Ridley – and as with life – it’s complicated. Donny’s life – with an unstable, controlling, unhappy mother who he idolises – is unravelled and the responsibility for his actions begins to shift onto other shoulders. ‘Tonight with Donny Stixx’ is no easy ride – that’s not Ridley’s style. Mercatali knows exactly this a
This review is from 'Grounded's April 2014 run at the Gate The First World War was a century ago and times have changed. Where war once meant hordes of young men sacrificing their lives in foreign lands, now both women and men can take part in the battle, some from the safety of a trailer park near Las Vegas. George Brant’s superb, intense play demonstrates how no matter where you’re conducting it, war grates on the heart, soul and mind. His protagonist is The Pilot, a rough, tough woman F-16 flyer for the US Air Force who loves ‘the blue’ and the thrill of flight. When she gets pregnant on leave she starts a family and is happy, but it’s not long before she’s raring to get back to work. When she does, things are different. She is reassigned to ‘pilot’ drones – remotely controlled stealth bombers operated from the desert a few miles from the Vegas Strip. Lucy Ellinson returns as The Pilot after the show’s hit runs in Edinburgh and London last year, and she is devastatingly good. Her relaxed, jokey manner occasionally breaks, hinting at a taught energy which she increasingly loses control of as The Pilot struggles to reconcile her two worlds – one where she bombs ‘the guilty’ in 12-hour shifts, the other where she returns home each night to be a wife and mother. Though we are never quite sure what’s going to happen until it does, Ellinson makes this journey feel determined somehow, like one of the Greek myths she frequently references. The Pilot is a tragic figure, alone on he
My Eyes Went Dark
This is review is of 'My Eyes Went Dark's 2015 run at the Finborough Theatre in London, where this porduction premiered with the exact same cast Matthew Wilkinson’s thrilling new play is about a grieving man, suffering a deep, awful trauma. As a visceral, realistic exploration of whether a victim can and should forgive, it’s practically Greek on the tragedy scale. Nikolai Koslov is an architect from Ossetia in Russia whose two children and wife have been killed in a plane crash. He calls it a crime, but everyone around him calls it an accident. As the trial drags on, he slowly realises that no-one will take responsibility for what has happened. Haunted by the image of the mangled bodies of his family, he desperately needs someone to apologise and face jail. He wants someone to blame. When he isn’t satisfied, he exacts his own revenge and in the process transforms himself from victim to perpetrator.‘My Eyes Went Dark’ is a tragedy that looks at human beings’ inherent need to exact revenge. As in the ancient tragedies, Nikolai is on a singular path where nothing but punishment will satisfy him. But seeking it is the thing that ultimately destroys him. The play deftly and intelligently asks whether the Bible’s ‘an eye for an eye …’ can ever be something to live by.Wilkinson’s dialogue is realistic and sparse and his scenes move fluidly into each other, slowly revealing Nikolai’s story. Thusita Jayasundera plays all the characters apart from Nikolai, including a councillor, fami
You Me Bum Bum Train
'You Me Bum Bum Train' tickets for Spring 2016 are only available through ballot. If you would like to purchase a ticket, sign up to the lottery at bumbumtrain.com by Feb 4, 4pm. All aboard! Or should that be: everyone who managed to elbow their way to a ticket, aboard! ‘You Me Bum Bum Train’, the crazy, immersive and entirely sold out ride for one person has pulled into a secret London location and is as exhilarating as ever. Volunteering on the 'Bum Bum Train'With its ridiculous name and its glorious refusal to make its home in a genre (it’s *sort* of theatre, but it’s also *sort* of a game and it’s *sort* of like nothing else on earth), ‘You Me Bum Bum Train’ – the brainchild of the monumentally imaginative Kate Bond and Morgan Lloyd – takes you into the unknown. I can’t say much more, because I’ve signed something resembling the official secrets act, saying I can’t disclose anything about ‘YMBBT’. It’s all a little like the first and second rules of Fight Club.But the truth is I wouldn’t want to tell you too much. Part of the terror and joy of it is not knowing what might be on the other side of the many, very different doors constructed in Bond and Lloyd’s intricate and exceptionally realistic sets – put together by an army of volunteers.You are cast as the lead actor in a series of interactive experiences: ‘YMBBT’ will take you to some strange places, some of which may seem familiar, most of which probably won't. Fan of early '90s TV show ‘Quantum Leap’? You’ll probabl
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
A luminous roller-coaster ride of colour, spectacle and fantastical happenings, Sam Mendes’s stage version of Roald Dahl’s adored children’s book is still as entertaining as ever, two years and a couple of casts down the line. And though a lot of that comes down to the show’s garishly-hued stage tricks, it’s also due to the main attraction. In David Greig’s adaptation that’s not the eponymous Charlie Bucket, but eccentric factory owner Mr Willy Wonka. Following in the footsteps of the cuddlier Douglas Hodge, RSC stalwart Jonathan Slinger is now the third Wonka. He has a superb subversive touch that I’d wager Dahl would heartily approve of. He spits and roars, huffs and growls his way through Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s bland songs (only ‘Pure Imagination’, lifted from the 1971 film, really makes an impact). There’s something enchanting and also a little scary about Slinger as he channels everyone from a toned-down Tim Curry in ‘Rocky Horror’ to croaky crooner Tom Waits. His cheshire cat smile is both welcoming and disconcerting and it’s not until the very end that either you or Charlie can be entirely sure you can trust him. Which for this particular character, is pretty perfect. In Greig’s taut, naughtily funny script, Wonka doesn’t properly arrive until just before the second half, which means the early scenes, set in the slum home of the Buckets feel a little drawn out. The plot is all set up thoroughly, though, and designer Mark Thompson’s clever way of introducing a
The Bunker: Morgana and Agamemnon
This review is of the show's run in 2013. 'The Bunker Trilogy' returns in September 2015. It's an interesting premise, if a little arbitrary and a smidgen restrictive: stage three very different plays adapted from drama from wildly varied eras in a replica of a tiny bunker in a trench in world war one. In Jethro Compton's so-called 'Bunker Trilogy' where the audience sit scrunched up inside the bunker inches from the action, the idea just about manages to avoid being gimmicky. (Especially when you ignore the third, frankly awful show 'Macbeth', which isn't transferring with the other two from the Edinburgh festival for a London run at Southwark.) The best by far is 'Morgana', worked from the Arthurian legends by James Wilkes (who has also adapted 'Agamemnon'). To find a way into the story, he has three soldiers as old boarding school chums who, along with 10 other, now dead peers, gave themselves pet names. These three are Arthur, Lancelot and Gawain. There's a plausible mystery and magic in this show, evoked in the way the innocent Gawain (played by James Marlowe with a touching vulnerable innocence) meets an intriguing French stranger in the local town and how his traumatised mind gives way to strange, bewitching hallucinations. All the while the otherworldly Serena Manteghi as Morgana, Guinevere and Gawain's love interest permeates the three men's memories and thoughts, until their sharp, funny boyish banter slowly gives way to distraction and dread. 'Agamemnon', on the ot
The arrival of new artistic director Matthew Warchus has knocked years off the Old Vic. The theatre’s gone a bit yoof, with a trendy refurb of the foyer and bar, and now this energetic, rock-soundtracked drama about Britain’s educational establishment.Opening to speeches from Maggie Thatcher and Tony Blair alongside strains of punked-up Beatles tracks, Tamsin Oglesby’s ‘Future Conditional’ suggests that if our school system was itself at school, it would have scored a big fat F in its last SATs. The three strands of story follow a diverse bunch of mothers at the primary school gates dealing with the desperate world of secondary school selection; the excellent Mr Crane – comedian Rob Brydon delivering a nicely understated performance – teaching a secondary school class including a bright Pakistani refugee revelling in the chance to learn; and then there’s a collection of government stooges tasked with bringing out a report on how they can make Britain’s education better.The issues are all recognisable – parents pretending they are nearer to a school than they are in order to secure a place; Brydon’s harassed but inspiring Mr Crane struggling in a world where some kids have zero respect for their teachers; the government trying to tackle a system that isn’t working, while also avoiding any unhelpful headlines.Though Oglesby’s scenarios are very funny, and grapple well with some complex issues, the sheer number of characters mean that several are fairly lazy stereotypes. It’s
My Eyes Went Dark
The world premiere of this intriguing two-hander about a Russian architect who kills an air traffic controller as revenge for the death of his family in a plane crash. When he's released suddenly from a Swiss prison and given a new life, his demons catch up with him. Playwright Matthew Wilkinson directs his play, which was originally developed with the help of the National Theatre Studio.
Cheap eats of the week: Brick House
Hungry but strapped for cash? We've got you covered with our cheap eats of the week. Bricks? On a menu? Ha ha. Brick House is named after the warehouse it's based in. It's the second sourdough place to open in the area in the last year. Sourdough. That's an east London thing. It's catching on all over, and south of the river is rapidly becoming Sourdough Central. Brick House has been around since 2012, as a bakery in Peckham Rye. They supply shops and top restaurants. Are loaves the only offering? No. There's breakfast: ripe avocado on rye, granola, Nutella on toast. And soups and sandwiches for lunch. The menu tops out at £8. And who will be there if I go? The scene is very East Dulwich: laidback, kidfriendly, lots of 'young professionals' rinsing the free wi-fi at leisure. Skinny jeans and a beard not required? Absolutely not. Brick House isn't pretentious: just a homely, friendly place to munch on hearty, freshly made grub. You won't leave this place sour-faced. THE BOTTOM LINE: A must-dough spot for Dulwich bread-heads. Brick House is at 1 Zenoria St, SE22 8HP. East Dulwich rail. Meal for two with drinks and service: around £20 Want more cheap eats? Try Walthamstow Village Market.
Wallace Shawn to star in his own play ‘Evening at the Talk House’ at the National Theatre
Remember the guy from ‘The Princess Bride’ that kept saying ‘Inconceivable!’ over and over again? Or the excitable dinosaur Rex from the ‘Toy Story’ films? Or the love-struck teacher Mr Hall from 'Clueless'? Then you’ll know Wallace Shawn. And the National Theatre have just announced that the American polymath writer, director and actor will star in the world premiere of his own play at the National Theatre this November. ‘Evening At the Talk House’ is set in a genteel club called The Talk House, which is presided over by Nellie – played by Anna Calder-Marshall. The cryptic blurb suggests an awkward reunion of sorts between a playwright, a composer, an actress and a beaten up former TV star. Shawn, who has been working on stage and screen for the last forty years, will be joined by American actors Joseph Mydell (who won an Olivier Award for ‘Angels in America’ in 1993), Josh Hamilton, Stuart Milligan and British actors Simon Shepherd, Anna Calder-Marshall and Naomi Wirthner alongside the previously announced Sinead Matthews. The show will be directed by the very excellent 'Jerusalem' director Ian Rickson. 'Evening at the Talk House' runs at the National Theatre, Dorfman from November 17 – Jan 23.
Get your Greek on with an all-day reading of ‘The Iliad’
More than 60 actors are today taking part in an all-day reading of Homer’s epic poem ‘The Iliad’. The likes of Simon Russell Beale, Simon Callow, Bertie Carvel, Brian Cox, Sinead Cusack, Hattie Morahan, Tobias Menzies and Tim Pigott-Smith are all reading sections of the work throughout the day at the British Museum, while their performances are live streamed from the Almeida website. The actors kicked off at the British Museum at 9am this morning and continue until about 7pm before heading over to the Almeida Theatre to finish off from 8pm till late. It’s completely free to head over the British Museum to watch however much you can handle today, but tickets to the sections at the Almeida are all sold out. But never fear! You can watch it all live from the comfort of your own home on the Almeida’s website, or follow #iliadlive and @iliadlive on Twitter. Read more about the Almeida’s Greeks season.
An insider’s guide to queuing for day tickets to Benedict Cumberbatch’s ‘Hamlet’ at the Barbican
The theatre world is all abuzz with excitement at the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch is treading the boards as Hamlet. Tickets to Lyndsey Turner’s production at the Barbican all sold out last year, but there are still ways of getting to see the ‘Sherlock’ star in all his glory. One of those is nabbing one of the 30 day seats being sold to punters in person at the box office on the day of the performance. With the news that, on the first preview, someone began queuing up at 3pm for tickets for the following morning, I went down to see what the secrets of the day seat queue really were. Here’s what I learnt based on that one night. (NB: this is a rough guide, who really knows what other nights will be like.) Don’t turn up at midnight. The Barbican don’t want you to, you don’t want to, Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t want you to. It’s a long time till the box office opens at 10.30am, and it’s not nice trying to stay awake on the streets. I got there at 11.30pm. I was the first person there and there were only three more people who arrived until around 3am. Do get there around 4am. On the second preview night when I queued, most people began to turn up between 4am and 5am. 5.20am was too late – there were already 15 people in the queue (there are only two tickets per person). Do wait, even if the queue is already 15-people-strong. The queue for £10 day tickets turns into the queue for returns. Which basically means that you may have a chance to get returns if you stick with it. Th
Watch Benedict Cumberbatch very very politely ask you not to film him in ‘Hamlet'
London: let’s spread the word – filming Benedict Cumberbatch while he’s on stage in ‘Hamlet’ is not cool. The theatre man of the moment was forced to make a plea over the weekend for audiences to stop filming the production of ‘Hamlet’, which opened in previews last week at the Barbican. At stage door after the show, the ‘Sherlock’ actor took a moment to talk to fans waiting for a glimpse of him. He said he had spotted the red light of a camera in the third row while he was doing one of the most famous speeches of the play, the ‘To be, or not to be’ soliloquy. ‘It’s been one hell of a week…with one damn thing after another’ said Cumberbatch. ‘But there’s nothing less supportive or enjoyable as an actor being onstage and experiencing that. And I can’t give you what I want to give you.’ The actor said the theatre will be bringing in devices that will detect filming and get people evicted from the auditorium. The Hollywood star isn’t the first to have struggled with audiences not behaving themselves. In 2013 James McAvoy halted the production of ‘Macbeth’ he was starring in to tell off someone who was filming his performance. And the likes of Hugh Jackman and Kevin Spacey have scolded audience members when their phone rang during their shows. Watch the video: Read our guide to Hamlet and take a look at some more pics from the production. Or find out what happened when we queued all night for a #cumberhamlet ticket.
Charlotte Church is performing with London's alternative all-girl choir Gaggle
Charlotte Church has been really earning her National Treasure status recently – not only did she happily declare herself a ‘Prosecco socialist’ in May and head onto the streets to protest against austerity, she’s now also showing her seemingly unending good taste by agreeing to take part in a new production staged by madcap, experimental, radical feminist choral group Gaggle. The all-female 20-piece alt-choir have become known for their surprising takes on choral compositions while wearing slightly insane costumes. Church will join these dynamic re-inventors for a brand new take on Aristophanes’s play ‘Lysistrata’. The choir’s founder Deborah Coughlin has created a contemporary re-telling of the tale about a bunch of women who decide to withhold sex privileges from their men, in an attempt to stop a war in 411 BC. It's performed by four actors – Church alongside three others (so no singing then) and features musical interludes from choral innovators Gaggle. Catch it over two nights only as part of the Almeida’s Greeks festival, running alongside the theatre’s main shows. ‘Gaggle: Lysistrata’ is on Friday August 7 and Saturday August 8 at 10.30pm.
Joffrey from ‘Game of Thrones’ stars in sci-fi bear puppet comedy show
WARNING: this blog contains spoilers, but only if you’re really behind with ‘Game of Thrones’. ‘Two cosmonaut bears on a spaceship hurtling toward the impossibly distant limits of the universe’ is a storyline to catch your eye. But the news that it’s the description of a play that’s been performed by erstwhile ‘Game of Thrones’ star Jack Gleeson, aka Joffrey Baratheon, aka the man who suffered one of the most gruesome yet satisfying on-screen deaths of recent years, is what’s really guaranteed to make you sit down, shut up and listen in. Gleeson’s bulging bloodshot eyes had us both grimacing and gleefully yelping ‘Finally!’ from our sofas as we watched his horrendous Joffrey die awfully in series four of ‘Game of Thrones’. But the actor clearly wanted to leave the nasty-ass boy king far behind him, as his return to the stage following the series is this madcap comedy puppet show ‘Bears in Space’ at Soho Theatre this August. In it, the two bears are running from outlaws across space, while learning a heart-warming lesson or two about the need for friendship no matter where you are. We’re wagering the audience will be 50-50 ‘Game of Thrones’ lovers and punters who just like it wacky. 'Bears in Space' is at Soho Theatre August 4-25.
Help find London's best theatre with the Time Out Theatre Awards
We all know that London's theatres are the best in the world. But which individual theatre is the best of them all? To find the answer to that question we’re asking YOU. Time Out is launching its Time Out Theatre Awards 2015 today, which means we want you to vote on your favourite contenders in a long list of the city’s greatest theatrical places. From the brilliant Barbican and the delightful Donmar to the yummy Yard theatre and unique Unicorn here’s your chance to pick which venue you think brings most to London’s dramatic life. Londoners, which is your best-loved theatre in the city? Voting is open until August 13 and the winners will be announced in the magazine and online in August. Vote right HERE right now.
The National Theatre has a brand new free outdoor River Stage
Don’t get us wrong, we love the big red Temporary Theatre down at the National. But since it arrived and booted the National's beloved outdoor free festival of performance ‘Watch This Space’ out onto the road last year, we’ve been missing some riverside summer free theatre fun. But pine no more! The National have just announced the line up of their brand new and very free series of performances on what they are now calling the River Stage. Situated right in-front of The Understudy, the new bar on the riverside, the River Stage will offer up family friendly shows such as ‘Python on the Loose’ by the Whalley Range Stars and more hip stuff like evening DJ sets curated by the likes of The Yard theatre, Café Oto and Birmingham’s Fierce Festival. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday over August there will be a selection of things to experience throughout the day and on most nights. Hooray! There’s enough circus, music, theatre and dance to really make the South Bank swing. Find out more about Watch This Space and the new River Stage.
RIFT returns with an immersive journey through the underworld
Remember when we, and quite a lot of other Londoners, spent an entire night – sunset through to sunrise – in the Balfron Tower in east London watching ‘Macbeth’ in 2014? Now the company behind that epic undertaking returns with their biggest show since. ‘Styx’ is an immersive audio journey where a headphones-adorned audience are plunged into an evocative mythical journey one person at a time. Oh, and punters are supposed to be dead: in ‘Styx’ audience members are making their final journey through the underworld. RIFT have commandeered a disused fire station in a secret location on the Victoria Line which has been transformed for the site-specific show, which mashes up ancient myths in a modern way. And thankfully, this one is only around one hour, rather than ten. Tickets are on sale now, and are a damn sight cheaper than the likes of other immersive pioneers You Me Bum Bum Train and Punchdrunk. ‘Styx’ runs July 1–Aug 1, Tue-Sat at various time slots. Head here for tickets and more information.