So far here in London I’ve seen Billy Elliot and Priscilla Queen of the Desert , The Shape of Things in a gallery in SoHo, A Flea in Her Ear at the Old Vic, and Twelfth Night at the National. I was going to give them each their own blog entry, but I got lazy and decided to just do five at a time. And you can tell which ones are freshest on my mind, because their comments are definitely longer.
Billy Elliot was one of the most moving musicals I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s because of my dance background (although I don’t think so), but I thought his solo dance performances said so much more than any other part of the musical where there was actual dialogue. One of the dance bits actually brought me to tears, it was so beautiful. I might actually go see this one again, it was so good.
Priscilla, on the other hand, was hilarious. It was a musical about three drag queens in Australia taking their show on tour to this place in the outback, and it was so ostentatious and fabulous that I just couldn’t get over it. They shot confetti into the audience. For the act one finale, everyone came out in these unbelievably over-the-top costumes and sang “I Will Survive.” It was brilliant.
The Shape of Things was done by a small company in a rented gallery space in SoHo. The creative design was great, I loved how they utilized the space and the venue was a perfect choice for the play. The Shape of Things is one of my favs, but as an American, it was odd watching four actors who were clearly British trying to get a handle on the American accent. The acting was a bit rushed (and whether it was a directing choice or nerves or just the actors trying to deal with the accent, I don’t know), and I had a hard time buying it. I didn’t buy the Adam/Jenny scene AT ALL, and Adam was way too good-looking to begin with. Although they did this thing that was awesome! So the play was upstairs, and the audience would go up these narrow stairs into the room where there was a sectioned off place to sit on these cushions on the ground. At the top of the stairs was a guy acting as an usher, telling us where we can sit, asking us not to lean on stuff, etc. And he was really cute, I was actually thinking of trying to catch up with him after and see if he wanted to go for a drink or something. So then people kind of stop coming up, except for this one girl who comes upstairs, walks to the middle of the stage, looks in her bag, and then the guy who was the usher walks up to her and is Adam! I loved it. Except it kinda threw me, because Adam is supposed to not be obvious cute, and he obviously was because I thought is was cute the minute I saw him. So yeah.
A Flea in Her Ear at the Old Vic was great. Typical restoration comedy, translated from French, brilliant acting, beautiful set and costumes, great lighting, and Tom Hollander was in it and he was BRILLIANT. He played two different characters and I swear to God, it could’ve been two different actors playing those roles. He was so good. The play was hilarious, and even though it was the most RIDICULOUS circumstances imaginable, the actors were so dedicated that never once did I doubt them. It was so much fun.
Twelfth Night at the National was quite good as well. Peter Hall directed it as his eightieth birthday celebration and wanted his daughter, Rebecca Hall, to play Viola. And as much as I love Rebecca Hall and think she’s a great actress, I didn’t really like her all that much in this role. I mean, she was okay, but she would’ve been much better suited for Portia in Merchant, or something a bit more serious. Twelfth Night is a comedy, and everything she said sounded like a damn tragedy. The “I left no ring with her. What means this lady?” speech was delivered as if it were the greatest calamity that she could think of. And her phrases were a bit halting, she took awkward breaths in the middle of sentences/lines. So that kind of bothered me, but that was just my opinion. Sir Toby and Andrew Aguecheek, on the other hand, were BRILLIANT. Oh god, they were hilarious. Sir Toby was played by Simon Carrow and that made me really happy, and Aguecheek literally could do no wrong. Everything he did or said just left the entire audience in stitches. It was great.
The creative design for the show was really good too. Minimalist (yet beautiful) set design, GORGEOUS costumes and wigs, beautiful lighting, and they had live musicians dressed in costume sitting in one of the boxes near the stage. Loved it. Although my favorite moment was probably the end, when Feste was left alone singing “hey ho, the wind and the rain.” He got through most of the song with a slightly eerie quality, and for the second to last chorus just lifted his hands slightly as if to conduct, and the audience joined in softly for just the chorus bit, but it was so intimate and left such a communal feeling. It just left me feeling as if everyone in the audience was connected, and together we had shared the experience of the previous two and a half hours. I love it when theatre does that, you know? Man. Theatre is so cool.