I stopped going to the cinema when they started charging £8.00, too much when you can watch the film online for free or a couple quid on DVD at your local library. But austerity has seen the end of public library rental and so down to getting an expensive movie channel or buying on DVD. I have settled for buying newish films online second hand, selling them on and hoping the value of watching the film covers the loss. But Smart HDTV is winning over the movie fan and cinema on the wane again.
In recent years Netflix had been snubbed at the Cannes Film Festival for releasing the films they make on their streaming channel first without a cinema release, the same way they do their normal TV output. Cannes banned them from entering their competition as they say films that bypass the cinema ‘are not in the spirit of the competition’. But this year the ‘Meyerowitz Stories’, starring Ben Stiller and Emma Thompson, and ‘Okja’, a South Koran monster movie , have been submitted and accepted at the festival in consideration for the main competition categories. Amazon online films have also been allowed a total of five entries. Cannes are getting with the times as film once again moves away from the cinema, as it did in the 1970s and 80s with the arrival of VHS. But they had their moment of revenge and the projectionist showed Okja in the wrong ratio at the premier, much to the derision of the audience, spoiling director Bong Joon’s day.
Cannes are not the only people to be blanking Netflix though, The BAFTAS also yet to award their steaming films and TV stuff that many gongs. You may have noticed that The Crown was snubbed this year, the BAFTAs preferring the politically correct gong for the drama Damilola and Happy Valley. In fact the BBC almost swept the board when its films and TV shows came up against steaming platform original productions, winning 19 of the 24 categories.
If you look at the numbers of punters going to the cinema the multiplexes numbers were on the up until 2011 but the mass uptake of smart TVs because of the end of high street DVD rental means the bulk of people only now go to the cinema for the blockbuster experience and wait for the rest to come up on movie channels. You have to admit those Marvel and Star Wars films look even better on the big screen. Because of that the big studios concentrate on dumbing down summer blockbusters to appeal to both Indian kids in the slums and students on a night out in Wigan. You will see more and more Hollywood films featuring South East Asian stars. But that means less Hollywood studio cash spent on the mid range films and it’s all getting rather stale s far as film that makes you think, cry and dream.. You can tell that by the boring Oscar winners.
Cinema attendance peaked in the UK in 1947 with an incredible 1.6 billion tickets bought annually and bottomed out in 1983 at 54 million, on overage one per person, per year by the time of Die Hard hit the big screen, and then crept up ever since but only enough to sustain the cinema experience here. The growth of car ownership got people to the cinemas over the last century but now it’s the cinema experience and the number of the multiplex’s that keeps them there, rather than the films. Over-priced 3D films, new technology and IMAX have also added to the profits. It’s similar to music’s conflicts with digital in that it’s all about how many options there are to buy it that keep you interested, and preferably buy it twice. The cinema, like the live gig, is the chance to escape the computer screen and a fun old fashioned night out. Three American cinema multiples account for 70% of screens here and so they are dominated by American film.
For me the cinema experience will always be the best and even when you are a one of a handful watching the afternoon show, you still enjoy total escapism of going into the dark away from your boring life to enjoy the fantasy unfolding in secret before heading back out into the cold winter air through the depressing Exit sign. That green sign may as well read Life. But the joys and addictions of the internet, social media and home gaming and those TV HD screens means there are not many reason to go out anymore as it’s all their in the home. Beers is too expensive in the pubs and girls are all online now, street crime in our capitals on the up. You can’t smoke anywhere near the cinema and parking wardens lurking everywhere. Watching movies at home on your 40 inch HD is the best home movie viewing has ever been. Ok you get a bit of crackle on the noisy blockbusters but you do get immersed more and that infinite Marvel Universe looks fabulous in your living room. If the movie is slow you can freeze it and get a cuppa or and do some bits around the house and then dive back when you are ready, although lets be honest, there are very few films that grip us these days, Inception being the last one for me.
One of the reasons why I moved to London was because I did a drama degree and London has some of the best theatre in the UK. Also when you studied a drama degree like me you really have that benefit of this, so if you are studying drama, dance, performing arts or anything along those lines in London make sure you take advantage of the theatre London has to offer.
The Theatres in London include:
- The National Theatre
- Old Vic
- The Globe
- West End
- The Albany (Deptford, South East London)
- The Orange Tree Theatre (Richmond, South West London)
- The Rose Theatre (Kingston, South West London)
- Stratford Youth Theatre (East London)
- Olivier Theatre (part of the National Theatre)
- Southwark Playhouse (South East London)
- Lyric Hammersmith (West London)
- Dury Lane
There are some that I have listed, but there are many more in London but I could be here for quite a while so there were most popular ones/ones that I have visited.
My favorite theatres in London have to be the old ones, which have been around for as long as 300-400 because you can admire the beautiful ceilings, walls, pillars, all of it just looks beautiful. Just as interesting as the show/performance sometimes!
- Why I believe some people do not visit the theatre as much as they like too, especially when for West End shows because tickets are incredibly expensive 60-70 for a front row/decent seat. Booking online or at the book office. But my tip is if you want cheap tickets for these shows is that you either queue up early at the theatre where the show is being performed at early (some people can queue up as early as 6/7am so it is going to be a very early start) but it's worth a try if you are local. And the first 10-20 people get £10-20 tickets, basically it is tickets they have not sold. I have not had the luck to getting this yet because I have been an unlucky one. Also it is also on the day of the performance so for example if the show was on 23/01/2014 you would have to be available for the show otherwise it's a waste of time and that ticket could have gone to someone else who would really loved to have seen the show and did not get one.
- My tip if you are planning to buy theatre tickets on the day is that, I know you see them being advertised as 'cheaper' across Leicester Square and Covent Garden. My advice is not be too tempted by this, even it does sound very tempting but DO NOT FALL FOR IT because what they are doing is that, they are one queueing at stupid o'clock in the morning to get the £10-20 tickets and selling them again for double the price so it's rip-off in a way.
- If you are student, and you go to theatres like Old Vic and National Theatre you can get tickets for £5-10 which is amazing. With the National Theatre if you are between the ages of 16-25 you can apply for a 16-25 card which gives you access to all their theatre shows for £5, but this is restricted. Also you will not need to renew the card as you have this card from when you apply till the day before you turn 27! It's pretty good and it's not too much effort to apply for one!
With student tickets you must present a valid student card.
- Also for cheap tickets you can try tickets on websites such as lastminute.com but usually they are the ones with restricted views, but I did know someone who did that and she paid £15 for a ticket as said 'restricted view' on the ticket when it actually a decent view. But it meant that it was restricted view for a child not an adult. Sometimes you can be lucky.
Tips for theatre trips
- Make sure you know where you going, where it is, time of show because there is nothing more stressful than running around twenty minutes/half an hour before a show and you are either at the wrong theatre or have no idea where you are, or where you are going.
- It is best to pre-order drinks for the interval which is about twenty minutes throughout the performance because the queues can be made at the bars at this time.
- You will not be allowed to film/pre-record a show.
- Moblie phones MUST BE SWITCHED OFF or on silent because we all know it is very embarassing when your phone goes off a the wrong moment. Your phone going off loudly will ruin the show for you, others and anyone performing on stage.
- Don't talk, whisper, gossip because it will annoy people around you, especially if they have paid £60-70 for a ticket. They did not pay £60-70 to listen to your gossip about how rubbish the show is, I hate the actor/actress, or gossip like 'i hate her' 'she slept with my ex' blah blah leave that for when the show is over or in the interval.
- If you are late for a performance the front of house staff have the right to not let you into the theatre until a apporiate time/break so BE THERE ON TIME.
- Try and go to the toilet before the show, in the interval or afterwards because it disturbs the people who are trying to watch the performance.
So Theatre is a great hobby, and an enjoyable experience for people, so make the most of it and have a great time and hopefully the show will be just as good!
Those of you who know me outside of the world of dooyoo will know that I am a huge theatre fan, to be honest I think that might be an understatement lol. I can not imaging spending any long periods of time being unable to park my rear in a theatre seat somewhere to see another 2 -3 hours of live music, singing and dancing in who knows what genre of show!
Now I know most people wonder why, for me I wonder why more people do not want to go! The performers on these stages are some of the most talented singers, dancers, performers and musicians in the world, why would you not want to have the chance to watch and listen to them?
The calibre of these people really is outstanding, they have to perform the show's 6 days a week, that's 8 shows a week on average. They need to be fit enough to dance and sing their way through all of these shows as well as being talented enough actors to convince us that they are the characters they are playing and usually all of this in an array of accents whilst in front of an audience of hundreds to thousands of people, there is no room for error and day after day these people pull off perfect show after perfect show for us.
For many London Theatre is the creme de la creme of theatre and with the number of theatres in the city there certainly is the largest choice of shows to see so choosing the right show for yourself and then finding the right ticket can admittedly be a bit of a mine field.
WEST END THEATRES ....
The main district of theatres in London is referred to as the West End, there are over 40 theatres in this area, they vary greatly in size, the largest venues being the Apollo Victoria and the Palladium seating 2,300 people down to the Donmar Warehouse which seats 250 people. There are also lots of studios that hold a variety of events, its hard to imagine ever being unable to find something to watch.
Along side the larger theatres there are also many smaller venues, these can be anything from small pub theatres to small theatres and tend to be located outside of the main West End area. These theatres can hold anything from 40 to 500 people on average.
OFF WEST END ....
There seems to be some cross over between Fringe Theatre and Off West End, however you will most often find that this term is used to describe the small theatres found located within the West End of London but who are not classed as West end Theatres. They tend to be smaller venues that host new theatre, comedy & cabaret shows.
There are also several commercial theatres in London, these theatres are on the fridges of the centre of London, these shows tend to show touring shows (the shows that you would see at your local theatre).
BUYING TICKETS ....
There are many ways you can purchase tickets for London theatre:-
Sometimes you can get the best offers online, buying your tickets in advance. However I would always warn you to be careful that the site that you are purchasing tickets from is legitimate and I would highly recommend that you check to make sure that the site is a member of The Society Of Ticket Agents and Retailers.
If you are thinking of booking online before you travel, then I would highly suggest that you take a look at a website called Theatre monkey. This can be found at www.theatremoney.com, I call the site my theatre bible, because I spend so much time reading it and preaching about it's virtues! I would say this site is probably the best there is online for information about West End shows and venues. This site really is a handy tool for anyone thinking of seeing a show, they have a list of all current ticket offers to be found for all of the west end shows including any links/phone numbers required to book and also any promotional codes required to allow you to take these offers.
On top of this the site also has details information about all of the venues, including seating plans which give you a pictorial view of the entire theatre along with colour coded pricing for each area of the theatre. These prices are based on tickets bought directly through the theatre. They also indicate if the theatre has any Day Seat, Stand by or Lottery systems in place for the show currently in the theatre. Contact information for the venue and also the best method of transport to get to the venue.
If you do not mind where you sit, Lastminute can be a really good site to pick up some cheap tickets. The company will tell you what area of the theatre you are sat in but you will not find out what seats until you pick your tickets up on the day of the show.
IN PERSON ....
There are several options for buying tickets in person closer to the time or in advance if you live local to London or are there for a period of time. These are as follows :-
TKTS - previously known as the half price ticket booth ....
This booth is located on Leicester Square, it is on the south side of the square and has always reminded me of a public convenience building lol. This booth is the main ticket booth and usually has the best selection of tickets. These are displayed on a board by the booth or you can check online. TKTS have changed their policy in the recent years, they are no longer half price but are usually a good ¼ off the face value of the ticket. Please note that not all shows that are currently being shown in the West End are available in TKTS, the theatres release tickets to them at their discretion and depends how each show is selling, as such some shows are never or rarely available for example only available on week days, which are generally much quieter days to watch shows.
You can also advance book at TKTS now, anything up to a week in advance, again depending on what the theatres have released. They also have a small number of full priced seats for shows that can be purchased here with no mark up or booking fee so if you are wishing to see a show that is not available at a reduced price when you get there then it may be worth still asking what they have at full price for the show to save you walking up to the theatre.
LONDON THEATRE BOOKINGS ....
After TKTS the next best known ticket booth is London Theatre Bookings, this company owns many of the west end booths and have a really good selection of tickets often at very similar prices to TKTS so it is often worth checking their booths or you can also buy with them online before your trip.
I would not suggest using any other booths that are not owned by either of the two above.
AT THE THEATRE ....
The last method I would suggest is actually going to the theatre either before or on the day. Many shows have restricted view areas that can be purchased much cheaper that the general priced seats and some are not as restricted as you would expect. It is always best to do this in the actual theatre because the box office staff will let you know why the seat is restricted and how it may affect your viewing of the show.
DAY SEATS ....
Many theatres have a selection of tickets that they hold back from general sale, these tend to be called day seats, they are generally slightly restricted view seats or the front row of many theatres. These tickets are only ever available in person from the theatre and are usually on sale from 10am in the morning. These tickets are generally very reduced in price, however the only down side is there is often only a handful of them and at some shows you need to que from around 7-8 in the morning to insure you will be lucky enough to get them. It can be a bit of a lottery. However many theatres do have back up's to offer after the day seats have gone and will sell you any other restricted view seats they have left before trying to sell you full priced seats they have available.
A recent new variation of day seats that some of the theatres have started doing are offering a lottery for tickets. The rules for these vary but usually all names go into a draw and it is random who get tickets. I am yet to trial any of the shows running a lottery for tickets for day seats because they normally do not tell you if you have won the lottery until an hour and a half before the show. It is a little to last minute for me.
STANDBY TICKETS ....
These tickets are usually only available for senior citizens or students with full student ID, however it is worth checking with all theatres to see what their standby policy is because all theatres vary. Standby tickets are generally only available on the day or the show and as last minute as the hour before the showtime.
When a show first opens the tickets are always cheaper, so if you are willing to see the show while it is still in previews then it is a good time to pop down and grab yourself a discount ticket.
FOOD AND DRINK ....
If you are on a budget, then buy any soft drink and nibbles that you want to eat during the performance before you go to the theatre. You can pay as much as £2.50 for a bottle of water alone at some of the theatres so it really can add up for a family. I will say do think when buying snacks about the wrapping. There are many theatre fans who adore the shows and want to hear them, not you eating a bag of crisps or rustling a noisy packet.
Do not talk during the show, what is there to really talk about while you are watching the show? And if you really must whisper. I heard a good saying one, "excuse me! I paid to hear them, not you!"
Do enter the auditorium by the door stated on your ticket, these are printed on there so that you arrive at the right side of the theatre for your seat. If you do enter by the wrong side, go to the back of the seating area, and walk around, do not try and climb over 30 odd other people.
Lastly Enjoy the show and at the end feel free to give the cast and band a standing ovation if they were good. This is the ultimate form of respect you can pay any performer or musician and is always warmly received by them. If you do have someone in front of you who does decide to stand up simply follow suit, there is no point in complaining, standing for the bow's and encore is an accepted theatre tradition and the usher will not insist that the people sit back down again.
For me London Theatre gets 5 stars out of 5, there really is so much choice I believe I could find something even for the people sat here reading this and thinking it's still not for them.
If you read my five top musicals review recently, you'll know that I am just a little bit fond of the theatre. You'll also know I live in London. London Theatre is, as a result, the topic which I most regularly inflict on my less than enthusiastic friends. Hopefully I can put it to use for a change.
So, you are either visiting London or you live in the area and you fancy a bit of a taste of the West End. So where dooyoo (ha-har) start?
When to go
If you are in reasonably easy reach of London, or are taking time off to come and visit the city, you would be very well advised to avoid the weekends. I've found Mondays and Wednesdays to be the days which are less popular, therefore making it easier to get hold of tickets, and also the days where good discounts can be found. Wednesday matinee is a great option if you are in London for a holiday, or you do not have work commitments on that day.
London is a tourist destination, and the theatre is a major draw. Our key tourism from UK residents tends to occur via Saturday day trips, or weekend breaks. This means that the hardest performance to get tickets to for a top-selling high profile show would obviously be the Saturday Matinee - it being achievable to come to London for the day, see the show, and have plenty of time to catch your train back home. Saturday evenings would probably be the next most popular choice, followed closely by Friday nights - these being the choice times of the 'long-weekenders'.
The currently less well known but increasingly popular slot of the Sunday Matinee has now been introduced for some shows, Brief Encounter and The Lion King included. This could be well worth investigating if you are tied to weekends, and would probably make for an all-round calmer experience than the classic Saturday day-trip.
Buying your tickets
First, you have to decide what you want. This is important as the 'Plan of Action' will depend very much on your answer to this question. Do you have a specific production in mind that you are burning to see? Or is it more that you fancy a night at the theatre and don't mind choosing from a (slightly) limited number of productions.
IF YOU ARE REASONABLY FLEXIBLE:
Unless you are absolutely committed to a particular production that you want to see and nothing else would ever do, then the best option for you would to be to get your tickets at the last minute: the actual day you want to go standard of last minute!
This is best achieved via visiting the tkts booth in Leicester Square, where half price tickets can be purchased for same day performances. This is not the only ticket merchant in the area, nor the only one which offers same day or 'discounted' tickets, but it is the only Official booth supported by the Society of London Theatre. It is well established and also has a booth in Times Square, should you ever take a trip to Broadway!
Tickets are sold from the booth at exactly HALF the price of the ticket, and in my experience the seats allocated are very good. You don't get to choose your seats, but they always seem to sell top-price tickets (at half price) so this isn't a problem.
The booth is located on the south side of the garden in Leicester Square near the big Odeon cinema. It is the only free-standing building actually within the Square so is easy to find. The nearest Underground stations are Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.
There are two windows in the booth, one for matinees and one for evening performances, so you need to make sure you queue for the right one. There is a notice board outside each (matinee board outside matinee window, evening board outside evening window) showing which performances are available. There is an individual (big) card for each show for which tickets are available. The card will specify:
- Name of show (big letters)
- Genre e.g. play, musical, comedy etc. the cards are also colour coded by genre
- Theatre at which it is playing
- Time of performance (matinees usually start between 2pm and 4pm, evening performances usually start between 7pm and 8:30pm)
- Price of the ticket
You can see all the cards together and make an informed decision about what you want to see.
Although all shows in the West End will not be featured on any particular day, the selection is very wide and there is always something that will appeal. The only exclusions are usually very new musicals - e.g. don't expect to come down in January and see the new production of Oliver! using tkts, or very, very popular productions e.g. it is unlikely you will get tickets at all for the Lion King, and today Billy Elliott and Hairspray tickets are available, but only at full price.
The tkts website is very helpful (link in resources section at the bottom of the review) and contains a section which details everything that is on sale today and the price. Of course, as this is updated daily, there is always the risk that the production you want might be there one day and not another, but generally, it doesn't change much. The chances are, if they have it today, they'll have it tomorrow.
Leicester Square tkts booth opening times:
* Monday - Saturday 10:00-19:00
* Sunday - 12 noon to 15.00
There is also a tkts booth recently opened in the Brent Cross shopping Centre in North London. The opening hours are the same as those for Leicester Square and it operates in much the same way. Full details of what it has to offer can be found on the website (see resources section at end of review).
IF YOU HAVE YOUR HEART SET ON A SPECIFIC PRODUCTION:
If you are dead set on a particular production, you might have to be prepared to:
1. Explore more ways of getting your tickets
2. Have an idea as to how much is too much for a ticket
3. Be prepared to wait if necessary. If a production is new and popular and you are restricted to Saturday matinees you might have to wait a while to get tickets of the standard you want, e.g. Sound of Music got massively booked up following the success of the Maria programme, making it necessary to book months in advance if you want a Saturday afternoon performance.
4. If you don't want to wait, find a way of getting to London for a mid-week performance
So here's the plan of action:
1. Check out the tkts website - you never know, the thing you want to see might be something that is regularly sold here, possibly making the gamble worth it to secure half price top view tickets.
2. Are you a teacher? If so, you can get access to many discounts on London, and to some extent national, theatre tickets via Mousetrap Theatre Projects, see http://www.mousetrap.org.uk/ for more information
3. Internet price comparisons - good old shop-bots never fail to impress me. Whack the production through a few and you are sure to find a good deal.
4. If all else has failed, you still want to see it and don't mind paying full price, it's time to phone the theatre direct. Worth comparing this as part of point 3 anyway as without agencies taking a cut, it can, now and again, work out the most cost effective way
5. If you are local, stand-by tickets can be worth investigating as they can be picked up at reduced prices.
6. If you don't mind standing, many of the theatres have standing space at the back where you can watch the production (with a good view over everyone's heads), for sometimes as little as £5. These are often not publicised so you might have to enquire at the theatre itself, but can often be snapped up on the day of the show.
First off, make sure you know which theatre your chosen production is playing at, and where this is located. There are around 50 major theatres in the West End alone, extend this to smaller theatres and those not strictly in the 'West End', then that makes for rather a lot of theatres! It is easy to mix up the Apollo and the Victoria Apollo for instance - currently this would mean attempting to see Rain Man, and turning up to see Wicked. Don't do it, read your ticket carefully.
If you are not familiar with London, it is worth investing in a proper A-Z, these can be picked up relatively cheaply and the street index gives them a major advantage over fold-up maps. These usually also contain a specific map in the back dedicated purely to the locations of the theatres.
It is a good idea to check out the tube, bus, walking and taxi options open to you whilst planning your visit. Don't just assume they will be working though, especially if your visit is taking place over the weekend. There are regularly part or complete line or station closures during the weekend as this is when the majority of the tube repair works are carried out.
Check out the Transport for London website prior to your journey (see resources section at end of review). Not only will this show you the best route to take and provide an estimate of time, but also contains details of all planned closures and a live feed for travel updates and any delays currently occurring on the network.
Remember to allow plenty of time for your journey, especially if you are reliant on public transport where unexpected problems can cause delays to your journey. If you turn up late, the theatres won't let you in to the auditorium until a suitable break in the performance, and when you do get let in you'll annoy everyone already in the theatre. Leave it to someone else to do that.
Getting the most out of your visit
This is a few other little dos and don'ts that, in my opinion, should help you to get the most out of your theatre visit:
DO check out the deals in the near-by restaurants. There are thousands of restaurants in London, and the area around your theatre is likely to be littered with many of them all competing for your business. There are often good pre-theatre or post-theatre meal deals which can help make the most of your day/evening out.
DON'T eat too much! Eat something nice, yes, but you don't want something too heavy directly before going to the theatre. Most of the theatres are quite old and were designed when people were a bit smaller. Even the more modern ones are not the best places to sit if you are uncomfortably full.
DO place an order for interval drinks at the bar before the start of the performance, if you think you might want them that is. You probably will at least want a glass of water, especially in the summer. The theatres hold a lot of people and make use of a lot of electrical equipment for strong lighting etc., so can get very hot. By placing the order at the start, your drink will be all paid for, poured and waiting in the bar for you at the interval. This is the only sensible way of making sure you have time to actually consume your drink before Act II begins.
DON'T expect to get a seat in the bar. The bar spaces are generally very cramped and if there is seating it will be extremely limited.
DO go to the toilet in plenty of time before the start, especially if you are female. Like with most places, there are never enough, and the queues can be horrific. Same goes at the interval - run for it!
DO go and find your seat at least a good ten minutes before the start. Not only will you avoid the mad rush when the bells ring, it also gives you a chance to appreciate the building in which you sit. It also builds up the excitement - you can feel the whole room ringing with anticipation. Modern theatre has, on the whole, turned it's back on the whole opening of the curtain thing at the start of the play. If the theatre has one, it is more likely to be already open, with some kind of pre-set on the stage. Don't miss the chance to have a good look at this and a little glimpse of the style that you can expect from the production you are about to see. If you are really lucky, there may even be some pre-show action: basically 'stuff what happens' either on stage or in the auditorium, which isn't strictly part of the production, but is intended to be witnessed as the audience arrives. This sets the tone for the performance and can be highly entertaining - personally, I wouldn't miss a minute of it.
DO enjoy it, recommend it and come back! Help the theatre live on so that future generations can still experience this wonderful experience. Don't let live performance die.
BOOK: I have an excellent book called The London Theatre Guide. This book tells you a little bit about each of the theatres, and contains a seating map for each theatre which is invaluable if you are booking tickets over the phone and want to see what the seat references translate to in practice.
The ISBN number for this book is 1-902910-08-7 and can be purchased on Amazon or specialist theatre bookshops
HELPFUL WEBSITES: The below websites are helpful when researching your theatre trip:
www.londontheatre.co.uk/ - What's on guide
www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk/ - Society of London Theatre
http://www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk/tkts/ - TKTS booth
http://www.mousetrap.org.uk/ - Mousetrap Theatre Projects
http://www.tfl.gov.uk/ - Transport for London, bus/tube times and live feed
http://www.walkit.com/ - Travelling by foot in London, directions, estimated time, calories burned etc. very handy if you are staying locally.
http://www.offtolondon.com/- London in general, where to stay etc.
© BondgirlK8 October 2008
Happy New Year one and all. Feels a little strange saying that in February but I've not visited here for so long. Began to miss the place and thought - well, it can't hurt to start writing again - can it?! So here I am - once more. I am writing this review because firstly, obviously I want too and secondly, out of an experience in the West End that has annoyed me. ***THE ANNOYING EXPERIENCE*** I consider myself to be a seasoned theatre-goer. I love it. The rush to get to theatre and the expectation of what lies ahead as you sit in your seat awaiting curtain up and the transportation into another world. I was delighted to have seen an offer to buy tickets for Les Miserables - half price - on the back of a receipt from Somerfield of all places! The tickets were ordered, purchased and for months I was looking forward to see 'Les Mis' from the front of the circle. I had seen 'Les Mis' four times previously and totally loved every minute of what is an incredibly moving story of forgiveness, judgement and ultimately redemption. Marvellous lyrics, soaring melodies and tragic events. It had gained a special place in my psyche. The performance itself at the Palace Theatre in London's West End - home to the show for 16 or so years - was not at all what I had expected. It was appalling to say the least. The levels of sound were so bad that some actors could not be heard and may as well have mimed their way through the performance. The acting half-hearted and it smacked of 'going through the motions'. It was a truly cringeworthy experience. My wife, who had never seen it, will go nowhere near the show again. And it made me think... Thank goodness I paid only £20.00 for a top price ticket. Surely that's not the feeling people should be getting from a night out at the theatre in the West End..? Or am I just feeling bitter..? ***THE REST OF TH
E WEST END*** Let's have a quick look at some of what is on in the West End at the moment. - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Musical. - Chicago. - Bombay Dreams. - Les Miserables. - Phantom of the Opera. - My Fair Lady. - Rent. - Romeo and Juliet: The Musical. - Mamma Mia. - This is our Youth. - The Woman in Black. - The Mousetrap. - We Will Rock You. - Our House. - Taboo. To name a few! A great selection of course - naturally - but with long-runners (Phantom 17 years, Les Mis 16 years, The Mousetrap 50 years), Revivals (My Fair Lady - quite excellent) and celebrity names (Chicago - Gaby Roslin ad Michael Greco, Rent - Caprice!) taking a lot of the space up there's not much room for anything new. Expect for that is - the new breed of musical theatre that is the back-catalogue. Mamma Mia - ABBA, We Will Rock You - Queen, Our House - Madness, Cliff: The Musical - Cliff Richard and a rumoured Rod Stewart based show PLUS the prospect of We Will Rock You: The Sequel. ***THE BIGGEST GRIPE OF ALL*** We Will Rock You is playing to nearly full houses every evening. And good luck to it it is so much fun - fantastic tunes, brilliantly played and sung with OTT acting, shocking script, but it wins you over. (Maybe I should write a review!) BUT they are now charging £50.00 for the top price tickets on a Saturday evening. £50.00! Les Mis- thankfully I paid £20.00 for a £40.00 ticket as the production was of such a low standard I'd have demanded my money back. If we are expected to pay that much money - surely we should be safe in the knowledge that the production we are going to see is tip-top quality. Then it is not just the ticket price: travel there pushes the budget for my wife and I upto over £120.00 for a night out in London at the theatre... Gutted. Yes there are ticket offers available - TKTS in Leicester Square and var
ious offers in the press, but I am so worried now that one show has gone to £50 all the others will follow suit. ***THE REGIONS*** Forgive me for indulging in this, but allow me to show you what is playing the theatres near me in the coming months... Bristol: Miss Saigon, The Vagina Monologues. Bath: Art, The Mysteries. Southampton: Art, Noises Off, Fiddler on the Roof. And of course, reading reviews on this site you can see the wealth and diversity of what is playing the regions throughout the year. I don't think that Regional Theatre is any longer the poor cousin of the West End. Regional Theatre has so much going for it over the West End. - A cycle of great (and sometimes, admittedly, not great) shows. - Cheaper tickets (in some cases £35.00 against £40.00 for the same seat in London). - Less travel if nearby. - Better deals. - No congestion charges(!) Had to get that in! ***CONCLUSION*** I am abandoning the West End now as I can longer afford to get there. TKTS is all very well, but getting there for opening is not the easiest thing. I am abandoing the West End because of my recent bad experience. Why pay so much for something that was of a lesser quality than when I saw it in Manchester? I am abandoning the West End because there is so much on elsewhere. So there you have it. Unless something drastic happens with the pricing of tickets in London's West End - I shall not be going. This is the start of my campaign to SAVE THE REGIONS!! Anyone else with me..? C. :o) Don't know how to star rate this one! Shall leave it on three... 2 stars for London and 4 for The Regions!
Brian Friel's new work, Afterplay, is set a decade or so after the conclusion of two of Russian dramatist Chekhov's masterpieces, Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters. At the Gielgud Theatre, it is superbly acted by John Hurt and Penelope Wilton. Sonya, neice of titular Uncle Vanya, is sorting through bank paperwork in a run-down café in Moscow. She is joined by the shabby-looking Andrey, brother of the Three Sisters, for a full and frank sharing of their personal lives, and a very hearty shring of a bottle of vodka. We learn that both characters have been abandoned since the end of Chekhov's plays - Vanya has died, leaving Sonya a lonely and aging spinster; Andrey's wife has left him and one of his beloved sisters has committed suicide. You might start to think this is a bleak piece, and in some respects you'd be right. But there is also a lot of humour here, particularly in Andrey's repeated confessions of his "little fables", all of which he tells Sonya in an attempt to impress her. (He is not, for example, playing at the Opera House, but rather is making ends meet by busking.) As the characters grow fonder of one another, and as the vodka starts to take effect, Hurt's hangdog expression is transformed with twinkle-eyed chuckling. Wilton's brittle and frosty Sonya too, shows a frisky and whimsical side. But the keynote of the play is hope, and the question of how to carry on when hope seems to have deserted you. Friel's Sonya says that it is fortitude, "that Cardinal virtue", which one needs to get through a life seemingly without hope. The play is certainly moving in its handling of these two characters who do not at first glance appear to have much to hope for. If the rather highbrow scenario, following on from the plays of Chekhov, strikes anyone as too rarified a pleasure, relax - it isn't necessary to have an in-depth knowledge of Uncle Vanya and
Three Sisters before you enter the theatre, it all makes sense without that back story, all is explained. It is the acting which makes this play, surely, one of the productions of the year. The chance to see a master like Hurt on the stage should not be passed up lightly.
Contrary to current cries of 'elitist!', theatre has been a popular form of entertainment throughout history, often being the preserve of what historians would call 'the lower orders', rather than nobility; a prime example would be the world in which Shakespeare worked. Before I move onto today's theatre here's my guide to theatrical popularity: Start at the Theatre of Dionysus (the people). Move onto the Medieval Mystery plays (often free) Take the fork past the reatest playwright ever to have lived, William Shakespeare ('pop' culture) Stop briefly at the Victorian Music Hall (began in pubs) And keep going straight until you reach today. So just what has been going in the past year, and what delights are we to look forward to in 2002! West End theatre has, like the rest of the country, been dogged by problems in the past year. The Foot and Mouth crisis at the beginning of 2001 heralded a sharp decline in tourism, something that many shows rely on to keep house numbers up. Couple that with the inevitable consequences of the Sept 11th terrorist attacks and the result is a 30% drop in tourism and the closure of many productions. For musicals, 'The Beautiful Game' could not survive the first part of the year and announced its closure in early September costing Andrew Lloyd Webber approximately £3 Million in total. 'The Witches of Eastwick' went the same way in October and 'Peggy Sue Got Married' opened and closed within weeks. However not all musical closures were due to the current climate. The Pet Shop Boys 'pop' musical 'Closer to Heaven' was a flop due to its own merits or rather, the lack of them. The new musical productions that fared best in 2001 were the sure-fire hits of years gone by. The RNT's revival of 'My Fair Lady' starred theatrical giant Jonathan Pryce and the well-known Martine
McCutcheon and, in spite of her continual illness and early withdrawal sustained a good first run at the National and which is continuing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Broadway's offering 'Kiss Me, Kate', starring most of its original cast, has received rave reviews and looks set to enjoy a long run into 2002. The Musical Theatre scene in the West End is set for an interesting mix of shows in 2002. Honorary mention must always go to the RNT (not strictly the West End but hey it's high-profile London) with its current production of 'South Pacific', with Trevor Nunn once again proving his ability in this area. The much publicised musical based on the popular children's film 'Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang' is due to arrive in March and a month earlier we will be treated to more Broadway fare in the form of 'The Full Monty', a musical which perhaps a little unfairly, lost out at the Tonys to the phenomenon that is 'The Producers' (which appears should be arriving in 2003 for it's London debut). Other musicals due include Boy George's 'Taboo' and a new Ben Elton show based around the work of Queen (hoping for another 'Mamma Mia' perhaps). Reports of Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest show based around Bollywood varies from opening in January to shelved due to the colossal losses made by 'The Beautiful Game' and his 'Starlight Express' is finally closing after many years happily ensconced in the psyche of the West End theatregoer. A musical based on Mae West, an adaptation of Jean de Florette and Last of the Blonde Bombshells are also rumoured to be on the cards for 2002 openings. The past year has also seen a mixed bag of 'straight' plays. The Almeida got off to a rocky start with 'Lulu' starring Anna Friel. As with McCutcheon, the production was plagued by the ill health of Friel who had injured her spine. Being the Almeida there was no u
nderstudy so the show had to be cancelled on more than one occasion. Revivals fared better in this genre with 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' at the Shaftesbury and several Noel Coward plays garnering critical success. 'Private Lives' at the Albery and 'Star Quality' at the Apollo are still going strong while the 'lost' Coward cocktail cabaret 'Semi-Monde' enjoyed an all too brief run. The Royal Court had a resounding success with 'Mouth to Mouth' starring Lindsay Duncan. As for comedy 'The Play Wot I Wrote' at the Wyndhams has to be the best. With Morecambe and Wise as the subject, it could easily have fallen short while 'Feelgood' transferred from the Hampstead to the Garrick. Neil LaBute's 'The Shape of Things' successfully made the transfer from London to Broadway and Fiona Shaw's 'Medea' arrived hot foot in London from its Irish success for a limited run at the Queens. It has also been a year for Movie Stars taking to the boards and while Alan Rickman and Linda Grey managed huge successes in 'Private Lives' and 'The Graduate', respectively, even the name of Dame Judi Dench couldn't turn 'The Royal Family' into a roaring success and Joan Collins' appearance in 'Over the Moon' was perhaps ill-advised as even her great legs couldn't save that play. Derek Jacobi starred in 'God Only Knows' whose plot involved the Mafia and the Vatican. An unlikely combination and the play duly flopped. In terms of Drama, there is much to look forward to in the coming year. 'The Humble Boy' transfers from the RNT to the West End with Felicity Kendall taking over the role created by Dame Diana Rigg leading an otherwise unchanged cast. 'Lady Windermere's Fan' by Oscar Wilde will be occupying the Haymarket in a revival by Sir Peter Hall and starring Vanessa Redgrave and her daughter Joely Richardson together for the first
time. Peter Hall promises to have a busy year ahead with 'The Island' transferring from the Old Vic to the RNT and his direction of 'The Bacchae'. Two major productions of 'King Lear' are scheduled for 2002 with the Almeida producing one version with Oliver Ford Davies in the title role and the RSC staging the other with Ralph Fiennes. Sam Mendes of the Donmar Warehouse (again not strictly mainstream West End but a powerful theatrical force in the capital) is staging 'Twelfth Night' and Chekov's 'Uncle Vanya' and is still wooing Nicole Kidman (previously seen in 'The Blue Room') for the roles of Olivia and Yelena respectively. The American hit 'Proof' (which also did very well at this years Tonys) is also crossing the pond and John Madden (of 'Mrs Brown' and 'Shakespeare in Love') will direct with the possibility of Kate Winslett starring. Dame Maggie Smith will make a welcome return to the West End stage, possible along side Dame Judi Dench, in an, as yet, un-named Davis Hare play while the RNT will see a season including 'Lady from the Sea', 'Macbeth', 'Hinterland' and, possibly even 'A Streetcar Named Desire' with Jessica Lange. The West End is set for substantial changes in the coming year. 2001 has seen the announcement of many 'retirements'. Sam Mendes, who has headed the Donmar so successfully, is to leave at the end of next year. Jude Kelly the director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse who has put regional theatre back on the map (well, at least the West Yorkshire map) is also to stand down as are Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid of the Almeida which is to return to its refurbished location in Islington. Outside the West End, Britain's two greatest theatre companies are facing major changes in the next eighteen months that could alter the shape of British Theatre itself. The Royal Notional Theatre on Londo
n's South Bank will change hands from Trevor Nunn to Nicholas Hytner when Nunn finishes finishes his current tenure as Artistic Director. The plans for change are already afoot. The programme of events is to diversify and become more avant-garde and there are rumours of the closure of the Cottesloe auditorium to make way for a DJ and club in order to attract a younger, more experimental audience. How this rebuild will affect the atmosphere of the theatre or the standard of productions is yet to be determined but for me the National is already perfect and the loss of a space like the Cottesloe can only be detrimental. The RSC plans are if anything even more radical. Intent on creating a 'Shakespeare Experience' in Stratford the company will no longer have a permanent home in the capital's Barbican Centre. Instead the company will stage plays in the West End with all the high rents and unpredictability that entails. Contracts will no longer require cast members to sign up for two years and the touring cycle of Stratford, Newcastle and the Barbican (obviously) will be scrapped. Perhaps the most controversial of the current plans for the RSC will be the £100 million rebuild of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the idea being to create the most significant new building of the new century. The Other Place is also to be transformed into a new flexible space and will create a third permanent theatre seating up to 650 people. The projected will be completed is 2008 which is still a long way off but I still feel that turning Stratford into the theatrical equivalent of a theme park isn't necessarily the best way to attract a new audience. So what would promote theatre and remove its elitist tag? To be honest I'm not sure but Ken Livingston's giving £500,000 to fund free and discounted tickets in the West End is a wonderful idea. It's a shame that it took such a disaster as September 11th to highlight how high seat prices have
soared. All it takes is one teacher to inspire, to bring the curriculum set texts to life for a young person to develop a taste for plays and theatre and with the current trend for movie stars treading the boards and Andrew Lloyd Webber encouraging new audiences one visit could cast a spell over youngsters for life, help remove the prejudice against live drama and propel the theatre as a popular form of entertainment into the 21st Century. For more information, complete listings and reviews on theatre in London and elsewhere visit: http://www.thestage.co.uk http://www.whatsonstage.co.uk http://www.albemarle-london.com/ For info about the Royal Shakspeare Company visit: http://www.rsc.org.uk Or for the Royal National Theatre go to: http://www.nt-online.org
It's January. A terrible time of the year for most people. Banks accounts have been depleted. Summer holidays seem like an age away. All people seem to talk about are their credit card bills and the fact that they have eaten too much. Well this opinion has no tips on how to lose weight or make a fast buck. I'm writing it to dispel some of the myths about theatre in London. So...let the show begin. THEATRE'S NOT FOR ME, THOUGH ============================= Now, those of you who have read my opinions before know that I'm mad on theatre. But this was not always the case. I discovered the smell of grease paint when I went to college and landed a work placement on my local paper reviewing pantos after the arts writer fell ill. I used to think that theatres would be full of people who looked like Captain Peacock from Are You Being Served! The snobbery that I had supposed would be in evidence put me off. When I first went I could not get over how wrong I was. There are theatre snobs, sure but the rise in 'new' plays such as Rent and Mother Clap's Molly House has ensured that theatre has gained a young crowd to the stalls too. I WANT TO GO... WHERE DO I START? ================================== Well, apart from reading opinions by myself and monalipschitz, and Jill you mean! Seriously- here's some tips on where you can get info: THE NET ******* www.whatsonstage.com This is a great site which has reviews, competitions and also a discussion board where you can ask people things about a play and more often than not they will reply. Look out for special offers on the site. Often there are two for one offers. Recent examples include Rent and Chicago. You can subscribe for updates. www.timeout.com An excellent site which is easy to use. Again, reviews are here. There is also a link to purchase tickets. But - beware- it is a bit pricey! PRESS ***** The Evening Standard- has a brilliant lisitngs guide. The Guardian- also has a great number of adverts- search for them at the back of the paper. IT ALWAYS SEEMS EXPENSIVE ========================== This is often a criticism aimed at theatre in London and it's true to a certain extent. But there are ways of getting your hands on cheaper tickets. Generally prices vary at the box offices between £15 and £42.50. But there are other avenues - here's just a few: www.ticketmaster.co.uk Before you cry- but it's expensive there. They have Deals of The Week. I have purchased Woman In Black tickets for £12.50 from ticketmaster and The Graduate tickets for £18.50. Go to the site- click on the icon that says deal of the week and subscribe to the newsletter. Then when the offers come in you will receive them by email. www.whatsonstage.com Do not buy tickets from this site in general as they are expensive. Click on prizes and offers. I won tickets to see The Witches Of Eastwick and a friend won tickets to see Chicago. So it can happen! They also have two for one offers as mentioned above. Look at the link that says prizes and offers- there are loads. The Boston Marriage at The New Ambassadors is the latest two for one offer. Half Price Ticket Booth, Leicester Square ========================================== Contary to popular belief this does exist. But people come out of Leicester Square like moths around lights see a booth and head for it. There are a few booths. But only one will offer you cheaper tickets. Head towards the Odeon Leicester Square. You will see a booth to your right. This a great place to go for tickets as they list the shows on a board so you can take your pick. I would advise that you get there for about 10am to get the show you want. The Lion King has never resorted to half price tickets as it has always been sold out. But I have bought Le
s Mis tickets here and Chicago. LATEST OFFERS include- Joe Egg, Noises Off and Star Quality. Check the board before you buy. WHAT DO I SEE? ============== My advice is dip your toe in and see what you like. For example if it's your first time to the theatre go and watch something universal like Blood Brothers. Then take it from there. So many people head for Mousetrap as their first play and end up being disappointed. Read reviews and see where a play is set, who is in it, etc. MY TOP FIVE =========== I'm no expert but here's five plays that I have loved in London. ( 1 ) CHICAGO Vibrant, sexy, toe tapping stuff. It is one of the best musicals on the circuit at the moment. ( 2 ) NOISES OFF As farces go- this is one of the best as it is not afraid to poke fun at the very genre. Fast, frenetic and very funny. But more amusing if you like a good farce. Avoid if you're at a loss to what the fuss is all about. ( 3 ) BLOOD BROTHERS Still going strong after all these years. If you liked the film Shirley Valentine, you will love this. Touching, honest and heartbreaking. A damn fine musical. ( 4 ) THE WOMAN IN BLACK Scaring people in the stalls after 12 years. And with very good reason. The Woman In Black contains enough shocks to get you back into the theatre for some more. ( 5 ) PRIVATE LIVES I'm cheating here as I haven't seen this yet. I'm going tomorrow! But I only have to say the words: Alan Rickman and know that I'm going to get value for money! ALSO- WORTH SEEING LES MISERABLES LION KING STONES IN HIS POCKETS LAST MIN TIPS- STUDENTS ======================== If you are a student - there are standbys available. Standbys are unsold tickets which are normally available on the day of the performance. If you want to check which show has the
m - get a copy of Time Out. I know that Blood Brothers and The Graduate offer excellent standby deals. But Time Out will give you a fuller list. ENJOY ===== Theatre-going gets loads of bad press. But believe me - it can be done on the cheap. Some of the bigger shows like The Lion King are not cheap. But ask for a ticket for a birthday or treat yourself- I am! It is an 'event' show worthy of a Birthday/Christmas/Anniversary treat! Nothing beats good live theatre for me. And this is coming from somebody who used to watch TV non stop. Give yourself a treat and go and watch a live play. Then when you get home - join me and submit the review to dooyoo! Thanks for reading this opinion. Glenn
Let's put it simply. You want to go see something, and you want a good price. Can you do it? Answer Yes First point of call is the half price ticket booth in middle of Leicester Square. This opens at lunchtime, and offers what it states, half price tickets for evening and matinee performances that day. What about the queues? Well if you go during mid-week and specially of season, the queues are tiny winy, I have seen Napolean, Art, Chicago, Inspector Calls, Blood Brothers, etc. They were all top class tickets(STALLS) at around 17 pounds each(this including a few pounds charge by the booth.) and there a leaflets with maps that show you were the theatre is only problem is the both only accepts cash. You get the picture it's a superb place to go. WHAT ABOUT IF THEY DON'T HAVE WHAT I WANT TO SEE? You want to see the Lion King or Les Mis, I supposed, you could try buying returns at the theatre before the performance, you can get them. I would welcome other peoples suggestions on this, not sure about other theatre agents, they offer tickets, but if you want to go to the theatre its worth getting decent ones. THEY ONLY HAVE THEM AT FULL PRICE? If you buy them through ticketmaster via web or phone, with an Alliance & Leicester cash back VISA card, you get 2%-4% cash back, which aint bad, but the fiends charge you a few quid per ticket for their own pocket I'm in no rush to get tickets, any suggestions? Log onto www.show-pairs.co.uk(address given on web page) If you work for a company with 20+ people in it, give them your company address and they'll give you 2 for 1 tickets, you have to book in advance but that isn't bad. Currently I have 2 for 1's for Notre Dame, Buddy, Beautiful Game. I found my 2 for 1 vouchers in Barnet Library, with all the other leaflets. I'm sure other libary's have them, or you can ask them t
o start getting them in ANY OTHER HINTS? If your taking your partner why not make it special order half a bottle of champagne before the performance starts, to drink at the intermission, the theatre will most likely provide you with seats by the bar to drink it down, while everyone else has to stand. POSH CLOTHES?? No, not anymore, wear something comfortable some of the seats are a bit cramped, so it is very important to feel lost, it's best not to eat to heavily beforehand, so no CURRY. Iv'e found a ticket agent offering some tickets for Lion King for tonight are the tickets any good? Ask where the tickets are located in theatre? You may find they're restrictive viewing, and that does mean what it says. You shouldn't pay more than 15 quid for a restrive viewing ticket, its a gamble, a real gamble. Mobiles??? Turn them off, and that digital watch that goes off every hour AGHHHHHHH, and those crunchy sweets. Hope that helps, smile be happy Charlie V