I really don’t like going to the theatre alone. When I think about the theatre I see, who I was with matters as much as the show itself. The conversations I have with my friends have overall been more valuable than any academic module I study. Going to see a show is as much about getting food, hugging each other and chatting quasi-academic shit in the bar as it is a period of sitting in an auditorium.
SO. Top 10 theatre show things of 2017 in chronological order. Name, company, date, location, and who I was with.
LOVE, Alexander Zeldin, @ Birmingham Rep on 4th Feb
With Codpiece (in an official social secretary capacity), the gang including Elin, Emma, Ben, Lilith, Eve, Clara, Ralph, Nat and Lottie.
I still can’t believe LOVE was devised in the rehearsal room. It was so astoundingly crafted, from the hyper-naturalistic pauses, washing up, toast making and toilet breaks, to the set which extended halfway into the audience. We sat on community-centre seats, and looked at a room. No longer a theatre, a community-centre room with a roof that rain and tree branches crashed into. Naturalism done exceptionally, in the only way I will accept it.
A group of families and individuals living in cramped, damp temporary housing over the Christmas period. They exist, argue, and frantically spray disinfectant on the kitchen floor. The tension is noticeable but squashed by politeness, a fruitless attempt to hold onto privacy in a space where there is none. The dramatic ‘climax’ of the play is Barbara, an elderly woman in poor health, suffering what my Mum would call a ‘toilet incident’ and her middle aged son, in the rush to clean her up, getting her faeces on someone else’s dressing gown. It was Awful. Every single underlying tension became a scream as that boundary was crossed, and the soft, clean, precious item of comfort became defiled.
The end of the show is Barbara walking precariously without her walking stick through the audience, reaching out her hands for support as she struggles to get to the exit. My friend Ben was the first audience member she reached, and he took her hand, like I knew he would.
Letters to Windsor House, Sh!t Theatre @ Soho Theatre on 11th Feb
With Clara and her Mum Corinne.
This show is a singing, dancing, purposefully shit (but they’re actually very good) political personal mish-mash of fun and ridiculousness. The last show of the Letters tour was at Warwick Arts Centre, which we also saw, and we got drunk and they cried and I just really love everything they do DAMN.
Sh!t Theatre are my favourite theatre company, I think because they feel so close to me and my friends? They all met at university, they’re young, silly and messy, they make bizarre jokes which become part of how me and my friends talk to each other. Rob Jecock is an adult. baby. The first selfie that Eve and I took together was at Women’s Hour at the Warwick Arts Centre the year before. The morning croissants group chat went to see Dollywould together and I was really pissed off about something, and seeing them in the Summerhall bar before the show made me feel better and then we had a great time.
(All my friends now know that I met Rebecca Biscuit and Jen, their tech manager at Latitude and we watched Theresa May Smackdown together and I was very starstruck and am now too nervous to ever introduce myself again but it was great)
Portrait of the Universe, Nat Norland, @ Warwick University Humanities Studio on 16th March
With… I actually don’t remember. I know I was sat next to Harry, who was filming. Sean was there, Ben was opping. I watched him for some of it, because lots of things went wrong and I wanted to see if he was panicked.
The aim of the show was to contain the whole universe in a room, for an hour.
A motorcycle helmet and leather glove-clad performer ritually walked in a square to pick up objects, take them back to a work station and violently destroy them. They broke out of it to write ‘sorry’ on a blackboard hundreds of times, in a big white cloud. There was a monologue and red light half way through. Sine wave and feedback became white noise and clock ticking became drumming and music then drumming and crashing.
I think it was about the universe having a body? a conscience? the impossibility of keeping any kind of body together? bodies decay and fall apart and things are going wrong and wide red light and everything happening at once and sorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorry
I just kept thinking ‘I love this. I love this.”
I got very pissed off at an older student on the bus who hadn’t seen it, and said it sounded wanky. Although Nat would probably be the first person to say it was wanky.
Triple Threat, Lucky McCormick, @ Soho Theatre on 21st April
With myself. I went to London on my own, bought coffee and my phone died.
Trained musical theatre actor Lucy McCormick retells the New Testament in the most sexual way possible. Yes, it culminates in anal fingering, and it’s bloody brilliant. I actually sat next to someone who knew her from the Oxford Playhouse pantomime. Their face was spectacular.
It was so much fun, with the crowd surfing, coffee grounds, very very good singing and dancing with nutella saliva and dildo microphones that I wished I had seen it with my friends. But bizarrely, it has become the piece which I reference most often in an academic setting. I’m very ok with this.
O No! Jamie Wood, @ Warwick Arts Centre on 17th May
With another Codpiece social- this was a massive group! Definitely Eve, Rory, Ben, Jack, Lilith, Alex, I think Kia Yee and Iffah were there, probably Clara and Nat….
Jamie Wood is the most delightful clown. I found out recently that he’s a clown DOCTOR, who works in children’s hospitals, and after watching this show, that makes total sense. He recreates and plays with Yoko Ono’s performance art experiments. ‘Can you please hammer this nail into my heart?’ The audience participation was so gentle and hilarious, and we all felt a bit more about love. We threw a giant inflatable sun around the audience, created an orchestra and heard a naked audience talk about his love for his partner whilst in a giant white sack. It’s a friggin lovely show about love. I don’t care.
Anatomy of a Suicide. Katie Mitchell, dir. Alice Birch, @ Royal Court on 8th July
With George and Helen
Oh lawdy. This was a time. I wrote something in response (to the response) to this, but simply speaking, it was both technically astounding and totally heartbreaking. Three generations of women live out their lives, and deaths, simultaneously in thirds of the stage. Each of the three women is stripped to her underwear between scenes and re-dressed. It’s about inheritance, environment, the actions of husband and fathers. It will stay inside me for a long long long time. I won’t tolerate bullshit responses to it either. Bad criticism is ignorable most of the time, to this play it’s an insult. See her see me.
5 Encounters on a Site called Craigslist, YESYESNONO, @ ZOO on 12th August (first time)
With three groups of people, for the three times I saw the show. They included Ava, Rishi, George, Joseph, Helen, Rory, Eve, Leanne, Amy, Joel, Hannah, Lissie, Mollie, Lilith, Clara, Ciara, Ben, Nat.
This show was my glow of the fringe. Hence why I saw it three freaking times and wrote a bit about it. My first time seeing it, I had been in Edinburgh less than 24 hours, was hyper and sleep-deprived, and I got to sit on a picnic rug being fed grapes and chatting with Sam. I was so excited it was probably a bit weird. It was in the same venue as the show I was in Edinburgh with, and on the day of our last performance, we packed up the wendy house and went back into the room to watch 5 Encounters with our flatmates. Probably the best way we could have ended the fringe.
(I like that this image’s file name is Sam+explaining.jpg)
Two Man Show, RashDash, @ Summerhall Northern Stage on 21st August
With Ava and George
It’s just… so good. Masterful acting, singing, dancing, music making. Emotional and angry and complex and ends on a question not a shout. Completely abstract dancing, Really Well Written completely naturalistic dialogue and kick-ass songs. It’s about GENDER as well! and according to Chris Thorpe, the only piece of theatre which will solve all of our problems. I mean, it did make my skin clear up and my period cramps stop so who’s to say?
I’m organising a birthday trip to see their Three Sisters at the Yard on the 26th May, if ya want to come hit me up!
This is How We Die, Christopher Brett Bailey, @ Eve’s Bedroom/Almeida
Listened 16th Feb/ watched 24th Sept
With Heavy Vinyl group chat/ CBB XTRA JISM BONANZA group chat.
Lilith’s birthday present to Ben was a vinyl recording of This is How We Die, and we took months to organise a listening party in Eve’s first-year bedroom.
I pretended to be ill and left my then-boyfriend’s birthday dinner in order to get there on time. On the bus I encountered another guest from the restaurant and told him that there was a drama society costume emergency. I was the only one with the key to the wardrobe, and had to go onto campus and unlock it. This was daring because the wardrobe in question doesn’t actually exist. Totally worth it.
Watched it in actual real personhood with Ava, Eve, Clara, Corinne, and Nat. The Almeida is a cool theatre. The whole show is a 45 minute monologue and a 20 minute long rock concert. The applause is always underwhelming compared to the wall of sound which precedes it, and everyone’s arms are too weak to clap.
There is now a group chat called CBB XTRA JISM BONANZA dedicated to organising the triple-bill CBB trip at Battersea arts centre in April. Nice.
Hamilton @ Victoria Palace Theatre on 16th December
With my sister Rachael. She does not approve of my taste in theatre. ‘Does someone have to be naked in Every show?’
But she introduced me to Hamilton a year ago, and we absolutely smashed the ticket pre-orders and had a fantastic day at the Saturday matinee. We knew every word, I cried at six songs. Of course it’s brilliant. It just is. I do like Matt Trueman’s review. I like Andrzej Łukowski’s review even more. Will probably write something about it later on in the year. The new year!
Your Best Guess, Chris Thorpe and mala voadora @ Cameo Cinema on 26th August
With Ciara, Ben, Clara, Lilith. Nat. Lissie. Mollie? Some of Paperback. Lots of Barrel Organ.
Was not a full staging of the script, but one of my favourite pieces of writing I’ve encountered. At the denouement of the festival, hungover to shit, I needed a coffee and the comfy cameo cinema seats. Did not expect to have my internal brain-twisting about the future articulated so poetically and honestly.
National Student Drama Festival @ Hull University Campus in April
This was such a good time, with some kick-ass pieces of theatre. Particular shout out to He She They and Nothing is Coming, the Pixels are Huge.
It makes me really sad that the week of NSDF I was the Most Anxious I have ever been. I thought it was the pressure of taking a show, but I was simply suffering a bad phase of a long-term condition, exacerbated by the intense atmosphere, ending up as a nervous, blabbering wreck the whole week. Constantly nauseous, not eating properly, crying, making a dick of myself and having daily panic attacks- I didn’t enjoy the week as much as I should have. I was surrounded by great people and atmosphere, and every hour I was thinking ‘This is great. This is the prime of my life.’ But I couldn’t get out of my own head. I really really want to make up for it if I end up going this year. *fingers crossed*
Speed Death of the Radiant Child by Chris Goode, dir. Ben Kulvichit. 9-11 November
I am definitely not allowed to put this on my list.
But so much of my year, more than a year, has been dedicated to making it happen, and it would feel weird to not Write Something about it.
Producing is a weird job, because for the most part, I’m not creatively involved, but simultaneously feel so much ownership and pride in this crazy play that hasn’t been done since 2007, and is about a hospital which is actually a nuclear power station and the colour blue and river phoenix dying and holding each other. A lot of weird semi-reverential hero worship was developed and strengthened towards my closest friends too. I don’t know if I’m supposed to care about stuff this much? Is it healthy or admirable to weep your heart out over a student production? I will either look back on this nuclear meltdown of a show as the crown jewel of my university experience, or something which took up way too much of my time and tied me in unnecessary emotional knots. I think it’s the former. It made me realise that I love this, and that I want to be a Mum?
new years resolutions (if i put em here i’m more likely to keep them)
- Put more effort into my individual friendships. I’ve never been very good at socialising outside of a structured setting (say… the rehearsal process for a show) and feel the safest/least anxious in a Gang. I’d like to go on more theatre dates and hang out with more of my friends individually, properly appreciate them and spend the time they deserve with them.
- really really work hard on my degree. not committing to any Huge theatre projects and spending more time in the bloody library.
- work more at the warwick arts centre, because it’s a lovely place to work
- be a better producer and learn how to do real world stuff
- write something every day. i’m going to say that tweets count, but i also want to write more on here, rewrite a play i wrote for a module last year, and actually write a dissertation and some good essays.
- if something makes me scared. I’m going to do it. might involve staging something, going on a tinder date, moving to a city for the first time. who knows boiz.