Driving Miss Daisy – November 2017

Experience: 8/10

By Alfred Uhry

Directed by Richard Beecham

Company: Theatre Royal Bath

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Thursday 30th November 2017

This was a pleasant surprise. Having seen a decent touring production at the Theatre Royal Brighton in 1993, I considered this a fairly average play: I was happy to see it again but didn’t have high expectations. Steve had also seen the production at the Old Vic in 2011, in which Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones demonstrated that they might have been the right age, but they no longer had the power to do the parts justice.

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King Lear – October 2017

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Jonathan Munby

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Thursday 5th October 2017

We’re so glad that Sir Ian McKellen decided to have another go at this part. We found the earlier production, part of the RSC’s Complete Works season, rather dull, but there was no lack of tension and excitement in tonight’s performance. The emotional aspects of the various characters were fully developed this time, while the staging was brisk and the story-telling clear, all of which made for a much more enjoyable and fulfilling experience.

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Trespass – May 2017

Experience: 6/10

By Emlyn Williams

Directed by Patric Kearns

Company: Talking Scarlet

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Thursday 11th May 2017

The charms of an old-fashioned spooky play were lost on Guildford’s playgoers – tonight we were among only a few dozen who chose to spend their evening facing this stage. While this piece isn’t the best of its kind, and the production was towards the cheaper end of the spectrum, we found it enjoyable enough: perhaps a fuller auditorium would have given it more atmosphere, but maybe not.

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Othello – February 2017

Experience: 8/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Richard Twyman

Company: Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory and The Tobacco Factory

Venue: The Tobacco Factory

Date: Monday 27th February 2017

Another fantastic production from STF, with the emphasis clearly on the text and the characters. The two young actors playing Othello and Desdemona did good work, but for me it was the brilliance of Mark Lockyer’s Iago supported by Katy Stephen’s perfectly pitched Emilia that made this performance so powerful. There were one or two aspects which didn’t work quite so well, but this is a production I would recommend highly to anyone: it’s a shame the public haven’t responded by making it a sell out for the whole of its run.

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Guys And Dolls – February 2017

Experience: 8/10

Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows

Based on the writing of Damon Runyon

Company: Guildford School of Acting

Directed by Samuel Wood

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: 23rd February 2017

It was lovely to attend a performance of Guys And Dolls again, and this performance by the talented students of the Guildford School of Acting was great fun and brilliantly performed. We sat front and centre (row C – to make room for the band) and enjoyed ourselves enormously, and we were not alone.

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The Merry Wives – May 2016

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare (slightly adapted)

Directed by Barry Rutter

Company: Northern Broadsides

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud

Date: Wednesday 11th May 2016

We like Northern Broadsides’ no-nonsense approach to Shakespeare’s texts, so we weren’t bothered to find that this version of Merry Wives was no longer set in Windsor, but had been relocated to a country club a few miles outside Harrogate (information courtesy of a post-show chat with the cast). The costumes located the play in the 1920s (with some variations) and the set created a stylish yet simple space for all of the action, with little need to trundle lots of furniture on and off. There was a replica of a 1920s treadmill and three lovely examples of period bicycles, including a tandem, to add to the fun, and the few alterations to the text included the “old woman of Ilkley”, a perfectly acceptable substitution. Apart from that, the dialogue was as expected, and the performance fairly zinged along, with some lovely business to keep us entertained. A shame there were so few of us to enjoy the fun – the auditorium was about a third full – but hopefully they will get better attendances later in the week.

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Happy tenth anniversary

It came as something of a surprise to me recently to realise that I was nearly at the tenth anniversary of my first blog post, my notes on the RSC’s Complete Works Othello. Since that relatively brief first post, I have written notes on as many productions as I could, and given that Steve and I have been prolific, not to say greedy, in our theatre attendances, I’ve probably written the equivalent of a few novels in the ten years since I began.

As well as improving my writing skills somewhat, I’ve found that doing this blog has helped me not only to remember more productions in more detail, but to learn more from the variety of acting and directing styles we’ve encountered, and, occasionally, had to endure. The sheer richness of British theatre is one of the strongest impressions I’ve garnered over this period, and I find that that awareness underpins my enjoyment of everything we see nowadays, even those productions we don’t care for at all.

My writing has taken a back seat in the last couple of years, but I’ve been able to get back to it recently, and with several drafts waiting for my proof reader to get over a heavy cold, I plan to be hitting that Publish button several times in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, here’s some statistics for the first ten years:

Number of plays seen: 1169 (that’s both me and Steve together – Steve has seen some additional ones on his own. There have also been some rehearsed readings and one NT live cinema screening.)

Number of blog posts: 791 (so only another 378 catch-ups to do!)

Average rating is just a whisker over 7/10 (7.0143, to be more specific – we do like our theatre)

And, in case you couldn’t guess, our most-watched playwright is…Shakespeare! (287 performances, although some of them bore only a tenuous connection to the great man’s work)

So that’s it for now: a mini celebration amongst the hard grind of poring over a text and trying to match my memories to the almost unintelligible scrawl in my notebooks. Hope you’ve enjoyed some of the output – I’ve certainly enjoyed most of this ten years’ worth of play-attending, and I’m looking forward to another, equally enjoyable ten (and more) to come.

© 2016 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me