A Doll’s House – June 2009


Originally by Henrik Ibsen, in a new version by Zinnie Harris

Directed by Kfir Yefet

Venue: Donmar Warehouse

Date:  Thursday 25th June 2009

This is a tricky production to evaluate, with so much having been changed from the original. First, there is the change in setting from Victorian Oslo to Edwardian London, and the area of life from banking to politics. Then the language is also seriously changed; not just translated from Norwegian to English, but to relatively modern English as well, making the dialogue seem both anachronistic and much more aggressive. The characters don’t draw us into their lives by their restraint so much as fling words at each other, like guests on some bizarre Edwardian Jerry Springer show. This change of style lessened the impact of the emotional discoveries and changes for me, and left me feeling slightly disappointed. There was a good deal more humour as a result, which is rarely a bad thing, and but for the childish reactions of a number of the youngsters in the audience, the amount of physical sexual activity might have had more of an impact, so my sense of disappointment wasn’t just with the play.

Then there was the style of performance, which was cruder than I would have liked, although powerful in the final scene between Thomas and Nora. The actors all did a fine job with this style of production, despite occasional bouts of shouting for no apparent reason, so I will have to put any lack of subtlety in the performance down entirely to the director. Both Steve and I felt that the part of Doctor Rank was underwritten, though ably played by Anton Lesser, and my overall impression was of a ‘dumbing down’ of the play for a modern audience. It was still good, but not as good as the ‘real’ thing, and it’s hard to avoid the big question in all of this – why bother?

The set was magnificent, with a wide curved back wall completely filled with book shelves, a Christmas tree to our left waiting to be adorned, lots of packing crates and boxes everywhere, and a beautiful parquet floor. Overhead there was a large oval hole with a railing around it, suggesting a pretty impressive house, and a ballroom above the library. The costumes were all perfectly in keeping, which made the strangeness of the dialogue all the more noticeable.

Both children were on stage today, and this version certainly made it clear, through Gillian Anderson’s excellent acting, how totally she believes herself to be an unfit mother after Thomas’s scathing condemnation of Kelman’s influence on his children. The scene between Kelman and Christine Lyle, Nora’s old friend, declaring their long-held love for each other, was good, and funnier than it had any right to be, and it was interesting to see Tara Fitzgerald as the friend after seeing her play Nora a number of years ago.

It was an enjoyable afternoon, and I can’t help feeling that, with a bit of rewriting and more sensitive direction, this could be a reasonably good version of a classic play.

P.S.    Having slept on it, I’ve had some more thoughts about this version. I realised that times have moved on, and in some ways the original isn’t as challenging and provocative as it once was, but I couldn’t see the new ideas and challenges which were being presented in this version. I didn’t see any fresh take on the situation, and I did see a number of things that weakened the main thrust of the piece, namely the moral difficulties caused by the inflexibility of the social mores and legal position of women at that time. Firstly, with the more modern style of language, Nora’s choice to leave her husband at the end seems the sensible choice, rather than a huge leap into the unknown with no chance of support from society and every chance of extreme hardship for someone who has been relatively cosseted all her life. Secondly, the portrayal of Kelman (Christopher Eccleston) removed the possibility of him being a good man forced by circumstances to commit some dodgy dealings to make ends meet. He makes it clear that he did the things he’s accused of, and while it can be a good thing that he makes no excuses for that, it does throw Christine into a morally ambiguous light for choosing to be with him regardless. Is she just a woman who’s fallen for a ‘bad’ man, or is she really able to see the goodness in him and possibly bring that back out?

Kelman’s moral choices are also the template for Nora’s. He has the money to lend her because of what he’s done, and it’s Thomas’s absolute condemnation of Kelman’s actions, with Nora knowing that she’s done the same thing, that sets up much of the tension of the final act, much of which was missing in this production. So if Kelman is definitely dishonest, a popular choice in the current climate, where does that leave Nora? Can we excuse her innocence and choices if Kelman’s are to be condemned? Is it one law for the women and another for the men? And then the penny dropped.

It is the moral ambiguity that comes to the fore in this production. How do we evaluate the choices made by Kelman and Nora, and do we deal with the actions solely on the basis of their illegality, or do we make distinctions between them based on the intentions and results? This may not have been the adaptor’s intention, of course, but it’s a view I’m willing to accept as valid for this piece. It certainly supports Ibsen’s view that women are judged by men’s standards, which is still true today.

However, I still feel the ambiguity in setting is a hindrance. The Edwardian aspect makes it easier to get away with such a clear demonstration of the oppression of women (Thomas’s comment about owning his wife got an audible reaction from the audience) while the modern language lessens the impact, although it probably helps the younger audience members understand it better. So perhaps my final comment above still applies, though without the need for rewriting.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

The Winter’s Tale – June 2009 (3)


By William Shakespeare

Directed by Sam Mendes

Company: Old Vic Bridge Project

Venue: Old Vic

Date: Wednesday 24th June 2009

This was a superb production, played on a thrust version of the Old Vic stage that was eerily reminiscent of the old RST. The set was plain, with a large square platform slightly raised above the rest of the stage and positioned well to the front, though with enough space for the actors to walk in front of it. The back and side walls were all done in floorboard style, as was the platform. For the opening scene, the platform held a child’s bed, complete with teddy bear, on the left hand side, some cushions with a bottle in the middle, and on the right a table and chairs, a fairly plain wooden set that could be found in many a kitchen today. I could only make out a chess set laid out for a new game, plus some glasses. There were many lamps hanging down at different levels towards the back, together with lots of candles on stands, and two large swings did duty as shelves for another swathe of candle lamps.

The platform was cleared quickly once it was no longer needed, and various tables and chairs were brought on as required. The candle lamps were blown out early on, while the lamps and candle stands kept going till we left Sicilia. That change was done rather well, I thought. The attendants lined up along the back wall, in relative gloom, and first the men, then  the women, blew out the nearest candle simultaneously, while the hanging lamps were gradually drawn up, as were the swings. This left the stage nicely bare for the Bohemia scenes, with the back wall lifting up to show us sky and clouds. The sheep shearing feast (and what idiots would shear their sheep in the autumn?) was a riot of balloons in red white and blue, while the return to Sicilia was given a wonderful mourning effect by the bare stage and just one long bench. For the statue scene, a small plinth was placed at the front of the platform, with an arc of chairs facing it and us. The bear, incidentally, was a ‘real’ bear rather than the paperback version, and did the job nicely. Costumes were some period or other, probably nineteenth century but don’t quote me, and I thought they worked very well; neither as austere nor as bucolic as the current RSC version.

So to the staging. Instead of the usual chit chat between Camillo and Archidamus, Mamillius came to the front of the stage, sat on the platform and using ‘his’ teddy bear, gave us the lines from a later scene about a sad tale being best for winter. I say ‘his’ because Mamillius was doubled with Perdita, both being played by Morven Christie, a doubling that we’ve seen before and which works very well. After this, we got the first line from Leontes, sitting on the bed with his pregnant wife beside him on the floor. Polixenes was sitting by the table, but moved over to recline on the cushions, where Hermione joined him as part of her persuasion strategy. Leontes had to help her up at first, but she was soon down again and lolling against Polixenes in a way that could be seen as overly friendly, if you’re half blind and inclined to think the worst of people. Leontes obviously falls into that category, but his suffering and his madness were clear to see. There was good use of lighting in this production, with asides spotlit and the background action either highlighted or dimmed.

After the initial part of this scene, Camillo and Archidamus had left, so there’s a much greater sense of the intimacy of this group at this point. With Hermione and Polixenes chivvied off stage, Leontes at first told his son to go and play, but then took him over to the bed, and with much tenderness caressed and kissed him. It’s here, in Mamillius’s bedroom where Leontes suborned Camillo to kill Polixenes. When Leontes started to shout at Camillo, Mamillius woke up, and had to be reassured back to sleep. Later, when Polixenes arrived, it was noticeable how quiet he was so as not to wake the sleeping prince.

We then got the scene of Hermione’s arrest. At first, all was going well, with Mamillius drawing or painting at the table, and bantering a little with the two waiting women. Hermione was on the bed, and then Leontes came in with a few courtiers and all hell broke loose. Mamillius was clearly upset and was taken away, while Hermione seemed unbelieving at first. Her attempt to reconnect with the man she knows and loves so well was touching to see, and spoke volumes about the closeness of their relationship previously. The impact of her being accused publicly was also apparent, having been set up by the earlier lack of courtiers. When she was taken off, the platform was cleared for Paulina’s entrance.

She arrived with a couple of suitcases (hers, or intended for Hermione, I wondered?) and the chat with Emilia was as usual. The next scene had Leontes, wrapped in a blanket, coming down to the front of the stage, clearly tortured by the situation. Polixenes and Hermione stood on either side of the stage at the front, motionless, the objects of his jealousy and hate.

When an attendant arrived to tell him about Mamillius, he actually brought the boy on stage in a wheelchair, looking very listless. I think he was wheeled off before Paulina comes on, but I’m not sure. Anyway, she did come on, wrapped in a shawl to disguise the bulky parcel she’s carrying. Not the most ferocious Paulina, perhaps, but certainly with plenty of authority, and the men were definitely not taking any chances with her. The comedy in this scene came across well, and Leontes was almost moved to compassion when he went over to pick up the little baby whom Paulina had left on a chair. This was the cuddliest Leontes I’ve ever seen, showing physical affection both for Mamillius and the baby, though sadly the outcome was the same. He sent Antigonus away with the baby, and then came the news that the oracle’s judgement has arrived. Leontes divested himself of his blanket and put on his jacket while the set was prepared for the trial scene, and in the meantime Cleomenes and Dion sit at the front of the stage talking about the wonders of their trip to Delphi.

Once they’d gone, the trial could begin. There was now a long table across the stage with three chairs, and there were four chairs to the left side of the platform where Hermione’s ladies sat after helping her on. She sat to the left and Leontes to the right of the table, with one of the other courtiers sitting in the middle as judge. He looked like he’d rather not have the job, to be honest, and there was a hint of trembling in his hand as he held the indictment and read it out. Hermione was in a drab shift, not fully recovered from childbirth though without the blood stains that often accompany this scene. She held her own pretty well, reading the first part of her speech from a tatty scrap of paper, while Leontes seemed fatigued and depressed rather than angry and vengeful for most of this scene. It was the judge’s nervousness and unhappiness that really conveyed the harshness of Leontes’ absolute authority.

When the oracle was called for, the judge used a sword for Cleomenes and Dion to swear on, and was clearly relieved to read out the good news of Hermione’s innocence. Unfortunately the king was determined to have a guilty verdict, and the inevitable happened. I liked the way this production allowed the actors to breathe and think instead of having to deliver their lines like a supermarket checkout person – so many per minute. When Leontes was talking with Paulina after she’s announced the death of his wife, he moved over to the table, and during his lines he paused briefly to pick up the piece of paper Hermione had with her during the trial. It was another touching moment, and another example of the layers of detail in the performance which made it such an enjoyable experience.

We were now off to Bohemia and the stage was cleared, with the back panel raised to show us a cloudy sky. Antigonus came onto this stage near the front and left the baby dead centre, speaking his lines to the audience. Which is why he didn’t see the big brown bear sneaking up on him from behind. As he got up to leave he turned and saw the bear, which reared up on his hind legs and …. blackout. The gory details were left to our imaginations. (Thankfully.) Then the old shepherd arrived, calling for his sheep, and set the tone for the comedy to come. The dialogue came across clearly, aided by Richard Easton (nice to see him again) providing some strong expressions to supplement the lines. Just before he headed off after the meeting with his son, he put the baby down and turned round to announce that he was taking on himself the role of time, a lovely way to segue the two scenes. He gave us the Time speech with both Florizel and Perdita standing at the back of the stage, so we would be prepared for who was who in the second half. Interval.

The second half began with Polixenes and Camillo, both older, having their little conversation, and the final line – “we must disguise ourselves” – got a good laugh. Then we met Autolycus for the first time. With the cast being split so that British accents were in Sicilia, and American ones in Bohemia, it was no surprise that Autolycus ws dressed like a hobo Bob Dylan, with a guitar which he used to accompany the songs he sings. I felt at the time it was  shame they hadn’t gone for some American country or folk songs instead of the regular Shakespeare stuff, as it’s even harder to get across the jokes with some of the songs than it is with the antiquated references in the dialogue. However. He sang and played well enough, and again the spoken lines came across more clearly than many another player’s.

With such a bare stage, the only place he could hide to avoid the young shepherd (I do wish Will had given the shepherds names) was below the back end of the platform. When he did emerge, it was with a large wooden cross which he proceeded to crucify himself on, only without the nasty business of the nails. This was good fun. He stole the shepherd’s wallet, as per usual, and after they went off to their various destinations, the stage was set up for a regular hoe-down. In addition to the balloons, there was a table laden with food, lots of chairs and a band, who struck up at every opportunity, including the ballads. The flowers were very nice, one of the women was nursing a small baby, and the two visitors were in the traditional long beards, hats and glasses. I thought they might have cut the satyrs dance, but we got a lively version of it here, with three men and three women adding balloons to their outfits to emphasis certain physical characteristics. Two of the women were Dorcas and Mopsa, the young shepherd’s jealous girlfriends, so there was some strategic balloon popping going on which left the young shepherd looking very deflated.

After Florizel’s attempt to marry Perdita had been broken up by his father revealing himself, the couple and Camillo went to the side of the stage to sit down and plot their escape. Meanwhile Autolycus came on, replete with purses, and was suitably happy to be in decent clothes again after the switch. He was a very casual courtier to the two shepherds, sitting in a chair, and it seemed plain that he once was at court and knows the manners instead of acting the total clown as some do. They reacted with terror to the news that they were to be killed, and were only too happy to ask for his help in approaching the king. And so we’re off to Sicilia at last.

The final act started with the bare stage and the bench, and when Leontes and Paulina arrived he was carrying a small bunch of flowers which he left centre front, as if laying them on Hermione’s grave. It was a lovely touch. Only one attendant was with them, and after the argument over the king’s remarriage was settled, the news of Florizel and Perdita’s arrival was brought, followed shortly by the people themselves. There was a moment of recognition from Leontes when he first sees Perdita – she was well cast to resemble Hermione – and I noticed that at the end of the scene, when Perdita was left with Paulina for a moment, Paulina got her first good look at the girl and her face also lit up as she recognised the similarity. I sniffled. I wasn’t sure if Paulina actually realised what the similarity meant, but it was a possibility.

The reporting of the reunions was well done, and then the bench was removed, the plinth brought on (placed over the flowers, I think), and Hermione’s ascent onto the pedestal was assisted by a group of attendants huddling in front of the plinth. She managed to stay pretty still, but it’s not easy for that length of time and so close to the audience. I liked this set up though, as it meant we got a good view of the other characters’ reactions to the statue. I sniffled a fair bit during this scene, as is only to be expected, and then with the reunions finally over we got to applaud good and hard for such a wonderful performance.

I loved the clarity of the dialogue in this production. I heard many lines for the first time and others were fresh and new, or given emphasis by appropriate gestures or expressions. Simon Russell Beale in particular was excellent as Leontes. I’ve already mentioned how much more affectionate he was with the children, and I also got a greater sense of him being driven by his jealousy to behave this badly, almost against his will. His suffering was more evident than I’ve seen before too, all of which made the play more focused and the eventual happiness all the more enjoyable.

The rest of the performances were also good, and the ensemble played very well together. Richard Easton’ shepherd was another highlight, and I suspect I’ll be even more impressed retrospectively after seeing The Cherry Orchard next week, once I’ve got a better appreciation of the actors’ range in different parts.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Oklahoma! – June 2009


By Rodgers and Hammerstein

Directed by John Doyle

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Monday 22nd June 2009

Musicals aren’t Steve’s and my favourite type of entertainment, and while this performance was enjoyable it didn’t change our minds on the genre as a whole, although we would be happy to see another production of Oklahoma! in the future. The set was as minimalist as one could possibly get; just two grimy sheets slung across the stage at angles to suggest a wide open sky and a floorboard mound to suggest a field of wheat and the like. The director is well known for his economic use of resources in the Watermill Theatre (we hope to attend that one soon) and old habits evidently die hard.

The staging was similarly pretty sparse, and from reviews I’ve read the costumes were positively niggardly, with only one outfit per cast member (Ado Annie excepted, if I remember right). I thought the singing was great, and I especially loved Ado Annie (Natalie Cassidy) and her various partners in dialogue or song. Natalie Cassidy has such an expressive face, and she brought out the character and the humour really well.

From the post-show discussion, it was clear that the director had decided to bring out the darker side of this piece, and while that can make for an interesting evening it isn’t always appropriate. With this musical, I think the darker side is so under-written that it seems silly to emphasise it so much instead of giving the punters a rollicking good evening’s entertainment, but that’s just me. At least Steve and I had nothing to compare the production with, unlike many in the audience who could remember the original West End production, never mind the one at the National several years ago. Generally speaking, those who’d seen a more upbeat, lavish production found this one dismal and disappointing, while those of us who came to it relatively fresh (we had at least seen bits of the movie) found it more enjoyable.

On the whole, I felt the characters were pretty uninteresting, apart from Ado Annie and Ali Hakim (Michael Matus) the Persian pedlar who occasionally took off his makeup and spoke in a regular American accent. I felt he was worth more attention, compared to the bog standard Oklahomans. Aunt Eller in particular seemed to be on stage a lot but spoke and did very little, despite being a main character apparently. Ah well, better luck next year.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Death And The King’s Horseman – June 2009


By Wole Soyinka

Directed by Rufus Norris

Venue: Olivier Theatre

Date: Wednesday 17th June 2009

On seeing this set, Steve thought it was the latest installation by Anthony Gormley. How awkward, I thought, when they’re trying to put on a play at the same time. When I saw it, I was intrigued. The stage floor was dark and shiny, with a broad red stripe curving round the front and more red speckles behind it. The rest of the floor seemed to be shiny black. There were about twelve figures spread across the centre of the stage; I assumed they were examples of Nigerian carving. They were eerie and beautiful at the same time – I don’t know the significance, although they may be a reference to the ancestors, so important in Nigerian culture.

There was a torn slit curving along the back at eye level with a bright white light shining through, and above it hung a long bundle of something indistinct – body parts, clothes? – which was lit from above. The overall effect was of a strange world, where spirits may walk and other values than our own hold sway – a good start.

When the lights went down (a bit late – there were a lot of people who needed to change seats because they found themselves in the wrong place) a trapdoor opened behind the figures and the cast began to emerge. The first, a woman, had a long lighted taper, and she came forward to light several flames round the front of the stage. By this light I could see that the red stuff was small granules, which some of the other women started to brush out of the way with the bundles of sticks they carried. Some of the men were taking the figures off stage, and with the musicians setting a good beat, it wasn’t long before dancing broke out, with one group of young women and another group of young men chasing each other around the stage. Meanwhile, Lucian Msamati (Pericles in the latest RSC production) and Jenny Jules were sitting on stools near the front being whited up. It was a very colourful, dynamic opening, where we could take in the spectacle and some of the details at our leisure.

Then, with all the figures off the stage and most of the actors having left as well, the play proper started with the dancing haystacks. Three of them, and they were dancing with the women. The Elesin (played by Nonso Anozie, the RSC Academy King Lear) came along and played hide and seek with the women amongst the haystacks until a chap in a bright blue outfit turned up, complaining that he’d been left behind. I didn’t follow all of it, but I gathered that the great man, the Elesin, the king’s horseman, was meant to have the services of someone to sing his praises, and this was the blue peacock’s job. I got the impression that the Elesin wanted to get on with chasing the young ladies, but he relented, and told the peacock to follow him. Their relationship reminded me of Shrek and the donkey – it was just as difficult to get peacock man to shut up.

At the village, there’s much rejoicing when the great man turns up, with lots more song and dance. The Mother of the market turns up (Claire Benedict) and is wonderfully gracious and commanding at the same time. She’s treated with great respect by Elesin, and after a bout of mock anger by him, they tog him out in some fresh clothes. During the dancing he spots a lovely young girl and is determined to have her that very night, even though she’s betrothed to another man. He talks it over with the Mother, and persuades her that he needs to unburden himself of his seed and leave it to grow in the earth before he dies that night. The image of the plantain is used a lot for this, the idea that the sap never dries out, that the old stem withers to feed the new sapling, that the cycle of life is continuous. The Mother agrees with him, but warns him not to leave seed that will harm the people. The marriage goes ahead, with the tendrils of the bundle descending over the couple, and then they sneak off to the marriage bed.

Just to explain – the King has died, and his horseman, the Elesin, is meant to die shortly afterwards, to continue serving the king in the afterlife. He’s expected to commit suicide, and this is what he plans to do that night.

Now we get to see the whited up characters, the District Officer and his wife. Mind you, we don’t get to see them at first, because they arrive in two magnificent red costumes with headdresses covering their faces completely, and dancing. Their furniture, veranda and two bushes also arrive dancing – I thought the lampshade in particular looked very fetching. The costumes are for a fancy dress party they’re off to that night and they’re used by the natives to represent the dead, or death. So when the sergeant turns up to report the imminent death of the Elesin, he can hardly get a word out for his fear of the costumes. Eventually the District Officer tells him to write down his information and get back to work.

The District Officer and his wife then try to find out what’s going on with the Elesin, so they question their steward, Joseph. He’s been Christian for a couple of years so isn’t bothered by the costumes. He is bothered by the drums, though, as they’re sending mixed messages. One minute they’re saying the king will die, then they say he’s getting married. With typical colonial insensitivity, the District Officer orders his men to arrest the Elesin to stop him killing himself, then he and his wife head off to the party.

When the two policemen arrive at the village they’re hounded mercilessly by the young women, who use their small brushes to good effect. The Mother arrives, but also chides them for wanting to take the Elesin away from his bride on the wedding night. There’s a lovely section where the women do impressions of the posh white folk (I’d have liked to have heard more of the lines) and the men are eventually sent packing after one of them has his underpants removed by the women.

Now the Elesin arrives, fresh from the consummation. The Mother shows a cloth round all the women to prove that sex has taken place. His wife, now a fully fledged woman herself, is led off, and after the women smear blue paint on his body the Elesin is left alone to die and accompany his king into the world of the ancestors. Interval.

The second half shows us more of the ‘white’ people at the fancy dress party. Some of the women carry yokes on their shoulders so they can carry two other dummy characters, one on each side – I’m not sure if the men were doing this too. All the party people were in historical frocks and outfits, except for the District Officer and his wife. They did some dancing, and then the District Officer was called away to deal with the problem of the Elesin and his intended death. His men catch the Elesin and bring him to the prison to prevent him committing suicide.

Around this time the Elesin’s son turns up. We’d already heard in the first half how the District Officer helped this young man to leave Africa and go to England to train as a doctor. As the eldest son, he would have been expected to carry on his father’s tradition and become horseman to the next chief. With his father not able to do what needs to be done, the young man kills himself instead to keep the cycle of life intact. Hearing this, the Elesin, manacled at the end of a long chain that hangs from the ceiling, also kills himself by wrapping the chain round his neck and strangling himself. It’s a sad ending, but a powerful and moving story, well told.

The experience of seeing black actors whiting up was a good one; at last there was some balance after years of the other way round, and although I must admit it was a bit of a jolt at first, I soon saw the funny side and loved every minute. There were some good pointed comments about colonialism, from a different perspective than we’re used to, and while I’m not keen on ritual killings per se, the overall impression was of a culture in closer touch with nature and the natural cycles than we ‘civilised’ folk often are, and full of life and the enjoyment of it. A very good afternoon’s entertainment, and a tremendous ensemble performance.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Write Me A Murder – June 2009


By Frederick Knott

Directed by Ian Dickens

Company: Ian Dickens Productions

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Tuesday 16th June 2009

This was the only Frederick Knott play we hadn’t seen, so we were keen to add it to our list. The plot takes place in an old country house, part of a large estate which has been run down over the years. The set showed the study/sitting room, with a section of it walled off to the right. This part had a door or French windows out to the gardens, a filing cabinet, table and chair, and lots of bookcases with some guns displayed on the wall near the front. The door to the other part of the room was towards the back. The sitting room had a door to the kitchen on the left, next to the large fireplace. There were French windows centre back leading to the garden and we could see a sundial just outside them. There were chairs and a desk, and we could also see the stairs up to the bedrooms at the back on the left which was also the way to the front door. There was lots of wood panelling, and various family portraits hung about the place.

The plot concerned the sale of the house by its current owner the Honourable Clive Rodingham to Charles Sturrock, a businessman who’s made pots of money but who started out with nothing more than a chip on his shoulder when he lived in the very village they can see from the windows of this house. He’s mad keen to buy up the big house and become the lord of the manor, getting his own back on all the posh folk who he felt looked down on him all those years ago. He’s brought his young wife with him, Julie. She’s trying to be a writer, and as Clive’s younger brother David is an established author and has finally turned up now that his brother’s told him their father’s dead, Sturrock rather menacingly suggests that David help Julie out with her story which he agrees to do.

She’s attempting to win a short story competition in the newspapers; a small prize, but given her husband’s crushing contempt for her abilities it’s a big step for her. David mainly writes thrillers and detective stories so they start to work out a murder plot. Clive, meanwhile, is off to America to schmooze his prospective in-laws; he’s nabbed a rich US woman and hopes to live a life of contented luxury for many a year to come. There’s also a Doctor pottering around, Elizabeth Woolley, an old family friend as well as the local GP, and still as sharp as a pin. A good mix of characters, with a number of possibilities.

The plot was a little bit clunky, with lots of room for things to go wrong, but it was enjoyable enough. It felt like an attempt to reprise Dial M For Murder; it wasn’t quite up to that standard, although the final twist was lovely to watch. Some decent performances, and a reasonably good night all in all.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

The Winter’s Tale – June 2009 (2)


By William Shakespeare

Directed by David Farr

Venue: Courtyard Theatre

Date: Monday 15th June 2009

Having seen the understudy run and enjoyed it, it was always going to be a risk the first time we saw the regular cast in action. Fortunately it wasn’t a disappointment. This was their first Winter’s Tale after a break from it so they may have been a little rusty, but the performance was just as good overall with some gains and some slight losses.

In terms of performance Greg Hicks was a more tortured soul while Kelly Hunter brought out Hermione’s dignity and courage in adversity. Brian Doherty as Autolycus had had much more time to work on the comedy business than Paul Hamilton, so naturally there were more laughs and some things went more smoothly, but I wouldn’t rate the performance much higher than the understudy’s. The light dome fell as it should tonight, landing upright in the middle to form a cradle for the baby Perdita, but otherwise the set seemed just as before. We were sitting further back but at a similar angle, and I couldn’t hear some of the lines so well tonight, but I certainly sniffled as much as I had before and laughed just as much so it was another good evening all round.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

The Winslow Boy – June 2009


By Terence Rattigan

Directed by Stephen Unwin

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Friday 12th June 2009

This was another Simon Higlett design, which we’d seen previously at an afternoon talk at the Rose Theatre. The whole set was encompassed by a huge picture frame, set at an angle. The sitting room itself had double doors to the left with a glimpse of the hall through them when they were opened, another door on the right to the library and French windows centre back. The furniture was simple but of good quality, with a sofa to the left of the double doors, a table in the middle and Mr. Winslow’s chair to the right near the front.

No need to go into the story here. The performances were excellent, among the best I’ve seen. The dialogue was wonderfully well delivered and I don’t think I’ve seen another production get so much humour out of the play. In particular, I loved the underplaying of many of the reactions which made each situation funnier. For example, when Ivy inadvertently breaks the news that Master Ronnie has returned home early despite everyone else conspiring to keep Mr. Winslow in the dark, there was very little obvious reaction amongst the characters but we got the point loud and clear (and laughed loud and clear as well).

The whole ensemble performed brilliantly, but I will just mention two of the cast. Timothy West was superb as Mr. Winslow, showing a wide emotional range as well as delivering some wonderful lines to perfection. Adrian Lukis played a more oily version of the QC Sir Robert Morton than I’ve seen before, but it worked very well. I found myself wondering what it’s like to make your first entrance towards the end of the first half,and to build up so quickly to such a magnificent exit line. I didn’t feel he and Kate would be so likely to get together this time round, but you never know.

Finally, I must mention that interrogation scene just before the interval. The interruptions by the family were spot on and I was able to feel their concern along with them. The climax was just as good as ever, and I had to wipe away a tear in the interval. I do like Rattigan’s work.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Wallenstein – June 2009


By Friedrich Schiller, adapted by Mike Poulton

Directed by Angus Jackson

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Wednesday 10th June 2009

It’s rare for me to miss the second half of something, as even quite dull productions can improve after the interval, but tonight’s performance was too much even for my boredom threshold. I wasn’t interested in the political manoeuvrings, the characters were largely insipid, there was no tension or drama for me and although I’d smiled at a few of the jokes, there were too few of them to keep me coming back. I admit it’s been a tiring week so far, but in similar circumstances I’ve managed to enjoy a number of productions more than this one, so I don’t think it’s entirely down to me.

The set was a sprawl of paving slanted across the stage with a slight rake. At the back was a peculiar wall – couldn’t really make it out – with double doors in the middle facing the slanted paving. A couple of bare tree trunks completed the picture. We could see through to the back at either side, and presumably through the doors when they were open (we weren’t in the right position to see).

The story concerns Wallenstein, the leader of the Holy Roman Empire’s forces for a large part of the Thirty Years War. He was promised the Kingdom of Bohemia by the Emperor when he took the job on, but the Emperor has not been “in the giving vein” for quite some time, so ambition is vying with loyalty and Wallenstein is contemplating a pact with the Swedes (currently enemies) so he can turn his forces on Vienna, clear out all his political opponents and gain his crown. His daughter and wife are involved (in a minor key), he has various generals who are loyal to him and some who are in the pay of the Emperor’s people, there are emissaries from Vienna and the Swedes (at least in the first half) and we get an early glimpse of a friar who preaches against Wallenstein to his own men (he’s bundled off stage pretty quickly).

It’s the familiar story of the successful leader brought down by the jealousy and fears of others, albeit a version with lots of nooks and crannies, and for once the leader himself has plenty of ambition and arrogance. There are a lot of arguments presented but few real feelings, which is probably why I found it difficult to get involved. Steve had seen a previous adaptation years ago at the RSC so perhaps he enjoyed this one more because he’s already seen a good production. Schiller had so much material when writing about Wallenstein that another version apparently runs to ten hours on stage, so at least this adaptation is a reasonable length but perhaps that’s its problem – too much to cram into the time. The actors were all doing a fine job, as usual, but it wasn’t for me.

I did like the emphasis on the fact that Wallenstein and his generals were paying their men out of their own coffers. It makes it seem even more unreasonable for the Emperor to sack Wallenstein and still expect to keep his armies to fight with, but that’s politicians for you. I wish they’d made more of the fact that this was a war where people kept changing sides, enemies becoming friends and vice versa. Despite the apparent principles involved – Catholicism versus Protestantism – there’s little to be seen of principles through the smoke of war, and bringing out that contrast more could have given the piece more humour and more focus, but it was not to be. Ah well.

I did attend the post-show, and there were some interesting questions and answers. Nothing that changes my opinion of this production, alas, but I’d be more interested in seeing a different version. The adaptor’s focus was on showing a man who had a fantasy of kingship but who didn’t really understand what it was about. I might have engaged with the piece better if that aspect had come out more in the first half. The cast apparently didn’t do much research into the history or the full Schiller version as it wouldn’t have helped; the real history and geography are merely ‘inspirational material’ for Schiller in a similar way to Shakespeare’s histories. The audience were generally appreciative, and I’m glad there were so many staying behind for the post-show as it made for a better discussion.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

As You Like It – June 2009


By William Shakespeare

Directed by Michael Fentiman

Company: RSC Understudies

Venue: Courtyard Theatre

Date: Tuesday 9th June 2009

This was a good performance of an interesting production with some nice touches. The standard was still good, although it’s play that needs sparkle and it’s asking too much of the understudies to produce that level of performance first time out. The introduction by Michael Fentiman warned us that Christine Entwisle would play Phoebe for the final scene as Debbie Korley was doubling both Phoebe and Audrey, making her a potential bigamist without this extra help. As there was a dance at the end, it would indeed have been difficult to get away with just one woman playing two parts.

The set was interesting as well and reminded me of a number of things, particularly the DASH Arts Dream. The back wall was made up of lots of squares of what looked like patterned paper, or possibly wood. The squares looked like they would easily come out or open up to make doors or windows, and it reminded me of the paper-covered back wall in the aforementioned Dream. There were double doors in the centre of the wall and a couple of larger panels above. The floor was likewise made up of patterned squares, all in a light colour. The lighting on this stark set was equally decisive; a stream of white light poured across the stage on the diagonal, matched by another diagonal later on; there were a few gloomy scenes to contend with, but mostly it was fairly bright all over with no specific highlights.

The first glimpse of the wintery forest came with the exiled Duke and his lords appearing through trapdoors. Then Celia, Rosalind and Touchstone arrived at Arden and the plants began to take over. Touchstone was covered in undergrowth (though in his case it’s more like overgrowth) and during the intermission the doors and panels started to come off the back wall, with trees starting to show through. I liked the split personality of the set in the second half; they never quite got rid of the back wall but the bundle of overgrowth stayed on stage throughout. The forest was also liberally peppered with Orlando’s verses. Large bits of cardboard appeared all over the place, hanging from the roof, stuck on the side walls and around the first balcony, stuffed into the foliage behind the wall and just about everywhere you looked there was at least a letter or word. Very effective.

The individual performances were good, with James Howard’s Jacques being excellent. His first entrance was solo, carrying a guitar and singing “Under The Greenwood Tree”, a song normally sung by Amiens. Instead of Jacques asking the absent Amiens for more, he asked us if we wanted more, so some of us obliged him by calling out. He carried on, and finally took lots of bows. At first we applauded, then we laughed, then we applauded again, then we laughed again, then the other lords came on and we laughed at his reaction. Now he could play his musical trick on the other lords and that was good fun too, with entertaining reactions from the lords who sprang apart as if bitten. He also managed a good version of the seven ages of man speech which is normally very boring – he managed to get a couple of laughs – and his character came across very clearly throughout. I was aware of his melancholy, which wasn’t unfunny this time, and how he and Touchstone were so similar; this forest wasn’t big enough for the both of them. One minor weakness – Clarence Smith as Charles, the Duke’s wrestler, was less good in his delivery of the lines. He didn’t project quite enough so that lines said facing away from us tended to get lost, and his diction wasn’t quite as clear as the others, but it wasn’t a bad performance – I’m sure he’ll get better with practice – and he managed the wrestling scene very well which can’t be easy with so little rehearsal.

Staging. During Orlando and Oliver’s first conversation, or slanging match if you prefer, Orlando showed his talents as a wrestler by pinning his brother to the ground. I noticed how well the conversation between Oliver and Charles gave the audience all the background information it needs about the situation at court. When the court arrived it was with a formal dance, more Spanish than French to my mind, with lots of foot stamping. The Duke and his followers swept out, leaving a sad Rosalind to be cheered up by her cousin. Their dialogue came across clearly, as did the banter with Touchstone. He arrived before the girls had finished their bit and took the opportunity to down a bottle of something, presumably alcoholic, which he’d hidden down the front of his trousers. But before he could down the second bottle, similarly secreted, he had to speak to the girls and then it was too late; they kept him talking so long the wrestling was about to start before he could wet his whistle again.

Rosalind was surprisingly keen to see the bone-breaking wrestling match, though her change into love-struck woman was beautifully done, as was Orlando’s smitten-ness, resulting in a lack of dialogue. The wrestling itself involved a lot of banging heads against the back wall, and there was a suitable amount of blood on each contestant’s head by the end. The court was spread around the auditorium with Rosalind and Celia just along from us. I noticed that the court applauded Charles’s successes, while the girls clapped and cheered for Orlando. This may have been what tipped the Duke into banishing Rosalind, not liking the way she influenced his own daughter. The Duke is certainly shown as full-blown tyrant in this production.

The girls were soon planning their trip to Arden. The line referring to Rosalind’s height was inappropriate with this casting but she tackled it head on and we all took it in our stride, accepting the unusual circumstances. They leave by different exits for once, to carry out the various aspects of their plan.

Next was the arrival of Duke senior and his men in the forest. The first lord and Amiens were played by the same actor so he had to indicate someone else when he mentioned Amiens, but it all worked very well. Immediately we were back with the usurping Duke, and his courtiers were informing him about his daughter’s flight. Hisperia, Celia’s woman, was brought on too, but as she was standing right beside us I couldn’t see her face until she turned to leave when it became apparent that her cooperation with the investigation had been obtained by means of violence – her face was cut and bruised. I got a bad feeling about this Duke.

When Orlando returned home Adam warned him to go away, as his brother wasn’t happy with the news of Orlando’s success. When Orlando rushed over to embrace Adam, he kicked the money box into the audience, which caused some laughter. It was handed back readily enough and didn’t hold up the performance at all. I was very aware, as Adam was asking Orlando to take him along, that people in service didn’t have a lot of options in those days. Adam might have saved some money, but he was probably better off with an employer than on his own. And I’m delighted to say that although Adam wasn’t seen again after the forest feast this production didn’t actually kill him off for once. A gentle retirement, then. How fitting.

Next came the main event – the girls and Touchstone arriving in Arden. Celia, poor lass, was so leg-weary she was actually in a trolley being pulled by Rosalind. And she was covered by a blanket. So her complaints about being too tired to go on seemed just a tad selfish and petulant. Rosalind, for her disguise as Ganymede, had a pencil moustache, a hat over her tied-up hair and ordinary trousers, shirt and jacket. Touchstone, apart from the strands of foliage he manages to get caught up in, was still in his fool’s clothes which in his case appeared to be a set of restraining clothes – a pair of trousers with straps topped with the remains of a straitjacket (one of the arms came off later on when he scrambled his way out of the foliage). When Corin and Silvius turned up, they hid; Celia snuggled under her blanket, Rosalind ducked behind the trolley, and Touchstone nipped off to the side of the stage.

Silvius was playing an instrument and singing his love song to Phoebe as he came on, a common practice in this production. The instrument appeared to be a mandolele (a cross between a mandolin and a ukulele) with ten strings. (I don’t know what it’s called in real life.) After Silvius left, Celia, ever practical, was up from her comfy bed in a trice to suggest they ask the remaining shepherd for food.

Next we had Jacques giving us his song, and then Orlando and Adam arriving in the forest with Orlando helping Adam off the stage until he could get him some food. The Duke turned up again with his men who prepared dinner – meat kebabs over an open flame in one of the trapdoor fire pits – yum. Orlando grabbed one of the lords to persuade them to part with some of their food but was soon charmed into behaving nicely, although there was a lord pointing a gun at him behind his back. There were a lot of guns in this production – everyone following the exiled Duke in the forest had one – but fortunately no need to fire any of them. Jacques delivered the speech about meeting the fool very well, with some nice pauses during the time sequence which made it funnier, as he waited for someone to tell him what the time would be an hour after ten o’clock. Amiens’ song was dropped; instead they just had the Duke leaving the stage, Orlando seeing that Adam was well looked after then following the Duke, and the two of them returning to have a few short words before they all left the stage.

The nasty Duke then confronted Oliver about his missing brother in a very short scene, but it was enough to get across his tyranny, and then we had Orlando in the forest, strumming his guitar and singing some of his poetry written in praise of Rosalind. Trust me, they sounded better sung than said. Plus he has a nice voice. We then got the opening lines of Act 3 Scene 2, with Orlando running off past us after “and unexpressive she”. Oliver then appeared at the centre back of the stage, looking around, presumably for his troublesome brother, and then he headed off in the other direction. Interval.

The stage crew then took some time setting up the stage for the second half, what with sweeping away bits of paper, tidying up the foliage nest that Touchstone had deposited on the far side of the stage, demolishing the back wall and plastering the whole stage with poetry snippets (see above). They may have lacked a lot of the comforts of life in Arden forest, but good housekeeping wasn’t one of them. Forest floor swept and washed on a regular basis. One of the trapdoors had a block set up in front of it, over on our side of the stage towards the back. When all the work was done, Amiens?/lord?/Corin? (that’s the trouble with all this doubling) popped in there and began to skin a rabbit. For real. A real rabbit. A real, dead rabbit. And he was really skinning it. EEUUUGGGHHHHH!!!!! At least that’s what Touchstone thought, as he stood or sat on the other side of the stage, preparing to address the shepherd but not quite able to as first one leg, then another, then the whole body was pulled out of the skin (after the head had been chopped off). I didn’t find it all that grisly (she lied) but Touchstone wasn’t the only person who was finding it tough going judging by the noises coming from the audience. Once fully skinned, the rabbit was put in the bucket and was being carried off stage before Corin noticed Touchstone and started the next bit of Act 3 Scene 2. [Found out in 2011 that the rabbit skinning had to be dropped for New York, as there was a huge outcry from animal lovers over there.]

This scene took us through both Rosalind and Celia reading out some of the poetry and into their private discussion of the verse-writer. This time, I was aware that Rosalind was reading these verses as Ganymede, but hearing them as herself. When it comes to the revelation about who has written the verses I always find Rosalind completely obtuse at this point, despite her quick wits. I can only suppose she’s used to people writing fancy verse in her praise, and doesn’t expect to see Orlando again anytime soon which is why she takes so long to absorb Celia’s information. Anyway, this is the first time I’ve seen Rosalind, describing her disguise, drop her trousers and take the padding out of her crotch. Very effective, very funny, and it showed an astonishing attention to detail. When Orlando and Jacques turned up, she and Celia snuck off stage and round the back where they could watch what went on. Orlando had the guitar which he handed to Jacques, who took it off with him when he went.

There was a moment when Orlando first saw Ganymede that told us he saw the similarity to Rosalind immediately. But then he ‘realised’ he was talking to a boy and he snapped out of his romantic dream in a chappish sort of way, becoming brisk and manly, as you do. Their banter was also pretty brisk which got us through the rest of the scene quite quickly. To give them a break, Touchstone brought on Audrey to woo and wed her. Sir Oliver Martext arrived carrying a flaming cross (don’t ask me why). Jacques dissuaded Touchstone from marrying badly in the forest, so off they went and we were back to Rosalind and Celia wondering where Orlando has got to. To pass the time they headed off to see Silvius and Phoebe do their turn, with all the lovesick problems that brings. Phoebe was carrying a tray of fresh baked rolls which she dropped when she laid eyes on Ganymede. Silvius picked them all up again, having previously stolen one to keep next to his heart; he slipped it out of sight quickly when Phoebe looked at him.

Back at the shepherd’s house Rosalind and Celia entered with Jacques, who disappeared quickly once Orlando arrived. The wooing was good fun, and when it came to the end of the scene Orlando headed off to serve the Duke, Rosalind went off to sit somewhere quiet and Celia lay down on the stage to sleep for a while all on her own. The next scene is a puzzling one to us modern folk; Jacques leading the forest court in a stag-romp with lots of horns on view. Here it was done as a dream sequence, with Celia’s father coming on with his court in a reprise of the earlier dance entrance. Then the forest lords came on and the two groups formed into two lines. They danced around, there were lots of horns but no singing, and Celia joined in the dancing. After a short while she dropped back down onto the floor and the rest left, so that Rosalind could come back on and wake her up. Puzzling, but no worse than the original scene.

Next we got the letter from Phoebe declaring her love for Ganymede, followed by the arrival of Oliver to apologise on Orlando’s behalf for his non-appearance and to explain what’s happened. The connection between him and Celia was noticeable, though not so rampant as I’ve seen before. Next up were Audrey, Touchstone and William, with Touchstone making it clear to William that he’d better give up any plans he had to marry Audrey, as Touchstone has first dibs. (Actually William had first dibs, but who’s going to argue with a highly-trained court jester?)

When Orlando came on with Oliver he had his right arm in a sling, and when Oliver clasped him firmly before leaving to arrange his wedding, Orlando winced with pain. Even so, once the marriage arrangements are made amongst Orlando, Ganymede, Phoebe and Silvius, he got rid of the sling so he could put on a jacket for the marriage day. This removed the need for the scene with Touchstone and Audrey listening to a song. As Orlando and the exiled Duke discussed the situation it was clear that neither of them has realised who Ganymede is, despite both of them being strongly reminded of Rosalind when they saw the boy. (Where exactly did Rosalind get her quick wits from?) Touchstone dids his seven points of a quarrel speech, Audrey turned up looking completely different from before (it’s amazing what a wedding makeover can do for a woman) and then Hymen brought on Celia, accompanied by any spare cast members who were done up for a country-style wedding ceremony. Rosalind sneaked on to the stage at the front and all was finally revealed. With the news that the usurping Duke has gone off to be a hermit, and Jacques heading off to wait for the new/old Duke in his former cell, the stage was clear for merriment and dancing, after which they all left the stage except for Rosalind.

The epilogue is one of the best known bits, and rarely dropped. Here she said the opening lines and then sang a verse of The Parting Glass, a lovely old song and well performed but not as much fun as the regular epilogue. Still, we’d all enjoyed ourselves so much that there was rapturous applause, well deserved. Nothing more to add, looking forward to the regular version in August.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

When The Rain Stops Falling – June 2009


By Andrew Bovell

Directed by Michael Attenborough

Venue: Almeida Theatre

Date: Saturday 6th June 2009

This was slightly disappointing. A new play from an Australian writer, and with two Aussie cast members (one of whom was actually in a cast!); this could have been much more powerful and moving. I’m glad the Almeida is prepared to try something like this from the other side of the world, I’d just prefer that it be of better quality.

The story spans past and future, from 1959 to 2039, and concerns four generations of a family where the fathers keep running out on their sons, although to be fair Gabriel 1 wasn’t planning to kill himself in a car crash shortly after getting his recently acquired girlfriend pregnant. And his dad, Henry, didn’t run off so much as he was told to go by his wife, once she found out about his sexual preference for young boys and with their son being only seven and already featuring in his dad’s hidden photo album.

Said father scarpers off to Australia where a young boy goes missing, with only his shoe being found on the beach. His mother kills herself when his body is found, while his father holds on for a number of years until the dead boy’s sister is old enough to look after herself. She is the recently acquired girlfriend, also called Gabrielle, discovered while Gabriel 1 is searching for some clues to his father’s character and disappearance, and it’s her putting two and two together that causes the fatal crash.

Her son, Gabriel 2, also leaves his wife when his son is little, and in 2039 he gets a call from his son who wants to meet up. This meeting is the final scene of the play, where Gabriel 2 gives his son a collection of items left by his mother about which he knows very little, but which we have seen feature strongly throughout the story.

The play starts with Gabriel 2 standing in the rain with lots of other people rushing past him. Then something drops down from the sky, and the lights go out. When they come back up, Gabriel 2 gives us the story of his son calling him, how he couldn’t talk to him, then had to call him back. He invited his son for lunch then realises he hasn’t got anything to eat, so goes out in the rain and ends up with the fish. Fish have apparently died out by 2039, so it’s more than unusual for one to land at someone’s feet miles from the sea.

Then we see the overlapping generations. Each person arrives in the rain, hangs up their umbrella and coat, goes to look out of the window, heads round the table and off the stage, then comes to the table to take some soup from a large tureen and sit down to eat it. Once everyone is present, they develop a rhythm – synchronised eating – and then they leave so we can see the first scene between Gabriel 1 and his mother.

From here the story is told in different time frames, with the year and place usually being projected onto the screens at the back. There are scenes between a young Elizabeth and her paedophile husband in 1959 and onwards, scenes from 1988 between Gabriel 1 and his mother Elizabeth, now much older and given to drink, scenes between Gabriel 1 and the young Gabrielle, also from 1988, and scenes between Joe and the older Gabrielle from 2013, as well as the start and end scenes from 2039.

This jumping about wasn’t too confusing for either of us (despite comments to that effect overheard by Steve) but it did make it harder to get into the play and to care about the characters. The paedophilia was well signposted, as was the connection between Henry’s disappearance and the murder of the young boy. So there were few surprises and not a lot of insight into the human condition. Nor was there much humour, and when you’re asking an audience to sit for a bum-numbing two hours without an interval, you could at least give us some fun to take our minds off the agony. The set was necessarily sparse although I’m not convinced it had to be so bleak. There was the table, a bench seat and two chairs to the left of the stage, and some hooks lowered down on the right for the coats and umbrellas. A bench also appeared on the right side occasionally but apart from that I don’t remember any furniture. The screens at the back were mainly blank and dark, but they did show time and place information and on Uluru they showed stars and snow.

The main problem for me was the unbelievability of it all. I don’t mind surreal or symbolic touches, but the repetition of the fish motif and one or two other tropes didn’t do anything for me. Perhaps these things mean more in Australian culture. Several characters repeated a long-winded story about cleaning a room from top to bottom, but finding it just as grubby as when they started. What was that about? I have great respect for the hard work the actors put in, and gratitude for Leah Purcell, who played the part of the older Gabrielle with her leg in a cast, but apart from that, why bother? Not the Almeida’s best find by a long way.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me