This Mojo’s Working

After much excitement me and KPH finally got to see Mojo.  We actually went on Thursday, but this week has been so crazy busy that I’ve only just had time to write anything down about it.

untitledFirst things first. If profanities bother you, then perhaps Mojo isn’t the play for you to go and see. I could say that there is some swearing, but more accurate would be that there are some normal words, connected into sentences by quite a lot of very bad words. Secondly, you get to see Colin Morgan in his pants (that’s underpants, just to be clear). For quite a long time.  Now, there has been many a daydreamed hour about witnessing that moment, but when faced with it from 3 rows off the stage and when it features some grubby fifties style Y-fronts, it’s rather off-putting.

The subject matter is the blackest of comedy, and the ending of the play will leave you speechless, particularly the penultimate scene. All the performances were typically amazing, though some were worthy of a mention: Rupert Grint in his first stage run was impressive and did a fantastic comic turn as Sweets, partnered with Daniel Mays who was manic, Ben Whishaw was suitably unhinged as Baby and Colin was a very twitchy, whiny club doorman called Skinny Luke.  None of the characters were what you could call likeable, but the actors got this across perfectly. KPH and I both agreed that Baby was so horrid that you were actually glad when he wasn’t on stage, but that’s got to be a testament to the skill of the man playing him.

There is so much I want to say about this play but can’t for fear of spoilers.  The Harold Pinter theatre is small and intimate and has a sort of grunge feel all of its own that lends a great atmosphere to what’s happening on stage.  This is not my favourite play that I have seen Colin in, probably because the era and subject matter don’t appeal to me personally, but I can appreciate that this is excellent stuff.

4178-1384515481-mojo7We went to a matinee, and there was a sign up at the stage door saying that no photos with the actors were allowed after matinee performances. There wasn’t many of us waiting, and not many of the cast came out, so perhaps people already knew that they wouldn’t. Daniel Mays emerged, and I’ve never seen anyone run so fast from a stage door! We would have stopped him for an autograph but it didn’t seem like he wanted to be stopped (I will never ask someone who seems like they’re reluctant), although some people further up the road collared him.  We came away from the stage door after while, as neither Colin nor Rupert came out, but as we were checking out the posters at the front door of the theatre, the guy who played Silver Johnny, Tom Rhys Harries, came up the street looking very relaxed and happy so stopped to talk to a few of us.  He posed for a few illegal photos (naturally, I had to get one) and was really very adorable (cue fangirling as I go to investigate his other work), so all in all, I was glad we waited around. Someone asked him if Colin was coming out, and Tom said that he was sleeping, but as Colin has never emerged at any other matinee I’ve been to, and after seeing some of the photos of him being mobbed on the web, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he really just didn’t want to.

colin-morgan-skinny-in-mojo-at-the-harold-pinter-theatre-photo-credit-simon-annandA great day, only marred by the fact that all the trains home were delayed and it took forever to reach the comfort of my bed…

 

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The Tempest at The Globe 28th April 2013

It’s been a while since I did a theatre review, mostly because what I’ve been to see hasn’t really moved me to review it. But, of course, Colin Morgan at The Globe was always going to get a review!

I have actually wanted to go to The Globe for quite a few years now and, for one reason or another, the opportunity never presented itself. So when I heard that they were staging The Tempest (one of my favourite Shakespeare plays) featuring Colin (my favourite actor) it was going to take the arrival of the four horsemen of the apocalypse to stop me from going. And they wouldn’t have found me an easy target either.

Because I am still quite overwhelmed by how much I loved this production, and because the delicious memories are still jumbled up in my brain, each trying to tumble out at once, I have to make a checklist of what pops in first and then cover them in turn:

• Tumbling and swinging
• Costumes
• Cute little dances
• Singing and chanting
• Funny moments
• Prop malfunctions
• Audience reaction

Firstly, I have to say that the entire cast was amazing. Quite often, I’ll see a play and always pick out one duff performance that bugs me. But with this one, for me, every single person was perfectly cast and gave the most beautiful performance. Neither can I adequately express how perfect The Globe is. I’ve been to RSC at Stratford and, even though I enjoyed my visit immensely, it felt quite elitist, in some ways, more reserved. It felt like somewhere I had to behave in. The Globe feels like I’m sure it would have been in Shakespeare’s day: welcoming, levelling and merry. It feels like a place where friends would have got together to be entertained and to have a laugh. There seems to be more of an ethos of Shakespeare being something for the masses to enjoy, rather than for people with English degrees. The atmosphere was fantastic and if you haven’t been and get the chance, you really must go.

So, what’s next? Oh yeah, tumbling and swinging! Colin, as Ariel, did a lot of that. He cartwheeled across the stage, hung from beneath stairs with one arm like a monkey, climbed up staging and walked on funny stilt things. It was pretty impressive. All that and he still managed to deliver his lines! And that was pretty impressive too. I wasn’t sure what to expect from him for Ariel. As you may know, it’s not the first time I’ve seen him on stage and the last role was very different from this. I’ve seen The Tempest performed before too and, if I’m honest, the last time I don’t recall Ariel being a character that had much of an impact on me. Colin made his Ariel a strange mix of childlike naivety, jester, powerful spirit, nimble nymph, camp flirt and cheeky monkey! There were moments where he was like a little lost boy: the point at which Ariel asks Prospero if he loves him drew a collective sigh from the audience that very likely could have been heard from the Mir space station. And there were moments where Ariel really showed his power, like when he appears as a vengeful harpy to pronounce judgment on Prospero’s enemies. You’ll be happy to learn that the reports of his singing are well founded too – he can actually sing and it’s rather lovely! One moment where he sings and almost breaks down crying – oh, my heart!

I loved the costumes. They were inventive whilst still keeping to the ethos of not being over-produced; I loved the kind of rustic-ness about them. Some of the actors came into the crowds during the performance and I loved seeing the costumes up close for that reason. It reminded me of school play costumes, but in a really good way. It all added to the feeling of a sort of social accessibility around the theatre itself. Eek, someone is going to comment now and tell me they cost millions to produce! The same can be said about the props. The iconic stage was barely dressed at all, so that most of the setting came from your imagination, but what was done was really clever. Caliban first emerges onto the stage from a hole beneath a rock and the shipwreck at the beginning is done by actors carrying a model ship through the crowd as though it was a heaving sea. There was one funny prop malfunction moment where Ariel had to tie a washing line up between two posts. The line was clearly stuck on something and wouldn’t stretch. He tried twice but it wouldn’t budge, so he tripped off the stage very professionally and the washing had to stay in the basket!

This production definitely felt more humorous too than the one I’ve seen before. In fact, there was a lot of laughter and the audience clearly loved the jokes. There was one ongoing one where Trinculo keeps pulling fish from various parts of his jester outfit and they get bigger each time. And then there was a little wedding dance for Ferdinand and Miranda where the spirits joined in and that was just hilarious. There was another dance right at the end of the play where all the characters joined in and that was such a feel-good moment that everyone was just smiling their heads off and even the actors looked as though they were having the time of their lives. Of course, I was just mesmerised by Colin’s little version of the dance – just the cutest thing ever!

I’m just so happy that I got to see this performance but I think I need to go again!

One last bit, though I’m sure I’ve forgotten lots of things. I didn’t do the stage door waiting game. I have done before, but I figure it’s time I left the poor chap alone. And I had my 11 year old daughter with me – no young girl needs to see her mother behave like that

If you fancy seeing The Tempest for yourself, here’s the link.  Tickets start at £5, so what are you waiting for?

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – RSC Stratford 15th August 2011

Sadly (or happily, depending on your estimation of my ability) there are no photos as we weren’t allowed to take any in the theatre.

Daughter 1 and I drove to Stratford all by our big selves. Well, I drove, she navigated, and a fine co-pilot she was too. Weirdly, this was the first time I had actually seen Shakespeare done in Stratford, even though I really like to see a bit of Shaky, and I have the lovely Lou to thank as the tickets were a birthday gift.

So, to begin…

I really liked the way some of the actors got into character and came on stage about 10 minutes before the performance was due to begin and milled around interacting with each other, so the audience had this weird vouyeristic preview, as if we were watching the play before the play was in existence.  That might be a little bit of a hamfisted explanation, but it’s the only way I can describe it. Maybe when my brain kicks in I might edit this and make it sound clever. But when I was a kid, I always used to try to imagine what was happening before a story began or after a story had ended, or both, so this kind of indulgence was a treat!

The setting was 60’s grit, which I really didn’t like at first – all sharp suits and black dresses. I didn’t feel it was right for that play at all and was a little disappointed until we got to the forest. Then it became clear that it was actually a masterstroke because the contrast between the world of fairy magic and that of urban austerity was even sharper and more effective for it.  The director had obviously gone all out for humour and no bawdy joke was left untouched.  This was especially evident in the character of Helena and her ridiculous ‘plum in mouth accent’ and the workmen/players who were either just hilariously camp or dimwitted. Daughter 1 was falling off her chair laughing, which was a little worrying when she was laughing at such jokes as Bottom’s salami donkey penis.  I wondered if she was just laughing because everyone around her was laughing or whether she actually knew what she was laughing at. There was a scattering of other children there and really, it was a little rude at times, but I think it was ‘Carry On’ rude, which was fine by the seventies TV generation children so I guess it’s ok (?)

The set was cleverly dressed and planned. The acting, of course, was superb – nothing less than you would expect at the RSC, with some lovely audience involvment and clever ad-libbing.  And it was actually really exciting just being there at such an iconic location (plus the gift shop is awesome!).

details of tickets if you’re interested…

Comedy of Errors @ Stafford Castle 28th June 2011

Daughter 1 gets to see her first Shakespeare play and she loved it! Mister’s brother and Mister’s brother’s wife also came along – Mister’s brother’s second Shakespeare play in a week and also in his entire life! He loved it too.

This was such a lavish production. We seem to be on a run of Shaky at the moment – not deliberate but just how they’ve come along (next stop RSC for A Midsummer Night’s Dream in August). You could tell immediately from the quality of the staging and cast that the budget for this was much bigger than for Romeo and Juliet, which we saw a couple of days previously ‘al fresco’ at Trentham Gardens.  But I digress.

We loved the castle setting, it was like a posh little festival complete with food and bar tents and dodgy toilets. This was our first time at the Stafford Shakespeare festival.

View from the above the stage

 The woodland path leading up to the castle was strung with lights for the occasion so that when it went dark it felt like a journey into a fairyland. There was something just magical about it.  Whoever made the decision to set the play  in early 20th century Italy got it just right – the set and the costumes looked gorgeous and fitted well with that particular play. All the performances were faultless and the casting just right. If I’m honest, this was the first time I had seen this particular play and I wasn’t sure I’d like it (I usually go for the tragedies) but it was such fun and there was such a lovely atmosphere that you couldn’t help but get drawn into it.  There was a pre-show, well, um…show, which was also really entertaining – loads of ladies in swishy skirts and men in swishy shirt sleeves playing folk songs, dancing with tambourines and telling jokes in fake Italian accents – just so cute. Daughter 1 – usually a thoroughly bored 21st century kid, completely lost her sense of not being bovvered and was dancing and clapping with everyone else with a massive grin.

swishy skirts and frilly shirts...

She also really enjoyed the actual play -I did wonder whether she would struggle with understanding it because of the language but it was so well performed and directed that it was easy to follow and she laughed along with everyone else in all the right places.

The weather held for us, although it got very cold late on, but at least it didn’t rain.

OK, so the weather report was a bit boring, I admit. It’s just that it’s quite difficult to be objective and critical about this production because it was all very lovely! I had heard reports that the Stafford Shakespeare festival was under threat after poor attendances last year and, happily, this year being my first, I am glad to report that ticket sales had improved and it looks as though we’ll be able to go again next year. If you can get there, verily, I most heartily recommend it.

Romeo and Juliet @ Trentham Gardens 25th June 2011

Mister doesn’t like Shakespeare, so I was left to do this one with Mister’s brother and his wife. Mister’s brother had never seen Shakespeare performed before so this was really a voyage of discovery for him.  This production was staged by a company called Page 2 Stage. I had actually never seen Shakespeare done in a setting like this before – it was performed outside in the gardens while the audience sat with camping chairs and picnic baskets and layers of blankets to fend off the freeze of a British summer’s evening (although, not so many blankets for foolish, unprepared me, just frostbite).

Before I go on, a little apology – I seem to have lost the programme and so details like actors’ names will unfortunately be in short supply (i.e. zero). Apparently, the actor who plays Romeo, Darren Langford, has been in Hollyoaks, but as I don’t watch it, I can’t be certain…

We arrived early so we could get a good view (but, as you can see from my usual ‘quality’ photos, we were thwarted despite our efforts). The interesting outcome of this was that we got to see the company warm up before-hand and, personally, I found this whole ‘nuts and bolts’ behind the scenes sneaky peek fascinating.

Cast warm up.

I didn’t really know what to expect from a small and fairly new company, and with tickets at £12 a head, I don’t imagine their production budgets are huge either, but I was pleasantly blown-away!  It was a very youthful company and a vibrant and youthful production, fast paced, comedic and fun. Romeo and Juliet weren’t the earnest, angst ridden couple that I have seen in some productions, but flirty and irreverent; there was a humour to the characters that drew you in, made you love them so much that the tragedy of their eventual demise was all the more poignant.  The trio of Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio were absolutely hilarious together – the three performances witty, energetic and sometimes camp, a lovely three-way bromance.  I really liked the Nurse too. She is always a funny character and quite rude, and this particular incarnation had all that, but also tenderness with Juliet. All that said, there were one or two dodgy performances, but thankfully, only from fairly minor characters like the apocathery, so although you couldn’t help but notice them, it didn’t detract too much from the magic of the central performances.

There were some interesting production points too. It was set in a forest. The play programme explained this as making the two warring families seem less about money and titles and more about simple honour, but I suspect the real reason for this setting was the fact that the company were also staging a production of Robin Hood on alternate nights and the scenery would not need changing (ahem…).  If I had more time and money on my hands, I might have been tempted to test my theory.  I liked the choice of contemporary music too as a soundtrack to the performance, such as Max Richter’s gorgeous reworking of Dinah Washington’s This Bitter Earth, played during the final death scenes of the play; it served to heighten the emotion and had me crying like the proverbial baby.  The costume styling was very fresh and contemporary too (well, circa 1985 anyway as I couldn’t help thinking of Adam and the Ants/ Duran Duran every time Romeo tripped onto the stage) and I liked the splicing of a more traditional Shakespearean costume look with something quite punky. 

Wild Boys!

This production wasn’t without it’s faults. I’ve already mentioned some of the weaker performances. There were technical problems with the mics failing from time to time which jarred you back to reality. The Prince was played in a very strange way by a faceless shadowy figure dressed in a gold hooded robe who popped up on the balcony every now and again; there was an echo type reverb thing going on with his voice which just made it so you couldn’t understand what he was saying.  The same with Romeo’s dad, who was obviously played by an actor being used in another role, so he wore a red hooded robe all the time and you could never see his face- it just looked weird.  But  I really enjoyed it and would go to see another production by this company. If they come your way and the tickets are that reasonably priced, go check them out – (here is some info about them from This is Staffordshire).