Posts Tagged ‘ Almeida theatre ’

What’s On this Week

Love on the Dole, by Walter Greenwood and Ronald Gow, Finborough Theatre

Walter Greenwood’s tale of 1930s Salford in the midst of mass unemployment and poverty.

“With their father out of work, the burden of keeping the family together falls to Sally Hardcastle and her brother, Harry, as they desperately fight to break free from the shackles of poverty.”

Cosi fan Tutte, by Mozart, Royal Opera House

Jonathan Miller’s updated production of Mozart’s classic – if rather anti-feminist – tale of the fickle nature of women. This ultra-modern production apparently even involves iphones.

Blood and Gifts, by J T Rogers, National Theatre

Originally seen in a shorter version in The Tricycle Theatre’s The Great Game season.

“1981. As the Soviet army burns its way through Afghanistan and toward the critical Pakistani border, CIA operative Jim Warnock is sent to try and halt its bloody progress. Joining forces with a larger than life Afghan warlord, and with the Pakistani and British secret services, Jim spearheads the covert struggle.”

House of Games, by David Mamet, adapted by Richard Bean, Almeida Theatre

David Mamet’s thriller about the con, high-stakes poker and gambling, adapted for the stage by Richard Bean.

“This is a confidence game, not because you give me your confidence, but because I give you mine.”

A Disappearing Number, by Complicite, Novello Theatre

A revival of Complicite’s 2007 play about mathematical patterns and puzzles and the men who spent their lives pondering them. This production will also be broadcast as part of the NT Live season on 14 October.

Just the ticket: the dizzying world of theatre discounts

Since moving to London last December I have got to grips with Oyster cards, am au fait with engineering works and know where to buy the best cup of tea.* But one aspect of life in the capital still confounds and frustrates: theatre ticketing.

Of course, actually getting a ticket couldn’t be simpler – there are countless websites, ticket booths and touts – not to mention the theatre box offices themselves. But for those of us without a considerable disposable income – for those of us who have had to stoop to the level of Sainsbury’s basic curry sauce (9p a jar) – turning up and asking for whatever’s available is not an option.

And yet, for anyone who knows their Coward from their Chekov, living in London is like being in a giant sweet shop: where all the brightly-coloured goodies are tightly sealed in seemingly impenetrable glass jars.

And so we enter the dimly lit, badly sign-posted world of cheap theatre tickets. (As a guideline: I aim to spend no more than £10 per ticket.)

Widening accessibility to the theatre is not a top priority for this government. And given the mammoth task they’ve set themselves of decreasing the deficit by slashing public spending, one can understand, if not support their view.

But sitting in the audience for Laura Wade’s “Posh” at the Royal Court, I was struck by the uniformity of the audience – in fact, many of them would not have looked out of place in the play itself.

Theatre is a powerful means of communicating, stimulating debate, arguing a point or simply of stirring the emotions, but its voice is muffled and its effect muted if the audience is drawn from a narrow section of society. Cheap tickets not only broaden audiences but they also serve to give theatre back its voice.

Since the government announced the “curtailment” of the A Night Less Ordinary scheme, back in June (which offered free theatre tickets to the under 26s), things have become more challenging for the intrepid ticket hunter. But then this scheme always seemed too good to be true and indeed neither the theatres nor the theatregoers seemed to be entirely sure how the thing worked. So, although I mourn its passing, I rarely used it and am not surprised it is winding down (it will close completely in March 2011).

So where to from here? The good news is that ANLO was only one of several ways of getting into the ticket sweetie jar. The bad news: even Benedict Cumberbatch’s recent suave incarnation of Sherlock Holmes – complete with iPhone – would have difficulty keeping track of the options.

Charlie's dream come true: £5, non restricted view

  • The National Theatre is one of the best for cheap tickets. Their version of the ANLO scheme is called Entry Pass and once registered 15-25 year olds can get £5 tickets for all shows. The downside: it took them about a month to process my application.
  • More reliable are their day tickets (£10) – released each morning at 9.30am (but people in anoraks start queuing much earlier…). And standing tickets (£5) are usually still available at lunchtime – although the obvious drawback is having to stand, unless you manage to spot a spare seat. (This is technically NOT ALLOWED, but I won’t tell.) The NT’s Travelex tickets for £10 are a nice idea and beloved by their own publicity department but they’re snapped up quickly for most shows.
  • The Globe sells all groundling tickets for £5. Three cheers for simplicity and generosity!
  • Student discounts can get you so far but are sometimes only a matter of a couple of pounds. And many commercial theatres only decide on the day whether to offer these discounts.
  • Almost all theatres, however, have seats they have to sell cheaply because they are “restricted view”. Those two sweet words have served me well in my quest for affordable tickets. Sometimes this is only a matter of a safety rail intruding on your view and in other cases, it means you’re lucky if you glimpse the actors.
  • The Royal Opera House has £7 restricted view tickets but over half of the stage is hidden. At the Almeida on the other hand, my view was more than passable and at the Noël Coward theatre, to watch Enron, I soon forgot about the rail in front of me.
  • My prize for the best offers, however, goes to my local Tricycle theatre, who not only offer student discounts (though only on a Wednesday) but also Pay What you Can performances and discounts for residents. For anyone who qualifies as a concession (student, disabled, unemployed, OAPs), you can go to the theatre first thing on Tuesday and Saturdays and pay – well – whatever you can afford for a ticket.
  • In my experience, any website offering CHEAP THEATRE TICKETS is not worth a second glance and the traditional techniques of booking either well in advance or last minute are not by any means water-tight. You just have to know what is out there and be quick off the mark.
  • The Holy Grail, of course, is to befriend someone ON THE INSIDE. People who work for the theatres and theatre companies may have access to cheap tickets and might be allowed to pass them on. I live in hope.
  • Unfortunately, almost none of the above applies to the West End – despite seeing a show almost every week I rarely make a foray into the commercial theatres because the prices are just too darn high.

It only remains for me to wish you luck on your explorations and keep spreading the word on those deals…

*(V&A tea rooms IMHO).

Review: Measure for Measure

The Rape of the Sabine Women

Almeida Theatre, Islington

Director: Michael Attenborough

Against a backdrop of Cortona’s ‘Rape of the Sabine Women’, two lap dancers writhe and shudder, shedding money as their bodies shake to the music. Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure is a play of extremes and absolutes. In Michael Attenborough’s production at the Almeida theatre the line between virtue and sin is tested and stretched by everyone from the brothel-keeper to a nun.

When Vincentio, the Duke of Vienna, decides he wants a break, he leaves his deputy, the pious Angleo, in charge and pretends to leave the city. Within hours the city’s forgotten laws are being brought against bawds, brothel-keepers and “fornicators”. When one Claudio is arrested for sleeping with his fiancé and making her pregnant, his sister, Isabella – a novice nun – goes to Angelo to ask that her brother be pardoned. Angelo’s pious exterior cracks, however, and he makes Isabella an indecent proposal: her brother’s life for her chastity. Meanwhile the Duke creeps through the city in disguise, meddling and manoeuvring to bring about the complicated dénouement.

Where Attenborough excels is in making this dark “problem” play coherent. Thus the bewildering Duke – who is both a seemingly sadistic Machiavellian puppeteer figure and a wilfully negligent and hypocritical ruler – becomes, if not sympathetic, at least rational in Ben Miles’ portrayal. Anna Maxwell Martin’s Isabella is a woman aware of, and terrified by her own sexuality. When she asks for greater restraint, it is out of fear, not piety. She fidgets like a caged animal and turns on the Margery-Kempe stuff without warning. Far from an other-worldly being, Maxwell Martin’s Isabella constantly gestures towards her own body, clasps a crucifix to her lap and at one heart-stopping moment almost kisses a friar. Attenborough’s ending is a master-stroke: Isabella’s silence at the Duke’s marriage proposal is usually taken to be a mark of submissive acquiescence. Not here. Here, it is a mark of defiance and sends a shudder through the thrilled audience.

Rory Kinnear as Isabella’s male counterpart, Angelo, trembles, slobbers and spits like a man possessed – first by power and second, by lust. Kinnear allows Angelo’s face to be as an open-book: the precise moment he falls, we see the shock flash in his eyes. His self-loathing, his arrogance, his nervousness are all writ large in his features. Elsewhere, Lloyd Hutchinson as Lucio steals many of his scenes and Flaminia Cinque’s Mistress Overdone is judged to gruff-voiced perfection.

The whole sits easily in Lez Brotherston’s slickly versatile rotating set, which takes its cue from the play itself – one of Shakespeare’s most slippery. The set changes its visage with ease. Aided only by the most subtle of hints from David Hersey’s lighting design, we are transported from the Duke’s regal office, to the red light district. The back wall splits and suddenly we’re in the grounds of a monastery – and then a prison.

However, in his haste to make the play coherent, an important aspect of the plot is side-lined. Claudio and Juliet, the over-eager affianced lovers, become mere plot devices and as such the pathos of their story is lost. Indeed, Maxwell Martin’s Isabella seems hardly to notice that her (supposedly dead) brother has reappeared in the final scene. This is a production which picks at the scab of man’s fallibility and shows the weakness intrinsic in any absolute position. ‘We are all frail,’ quips Angelo early on, not quite believing it. By the end of Attenborough’s production, though, this has been savagely confirmed.