Challenge Week 2018: round-up

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It was a busy old week, wasn’t it? I managed to stick to my plan of two blogs a day, and did what I could to start some conversations on social media. I also got as much out of my theatre-related clothing & accessories while I was at it! Linked to the day’s events, where possible (and however tenuous) – as much as I would’ve liked to have done some proper dressing up, past experience tells me I’m really not good at sourcing the right kind of things for that sort of challenge.

Definitely tricky to pinpoint my favourite things from the week… I did really enjoy coming up with some ideas for stage adaptations, as well as talking about my favourite song in Hamilton – and in terms of shows, The Wider Earth, Misty and Wise Children are all up there as big highlights.

If you missed anything throughout the week, check out my Instagram stories

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Day 1: Monday 5 November

Kicking off the week with a bit of #MondayMotivation over on Twitter, because that kind of thing is definitely needed when you have a week as busy as this planned! It was also good to finally get a few ticket gripes off my chest in my first post of the week – initially considering last-minute on sale announcements, but veering into the timing of news about star casting, and the technology that also conspires to thwart you from getting your tickets…

As my first show of the week was the RSC’s transfer of Romeo & Juliet at the Barbican, everything went a bit Shakespearean from then on! It’s my eternal gripe that some people still describe Shakespeare as boring, especially when there are so many innovative productions out there – I can only conclude that some English teachers need to be as inspiring as mine always were. (I am obviously generalising here – unfortunately Shakespeare everyone’s cup of tea.)

The show itself wasn’t the best, sadly. I think all the other versions of Romeo & Juliet that I’ve seen have been better – and somehow I still haven’t seen one in traditional dress! (I know Shit-faced Shakespeare technically is, but then that one had a drunk Juliet… So swings & roundabouts.) The insistence on running on & off was one of my biggest issues with it (what’s wrong with walking every now & then?), and its lack of context meant that the urgency of the love story felt unjustified. Also, I’m not quite sure what was going on with ADHD Mercutio… So far, I’d definitely recommend their transfer of Macbeth over this one.

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Day 2: Tuesday 6 November

Mind the Blog’s 4th birthday! So as a gift to myself, I decided to run through my top 10 ideas for stage adaptations of films, music, books & TV – I may be a staunch advocate of brand new writing, but if a constant stream of teen movies can be brought to the stage, I think I should definitely put some alternatives forward… We also had a bit of a #Tunesday sing-song over on Twitter to keep everyone entertained.

Obviously it would have been nice to have gone to a show on the blog birthday, however it’s so rare that I have an evening free to go to something a little different – so I stuck with my plan to head over to Barbican for the second time in a week, and had a thoroughly enjoyable time at Michael Pennington’s talk (Shakespeare’s Stages: In Little Place A Million) in the Museum of London’s lecture theatre.

It was a great first experience of one of Gresham College’s lectures; not only do they live stream it on their YouTube channel, but they provide you with a transcript of the lecture afterwards (which I only learnt after I’d been hastily scribbling notes for an hour!). Also, it’s always good to keep uncovering more about the surprisingly elusive Shakespeare and the times in which he lived & worked.

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Day 3: Wednesday 7 November

Keeping the Twitter hashtags going with #WednesdayWisdom – and one in particular got a lot of love! I also tried to get a little bit of a theme going on with the rest of the day… When I first saw Misty at the Bush Theatre, back in April, all I wanted to listen to afterwards was the Hamilton cast recording (in the absence of a Misty recording, obviously) – there are links there, however tenuous. So I thought the two shows could be interwoven throughout the day, starting with my Hamilton badge making its first public appearance – and then finally writing about my favourite song from the show (The Room Where It Happens) and also getting some thoughts down about Misty.

This was partly because I’d been wanting to write something about it since that first show seven months ago, but I just wasn’t sure I could do it justice; it’s more than just a show – it’s an experience. And an important one, at that. The fact that I’ve seen it four times and still could go a hundred more must say something to you! I was also pushed to write something after seeing a twatty comment someone left about the show on the bastion of fine opinon that is Facebook. Apparently it was predictable & boring, so she left at the interval… Where do I start with this? I’ve only ever left at the interval of something once, and I’d never do that at a piece of new writing as you have no way of knowing how it will wrap up. Though if this woman did predict all that stuff with the balloons then I take my hat off to her!

It’s excruciatingly tempting to try and see it one last time before it closes on the 17th (and knowing that I couldn’t make it to see Kibong Tanji cover the role of ‘Arinzé’ this week was painful, to say the least), but it’s likely that this was my final Misty outing. We can now only hope that some sort of recording is in the offing – having the playtext available to quote & re-read is brilliant, but I really need to be able to hear the music again…

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Day 4: Thursday 8 November

Just over halfway through the week, and so it was time to look back: #TBT (Throwback Thursday) was the hashtag of choice, and also the focus of the first blog of the day. I’d been switching between two other topics of rants to write, but then I dug out a photo from my very first #LDNTheatreBloggers review and decided to write something a bit more positive & gushy this time.

It was an extra busy day in the end, as the wonderful DeWynters got in touch on the blog birthday with an unexpected present: an invite to an open rehearsal for the West End transfer of Caroline, or Change! So after a busy day at work, I headed down to Pimlico to hear how everything’s coming along (check out my Instagram story to see & hear more) – there are some great voices in that cast, and it was particularly thrilling to see Sharon D. Clarke performing in such an intimate setting.

From there I strolled over to Green Park, followed by a typically stressful journey on the Piccadilly line up to Caledonian Road (there was definitely swearing involved when people almost trapped me in the car) ready for my evening show at the Pleasance. Initially I wasn’t going to include a review job in this week, but Toby Thompson’s show sounded so intriguing that I had to take advantage of it! And I’m really glad that I did, as it was an oasis of calm and joy that made my day a hell of a lot better.

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Day 5: Friday 9 November

Coming towards the back end of the week, so a #FF (Follow Friday) was in order! My first blog of the day was slightly related to my evening entertainment, as I followed up on my 2016 investigation of increasing ticket prices – this time considering the costs involved for families. It’s a continuing issue, as some people simply can’t rely on last-minute tickets from places like TodayTix or the dayseat queue.

But what I was really excited about was my return to The Wider Earth that evening. I work in Paddington, so it’s not too bad a stroll around to South Kensington (the change of season annoyingly means I can’t cut through the park anymore) – although I decided to cut through Kensington Palace Gardens and almost went flying on the mounds of soggy, slippery leaves on more than one occasion… And only about half the street was lit. This is Billionaires Row we’re talking about! Still, better than getting squashed on the Tube or getting stuck behind too many slow walkers on Kensington High Street.

I’d cheated slightly, as most of my post-show blog was ready before I even left work – as I thought it would be a good idea to hear from one of the cast about their experiences on the show so far. The brilliant Marcello Cruz gave a particularly fascinating insight into the South American side of things, in his role as Jemmy Button. I’m also really glad that I was sat further back this time, as I could see all of the projections properly and take in the full effect. Even if I did have to ask an inconsiderate sod next to me to turn his phone off – twice! He either moved or left at the interval. That suited me just fine!

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Day 6: Saturday 10 November

There doesn’t seem to be a Saturday hashtag, so Twitter escaped from a bombardment this time! Instead, again with the evening in mind, I concentrated on getting my first post completed – it’s one that I’ve been inadvertently collecting data for over the past 18 months! Now, I appreciate that things aren’t always going to start exactly on time, and I can tolerate a delay of a couple of minutes or so. But when shows regularly start 5, 10, 15 minutes late, there is an underlying problem – and it has a knock-on effect to the rest of your day. Staff need to start enforcing a bar closure time and getting patrons into the auditorium so what everyone’s actually there for can begin.

I had hoped to do a two-show day, as it wasn’t a working day, but the show I had in mind had completely sold out… Yes, I could’ve tried the returns queue – but actually, a lie in and then an afternoon showing of Bohemian Rhapsody at my local cinema sounded a lot more appealing. And by the time it finished, I could’ve done with a boat to get from the cinema to the bus stop so I could get into town for my evening show!

Of course my evening meant the final Old Vic performance of Wise Children. You didn’t expect me not to be there for the first and last shows, did you? It seemed like pretty much a full house, which created a wonderful atmosphere – and it ended up being probably my favourite performance so far. The cast may still have a couple of weeks to do this year (at Oxford and then Cambridge), but it did feel quite triumphant as the closing of one chapter. Plus I’m sure they were all knackered, and I’ve always found that to be the catalyst for a fantastic show!

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Day 7: Sunday 11 November

I was planning on going to town with the whole #ShakespeareSunday thing, but catching a bit of rest again became the order of the day… As well as a few regular Sunday chores, because there really is no rest for the wicked. I also had my first blog of the day to do, which was an opportunity to finally ponder ‘the Greek question‘. I’ve been considering it for a good seven or eight months, so to get a chance to ramble about it for a bit was great – plus it’s quite a different thing to be thinking about and provide some reading variety for the week.

After getting perplexed about people thinking it was important to criticise a choice of coat (because Remembrance Day is now a fashion parade, apparently), it was time for me to head out for my final event of the week. Though, being a Sunday, my usual trains were of course not running. It was something a bit different, to round off the week and mark the day: Shakespeare and Remembrance. As the Old Vic’s ‘One Voice: Remembrance’ had been so beautifully done the week before, I was intrigued to see what the Globe would come up with – and especially how Shakespeare would be incorporated. Would it be the obvious choices of text? Or would there be some curveballs?

Sadly, it ended my week on a bit of a damp squib. Whether I’d missed part of the blurb on the website when I booked, or if it was only added later on (which wouldn’t be surprising), it really wasn’t the evening I was hoping for. Talk of modern soldiering makes me deeply uncomfortable, so I was aghast when it seemed like that was going to be the focus of the event – rather than commemorating the centenary of the First World War ending, which is what I’d been expecting. Some of it actually made me a bit angry, and didn’t bring me any closer to understanding what motivates people to join the armed forces. Not something I’ll be going to again, should they repeat it.

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