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Competition: Win tickets to Secret Theatre 4 at Lyric Hammersmith

Posted on 04 February 2014 by A Younger Theatre

We’re giving AYT readers the chance to win tickets to Secret Theatre Show 4 with our competition… can you keep the secret?

Secret Theatre Show 4

The Secret Theatre Company return to the Lyric Hammersmith with Secret Theatre Show 4 (07 Feb – 08 Mar), a story of power, corruption and revenge.

‘All vision in this place has become milky, numbed by the constant pleasure life and ain’t that a beautiful thing?’ 

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Competition closes on 12 February at 3pm. Tickets are subject to availability and will be in the form of a voucher to redeem two tickets. By entering this competition you agree to be added to the A Younger Theatre mailing list.

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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Blog: Points of departure – reflections on German theatre

Posted on 02 January 2014 by Adam Foster

 

'Atmen' directed by Katie Mitchell

‘Atmen’ directed by Katie Mitchell

I don’t speak German. Not a word. So it was with some trepidation that I travelled to Berlin a couple of weeks ago to see Hedda Gabler directed by Stefan Pucher at the Deutsches Theater and the German language première of Duncan MacMillan’s Lungs (Atmen) directed by Katie Mitchell at the Schaubühne – both in German and both without surtitles.

Although this was my first trip to Germany, it was not my first experience of German theatre. That came whilst taking part in a new writing venture during my second year at university, when I was paired with a German director from Hamburg on her term abroad. What was most striking about the experience was the rigour with which she strove to find a pertinent conceptual staging that would best illuminate my play’s themes and ideas. At the time, I interpreted this as an attempt to overwhelm the play with a brash directorial concept. What I have realised, with hindsight, is that her conceptual staging emerged from my play. She had taken the play’s themes and ideas and used them as a point of departure.

There are a number of commonly held assumptions about the nature of Continental European theatre, not least that it is director-centric. In contrast, British theatre has often turned its back on the directorial traditions of Continental Europe in favour of the play and the playwright. In the preface to the playtext of Simon Stephens’s Three Kingdoms, the German Director Sebastian Nübling talks about how in Britain “the play and the playwright come first and many directors… see themselves as someone who supports the text. In Germany, directors try to invent an autonomous aesthetic with an ambivalent relation to the text.” Nübling, in a nut shell, goes some way to articulating the differing sensibilities of what we might broadly term ‘British’ and ‘German’ theatre. Having said that, I would contest that there is such a thing as ‘German theatre’ – certainly on the evidence of my trip to Berlin.

So, first of all, Stefan Pucher’s production of Hedda Gabler at the Deutsches Theater. Pucher’s productions are, I gather, renowned for the manner in which they strive to find different mechanisms to distance the stage from reality. The evening began, however, in a reality of sorts, in the form of an exaggerated yet finely detailed nineteenth-century Scandinavian interior. This detached and deeply ironic historicisation of space and place was followed by a sort of thrilling surrealistic, expressionistic, hedonistic thrill ride – with songs.

Whether it was because the lyrics were in English or the fact that their inclusion seemed so incongruous, I found myself striving to find new meaning in the songs of The Beatles and Bob Dylan. There were certain moments of orchestrated thematic resonance, but beyond that their inclusion seemed rather redundant at first. However, as the stage revolved to reveal a deep, white crescent-moon shaped void, the songs and the instruments on which they were played became, well, instrumental. In an interlude of pure expressionistic fervour, Hedda was transformed into the lead singer of a band comprised of the other characters in the play. Thus Hedda’s initial manipulation of the characters around her manifested itself in her literal manipulation and conducting of the music – at least that’s how I interpreted it.

This interlude, eccentric as it was, highlighted the extent to which an autonomous aesthetic allows scope for broader interpretation by an audience. This was, of course, emphasised by the fact that I don’t speak any German. As such, the aesthetic aspects of Pucher’s production necessarily had a much greater impact on my theatrical experience. Nevertheless, it was striking how I found myself striving to find meaning in even the most incongruent of incongruences.

Speaking of the incongruent, there’s no point even trying to find a seamless link between Pucher’s Hedda Gabler and Katie Mitchell’s production on the other side of Berlin because, frankly, there isn’t one. Since her emergence in the mid-1990s Katie Mitchell has worked extensively in Britain, especially at the National Theatre. Nevertheless, it is widely accepted that her work has a sensibility that is fundamentally at odds with the bulk of British theatrical culture, certainly the mainstream. Thankfully, her work is cherished in Germany – and it’s easy to see why. Mitchell’s staging of Duncan MacMillan’s Lungs (Atmen) at the Schaubühne is further evidence of what an extraordinarily intelligent and visionary director she is. The production also serves as a nagging reminder of how disappointing it is not to see her work more regularly on these shores.

Mitchell’s production operates, largely, at the level of metaphor. Both actors are on bikes, on separate plinths, connected by various wires to an operating desk at the back of the stage. The idea is that they, together with four stagehands, physically produce the required electricity to power all facets of the production. For a play about environmental concern it isn’t exactly subtle, but its resolute simplicity is utterly brilliant.

Atmen represents a near-perfect marriage of British and German theatrical sensibilities. Mitchell’s composite conceptual staging gives birth to a richly layered metaphorical landscape, but you’d be hard pressed to argue that her staging doesn’t serve the text on its own terms. As such, as Andrew Haydon has noted, it’s not a production that would be impossible to imagine happening here.

As we move into a new year, and all the broadsheets and blogs run lists of the year’s top productions, I’m sure I’m not alone in reflecting on my favourite theatre from the past year. In doing so, I naturally found myself looking at examples of productions that were similar in terms of formal and stylistic innovation to the work I saw in Berlin. Sean Holme’s exhilarating Secret Theatre season would feature very highly on such a list. After all, the notion of launching a daring new generation of theatre practitioners by shattering convention, categorisation and commodification seems to embrace a very German (/European/Continental) spirit of innovation.

There are, clearly, a number of economic, political and ideological factors that govern the innovative traditions of Continental European theatre. Nevertheless, it is perhaps the willingness of audiences to engage with formally and stylistically challenging work that ensures its continued spirit of innovation. What has been most striking about Secret Theatre is the willingness, particularly of young audiences, to engage with the work created by Holmes’s company. Indeed, the recent fervour surrounding Ivo van Hove and Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s Scenes From A Marriage further demonstrates the growing appetite for work of this sort on these shores. I only hope I don’t have to go all the way to Berlin to see more of it in the new year.

 

Adam Foster

Adam Foster

Adam graduated from the University of Exeter in 2012. He is currently enrolled on Royal Holloway’s MA Playwriting course run by the playwright and academic Dan Rebellato. He has previously trained as an actor at The BRIT School and is represented by Alchemy Active Management.

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A Younger Theatre’s Top Shows of 2013

Posted on 20 December 2013 by A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre’s Managing Editor and Artistic Director share our Top Shows of 2013. We’ve scratched our heads and pored over our diaries, and here are the AYT Top 20 shows of 2013. Do you agree?

Metamorphosis at the Lyric

Eleanor Turney, Managing Editor:
Do you agree? Tweet @EleanorTurney

This year, I have seen 122 shows, mainly in Bath, Bristol, Edinburgh and London. Since I saw my last show of the year last night, I thought I’d do a small round-up of my favourites – do add comments with what I’ve missed! I’ve limited myself to 10 shows, but these are ones that have really stayed with me. In roughly chronological order:

Metamorphosis at the Lyric, Hammersmith. Profoundly disturbing and melancholy.

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, Jackson’s Lane. Darkly hilarious, this adaptation of Tom Baker’s novel still makes me giggle/cringe thinking about it.

Proof, Menier Chocolate Factory. Further proof that Mariah Gale is a stunning actress.

Kate Tempest Brand New Ancients

Kate Tempest Brand New Ancients

Brand New Ancients, Bristol Old Vic and the  Traverse. Yes, I saw this twice. Yes, it was worth it.  Yes, Kate Tempest is amazing.

 Trash Cuisine, Tobacco Factory Theatre. Visceral  and upsetting and clever, Belarus Free Theatre’s  show was the highlight of Mayfest, for me.

 Chimerica, Almeida. Well-written, well-acted, well-  directed and well-designed. A triumph.

Fleabag, Underbelly. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s solo, self-penned show marked her out as one to watch.

 

David Tennant as Richard II

David Tennant as Richard II


Hag
, Underbelly. My only 5-star show of the Fringe. I bloody loved it.

Antarctica, Bristol Old Vic. Hands-down winner of “most adorable show”. Just magical.

Richard II, Barbican. My favourite Shakespeare  play performed by one of my favourite actors. Happy sigh.

 

Fraulein Julie, Katie Mitchell

Katie Mitchell’s Fraulein Julie

Jake Orr, Artistic Director:
Do you agree? Tweet @Jakeyoh

Who knew that creating a list of 10 shows of the year could be so difficult? Thank heavens for my diary. Drawing up this list I was slightly surprised by the lack of fringe theatre that made me jiggle with excitement. Those smaller power-houses just weren’t making shows that stuck for me this year.

Fräulein Julie, Barbican. Directed by Katie Mitchell, this take on Strindberg’s Miss Julie used multiple cameras to create a live film crossed the possibilities of theatre and film. Mesmerising.

Brand New Ancients, Battersea Arts Centre. Kate Tempest. There really are no words to describe the elation you feel about her poetry and performance in Brand New Ancients.

Mission Drift

The TEAM’s Mission Drift

Mission Drift, National Theatre. I didn’t think a play with songs could give me such a thrill, oh how I was wrong. Every month I whip out The TEAM’s soundtrack and dance. So, so good.

The Drowned Man, Punchdrunk. It’s not the immersive experience or the story that gets me excited about Punchdrunk’s newest piece, it’s the imagination and set designers. Like going down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland.

Where The White Stops, Underbelly / New Diorama. Antler Theatre showed me the potential of emerging work. I’ve seen this piece three times and everytime I find something new to enjoy. Fun, powerful and energised.

Solfatara, Summerhall. The Spanish theatre company Atresbandes knew what it was doing in subverting surtitles, creating a hilarious comedy at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Jo Bannon Exposure

Jo Bannon’s Exposure

Exposure, The Drill Hall / Forest Fringe. Jo Bannon’s Exposure lasts 10 minutes, but it is the most perfect 10 minutes in near-darkness you’ll experience in theatre.

Chimerica, Harold Pinter Theatre. Brilliant, brilliant play. Playwriting is a craft, and it was shown with such beauty in Chimerica.

Secret Theatre, Lyric Theatre. It’s not perfect, but Sean Holme’s radicalisation of what theatre can be through his Secret Theatre has to be in my Top 10.

American Psycho, Almeida Theatre. Right at the last minute, Headlong Theatre and Almeida Theatre give us this sexy, seductive and slick production. I practically orgasmed whilst watching it.

Do you agree with Eleanor and Jake’s Top 20 Shows of 2013? Leave us a comment below.

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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Review: Jack and the Beanstalk, Lyric Hammersmith

Posted on 03 December 2013 by Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Jack and the Beanstalk Lyric Hammersmith

A cow sold at market, some magic beans and a giant beanstalk. You don’t have to be a detective to deduce that the Lyric Hammersmith’s pantomime offering this year is Jack and the Beanstalk. Writer Tom Wells’s interpretation of this well-known classic for the most part stays true to the traditional tale; however, it is cleverly peppered with references to the surrounding postcode of W6. A female Jack (Rochelle Rose) is tasked with defeating Nostril the Snot Giant, who has evilly robbed the borough of the colour green and of all festive merriment. In short, if Jack fails, ‘Hammersmithmas’ will be ruined!

Regular frequenters of the Lyric’s pantomime will no doubt recognise narrator Steven Webb, as this is the fourth consecutive year that he has reprised the role. Webb’s guise this year is as Jack’s best friend Sprout, a playfully bouncy character who has aspirations of being a florist. As Sprout, Webb commands the stage with charismatic ease, particularly when engaging with the crowd in a spot of audience participation. Sprout’s energetic interjections throughout the show act as the glue holding the entire piece together.

Accompanied by an electrifying live band, we are treated to renditions of many chart-topping artists such as One Direction, Taylor Swift and Adele, to name but a few. I was struck by the impressive level of singing talent within the cast, and without exception they should all be congratulated on their ability to convey character through song. Richard Howell’s vibrant lighting design, coupled with the abundance of gaudy colours and sparkles, result in this production being a sumptuous feast for the eyes. Visually, I found that the titular beanstalk is the pièce de résistance. Not only does it grow to a great height, but the articulated branches unexpectedly sprout from various parts of the set. The astonished gasps of the little people beside me, as they excitedly pointed out to their parents which parts of the beanstalk they had spotted, is testament to just how magical an end to the first act this is.

The most noticeable departure from the classic tale is Wells’s choice to have three baddies within the piece. Alongside the traditional giant, the villainous Mr Flashcreep (Nigel Richards) and a street dancing urban fox (Emily Aitcheson) are also present. The decision to divide the archetypal role of the villain is an interesting one, and it did mean that the audience at first were unsure who exactly to direct their boos and hisses at. However, after some gentle prompting, the intended jeers at all three soon ensued. That said, Wells’s clear understanding of the classical conventions of pantomime is apparent from the way in which he adheres to most, and pokes fun at others. Wells skilfully avoids the common pitfall of groan-worthy jokes by including some great modern references – the joke about the hare from the recent John Lewis advert still makes me chuckle just thinking about it.

For many, the family tradition of going to see a pantomime at Christmas is often a young child’s first exposure to the magical world of the theatre. The Lyric’s production of Jack and the Beanstalk is silly, bursting with puns and high-octane performances. This majestic production is everything young and old audience members alike would hope to see in a family friendly pantomime.

Jack and the Beanstalk is playing at the Lyric Hammersmith until 4 January. For tickets and more information, please visit the Lyric Hammersmith website.

Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Ruby isla Cera Marle recently graduated from Royal Holloway University of London where she studied Spanish and European Literature and Cultural Studies. Currently Ruby is working as Press and Marketing Assistant at Rambert Dance Company..

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