Advert
Advert

Tag Archive | "NT"

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Feature: Michaela Coel – a powerhouse

Posted on 07 March 2014 by Lisa Carroll

chewinggum_poster[1][1]

Playwright, actress, singer and poet, Michaela Coel is a busy woman, I learn, as I manage to grab a few minutes with her on a two-show day: she’s currently performing in Blurred Lines at the National Theatre Shed, while simultaneously preparing for her upcoming solo show, Chewing Gum Dreams, which will play the same venue in March. “I’m a Jack of all trades,” she jokes, “but average at all of them.” Her modesty only adds to her list of enviable qualities and talents. And indeed, the longer we chat, I soon see that her comment couldn’t be further from the truth: Coel really is a powerhouse.

Coel only graduated from Guildhall in 2012 but in her time since has had some formidable achievements. Believing that “unless you’re very, very lucky, there aren’t enough opportunities being blown in your face. You just have to get up and do it yourself – you have to,” she decided to develop a short solo piece she’d written while at Guildhall, which formed the basis of Chewing Gum Dreams. Following persistent phone calls to Jay Miller, Artistic Director of The Yard Theatre, Hackney, he agreed to put the play on and Coel set to work; “I designed the flyers, I designed the set, I built the set, I produced the show and was standing on the street handing out flyers. It was on for four days and every night was sold out.” Now the play has been published, she is on commission with the Bush Theatre and has projects coming up with the Almeida and the Royal Court, on top of which, the show opens at the Shed in March. Talk about being proactive, or as she humbly describes it, “just working hard and trying to put stuff out there”.

The play draws inspiration from Coel’s own school days in the early noughties, (“it’s literally like a tribute to Craig David,” she tells me) and it explores the tipping point between innocence and adulthood – that moment where “suddenly life isn’t full of laughter and it’s not easy anymore – you start to realise there’s a life that I’m going to come to know which includes a bit of hardship, which includes struggle”. While some people realise this young, she goes on, others hit might hit that point at 40 – but when it comes down to it the play is for “anyone who went to school, basically,” with audiences from their early teens to their sixties responding incredibly positively to its original run at The Yard, with Coel hopeful for more of the same when it opens at the Shed.

With Chewing Gum Dreams being set in an all-girls school and exploring relationships, early sexual experiences and violence, Coel agrees that writing from a female perspective does inevitably inform the tone of her work: “I think naturally being a woman I find it quite hard to escape writing something that did have women’s issues. I think it’s impossible.” That said, it was her role in Blurred Lines which really opened her eyes to gender issues; “it has sort of changed my life in that sense,” she tells me, “I don’t think I even realised that I was particularly a girl until I did Blurred Lines.” Working with Director Carrie Cracknell and Playwright Nick Payne in devising Blurred Lines gave Coel the chance not only to examine those issues but also to contribute to the debate, as Payne was keen to include some of Coel’s own poetry in the play.

Nonetheless, Coel is the first to admit that she struggled a bit when rehearsing Blurred Lines, as she began to wonder if she was right to prioritise gender over other issues such as class or race: “I’ll be honest, I started thinking there’s so many other things going on in the world – there are worse things going on in the world– I’d just be like – I’m a bit busy being black at the moment.” In hindsight, however, Coel has come to believe that “if something is wrong, then no matter the scale of the wrongness it should be addressed”. And, though it also touches on ‘women’s issues’, Coel tells me that class is much more central to Chewing Gum Dreams, with the play taking a look at the young people who populated her school and whose voice she feels is not so often heard on the stage or beyond.

As a result, with her future work, Coel is keen to keep telling unheard stories and examining life from different perspectives: “I rarely see an Indian girl or a Bangladeshi girl in a play that isn’t about India or Bamgladesh – you never see that girl in the theatre. I love the idea of just writing Sunita,” she explains. “I feel like I do have a voice that I don’t hear – I think everybody has a voice that they don’t hear, though – and it’s about expressing that voice in whatever way you can.” And doubtless, with so many opportunities coming her way thanks to the her hard work on Chewing Gum Dreams, it seems certain we’ll be hearing more of Coel’s voice soon.

Chewing Gum Dreams is at The Shed at the National Theatre from 17 March to 5 April. For more information and tickets, visit the NT’s website.

Lisa Carroll

Lisa Carroll

Lisa Carroll graduated from University College Dublin in 2012 with a B.A International in English. She is also a playwright, script reader and director. @lisa_carroll46

More Posts

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blog: The Wicked Stage – Have I fallen out of love with musicals?

Posted on 04 February 2014 by Sarah Green

I was initially going to write a blog about how I have fallen out of love with musicals, hence my absence in blogging recently. However, I then realised that isn’t true and what I actually mean is due to location and lack of funds I have not seen any musical theatre. However, that probably isn’t true either and it all comes down to definition.

The term ‘musical theatre’ means, for me at least, the musicals going on in theatre buildings; so by that definition, no, I have not seen much to blog about. However, the broader term ‘musical’ opens up all the movie musicals (which I watched a lot of over Christmas) from the classics such as Singing in the Rain to the more recent Frozen. To an extent, this can also include me belting the Wicked soundtrack in my room whenever I’m home alone – personally I think I do a killer rendition of ‘Popular’. You have the same issues with what is the definition of ‘drama’ next to ‘theatre’ and when does a play become a musical? War Horse contains original songs but does that make it a musical or a musical play? This is in turn complicated when book writers such as Oscar Hammerstein called their integrated musicals a musical play. A tangled web of different terms and opinions but, as I say, this is why I love the genre.

To return to why I think movie musicals are important, it is because of accessibility. I live in rural North Devon where my nearest big city is Exeter (an hour away) which has amazing venues, which, like my local theatres, are too small for the massive touring musicals; this is why projects such as National Theatre Live! are so important, but sadly there aren’t that many musicals for it to show. Therefore going to the local cinema and seeing a film musical is amazing. From a performer’s point of view, it is also another area of work and a chance to hone voice skills; most of the key cast of Frozen are Broadway vets: Idina Menzel (Wicked), Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening), Santino Fontana (Cinderella), Josh Gad (Book of Mormon) and, although more known for her TV and film work, Kristen Bell trained in musical theatre.

From a younger perspective, films such as The Lion King and Frozen or even TV shows such as Glee are an introduction to musical theatre; I had never heard Rose’s Turn from Gypsy until a character sang it on the show. Of course, many movie musicals now start as a stage show or become one at some point. Frozen has only been in cinemas a few months and there are already plans for a movie sequel and a stage show.

So to re-think, no I have not fallen out of love with musicals and I’m not sure I ever can really; my issues are all monetary based. But every time I channel my inner Glinda, watch a YouTube video/musical or reblog something on Tumblr then I am indulging in musical theatre, and the mobility and community is yet another reason why I continue to love it.

 

Sarah Green

Sarah Green

Sarah is a musical theatre graduate now studying for her Masters in theatre practice with hopes of going onto a PHD. She has been writing for A Younger Theatre since September 2011 on all things musical theatre related.

More Posts

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review: Blurred Lines, NT Shed

Posted on 24 January 2014 by Briony Rawle

Blurred Lines NT Shed

I almost shouted with glee during the first few minutes of Carrie Cracknell’s new feminist piece, Blurred Lines, at the National Theatre Shed.

The eight actresses give a deadpan list, in turn, of typical casting ‘boxes’ into which they could expect to be put. “Black hoodlum”, said Michaela Coel. “Old, but fuckable”, said Claire Skinner. “Gareth’s mum”, “Nigel’s wife”, “Tom’s girlfriend”, “John’s secretary”. “Rape victim,” “victim of hate crime,” “victim of war.” These reductive types form a huge portion of the roles available to actresses, as documented in a recent article in The Telegraph for which I was interviewed, and so it is glorious to see this issue in the limelight on a National Theatre stage.

The production’s ability to catch and express a multitude of such daily examples of sexism is its most impressive achievement. Part of the problem that feminism has faced is that sexism is insidious, and often impossible to describe or back up with concrete example: it’s a culture. So when the actresses perform a scenario in which a new mother is told that her workload will be reduced, because the baby-sick stain on her back clearly speaks of having “too many plates to spin”, it feels joyous to see the insinuating tones of voice and implied assumptions, which many women face at work, perfectly expressed in drama.

Another favourite moment is a slightly naughty skit (given the possible references to the National Theatre itself, with its poor record of gender equality) in which two actresses play a director and his leading actress. He naturally dominates the interview, talking expansively and academically, while his actress’s answers are short and shy, and constantly refer back to ‘him’. When challenged to give a reason for the actress being in her underwear during a violent scene, the director is vague and evasive. Everyday sexism is almost impossible to pin down, but this production manages not only to catch it, but to stage it.

The production is an interesting collage of skits, pieces and verbal storytelling. There are songs, such as ‘Don’t Liberate Me, Just Love Me’, alongside echoes of lyrics from songs such as Lady Gaga’s “do what you want with my body” and N.E.R.D’s “Ooh baby you want me? Well you can get this lapdance here for free.” There are also frequent images of sexualised and violated female bodies and orgasmic female voices. All of this comes together to form a clever impression of the constant, ubiquitous backdrop of female objectification, against which modern culture exists.

These individual pieces are intelligent, funny, moving and well put together, but inevitably the show still feels a little as though it lacks a dramatic arc. It is also a relatively short production at 70 minutes, and my first thought as the actors returned for the curtain call was, “but there’s so much more to talk about!” Of course, it would probably take an epic to cover all the many problems that women face in modern society, so the production has set itself an impossible challenge. But Cracknell’s direction, the excellent writing from Nick Payne and the frank, natural performances from the actresses, form an incredibly encouraging start to what will hopefully be a long conversation on this subject in the theatre.

Blurred Lines is playing at the NT Shed, National Theatre until 22 February. For more information and tickets, see the NT Shed website.

Briony Rawle

Briony Rawle

Briony studied English Literature at Warwick University, then an MA in acting at Drama Centre London. She is an actor currently living just outside London, and is a founding member of Threepenny Theatre.

More Posts

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Feature: Sit up and listen – an overview of political theatre in 2013

Posted on 21 January 2014 by Matilda Reith

fiji land

This year, political theatre-goers were treated to high class drama up and down the country. Looking at topics including the Israel/Palestine conflict, homophobia, war crimes and sexism, 2013 saw major and minor theatre companies confront problems such as these head on. This brand of theatre offers society a service by providing accessible platforms, invitations to discuss and the opportunity for accidental discovery. For some, theatrical devices like dialogue, staging, music and movement have more impact than words on a page. Through research and devlopment, new stories are discovered and a company can bring a new angle to an issue. It is often the personal stories that are the most affecting right the way through, from actor to audience. But sometimes a show can pass for ‘political’ when it is as hard-hitting as a flannel, so here are some of 2013′s most memorable:

Set in 1920, These Shining Lives by Melanie Marnich bought the story of four female watch-dial painters, fatally poisoned by the radium with which they worked. Lyrical and moving, it bought a historical fight for women’s rights to London’s new Park Theatre. The revival of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s The Pride at Trafalgar Studios took a raw and pacy snapshot of prejudice towards homosexuality in 1958 and the present day. During the curtain call, the cast held ‘To Russia With Love’ placards, which amongst growing distress towards Russia’s anti-gay legislation, made The Pride exceptionally poignant. Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica opened at the Almeida Theatre in London, twinning the famed photo of solitary protest in Tiananmen Square with a spoonful of modern geopolitics. Praised for attempting and achieving a great feat in theatre, Kirkwood’s Chimerica has been listed as The Guardian‘s No. 2 in Best Theatre of 2013.

The National began the year with James Graham’s This House which was set in 1974 parliament, but perhaps had less bite than The Shed’s Protest Song, for example, which twinned London’s Occupy movement with homelessness in one monologue delivered by an intense Rhys Ifans. Love Your Soldiers, at the Crucible, gleaned 4 stars from The Guardian, marrying military realism with a twenty-first century love triangle. At the Young Vic, Joe Wright directed historical A Season in the Congo, telling of Congo’s liberation from Belgian rule. The Royal Court brought Polish playwright Anna Wakulik’s A Time to Reap to British audiences and high acclaim. A Time to Reap charts the journey of a woman against the backdrop of abortion and the Catholic Church in Poland, and was performed in Polish and English.

As usual, political theatre burst from every seam in Edinburgh. This year, at least 120 shows used ‘politics’ as a key word to describe themselves. The Fringe is the place to take angry, low-cost theatre that shouts a politically-minded message. Northern Stage at St Stephen’s housed Chris Thorpe’s There Has Possibly Been an Incident which was hauntingly stripped back. It took vague yet recognisable events (a country’s revolution, a public shooting, a plane crash) when you must choose between heroism and compromise from headlines into our hands. Ballad of the Burning Star was also highly praised; Theatre ad infinitum returned with an Israeli drag queen, proving that the oldest issues can still be approached from fresh. The Traverse marked its fiftieth birthday with a selection of international political shows; Quietly by Owen McCafferty took up Belfast bombings, and George Brant’s Grounded, which flagged up the psychological damage to drone controllers through the eyes of a pregnant pilot, was a must see of the festival. After the Fringe, Grounded transferred to London’s Gate Theatre for an extremely successful run.

It wasn’t just theatre that took up the political gauntlet. In dance, the return of Hofesh Shechter’s Political Mother was a sell out at Sadler’s Wells. A storming heart-attack of an evening with drums so loud you could hardly breath, it tackled terrorism and oppression. His new show Sun is a must-see for the 2014. Twitter went wild for spoken-word-artist Scroobius Pip’s Five Minutes which tackles domestic violence. Even Banksy’s Christmas card got in on the political action, depicting Mary and Joseph’s pilgrimage blocked by the 25ft high separation wall in Bethlehem.

This month, Nick Gill’s fiji land comes to the Southwark Playhouse. A darkly comic look at torture, the play is a surrealist reaction to the stories that emerged from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib in recent years. The fact that the problem is ongoing is a draw for director Alice Malin, but fiji land is mainly an exploration of the human capacity to hurt each other, and then justify it.

Theatre can be a wonderful mode through which to learn, feel connected and support a greater need. It is understandably daunting for a political newbie to go to a show dubbed ‘political’, but for anyone interested in affairs current and historical, it is a fantastic method of firing up anger, enthusiasm or surprise. In a year when we watched continuing revolution in the Middle East, marked the deaths of Margaret Thatcher, Lou Reed and Mandela, and watched North Korea unveil its ‘Barbie Army’, news stories have never been so varied, and our theatre reflected this. Perhaps 2014 is your year to get political?

Matilda Reith

Matilda Reith

Tilly is a first year English student at Sheffield University who is having an affair with the drama department. Between sleeps she likes to absorb and create as much theatre as possible but also spends a considerable amount of her time listening to jazz and drinking coffee.

More Posts

Comments (0)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here

Join our E-Newsletter

---
Exclusive offers, opportunities and updates from AYT.

---


Supporting: