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The Best Places to Buy Theatre Books in London

Posted on 13 May 2013 by Jake Orr

Where can you find the best places to buy theatre books from? What are the best theatre bookshops in London? Well, look no further. We’re completely addicted to theatre at A Younger Theatre and when it comes to getting our hands on the latest plays and theatre related books in London we suggest the following places.

National Theatre Bookshop

1. National Theatre Bookshop – ££
National Theatre, Southbank,

An integral part to the National Theatre, the NT Bookshop (which is soon to relocated further inside the building) boasts one of the largest collections of plays, theory and general theatre books in London. Not only are the staff extremely helpful and knowledgeable, they play good music, have fun displays which tie in with their main house productions, and of course, have a heck load of theatre books. Entry Pass members also receive 10% off books!

Theatre Bookshop - Foyles

2. Foyles – £££
113-119 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0EB
www.foyles.co.uk

There may be a lack of comfortable reading places but Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road is a theatre lover’s dream. Accommodating a whole corner on the ground floor, Foyles have an extensive collection of playtexts and theory books. If you’re a fan of Shakespeare you’ll be lost for hours.

Royal Court Theatre Bookshop

3. Royal Court Theatre Bookshop – ££
Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8AS
www.royalcourttheatre.com

If new writing is your thing then the bookshop at the Royal Court Theatre will be of use to you. It’s very small, but the real gem is being able to get hold of play-texts for £3 to £5, especially Royal Court Theatre productions. The only downside is the opening hours. Monday-Friday 4-8pm and Sundays 2-8pm.

Waterstones - Gower Street

4. Waterstones – Gower Street – £££
82 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6EQ
www.waterstones.com

This may not be your most obvious spot for browsing theatre books, but due to the throng of students at local universities, Gower Street Waterstones is full to the brim of theatre books. There’s a good mix of play-texts with theory based books to draw you in, plus the theatre section is normally quiet during the week for optimum browsing.

Samuel French Bookshop

5. Samuel French Bookshop – ££
52 Fitzroy Street, London, W1T 5JR
www.samuelfrench-london.co.uk

Known for their publishing of plays across the world, the Samuel French Bookshop is quite a hidden when it comes to theatre bookshops in London. They naturally stock most of their own publications with a focus on play-texts and musicals. It often feels like a quiet bookshop but don’t let that put you off. Make sure you try and scout out the bargains in their regular sales.

Theatre Bookshop - Southbank Market

6. Southbank Centre Book Stalls – £
Under Waterloo Bridge, London
www.southbankcentre.co.uk

Come rain or shine you’ll find these book sellers under Waterloo Bridge on the Southbank. They may not have an extensive collection but it feels good to rummage in their theatre and poetry sections for second hand books. They’re open everyday too!

 

Some other suggestions for theatre bookshops and places that sell theatre books:

Any Amount of Books – ££
56 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0QA
www.anyamountofbooks.com

Calder Bookshop Theatre – ££
51 The Cut, London, SE1 8LF
www.calderbookshop.com 

Skoob Books – £
66 The Brunswick, off Marchmont Street, London, WC1N 1AE
www.skoob.com

Have we missed your favourite bookshop? Do you know a hidden gem to grab plays from? Leave a comment and let us and A Younger Theatre’s readers know.

Image credits to Oberon Books, Royal Court Theatre and The Londonist.

 

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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Spotlight On: The Flanagan Collective

Posted on 10 August 2012 by Catherine Noonan

Never mind the Shakespearean play-within-a-play – The Flanagan Collective are going one better, creating a festival-within-a-festival at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. LittleFest (the Little Festival of Everything) is perhaps the ideal creation from a company that describes itself, quite simply, as doing “lots of things”. LittleFest really is “lots of things” – a microcosm of the Fringe showcasing every kind of theatrical act possible, from cabaret and comedy to poetry and plays.

LittleFest’s all-encompassing approach stems from a desire to capture the essence of communities, as artistic director Alexander Wright explains: “For me, there’s a lot to be said for community – for people being connected and making things happen together. Rural communities, or at least the ones I know, are very strong and passionate. The arts community, which I now spend most of my time working in, is also very strong and passionate, but we rarely get to see each other or spend time with each other. We meet fleetingly and only talk online.”

So Wright brought together a group of artists in his hometown of Coxwold, a tiny village in North Yorkshire, to “try out bits and pieces of work.” The artists spent the weekend chatting, drinking and presenting their work in a relaxed atmosphere – and it’s this “strong and passionate” rural atmosphere that Wright believes Edinburgh would benefit from replicating.

“The Fringe Festival is a sort of Mecca for theatre-makers. We flock each year in our thousands to try and be the best reviewed, win the most awards, and hustle down the royal mile, elbows out in force, to tempt audiences in to our shows rather than everyone else’s,” Wright says, “What we do is spend a lot of money, time, effort and energy in a grand competition. What we don’t do is work together, connect and actually have decent conversations … the Fringe is a pressure, artistically and financially, and this doesn’t seem to breed the best environment for ideas, relationships and imagination to thrive.”

In many ways, LittleFest is an opportunity for The Flanagan Collective to put into practice what they have learnt, both from the Coxwold mini-mini-festival and their previous years on the Fringe circuit (top tip: “you have to get on and do stuff [but] it’s much nicer doing those things with other people”), in an effort to encourage theatre-makers to connect rather than compete.

“The Fringe has such a strong focus on selling tickets because it is incredibly expensive to take work there, and this is what breeds the competition. But ticket sales, although necessary, aren’t what’s exciting about Edinburgh,” Wright insists. “Edinburgh is surely the most densely populated city of artists in the world over the summer. It’s a shame that we see these other companies as competitors rather than as part of our community. I know this isn’t entirely true – there are loads of wonderful encounters, relationships and friendships here – but Edinburgh offers such a unique opportunity to meet people you can only ever otherwise find online, and we should make the most of that. We should create environments which are about community and spending time with people rather than purely about box offices and queues.”

A noble vision, and one that extends to audience members as well as theatre-makers, as Wright outlines: “People are wonderful in every which way. Everything that I love and enjoy is fuelled by people. The arts are a bit peculiar, because they tend to fill in all the gaps so more people can’t access what’s going on. For example, a fourth walled piece of theatre is complete, whether an audience is there or not. So, rather than accept that as the norm, we are much more interested in finding ways for people to get involved and become a part of the heart of something.”

Wright hopes that LittleFest will do just this: remove the barriers around theatre and invite audiences to share the same space as artists, so that by the end of their run LittleFest will have “a whole bunch of people at the heart and soul of it.” This vision is being achieved by including a diversity of theatrical acts in the festival, blurring the rigid boundaries between art forms and providing a platform for emerging artists. Perhaps inevitably, then, new writing features heavily on the agenda, including a premiere of York-based playwright Hannah Davies’ Githa and a piece that immediately caught my attention: folk musical Beulah, based on the poetry of William Blake.

Wright – who, incidentally, wrote Beulah – explains his inspiration behind the piece: “I love Blake and I find some of his views about how the world is organised fascinating. I know Beulah (and Blake) has a number of religious connotations – I’m in no way religious but I find people’s various understandings of the impossibilities of the world fascinating, because parts of the world are impossible but yet they exist.” Wright highlights how poetry is inherent in our world, that beauty can be found in the way people “perceive things outside [their] experience” – such as “how we know a piece of music is beautiful even if we have never heard it before; how a sunset can take your breath away; how you know when something bad is going to happen; how we see people we have lost in our dreams.”

And talking of dreams, Wright is eager to access those of young theatre-lovers: “Young people have the most wonderful imaginations. I would love every young person in Edinburgh to come to LittleFest and tell us how we could do it better … I have no doubt they would teach us a thing or two about how festivals should work. I would love to make a venue that young people have dreamt up. It would be utterly thrilling, I’m sure.” Wright adds as a final ponderance: “Maybe we should do this next year?”

But until then, LittleFest is welcoming as many theatregoers as possible into its microcosmic community, because, as Wright continually emphasises: “People are much more important than things, whether those things are buildings, walls, lights, posters – people are what we should be focussing on. People are and should always be at the heart of it.” And there’s a lot to tempt all those people into LittleFest’s welcoming arms: music, cabaret, theatre, comedy, musicals and poetry, to name but a few. “There is a lot of good and exciting work under one roof,” Wright agrees, “But, more than that, the place needs filling with more imagination, ideas, events, conversations, singing, dancing, encounters, new friendships, drinking, talking, playing and whatever else we can squeeze in. Rather than us forcing you to come to what we have made, we’d rather you were a part of it all and make it with us.”

So if you’re struggling to decide how to spend your time in Edinburgh, it seems The Flanagan Collective’s LittleFest has the answer: a mini-Fringe within the big-Fringe, showcasing new writing, new talent, every type of theatrical act you can think of and, most importantly, a real penchant for people.

LittleFest will be setting up camp at C Venues C Nova until 27 August. For more information, see the Edinburgh Fringe website, the LittleFest website or The Flanagan Collective website. You can also join in the conversation on Twitter (@Little_Fest).

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Spotlight On: Jack Thorne

Posted on 18 June 2012 by Charlotte Whitehead

From TV shows This is England to The Fades, from plays Bunny to When You Cure Me, there’s no doubt that this 33-year-old has a knack for seeking out something new and connecting it with young people. Jack Thorne chats about getting down and dirty for his adaptation of Dürrenmatt’s The Physicists at the Donmar Warehouse, dishes out some useful and important advice for the new writers amongst us and stresses that networking and parties aren’t as important as your script.

You have recently adapted The Physicists by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. What was it like working from someone else’s text instead of a blank page?

It has been joyful, the text is amazing. All I was trying to do was refine the translation, so we can enjoy what he’d done in English as it was originally in German.

How did you bring Dürrenmatt’s satire into the twenty-first century?

It’s timeless, we haven’t tried to change it in its era. I’ve made it coherent and added in a few jokes.

Have you been involved with the rehearsal process of the production?

I was in from the third week, so it has been the bulk of my work. Josie Rourke (Artistic Director of the Donmar) framed the big issues, because the play is about big things. There are gems in there that could change the world. We also wanted to check that what I had done to the text had worked. So yeah, I got down and dirty.

How do you think the play’s relevance sits with today’s scientific advances?

I think that it’s the why and the how that is timeless, and the issues surrounding it haven’t changed. The play is saying: Is humanity ready for its scientific advances? I don’t personally agree with the message as I think that it is being negative about humanity.

You recently won two BAFTAS for The Fades, and also for being part of This is England ’88. How did that feel?

It felt entirely overwhelming, joyful and brilliant. Since then I’ve been in rehearsals, and now I’ve just been sitting here and I am slumped on my sofa. I feel very, very lucky.

Do you hope that The Fades will brought back by the BBC?

I don’t know what’s going to happen; there is a possibility. I’d love for it to come back, as I’ve still got stories to tell. I’m lucky to have a career, I’m just going to keep working, I’m not particularly bitter about it. When it came down to it, it was between Being Human and The Fades [to be kept] and they chose Being Human. I can’t complain because it is a great show. It happened when there were massive cutbacks, so the drama budget was halved and they could only keep one long running series.

As both an award-winning screenwriter and playwright you have achieved a lot at a young age. Would you say there is a medium for which you prefer writing?

I love everything that I do. They are all so different, and of course I also write for the radio, so I am always writing for a voice. Although I think I would struggle to write a novel. I feel privileged that I am able to swap between them.

Your writing clearly connects with young people. What would you say is the driving force behind your writing? [On a personal note I reveal enjoying Skins series 1 and 2 when I was at college, and favouring the crazy character of Chris]

I love drama and I wasn’t a social kid, so I preferred imagery. I liked telly and plays that made me feel human. When working out what to do next, I always hope that I find a different angle to tell and Skins did that. It was a show about friendship. Joe Dempsie (who played Chris in series 1 and 2) is a great actor, he’s been in a lot of things since the series including This is England ’86, The Fades and The Game of Thrones.

How much of your own life and experiences influences what you write?

You don’t necessarily always know which bits you are putting into stuff. I do form strong bonds with the characters, but I don’t always find an affiliation with ones who are like me. I wasn’t quite expecting Chris. I Iove how he was lonely amongst the crowd, despite being within it.

Do you have any advice for new writers putting pen to paper for the first time?

Yes, I would say find someone you trust to read your work: make that person central. The Royal Court Theatre’s Young Writers’ programme was great, but it wasn’t the start of a massive relationship. The Royal Court Theatre made Laura Wade and me become very close, we gave each advice. It’s also important to be able to cope with rejection, this is because it’s what happens 95% of the time and she brought me through it. She is now massively successful herself; the key is that as you get better so does your confidence. It shouldn’t be someone who is like you (in their writing style) but perhaps in the same situation. People think that they need Steven Moffatt, but the chances are that they need their friend who is also at the same stage as them.

What do you think about the state of British new writing now?

When I was starting out there were mostly musicals on at the West End. And now it’s mostly straight plays like Posh (by Wade) that seem to be making a move and now new writing is becoming mainstream. I think it is in a pretty good state. I wrote and I wrote until slowly they were nice to me. It isn’t about who you meet, it is about the script. You go to other places, and you pitch your show. It really isn’t about networking at parties here, it is all about the script.

What have you got lined up after The Physicists?

I’ve got a final A Long Way Down script, which is an adaptation of Nick Hornby’s book. There is a lot that’s in development, so I can’t really talk about it.

Do you have any literary heroes, who you look up to?

I would say definitely Ronald Harwood and Paul Abbott.

The Physicists plays at the Donmar Warehouse until 21 July. More information and tickets available here.

Image credit: Donmar Warehouse

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Book Review: Tim Crouch ‘Plays One’

Posted on 06 December 2011 by Jake Orr

Language is something that, when I focus on a theatre production, I seem to forget amongst the excitement of the live actor before me. When reading Tim Crouch’s Plays One, comprising his first four plays My Arm, An Oak Tree, ENGLAND and The Author, it is hard to escape the conventions (or non-conventions) of language that Crouch creates in his plays; they are the life and blood that flow through his works.

In this collection of Crouch’s first plays (he has since gone on to write a collection of monologues based on minor Shakespeare characters) there is a distinct quality of feeling that is etched into each of them. Crouch has a way of capturing his audience with the rhythmic nature of his writing and use of language, that both drums a voice into its audience and pounds a cautious warning too. Crouch’s plays are best read and watched when the reader/audience has given themselves over to the journey, the unknown joys of storytelling. But this journey is not always pleasant, it has challenges for the reader along the way.

Tim Crouch Plays One is nicely framed as a collection of plays by Stephen Bottom’s introduction and Andy Smith’s after word; they are two men who write with a great deal of wit. In many ways, it is this introduction and after word that present Plays One in a theatrical setting themselves, much like the constant questioning in Crouch’s writing. There is no denying that reading Crouch’s plays only give away half of the experience, the rest has be found in the performance itself. This is not possible when reading, so one has to relish Crouch’s use of language and stage notes to get a feel for the whole spectacle.

In My Arm, Crouch explores a young boy called Anthony who, out of determination, raises his arm above his head and keeps it there. What is first an endurance game, soon becomes a way of life, a life that due to the positioning of the arm becomes a source of his death – the arm decays through lack poor circulation. My Arm is distinctly poignant, examining not only the extremes we push ourselves to for the sake of them, but also what constitutes as art, for Anthony becomes a source of inspiration, he is painted, photographed and casts are made from his rotting arm. Crouch goes further to stipulate the performance is shown through a series of everyday objects that stand in for everyone and thing mentioned in the play. Crouch, who originally performed the piece, also notes that at no point should the performers arm ever rise above their head, the audience are to imagine it, to believe in the story and the everyday objects in this feat of storytelling.

An Oak Tree continues to test not only the audience but also the actor too. Each performance of An Oak Tree featured a new actor in the role of the father who has lost his daughter in a car accident. The actor is not presented with the script or any lines, directions etc until they are on the stage, some of which are fed through headphones, some on paper and some in front of the audience directly. Crouch discards and challenges the traditional methods of theatre playing. An Oak Tree is particularly effective in getting across an emotional journey. As the father questions his daughter’s killer, he finds himself believing that an old oak tree has now become the daughter, embodying her essence or soul.

Breaking the conventions further is ENGLAND, a play to be performed in a gallery that takes its audience from artworks to a story of woman challenged by her nationality and acceptance of others, especially her art dealer husband. England is a more free flowing play that uses a continuous monologue to be split by two actors who embody the characters at given moments. The story weaves itself between a distant land of wealth and the reality of the artwork of the gallery itself. Blurring the lines between characters, story and locations, the play frames the audience as a device – never speaking as such, but always watching. At times abstract, ENGLAND has a poetic force about it, that drives the main character into unhealthy conditions.

The last in Plays One is The Author, Crouch’s most ‘contraversial’ play, which featured at the Royal Court Theatre. Entwining a play within a play that Crouch as the writer has written, The Author focuses on Crouch in relation to his writing work, and also on the audience. It is deeply disturbing and challenging, not least because of a monologue delivered in near darkness, describing what is happening to a sleeping baby. This is combined with a play described throughout as a horrific look at rape and violence, which sees its actors suffering emotionally from nightly performances. Crouch weaves such intensity within The Author that it feels as if the words themselves will spill out from the page. It is a challenging, confrontational but still oddly enjoyable piece of writing, and when presented with the audience on two seating banks facing each other, the play becomes more a study of audience behavior than of a playwright writing. It is thought-provoking and an excellent end to Plays One.

Crouch’s plays are unique in their ability to test and discover new ways in which a play can interact with its conventions of staging, and interaction with audience and actor alike. They are poetic and heartfelt, completely believable and full of imaginative qualities that take the reader into the centre of the performance, allowing them to nestle between language and form and find a home amongst Crouch’s words. Having seen several of the plays performed, it is a joy to be able to delve into the language of Crouch’s writing, to enjoy his framing of technical qualities within his stage directions, and to immerse oneself in true storytelling that is direct to its audience.

There are few writers who have such alluring charm and challenge in their play writing, and as is evident in Crouch’s Plays One, together they show the real skill and mastery of Crouch’s imaginative writing. Let’s hope Plays Two are just around the corner…

Plays One by Tim Crouch is available to buy from Oberon Books for £15.99. See Oberon’s website to buy and view other theatre publications.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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