Category Archives: Theatre

Back to the Globe

Last Christmas, as a gift, Lady Hughes gave me two tickets to see A Winter’s Tale at the Globe Theatre in London.

The Globe is the recreation of the Elizabethan Theatre that stood on the same site when Shakespeare was alive. We did the tour last year and I’d said that I’d love to see a show there. It was a wonderful, thoughtful gift – so after much thought I offered to take her with me. It was the least I could do I suppose.

Clare actually presented the gift to me in the form of a globe paperweight, she then asked me to guess where we were going. I guessed wrong, and I sensed she was a bit disappointed when I shouted out ‘round the world trip’ – but hey, this is good also.

As it’s the winter season they don’t use the open air theatre, instead they have new indoor theatre, the Sam Wanamaker Theatre. This is still a recreation of an Elizabethan Theatre but its inside.

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(Picture courtesy of Shakespeare’s Globe)

One problem we had was whether Clare would be well enough to travel as she was involved in an accident at work a week or two before, and had been poisoned. Just the day before we were supposed to go, she called the theatre to see whether it was possible to resell the tickets if we couldn’t go. In the end she felt that as long as we took it easy, she’d give it a go, so we jumped the train and headed off to ‘that London’ – as we call it in the North.

The theatre itself is wonderful. It’s small so you’re very close to the action and the whole thing is lit by candles. They’ve managed to do some deal with health & safety so there isn’t even the usual ‘exit’ signs to spoil the period mood.

The performance was excellent, lively, dramatic and surprisingly funny. The creative use of the limited staging and props kept it interesting, my only gripe was the cramped seating, but that’s the price of authenticity I suppose.

We stayed at the Hamilton by Hilton in Waterloo so everything was walking distance – which was nice.

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The next morning we wandered over the Thames to Somerset House for a quick look before sticking our heads in the National Gallery which was somewhere else I’d wanted to visit after we went to the National Portrait Gallery a while back.

We couldn’t do too much as Clare was still recovering so we kept it light and were quickly jumping the train back home.

Overall, if you like the theatre and/or Shakespeare, I’d heartily recommend the Globe, it’s a different experience to other, more traditional theatres (which is a bit ironic if you think about it) but it’s still a lot of fun.

 Chris

 

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Feeling at Home, at ‘Home’

Manchester has a new arts venue, confusingly named ‘Home.

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Already, I’ve encountered the problem of statements like, “we saw it at home”, “we’re off to home” and “great time at home last night”. I get round this usually, by adding the preface, “the arts venue, not where I live“. Hopefully this confusion will dissipate once people get to know the place – the arts venue, not where I live.

This new centre, houses two theatres, a five screen cinema, exhibition space, bars and a restaurant, and it’s the new ‘home’ of the old Library Theatre and Cornerhouse cinema.

The official opening was last Thursday, but Clare and myself went to an early performance of the first play to be performed here, ‘Funfair’, the Saturday before, and we took Elliott to a screening of ‘Blade Runner’ the day after, so we’d had chance to have a look around before all the hoopla of the official opening.

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The venue itself is great, with a good location just on the edge of the city and lots of space to wander around and explore. Obviously, everything is shiny and new and the design appears to be very minimalist with bare concrete walls and lots of glass – very modern but perhaps a little cold and inexpressive.

But hey, maybe that’s the idea, after all the test of this venue, won’t be the wallpaper, it’ll be the stuff going on inside.

The opening itself was blessed with glorious sunshine and we were excited to hear that Danny Boyle, one of the patrons of Home, and Oscar-winning director of such films as Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire would be there to cut the ribbon. So, we stuffed our DVD of Shallow Grave in Clare’s handbag and popped down to see the show.

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There was lots of colourful characters and music so we had a great time, Elliott even managed to get a selfie with Mr Boyle and got him to sign our DVD – though Elliott did forget to take the pen we gave him, but Danny Boyle had one himself, which was lucky.

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Now we’ve been to ‘Home’ (the venue, not the …) a few times, I can say how much I like it. I love cinema and the theatre, so this is a welcome addition to the already vibrant arts scene in Manchester. Even though the architecture is new, shiny and a little cold for my taste, the energy and vibe is quite warm and exciting, which can only be a good thing.

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It’s actually quite ‘homely’.

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Chris

London Surprises

A couple of months ago I was contacted by my brother’s partner Ger, asking if Clare and myself could help with a birthday surprise for my brother Peter.

Unbeknown to Peter, Ger had booked a surprise weekend in London for his birthday (it’s worth mentioning here that Peter and Ger live in Dublin). The plan was that we’d ‘appear‘ unexpectedly as part of the trip and spend the day together.

And so it was that Clare and myself travelled down to London on Saturday in time to make our appearance at the Nag’s Head pub in Covent Garden.

I was a little nervous as we got closer to the pub, as the street’s were busy and I didn’t want Peter to spot me before we got there and ruin the surprise. I was also conscious that being six foot three, I hardly blend into the crowd that well – I don’t think I would make a good spy!

Not far from the pub, I glanced down a side-street and to my horror looked straight at Peter. I quickly ducked down, grabbed Clare and dragged her round the corner, “he’s there, Peter’s there, I just looked straight at him but I don’t think he noticed me.”

We rushed down the street knowing that Peter and Ger would turn round after us any minute. Clare shouted to go into a shop but the doorway next to me was a Paul Smith shop, “I can’t afford anything in there!“. Clare pushed me in.

After a short period pretending to be interested in a very expensive shoe, we ventured carefully outside and crept into the pub. The pub was packed but there he was on the other side of the bar. I crouched down and squeezed forward through the assorted drinkers like a lion stalking its prey – or possibly a man with a serious back problem trying to get to the loos.

What I couldn’t see though in my hunched-down position, was that Peter had his drink, and was now walking straight towards me. The crowd parted and Peter was confronted by this strange man squatting and creeping towards him. I looked up from his feet and said the first thing that came to me, “oh, hello. D’you come here too?“.

Mission accomplished!

We had a great time in London with Peter, Ger and Ger’s brother Derek (Derek lives in London, he joined us later). We had a few drink’s in the Nag’s Head and then met up that evening before travelling to Soho for more drinks, a beautiful meal in a local Tai restaurant and then on to the Hippodrome Casino.

Now I’ve been to casinos before and to be honest I’m not really a gambler. When I’ve gambled in the past I’ve proved to be fairly incompetent and extremely unlucky, so I’ve learnt to simply keep the money in my pocket and not bother. So the lure of the casino didn’t really work for me, but I happily watched as Peter gave Ger encouragement and she went onto more than double her money, I think Derek did even better, so a good night had by all – it seems gambling does pay. Just not for me.

Good company, good food and a great location. In fact we had such a good time, I forgot to take any pictures.

The next day we met up for a debrief on the previous night before Peter and Ger had to catch their flight home. Always a pleasure to see them, we bid them farewell and wondered what to do next?

As we were south of the river we walked to the Globe Theatre, which I’d always wanted to see, and did the tour. The Globe is a recreation of the theatre that Shakespeare’s plays were first shown in, and is a very active venue with live shows throughout the summer. The Globe is open air so they only use it during the warmer months and then they use the new, candle-lit, Sam Wanamaker theatre next door, which is undercover (apologies for the photos, they’re all taken on my phone).

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The tour was interesting and we got to explore a little bit, though I was a bit disappointed that we couldn’t actually go onto the stage. It did, however, make me really want to see an actual show there. We didn’t have time this trip, but we both promised ourselves that we’d book something in the new year and make a special effort.

As we finished the tour, we discovered that a surprise, free, event was arriving. A procession of performers in a variety of costumes came into the theatre and we were encouraged to follow them. It’s hard to describe what was going on but it was a kind of theatrical, Elizabethan harvest festival with singers, actors and morris dancers.

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We watched it for a while and then the procession left and made it’s way onto Borough Market. We decided to get a bite to eat and then make our own way to the market, as it had been recommended to us.

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After the market, we headed home.

Travelling by tube we arrived at Euston only for Clare to hear an announcement that she recognised as a coded alarm. This was shortly followed by an instruction to evacuate the underground station. Luckily we were where we need to be so we quickly climbed the escalators out into Euston station, only to discover that the trains were disrupted as some idiot had thrown something off a bridge and it had hit a moving truing damaging the train and the tracks.

Again, we were lucky. We managed to find a train home and get seats – all part of the adventure, eh.

Chris

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Around St Anne’s Square and the World in Eighty Days

We’ve been dying to get back to the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester for ages and today we made the effort and took Elliott into town to see ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’.

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Arriving in Manchester we dodged the ongoing protests on the situation in Gaza and made our way to St Anne’s Square. Once we got there, we were pleasantly surprised to find an urban gardening event with various gardens, exhibitions, a cinema in a shed and television personality Diarmuid Gavin answering various horticultural questions.

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We listened for a while, and soaked up the atmosphere in the sun, before we remembered that we knew nothing about gardening and moved on towards the shops, only to be enticed into a makeshift restaurant outside Harvey Nichols where Elliott had his first oyster.  He quickly declared it to be his favourite food – if he thinks he’s getting them with chips for tea, he’s in for a disappointment I’m afraid.

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Onto the theatre.

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I love the Royal Exchange Theatre. The old cotton exchange is a beautiful space and the modern theatre in the round, suspended from the old columns like a huge spider’s web, is an intimate cosy environment, where you almost feel part of the performance.

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The show was wonderful. Very creative with action, comedy, acrobatics and great performances all round. Great theatre creates an illusion with the audience and carries them along for the duration, and this did just that. We were really impressed and it made a great ending to the day.

Chris.