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Showing posts from 2014

525, 600 minutes and then some; Rent and me nine years later.

December 22nd, 8pm, Eastern Standard time....wait that's not quite right.

Nine years ago, 22nd December, 8pm (Eastern standard time) I finally saw Rent on Broadway. It's fair to say that night changed my life, and changed me. A fairly bold statement, but after 4 years and one PhD that is (half) about Rent, I think that's fair. It also cemented my love of theatre and musical theatre.

We Mark says in the opening monologue...
I don't actually remember finding Rent, it just feels like from the moment of musical theatre obsession being born it was there. I do remember when I finally got the Original Cast Recording. I was desperate to play it on my CD walkman (remember those kids) and playing it on the bus home in Montreal (where I was living by this time) but at this point Rue Sherbrooke (yes I remember what bus I was on) was far too bumpy and 'What You Own' skipped and skipped the whole way home (remember skipping CD's kids?) Once I had that recordin…

My Night With Reg

Advanced warning this isn't really a review. The play has closed anyway, and I'm not able to be really objective enough about this to say much in the way of critical content. So let's agree to disagree and call it a reflection.

My Night With Reg is known by me, and possibly by many others as "The British AIDS play" it's not the only play to address the issue but it is by far the most focused on it as a single issue, although it never actually mentions it by name (more on that later). It is also the most British of British plays. And I adored it.

My Night with Reg centres on a group of friends, all gay men, ranging from 18 to mid-40s over three separate meetings at Guy's house. In the first gathering Daniel talks of his new love 'Reg' as the play continues it transpires he isn't the only one to have had an encounter with Reg. John in particular is in love with Reg also, having been with him the night before Guy's gathering. In scene 2 Reg h…

Review: The Crucible

Then how did he die?

They press him John.


Great stones they lay upon his chest until he plead ay or nay. They say he give them but two words. “More weight,” he says. And died.

I could actually quote that entire scene (I looked it up only to check I'd gotten the wording right) verbatim, without checking. I have, if memory serves played both Proctors at some point, and I have clearly had the play etched into my brain via GCSE drama and other delightful studies. Add to that a specialism in Cold War History (more on that shortly) and 20th Century drama, it's possible to get a little Crucible-ed out. However in all that I've never actually seen the damn thing performed live. So with the Old Vic doing a production, while I was in London, and with Richard Armitage in the role of Proctor, I decided to finally see it.

Despite knowing the play so well, I found this production to be engaging and almost thriller like in it's pacing. I had been concerned given reports of it…

Review: A Streetcar Named Desire

"I have always relied on the kindness of strangers"
"Well that's a stupid thing to do"

.....or so goes the famous line in my head. I blame Tony Kushner who appropriates Tennessee Williams' most famous play twice in his own most famous play. And that's the trouble with famous plays, we all think we know how it goes. We all have our own version of them in our minds. Whether it's the film version or Marge Simpson appearing as Blanche. However actually this production made me think about how well I really knew the play, which is always a good thing.

As a side note, for me it was particularly interesting, having spent far too many years looking at Kushner, to return to Williams. Kushner talks often of his love and influence by Williams and I would even say that I see Kushner as one of Williams' worthy successors in American drama. Seeing Williams performed after spending so long with Kushner then I could see the influences on his drama. Oddly in know…

Richard III

So following a more official review for 'Cardiff Shakespeare' this is my more personal review, with a bit for fan-girl thoughts thrown in.

I wasn't going to bother with Richard III. Mainly due to logistics/time getting to London and cose of tickets. However, I got lucky with the £15 Mondays deal and knew I'd regret not seeing it. In the end it was a desire to see what Jamie Lloyd (who I'm a big fan of) had done with the production and to see Jo Stone-Fewings as Buckingham, an actor who I've also long been a fan of and is a little more obscure than Mr Freeman.

Much has been made of this production in relation to the blood and the Freeman fans who were aparently just there to see Martin Freeman do Dick. (sorry it's a cheap joke but you have to admit a good one) I didn't have a problem with the latter (but I'll come to that later) and the blood well, there was a fair bit of it to be sure.

The production, I really loved. As I say I'm a fan of Jamie …

What's a nice girl like you doing in a PhD like this?

I frequently get asked 'what's your PhD actually on', usually I just reply 'Drama' or 'American drama in Britain.' if pushed, or if it looks like it'll elicit an amusing response I say simply 'AIDS in theatre' sometimes in fact I just say AIDS. Generally I do this if someone looks like they'll have an amusing reaction, or if they're being generally disparaging about the whole PhD endeavor.

For the record, the current title is Angels at the National and Bohemians in the West End: Transposing and Reviving American dramatic depictions of AIDS to the British stage in Angels in America and Rent and in it, I explore how both plays communicate AIDS to an audience in their content and the way this works with a British audience. I look at press responses, and how these plays fit into the wider context of theatre in Britain. Later I look at revivals, of these plays and consider how years later these plays continue to be relevant and impact on theat…

The Normal Heart

This is not a real review of 'The Normal Heart' having spent the last four years writing about AIDS and theatre I'm too invested for that. 

I'll admit I was wary. As anyone is about a new adaptation of something they love. I'm wary about new stagings of it, but I'm even more wary about transposing it to a new medium. I was also wary about the team behind it. On one hand HBO were producing it. The team that did the seemingly impossible in bringing Angels in America to screen so successfully. Alongside this Larry Kramer was writing the screenplay adaptation of his play. To my mind nobody else could do it. Larry knows his work, Larry also knows film. On the other hand, the director was Ryan Murphy. Known for 'Glee' Murphy is not the first name that crops up on an ideal directors list for anything, not least The Normal Heart. In Murphy's defense the list of directors I'd have been happy with right away is very short. Also in Murphy's defense I qu…

The Drowned Man (round 2)

Last Friday I went for round two (and sadly final round) of Punchdrunk's 'The Drowned Man' write up here, for my own memory and anyone who is interested in that sort of thing!

The account of my first encounter is here:

I went to round two, after much deliberation with no plan. I decided that letting my nose and instincts guide me the first time served me well. And as I wouldn't have the luxury of multiple visits to see everything I wanted to see, I felt I'd have a more enjoyable time just letting it happen. I had a few vague 'wants' some of which happened some didn't, and as is the Punchdrunk way, some things I didn't think I'd bother with, I did and they turned out to be the best parts!

I was in the first lift (I think? someone who was with me could probably correct...) for those keeping score, and wanting to know which cast member I'm talking about it was Friday 27th…
Yesterday I posted a Facebook status that will no doubt get me in trouble, I said 

"If I carry on with any kind of academic/teaching based career, I am so glad I have learned always to be supportive, constructive and caring about students I work with. Because I never, ever want anyone to feel the way I have been made to feel over the years."

I stand by that status, and I'm writing a blog to elaborate. I'm also stating now, at the outset that I'm not setting out to break any 'rules'. That status while yesterday a result of something PhD related, is a cumilation of many long years in academia. It is the culmination of Undergraduate, Postgradaute, PGCE, working as a tutor, working as a support worker and working in the office. Finally yes it's about the PhD, even though I'm not allowed to talk about that directly yet. It doesn't matter, all the others give me plenty to go on. 

What actually drew out my frustration yesterday was more that I've sp…

Self Funded PhD "advice"

I was recently asked for advice on Tumblr about self-funding a PhD so I thought I'd go into more detail here, on the off chance someone can benefit from my "wisdom".

I'll be honest, my first instinct is to say 'don't do it' but really that's not quite true. I'd say 'don't do it unless you are really sure'. People who are funded may disagree with me (and feel free to comment if so) but doing it self-funded is harder. Although the pressures (particularly of finishing to time) are greater with a funded PhD, the supreme juggling act of a self funded one, make the physical act of getting the damn thing on paper, and you out in one piece more of a challenge.

So here in no particular order is my advice:

Make sure you want to do it.
This goes for any PhD. But if you're paying for it out of your own pocket make sure it's what you really want. That you're doing the research at the place you want

Loans can be your friends (if you can ge…