Diary of a Theatre Addict: Starring with a cast of 500 Supporting Actors, and Two Trips to Yorkshire (with a day in London inbetween)

Mark ShentonInclude in homepage slide?, Thought of the dayLeave a Comment

confusions

If my birthday celebrations that I wrote about here last week were going to be difficult to match, viagra order this I began this week by attending my first graduation ceremony at ArtsEd to see ArtsEdTriothe first class I taught three years ago graduating —three of whom are pictured left — and am ending it tonight by watching the cream of the West End stripping as part of this year’s West End Bares (hosted by Graham Norton, advice who will hopefully keep his clothes on!), ampoule though of course the best strip show in town is still Gypsy at the Savoy, in which Lara Pulver sheds clothes but Imelda Staunton strips layer upon layer of emotions.

So both the pleasure and satisfaction continued unabated. In both cases, the sense of community that the theatre creates in a special joy. On Broadway, on course, that’s a given — hardly a week goes by without a benefit for one cause or another, which is how Broadway Bares originated (and has now been adopted and copied in the West End). But that community starts at school, and nowhere have I felt it more keenly than at ArtsEd.

I’ve also already watched several of my students graduate to their first jobs, as I wrote about here last week, and the very next day after weeping my way through their graduation ceremony (it was like Merrily We Roll Along come to life!) I saw four more of them onstage at Leicester’s Curve appearing in the new national tour of Hairspray (which I reviewed here). In fact, Omari Douglas, Bobbie Little and Katharine Parkinson were each moving onto their second shows after making their professional debuts in High Society at the Old Vic (the first two) and Carrie at Southwark Playhouse (the third). And special kudos to Glen Facey, making his professional debut, with the most athletic performance on that stage as he does back flips from a standing position!

ArtsEdGraduation-with-Robert LindsayI did a (metaphorical) back flip of my own this week. The guest speaker at their graduation was veteran actor Robert Lindsay (pictured on the front row with the ArtsEd students, sitting beside deputy principal Chris Hocking). Aafter a twitter spat (or two) between us (as I chronicled here at the time), in which he dubbed me “a complete twat because like most critics you have no conception how to perform or even comprehend to sustain a show”, we were able to make up after the graduation, and then speak to each other fondly when we saw each other again at the opening night of Hangmen at the Royal Court.

That’s another great lesson for the students, whose latest intake I start teaching again tomorrow: feel free to cross swords, if you feel strongly enough with those that criticise you, but be sure to uncross them again at the earliest opportunity. The business is too small to sustain grudges.

harvey-fiersteinIt’s a lesson I had to take onboard myself, I realised, as I went to see (and loved) Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina premiere at Southwark Playhouse this week (my review is here). Last month I had possibly one of the most uncomfortable phone interviews I’ve ever done with Mr Fierstein (unsmilingly pictured left) in which he took serial offence at the connections I was trying to make between his work, which is a standard journalistic practice.

When I pressed him on why he seemed to be particularly attracted to drag — as witness shows from Torch Song Trilogy and La Cage Aux Folles to Hairspray (which he starred in but didn’t write), Kinky Boots and Mrs Doubtfire, (he’s writing a musical version of the latter now), he replied,

You’re really making me laugh — .you’re trying to take all my work and put it in one envelope, Is that something you do in your life, do you sit at home and alphabetise everything? You seem to be hell bent on getting my work neatly filed, but I do not think that way or feel that way.  It’s like asking David Mamet if you were interviewing him, “you had some heterosexuals in hour last play, is there a reason you have heterosexuals in this play?” To me, that’s absolutely ridiculous. Mrs Doubtfire os about a man hiding as a woman so that he can see his children. It has nothing in common with La Cage, Torch Song or Casa Valentina at all!

The defensiveness does feel like I hit a nerve. Be that as it may, he got right on mine, too. I don’t like him now; but that doesn’t mean I don’t like his work, and I was able to embrace his play just as fondly as if my troubling encounter with him hadn’t taken place.

At other times, of course, you can establish such a great rapport with an interview subject that it can predispose you to like their work. Over the years, I’ve come to know Mark-RylanceMark Rylance onstage and off (pictured left) very well — and I love him on both sides of the footlights. Just the other day I spent another wonderful hour with him talking to him immediately before he did a matinee of Farinelli and the King that has just brought him back to the West End. We once, by sheer coincidence, shared the same gym trainer — when he buffed up for his West End run in Jerusalem, he saw Paul, a trainer from Soho Gym in Borough, whom my husband and I worked with, too (Paul also trained Patina Miller when she over here in Sister Act).

And as we have spoken very frankly to each other over the years, we have discovered that we share other things in common, too. Some of this is too private to make its way to the print interview, but it’s also what makes him a great actor as well as a great human being: he is always utterly honest For years he has been a major stage star — that rare person who can sell tickets on the strength of their stage fame. But now he’s getting screen fame from Wolf Hall and his imminent appearance in Steven Spielberg’s latest film Bridge of Spies that’s being shown in the New York Film Festival later this month before it is released in the US next month.

In a news interview in the Daily Telegraph recently, Spielberg acclaimed him thus: “Mark Rylance is one of the most extraordinary actors working anywhere. I saw him on the stage in Twelfth Night and that pretty much cinched it for me and I asked him to play him the part of the spy.” I can’t wait to see it or Farinelli, which I missed at the Globe.

I’ve had a(nother) busy week, though I managed to get one night off only thanks to a diary error: I had wrongly put the opening of Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen into my diary for Thursday, and was only alerted to it when the eagle-eyed PR for the Royal Court spotted that I’d posted a pick of the week entry in The Stage wrongly stating its opening night! By the time she told me, it was too late to re-plan anything else for Thursday night (and I had to quickly cancel the show I was going to see on the Friday instead); but I was glad of the break, as I was still going back to town that evening for a late night cabaret at the Hippodrome, seeing my friend Scott Alan conclude his 9 night residency there.

I saw five of those nine nights — including of course my big birthday bash! — and while no two shows of Scott’s are ever the same as it is, he really mixed it up this time with different featured guess every night, and unannounced extra guests, too. This week I was blown away by Rachelle Ann Go on Monday and Lucie Jones on Thursday in the featured spots; but it was great also seeing them sharing the stage with appearances by Britain’s Got Talent winners Collabro (who won the 2014 series), the always divine olllie-tompsett-&-scottOllie Tompsett (pictured left with Scott, returning as a surprise guest after being a featured guest last week), and the lovely Georgina Hagen (who threw off her shoes to duet with Lucie Jones, and then when she tried to retrieve them from underneath the piano before a solo turn gave herself an instant black eye as she bumped into it). Scott’s concerts routinely run a fine line between wrenching heartache and pure joy; that night, for Georgina, it became dangerous, too!

Callabro’s Michael Auger has also been turning producer this week, presenting a short run of the Pasek and Paul revue Edges at Fulham’s London Theatre Workshop (where it opened on Wednesday and runs to October 1), with one more performance at Covent Garden’s St Paul’s Actors Church on October 3. As a show of support, Scott and I ventured out to Fulham on Saturday afternoon to see it, and what a lovely surprise it turned out to be.

I’m a big fan of Pasek and Paul’s work— they also wrote Dogfight, which I saw (multiple times) at Southwark Playhouse last year and is returning for a one-night reunion concert of the original cast at the St James on October 11, and last month I saw their brilliant latest show Dear Evan Hansen at Washington DC’s ArenaStage, before it gets its New York premiere next year at Second Stage. Edges is not a book musical, but their version of Maltby and Shire’s Starting Here Starting Now or Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World: a show that pulls together songs written for different projects into one place.  A terrific cast of young actors comprising Lauren Allan, Christ Barton, Claudia Kariuki and Robert Woodward perform it with punch and point.
If my birthday celebrations that I wrote about here last week were going to be difficult to match, see I began this week by attending my first graduation ceremony at ArtsEd to see ArtsEdTriothe first class I taught three years ago graduating —three of whom are pictured left — and am ending it tonight by watching the cream of the West End stripping as part of this year’s West End Bares (hosted by Graham Norton, adiposity who will hopefully keep his clothes on!), though of course the best strip show in town is still Gypsy at the Savoy, in which Lara Pulver sheds clothes but Imelda Staunton strips layer upon layer of emotions.

So both the pleasure and satisfaction continued unabated. In both cases, the sense of community that the theatre creates in a special joy. On Broadway, of course, that’s a given — hardly a week goes by without a benefit for one cause or another, which is how Broadway Bares originated (and has now been adopted and copied in the West End). But that community starts at school, and nowhere have I felt it more keenly than at ArtsEd.

I’ve also already watched several of my students graduate to their first jobs, as I wrote about here last week, and the very next day after weeping my way through their graduation ceremony (it was like Merrily We Roll Along come to life!) I saw four more of them onstage at Leicester’s Curve appearing in the new national tour of Hairspray (which I reviewed here). In fact, Omari Douglas, Bobbie Little and Katharine Pearson were each moving onto their second shows after making their professional debuts in High Society at the Old Vic (the first two) and Carrie at Southwark Playhouse (the third). And special kudos to Glen Facey, making his professional debut, with the most athletic performance on that stage as he does back flips from a standing position!

ArtsEdGraduation-with-Robert LindsayI did a (metaphorical) back flip of my own this week. The guest speaker at their graduation was veteran actor Robert Lindsay (pictured on the front row with the ArtsEd students, sitting beside deputy principal Chris Hocking). Aafter a twitter spat (or two) between us (as I chronicled here at the time), in which he dubbed me “a complete twat because like most critics you have no conception how to perform or even comprehend to sustain a show”, we were able to make up after the graduation, and then speak to each other fondly when we saw each other again at the opening night of Hangmen at the Royal Court.

That’s another great lesson for the students, whose latest intake I start teaching again tomorrow: feel free to cross swords, if you feel strongly enough with those that criticise you, but be sure to uncross them again at the earliest opportunity. The business is too small to sustain grudges.

harvey-fiersteinIt’s a lesson I had to take onboard myself, I realised, as I went to see (and loved) Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina premiere at Southwark Playhouse this week (my review is here). Last month I had possibly one of the most uncomfortable phone interviews I’ve ever done with Mr Fierstein (unsmilingly pictured left) in which he took serial offence at the connections I was trying to make between his work, which is a standard journalistic practice.

When I pressed him on why he seemed to be particularly attracted to drag — as witness shows from Torch Song Trilogy and La Cage Aux Folles to Hairspray (which he starred in but didn’t write), Kinky Boots and Mrs Doubtfire, (he’s writing a musical version of the latter now), he replied,

You’re really making me laugh — .you’re trying to take all my work and put it in one envelope, Is that something you do in your life, do you sit at home and alphabetise everything? You seem to be hell bent on getting my work neatly filed, but I do not think that way or feel that way.  It’s like asking David Mamet if you were interviewing him, “you had some heterosexuals in hour last play, is there a reason you have heterosexuals in this play?” To me, that’s absolutely ridiculous. Mrs Doubtfire os about a man hiding as a woman so that he can see his children. It has nothing in common with La Cage, Torch Song or Casa Valentina at all!

The defensiveness does feel like I hit a nerve. Be that as it may, he got right on mine, too. I don’t like him now; but that doesn’t mean I don’t like his work, and I was able to embrace his play just as fondly as if my troubling encounter with him hadn’t taken place.

At other times, of course, you can establish such a great rapport with an interview subject that it can predispose you to like their work. Over the years, I’ve come to know Mark-RylanceMark Rylance onstage and off (pictured left) very well — and I love him on both sides of the footlights. Just the other day I spent another wonderful hour with him talking to him immediately before he did a matinee of Farinelli and the King that has just brought him back to the West End. We once, by sheer coincidence, shared the same gym trainer — when he buffed up for his West End run in Jerusalem, he saw Paul, a trainer from Soho Gym in Borough, whom my husband and I worked with, too (Paul also trained Patina Miller when she over here in Sister Act).

And as we have spoken very frankly to each other over the years, we have discovered that we share other things in common, too. Some of this is too private to make its way to the print interview, but it’s also what makes him a great actor as well as a great human being: he is always utterly honest. For years he has been a major stage star — that rare person who can sell tickets on the strength of their stage fame. But now he’s getting screen fame from Wolf Hall and his imminent appearance in Steven Spielberg’s latest film Bridge of Spies that’s being shown in the New York Film Festival later this month before it is released in the US next month.

In a news interview in the Daily Telegraph recently, Spielberg acclaimed him thus: “Mark Rylance is one of the most extraordinary actors working anywhere. I saw him on the stage in Twelfth Night and that pretty much cinched it for me and I asked him to play him the part of the spy.” I can’t wait to see it or Farinelli, which I missed at the Globe.

I’ve had a(nother) busy week, though I managed to get one night off only thanks to a diary error: I had wrongly put the opening of Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen into my diary for Thursday, and was only alerted to it when the eagle-eyed PR for the Royal Court spotted that I’d posted a pick of the week entry in The Stage wrongly stating its opening night! By the time she told me, it was too late to re-plan anything else for Thursday night (and I had to quickly cancel the show I was going to see on the Friday instead); but I was glad of the break, as I was still going back to town that evening for a late night cabaret at the Hippodrome, seeing my friend Scott Alan conclude his 9 night residency there.

I saw five of those nine nights — including of course my big birthday bash! — and while no two shows of Scott’s are ever the same as it is, he really mixed it up this time with different featured guess every night, and unannounced extra guests, too. This week I was blown away by Rachelle Ann Go on Monday and Lucie Jones on Thursday in the featured spots; but it was great also seeing them sharing the stage with appearances by Britain’s Got Talent winners Collabro (who won the 2014 series), the always divine olllie-tompsett-&-scottOllie Tompsett (pictured left with Scott, returning as a surprise guest after being a featured guest last week), and the lovely Georgina Hagen (who threw off her shoes to duet with Lucie Jones, and then when she tried to retrieve them from underneath the piano before a solo turn gave herself an instant black eye as she bumped into it). Scott’s concerts routinely run a fine line between wrenching heartache and pure joy; that night, for Georgina, it became dangerous, too!

Callabro’s Michael Auger has also been turning producer this week, presenting a short run of the Pasek and Paul revue Edges at Fulham’s London Theatre Workshop (where it opened on Wednesday and runs to October 1), with one more performance at Covent Garden’s St Paul’s Actors Church on October 3. As a show of support, Scott and I ventured out to Fulham on Saturday afternoon to see it, and what a lovely surprise it turned out to be.

I’m a big fan of Pasek and Paul’s work— they also wrote Dogfight, which I saw (multiple times) at Southwark Playhouse last year and is returning for a one-night reunion concert of the original cast at the St James on October 11, and last month I saw their brilliant latest show Dear Evan Hansen at Washington DC’s ArenaStage, before it gets its New York premiere next year at Second Stage. Edges is not a book musical, but their version of Maltby and Shire’s Starting Here Starting Now or Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World: a show that pulls together songs written for different projects into one place.  A terrific cast of young actors comprising Lauren Allan, Christ Barton, Claudia Kariuki and Robert Woodward perform it with punch and point.
If my birthday celebrations that I wrote about here last week were going to be difficult to match, viagra 100mg I began this week by attending my first graduation ceremony at ArtsEd to see ArtsEdTriothe first class I taught three years ago graduating —three of whom are pictured left — and am ending it tonight by watching the cream of the West End stripping as part of this year’s West End Bares (hosted by Graham Norton, who will hopefully keep his clothes on!), though of course the best strip show in town is still Gypsy at the Savoy, in which Lara Pulver sheds clothes but Imelda Staunton strips layer upon layer of emotions.

So both the pleasure and satisfaction continued unabated. In both cases, the sense of community that the theatre creates in a special joy. On Broadway, on course, that’s a given — hardly a week goes by without a benefit for one cause or another, which is how Broadway Bares originated (and has now been adopted and copied in the West End). But that community starts at school, and nowhere have I felt it more keenly than at ArtsEd.

I’ve also already watched several of my students graduate to their first jobs, as I wrote about here last week, and the very next day after weeping my way through their graduation ceremony (it was like Merrily We Roll Along come to life!) I saw four more of them onstage at Leicester’s Curve appearing in the new national tour of Hairspray (which I reviewed here). In fact, Omari Douglas, Bobbie Little and Katharine Pearson were each moving onto their second shows after making their professional debuts in High Society at the Old Vic (the first two) and Carrie at Southwark Playhouse (the third). And special kudos to Glen Facey, making his professional debut, with the most athletic performance on that stage as he does back flips from a standing position!

ArtsEdGraduation-with-Robert LindsayI did a (metaphorical) back flip of my own this week. The guest speaker at their graduation was veteran actor Robert Lindsay (pictured on the front row with the ArtsEd students, sitting beside deputy principal Chris Hocking). Aafter a twitter spat (or two) between us (as I chronicled here at the time), in which he dubbed me “a complete twat because like most critics you have no conception how to perform or even comprehend to sustain a show”, we were able to make up after the graduation, and then speak to each other fondly when we saw each other again at the opening night of Hangmen at the Royal Court.

That’s another great lesson for the students, whose latest intake I start teaching again tomorrow: feel free to cross swords, if you feel strongly enough with those that criticise you, but be sure to uncross them again at the earliest opportunity. The business is too small to sustain grudges.

harvey-fiersteinIt’s a lesson I had to take onboard myself, I realised, as I went to see (and loved) Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina premiere at Southwark Playhouse this week (my review is here). Last month I had possibly one of the most uncomfortable phone interviews I’ve ever done with Mr Fierstein (unsmilingly pictured left) in which he took serial offence at the connections I was trying to make between his work, which is a standard journalistic practice.

When I pressed him on why he seemed to be particularly attracted to drag — as witness shows from Torch Song Trilogy and La Cage Aux Folles to Hairspray (which he starred in but didn’t write), Kinky Boots and Mrs Doubtfire, (he’s writing a musical version of the latter now), he replied,

You’re really making me laugh — .you’re trying to take all my work and put it in one envelope, Is that something you do in your life, do you sit at home and alphabetise everything? You seem to be hell bent on getting my work neatly filed, but I do not think that way or feel that way.  It’s like asking David Mamet if you were interviewing him, “you had some heterosexuals in hour last play, is there a reason you have heterosexuals in this play?” To me, that’s absolutely ridiculous. Mrs Doubtfire os about a man hiding as a woman so that he can see his children. It has nothing in common with La Cage, Torch Song or Casa Valentina at all!

The defensiveness does feel like I hit a nerve. Be that as it may, he got right on mine, too. I don’t like him now; but that doesn’t mean I don’t like his work, and I was able to embrace his play just as fondly as if my troubling encounter with him hadn’t taken place.

At other times, of course, you can establish such a great rapport with an interview subject that it can predispose you to like their work. Over the years, I’ve come to know Mark-RylanceMark Rylance onstage and off (pictured left) very well — and I love him on both sides of the footlights. Just the other day I spent another wonderful hour with him talking to him immediately before he did a matinee of Farinelli and the King that has just brought him back to the West End. We once, by sheer coincidence, shared the same gym trainer — when he buffed up for his West End run in Jerusalem, he saw Paul, a trainer from Soho Gym in Borough, whom my husband and I worked with, too (Paul also trained Patina Miller when she over here in Sister Act).

And as we have spoken very frankly to each other over the years, we have discovered that we share other things in common, too. Some of this is too private to make its way to the print interview, but it’s also what makes him a great actor as well as a great human being: he is always utterly honest For years he has been a major stage star — that rare person who can sell tickets on the strength of their stage fame. But now he’s getting screen fame from Wolf Hall and his imminent appearance in Steven Spielberg’s latest film Bridge of Spies that’s being shown in the New York Film Festival later this month before it is released in the US next month.

In a news interview in the Daily Telegraph recently, Spielberg acclaimed him thus: “Mark Rylance is one of the most extraordinary actors working anywhere. I saw him on the stage in Twelfth Night and that pretty much cinched it for me and I asked him to play him the part of the spy.” I can’t wait to see it or Farinelli, which I missed at the Globe.

I’ve had a(nother) busy week, though I managed to get one night off only thanks to a diary error: I had wrongly put the opening of Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen into my diary for Thursday, and was only alerted to it when the eagle-eyed PR for the Royal Court spotted that I’d posted a pick of the week entry in The Stage wrongly stating its opening night! By the time she told me, it was too late to re-plan anything else for Thursday night (and I had to quickly cancel the show I was going to see on the Friday instead); but I was glad of the break, as I was still going back to town that evening for a late night cabaret at the Hippodrome, seeing my friend Scott Alan conclude his 9 night residency there.

I saw five of those nine nights — including of course my big birthday bash! — and while no two shows of Scott’s are ever the same as it is, he really mixed it up this time with different featured guess every night, and unannounced extra guests, too. This week I was blown away by Rachelle Ann Go on Monday and Lucie Jones on Thursday in the featured spots; but it was great also seeing them sharing the stage with appearances by Britain’s Got Talent winners Collabro (who won the 2014 series), the always divine olllie-tompsett-&-scottOllie Tompsett (pictured left with Scott, returning as a surprise guest after being a featured guest last week), and the lovely Georgina Hagen (who threw off her shoes to duet with Lucie Jones, and then when she tried to retrieve them from underneath the piano before a solo turn gave herself an instant black eye as she bumped into it). Scott’s concerts routinely run a fine line between wrenching heartache and pure joy; that night, for Georgina, it became dangerous, too!

Callabro’s Michael Auger has also been turning producer this week, presenting a short run of the Pasek and Paul revue Edges at Fulham’s London Theatre Workshop (where it opened on Wednesday and runs to October 1), with one more performance at Covent Garden’s St Paul’s Actors Church on October 3. As a show of support, Scott and I ventured out to Fulham on Saturday afternoon to see it, and what a lovely surprise it turned out to be.

I’m a big fan of Pasek and Paul’s work— they also wrote Dogfight, which I saw (multiple times) at Southwark Playhouse last year and is returning for a one-night reunion concert of the original cast at the St James on October 11, and last month I saw their brilliant latest show Dear Evan Hansen at Washington DC’s ArenaStage, before it gets its New York premiere next year at Second Stage. Edges is not a book musical, but their version of Maltby and Shire’s Starting Here Starting Now or Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World: a show that pulls together songs written for different projects into one place.  A terrific cast of young actors comprising Lauren Allan, Christ Barton, Claudia Kariuki and Robert Woodward perform it with punch and point.
If my birthday celebrations that I wrote about here last week were going to be difficult to match, website I began this week by attending my first graduation ceremony at ArtsEd to see ArtsEdTriothe first class I taught three years ago graduating —three of whom are pictured left — and am ending it tonight by watching the cream of the West End stripping as part of this year’s West End Bares (hosted by Graham Norton, about it who will hopefully keep his clothes on!), though of course the best strip show in town is still Gypsy at the Savoy, in which Lara Pulver sheds clothes but Imelda Staunton strips layer upon layer of emotions.

So both the pleasure and satisfaction continued unabated. In both cases, the sense of community that the theatre creates in a special joy. On Broadway, of course, that’s a given — hardly a week goes by without a benefit for one cause or another, which is how Broadway Bares originated (and has now been adopted and copied in the West End). But that community starts at school, and nowhere have I felt it more keenly than at ArtsEd.

I’ve also already watched several of my students graduate to their first jobs, as I wrote about here last week, and the very next day after weeping my way through their graduation ceremony (it was like Merrily We Roll Along come to life!) I saw four more of them onstage at Leicester’s Curve appearing in the new national tour of Hairspray (which I reviewed here). In fact, Omari Douglas, Bobbie Little and Katharine Pearson were each moving onto their second shows after making their professional debuts in High Society at the Old Vic (the first two) and Carrie at Southwark Playhouse (the third). And special kudos to Glen Facey, making his professional debut, with the most athletic performance on that stage as he does back flips from a standing position!

ArtsEdGraduation-with-Robert LindsayI did a (metaphorical) back flip of my own this week. The guest speaker at their graduation was veteran actor Robert Lindsay (pictured on the front row with the ArtsEd students, sitting beside deputy principal Chris Hocking). Aafter a twitter spat (or two) between us (as I chronicled here at the time), in which he dubbed me “a complete twat because like most critics you have no conception how to perform or even comprehend to sustain a show”, we were able to make up after the graduation, and then speak to each other fondly when we saw each other again at the opening night of Hangmen at the Royal Court.

That’s another great lesson for the students, whose latest intake I start teaching again tomorrow: feel free to cross swords, if you feel strongly enough with those that criticise you, but be sure to uncross them again at the earliest opportunity. The business is too small to sustain grudges.

harvey-fiersteinIt’s a lesson I had to take onboard myself, I realised, as I went to see (and loved) Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina premiere at Southwark Playhouse this week (my review is here). Last month I had possibly one of the most uncomfortable phone interviews I’ve ever done with Mr Fierstein (unsmilingly pictured left) in which he took serial offence at the connections I was trying to make between his work, which is a standard journalistic practice.

When I pressed him on why he seemed to be particularly attracted to drag — as witness shows from Torch Song Trilogy and La Cage Aux Folles to Hairspray (which he starred in but didn’t write), Kinky Boots and Mrs Doubtfire, (he’s writing a musical version of the latter now), he replied,

You’re really making me laugh — .you’re trying to take all my work and put it in one envelope, Is that something you do in your life, do you sit at home and alphabetise everything? You seem to be hell bent on getting my work neatly filed, but I do not think that way or feel that way.  It’s like asking David Mamet if you were interviewing him, “you had some heterosexuals in hour last play, is there a reason you have heterosexuals in this play?” To me, that’s absolutely ridiculous. Mrs Doubtfire os about a man hiding as a woman so that he can see his children. It has nothing in common with La Cage, Torch Song or Casa Valentina at all!

The defensiveness does feel like I hit a nerve. Be that as it may, he got right on mine, too. I don’t like him now; but that doesn’t mean I don’t like his work, and I was able to embrace his play just as fondly as if my troubling encounter with him hadn’t taken place.

At other times, of course, you can establish such a great rapport with an interview subject that it can predispose you to like their work. Over the years, I’ve come to know Mark-RylanceMark Rylance onstage and off (pictured left) very well — and I love him on both sides of the footlights. Just the other day I spent another wonderful hour with him talking to him immediately before he did a matinee of Farinelli and the King that has just brought him back to the West End. We once, by sheer coincidence, shared the same gym trainer — when he buffed up for his West End run in Jerusalem, he saw Paul, a trainer from Soho Gym in Borough, whom my husband and I worked with, too (Paul also trained Patina Miller when she over here in Sister Act).

And as we have spoken very frankly to each other over the years, we have discovered that we share other things in common, too. Some of this is too private to make its way to the print interview, but it’s also what makes him a great actor as well as a great human being: he is always utterly honest. For years he has been a major stage star — that rare person who can sell tickets on the strength of their stage fame. But now he’s getting real screen fame from Wolf Hall and his imminent appearance in Steven Spielberg’s latest film Bridge of Spies that’s being shown in the New York Film Festival later this month before it is released in the US next month.

In a news interview in the Daily Telegraph recently, Spielberg acclaimed him thus: “Mark Rylance is one of the most extraordinary actors working anywhere. I saw him on the stage in Twelfth Night and that pretty much cinched it for me and I asked him to play him the part of the spy.” I can’t wait to see it or Farinelli, which I missed at the Globe.

I’ve had a(nother) busy week, though I managed to get one night off only thanks to a diary error: I had wrongly put the opening of Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen into my diary for Thursday, and was only alerted to it when the eagle-eyed PR for the Royal Court spotted that I’d posted a pick of the week entry in The Stage wrongly stating its opening night! By the time she told me, it was too late to re-plan anything else for Thursday night (and I had to quickly cancel the show I was going to see on the Friday instead); but I was glad of the break, as I was still going back to town that evening for a late night cabaret at the Hippodrome, seeing my friend Scott Alan conclude his 9 night residency there.

I saw five of those nine nights — including of course my big birthday bash! — and while no two shows of Scott’s are ever the same as it is, he really mixed it up this time with different featured guess every night, and unannounced extra guests, too. This week I was blown away by Rachelle Ann Go on Monday and Lucie Jones on Thursday in the featured spots; but it was great also seeing them sharing the stage with appearances by Britain’s Got Talent winners Collabro (who won the 2014 series), the always divine olllie-tompsett-&-scottOllie Tompsett (pictured left with Scott, returning as a surprise guest after being a featured guest last week), and the lovely Georgina Hagen (who threw off her shoes to duet with Lucie Jones, and then when she tried to retrieve them from underneath the piano before a solo turn gave herself an instant black eye as she bumped into it). Scott’s concerts routinely run a fine line between wrenching heartache and pure joy; that night, for Georgina, it became dangerous, too!

Callabro’s Michael Auger has also been turning producer this week, presenting a short run of the Pasek and Paul revue Edges at Fulham’s London Theatre Workshop (where it opened on Wednesday and runs to October 1), with one more performance at Covent Garden’s St Paul’s Actors Church on October 3. As a show of support, Scott and I ventured out to Fulham on Saturday afternoon to see it, and what a lovely surprise it turned out to be.

I’m a big fan of Pasek and Paul’s work— they also wrote Dogfight, which I saw (multiple times) at Southwark Playhouse last year and is returning for a one-night reunion concert of the original cast at the St James on October 11, and last month I saw their brilliant latest show Dear Evan Hansen at Washington DC’s ArenaStage, before it gets its New York premiere next year at Second Stage. Edges is not a book musical, but their version of Maltby and Shire’s Starting Here Starting Now or Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World: a show that pulls together songs written for different projects into one place.  A terrific cast of young actors comprising Lauren Allan, Christ Barton, Claudia Kariuki and Robert Woodward perform it with punch and point.
I’ve had a bit of an epic week, ambulance even by my standards, recipe including three rail journeys, rx though one of them wasn’t for real but felt more real than almost anything I’ve ever done. The latter, of course, was You Me Bum Bum Train, a living installation of different experiences that are created for you and you alone to be at the centre of for a few minutes each before being moved on the next one in a completely riveting, frequently unnerving, and ultimately exhilarating ‘ride’ that involves a supporting cast of around 500 extras.

 

you-me-bum-bum-train-logoJournalists have to sign a (pretty heavy-handed) non-disclosure agreement before you can go on it, by which you swear not to reveal the contents of what happens across the course of the experience so that you don’t spoil the surprise for future participants. Mark Lawson, who took the ride straight after me the other night, suggested in his ‘Theatre Studies’ feature for The Guardian that “under a strict reading of the document, I can’t even tell you that I went to the show (or, perhaps for absolute safety, ‘a show’), but a kindly official advised me that the restraining order relates only to ‘the content of scenes.’ Addressed as ‘passengers’, we are weighed (don’t ask, not least because I am legally barred from telling you) and advised that if the experience ever becomes too much, we should place our hands in a T-shape and say “time out” three times, although it is unclear if this is part of a sponsorship deal with the free London listings magazine.

It makes it very hard indeed to write about, of course, beyond saying that you actually did it. (As well as Mark Lawson, Stephen Fry and his young husband were fellow travellers on my night) My attempt to describe the experience, but not the contents, for The Stage is here). As I put it,

Whereas other interactive shows like Punchdrunk work by creating snatches of scenarios that you might catch only fleetingly, the particular joy of Bum Bum Train is that it creates a series of fully self-contained worlds that are instantly recognisable and whose world you surrender to immediately and willingly (if sometimes not so winningly – there are some scenarios here that I hope never to have play out, and others that will inevitably do so for each and every one of us).

I also took two more standard train rides this week to Leeds and Scarborough respectively — but slightly crazily, they were not consecutive trips but separated by a day in London in between, so I was up and down to Yorkshire twice from King’s Cross! On Thursday I went to Leeds to review Opera North’s Kiss Me, Kate — the company’s latest excursion into the territory of musical theatre that opera companies around the world are making in an attempt to expand their audiences.  But it was thrilling to hear this show with its original orchestration newly reconstructed by conductor David Charles Abell and Seann Alderking. (My review for The Stage is here).

It came in the same week that English National Opera announced their own plans to follow up this year’s Sweeney Todd with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard next year, which seems a blatant act of both sell-out commercialism and compromise. Though it has an operatic scaled leading role, it is being performed by the rather thin-voiced Glenn Close, reprising her Broadway appearance in the show that she first performed twenty-one years ago. She may now be even more age-appropriate to play a washed up film actress whom the movies have left behind, but I hope her voice hasn’t been left behind, too.

Then I returned to Yorkshire yesterday to go to Scarborough, spiritual (as well as actual) home of Britain’s greatest living playwright Alan Ayckbourn. Though he long ago retired from the post of artistic director — and his successor Chris Monks is moving on soon, too, after 7 years in the post — he remains indelibly associated with the Stephen Joseph Theatre, where his playwrighting career began back in 1959 and has continued unbroken ever since.

This summer, as part of the theatre’s own 60th birthday celebrations, he has both revived his 1974 play Confusions there and premiered his latest play — his 79th — Hero’s Welcome there, and I saw both of them yesterday back-to-back. confusionsI’ve seen Confusions only once before in a London fringe production at the Union Theatre back in 2009, and it’s an utter joy: a second act scene set in at a village fete had me almost crying with laughter. Though Ayckbourn is a personal hero of mine, I’m afraid I was only able to give a muted welcome to Hero’s Welcome; though he’s tackling as ambitious themes, as ever,  the play — and I — seemed to fade in and out of interest, and had a climax that felt tacked on.

The week also took me to Hampstead for the opening night of Ian Kelly’s hilarious theatrical comedy Mr Foote’s Other Leg (my review for LondonTheatre.com is here); I’m sorry I was unable to catch Nell Gwynn, a second comedy about and set in the world of the theatre, open at Shakespeare’s Globe, but will try to do so before the end of its run, and I also caught up, belatedly, with the National’s spectacular new production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good, another play about the redemptive power of theatre itself.

I also interviewed Matthew Bourne at his Islington home for a future issue of The Stage, had lunch with the producer Michael Harrison, and co-hosted a Critics’ Circle lunch in honour of Nick Hytner, as he was presented with its Annual Award for Services to the Arts, as I wrote about here).

It wasn’t all work and no play this week, though — I also saw Cynthia Erivo’s amazing late night farewell to London concert before she flew off to New York to begin rehearsals for the transfer of The Color Purple. She was joined by an astonishing parade of guests, including Scott Alan (with whom she has just recorded a brand-new album of his work, along with Oliver Tompsett), Richard Fleeshman, Alison Jiear and of course Dean John-Wilson.

And I also happily revisited Bend it Like Beckham – my fifth time and counting! – taking as my guests Scott Alan, Michael Feinstein and Michael’s husband Terrence. I can’t get enough of this great show. And it was wonderful to run into Nigel Lilley, the show’s fantastic musical director, before the show; when I told him I was bringing Michael Feinstein and he told me what a fan of his he was, I suggested that we all met afterwards, at which he was able to tell Michael how much he adored both his MGM album and Hugh Martin album. Tonight I’m seeing Michael himself perform at the Adelphi.