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Decade Round Up

So on looking at my spreadsheet (yes of course there’s a spreadsheet) of the decade, I saw 428 shows that I recorded. Foolish me did not record the shows that I saw while ushering at two theatres over three years. We’ll call that 20 more shows I saw in that time (and to allow for others I know I’ve missed) and so we’re looking at 450 shows give or take this decade.

I started this blog (the previous incarnation of it) in 2011. My PhD supervisors tried to stop me from having a blog, but writing here has led to lots more opportunities over the past decade, so it’s worth marking that.

I’ve got a top 10 musicals and top 10 plays, but in going through I realised there were a few highlights that won’t make the top cut…but are worthy of note. And so…year by year here we go.

2010

Holding the Man-Tommy Murphy- Trafalgar Studios

This book is one of my favourites ever, and as I was just beginning my PhD on AIDS theatre, this was a significant one this decade.

Hair- Gerome Ragni and James Rado- Gielguld Theatre

I danced with Hippies on stage (those damn Hippies get everywhere) and finally seeing this great American musical in London again was a joy.

2011

La Cage Aux Folles- Jerry Herman/Harvey Fierstein

This is a classic of a musical, and a joy of one. And sometimes John Barrowman in drag comes along when you need it to lift an otherwise drab year.

War Horse-Nick Stafford/Michael Morpurgo New London

You never forget your first Joey right? I spent the next 3 years arguing with my PhD supervisor over it.

2012

Lwyth – Dafydd James- Sherman Theatre

This glorious bilingual piece was the first Welsh language theatre I saw. And it brought me joy. I’m thrilled its sequel will be starting the new decade too.

Bring It On- Jeff Whitty, Amanda Green, Lin Manuel Miranda-  St James’ Theatre NY

Cheerleaders, kick ass routines, lesbian undertones and some bloke called Lin Manuel Miranda. He’ll go far one day that lad I’m sure.

2013

This House- James Graham- NT Olivier

Look when Graham gets it right he really gets it right ok? Also when the NT do immersive properly, or audience interaction properly they nail it too. T

Merrily We Roll Along- Stephen Sondheim- Comedy Theatre

Jenna Russell and Sondheim are like music to my ears. And this was bittersweet and beautiful.

2014

The Crucible- Arthur Miller- The Old Vic

Richard Armitage was a powerhouse in this. Otherwise a just sold production of an incredible play. That apparently I still have memorised from school.

My Night With Reg- Kevin Elyot- Donmar Warehouse

A play I’d longed to see as the only ‘British AIDS play’ (it’s niche). Honourable mention to Mr Julian Ovenden. Ahem.

2015

Meet Fred- Hijinx Theatre

Look I love me a filthy puppet ok? And this show was innovative, challenging and all round brilliant.

Hello/Goodbye- Peter Souter- Hampstead Theatre

A sweet little play that probably didn’t light everyone’s world on fire, but I adore a well told relationship drama and this was brilliantly executed. And Shaun Evans will never cease to be a delight to watch.

2016

The Dazzle-Richard Greenberg Found 111

Andrew Scott giving a typical tour de force performance in the attic of an abandoned shop.

A Good Clean Heart-Alun Saunders- WMC Weston Studio

Alun Saunders debut play is a sweet one of love, lost and family. It’s also one that leaves its mark long after you’ve left it.

2017

The Busy World is Hushed-Keith Bunin-  Finborough Theatre

Sometimes you see the play you need to see at the time you need to see it. And something in this study of grief and love hit me at the right time.

Yank! -David Zellnick/Joseph Zellnick- Charing Cross Theatre

This musical about gay American soldiers in World War 2 is more joyous than the subject matter might indicate. Also, obviously heart wrenching.

2018

10 Plagues- Mark Ravenhill- Sherman Theatre

Just some intricate, brilliant storytelling around how we think of illness. Basically my total bag.

Unexploded Ordnances Split Britches- WMC

I’ve fangirled Split Britches from afar for years, so to see them was incredible. To have them call my review ‘one of our favourites’ was brilliant.

2019

Percy Jackson- Joe Tracz and Rob Rokicki- Longacre Theatre NY.

Sometimes you need a demi-God covering you in toilet paper. And also a musical for young people reminding you theatre is fun.

Seared- Theresa Rebeck- MCC Theatre

There’s a reason she’s the most produced female playwright on Broadway…a well-made play is a well-made play. And this was simply a well-made piece of dramatic storytelling.

So that’s a decade year by year…of course what would a round up be without the ‘top 10s’ …

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4 * Review for Don’t Send Flowers

Buzz Magazine gave ‘Don’t Send Flowers’ four stars read it here

 

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News: Don’t Send Flowers

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News!

I’m excited to share that my play ‘Don’t Send Flowers’ is being produced by Clock Tower Theatre Company, and will be performed at The Gate in Cardiff in September.

 

Grace is in therapy because her Father is dying and she’s not handling it very well. John is in therapy because he’s dying, and also not handling it too well. Louis is in therapy because his work told him he has to be. None of them want to talk to a stranger about the fact this doesn’t make them happy. So, they strike up a friendship with each other. Largely dysfunctional from the outside, it turns out to be exactly what they all need.

‘Don’t send Flowers’ is a darkly funny look at life and death and living with both. And how cake if not a cure for cancer, is a pretty effective placebo .

 

For tickets see The Gate Website here

And for further updates follow @clocktower_tc for updates

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Language and Identity in the Welsh-Turkish Play Y Brain/Kargalar

 

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In a longer more reflective post on this production for Howlround  I examine the questions of language and culture and the difficulties of interpretation. 

“I felt that these lands were always wrapped around me like a mother, in the most difficult times of my life. And that they were healing me.” These words, spoken by Mel—one half of the Turkish refugee, Meltem, who settled in Wales—form the essence of Y Brain/Kargalar.

Full article is here.

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Review: Y Brain/Kargalar

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Writer Meltem Arikam was forced to flee Turkey after accusations against her and start a new life in Wales. While starting her new life, her husband unexpectedly died and she was left once again re-examining her place in the world, her sense of identity and where and how to belong.

In Y Brain/Kargalar, she examines the two parts of herself ‘Mel’ and ‘Tem’ her Welsh and Turkish alter-egos. The two performers deliver the script in their respective languages, sometimes to each other, sometimes at each other, sometimes into the ether, and there’s a distinct sense of the exploration of language, the exploration of identity and the struggle

Full article at Nation Cymru 

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New Review: 12 Cabins 12 Vacancies

In life we are used to the intersection of personal and public events. But there’s an interesting kind of personal/public dynamic with the cultural events that come to mean something beyond themselves, because of the moment we encountered them. Nobody would look at Psycho for a tender exploration of love and loss, but for Chris Durnall the intersection of seeing this movie on TV as a youngster and his father’s death have made it exactly that.

Full review at Wales Arts Review 

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New Article: Years And Years

Years and Years

 

This article contains spoilers.

Episode one of Russell T Davies’ Years and Years ends with Russell Tovey fucking a man as the world ends. That seems a flippant summary, but for gay men sex has always been, and still is, a political act. Seemingly apt from the writer who brought the world Queer as Folk and caused much clutching of pearls when gay characters showed up in his Doctor Who. However, the story of gay characters Daniel and Viktor in Years and Years is as much a political act as any of the broader politics of the story. And a gay man fucking an illegal immigrant as the world edges towards nuclear disaster is the opening gambit of one of the most important gay stories on television in recent years. Being gay is after all still a political act. Simply existing in the world becomes a political act. And that’s what insidiously the Viktor/Daniel storyline in Years and Years does.

 

For Wales Arts Review 

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The Generation of Rent Remixed, and now Rent Live

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My piece for Miro magazine on Rent Live can be found here

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“Bisexuals, Trisexuals, Homo Sapiens”

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My recent piece on ‘Rent Live’ for Slate magazine can be found here.

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The World Only Spins Forward-on to 2019

‘The World Only Spins Forward’

Someone said that to me last night, and that’s how I’m choosing to look at 2019.

I couldn’t bring myself to write a 2018 reflective post this year. It would have been a pointless exercise in melancholy and anger. And really what’s the point, when indeed, the world only spins forward.

Of 2018, I’ll just say what I said on twitter;

 

 

 

I plan to channel my inner Prior Walter, and go on fighting, rather than dwell on the past.

And out of all that, I have if nothing else a lot more inner strength. The last year didn’t break me. It doesn’t really matter who does or doesn’t like me, who is speaking to me, and who isn’t. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, but in the long term it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that two crappy temp jobs didn’t work out. It doesn’t matter I’m not yet in a ‘proper job’ because I got this far.

Less talked about were the times my body tried to finish me off a bit. I talked finally here about my chronic illness, and a few times this year I thought I was heading towards a lot of the more serious consequence. But I escaped for now, and so onwards.

I don’t know if any of the creative projects I worked on in 2018 will see the light of day in 2019. And as much as at times it felt like a waste of time, endless frustration and ‘is it even worth it’ I still have learned something from each of them. So if something comes of any of them in 2019, 2020 or some indeterminate point in the future, it’s ok. I have learned something from the process, from the work itself, and none of it is a waste, none of it is lost.

Creatively I learned a lot about how to work, and the only way I will work going forward. That is openly, collaboratively and as an equal with others. I won’t take being made second fiddle, I won’t take my work or my time being under valued. I’ve been incredibly lucky with some true collaborative partnerships, which made me realise any other way just isn’t worth it.

Going forward I’ll also value my writing, my time to write. And I’ll protect it fiercely. My biggest mistake of 2018 was letting everyone else chip away at my writing time. Because society, even creative society doesn’t value writing in the way it should. Doesn’t value the time and space it takes to write. I can’t pull plays, or indeed a book out of my arse (well I can, and will but the pulling out takes time). I also let others tell me that chasing mythical jobs I didn’t want was more important than the writing that might get me where I want to go. Quitting to pursue a real job might come, it might come this year, but it’ll come on my terms when I’ve gone as far as I can go. And until then I’m saying ‘no, I’m writing’ as much as I want to. Or ‘No I’m working on the book/play/musical’ rather than saying yes to everything because I should.

And what of the book? well mainly it’s a set of muffled screams and my own fuck ups. But that’s ok. It’ll work out. As will the other projects on the go. I’ve come this far, waited this long. It’ll work out.

2018 was of course a bookmark in my ‘Angels in America’ chapter. Goodbyes, yes but some moving forward to the next. I was tidying up for New Year’s Day and found these two pictures, from Bethesda. The first from the first time I went there, before I knew this play. Before that place meant anything. And last summer, when it meant everything.

 

I get also that there are those who judge me for such focus on one play. And that’s ok, I know there’s more to me- and I know there will be more I have to offer. But I have to finish this first. And hey, if something never meant that much to you, maybe someday it will.

I’m disappearing into the book for a bit. Academic hat on (it’s floppy, it’s the only reason to do a PhD). But no matter how much the theatre community tries to tell me that means otherwise, I’m no less a playwright for that either. I’m no less a part of your world, not less a part of the academic world when I pick up my playwright hat (it has sequins). And if I put either down to earn a living, I’m no less either.

2018 taught me many things, but the main one was indeed ‘the world only spins forward’ so let’s keep spinning forward.