Three things I have come to realise over time. (a) It is possible to go to the theatre without having to live on bread and cheese for a week to be able to afford tickets (b) Often the best productions are at the smaller venues (c) And perhaps most importantly, there is more to theatre than musicals (not that I have a particular problem with musicals).
My theatre going life started when I was very small and was taken along to the pantomime in our local town every year. It was performed in a school hall. All of the performers were local people, known well to many of the audience and the slapstick humour and wonky scenery always made me laugh. I was never one of those children brave enough to be hauled onto stage to sing, even with the lure of sweets, but the outing was always a highlight of our Christmas. I still remember all the words to ‘There’s a worm at the bottom of the garden’ courtesy of those early theatre trips, and you never know when that might come in useful. After a while we graduated to panto’s at The Theatre Royal in Norwich a much grander affair where the Dingbats seemed to take up residence yearly and you had ice cream in the interval.
Since those heady days I have been to many theatrical productions big and small and I have continued to love going to the theatre. There is something special about live performance. The bravery of actors never ceases to amaze me. It is something I could never, ever, ever do. Becoming someone else, alone and vulnerable in front of a live audience who can on occasion see the very whites of your eyes would quite frankly terrify me. Oh no, that would never be for me. However an opportunity to be in the audience is one I would rarely pass up on
Like buses, my theatre trips seem to come along all at once and over the last few weeks I‘ve seen a number of great productions, two of which have taken place over the last two weekends.
Kiss Me currently on at Hampstead Theatre is a “beautiful and unorthodox love story about two people struggling to escape the guilt and ghosts of the past, set against the shifting world of London post-World War I”. It tells the story of what happens when a forbidden kiss takes place between a war widow and a man who is hired for his potential baby making potential. This two person play is powerful and moving whilst being peppered with humour. The two actors perfectly capture the intensity of the unexpected situation their characters find themselves in. Downstairs at Hampstead Theatre where the play is performed is a small and intimate space where the audience can see every detail of the stage and the actors really have no where to hide. For me this is the joy of small theatres. As a member of the audience I feel myself becoming embroiled in what is going on on the stage in a way that isn’t possible at a much larger venue. For a mere £12 a ticket this was incredible value for money.
In complete contrast, a week later and I was at The Criterion in London’s Piccadilly Circus watching the brilliantly named ‘The Comedy About A Bank Robbery’. On more than a couple of occasions I mentioned to someone I was going to see ‘The Comedy About A Bank Robbery’. They immediately asked me what it was called and I replied ‘The Comedy About A Bank Robbery’. You get the drift. It’s the perfect title for a play full of farce, slapstick, misunderstanding s and mistaken identity. This play is loud, raucous and incredibly funny. The set changes are clever, the direction is slick and the energy on stage is frenetic. If you have seen and enjoyed One man two governors, I feel fairly confident in saying you will love this.
Kiss Me continues at Hampstead Theatre until 12th December and The Comedy About a Bank Robbery remains at The Criterion.