It may be just me but I am beginning to think that the presentation of television news is hitting such an all time low that we should just switch off and go to the theatre instead - I guarantee we’ll find a far more intelligent take on the problems facing our society.
The only glint of humour in the gloom was the now hotly contested international sport of seeing which country could extinguish the Olympic flame more times than any other with its spectacular and complete disappearance in San Francisco and the farcical phalanxes of security in subsequent cities - impressive!
Now here are some news flashes of my own...
On The Fringe Radio Show
Check out a new radio programme pioneered by Claire Cooke to champion Off West End theatres with reviews, interviews and amusing chat. It won Critics Choice in The Independent radio listings last year and is a delight to hear. Particularly delightful, if I may say so, is the edition on 16 March when yours truly was interviewed gabbling away about OffWestEnd.com! You can hear it on Sundays at 4pm on Resonance 104.4 FM or click onto www.onthefringeradio.org and select your show.
Adopt A Playwright Award
Some of you will already know that OffWestEnd.com launched a new scheme on Tuesday 25 March at Wilton’s Music Hall that is quite simply about gathering a group of Angels around a struggling playwright and buying them the time to write. We want to make sure that talented new writers from backgrounds that offer them no encouragement or financial support do not give up but are given a fair chance to prove themselves and take their place amongst our culture’s storytellers.
The fun of it is that as an Angel you can receive monthly email updates from the playwright, attend events over the year to meet the writer and the actors showcasing excerpts of the play in progress, come to a performed reading of the final draft and attend the first night, if the play is staged. There are various levels of Archangels, Angels and Cherubims but you can easily join the angelic family by giving anything from £10 to £1,000. Our aim is to raise £10,000 and we are already half way there!
Our first 'adoptee' is the immensely talented Paul Morris (pictured with Kerry Michael from Theatre Royal Stratford East). So if you too are passionate about encouraging new voices from every corner of our multifaceted society by buying them the time and the space to write, do email me on email@example.com and I will send you a pack with more information. Thank you!
So much potential
Meanwhile, I have to confess that I have been having some rather odd experiences at our Off West End theatres. There have been some shows in the last month that have been disappointing - not disappointing in a bad way as, say, when your mind congeals with tedium as you find yourself sitting through some cynical parade of predictable stupidity in the West End – but disappointing because you wish such a brilliant idea had shone brighter.
I will explain. Contains Violence at the Lyric Hammersmith involved the audience sitting on the Lyric terrace equipped with binoculars and ear-pieces watching the action unfold through the windows of office blocks all around them – genius! The disappointment was that a limp script and a forgettable narrative did not live up to the potential of the occasion with many of my fellow audience members losing interest in the final murder, preferring instead to snoop through unrelated windows at everyday domestic life in Hammersmith. The Internationalist at The Gate again had an ingenious premise of following a bewildered American businessman completely out of his depths in an unspecified country with a wholly invented language that the actors declaim with amazing conviction - the problem is that by the second half the wholly invented language predominates so much that I felt the audience were excluded and lost too. And, dare I say it, The Masque of The Red Death at BAC was without doubt completely mind-blowing in the way that they transformed every corner, every attic, every cellar of the building into dark and devilish settings for Poe’s stories - the disappointment for me was that the experience remained at the level of 'atmosphere' with the actors rushing around in unintelligible syphilitic depression and taking me nowhere much beyond the setting itself.
So what am I saying? Off West End theatres are all about risk taking and these risks were taken on jaw-droppingly brilliant concepts. In all cases, the acting, lighting, set and costumes were superb so even what I would call a disappointment in our Off West End theatres can be a mind-stretching extraordinary experience that you can find nowhere else and that keeps you puzzling and debating for weeks afterwards - long live the risk takers!
More scribbles from me next month -
Director of OffWestEnd.com
is London's first collective listings site entirely dedicated to London theatres outside the mainstream... where you can browse through to find out about the full spectrum of performances going on outside the West End and buy tickets directly from the theatres without any fees or commission ever being charged by us. Enjoy!
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