Wednesday 30 March 2011


Personal Post: Theatre and Me

A photo of a theatre, with it's red curtains drawn, two squared coloumns either side with carved figures at the top, and a chandelier hanging from the ceiling at the top of the photo.

Photo by Gwen Ong on Unsplash.

So here is the first of hopefully many more personal posts for you to read to find out a little about me.

I am a huge fan of the theatre, and have been ever since I started Drama Club at Primary School. I was always very shy, and not particularly good at it, but there was nothing like the feeling of becoming someone else and performing - from playing Baby Face in my school's production of Bugsy Malone when I was 11, through to playing Madame Arcari in Blithe Spirit for A-Level at 17. I absolutely loved it. And although I wasn't the best at it, through learning the things I did, I found an even deeper appreciation of plays and the actors. Because of studying Drama at school through to A-Level, and a general love of the theatre, I have have been lucky enough to see quite a number of plays and musicals, and thought I'd share with you some of the ones I've seen, and what I thought of them.

When I was a child (can't remember what age, sorry!), my Dad took me to see Starlight Express. It was one of the first shows I had seen, and was absolutely amazed. Not only did the actors have to sing, dance, and perform, they had to do it all on roller skates! The basic story is of a child's train set (in my opinion, the child snuck out of bed at night to play with it, but I've read the child actually dreamt it), there is a championship in which trains from countries all over the world compete to win the race and become the new champion. But there is a love story; Rusty, a steam engine, is in love with Pearl, a carriage, but Pearl's head is turned by the flashy Electra, an electric train, and the buffed up Greaseball, the diesal train, who are both more modern and showy trains. Rusty decides to enter the championship in the hopes that if he does well, he will win Pearl's heart. It's really sweet! I absolutely adored it. In the performance I saw, the races would take place on a race track that went around the stalls and the front of the dress circle - with a screen that came down to make sure everyone could see the race. It was just fantastic! The songs are all relatable to us as humans, but with clever train terminology. I adore the soundtrack, so much so that I bought myself a copy, and even after all these years, I still know most of the songs by heart :)

When I was in Year 10 (around 14/15), I was studying Stones in His Pockets for coursework, and got to watch a performance. It's a comedy about "two down on their luck Irish lads and the quiet rural community around them coming to terms with the visit of a big Hollywood movie shoot." (Taken from here, weren't sure how to describe it). There are two actors. The stage is mainly bare. It is absolutely fantastic! As I said, it's a comedy, so things are exaggerated; it's two male actors, but as they play over fifteen characters between them, they also play women - with exaggerated female American accents while attempting to seduce the other, you can't help but roll around laughing. But with the title, you can guess it's not all laughs, and is quite sad in some places. But such a fantastic show!

Similarly, Blood Brothers is also pretty nifty in that we see the two main characters as young boys, teenagers and men, and are played by the same two actors throughout, and are completely believable at every age. There's is nothing like watching a bloke in his 40's gallop around the stage on his invisible horse, and completely believing he's about 6-years-old. Blood Brothers "tells the captivating and moving tale of twins who, separated at birth, grow up on opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with tragic consequences." (From here.) It's the type of musical you should go to see if you think musicals aren't your thing. It's a real moving story, more of a melodrama and not the "fluff" some might expect from a musical. It really is a brilliant show, one of my favourites.

I can't not mention Sunset Boulevard, or at least the performance of it I saw. It was choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, and didn't have an orchestra. The actors themselves played the instruments, sitting around the sides of the stage when they weren't performing. They even used their instruments as props, one using her bow as a nail file when prettying up Norma. It was very Brechtian, seeing the musicians/actors on stage, having them never leave, and using their instruments in their performance as well. Just brilliant. But also a fantastic story. Sunset Boulevard is about an aging silent movie actress, Norma Desmond, who wants to return to the screen and coerces Joe Gillis, a struggling script-writer, into helping her make it, and their relationship. Just awesome.

I could go on and on about the shows I've seen, but I think I've said enough for one post. Other shows I have seen are Bugsy Malone, The King and I (with Elaine Page!), My Fair Lady, The Mouse Trap, The Woman in Black (twice), Grease, Wicked, Tom, Dick and Harry, Calender Girls, Flash Dance, Les Misérables, Love Story and Legally Blonde. This year, I am attempting to see one performance each month, and have so far seen three - the last listed. Here's to another nine!


  1. I haven't seen many shows, but I would love to see more. Starlight Express was the one I desperately wanted to see as a youngster. I love this post. I would never have had you down as a budding actress. I wish I had the nerve to get on stage. I think it takes great courage, so well done you.

  2. I'm not the performing type but I do like to go & see a show every now and then (not that I get a chance very often).

    I've seen Oliver, One Flew Over The Cookoos Nest, La Cage Aux Folles and a couple of others. I really want to see Wicked though!

  3. Viv - Oh, the theatre is just amazing! If you get the chance to see more shows, you really should! Oooh, Starlight Express is just brilliant, I loved it!
    Ha, not budding actress any more, I wasn't the best at it. I just enjoyed it, lol. Thank you! It's strange, although I got nervous, when I was on stage, I wasn't me any more, so it wasn't as bad as, say, doing a presentation, which I hate. And it was always good if I had family in the audience; even if I seriously screwed up, at least someone was supporting me.

    Nikki-ann - Isn't it just wonderful going to see the big performances? I love them! Wicked is just fantastic, really is one of my favourites. Didn't talk about it simply because all I would be doing is gushing, lol.

  4. I have so much admiration for anyone who can put on their brave face and do theater, even if they're no good at it. I'm so shy, I could never.

    You've got some fantastic plays here, along with some that I've never heard of. Great post!

  5. Fantastic post, Jo! I love the theatre too, though purely from an audience point of view! I would definitely recommend We Will Rock You if it's still playing.

  6. Vanessa - That's the thing with me. I was terribly shy as a teenager, but when I was acting, I wasn't being me, so it was less scary. I can't really explain, but because I was pretending to be someone else, that someone (even though they are just a character and not the actor) isn't too shy to be on stage. It was like a switch. I still got nervous and scared, but I was able to do it. Presentations, etc, always terrified me though. I hated them!

    Glad you enjoyed the post! I adore the theatre! Always worried that because I like the theatre people might automatically assume I'm one of those stuck up, snobby people, that go to the theatre every weekend, daaahling! Lol. But I do love it!

    Sophie - I was looking ta We Will Rock You just yesterday. I love the music, but I'm not sure about the story? And it's no something my Mum fancies. May give it a go though, not going to turn my nose up at it. Glad you like the post!

  7. I saw a lot of musicals when I was at university just outside London, but Starlight Express was the very first, and that was when I was about 12 or 13. It was amazing! Now I'm in an amateur dramatic group and have done a few shows, starting with Oliver a few years ago.

  8. Oh, that's so cool! If it weren't for the fact that I'm terribly shy - and hence would have trouble meeting the people and performing in front of/with them - I'd join an amateur dramatic group myself!
    Lol, I was in a very edited version of Oliver when I was at primary school, but before I was in the Drama Club - it was a bit rubbish, ha! Doing the real thing must be so cool!

  9. Fab post Jo, I love going to the theatre but haven't been for ages. I think the last thing I saw was Mama Mia when I took my Mum for her birthday a few years ago.

    I'd second Sophie's recommendation for We Will Rock You, I loved that one & have seen it twice. I also love The Lion King :o) Others I've seen include Rent (which is fantastic!), Phantom of the Opera (one I didn't think I would like but absolutely loved), The Buddy Holly Story (which my parents took me to when I was still at school & was my first real theatre experience & I'd love to see it again), Sister Act, Chicago (my friend adores the Hoff so we saw it with him in which was very funny) & Starlight Express (I didn't see this when it was first on but we went to Oxford to see it on tour & I loved it). I've probably forgotten others that I've seen :o)

    One I always wanted to watch was Cats, if it ever comes back I'll be first in the queue to buy tickets! I'd also love to see Noughts & Crosses if they bring that back next year (fingers crossed!)

  10. I forgot to say I'd never have had you down as an actress either, I'd never be brave enough to get up on stage so I'm very impressed :o)

  11. Ohh, some great shows you've seen, Sarah! My Mum wants to see Chicago, and I'd quite like to see The Pantom of the Opera! They'll be seen at some point.
    Haha, thank you! As I said, It's not me when I'm on stage, so it's not as bad, lol.

  12. OO I love shows. They are so wonderful ad to be honest that is what real acting is to me

  13. I know exactly what you mean. Being able to perform in front of an audience, with the pressure of not being able to re-do a take. It's just wonderful! :)

  14. Ooh! I love this post. I love going to the theatre (in a strictly audience position - though I always thought being a theatre technician would have been a cool job!), though I feel like I haven't been in ages.

    The last show I saw Sister Act (it was meant to be when Whoppi Goldberg was playing the Mother Superior) but it was one of the shows when she had to pull out. I'm going to see Legally Blonde though when it comes to Bristol in July / August - I can't wait :D

  15. The theatre is just awesome! :) I've never really fancied Sister Act, I wasn't a huge fan of the movie, lol. Still, if there were tickets available, I'd go. Legally Blonde is brilliant! I absolutely loved it! :)

  16. What a wonderful post! I'd not actually heard of Starlight Express, it sounds like it'd be a fab show to see :) N and I used to go to the theatre a lot before we had children and it's really something I'd love to get back into doing. He's promised to take me to see The Lion King at some point this year and I'm really looking forward to it :)

  17. Oooh, Starlight Express was just fantastic! I think it's finished now though. Such a shame. Would love to sing it and be able to sing along :P
    Hope you enjoy The Lion King!