Theatre is Amazing!

One of my favourite things to do when I have the time is watch a live theatre production. Theatre was introduced to me as a child through pantomimes and small productions that used to drive around visiting schools. I was always in awe of real actors putting on a show right in front of me and my love for theatre has never since waned.

At Secondary school I remember going on my first proper trip to see a London show. It was a version of ‘An Inspector Calls’ which was the GCSE book that we were studying in English at the time and it was so exciting for us. This one visit to a London theatre stuck with me and created a bug for going back again and again.

Theatres need protecting

After several lockdowns and long periods without their doors open, so many actors, producers, technical engineers and front of house people have struggled to stay in the industry. Since they have reopened their doors again to audiences, I have been able to get booking again and am still looking forward to the Hammersmith production of Sister Act which was delayed from 2020 and should finally go ahead this year, sadly without Whoopi Goldberg as originally planned.

I hope that people get back into the habit (excuse the Sister Act joke) and keep returning to the West End and local theatres so that we can get the theatre industry well and truly back on its feet again. So much imagination and artistry is put into packaging these masterpieces. It would be a shame to see them dry up.

Notable productions

Here are some of my favourite shows that I have seen in London:

Gypsy (with Imelda Staunton) – watched three times – phenomenal. Got her autograph. Will cherish.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat

Dr Doolittle (Philip Schofield and the voice of Julie Andrews)

Blythe Spirit (Jennifer Saunders)

Wicked

Billy Elliott

Follies

East is East (with Jane Horrocks) – selfie below.

Photograph 51 (with Nicole Kidman) – another autograph I will savour.

Under the Blue Sky (with Catherine Tate)

Wicked

The Play That Goes Wrong

The Bodyguard (with Beverley Knight)

Hairspray (with Michael Ball)

A Christmas Carol (with Jim Broadbent and Samantha Spiro) I was so happy to get a selfie with Sam.

As I was writing this I realised that the list could go on for pages.

Whilst in New York I got to see Idina Menzel in a wonderful version of If/Then at the Richard Rogers theatre. I really hope to see another Broadway play one day.

As you can probably tell, theatre means a lot to me and my friends. So I really wrote this article to remind people of the value and importance of theatre as a creative force. I very much hope I can urge you to consider checking out what’s on at your local theatre or think about popping to a London show soon and giving some support.

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West End Return – Jennifer Saunders

Today I went to see my first theatre show since Covid began. I was due to see this actual production in March 2020 but something got in the way. Nevertheless, after a long wait, I found myself outside the Harold Pinter theatre again today.

Excited to be back.

I originally heard about this play in 2015 when Angela Lansbury did a turn in the role of Madame Arcati but I was too late to get tickets. So naturally, as soon as I was aware that Jennifer Saunders was taking that role I immediately booked some tickets.

I was lucky enough to see another play with Jennifer in and meet her briefly in 2018.

I looked like a startled ghost but it was good to meet Jennifer.

Anyway, in today’s play she was on top form as a happy ‘medium‘ brought in to make a connection with the afterlife by a well off gentleman and his wife, in the presence of the local doctor.

Written by Noel Coward and directed by Richard Eyre, this production was brilliantly funny. Richard famously directed ‘The Children Act’ with Emma Thompson, ‘Iris’ with Kate Winslet and ‘Notes on a Scandal’ with Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench.

I love when the curtain goes up.

All of the actors were superb. Special mention goes to a very amusing servant (Edith) played by Rose Wardlaw. Her physical comedy was hilarious and added laughs to an already vibrant matinee. Of course, Jennifer played an older lady with crazy amounts of vigour and moments reminiscent of The wonderful Edina in Absolutely Fabulous. With two hour-long acts, this play kept us interested and laughing.

I absolutely loved my first outing to London this year and totally recommend getting tickets for Blithe Spirit if you are nearby.

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The Brilliant Book of Mormon

It was finally time for me to evaluate this much-talked-about West End Show.

Tongue-in-cheek, yet irresistible. That is the way to sum up this masterpiece play by the makers of South Park. Although, those of you with delicate sensibilities may want to stop reading right now as sometimes it borderlines on total ridicule of the Mormon faith.

It has taken a while for me to get round to seeing exactly what this was all about and all I went in with was a knowledge that some people might find it offensive. Luckily for me I do not get easily put off and I went to a Saturday night showing, immediately pleased by the opening song, which takes the mickey out of the door-to-door selling of religion by depicting a Mormon training academy.

The music was great and the lyrics were really quirky (and outright rude at times… be prepared for the C word and some jokes about maggot infested scrotums). One ditty was about switching off any feeling you might have in order to be a positive person. A guy referred to fancying his buddy and having to switch off the gay part of hisself. Another talked about his sister dying and him not being there when she passed away because he was queueing for the latest iPhone. Generally it was pointing to the fact that some of the stories and ideas within this religion were hard to follow or explain but the preachers had to simply forget about those aspects that didn’t quite make sense.

Without giving away the plot, the two missionaries went to Uganda where they tried to convert locals to the Mormon way of life and get them baptised. Suffice to say, this was not an easy task. A local army general was treating the locals badly and creating a barrier to any progress they were making.

This hilarious play was punctuated with spectacular song and dance numbers and its stars really shone with incredible vocals, clever dance routines and great comic acting.

I gave this performance five stars. You really must go and see it for yourselves!