I love the theatre. Whenever there is a good play on in London, I try my best to go and see it. Of course, living near London and with 241 professional theatres in the city I am spoilt for choice.
On Saturday night, my husband and I went to the Old Vic to see Kevin Spacey in a one-man play, Clarence Darrow. It was a first-class performance given by an astounding actor. He had so much energy on stage and such a presence that he kept you hooked throughout the performance.
This is what one newspaper review had to say: “… Spacey is captivating throughout. He prowls around the small stage, and out into the audience, addressing small sections as the jurors in whatever case he’s recollecting. And wherever he might be — right in front of you or with his back turned on the other side of the theatre — you can’t take your eyes off him, and hang on his every word. That’s the mark of an acting legend, and one whose presence will be greatly missed from the London stage.”
The play was first shown last year but because of its huge sell-out success, the Old Vic decided to stage the play one more time for a limited period. It’s particularly special as Kevin Spacey ends his 10-year stint as the Old Vic’s artistic director this autumn. The entire season is sold out – a testament to how well-regarded he is as an actor (or thespian).
The Old Vic’s stage is in the centre of the theatre and the audience is on all sides of it. It’s what is known as a ” theatre in the round”. The idea is to make the audience feel more involved with what is happening on stage.
I booked the tickets a month or so ago online. You can book tickets by telephone or in person at the box office of the theatre. I always book online and collect my tickets from the box office on the day of the performance.
The Seating Plan
Most theatres are divided into different sections. The section that is on the same level as the stage is known as the stalls. The next level is sometimes known as the Royal or Grand Circle. Depending on the size of the theatre, you can have between three to five levels. Stalls, Royal/Grand Circle, Dress Circle, Upper Circle and Balcony. The prices vary according to what seats you choose. The Front Stalls, Front Royal Circle and Front Upper Circles are normally the most expensive with the Balcony seats being the cheapest as well as seats with a restricted view. I’ve never understood why anyone would choose, let alone, pay for a seat with a restricted view!
The seats in a lot of the older theatres in London have limited legroom which can be extremely uncomfortable for a tall person. In fact, my husband who is tall really struggles and Saturday night was unfortunately excruciating for him. By the interval, he couldn’t feel his feet!
Types of Theatre
When tourists visit London and decide to take in a show, they normally opt for one of the West End musicals. Shows such as Mamma Mia, Les Miserables, Cats, Phantom of the Opera and so on have been playing for years in the West End and are a hugely popular with foreign tourists. However, West End theatres don’t only show musicals but also non-musical productions. These productions often start in regional or smaller theatres and depending on its success, they move to the West End.
As I’ve got older, I’ve become more attracted to the productions from smaller, local theatres. Not only are they smaller and offer a lot more intimate audience experience, they offer new playwrights and directors the opportunity to showcase their talents. These theatres commission new plays and encourage different and sometimes daring productions of old plays.
Smaller Theatres Take More Risk
They are prepared to take more risks than their West End counterparts and that is what I believe theatre is all about. Theatre should be a place where our (the audience) views and prejudices are challenged and where new ideas are introduced. It’s where actors and actresses have the opportunity to test their skills and try out different roles.
Theatre should be about encouraging playwrights, old and new, to try out fresh ideas on the audience. It should be a place of experiment, entertainment and education. It’s also a place where our minds can wander freely with our imagination.
My fellow theatre-goers
I have learnt so much about life over my theatre-going years. Not only from the play but also from watching my fellow theatre-goers. I often go to the theatre on my own. I love nothing more than going to a matinee performance (rather than an evening performance). When I go on my own, I am free to look and observe the people around me. And it’s fascinating just to watch how people interact with each other. There could be people milling in the bar drinking and ordering their drinks for the interval; there could be people catching up with each other’s news or reading the theatre programme and there could be people like me who are on their own and are observing others or simply reading a book. Nowadays, it’s more likely to be their smartphones, though!
Turn off your phones, the performance is about to start
I love that moment when the lights dim, the audience is shushed into silence and the actors come onto the stage. I take a sharp intake of breath and almost burst with anticipation of what is to come next.
Do you like the theatre? Do you have a good choice of theatres where you live? Or perhaps you have more amateur dramatics theatre (AmDram) or fringe theatres near you?
I’d love you to share your theatrical experiences with me and to share what you love most about the theatre.
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Ciao for now