Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Out and about: Two shows, one night

Last Friday I had a bit of a theatre marathon. Starting off at the Aldwych for Top Hat and ending up at Shakespeare's Globe for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Not only did I roll in to bed at 4.30am, but I stood for over three hours... now that's dedication!

Two shows, one night!

Top Hat

I bought super-cheap seats on as I'd heard mixed reviews and didn't want to risk a pricier ticket. Thankfully I wasn't disappointed... well maybe a tiny bit disappointed that I didn't act sooner and manage to catch Tom Chambers and Summer Strallen as the lead characters. That and sit one or two rows closer. Cheap seats means cheap. We were in literally the back row of the upper circle. A slight turn of the head meant I could see what the sound and lighting guy in the box was reading that week. But still, at least we had seats, unlike later in the night! Looking for the positive, it meant that we had a great aerial view of the chorus choreography!

Top Hat at the Aldwych
I haven't seen the film, but was vaguely aware of it, catching snippets on those Channel 4 countdown programmes or excerpts of the dances from the archives whenever someone references Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. According to my mother the show replicates the film almost word for word - so if you didn't like the film, don't bother with the show!

I recognised lots of the songs, mainly from my own dancing days, and happily hummed along with Putting on the Ritz, Top Hat, White Tie and Tails and Cheek to Cheek, but it was only when Let's Face the Music and Dance came on and I realised that it was that famous dance.

Oh yes, I've seen this before!

It was beautiful.

The story is silly, funny and farcical, and great fun to watch but I would have liked to see a bit more dancing. I was, however, so excited by all the tapping (the one style of dance I never tried, and so still makes my jaw drop when done well) that I would happily see it again.

For me though, after the tap dancing and classic dance numbers, Vivien Parry as Madge Hardwick stole the show.

Oh, and the costumes.

The beautiful, swishy, feathery, fluffy, floaty, sequinny, sparkly and shiny costumes!


A quick cab journey back across the river for a swift dinner and a glass of wine (with a gorgeous view) at The Swan at The Globe and then we were ready for our second show of the night, or in fact morning...

Dinner with a view at The Swan

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Last Friday I finally managed to do something I've been trying to do for almost half of my life. I went to a midnight showing of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Shakespeare's Globe.

A midnight showing of A Midsummer Night's Dream
Alongside Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of my favourite stories from my childhood, and in fact my adult life. I think it's the theming, the dual character roles, the transition from real life in to fantasy life and back again and the mixed undertones of silly alongside serious.

Every year I mean to get tickets, and every year I miss it. This year, having recently sat next to an extremely knowledgeable Globe theatre staff member at a Midsummer Night's Dream themed wedding, I was spurred in to action earlier than usual and managed to bag myself, my family, some tickets.

Sadly they weren't seated tickets, so I was slightly worried about having to stand up for over three hours but I needn't have worried. I've done longer stints standing (festivals, concerts, on stage myself) and in less comfy shoes but in the end I was so engaged and invested in what was happening on the stage I barely noticed the standing. I think I could have been wearing five inch stilettos and I'd still have stayed until the very end.

The beautiful stage
I've never been to the the Globe before and I was as excited about the setting as I was the play itself. A modern glass exterior leads you through in to a replica Elizabethan open air theatre with wooden seating, a yard for us plebs to crowd in to and a raised, covered stage with beautiful decor. It would have felt magical at any time of day but arriving in the dark, as the previous audience were heading home for bed, for a midnight showing was utterly enchanting.

At 11.59, prompt, a band of Ye Olde Englishe musicians came out and played some music to set the scene, and from the first note at the open to the last hum at the close I was spell bound.

I laughed out loud, I grinned, I gasped and I sighed as the hugely talented actors brought Shakespeare's words to life and in the spine-tingling finale, as the fairies bless the temple, tears pricked my eyes and goosebumps appeared on my skin with the emotion... and perhaps a little fatigue!

A little rest in the interval

I loved it so much that I don't think I'll ever be able to watch the play again, for fear if it disappointing me in comparison.

So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

1 comment:

  1. Two great reviews. I saw Midsummer Night's Dream several years ago but I haven't seen Top Hat, the film or the stage version although you just brought back memories of my dancing class days with White Tie and Tails etc. Just discovered your lovely blog over at Florence Finds!