All the theatre I saw in 2016, ranked

(nb: most of this was written on the train on New Year’s Eve, so “last night” = Dec 30th.)

In 2016 I saw 41 plays (and three staged readings, which were interesting but it feels unfair to put in with the rest because they’re not supposed to be fully realised pieces of theatre). Drunk Theatre stalwart Louisa and I tried to clear out the bottle-ends in the booze cabinet before the New Year, and carried out the immense task of force-ranking all our 2016 plays with Post-It notes. (for the record if you are also looking to clear out your drinks bottles, the “Monkey Gland”, a 1920s? cocktail involving grenadine and absinthe, was surprisingly all right.)

Bottom to top:

Reading Shakespeare at Crisis at Christmas

Christmas in London is really impossible to not take part in. Even if you don’t go into shops, drink in a pub or bar, work in an office or watch TV, it’s all over the streets, and good luck going anywhere because transport shuts down for a day and a half. I used to be stroppy about this and feel very self-righteously oppressed, since I grew up in the US, where public Christmas actually is about public Christianity. But in the past three years or so I have got over this and come to appreciate that the general British aversion to public religiousness extends to this holiday, and in London especially, ‘Christmas’ in practice is really just a secular festival about light, booze and food, all things I can well get on board with.

This year I signed up to volunteer at Crisis at Christmas. Over 23-30 December, the homelessness charity Crisis takes over donated buildings (mostly schools and colleges, which are closed over the holidays) and turns them into centres where homeless people can eat, socialise, be warm and indoors, and have free access to services like legal advice, dental and eye care and haircuts. Depending on volunteers, there are also things like manicures and massages, films, musical performers, yoga lessons, and football matches.

The volunteer sign-up form asks if you have any services or special skills you can offer, including an option for ‘leading performing arts activities’, and I decided to sign up to lead Shakespeare workshops. Two days later I got an approval email, for the three days I’d said I could do – December 25, 27 and 29, working shifts from 10am-7pm – as well as a general induction on December 14. Read more...

Hampstead: Shylock, Nazis and a quiet cup of tea

Ivy House (London Jewish Cultural Centre). Photo from the London Ballet School.
Ivy House (London Jewish Cultural Centre). Photo from the London Ballet School.


I’ve been to Ivy House in Hampstead before, for three weeks of Hebrew classes. (I was not very good and dropped out.) The ballerina Anna Pavlova lived here in the 1910s-20s, and since then it’s been remodelled like a university building, with white walls and fluorescent lights, to become the London Jewish Cultural Centre. Every stall in the ladies’ loos has something wrong with it and there are flyers up for Holocaust film screenings and talks from historians.

Today the ‘weekly film club’ is showing clips of several Shylocks. The woman at the front desk takes my £5, carefully writes down my name as Kerry Lambell and points me down the hall towards a closed door. Read more...

Globe to Globe: The Merchant of Venice in Hebrew (Israel)

Before I get into the performance itself, a few things about the protests around the production. The estimable Dr. Peter Kirwan, Shakespeare-in-performance blogger extraordinaire, has an excellent pair of posts around first, the protests (and the atmosphere they created), and second, the art. Around the former topic, my brief thoughts are:

1. The occupation of Palestine is inhumane and atrocious.

2. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions doesn’t work.