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:

Drunk Theatre: “Henry IV, Part One” and “Part Two”, by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican

henry iv rsc ft

Last week I had three days off in a row (unprecedented pleasure!) and on Wednesday night I stopped by the Barbican ten minutes before curtain to see which Henry IV was playing, and whether there were any tickets left. It was Part One, and I got what I think must be the best seat in the Barbican. It’s AA3 in the upper circle, and I think it is the best because:

  1. It is £10
  2. The view is hardly restricted at all
  3. When you leave it opens straight out onto a martini bar.
Thirty seconds away from your seat.


A Very Plantagenet Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. Don’t worry! If you haven’t found a card yet that expresses how you really feel about your partner, maybe one of these Plantagenet valentines will help:

valentine henry vi margaret

Globe to Globe: Henry IV, Part Two in Argentinian Spanish (Argentina)

While Monday’s Mexican production of Henry IV Part One took a straightforward approach to the historical play, and succeeded, Elkafka Espacio Teatral played with the setting a bit more. The result was hit and miss, but the hits were very interesting, and many of the misses were down to the simple fact that Henry IV, Part Two is a patchier play than Henry IV, Part One.

Part of the dramaturgical problem with Part Two is that we’ve seen it all before, in the previous play: Falstaff aggrandizing himself between begging for money, Hal and Poins playing a trick on him at the Boar’s Head, a rebellion due to Henry IV’s shaky claim to the throne, Henry summoning his son to Westminster to tell him off for screwing around in pubs.

There are some key differences, however, which the direction picked up on to good effect. There is no energetic character like Hotspur driving the action; the rebels are more self-doubting and sophisticated. There is no grand comic figure like Owen Glendower; the new additions are the nostalgic, slow-paced country justices Shallow and Silence, and the Boar’s Head denizens Doll Tearsheet and Pistol. Pistol has something of Hotspur’s fierce energy, but he’s a less solid character, and less important (read: not onstage as much). Hal could be excused for wasting his time in the pub in Part One, but we’ve already seen his (apparently sincere) promise to reform at the end of that play, so coming back Part Two to find him lounging in the Boar’s Head again is a bit depressing. Read more...

Globe to Globe: Henry IV, Part One in Mexican Spanish (Mexico)

I think I’ve figured out a winning formula for Globe to Globe productions.

It goes something like: start with an energetic all-company dance to regional music, with lots of drumming; rip through the scenes with lots of talking, including cutting monologues (unless they’re comic monologues); continue drumming and dancing for scene changes (or just randomly in the middle of scenes); don’t slow down for anything.

Photo (c) Ellie Kurttz