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Book Review – London Theatres by Michael Coveney and Peter Dazeley (Frances Lincoln)

Few would argue that London is the undisputed theatre capital of the world. However most theatregoers focus on the action on the stage and often pay scant regard to their surroundings. This new book ‘London Theatres’ takes readers on a tour of forty-six London theatres with stories of the architecture, the people and the productions by leading theatre critic Michael Coveney and a series of stunning photographs of the public areas, auditorium and backstage by acclaimed photographer Peter Dazeley.

Award winning actor Mark Rylance writes the foreword for the book, describing the interaction between the actor and the theatre space. One of the first actions he takes when entering a theatre is to look up at the ceiling, if there is some kind of circular device, he is convinced that the theatre experience will be fine.

The book considers 46 London Theatres as they stand in the 21st Century, ranging from the grand Royal Opera House to the lesser known delights of Wilton’s Music Hall. The theatres are divided into chapters that illustrate some of the remarkable diversity of London Theatres, these include  Grandes Dames, Palaces of Pleasure, Popular Landmarks, Informal Delights, Legends Alive, Hidden Gems, Eastward Ho! and West End Jewels.

Michael Coveney in the book’s introduction considers that to understand many of London’s theatres development, it is important to study the architectural and cultural context. Although for centuries, theatre was a favourite British national pastime, by the 1980s thousands of theatres around the country have been lost. Remarkably, the West End of London has been resilient and constantly reinventing itself, even new theatres have sprung up to provide a platform for different types of drama. Although many of the large theatres are owned by large concerns, they have often spent millions of pounds to restore the decaying fabric of many old theatres.

The book begins with the opulence of the Royal Opera House, Theatre Royal Haymarket and Theatre Royal Drury Lane, these ‘Grand Dames’ provide evidence of intriguing history, decorative splendour and more rustic back stage. One of the themes of the book is the contrast between the front and back of house with grandiose design schemes and often Heath Robinson contraptions that create the atmospheric magic from back stage.  Peter Dazeley’s remarkable range of photographs take us on a journey in the theatres where often things are not what they seem to be and the glitz and glamour is often a mere façade.

One theatre that has redefined the theatre going experience is Shakespeare’s Globe, the wooden recreation of one of the famous theatres from the time of Shakespeare, Marlowe and Jonson illustrate that the connection between actors and audience was not always as clearly defined as modern theatres and the more basic seating or standing can provide a wonderfully different theatrical experience.

The connection between audience and actors has been one of the guiding lights of the more modern theatres which have often gone back to basics, Donmar Warehouse, the Young Vic and the Almeida Theatre suggest that it is important to concentrate on the quality of the drama rather than worrying too much about ornate splendour of the surroundings.

The book is full of wonderful stories and anecdotes from the theatrical world with the Theatre Royal Drury Lane holding the record for the number of ghosts stalking the building. Often it is the ghosts of the past that make a meaningful connection between theatre and theatregoer. Many of the great actors and actresses of the past have trod the London theatre boards and it often is considered their presence is still there in the memories of the audience and fellow actors.

This fascinating and important book puts the selected London Theatres centre stage with the illuminating photographs by Peter Dazeley  and intelligent commentary by Michael Cloveley. Generally, because so much time is focused on the action upon the stage, relatively little is written or shown about the part the actual theatre plays in creating the right environment for a successful performance.  The nature of theatre and drama is often about illusion and make-believe and this book illustrates the interesting part the theatre plays in this process. Walking into an opulent building indulges the fantasy that you are entering something extraordinary and amazing things will happen on stage. Even the theatres that have gone back to basics are creating a different kind of illusion that draws the audience into the make-believe world of theatre. This intriguing book provides plenty of evidence that the whole structure of a theatre is often as much part of the performance as the action on the stage.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or buy a copy of the book, visit the Publishers website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
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Dunkirk at the Science Museum in IMAX Format from 21 July 2017

Christopher Nolan’s hotly-anticipated feature film Dunkirk, is to screen in IMAX 70mm 2D film at the Science Museum on its worldwide opening weekend.

The Science Museum, one of only three venues in the UK showing Nolan’s epic cinematic event in the largest commercial film format, will screen the film in IMAX 70mm 2D film. IMAX 70mm film projection combines the brightest, clearest images at almost 10 times the resolution of standard 35mm film projection with specially created sound for a high-quality viewing experience.

Nolan has often used IMAX film and for Dunkirk, more footage was shot on IMAX film than in any other Nolan film, with extensive use of IMAX cameras in an innovative hand-held capacity.

The film is relates the events in the Second World War when hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops are surrounded by enemy forces in Dunkirk.

The film’s cast includes Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy and Barry Keoghan, with Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy.

The creative team on Dunkirk included director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema, production designer Nathan Crowley, editor Lee Smith, costume designer Jeffrey Kurland and visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson. The music was composed by Hans Zimmer.

Dunkirk screens at the Science Museum from 21 July 2017.

For more information and book tickets , visit the Science Museum website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

 

Exhibition Review : Shakespeare in Ten Acts at the British Library – 15th April to 6th September 2016

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In the year that marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, The British Library presents a major new exhibition entitled Shakespeare in Ten Acts which explores how Shakespeare became a cultural icon over the centuries. The exhibition explores the Shakespeare story by focusing on ten key performances which often changed the course of Shakespeare’s legacy.

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The first part of the exhibition is called the Prologue and contains some of the rarest printed works, printed editions include Shakespeare’s First Folio and the earliest printed edition of Hamlet from 1603, one of only two copies in the world. One of the rarest items in the exhibition is the only surviving play-script in Shakespeare’s hand.

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The Ten Acts, part of the exhibition begins with Hamlet which premiered at the Globe Theatre in around 1600. Shakespeare’s relationship with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and Richard Burbage is explored in documents with a number of items associated with the play.   One of the highlights include a human skull inscribed with poetry given to actress Sarah Bernhardt by the writer Victor Hugo, which she then used as Yorick’s skull when she famously played Hamlet in 1899.

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The next act is based around The Tempest which was written for the Blackfriars Playhouse in around 1610, it is a play that has proved popular with theatre and film makers over many generations due to its rich visual and musical content.

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The third act, The wide world explores Shakespeare’s global appeal which provides some evidence that the first production overseas could have been a performance of Hamlet on board a ship in front of an African audience in 1607.

Whilst a large number of actresses have their theatrical reputation playing Shakespeare, the fourth act considers the first woman who appeared in a Shakespeare play in 1660. The name of the woman is unknown but her performance allowed women to establish a presence in British theatre.

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Other themes the exhibition explores is A Shakespeare forgery in Drury Lane in 1796, the first Black actor to play Othello in Britain in 1825, the long and complex history of productions of King Lear, Peter Brook’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the 1970s, the Shakespeare’s Globe version of Twelfth Night in 2002 and a digital version of Hamlet in 2013.

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Other highlights include a Prologue read out to warn the audience before the first performance of a woman on stage as Desdemona in Othello in 1660, a dress worn by Vivien Leigh when playing the role of Lady Macbeth in the 1955 production of Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Company, a Hamlet script owned by generations of Hamlet actors including Sir Michael Redgrave, Peter O’Toole and Sir Derek Jacobi, now owned by Sir Kenneth Branagh and the costume worn by Mark Rylance when playing the role of Olivia in the 2012 production of Twelfth Night at the Globe.

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This intriguing and entertaining exhibition produces a multi media exploration of Shakespeare’s legacy by featuring treasures from the Library’s collections alongside a wide range of costumes, props, paintings and film clips. It quickly becomes clear that part of Shakespeare’s theatrical longevity is partly due to the diverse ways in which Shakespeare’s plays have been reinvented throughout the ages. Each generation seems to find a way to adapt the plays to make them contemporary and the universal themes allows his work to be performed all across the world.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

15th April – 6th September 2016, British Library.

Admission £12, Seniors £10,

For more information or book tickets, visit the British Library website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in  2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
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Farinelli And The King at the Duke of Yorks Theatre – 14th Sept to 5th Dec 2015

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Set in eighteenth-century Spain, Claire van Kampen’s moving and mesmerizing new play tells the intriguing true story of Farinelli, once the world’s most famous castrato and one of the greatest celebrities of his time, and his decision to trade fame and fortune in the opera-houses of Europe for a life of servitude at the court of King Philippe V.
This sumptuous and enchanting play explores the dynamics between Farinelli and the royal couple, featuring many of the exquisite arias first sung by Farinelli in the 1730’s. The Duke of York’s Theatre will be transformed for this beguiling and transporting production, lit almost exclusively by the glow of candle-light and with live music played on Baroque instruments.
Mark Rylance last appeared at the Globe in 2012 in Tim Carroll’s hugely lauded sell-out productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III, which subsequently enjoyed phenomenally successful West End and Broadway runs, also produced by Sonia Friedman Productions. His other recent theatre credits include Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron in Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, (Royal Court, West End, Broadway) and this year he also starred as Thomas Cromwell in the BBC2 adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novel Wolf Hall.
Claire van Kampen, founding Director of Music, Shakespeare’s Globe has created music for over 45 productions there, including The Duchess of Malfi with Gemma Arterton. A theatre specialist on music and text of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, her stage credits also include original scores for Matthew Warchus’ Broadway productions of Boeing-Boeing. La Bete and True West. Claire’s television and film credits include Peter Kosminsky’s Wolf Hall, Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous and Christian Camargo’s Days and Nights.

The West End production will open in September 2015 for a strictly limited run at the Duke of York’s Theatre fresh from the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe.

If you would like further information or book tickets, click here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website
here