Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

My Theatrical Experience, Part Two

September 21, 2010 · No Comments

Since being in London, I’ve seen a total of 11 shows/concerts (Proms, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Bedlam, The 39 Steps, The Habit of Art, Billy Elliot, Wicked, Deathtrap, Les Mis, Les Mis’ 25th Anniversary Production, and Passion). I’ve enjoyed everyone of them and there are a couple I’d love to see again.

After Deathtrap

In my last theatre blog, I talked about stage door and how I was slightly disappointed about the response from the actors. (Summary: it isn’t as popular as it is in the US, probably because of the whole extreme privacy issue.) Since then, I’ve had a bit more success at the Stage Door, including meeting the majority of the leads of Wicked, Jonathan Groff after Deathtrap, and a couple of the Les Mis 25th Anniversary cast, including Marius and Valjean. I’ve decided that the privacy issue is most definitely part of it and there are two types of actors: the one who signs and mumbles a “thanks” and the one who talks to you about the performance. (While this is true in the US as well, 99% of those I’ve met fall into the later category, where it is the opposite here.) At Wicked, two actresses (the witches) commented that there were actually fewer people at the door than usual, which leads me to believe that is more than just a privacy issue. I noticed a major difference in the type of the show where people did stage door and where the actors were involved in it rather than walking away at a brisk pace: the  stereotypical West End show (Wicked, Les Mis) where the actors expect it because of a huge fan base and the more intimate, less glitzy shows (Deathtrap).

The other thing that has struck me about theatre here is how self-aware the shows are. Most of them have made fun of some part of British culture, including apologizing until it was past ridiculous. In The Habit of Art, the show confronted theatrical issues, which led to several people commenting on how it was likely the most elitist piece we had seen. But Deathtrap did the same thing in a very non-elitist way. Still a play-within-a-play, the play didn’t interrupt the other play (I can’t really say more without giving away the plot) and the commentary on the superiority of writers over their actors was still present without being theatre-specific. Instead of inside jokes, the literary jokes were more common place: Arthur Miller and sales cases vs. the National Theatre’s specific theatres. In most of the shows I’ve seen in the US, I feel that the show didn’t make fun of theatre the way it does here. I think this isn’t because the English are more aware, but are less likely to be openly critical of anything and more likely to deal with it with humor and irony.

I’ve enjoyed my theatre experiences and I hope when I visit London I’ll be able to see other shows. (Or Deathtrap again.)

Categories: 2010 Stephenie · Theatre

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