Diary of a theatre addict: nine shows, one film and twelve steps!

In Features, London theatre, Opinion, Regional theatre by Mark ShentonLeave a Comment

I managed another nine show (plus one movie!) week, with one of those theatre visits in Southampton, and even managed to have one night off in the middle of it for an office dinner! So I’ve hardly had time to catch my breath all week, but am looking forward to three weeks off now as I head back to the US tomorrow — or at least ‘off’ from London, with only a few theatre outings planned while I’m out there for a change.

I am, of course, going to catch Hamilton on Broadway this week — it’s the biggest transfer of the year, having seen it twice in its original off-Broadway incarnation at the Public Theatre, it is moving to Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre where it officially re-opens on Thursday, and I’m going to a press preview on Wednesday. Otherwise, I’m re-visiting On the Town (for the fourth time), my musical revival of the last year.

Then I have my annual week in Provincetown from Friday — there’s some theatre there (and no, I can’t skip seeing Norm Lewis in interview and song at the P-town ArtHouse on Friday) but that’s not the reason I’ll be there. After that, we get back to NYC and have an overnight trip planned to DC (to catch The Fix at Signature, pictured left, which we’re travelling down to see with its composer Dana P Rowe and his fiancee Andrew — as I’ve previously mentioned here, I’ll be officiating at their wedding in October!); and I’m also making a road trip to Williamstown to catch Audra McDonald and her husband Will Swenson in A Moon for the Misbegotten.

But ahead of all of that, I’ve had a mad scramble to squeeze everything in before I go! Last week I covered openings for Three Days in the Country and Impossible (both of which I saw a day early) and Bakkai and Tommy (both of which I saw a day late) and caught the new regional tour of Annie in Southampton (which I’m parking to review later!).

I also revisited three more shows — the absolutely stunningly sung Songs for a New World at the St James (before conducting an onstage post-performance talk with the cast, director and musical director), Everyman at the National and The Car Man (newly revived at Sadler’s Wells, which I’ve not seen since its original production at the Old Vic all of fifteen years ago, and is now almost entirely re-cast — though rather beautifully, Alan Vincent, the show’s original Luca is now Dino, the husband who is murdered in the show, while it was thrilling to see ABT principal dancer Marcelo Gomes as Luca. The other reason I wanted to be there was to see Liam Mower, now all grown up since his Olivier winning debut as one of the original trio of stage Billy Elliot’s, as Angelo).

I’ve provided links to shows where I’ve reviewed them, but my re-visit to Everyman (post image with Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role is below) was purely personal — my husband and I were so moved by it the first time that we booked (and yes, paid!) to see it again yesterday.  (We also booked and paid to see the first screening last Wednesday of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation at the IMAX last Wednesday: payback o my husband for all the theatre he has to endure with me!)

I was shocked that the National wasn’t packed to the rafters, though — there were lots of empty seats on the sides and rear of the stalls.  I was also struck most forcefully yesterday by how acutely Everyman’s own journey towards (a posthumous) redemption mirrors those followed in 12 Step recovery fellowships: taking searching and fearless moral inventories (Step 4) and making amends to those we’ve harmed (Step 8) are all in there (and so, of course, are references to a Higher Power). I met a friend from the cast afterwards who confirmed this: 12 Steps were mentioned frequently in rehearsals!

Recovery through the 12 steps is, of course, also a big part of The Motherfucker with the Hat, the National’s unmissable current import from Broadway, so the National feels like it is helping to fulfil Step 12 — “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

I’ve certainly had a spiritual awakening myself over the last twelve months that has entirely changed my life — and so these plays have resonated very strongly with me. There isn’t (yet) a fellowship for recovering theatre addicts – but I’m not sure that this is an addiction I want to be rid of. Writing this column every week is a way of embracing it — but also giving it some kind of shape!

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Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton has been a full-time freelance London-based theatre critic and journalist since 2002, and is proud to have co-founded MyTheatreMates with Terri Paaddock. He has variously (and sometimes simultaneously) been chief theatre critic for the Sunday Express, The Stage, WhatsOnStage, What's On in London magazine and LondonTheatre.co.uk. He has taught at ArtsEd London in Chiswick on musical theatre history since 2012. He was until recently President of the Critics' Circle, and is also on the board of Mercury Musical Developments and the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF). You can follow him on Twitter @ShentonStage, and on instagram at @ShentonStage. His personal website is www.shentonstage.com.

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Mark Shenton on FacebookMark Shenton on RssMark Shenton on Twitter
Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton has been a full-time freelance London-based theatre critic and journalist since 2002, and is proud to have co-founded MyTheatreMates with Terri Paaddock. He has variously (and sometimes simultaneously) been chief theatre critic for the Sunday Express, The Stage, WhatsOnStage, What's On in London magazine and LondonTheatre.co.uk. He has taught at ArtsEd London in Chiswick on musical theatre history since 2012. He was until recently President of the Critics' Circle, and is also on the board of Mercury Musical Developments and the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF). You can follow him on Twitter @ShentonStage, and on instagram at @ShentonStage. His personal website is www.shentonstage.com.

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