SOUTH MORNINGSIDE PRIMARY’S Stage Club turned in a well rehearsed and expertly crafted evening of Shakespeare for the modern outlook last night at Edinburgh’s Churchhill theatre in Morningside Road.

Romeo and Juliet were first up with their internet romance enabled by laptops in the bedroom and mobiles in the back pocket. The young romantic leads, Adam Harrower and Aaliya Bradley, gave excellent performances with little trace of nerves and were well supported by their choruses of TAGS AND CAPS.

Several of the children appeared alone or in small groups on stage, performing with confidence and in some cases remarkable presence. A solitary child, Luke Pudney, filled the space created by the opening curtains and twice four children filled the space in front of the curtains. They were the organisers of the trouble-causing Masked Ball and the News Reporters. They broadcast with that well observed air of brashness and will this work expressions one sees on TV.

A Modern Midsummer Night’s Dream was second and yet again demonstrated that script’s adaptation-friendly nature. Writer Stephen James Martin had written a piece full of one-liners and directed his young cast to pitch perfect delivery. Naomi Wilson as Sharmain, Hermia to you and me, has a comic touch sometimes lacking in older performers. She also sang beautifully. Yossi Pechar was a superb Puck drawing the eye with star-quality ease.

The whole cast was word perfect and showed no panic when one or two sound cues caused hesitation early on. Excellent music, dancing and friendly war-of-the-sexes banter made this a remarkable production of a much loved play.

Congratulations to the whole back-up team who did a sterling job bringing this school production to a delighted audience of parents, rels, grannies and granddads. Martin’s scripts were a delight and the children’s appreciation of him when he took a reluctant curtain call was evident. But there was costume, make-up, dancing, stage-fighting and a fantastic lighting-score which all added to the overall professional feel.

Oh and two trays of ice-cream in the interval.

Friday and Saturday 12th-13th April at 7.30 pm

Growing The Audience: Bums on Seats

Growing the Audience is something we’d all like to do. I was at Edinburgh Grand Opera last night where a stellar cast gave their all to a Queen’s Hall with huge gaps along the rows.

Where were the bums for those seats? Don Giovanni must be one of the most audience friendly works in the history of opera – if you can’t pack them in for that, what’s the prospect of tackling anything more challenging?

I have no idea what EGO does by way of advertising, but a lot of the chorus members were greeted by a small group of family or friends at the interval and the end. So that’s one ploy for growing the audience. You can have children and you can be nice to your friends.

The practitioners among us have all done it and been supported by those sections of the theatre going public. I love them.

Okay, mutual admiration ain’t growing the audience or getting extra bums on seats in sufficient quantity. The folk who come to our productions are often pleasantly surprised by the quality, but they haven’t necessarily risked embarrassment by flogging tickets to their friends. I think this is a profound misunderstanding of the nature of criticism in so far as people often feel they want to know they’ll enjoy the production. By extension, your family and friends don’t want to find themselves defending your sortie into surrealism, or physical theatre, or anything with a risqué content.

Any answers? Well, next time the pal asks how ticket sales are going, challenge them to not only come along, but bring one or two of their pals. Ask them where they distributed the flyers you gave them – sitting on, or under, their hall furniture is not selling any tickets.

Another growing the audience idea is probing people’s extended family links. Are you touring to Pumpherston? Whose Mum, sister, best friend’s Bridesmaid lives there or shops there or works in a shop there. Will the shop take a pile of flyers? Will your extended contact display the flyer on the parcel shelf of their car?

Have you exploited as many friends’ blogs and websites as you can identify? Watch this space in coming weeks for news of Theatre Broad.

My friend was explaining how she’d taken her niece to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, see below; pick any one, because the girl is going to University to study Engish Literature but had never been to the theatre. How can this be? The child is in Glasgow which is not a cultural desert.

My friend has also undertaken the further education of other nieces and is conscientious about buying tickets for her own children. She’s the prompt for this piece, together with my shock at the gaps in EGO’s audience. If it’s okay to introduce the next generation to golf, football, tribute bands and all that, why not introduce them to theatre, opera and all that?

And those out there who only buy tickets for known quantities, whether of scripts at producing theatres or for star-vehicle touring productions, try to remember Shakespeare was a journeyman once. We all need support in the beginning. Grow our audiences and put bums on the seats of our productions – please. Stepping out of your comfort zone could be an energising experience.

Any of my family, friends, neighbours, or other audience out there reading this. I love you all. Thank you for the ongoing support.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream BENJAMIN BRITTEN

Okay, so Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but if you’re around the theatre world at all, or even this blog, you’ll know everyone else has had a go. BENJAMIN BRITTEN’s opera performed by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the National Youth Choir of Scotland and Scottish Opera is another take on the world’s most versatile play.

The students of RCS and performers from Scottish Opera’s emerging artists’ scheme gave a wonderful performance, ably supported by children from the National Youth choir, directed by Andrew Nunn who is currently studying conducting at RCS. The music doesn’t have many tunes, but in a way that allows the drama and the language to shine through. The performance was conducted by Timothy Dean who was in charge of memebers of the Scottish Opera orchestra with students from RCS.

The production is a revival of Olivia Fuchs 2005 Royal Opera House one and she again directed supported by the original designer, Niki Turner.

A major highlight for me was the breath-taking circus skills exhibited by Jami Reid-Quarrell playing Puck. Strength, elegance and consumate acting characterised his offering and I hope we’ll being seeing him again.

The King’s Theatre Stalls were looking good. Do we have new seats? It was a pleasure not to sink through the cushions onto the floor beneath. Sadly, looking up is another matter. The lovely ceiling is decayed and in need of a lot of TLC.

Run ended.

Royal Lyceum’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream has to be one of life’s most enriching theatrical experiences. Even when the Director, Matthew Lenton, sets it in mid-winter, Shakespeare’s language still has the power to charm, excite, soothe – when one can hear it. A few folk in the bar at the interval were expressing difficulty catching the words of the female actors. Something of a contrast to the over-loud Guid Sisters.

The counter-indicative weather did nothing for me. I really want my Midsummer Night to be warm and filled with the buzz of wings, whether of fairies or bees. I found it just too incredible that everyone would go off into the woods in swirling snow. However, what the cast then did with the physical theatre of being out in the cold was at times very funny. Miles Yekinni and Kevin Mains as Midsummer Night’s Demetrius and Lysander were hilariously intertwined in a hopeless wrestling match that threatened to stop the performance.

Ifan Meredith gave a somewhat emasculated performance as Oberon/Theseus. I wanted more – more authority, more gravitas and, as Oberon, more sinister. Jordan Young, on the other hand, was having a ball playing Bottom and we enjoyed that. Maybe Pyramus and Thisbe slid over into excess, but Barnaby Power was a splendid Peter Quince and the Mechanicals were a deserved highlight.

I’ve seen many, many productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This wasn’t the best, but a good night out and great to see the members of the Young Lyceum getting a chance on stage.

Johnny McKnight’s Cinderella is up next at the Royal Lyceum. Starts 29th November.


Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It)

A Chekov International Theatre Festival/Dmitry Krymov’s Laboratory/School of Dramatic Art Theatre Production. Part of World Shakespeare Festival 2012

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of my all time favourite plays, but having said that, I know it’s because of the sheer inventiveness it encourages. Directors, choreographers, musicians and actors have a wonderful time performing a play that’s loosely based on what the author, William Shakespeare, wrote.

At the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Dmitry Krymov’s production, missing out almost all of the Midsummer Night’s Dream script, was looser than most. As my companion pointed out the director, Dmitry Krymov, was first a set designer – and didn’t it show?

The production concentrates on the mechanicals play, Pyramus and Thisbe. It starts with the cast of mechanicals in the audience trying to bring on their set of branches. Front row seats, end of row seats can see you joining the cast without either audition or equity card. Then they get themselves onto the stage and we catch our first view of Venya the Jack Russell. Venya proved very popular with the audience and the man behind me gave his wife a running commentary of what the dog was thinking – clever that!

Next the audience within the play arrives and seats themselves around the front of the stage and in the boxes. Much slapstick humour follows as they break flimsy barriers and inadvertantly throw rubbish over each other. Their running commentary is full of humour and spot on one liners. (I wonder if the man behind me was the writer?)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream lends itself to pantomime and circus skills and the cast were great. Acrobatics abounded and the way they manoeuvred the giant puppets of Pyramus and Thisbe jaw-droppingly accurate. Traditional acting wasn’t neglected, however, and the new play had a believable inner tension. There were three lovely voices, some instrumental work and the final effect of the dance.

I didn’t expect the dance of the swans, but it was just right.

I counted around 40 performers on stage for the final bow, every one a winner. Oh, and my companion appreciated the question and answer piece in the  programme. Nothing like a bit of de-mystification to help one appreciate what’s going on.