Welcome back to my monthly newsletter on theatre and dance to see. Currently it is still – sadly – online as it remains unclear how venues can reopen and restart (even just rehearsals) with the state of, you know, *gestures at everything*
But, to paraphrase Tarek Iskander (Artistic Director and CEO of Battersea Arts Centre), theatres being closed does not mean theatres being inactive.
So many organisations have not just delved deep into their archives to share brilliant productions with us, but some are also developing new works and rehearsed readings to deliver these online, to start playing with new ways of communicating, educating and entertaining.
So, let’s have a gander at what is coming our way in July…
Stay safe out there!
Right, let’s start with the mother of them all. Hamilton is coming to streaming service Disney + on July 3rd. And that’s the original Broadway production, complete with Lin Manuel Miranda in the title role. I only saw the London version once – I’m not made of money! – but it was ground-breaking and seismic and it will be a real privilege to see the original 11 Tony-award winning cast in action. And at £5.99 for one month’s membership, a hell of a lot cheaper than a Broadway seat.
Now, this is a real gem. Rush – a “queer play for a universal audience” – was due to open at Trafalgar Studios last month. Didn’t happen, obviously. But instead we have this quite brilliant rehearsed reading from Rupert Everett, Omari Douglas and Daniel Boyd. The lay explores the lives of gay men across two generations and the provocation that a monogamous life is a “straight” existence that diminishes the anti-conventional life many gay men aspire to. Interestingly, it’s a subject Rupert has discussed in in his autobiographies (which I recommend wholeheartedly, by the way) and in interviews so a subject close to his heart. Available for the foreseeable future.
Having The Royal Ballet join the streaming activity has brought such joy to my life, it really has. I’ve only ever been able to afford a seat up in the gods at the ROH and so it is a real privilege to be able to see works up close. And, in particular, this modern ballet about Virginia Woolf is one that I recommend to EVERYONE! Wayne Macgregor and Max Richter created this three-act ballet about five years ago, using Virginia’s novels, Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves to explore the lure of an artistic life and otherness. Available for free until July 9th.
Right, this is COMPULSORY viewing. This is blistering and painfully, PAINFULLY, relevant and necessary. Antoinette Nwandu’s ferocious and ingenious play about police brutality was due to run at Kiln Theatre this Spring. Didn’t happen, and I was so distraught to miss this but, by the grace of God, Spike Lee filmed this 75-minute production at Chicago’s Steppenwolf theatre back in 2018 and it is now available to stream. It is mighty. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial and this play is free to stream once on.
Given the rightful resurgence of Black Lives Matter, it is appropriate that theatres are searching their archives for relevant material to share. However, it is noticeable that the NT has pretty shallow reserves on that front. So, I guess it is no surprise that this 2016 Yaël Farber adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s play about colonialism, revolution and self-determination should make an appearance. The only thing is, I gave this quite a mixed review when I first saw it. It was the depiction of black women in it that I found uncomfortable, too much of the “savage” stereotype of the Black woman. I was the only critic who did find this problematic, mind, so maybe revisiting it now I can try and assess if I feel differently now. Available on You Tube from 2 to 9 July.
A production that I did adore when I saw it in the Olivier was Michael Longhurst’s phenomenal production of the iconic Amadeus, with Lucian Msamati as the scheming Salieri who plots to undermine and destroy the prodigious Mozart, whom he admires as much as he loathes, and whose God-given talent is one that very much dwarfs his own. It was a tremendous production, one that was accentuated with the magnificent inclusion of the Sinfonia orchestra. But Peter Shaffer’s remarkable prose remains the star – a phenomenal study on the corrosive power of jealousy and one man’s rage with God. Available on You Tube from 16 to 23 July.
I don’t understand why this recording of the ground-breaking 2019 production has only had about 500 views on You Tube. Something’s gone a bit awry here. Still, plenty of time to address that now. This production, which ran in the atmospheric Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, was the first all women of colour Shakespeare on a UK stage. Jointly staged by Lynette Linton and Adjoa Andoh, who also plays Richard, the show was a critical success and demonstrates, emphatically, that Shakespeare does not belong to stuffy racists but to all, and that his works can be revisited and reinterpreted again and again and again. That is their brilliance. Available on You Tube for free.
Even if you only watch the first five minutes of this, you will have already witnessed one of the most gripping openings to a production. This film was recorded in 1989 and is now exclusively available to watch for free on the Pina Bausch website following restoration work. Pina’s work is never orthodox and, to the unfamiliar, can seem at first odd and obscure. However, such is the brilliance of Pina’s neo-Expressionist choreography that emotions in these series of dramatic vignettes are readily understood. The work was initially a commission to create a piece inspired by the Sicilian capital. Pina didn’t take an obvious approach to this – what a surprise – instead preferring to explore the psychologies and experiences of supposed inhabitants. Available on the Pina Bausch website.
If you’re looking for short, small slice of contemporary works then head over to National Theatre of Scotland as they have been ahead of the curve with their fantastic library of shorts created by a host of creatives in response to the pandemic. Some big names too… Brian Cox, Jonathan Watson, Kate Dickie… and there’s a reading from Trainspotting launching tonight. My favourite is Alone, written and performed by Janey Godley, directed by Caitlin Skinner, which is a dark, dark tale wrapped up with all the perky brightness Jane brings to her role as a married woman in lockdown in Glasgow. All available for free online on the NT of Scotland website.
Let’s end with a bit of enjoyable escapism with the ENB’s spectacular Cinderella, which they performed in the round at the Royal Albert Hall. A huge critical success and loved by all who saw it in its limited run last year, Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella features over 90 dancers and combines magnificent sets and costumes, theatrical surprises, and lively choreography set to Prokofiev’s famous score performed by English National Ballet Philharmonic. Working from the darkly intriguing Brothers Grimm version of the story, expect a whirlwind of striking visuals and exquisite dancing. Available on Facebook and YouTube for 48 hours from Wednesday 8 July, 7pm.