Relaxed Performances in London Theatres

A relaxed performance is a specially adapted show, modified for adults and children who might benefit from a more relaxed environment. Typically, they are for people who have autism or have sensory communication disorders or learning difficulties and some theatres also occasionally run them for people with dementia. A standard performance of a show can be unsettling for people with the above conditions. This could be because of the darkness of the auditorium, the loud music and sudden noises on stage, not to mention the expectation that a child must sit still and quiet for a relatively long period of time.

Relaxed performances differ from theatre to theatre, so you should always check with each venue first. But generally, at a relaxed performance it is a more informal atmosphere; the house lights don't go down as much as they normally would and in some cases are kept on entirely. Strobe lighting is avoided and if there is music then it tends to be played more quietly with no loud or sudden sound effects.

Often venues will also provide a "chill-out" zone for you to take your children to if they become distressed and quite often the theatre staff and the cast will have been briefed on how to help children with special needs.

Perhaps most importantly there is an acceptance that if your children chatter, shout out, make noises or fidget, it's absolutely fine! Tutting is most definitely not tolerated so that you can also relax without worrying that his behaviour is disrupting other patrons.

So many amazing and reputable theatre venues and companies now schedule in a relaxed performance of their productions just as they would a signed or audio-described performance, so always check with the box office to see if such an option is available. If your local venue doesn't offer relaxed performances why not write to the artistic director or general manager asking them to consider doing one in the future?

Free Drama Workshops at the Royal Court Theatre in April-May 2018

On International Women’s Day 2018, nine of the Royal Court Theatre’s female employees announced a new series of free acting workshops and discussions starting in April as part of the #TakeUpSpace movement. The workshops are created with the aim to further empower women in the arts, to champion the growth of female leadership and to interrogate the current state of creative industries.

This year we celebrate the centenary of the Representation of the People Act in 1918, which gave some women the right to vote but how do we envision the next 100 years for women? This workshop invites women of all ages to imagine an ideal future and to propose ways in which we can challenge inequality. 

Women Offstage is a workshop showcasing offstage roles for women looking to start a career in theatre. The event will include a brief guided backstage tour following a workshop with members of the Production Department and Stage Management team. It will explore the opportunities available in these departments in order to encourage more women to take up space backstage.

The Script Club meets once a month to discuss a play written by a female playwright. The recurring event will be discussion-based and participants are encouraged to bring their own knowledge of female-led work to the discussion. 

Too often young women are being silenced, patronised or ignored. Empowerment workshop creates a space for women aged 14-18 to voice their opinion and ask questions through a series of acting games, exercises and discussions, so they can be empowered to take up space and be the activists of their own future.

A play in a Day is workshop for those who’ve never written a play before, but have a story that they want to tell. No previous writing experience necessary. This aim of this session is that by the end of the day, everyone will have written a short play (20-30 mins) that they will take away with them.

Acting out in People, Places and Things, a play by Duncan Macmillan

Duncan Macmillan’s play is a brilliant evocation of addiction and what happens to performers when they can’t not perform. Dramas about addiction can be exciting to watch. And then dispiriting. Exciting because degradation is fascinating to follow from the relative safety and smugness of an “appropriate” life, and dispiriting because if all that sad mayhem can happen to this or that character what’s to keep it from happening to me or you?

Emma, the protagonist in Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places & Things, created at the National Theatre in London in 2015, suffers greatly, but she is also interested in how far and fast she can fall and still pull back before landing permanently in the gutter: she’s the star of her own tinsel tragedy. Like many junkies, Emma is a brutalizing sentimentalist chasing the dragon while also chasing some idea of love, which involves regret as well. She would “only connect” if she could, or if that kind of connection held her interest for long enough.

Emma’s an actress, a sloppily confrontational, drug-addled mess in a business populated by handlers who applaud inflated self-regard. She likes to be watched—she demands it—but in her state she demeans the honor of drawing the audience’s attention. Onstage, she jerks and twists her way through a scene about failed dreams and unrequited love. What play is this, though? Some of the lines are familiar. Ah, that sad, tall guy is Treplev, from Chekhov’s Seagull, so Emma, in a long black dress, must be Nina, Treplev’s childhood friend and an aspiring actress, Nina, with her dreams and her hysteria. As the scene disintegrates and dance music is piped in and, leaving her costume behind, she goes off to a rave in a world far from Chekhov’s, a club populated by party people who don’t want the night to end, if it is, in fact, night.

The next day—or some other day, who can say—Emma sits, stoned while trying not to be, in the lobby of a rehab facility in London. By seeking help, Emma puts us on her side: who doesn’t identify with the desire to be better, to be transformed, rehabilitated? We all need “work.” And Emma needs to get through rehab if she’s ever going to be hired as an actress again. Indeed, the desire to act is never far from her heart or her way of being: she signs into rehab as “Nina,” a distressing and distressed character who both is and is not herself.

Throughout the almost two-and-a-half-hour play, Macmillan and make the point that drugs both allow Emma to compartmentalize her various selves in her real life and encourage her not to have a real life at all. Group therapy is useless to Emma until she tells her life story—except that it’s not her life story. Another recovering addict, Mark, recognizes it as the plot of Hedda Gabler. Who is Emma without a script? A broken girl who was close to her brother, who died young—and she couldn’t grieve with her parents, no way. Besides, if she stood up to the agony of her loss who would stand up for her? Macmillan has written a brilliant evocation of what happens to performers when they can’t not perform, when they live lives in which the curtain never seems to come down, ever.

Actress Isabelle Huppert to perform at London's Southbank Centre

Isabelle Huppert has announced a solo performance at the Southbank Centre that will see her read extracts by radical 18th-century philosopher the Marquis de Sade.

The French Academy award nominee will appear at the Southbank in June as part of its performance programme for 2018, which also includes a new project by Forced Entertainment and a show featuring Italian actor Isabella Rossellini and her dog.

Isabelle Huppert Reads Sade will take place on June 9, with Rossellini’s Link Link Circus running on October 23 and 24.

Forced Entertainment, which is now an associate company at the Southbank, will present a new version of Tim Etchells’ That Night Follows Day, featuring a cast aged between eight and 14. It examines the language used by adults and how it defines young people, and runs from December 11 to 15.

The programme coincides with the reopening of the Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, which have been closed for renovation since 2015 and are due to reopen this spring.

Other highlights include Circus 1903, a new show featuring puppetry by Handspring, which was behind War Horse, and dance by choreographers including Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Rosie Kay, Wen Hui and Shobana Jeyasingh – whose company also becomes as an associate.

A programme of free performance and activities will take place over April 28 and 29, featuring work by Shobana Jeyasingh Dance, Zoo Nation Youth Company and BBC Young Dancer of the Year finalist Vidya Patel.

Elsewhere, Australian companies Windmill Theatre Co and State Theatre Company South Australia present the UK premiere of their take on the fairytale Rumpelstiltskin, which runs over Christmas.

Told by an Idiot presents Napoleon Disrobed at the Arcola Theatre London

Told by an Idiot explores the human condition through theatre that is bigger than life. They acknowledge the artifice of performance & make no attempt to put reality on stage, instead they inhabit the space between laughter & pain which exists in the real world. Their work is rooted in the live event & thrives on a sense of spontaneity & risk, celebrating the unpredictability of performance. Through playful collaborative writing, anarchic physicality & a comedic sensibility they create genuinely spontaneous experiences for audiences.

Through their work on stage & through their Taught by an Idiot participation work they foster a sense of openness, curiosity & the desire to play.  They consistently experiment with what art can be & who can be involved, & in doing so their work blurs the lines between artist, participant & audience. Their commitment to accessibility informs the entwined relationship between their productions & their participation work. They take creative risks, they tell universal stories & they include everyone.  

Their latest production will open in Plymouth on 25 January and at the Arcola Theatre in London from 14 February. Napoleon Disrobed is a comic alternative history based on the novel The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys. What if Napoleon didn’t die in exile? What if he swapped identities with a lowly sailor and made it back to Paris?What then?

One of the UK’s most unique theatre companies creates this poignantly moving and wryly humorous re-imagining of the final years of Napoleon Bonaparte. Using their trademark comic physicality Told by an Idiot explore the absurdity of trying to retrieve time and glory. An irreverent and hugely playful show about what it is to lose immense power but gain personal freedom; to transition from one identity to another, and to lose public face.

Following their collaboration on the smash-hit My Perfect Mind there’s nothing quite like it... Paul Hunter will take the role of Napoleon under the direction of Award-winning actor and director Kathryn Hunter. 




Initiative to tackle lack of diversity on theatre boards expands nationally

Leading theatres in the north of England are to come together with diverse theatremakers in a bid to tackle the lack of representation on boards. Led by Artistic Directors of the Future, the event took place on October 2 and marks a roll-out of the organisation's strand of work dedicated to diversifying the board members of UK theatres.

ADF, which was set up to increase the number of diverse artistic directors of mainstream theatres, said it recognised that trustees had "the ultimate responsibility to recruit and appoint artistic directors", but the chairs and trustees themselves were rarely from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, especially in the north.

The event, called Diversifying Regional Theatre Boards, is being held at Sheffield Theatres, in association with Arts Council England, and follows an inaugural session at London’s Battersea Arts Centre in 2016. It will bring together the leaders of 30 national portfolio organisations with 30 diverse theatremakers to address the issue collectively, by discussing the barriers that prevent diversification at board level and developing strategies for implementing change at theatres.

This will include a training session led by Charlotte Jones, chief executive of the Independent Theatre Council, and provocations from directors including Javaad Alipoor, Amanda Huxtable and Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh. It is being described as an “action-focused event”. Theatres will commit to submitting action plans to ADF a month after the event, detailing how they intend to implement change.

In addition to the events, ADF is also developing a BAME board bank that can be used by theatres, and will be hosting annual board away days for trustees, artistic directors and senior executives from a range of organisations. The Arts Council, which has partnered with ADF, said it was “keen that the boards of our national portfolio organisations diversify and reflect contemporary England”.

The Stage https://www.thestage.co.uk

Musical about Kids Company Donmar Theatre London

A new musical about troubled charity Kids Company will head up the Donmar Warehouse’s new season. Artistic director Josie Rourke has collaborated with actor Hadley Fraser and composer Tom Deering to craft the show, based on transcripts of the public select committee hearings which saw the charity’s executives grilled over its management.

The musical will be titled The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Takes Oral Evidence on Whitehall’s Relationship with Kids Company. Adam Penford, recently named artistic director of Nottingham Playhouse, will direct the show, which runs at the Donmar from June 24 to August 12. A press night will be held on July 3.

Rourke said the season was designed to “step up to what’s happening” around the world. She explained: “Here is a new musical concerned with truth and accountability; democracy and demagoguery; passion, despair and the rebirth of hope". “Throughout this season, characters fight for, rise to and exercise their power. In creating the Power Season, we’re trusting that theatre will deploy its power to speak with swift and urgent clarity into the present.”

She also confirmed the Donmar’s free ticketing scheme for under 25s will continue, with free tickets available at every performance in the theatre’s spring season.


Festival VOILA Europe 2017 Cockpit Theatre London

The Cockpit theatre is excited to announce the OPEN CALL for this year's festival. Calling all multilingual troubadours, travelling minstrels, intercultural creatives, linguistic explorers, juggling polyglots, translated artists, cross-nation activists, and European theatre companies!

For its 5th years VOILA! Festival becomes VOILA! Europe and will be bigger and bolder than ever. VOILA! Europe is a non Brexit-fearing festival whose mission is to bust the barriers of language and showcase plays from around Europe & the UK to the multi-national audiences of London. 

From new writing from emerging artists to classics revisited by well-loved companies, VOILA! celebrates diversity in performing arts, multiple languages and fearless creatives. No passport required. Broadening out from being a francophone festival to include more languages spoken on the European continent, and spending from one theatre to other venues in the city, VOILA! will program more work and provide additional platforms for exchange in the arts.

They are looking for shows in multiple languages, or translated/adapted from plays originally in a European language, as well as new writing with cast and creatives from the European continent. They accept all genres of shows (music, theatre, performance art, dance), provided they are less than 60 minutes long. 

VOILA! Europe will take place in London 8-18 November 2017 at the Cockpit, Etcetera Theatre Camden and more venues to be announced. The festival will provide 2 or 3 performance slots in one of the festival venues with production and technical assistance, printed brochures, a professional PR and online marketing in exchange for a 50% box office split and a £70 admin fee.



Jermyn Street Theatre London

During the 1930's the basement of the 16b Jermyn Street was home to the glamorous Monseigneur restaurant and club. The space was converted into a theatre by Howard Jameson and Penny Horner in the early 1990's, and Jermyn Street theatre staged its first production in August 1994. Over the last twenty years the theatre has established itself as one of London's leading Off-West End studio theatre.

Gene David Kurk became artistic director in 2009. With his associated director Anthony Biggs he was instrumental in transforming the theatre's creative output with critically acclaimed revivals of rarely performed plays including Charles Morgan's post-war classic the River Line, the UK premiere of Ibsen's first performed play Saint John's Night starring Oliver winning actress Sarah Crowe, and another Ibsen: his rarely performed late play Little Eyolf with Imogen Stubbs and Doreen Mantle.

Anthony Biggs became artistic director in 2013 and has continued the policy of staging rediscovered classic plays alongside new plays and musicals, with a renewed focus on emerging artists, and writers from outside the UK. Jermyn Street theatre was nominated for the Peter Brook Empty Space Award in 2011 and won the Stage 100 Best Fringe Theatre in 2012.


Emphasis on New Writing at The Bridge Theatre London

London Theatre Company was founded by Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr on leaving the National Theatre after 12 years. It will focus on the commissioning and production of new shows, as well as staging the occasion classic.

The Bridge is its home, a new 900-seat adaptable auditorium designed to answer the needs of contemporary audiences and theatre makers that it capable of responding to shows with different formats (end-stage, thrust-stage and promenade). It is the first wholly new theatre of scale to be added to London's commercial theatre sector in 80 years. 

What is immediately striking about the first season announced this month is the emphasis on new writing. Of the first eight productions, all but Julius Caesar are new works. Equally noticeable is that four of the premieres are by women and that there is a nod to gender-fluid casting by having Cassius played by Michelle Fairley.

Balancing Act, Hytner's memoirs out this week, reminds the reader of the astonishing success the National Theatre enjoyed during the period he ran it. Hytner transformed its box-office, he oversaw the staging of hit after hit, productions such as War Horse.. The book reveals that we the audience take for magic is often technical expertise, and that nevertheless it is impossible to guarantee a success. 

However, at a time when the West End is increasingly a Broadway like shop window for musicals and spectacular diversions, the existence of a new independent theatre devoted to plays is to be welcome.

  • Page 1 of 2
  • Page 1 of 2