Week 3/2024: A week of theatre

Theatrical happenings

Week of 15 January 2024

We came home from our shortened, belated Christmas with family on Monday.

This week’s weather was up and down, with Tuesday being very hot, followed by rain storms on Wednesday. After a spectacular sunrise.

Bright orange and yellow clouds from a morning sunrise
Wednesday morning sunrise . . . before the storm

My week involved going back to work, setting up a new computer, and going to some wonderful theatre performances.

As You Like It

I’d booked in to see John X’s production of As You Like It in the Botanical Gardens last week but was still feeling awful after my illness so I rescheduled my booking to this week. Thankfully, I chose Thursday and not wipe-out Wednesday, when the show was cancelled.

A poster for a play with the words "WIlliam Shakespeare's As You Like It" carved onto the image of a tree trunk, seen through a brick arch
John X presents As You Like It

This was only the second Shakespeare performance I’ve seen and I was very excited to go. (The other was Macbeth when I was in high school.)

It was a bit of a test to walk from town to the gardens as I hadn’t been walking much since I got sick, and this was my longest walk since Point to Pinnacle.

The show was set up nicely. We were sitting on a slope and the show was under a tree on the downhill side. Before the show, John X said the weather should hold but if it didn’t there were options. Apparently last year, they only had rain once, for the last half hour of the final show, and they just moved everyone under the trees and carried on.

A group of people in modern clothing performing a play in front of an audience seated on the ground. A young man and two young women are talking.
Early on in the night

It didn’t come to that. The cold was worse than the occasional sprinkling of light rain and a raincoat might had been handy but I was travelling light so I didn’t have one.

The show was fantastic!

I was worried that I wouldn’t understand the Shakespearean English, not having even looked at a Shakespeare work (other than a couple of monologues at drama class) since school. But even though the language is different, it’s a lot more comprehensible hearing it than it is reading it.

A group of people in modern clothing presenting a play to an audience seated on the ground. A man is speaking.
Performing under lights

I didn’t know anything about this play other than it involved girls pretending to be boys. This would have been interesting in the days of Shakespeare where there were no female actors, so men played the female roles, and you’d have a man playing a woman disguised as a man.

It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the show. It’s the second show I went to in the Botanical Gardens this month. The first one was Big Monkey’s production of Pinocchio, which was also fabulous. Four of the cast members from that show were also in this one so they must have had a very busy few months leading up to this.

This Is Our Youth

This Is Our Youth  is a play by American dramatist and screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan.

It unfolds in 1980s New York City and follows the lives of three privileged but disenchanted young adults exploring themes of youth, rebellion, and the challenges of transitioning into adulthood as they grapple with stolen money and complex relationships.

Directed by Penny McDonald, the show stars Sam Tooker, Jacob Golding, and Ella Watkins.

I’ve known Penny for about 18 months through her work as an Alexander Technique teacher. I met Jacob at one of Penny’s classes after seeing the show he and Sam put on with Penny, True West, in 2022. So when I found out they’d be doing a show at the Theatre Royal, I was very excited and have been following their journey to make it happen.

Penny embraces the work of acting coach Howard Fine and on her recommendation I recently read his book Fine on Acting. This gives a great idea of his approach to the craft, and the approach Penny and the team were taking to prepare this show. Combined with Penny’s Alexander Technique support and a long rehearsal period, Penny says this has enabled the actors to be “truly free, connected present and able to perform moment to moment”. (They were also fortunate to be able to attend a masterclass with Howard Fine in December to workshop some of the scenes.)

She said they were able to take time to explore the characters and work through their back stories to be able to fully embody them. I was looking forward to seeing how this was all going to translate on the stage.

I knew it was going to be amazing and I wasn’t disappointed.

The Studio Theatre is a wonderful, intimate venue, ideally suited for a performance like this. While I do enjoy big productions in the main theatre, in this space I feel more connected to the performance and to the actors.

Two young men and a young women seated in front of a wall. The man on the left is holding an American football
The promo for the play from the Theatre Royal program

The cast did a brilliant job of bringing this play to life. It was over two hours of captivating theatre, and I found myself deeply invested in the characters and what was going to happen to them. I’m constantly amazed at productions of very small casts where actors, in this case Jacob, are on stage for virtually the entire show. Thinking back to how much work my own 15-minute show was last year, this is a phenomenal effort!

The show was a credit to everyone, and I’m impressed at how much Jacob and Sam have achieved in bringing it all together. I took Kramstable to see it not just for the performance but also to see what people not that much older than him can do. I hope he enjoyed it as much as I did.

Week 3 summary

What was the best thing about this week?

Seeing two plays.

What did I learn this week?

Speculaas is a Dutch (and Belgian) spice blend used in speculaas cookies that are traditionally made for Sinterklaas (St Nicolas) eve on 5 December. There are different versions of this but it commonly includes cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, anise, white pepper, ginger and cardamom.

What I’m reading this week

  • The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris
  • A Girl Called Corpse by Rees Carter
  • The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
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