by Colin Thomas
You can go to Broadway, or you can bring Broadway—and London, and other centres—home.
If you plan to be in New York over the holidays, The New York Times has prepared a handy how-to guide for theatregoers. It includes tips on what to see, where to eat, and how to get cheap tickets.
If your budget isn’t built for that—and mine isn’t; it really, really isn’t—there are all sorts of ways to bring some of the best of the world’s theatre into your living-room on your TV—for rates similar to those of Netflix.
Broadway HD is a popular on-demand service. Through iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play, you can rent or purchase performances from Ontario’s Stratford Festival. And a new player called Cennarium ventures beyond the standard American and British fare. Cennarium offers more eccentric and European fare and even has chat rooms.
If that still sounds a bit lonely, try springing for the price of a movie ticket; the National Theatre live screenings take place in movie theatres. The quality of the productions is through the roof. And you can easily search for local showings right here.
Next up on that roster is the January 20 screening of the National Theatre’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies. The reviews are all ecstatic, but it’s this one from The Telegraph that made me buy my ticket.
Years ago, I was performing in a play at a home for the elderly. I was giving it my all in a scene with my best friend when a woman in the front row confided to the woman next to her—at the top of her lungs—“They’re overacting terribly you know!”
Uncensored audience responses are only one of the challenges facing the Care Home Tour, a British initiative designed to bring visual comedy to facilities for the aged.
Liam Lonergan, a part-time comic and full-time caregiver, noticed that folks with dementia don’t always find standard-issue jokes funny because they have difficulty following their twists of logic. He speculated that a more visual approach might work better.
And there’s evidence from Australia that comedy can alleviate dementia-related distress.
Some actors use scents, such as perfumes, essential oils—and more surprising sources—to help them get into character.
Actor Michael Ball spritzes on a bit of his mom’s favourite perfume, Madame Rochas, to get him in the mood to play Edna Turnblatt in Hairspray. And scent is one of the first things that performer Arthur McBain considers when approaching a character. “Every time I get an audition, I find a smell that starts me thinking,” he confides. When he was gearing up to play a homeless man, he found inspiration in “an old Costa cup with no coffee left inside.”
Actors aren’t the only performers who sniff themselves into the groove. Ballerina Lauren Cuthbertsone sometimes works for months with a perfumer when she’s working on a role. “I learn a lot when I work with her,” she says, “I talk it all through from the beginning to the end of the ballet.”
Scientifically, paying attention to scents makes sense. Smell is a particularly strong trigger for memories and emotions. As perfumer Sarah McCartney says, “We’ve been smelling for a lot longer than we’ve been talking.”
Speaking of actors and personal grooming products, Canadian writer and performer Karen Hines wrote a piece for The Calgary Herald about her near-death experience with hair dye. It’s harrowing. And hilarious: “I offer this story because, as the Zeitgeist might say if it could speak Understatement, gender is a bit of a thing these days. And hair is connected to gender and gender to power and so on and so on …”
It’s crazy time in theatre. This week, I reviewed three shows on my blog, my colleague Deneh’Cho Thompson reviewed a fourth, and we still didn’t get everything covered.
The pick of the litter is Coming Up for Air, a solo show that features Bernard Cuffling in Leslie Mildiner’s adaptation of George Orwell’s novel. In Coming Up for Air, it’s 1938 and the decidedly ordinary George Bowling quakes in the face of world war as he struggles with his own crises in his marriage and his work. Sound familiar? There’s a dark side to the script, for sure, but it’s also lyrical and funny, and it’s great to see Cuffling in a piece that showcases him so beautifully.
Coming Up For Air runs at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver until November 25. Get your tickets here.
This week, my free newsletter will include an item called “That Synching Feeling”. I don’t want to give too much away, but I can’t help myself, so…it’s about a fantastic phenomenon: when audience members are watching a play, their heartbeats synchronize. Yep. Scientifically verifiable fact. Read all about it.
Every week, my newsletter includes the best of my theatre coverage, including the items that I write for Theatre Wire. And it links to all my reviews—including those from this week that aren’t the pick of the litter.
Sign up here. You’ll be glad you did.