This week, the renowned New York Times critic Ben Brantley continued his annual visitation of London theatre, taking stock along the way of the musicals in the West End. It wasn’t only Brantley, however, who had something more to say about Sister Act: the West End Whingers returned to the show and were more preoccupied with Michael Ball signing autographs in the stalls than anything on stage, while Sister Act cast member Claire Greenway tweeted about her onstage close encounter with the set…
After last week’s Shift Happens conference there was, fittingly, much online reflection on the issues it raised. Guardian critic Lyn Gardner asked what the new technology means for theatre, the Bush Theatre blogged about the importance of their new Bushgreen initiative and Unlimited Theatre suggested that online activity shouldn’t overtake the importance of creating a first life community inside a theatre.
While Shift Happens may have seemed acutely relevant for some, The Playgoer considered what we might obscure when we use the terms “dated” and “relevant” – and why audiences and reviewers should look beyond them.
London Musicals: Intimate or Outsize
“When Hannah Waddingham — the tall, endearingly awkward actress playing the disorganised actress Desiree — sings ‘Send In the Clowns’, you feel privy to a private and privileged conversation. I wouldn’t swap those few quiet moments of song for three hours of dancing nuns or drag queens.”
Re-review: Sister Act with Patina Miller, London Palladium
“What’s different? Well, the dialogue is – if anything – even more atrocious on having to endure it for a second time. Andrew was tempted to leap up and ask ‘Is there a script doctor in the house?’.”
“Big old show stop. 13 minutes or so. Fat nun nearly in a hole. Quite funny actually.”
Community is crucial to theatre’s future
“What does it all mean for theatre? Talking to people over the 24 hours, it sometimes felt as if some hoped that the conference would supply some kind of magic pill – as if this or that new technology might make people flock to see their shows.”
“The moment someone tells you about the show or you pick up a flyer or you visit a website, there is an opportunity for you to start engaging with the work. And the internet is an obvious and a brilliant place to do that. But it should always culminate in a call to action that inspires people to take that massive risk - to get on a bus or a train or their bike.”
“It takes little skill or insight for a critic to automatically label some play ‘dated’ just because it is old. ‘Dated’ like a carton of stale milk. And conversely, it is equally facile to praise a play of the past for being ‘relevant’ just because some surface detail happens to resemble something happening today. (‘Hey, there's a war in this play. And there's a war on now! How prescient...’)”