Theatre jewellery

As the existence of this blog might suggest, I have an obsession with theatre. I also have an obsession with jewellery. Even when I was little I used to always run towards the jewellery stands in the shops, attracted by the pretty shiny things on display. With that in mind, I have found some awesome jewellery with a theatre theme.

Theatre masks

The comedy and tragedy masks that symbolise theatre date from the ancient Greeks and they are popular symbols for theatre-related jewellery. This mask necklace, as well as matching earrings, pin and ring, are available from the gift shop at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Mask Necklace

Continuing the mask theme, Lady Muck of Whitstable make these mask earrings in gold or silver. I’ve also seen these earrings at the Globe shop, as well as a matching necklace.

Comedy and Tragedy Mask Studs

Musicals

If you’re a fan of musicals, you’re in luck as popular musicals usually have lots of memorabilia. This gorgeous Phantom necklace can be found on the Really Useful Group site.

Phantom Antique Pewter Christine Necklace

There is also this pretty Wizard of Oz charm bracelet.

Wizard of Oz Charm Bracelet

Talking of charm bracelets, this Oliver! version is quite sweet.

Oliver! – Charm Bracelet

For the Wicked fangirls out there, this necklace is a dream.

Defy Gravity Necklace

If dance is more your thing, this Riverdance-themed ghillies (Irish dance shoes) necklace might suit.

Riverdance Ghillies necklace

My favourite play of all time is The Seagull, so I love this seagull-themed necklace from Tatty Devine.

Tatty Devine Seagull Necklace

Are you a Noël Coward fan? Channel Madame Arcati from Blithe Spirit with this necklace from MisfitMakes on Etsy.

Fortune Teller Necklace

A fan of Sweeney Todd might like this decadent gothic necklace from Curiology Jewellery, also on Etsy.

The Demon Barber lace and razorblade necklace

Ballet fans might like the range of ballet tutu-inspired jewellery at the Royal Opera House. They aren’t online, but they can be found in the physical shop at Covent Garden. There are bangles, rings and earrings inspired by costumes for both the Firebird and Swan Lake.

Firebird-inspired bangle, via goingtotheballet on Pinterest

Do you have any favourite pieces of theatre-themed or inspired jewellery?

Scotch and Soda

scotch and soda

I’ve seen plenty of plays, musicals, ballet and even opera in my time, but one kind of performance I’ve seen very little of is circus. I was excited, therefore, to have the chance to attend the press night of Scotch and Soda at the London Wonderground’s Spiegeltent along with other London theatre bloggers, thanks to OfficialTheatre.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the show at all, but I was mesmerised. A unique mix of circus and jazz, it features the Crusty Suitcase Band (led by Ben Walsh) performing a soundtrack to Company 2’s astounding acrobatic feats. The whole thing has the atmosphere of a speakeasy, with performers swigging from whisky bottles and relaxing with card tricks before performing some incredibly impressive stunts. Instead of being relegated to the background, the musicians play an important part in the show as a whole, taking centre stage at various moments and showcasing something unique in the worlds of circus and jazz.

In a series of sketches, the performers amazed the audience over and over again: climbing on top of one another on a moving bike; clambering to the top of a pile of wobbly boxes; shimmying up a pole held by a member of the troupe; launching each other from a seesaw before somersaulting onto a mattress. I was on tenterhooks throughout, holding my breath as they managed tricks that really should have been impossible with humour and flair.

Each of the characters had a distinct personality, and the circulation of “Wanted” posters before the show started only emphasised this. One of my favourites was the slightly unhinged Bush Stranger (Mozes), whose ability to swing from a trapeze holding on by only his neck or ankles was nothing short of incredible. I also loved Lady’s (Chelsea McGuffin) appearance with two birds (live ones, not models as I had thought at first), providing a calmer moment in amongst the stunning acrobatics. The “brothers”, Daevoud and Kid Lightning, worked really well together and their pole trick was a highlight.

Overall, I loved this unique and dynamic show. It runs until 2 August so there’s plenty of time to catch it on the South Bank. In the meantime, check out this OfficialTheatre interview with Chelsea McGuffin.

Bend It Like Beckham

Another week, another musical based on a film I haven’t seen. Not being a football fan, I’ve never bothered to watch the 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham which propelled Keira Knightley to stardom, but being a big fan of musicals, the soccer theme was certainly not enough to stop me booking a cheap preview ticket for the show which has succeeded Once at the Phoenix Theatre. What I can say with certainty is that you don’t need to like football to enjoy this show.

Bend It Like Beckham is the story of Jess, a teenage girl from a traditional Sikh family who loves football but finds that her desire to pursue her dream leads to conflict with her family. It is directed by Gurinder Chadha, who co-wrote the book with Paul Mayeda Berges. Natalie Dew does a great job: as the protagonist, she needs to carry the show and does so with aplomb, a hugely likeable character that the audience can relate to. Lauren Samuels is also very strong as her friend Jules (the role played by Keira Knightley in the original film), while Sophie-Louise Dann is superb as the latter’s mother Paula. I was also impressed by Preeya Kalidas, who plays Jess’s sister Pinky: her character couldn’t be more different from Jess’s, and I found her hilarious and a great stage presence.

The show is unusual in its focus on Sikh culture, and it’s refreshing to see it represented in a mainstream West End musical. You don’t need any prior knowledge to enjoy the show, any more than you need a knowledge of northern working class culture to appreciate Billy Elliot, though I was pleased to see a higher than usual proportion of non-white faces at the performance I attended, and I enjoyed seeing an area which is local to me – Southall – portrayed on stage. The contrast between Jess’s own desires and her family’s traditions, represented by the arranged marriage which is due to take place between her sister and a local man, was sympathetically portrayed and there were several incredibly funny moments.

For me, the most important thing about any new musical is the music itself, and the score, with music by Howard Goodall and lyrics by Charles Hart, is a strong one. No tracks immediately stood out for me as being memorable standalone songs, but I thought the music blended pop with Indian music to great effect, particularly during the scene that combined the wedding and the football match. It was catchy and uplifting, and it suited the show.

In many ways the show is rooted in its early 2000s setting, from the reverence offered to David Beckham, then at the peak of his career, to the reference to Sporty Spice as being the only single Spice Girl (which causes concern for Paula, comparing her football-mad daughter to Mel C) and the bootcut jeans worn by the younger characters. However, the themes are eternal and the show in some ways reminded me of Billy Elliot, which I’ve already mentioned above, as both musicals are about young people pursuing a dream which goes against their family’s culture and traditions.

As mentioned, I saw a preview performance but the majority of the show was present and up-to-date. It’s not perfect, but it’s a hugely enjoyable, warm-hearted new musical that I heartily recommend.

Battersea Arts Centre at The Place: Hannah Sullivan and Nic Green

The Place near Euston showcases contemporary dance; Battersea Arts Centre in south London hosts contemporary theatre. The two venues have decided to partner up and put on productions that don’t fit easily into either the “dance” or “theatre” category.

I saw two pieces of dance-theatre, the first being Echo Beach by Hannah Sullivan. In this piece Hannah showed us her dance “collection” (called “dancing like everyone I know”) and used dance to reminisce about her family and her life. I really warmed to her and enjoyed hearing her anecdotes; her dancing was entertaining and diverse. If anything, I would have liked to learn more about the events she talked about in the piece.

Nic Green’s Fatherland was very different. Nic met her biological Scottish father only once, when she was younger. Her piece explored this meeting while incorporating elements of Scottish culture – Gaelic, whisky, bagpipes and a Highland jig – to examine her paternal line in the absence of a well-known father figure. We, the audience, were invited to repeat poetry in the form of a chant, involving us directly in the piece. On paper this sounds rather odd, but in the moment I was certainly moved and impressed: I found the piece very powerful. Perhaps contemporary dance is something I should explore further.

King John

King John is a rarely performed Shakespeare play, a history play that at times reads like a tragicomedy or a farce. Produced in conjunction with Northampton’s Royal and Derngate Theatre, this Globe version is the first time the play has been performed on Bankside, marking the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, an important event in the reign of John but one which isn’t actually mentioned in the original play.

After the death of Richard the Lionheart, his younger brother John is trying to hold on to the throne, even though his nephew Prince Arthur has a stronger claim. The play sees John battle in France, fall foul of the Pope and make and break alliances as he tries to maintain power.

This version is superbly designed by Jonathan Fensom, with atmospheric incense and beautiful music (composed by Orlando Gough). James Dacre’s production makes excellent use of the Globe space (I wonder how it worked in Northampton’s Temple Church), for instance, positioning the French town official in the midst of the audience in the Circle, while the French and English kings negotiate from the stage. The production team has assembled a first-rate cast, with Jo Stone-Fewings successfully navigating his character’s development from a confident new king to a sidelined ruler, and Alex Waldmann excellent as the bastard Faulconbridge. There are an impressive number of strong female characters too, notably Eleanor of Aquitaine (Barbara Marten) and Constance, mother of Arthur (a strong Tanya Moodie, particularly impressive in her grief for her lost son).

The tone of the play is surprisingly modern, with characters changing sides repeatedly, displaying political skill and deeply cynical attitudes. It’s a play I do feel deserves to be better known, and this production is ideal for those new to it.

The House of Bernarda Alba

I’ve seen several plays by Spanish dramatist Federico García Lorca, and added to my tally when I went to the Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton to see this new version of The House of Bernarda Alba, adapted by David Hare and directed by Phil Willmott. The play is about a formidable matriarch whose determination to control her five daughters eventually ends in tragedy.

Nastazja Somers is superb as Bernarda Alba, with a strong stage presence and entirely convincing air of authority. Hannah Kerin is also excellent as the eldest daughter Angustias, whose inheritance from her father – Bernarda’s first husband – makes her an attractive marriage prospect despite her advanced (for the period) age. Waris Yusuf stands out as the youngest daughter Adela, who defies her mother’s strict rules on mourning, and I also liked Kerli Kyllonen as Maria Josefa, Bernarda’s mother. However, the whole cast – entirely female – does a brilliant job.

The play is staged with a veil between the audience and the performance space. I found this slightly distracting, but also interesting in its resemblance to a mourning veil, a reference perhaps to the restrictive ways in which the daughters of the house are forced to cover and hide themselves. The set is simple and there is some fine choreography work from Francesca Bridge-Cicic, illustrating feelings and the rhythm of the family’s lives.

The House of Bernarda Alba explores ideas such as the role of women, tradition, reputation and honour: throughout, Bernarda Alba seems more concerned with the reputation of her family than the wellbeing of her daughters. This superb production certainly does it justice.

Love’s Sacrifice

Love’s Sacrifice is a Jacobean play by John Ford, dating from around 1633, and currently playing at the Swan Theatre in Stratford.  It is one of Ford’s three surviving solo tragedies, the others being The Broken Heart and ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore – both of which I’ve seen at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse during the past year, so I feel a certain sense of satisfaction at having completed the “trilogy”.

The plot centres around the beautiful Bianca (Catrin Stewart), newly married to the Duke of Pavia (Matthew Needham) and increasingly attracted to his friend Fernando (Jamie Thomas King) who has fallen in love with her. The Duke’s jealous sister Fiormonda (Beth Cordingly), who is herself in love with Fernando, manipulates her brother, planting suspicion in his mind.

I wouldn’t describe John Ford as my favourite playwright, and this play isn’t his best: it’s rarely performed for a reason, and has a convoluted plot which is hard going at times. Yet there are strong moments in Matthew Dunster’s production – when the illicit couple first meet privately they decide not to consummate their affair, in a powerful scene – and good performances from the cast.

In my experience, Ford plays tend to have a mixed first half, with a few laughs to lighten the bleakness, and an unreservedly dark second half. This is certainly true of Love’s Sacrifice: the almost comedic subplot concerning a rake who has impregnated, and promised marriage to, three women at the same time turns to tragedy after the interval in a scene that anticipates the inevitable bloodbath of the conclusion. If you’re familiar with Jacobean revenge tragedy, there are no real surprises here: but this production is strong enough for it to be worth seeing anyway.