Stuff that occurs to me

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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

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Monday, 26 October 2020

Great fun - live table read of Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound in support of The Royal Theatrical Fund.

Oh this was great! I really enjoyed tonight's performance of Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound, done as a live table readthrough via Zoom. Just wonderful. Several scenes involved people on telephones so they used bananas as props, haha. It all worked brilliantly from a tech point of view and then we had a moderated Q&A at the end. 

I'd not seen the play before so that was a treat (it's a one-act comedy, poking fun at whodunits based in a country house and has a play within a play) and we had a message at the end to say that Tom had been watching, so that was rather nice (he was also in the audience on one of the times I saw his Travesties too). 

Image cheekily pinched from Lockdown Theatre's page (hope they don't mind!) advertising Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound, with Derek Jacobi, Simon Callow, Jennifer Saunders, Freddie Fox, Emilia Clarke, Samantha Bond, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Gary Wilmot. Narrated by Robert Lindsay, directed by Jonathan Church and produced by Rob Grant and Paul Jackson - thank you all :-)
Poster design by Lily Grant.

Lockdown Theatre has been raising funds for The Royal Theatrical Fund by putting on several of these performances and they've already raised £100,000. I only heard about this one (missed the earlier events) but I'm now on the mailing list so won't miss any more (the producer, Rob Grant, is one of the Red Dwarf co-authors).

It was fun to see the actors enjoying themselves and occasionally stifling giggles and lovely to be a part of as an audience member. In the Q&A afterwards several people wondered if this might form a new medium for theatre that would persist after lockdown ends. The actors commented that it was also interesting to be 'onstage' during bits where they'd normally be back stage or in their dressing room, so they got to see everyone do everything. 

It's also very accessible in the sense that you don't even need to leave your house, and it's generally cheaper to attend than a West End production (tonight's show was £35) - so I could see this as being a useful addition to the theatre, even once they re-open. Possibly attracting a different audience too.

There are already live-broadcast versions of theatre where the show is 'simulcast' in cinemas and recorded for later. Other performances are BSL-signed and on some productions there are post-show talks and Q&As too - so there are already all sorts of additional events that go on. I wonder if productions might add a live table read, or if it would be far too much additional work (eg the play may need adjusting and it still needs to be rehearsed, not to mention everyone needs good wifi and hardware).

Everyone in the audience is muted so you can cough and rustle your Maltesers as much as you like and no-one's disturbed if you pop to the loo. Perhaps there could be PDF versions of the programmes too - I might be getting a bit carried away though!

I also wonder what I'll take away from it in the next few days, and how I'll remember it. Generally after seeing something in the theatre I'll remember bits of it as they related to what was happening on stage, or where someone was, costumes, set decoration and of course music and sound design - which wasn't included (imagine it might be quite hard to include). That said, Radio 4's plays have a lot of sound design and music but you can't see anything at all so it isn't really comparable. Strangely it does feel as if I actually left the house for a bit - while writing this it feels as if I've "just got back" from somewhere! (Something that I remembered a day after the event is the lack of geographic restriction - I think we had people joining us from the US!).

Anyway a really good event and I hope there'll be more.

Also congratulations to Tom Stoppard whose most recent play, Leopoldstadt, has just won the Olivier Award for Best New Play.


Further reading
Review: The Live Table Read of The Real Inspector Hound - Theatre Weekly (25 October 2020)
"Robert Lindsay takes on the role of narrator, relaying the stage directions to the audience at home.  This may not sound particularly thrilling, but is in fact a terrific insight in to how the play is intended to be performed."

The Real Inspector Hound, review: Derek Jacobi and Simon Callow the highlights of a starry Zoom performance - inews (26 October 2020)
"It was a pleasure to watch the performers respond to one another’s choices – something we wouldn’t see normally. We also heard Stoppard’s witty stage directions, read in by Robert Lindsay. It put focus on how precisely crafted the piece is, and also demonstrated the affection (albeit barbed) Stoppard holds for his industry."

The Real Inspector Hound - British Theatre Guide (26 October 2020)
"An excellent company intent on enjoying themselves as much as entertaining the public is completed by suave Robert Lindsay acting as Narrator.

This is the kind of play that has worked well on radio, which makes it a perfect choice for this medium. Not only is it great fun but the script also benefits from Tom Stoppard’s legendary rich use of language and delight in sending up a minor art form that is often taken too seriously and therefore fully deserves to be lampooned.



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