Lest it be thought, even for a moment, that, just because we are temporarily (wo)manning the European Desk of Drammy Towers Inc., we are failing in our theatrical attendance duties, here is a picture of a splendid performance space in Newcastle upon Tyne, England (the far north thereof) that is aptly named Live Theatre. Last Friday we attended an extremely interesting and well-crafted new play (his first full-length) by up-and-coming writer Paddy Campbell (we will be hearing more of him, I predict).
Given that the rain was pouring down, the play’s title WET HOUSE also seemed pretty apt, though in fact a wet house is a hostel for homeless alcoholics, where they can drink around the clock. The story is in fact based on the playwright’s own work experience in such a hostel, which actually took in, not only bona fide alcoholics, but also anyone the system finds hard to place (drug addicts, mentally ill patients, sex offenders, young people who have left care homes).
We were impressed, not only by the script, with its nuanced and pithy dramatic structure, but also by the sharp direction (in the skillful hands of Max Roberts, who founded Live Theatre, and who also took Lee Hall’s The Pitmen Painters from the Live to The National, and thence to Broadway, then back to the West End), the no-nonsense, efficient design (Gary McCann, who ditto ditto ditto ditto), and by the way all but one (sorry) of the six cast members fully and naturally inhabited their roles and took us on their characters’ journeys. For me, of course, it was a joy to hear my smashing Geordie dialect from the mouths of native speakers (both onstage, and when chatting afterwards in the bar, with the actors and Max himself). And I am glad to report that what looked briefly but ominously like a happy ending looming towards the final curtain was averted, and ambiguity prevailed. Very good, I’d say, with touches of “outstanding,” but of course Newcastle upon Tyne is well outside our Portland-only Drammy purview.
Many things about the evening struck me, to which I shall no doubt return. One is that, although Newcastle upon Tyne is a city of a similar size to Portland, the number of “professional” (or really ANY kind of) theatres is way, way, WAY smaller than in our fair city (something like four, to our fifty- or sixty-four). And another is that, although the audience obviously loved the show, there was no leaping to feet (though the national newspaper reviews of first night implied that a standing ovation had occurred then…with the implication that such an occurrence is rare). At the same time, it has to be admitted that the cast returned twice, for a total of three VERY quick curtain calls, as opposed to the one to which actors tend to limit themselves in Puddle Town. Interesting, no? Well, I think it is. And no doubt will rabbit on about it some more, in the not to distant future.
Meanwhile, here’s a picture of the Wet House program, just because.
See you (shortly) at the (Portland) theatre!