“Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?”
It was only in the theatre that I lived.
Most weekends I am in my room, on my bed, watching television and eating pastry. Some weekends, even Netflix is not enough to assuage the hellish boredom so I say sod it, and head into town to see a play.
As a socially awkward teetotal introvert who doesn’t live close to any of her five friends, finding fun things to do can be daunting. One thing I love to do is to go see a play in one of London’s many theatres. So occasionally I make plans with a friend to meet up in the West End for dinner and a play, and I am rarely happier than during these times. Just being in the West End, surrounded by all the theatres with signs screaming the various plays. I inhale deeply-even the air is different (you would feel the same way if you spend most of your time alone in a small room). Over the years I have seen quite a few plays in London-mostly musicals, but also some drama. Here are my top five plays:
–The Book of Mormon: Prior to seeing this, I had been hearing about the The Book of Mormon for ages, but never thought to go see it. Then one day I saw a review which basically called it the funniest show ever, and then all I wanted to do was go see it. I roped my friend in and we spent nearly £100 each on our tickets. We were pretty much on the stage. I don’t know why we were so willing to splurge, especially seeing as now anything over £37.50 is a no-go.
I didn’t read about the play beforehand because I like to be surprised and boy was I ever. The Book of Mormon is set in war torn Uganda and follows a group of Mormons as they try to convert the villagers. If you are African and/or sensitive to the portrayal of Africa, then this show may be awkward for you, at least at first. If you are a devoted Mormon then this show will definitely be awkward, avoid. But listen, I laughed so hard. The play is not politically correct (it’s made by the same people behind South Park) but it goes beyond simply trying to shock the audience. The songs are good, the dialogue even better. At the end of it, Mormons don’t even come off too badly.
There is a running gag that has to do with the Mormons mispronouncing one of villagers names. Every single variation of the name set me off in a fit of giggles. There is also a scene where one of the evangelists is blowing Hitler in hell. I rest my case. What more do you want in a show?
I wouldn’t take my parents to see The Book of Mormon but it is definitely one of my favourites.
-Hamilton: Of course Hamilton was going to be on this list. It is one of the most talked about play in recent years, and the tickets are highly sought after aka expensive. One of my friends was eager for it to come to London; she has the entire album on spotify and would play it everyday. So even before I had any intention of seeing it, I was already familiar with the story. Then it finally came to London and my friend went to see it and declared it lived up to her expectations. But I knew the tickets were pricey so I did not even bother; nothing is worth that price I said. Then another of my friends (oooh Ms got more than one friend) started entering weekly lotteries, hoping to get £10 tickets. Eventually I said to her, why don’t we just book tickets and go see the show? So we found cheap tickets, located at the back of the vertigo inducing balcony with limited legroom not suitable for anyone over 5″2, and we had to booked them six months in advance. But hey we had tickets. We set calendar reminders lest we forgot, prayed to the Lord for our souls to keep (a lot can happen in six months) and waited.
The show lived up to the hype! The story was compelling enough, but the delivery was wonderful. The infusion of hip-hop in the songs added a nice flavour to it, the visuals were amazing. I was gripped from the first number where Alexander Hamilton is introduced: “How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of the Caribbean…grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”; and I was just as gripped two hours later when the last number was performed.
I don’t have a bad word to say about it. I left the theatre humming “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” Months later, I still listen to the songs on Spotify, and they are still so good. This is one show I was worried was definitely going to be overhyped, and it was not. The cheap seats were good, and I could see everything well. However I am hoping to go see it again and I will definitely splurge a bit next time.
Go and see Hamilton! I’m listening to the songs as I write this and getting a bit emotional.
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?
Dreamgirls: This was a random choice. My friend literally called and said she had booked us tickets to see Dreamgirls and I said sure what time? I had watched Dreamgirls (Beyonce’s version), and watched Jennifer Holiday’s broadway performance of “And I am telling you…” a billion times on YouTube, so I was ready for this, or so I thought. I was not ready. This show blew me away. The performances were sublime; special mention to the actor that played Jimmy (two thumbs up). My friend had intentionally booked a performance in which Glee’s Amber Riley was scheduled to play Effie. And then came the moment we were waiting for- Amber Riley’s take on “And I am telling you, I’m not going“. She did not disappoint. There was even a dress change during the performance. We couldn’t get up quickly enough to give her a standing ovation.
I got home and immediately watched the film again. It was probably more special for me because I knew the songs so I thoroughly enjoyed it.
42nd Street: This was a total wild card. My friend asked if I would like to come see it, and I never say no to such requests. I had zero idea of what this was about, I hadn’t even heard of it. It turned out to be a play about tap dancing, and one of the best ones I have seen. It was absolutely perfect. I had only ever seen a minute at most of tap dancing, and there I was watching people tap dance for 2 hours. I was so impressed and entranced by everything; the set, the dances, the acting. It was amazing and I was really pleased my friend got the tickets because I probably would never have chosen the play.
The Exorcist: Whew didn’t see that coming did you? I came across this while trawling through a ticket website looking for something to do that weekend. I hadn’t seen the film (still haven’t), but I knew a bit about it, particularly the head turning scene. I asked my friends, and there was only one brave enough to come with me, and off we went. Unlike the other plays on this list, this is not a musical. I believe this was the first non musical I saw. It was nowhere near as big of a production as the others and it was only on for a few weeks. Still it was a very good show, with good acting and decent effects. I was waiting to see if they would attempt to recreate the 360 degree head turn and by jove they did. I was quite impressed. I don’t know how they did it but it was good.
Lion King: This was the very first play I saw in London, and I went back to see it again, not because it was so great but because my sister hadn’t seen it. I wasn’t going to include it in this list, but then I thought dammit it’s THE Lion King, have some respect. So here it is. To be honest, Lion King was good, it’s just that it was relatively slower paced. When I got fully into it though, it was quite enjoyable. I particularly liked how the humans were made into animals. The story is good, of course, and the performances are decent.
All About Eve: The second non-musical on the list. I had watched the 1950 Bette Davis film and loved it, so when I saw that it was coming to the west end I just had to go see it. It did not disappoint; Lily James and Gillian Anderson were great as Eve and Margo respectively. All About Eve is a really good story and I was happy to get to see it on stage. All I need now is a clip of Eve Harrington’s award speech on YouTube so I can watch it whenever I want.
Chicago: Okay hear me out. I love the movie Chicago. I listen to the entire soundtrack at least once a week (well most of the songs in the OST). The Cell Block Tango is the shit! For years I prayed for Chicago to come to the stage in London. I wanted nothing more than to see the Cell Block Tango live on stage, to see Velma Kelly say “Cicero”. I wanted to see Roxanne perform funny honey, along with her mousy husband Amos and then see Amos perform Cellophane. I had high hopes. Then it happened. Chicago was coming to the theatres; God had finally heard my prayers! I was going to go with a friend but she was dragging her feet so I ditched her and went by myself. I got decent seats too, no scrimping on this one. Then the show started, and I waited for it to get good. I waited, and waited until it was over and time to go home. See there was nothing wrong with the show itself, but it was never going to live up to the expectation I had set. I kept comparing it to the film and it took me a while to realise that it was not going to be like the film. During Cell Block Tango I was waiting for them to bring out red or white handkerchiefs, depending on whether they were guilty or not, and they never did. It is probably not fair to judge the play based on my expectations but I was not impressed. I’ll just stick with the movie clips on Youtube.
To watch list
-Phantom of The Opera
If I could I would be in the theatre every week I would.