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19.03.2014
Our season of plays and classrooms have closed but UBC’s Frederic Wood Theatre is still hard at work as a laboratory. Theatre artists and scholars from four universities, along with students, actors and consultants have taken up residence in order to push the boundaries immersive audience experience with a workshop for a project called The Secret Doctrine.
The storyline of The Secret Doctrine is based on the life of Helena Blavatsky, a Russian-born 19th century mystic and occult scientist who ran her international ‘new age’ Theosophical Society from a compound near Madras.  In 1884, the young scientist Richard Hodgson arrives in India to investigate Blavatsky’s claims of paranormal phenomena.
To stage The Secret Doctrine innovative methods of projection, digital special effects and the use of immersive multi-speaker audio, will be used to simulate the fantastic marvels which Madame Blavatsky claimed she could summon with the help of Koot Hoomi, her enigmatic Tibetan Ascended Master. Archival imagery combined with wraparound 3D digital animation are being employed by the investigators to create a 21st century realization of the 19th century devices used by spiritualists to enliven seances and other phenomenal events. Funding from the three-year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant is supporting the workshops to develop the script and technology for the staging.
The Secret Doctrine is poised not only explore the universal yearning to believe in something beyond our understanding, but also to provide a thrilling theatrical experience. As I was watching Wheelock’s production of The Secret Garden, I wished I was eight again (except for the horrible prospect of growing up again).  Wheelock Family Theatre is a magical place where dreams come alive, and this is particularly evident in their production of The Secret Garden. This entry was posted in Musicals and Opera and tagged 2011, Boston, children's theatre, February, Jane Staab, January, Jennifer Beth Glick, Katherine Leigh Doherty, Matthew T. After much critical acclaim from America, Secret Theatre arrive in London to take on Quentin Tarantino's hit film, Reservoir Dogs, about a heist gone wrong, a gang and gunshots. What Secret Theatre does offer though is a fantastic adaptation of Quentin Tarantino's classic film, Reservoir Dogs. On the surface, Reservoir Dogs can be seen as a bloody and violent play with "dead cops, dead robbers and dead civilians" liberally strewn throughout. Another aspect that works so well in Reservoir Dogs is the non-linear structure of the production.
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The Secret Agent, a book by Joseph Conrad, is not easy source material to work with but from it, theatre O has developed a unique and intriguing interpretation. The secret agent is Adolf Verloc, a low-ranking spy who has infiltrated an anarchist organisation that doesn’t seem to be much of a threat to the established order. All of this is thrown into chaos by the intervention of his boss Vladimir who instructs his man to antagonise the anarchist group he has infiltrated, to get them to take action. Yet suddenly halfway through, after Verloc has detonated the bomb Vladimir demanded, the tone and approach of the production turns on a dime. In fairness that is what happens in the book but some thought could have been given to adapting this as the jumping around does lose those members of the audience unfamiliar with the source material. The result is that the production as a whole seems to be composed of two incongruent halves – a satirical comedy and an intimate tragedy.
Leaving the challenges of the writing aside, there is much to admire in this bold production. Special mention must also go to the director Joseph Alford and choreographer Eva Vilamitjana for their innovative use of a simple set. Secret Love was performed at the Plowright Theatre, Scunthorpe and continues to tour until 28 November.
Beautifully written by Phil Willmott who also directs, the musical play Secret Love includes a specially recorded message from the almost 90-year-old Day herself (the name came from her singing the post-war hit ‘Day after Day’).
The music – a wonderful survey of Day’s great hits – is characterfully backed by a traditional onstage trio – keyboard, bass, drums – led by musical director Malcolm Edmonstone. Actor Andrew Glen plays several agreeable bit parts and proves himself a truly fine singer, a wonderful tenor sound that enhances the production. The way Willmott and Morris have woven the songs into the story of Day’s life – a saga of rich variety and intense, lovable humanity and ordinariness – is frankly miraculous. Lipman performed the Queen of the Night’s aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute and sang it perfectly out of tune (that was Jenkins’ speciality). Musical Theatre Review Mailing ListSign up to stay informed of Musical Theatre Review news. Well, it can and – even in a production that hasn’t entirely mastered its chosen style – it pays some huge dividends.
Suddenly you see not Blanche and Stella DuBois (Nadia Albina and Stella Leonce), but two unremarkable middle-class sisters out of their natural habitat; one at home there, the other at odds.


He is drawn into her world of uncanny marvels, political intrigue, personal conflict, and occult metaphysics — which predicted many of the great discoveries in quantum theory of the early 20th century. Their goal is for the illusions generated to serve the same purpose as the seances: to create a deep and transformative experience for the participant through ritual. It will also make possible an interactive installation and website that explores the philosophical and scientific background of physics and occult sciences of the late 19th century. Lazure, musical, Neil Gustafson, Professional, puppet, rabbit, school break, Susan Kosoff, The Secret Garden, Wheelock Family Theatre, Winter Break by beccackidwell. Secret Theatre aligns itself to the principles of secret cinema – the location and production are undisclosed until you buy a ticket. Apart from a few places where actors address the audience directly, there isn't any real engagement with the audience at all.
Each cast member embraces their character and brings a sense of authenticity to their role. If you've watched Tarantino's film, then you'll know that there is a particular torture scene in which a man's ear is brutally cut off. The drama cuts to flashbacks of how each member was recruited sporadically throughout the play, as well as including scenes with the undercover police informant and his boss. However, that is only half the job the production promised: great lengths were taken to market the event as one that would make you feel part of the production, but Secret Theatre failed to immerse the audience to such a degree. The site will remain live for at least a year from that date, but new listings will not be approved and it will not be possible to edit current listings. You can add music, opera and dance listings in London and beyond by registering on this link.
The result isn’t completely fluid but it is highly imaginative and shows great promise for the theatre company. This suits Verloc perfectly as frankly, he wants nothing more than the quiet life, an easy desk job without much fuss and lovely evenings at home with his family where he is feted as a king.
This scene, where Vladimir runs circles around the simple Verloc, is the highlight of a bright, strong first half. We’re thrown from a political farce into a personal melodrama, and the effect, rather than being dramatic, is quite jarring.
Either of those two approaches to The Secret Agent would have been fascinating and intriguing. The small cast of five actors all deliver cracking performances, often as more than one character, giving them great opportunity to showcase their versatility.
The Maria at the Young Vic is a small space to work in but instead of shying away from the challenge, theatre O has turned the shifting of furniture between scenes into moments of fascinating physical theatre. Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff in Cincinnati in 1924, she was a teen star – by 13 a potential dancer – groomed for the stage and, more importantly, almost 40 films, in an era when movie stardom really hit the heights. The show itself turns out to be a true celebration of the singer and actress which thankfully does not try to ape her vocal mannerisms or spectacular blonde hairstyles.
The acting from fellow-Scot David Haydn, who portrays (amongst others) the husbands, is a joy, engaging the audience from start to finish. I can think of only one similar show I have seen recently which had a comparable impact – albeit more ironically – and that was Maureen Lipman in Glorious, where she charted the career of the American singer Florence Foster Jenkins. Morris, by contrast, sings with flair and beauty, innocence and integrity, and with her colleagues catches appetisingly the hip, louche nature of the 1950s Sinatra-era.
It’s a play that has crystallised – if not outright fossilised – over time, largely because of an iconic, game-changing, definitive film adaptation, from which it just can’t escape. That’s right, kids, it’s Streetcar – yes, Tenessee Williams’ play even has it’s own shorthand – and if you’ve seen it before, chances are you’ve seen a knock-off Marlon Brando, a two-bit Vivien Leigh and an Elysian Fields inspired by Elia Kazan’s celluloid original. Holmes isn’t glossing over these oddities, he’s deploying them like firecrackers in a lottery machine. It’s limited by not having something particular to say and it addresses theatre before the world. Instead of feeling immersed and part of the production, you're left feeling a little disappointed as the night fails to live up to the hype that Secret Theatre have so cleverly created. When the heist goes horribly wrong the gang members begin to suspect one another of working undercover with the police. Stanley J Browne (Mr White) in particular produces an accomplished performance, so much so that you begin to pity him as the story unfolds.


If the Secret Theatre's adaptation included scenes such as this, with no humour, then the play could easily be deemed quite dark, however the comedic elements work well to dilute the intensity of the scenes.
This section is played like a satire, and it’s done so well that it leaves you to question who we should be more afraid of – the terrorists, or the state that looks to exploit them for their own ends? Somewhere between Forces’ Sweetheart, Greta Garbo and a big band answer to her heroine Ella Fitzgerald, by 15 she was on the way and soon hit the top. Every generous smile and well-meaning smirk, shy shuffle or quiver of the shoulders, speaks volumes.
Even if you haven’t seen it in full before, you could probably stage a standard version in your mind’s eye.
It is an anti-Streetcar, if you like, one that either quotes or subverts, but never replicates, assumes or falls in. It becomes a living piece of art, not an artefact – and certainly not a piece of historical source material. It’s more a display team demonstration, than it is a cultural intervention, and aims, first and foremost, to prove its own potential. Promising ticket holders an "immersive experience" and inviting them to dress up for the occasion and don an alias really ignites a sense of anticipation. Directors Richard Crawford and Brooke Johnston transport this hit American film to a vacant warehouse in East London. Just when you think you have the plot sussed, a flashback reveals that you are quite mistaken. There’s no need for programme notes on 1940s New Orleans – because, hell, who goes to the theatre to learn about the racial tensions and economic climate of post-war America? You understand the terror of turning 30 when life isn’t working out as you’d imagined, when the husband you banked on hasn’t materialised and your every life choice to date seems questionable. Hyemi Shin’s design pits Stanley’s red against Blanche’s blue, encapsulating the territorial tussle that is the play’s central action. Again, there’s a need for tighter dramaturgical control – too many points are made once then dropped and, too often, the production manages only one image or idea at a time.
The warehouse gives the drama the unrefined atmosphere that it needs, and sets the tone from the outset.
The only woman in the play, she adds a welcome and refreshing twist even though she easily fits in as one of the boys.
You can already picture the stretched white T-shirt and echo the iconic roar into the night.
You understand why women might stay with men that beat them – because they choose to be, because they’re “not in anything to get out of,” because they have hope for the future and faith in the man. The masculine poker game here becomes an all-red watermelon binge that carries the same essence of insouciant slobbishness and confrontation. The ensemble of actors – with Vares, Albina and most of all Bill the honourable exceptions – are still getting used to what’s required of them. The production doesn't boast elaborate set or lighting changes – its script and cast alone carry the drama.
You can trace the spiral staircase, hear the sultry, humid gramaphone and practically smell the shadowy, smoky New Orleans streets. You realise that niceties and decorum are a buffer zone, that youth is volatile and all the more sexy for it, that sex motors the world. Shin’s high white walls, over which actors climb, function as the high-rise, but also as an animal enclosure with Stanley (Sergo Vares) a dangerous animal out of his natural habitat.
In a standard production, actors can hide behind craft (accents, physicality and the like). Stanley’s first act on returning home is to lob down a frozen leg of meat; the mechanic back from work becomes a predator returning with prey.




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