Artform is an amateur theatrical company resident at the Broadway Studio in Catford, South East London. They have produced a diverse selection of musicals, plays and concerts. Their previous productions include ‘Avenue Q’, ‘Into the Woods’, and ‘Oh What A Lovely War’. I met up with Sheila Arden, Artform’s Chair and Artistic Director to discuss the ins and outs of running a theatre production company, what it’s like to be a Director and what Artform has planned next.
I adored so many aspects of the Artform’s production of The Last Five Years: its intimate venue; the simple stage design; and the moving performances. In this two-person musical, we see the bittersweet rise and fall of Cathy and Jamie’s five-year relationship. It was honest, raw and heart-breaking.
In Leave to Remain, I was absorbed during the first fifteen minutes and believed I was witnessing the next big thing to be produced in London. The music was sensational and combined with its unique use of movement, this captivating atmosphere was created. But in the scenes which followed, my initial impressions were proved wrong. The show played into one too many clichés and negative character stereotypes. The music and movement continued to be excellent, but the musical is ultimately let down by its book.
If we cast our memories back to school, most of us can vaguely remember learning about Henry VIII. If you did, you would have most likely learnt about his six wives and that ‘divorced’, ‘beheaded’, ‘died’ poem, but not much more about them. In Six, these ladies take centre stage and we gain an insight into their multi-dimensional lives through pop contemporary music. They have these big personalities and fascinating stories to share. The result is Hamilton meets the Spice Girls. It’s fun, fresh, and one of the most original British shows I’ve seen in a while.
The West End is starting to play host to a collection of musical theatre productions which celebrate a variety of women. This includes shows such as Six, Caroline or Change, Tina Turner the Musical and the incoming productions of Waitress and 9 to 5. I least expected for this celebration to extend to the revival of the musical Company. Company, a Sondheim classic, which was originally written to centre around a male bachelor, Bobby. But in this revival, it centres around a single lady, Bobbie. And it works, brilliantly. The show, written almost 50 years ago now, provides a sophisticated insight into the modern-day woman and feels as fresh as if it was written today.
Caroline, or Change is a musical of two quite different acts. The first had enjoyable parts but felt slow and left me feeling lukewarm. It was only during the second act that it shifted up a gear and an interesting show began to reveal itself. It became about much more than just an angry black woman in a low paid job, but a multi-layered insight into the feeling of change which rippled across America in the 1960s. It’s not your average feel-good musical but one that gets the brain ticking.
‘So, the world’s unfair, keep it locked out there, in here it’s beautiful’. Hearing this lyric live on stage, the words rang clear in the air and carried a new meaning out of the context of the show. Heathers is pure unadulterated escapism. I was immersed in this crazy world; with its 80s fashion, bizarre expressions and heightened teen angst. By the finale, I was engrossed and didn’t want it to end. Somehow it manages to lock out the outside world and make you feel part of another reality that was, for lack of a better word, beautiful.
Summer: The Donna Summer Musical targets audiences who love the Queen of Disco and want to hear her hit songs performed live in flashy dance numbers, rather than for crowds who prefer a night of sophisticated story-telling. Although it may not be to everyone’s taste, the cast certainly raises the roof of the Lunt-Fontanne theatre.
I love musical theatre overtures, I bloody love them. They just make me giddy with joy. But why don’t we have them anymore? It might have something to do with the fact that orchestras aren’t as full as they used to be, so considering they won’t be performed in their full and rich glory no one bothers? I write that as if I was alive during the golden ages of musicals. But sadly not. Their legacy largely remains through the existence of cast recordings, but essentially, with a few exceptions (including the Honeymoon in Vegas  Overture), I feel as though they are thing of the past.
Hollywood’s attempts at putting theatre related shows on screen have had varying degrees of success (Smash and Rise, yes I’m referring to you). The latest attempt to catch my attention was the 2016 film, ‘Opening Night’, which is now available to stream on Netflix.