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StageCon. No. Just, no.

STAGE CON

I have been getting slowly obsessed with StageCon. Not because it’s any good – it is, of course, utterly dicey– but because of the shamelessness of it. Events featured will include live performances, sing-a-longs, discussions, cast reunions, panels, games, previews, workshops, meet and greets and showcases. 

As you may have noticed, StageCon was announced and Twitter lost its mind. I suppose an outrage is the new zeitgeist and can generally be more useful than total indifference, though the ultimate decision lies in the hands of the public.

You expect this reaction, obviously, during the summer: theatre’s silly season. 

A raft of musical theatre stars including Michael XavierLouise DearmanCameron Blakely and Stuart Matthew Price have been announced. So, you knew, long before you clicked to see who else will be in attendance that the elusive Carrie Hope Fletcher would be involved. 

I was surprised, though, to see Sharon D. Clarke in this questionable line-up; very obviously, the best theatre person not just from that selection. 

The really depressing thing is, though, that the ‘first ever UK theatre convention’ is presented in association with WhatsOnStage. Oh, and Day tickets for the event cost £85 and a Weekend ticket costs £160. In 2018 extra opportunities for theatre lovers to engage with their favourite musical star will continue to seduce theatre fans. 

STAGE CON

STAGE CON

Just how watered down is StageCon going to be? Well conceptually, even, StageCon is just a ripoff cousin of New York’s theatre convention: BroadwayCon

‘A portion of profits from StageCon will be donated to The Royal Theatrical Fund’. The organisers say: StageCon approached Royal Theatrical Fund as it is a charity that does a lot of great in supporting the Theatre community and so will support it with a portion of profits from ticket sales. This is an arrangement both parties are happy with.

That’s that then. 

It is a shame then that the pricing is as predictable as the sun rising in the morning. The ticket prices are not ideal, they are targeted for the privileged. The organisers have failed to realise there is only one simple rule to be observed when producing these kinds of events: Make it accessiblefools

Even if we ignore the fact that they have assumed that there are this many people who will part with this much cash, to attend a theatre convention in Shoreditch, something pretty staggering is going on here.

But it is important to remember that there’s room for everything, and such events are just moments of funWe are living in an age of boundaries being demolished: teenagers would rather have a selfie with a star than their autograph. It is no longer necessary to wait like a fruit-loop outside a stage door as Kelli O’Hara flees from another exit: you can book an appointment to meet her in the time it would take to arrange a visit to the dentist. It would quite possibly be the same price, and there’s every chance you would get a cupcake. 

More names and events will be announced in due course, incidentally, and there will be more Olivier-worthy action from StageCon and their forward-planning department next month, I’m sure. 

StageCon is at Shoreditch Town Hall in November 

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Is Heathers beyond criticism?

Heathers

I’m quite intrigued by the recent revelations that Heathers is beyond criticism.

In recent times, the traditional press night has  become ever more nebulous. I got an email last week saying that there would be no press night for Heathers. It sounded like a theatre bulletin from another planet: who wouldn’t have a press night for an off-broadway hit, coming to town, in 2018?

This week, Andrezj Luwkowski wrote in The Stage: ‘This production has virtually sold out on the strength of the Heathers name, it scarcely needs reviews. But when you’re unashamedly charging your audience top dollar (top price ticket: £75), inviting scrutiny – or explaining why you’re not – feels like a politeness to them, as much as anything.’

Heathers

Heathers

We all understand the pressure that producers face and that everyone has to do advertising deals. We understand that in a world that contains The Band, critics probably aren’t at the top of the list like they might have been a few years ago.

Last night, though, there was a Gala evening. Baz BamigboyeOfficial London Theatre,WhatsOnStage were in attendance. Call me cynical, but this is not conducive to anything other than cheerleading.

It is the producers and PRs stage-managing the narrative and ‘buzz’ within an inch of its life. It’s kind of maddeningly admirable.

The mixed messages continue.  Heathers is a ‘work-in-progress’ and not a full scale production. However, producer Paul Taylor-Mills said: ‘‘I’m thrilled that within a year of The Other Palace we have a project that has gone from workshop to a fully realised production.” Confusing, right?

But it isn’t just the critics that are relegated to the theatre dead-zone. Glancing at social media it becomes increasingly clear that anyone who has an opinion to the contrary that Heathers is the greatest musical in 2018, is shot down in flames or called a troll and/or hater.

I suppose the cocktail of Carrie Hope Fletcher and Heathers is a fandom that ranks among the most uptight on the internet but, also, if for whatever reason you’re a fan of a show or a performer, it’s unpleasant to see them being criticised. I get that.

You only need to look at the comments under the West End Live performance (that has racked up 150,000+ views) to realise that Heathers is a cult show, driven by cult personalities.

Perhaps some of the vagueness comes from a place of insecurity, and perhaps they’re more aware than they care to admit that the entire operation is questionable. The mind boggles.

I think it is terrific that Heathers is in London, I admire the commercial-nous. But I just wish more people could see it at an affordable rate, with more transparency and a regard for the critical community.

Heathers the Musical at The Other Palace from 9 June to 4 August.

Whatsonstage announce results of survey to find the UK’s favourite Shakespeare play

WhatsOnStage

On William Shakespeare’s birthday, 23 April 2018, leading theatrical website WhatsOnStage announce the results of the company’s survey to find the nation’s favourite Shakespeare play – Hamlet leads the poll with 13% of the vote, narrowly beating Much Ado About Nothing with 12%, and Macbeth with 11%.

A mustplay role for any leading actor, recent productions of Hamlet have seen Benedict Cumberbatch take to the Barbican stage in Lindsay Turner’s production and Andrew Scott in the Almeida Theatre’s recent Olivier Award-nominated West End transfer, and will soon see the new artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe Michelle Terry open her inaugural season in the title role. Mel Giedroyc and John Hopkins are currently playing Beatrice and Benedick inMuch Ado About Nothing at the Rose Theatre in Kingston; and third-placed Macbeth has had two major revivals this year already – Rory Kinnear and Anne Marie Duff in the National Theatre’s production, and opening hot on its heels was Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack in the RSC’s staging.

Chief Operating Officer of WhatsOnStage Sita McIntosh said today, “454 years after the world’s greatest playwright was born, William Shakespeare’s plays are as loved as ever. Theatres around the UK are largely to thank for this, continuing to celebrate the Bard’s work with world-class performances, not least the Almeida’s outstanding, WhatsOnStage Award-winning staging of Hamlet starring Andrew Scott, which surely helped it to claim top spot. Happy birthday William Shakespeare.”

The top 10 in the poll as voted for by the public are:

  1. Hamlet
  2. Much Ado About Nothing
  3. Macbeth
  4. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  5. Twelfth Night
  6. Othello
  7. Romeo and Juliet
  8. The Tempest
  9. King Lear
  10. Richard II

The plays voted on in the survey were the 36 plays included in Shakespeare’s First Folio.