Archives for posts with tag: Theatre

Well, she thinks she does anyway.
This is just a quick little post to say that I haven’t fallen off the face of the theatrical earth and that I apologise for my lack of writing. Trust me, I have had intentions to post and have lots of exciting things that I want to write about. It would seem, however, that actually doing these exciting things has taken up all of my time. In fact, I’ve only been to the theatre once* in the last fortnight (cue THIS) so I hope that you can support me during this difficult time.

*to see West Side Story on tour. The conclusion? I’m still not over it. MAMBO.

In all seriousness though, I do hope you all come back to start reading again when I get back on the horse* hopefully next week.

*which is obviously a life sized puppet with 4 actors at the helm in Ridout’s dream world.

I hope you’ve been seeing more theatre than I have, watching YouTube clips of the greats, listening to podcasts, watching ‘The Sound of Musicals’ and obsessing over this new SONDHEIM TV SHOW in my absence. Please continue to do so and let me know how you’ve been getting your fix – coffee (even Red cups) just isn’t cutting it as an addictive theatre replacement anymore.

So, I’ll see you next week then and, until then, I wish you happy ‘When in doubt, Ridout’ replacing!

BONUS: To celebrate the word ‘selfie’ being added to the dictionary, here’s a rare example of me participating in the craze. I think it captures the “What on earth has happened to all the blog posts, Ridout?” sentiment perfectly. I’m making a fool out of myself (and Sinead) to repay you for failing to post blogs on time. You’re welcome.

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“You’ll hear this whispered tune…so long, fare thee well, Pip! Pip! Cheerio! We’ll be back soon”

– Rebecca Ridout

…and, by almighty Olivier, if the National Theatre is anything to go by then it’s in a damn good state. Twelve hours after ‘Live at the National Theatre‘ aired on BBC2, the hashtag #nt50 was still a worldwide trending topic on twitter. For theatre to be having that much of a reaction is pretty impressive and something we, as a nation, can be incredibly proud of. Something you’d want to shout from the roof of…oh, lets say…the National Theatre. The world was talking (tweeting) about the legacy of our National Theatre and still is – I know I can’t stop. So it would seem you’d have to be living under a rock to have missed the 50th birthday celebrations. I’ll admit, despite not being trapped under a rock, I wasn’t sat on a sofa when it aired. I felt very left out and have had to (oh the burden) watch it a few times since to make up for my lack of dedication to our beautiful National Theatre. 

It may surprise you to learn that I only had my first trip to the National last year. At the end of ‘Live at the National Theatre’ in an extract from ‘Habit of Art’ they spoke about “the fear of this building” and I think I had always viewed the ominous Southbank block as a place I didn’t belong. I laugh at myself now when I spend a whole day there reading and treating it like I second home but at the time it felt inaccessible. The National Theatre looked like a concrete fortress (the Prince of Wales once described it as a nuclear power station) that didn’t hold anything for me. How wrong I was! If any of you currently feel this way about the National and are yet to go, I urge you to get an Entry Pass or Travelex ticket and join me in my never ending love affair with the place. 

My first experience* of the National Theatre was to see the 2012 revival of ‘London Road’ after hearing so much acclaim for a new musical. The reviews had described the piece as “groundbreaking” and the ground may as well have broken, swallowed me up, and I would have died happy. I don’t recall having ever seen musical theatre that had pushed so many boundaries of expectation and absolutely nailed it. Complex, clever and faultlessly performed. I think I could use that sentence to describe every National Theatre production I’ve seen since and over a year later I can’t keep away from the place. 

* I’ve lied. Technically I saw ‘War Horse’ at the New London Theatre years before. It’s a National Theatre work of course, but has escaped the Southbank concrete for some smaller concrete just beyond Covent Garden. I don’t count that though, I feel like your first proper Nash experience has to be in the beauteous building on the river. 

I’ve only experienced the National Theatre for one year of it’s incredible life and have seen some truly inspirational work. Multiply that by 50 and you have an incomprehensible legacy of talent, on stage and off, that deserves to be celebrated. Thankfully, they have been celebrating in style and, aside from lighting up the Thames with fireworks, they created ‘Live at the National Theatre’. If you are yet to have watched this glorious show, then watch it HERE

Here are some of my highlights (although it’s hard to choose highlights when the entire programme was perfection):

  • Dame Maggie Smith referring to Laurence Olivier as ‘Larry’ – a nickname I cheekily use when I’m meeting someone on the river and say “I’ll see you at Larry” aka the status of Olivier outside the Nash. 
  • Joan Plowright at the Old Vic. 
  • Dame Maggie in ‘Hay Fever’ in all her comic glory. 
  • Teenagers everywhere realising that by saying ‘YOLO’ all the time, they are in fact quoting Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘Bedroom Farce’.
  • Clive Rowe in ‘Guys and Dolls’ – did he want to belt and higher and more consistently? Blimey. 
  • Angels in America broke me. It needs to be revived, with Scott and Cooper, soon please. 
  • The news that Christopher Eccleston was an usher at the National. 
  • The moment I realised that someone had the job of looking through the archives to choose extracts to show.

Dear National Theatre, I shotgun for the role of ‘Archive Searcher’ for the 2063 ‘100 years of the National Theatre’ celebrations. Thanks very much in advance. Rebecca Ridout

  • Send in the Clowns. Always. 
  • Jerry Springer: making it okay to swear if it’s sung ridiculously high since 2003.
  • History Boys, naturally. 
  • Adrian Lester reaching the same overwhelming emotional point performing an extract of ‘Othello’ as when he performed the whole play (as I had seen earlier this year). 
  • London Road. Seeing that stage filled with hanging baskets reminded me of how overwhelmed I was at that image just last year.

Finally, a main highlight for me was when Trevor Nunn spoke of how musical theatre is regarded as a form where “you can check in your brain at the cloakroom” and how that is not the case. He feels that the National Theatre has been very well served by covering the whole spectrum. Hear hear! In my one year experience I have seen the whole range of theatre that the National has to offer and I feel very well rounded because of it – there is something for everyone. It truly is a theatre for our nation and will continue to inspire from one generation to the next. Be sure to let me know what your highlights were and/or your first experience of the NT (on here or @beccaridout). Let’s keep talking about it and keep celebrating 50 fantastic years. Here’s to the next 50. Happy National-Theatre-going!

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Banging on the windows of the National at the half to mark the first night.

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What a tradition.

“but plays persistent. Plays, plays, plays…” – not lyrics this week. A quote from Alan Bennett’s ‘Habit of Art’ felt more appropriate – and it had me crying at the end of the stunning tribute to our National Theatre. 

– Rebecca Ridout

 

 

 

Last night I had my first night back in the theatre after a two week(ish) hiatus. Apart from when I was away doing West Side Story,* those two weeks were the longest I’ve been without theatre in a long time. I had been starved of my usual fix and, I think, because of this Wednesday’s viewing of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Royal Opera House was all the more incredible (although any trip to the ROH is always inspiring). This has led me to think, in my pensive ways, if it’s possible to overdose on theatre. Do I go too much? Has the enjoyment of each visit been reduced because it has just become ‘the norm’? Will I be better off to go less frequently? I know that my bank balance, lack of sleep and social calendar would be relieved if I did. Somehow I can’t seem to agree.

*Even then I snuck to London one evening to see ‘The Ladykillers’. I just can’t help myself.

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A recent Facebook status in which…well…you get the drift. A normal three week timetable in the life of me.

Last week I substituted a theatre trip for a visit to the cinema. Granted, it was to go and see the Digital Theatre screening of ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ – I still count that as an alternative – but it didn’t hit the T (theatre) spot. Now, I could write an essay on the pros and cons of filmed plays/musicals but no one wants to read that and it simply boils down to the conclusion that what you see on film doesn’t do justice to the live version. I’d trade 10 (if not 100 – whilst I’m being dramatic) cinema viewings of Merrily for the one experience I had when I saw it at the Menier Chocolate Factory. You may also remember that I spoke in a previous blog about the fact that I love theatre because it is transient and I just think capturing it on a camera kills that. I think transience is what makes theatre addictive. It is only a passing moment between the audience and the actor and then it is gone – if you miss it then you miss out. If you don’t go to the theatre constantly then you are constantly missing out. Am I right or am I right!?

Whoa there, crazy Ridout. With that argument you could also say that unless you see every show playing in town every night then you are missing out on each brilliant, transient, performance. We all know that that is impossible so maybe I should just give myself a break and be selective. I (and you) should be able to see something just because I want to see it, not through fear of missing something. 

Okay, so if I’m being selective (which I think I am already) should I cut down on the amount I see? The danger with seeing so much theatre is that the level that I now see as ‘good’ theatre is actually, by most people’s standards, pretty bloody impressive. I have seen some incredible pieces this year: Othello at the National, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime at the Apollo, The Color Purple at the Menier, Merrily We Roll Along at the Menier, A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe, Liza Minnelli at the Royal Festival Hall, Patti LuPone at the Leicester Square Theatre…to name but a few. It’s safe to say I have been well and truly spoilt. Amongst these beacons of theatrical hope I have also seen drama school productions, fringe, regional and even home grown amateur group theatre. When the long list above becomes my normal theatrical viewing then how can I sit back and enjoy all theatre in the same way? The answer is: I can’t. I don’t know how critics do it. I find it very hard to sit back and weigh up the circumstances of what I am watching (eg. how big the budget is, how long they rehearsed, are they being paid?) and view it for what it is. I just have a huge comparison chart whereby so much fantastic theatre ends up in the ‘I enjoyed it’ pile when really it deserves so much more than that. So I shouldn’t go as often? Simple. However, if I didn’t go as often as I do I would have missed some of those ‘theatrical beacons’ and, indeed, some of the incredible pieces I have seen off the beaten theatrical track this year.

It would seem that I do have a problem. I would like to stress though that there is one specific kind of theatre addict that I am not. That is the ‘serial show see-er’. Sure, I’ve seen a few shows a couple of times but never* the same cast twice and never an amount of times that would shock you (I have some friends that have seen shows enough times that make even my jaw drop upon hearing the number). I guess my transience argument could come back and bite me here by saying that no two performances will be the same so what is the harm in going for multiple visits? I think the harm comes when you can no longer distinguish one specific performance from the next. If you saw Rachel Tucker in Wicked 6 times but couldn’t tell me which time she did what riff in Defying Gravity (hats off to you if you can) then you’ve lost a bit of the magic. Your memories of the experience become generic and that is when I think you’ve overdosed on theatre. I may have seen a lot, but if you ask me I could tell you something specific that I remember from each production – no matter how low-key.

*well, seriously, very few.

So do I overdose on theatre? It is true that I am harder to please because I see so much but that just goes to show that I am seeing a lot of high quality productions. That is surely a great big “Yay!” for the industry. Keep going Rids, keep going! Oh well, if I must. It would appear that there is no solution to this vicious circle whereby I spend all my time in red velvet seats. I guess I’ll have to try and make my theatre trips feel more special by treating myself to the odd ice cream or G&T. On that note, I’m off to the Arts Educational School to see their production of Stiles and Drewe’s ‘Soho Cinders’ – maybe I’ll get myself a gin!

Happy frequent theatre visits!

“Come on guys enough hesitating, can’t you see your carriage is waiting…” – a bit of Soho Cinders there. “You shall go to the ball Cinderella” has been substituted in my mind for “You shall sit in the stalls please Rebecca”…I like it.

– Rebecca Ridout

This week’s blog has a soundtrack to go with it. Listen to THIS whilst reading.

When your alarm goes off at 6 in the morning all you want to do is ignore the world and return to your dream of Olivier (or Tony if you’re one of my few American readers – I know, cool right) nominated performances. This is heightened to its extreme on a Sunday morning and on Sunday 29th that was my alarm – it seems there is no rest or mourning for the wicked. I had to get up at 6am because I had a singing audition at 9am. Needs must though so I rolled out of bed and started sirening. Outside of the house the ‘It’s Sunday morning!’ confusion continued as I walked through Peckham in a red dress and hair primed at the slightly less ungodly (ungodly even, if not especially, on a Sunday) hour of 7am. It took some self restraint to not sing ‘Mysterious Ways’ from the Color Purple to everyone who gave me a funny look but with the joyful lyrics swimming round my head my lethargic body got a Sunday spring in its step. 

Obviously, I overestimated the time it would take to get to the audition venue via public transport (but you never can trust tfl) so I went to kill some time in the safe haven of Starbucks. As I sat down with my coffee I noticed the song that was playing had the repetitive lyrics “Ain’t nobody that can sing like me”. This seemed all too coincidental in perfect timing to hear just before a singing audition so I’ve since found the song and I think it may become my new pre-audition ‘go get em’ anthem. It certainly made me laugh, overdressed, in a Starbucks at 8am, on a Sunday.

LISTEN HERE (after Sunday, obviously. Don’t cut off Sondheim) 

Audition done, Sunday was also my last day of staying at friends’ houses and I couldn’t really go back to the house before 6pm. By now it was 10am, which is debatable as a decent time on a Sunday, so I called my friend Adam to plan a catch up. As we know there is no rest (or mourning) for the wicked so I agreed with Adam (the stagey soul that he is) that we could go to the National Theatre so he could be productive with his school work. Brushing my student envy aside, I agreed that I could waste a day in the National, reading a book or browsing the book shop, completely contented. As we walked into the Nash (can I call it that now I’ve established its full title?) alarm bells went off as we spotted that there were tickets available for the matinee of Edward II. Lo and behold, they had £5 entry pass* tickets available. How could we refuse? We still had a few hours to be productive in and going to the theatre is educational (right?!) so if Adam didn’t have an excuse, I didn’t have an excuse. Sold. It soon transpired that my friend Rupert was on his way to the National because he had received an email from entry pass** for the £5 tickets so he too thought “why not?”. To put the cherry on top of the cake, his seat was next to mine – the universe was on my side this Sunday. 

*I hope if you’re 16-25 you signed up to the entry pass system as talked about in my tickets blog so you don’t miss out on things like this! 

** Seriously, sign up to entry pass

Near us in the audience was Hattie Morahan who is currently giving away her heart and soul every night at the Duke of York’s in ‘A Doll’s House’. Our first thought when spotting her was that even following her exhausting show schedule she still comes to the theatre on her day off – snaps for Hattie! This little fan girling moment, however, does lead me nicely into the additional information I wanted to share with you in this blog post. 

After years of being rejected at box offices, failing to persuade them that my £20 was better than letting their seat go unsold, I have finally found success. It started one day when I was trying to get standing seats for Les Miserables (when the house is sold out you can pay to stand at the back of the Dress, if you’re in comfy shoes it’s worth it) when my friends jumped in front of me on Shaftesbury Avenue and told me not to bother as they were all gone. It was 7.17pm and we didn’t want to waste our trip into town so decided to bash our heads together and think what theatres could accomodate us at this time. Long story short, we ended up at Mamma Mia paying £20 for great seats. As it was a popular show I had never seen before I considered that a bargain. The following week I walked past Matilda with a group of friends at 2.25pm and thought we might as well just pop in and ask. We managed to get best available (which were incredible) for £30 – again, an absolute bargain based on the popularity of the show. Then last week I popped into ‘A Doll’s House’ (aaaahhh, there’s the link) and got a great seat for £10* and finally, the example of £5 with Edward II. 

*This one I really recommend you do. Morahan’s performance is not to be missed. Many people study ‘A Doll’s House’ in their time so if you are studying or have studied the play this version is a must see. If its the only production you ever see of this classic, go see hers. 

So there’s another cheap(er) method of getting tickets to add to your list. Tomorrow I’m going to queue for ‘Chimerica’ as that is the latest on my list of must sees. Let me know if you have any success getting into any shows last minute. There’s no harm in asking a box office if you’re just walking past. Why not go on a Sunday? You’ll get to see a great piece of theatre and be home in time for Downton Abbey – what could be better? It was the perfect send off to my three weeks of homelessness and it’s a way I wish I could spend every Sunday. Happy Last-Minute-Ticket-Hunting and Happy (premature) Sunday!

As an aside: I’m sure you’ll all be pleased to know that I’m all settled in my new house and that my theatrical paraphernalia is out in force. Here’s a small section of my new room, feel free to play spot the stagey item. 

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Amongst my belongings is a picture of the composer Charles Miller. It was my ‘Teachers Pet of the Year’ award from LSMT. It sits with pride on my shelf.

 

“It’s Sunday morning, so make a joyful noise. (Joyful noise) unto the lord! Today’s the day god hath made. It’s Sunday! Sunday! It’s Sunday! It’s Sunday morning, so make a joyful noise unto the lord!”

– Rebecca Ridout

 

Again, in advance of Thursday’s promised blog post, I am having to write a ‘bonus blog’ due to my day’s inspiring activities. It also feels like the perfect follow up of last weeks ‘ticket tips’ post as today I was part of the longest ticket queue I’ve yet to encounter (9 1/2 hours)!

In case you missed the memo: Today at 4.30pm a hundred tickets were released to the opening night/press night of Miss Saigon on the 21st May 2014. You also got a free poster (long may the hoarding continue).

Waking up at 5.30am this morning (apologies in advance if my grammar/general understanding of basic English is questionable in this, I am rather tired) I seriously questioned my stage related sanity but still soldiered on. We were (my queue partner Sinead and I) the first people to arrive at the Prince Edward Theatre. This seriously shocked me, where were all the Saigon fans!?* However, knowing we were guaranteed tickets we went and treated ourselves to breakfast whilst keeping an eye on the theatre front. Then, when we were well fed, we felt happy joining the queue in 4th & 5th position respectively, and set up camp for the next 8 hours.

*Apparently they were all waiting to book tickets at home like sane people! At 5.55pm Miss Saigon had broken West End and Broadway box office records for ticket sales in a single day by making £4,402,371 since opening the lines at 10am. Wow.

Here are my top tips for an enjoyable queue experience:

  • Most importantly for comfort: wear multiple pairs of socks. I’m being deadly serious. Even with two pairs of socks my toes were numb within the first half hour.
  • If it’s likely to rain, and you won’t be under the cover of the theatre, make sure you have an umbrella!
  • Take something to sit on. I had seat cushions and the lovely lady in front of us had a camping chair!
  • Don’t be shy to chat to the people in front and behind you – they’ll be your “I’m not jumping the queue!” ambassadors when you go to get food and they provide top notch entertainment. Time can fly by if you’re having fun. After all, you’ll be seeing them again in the theatre!
  • Download the app ‘Heads Up‘ (for 69p) – this is just for general life and queue fun. You’ll need to buy (a further 69p) the ‘Broadway Baby’ deck for particularly popular ticket queue entertainment but it’s totally worth it. Trust me.
  • I would normally suggest taking a flask of hot coffee/tea/chocolate but a massive shout out has to go to the staff at the Prince Edward Theatre, especially our queue controller Mikey, who provided us with free tea and coffee!

I hope they are helpful, if a bit brief! Let me know if you have any other gems.

Now, having been told all day that our tickets would be in the Grand Circle (so at £20, only a small ticket price and reservation fee saving) we had been sold on the fact the tickets were for the opening/press night. When I went to purchase my ticket the box office man said “So I’ve got you two tickets in the front row…” and I had to seriously suppress my urge to jump up and down whilst screaming with happiness. The cameraman next to me got, what I can only imagine to be, a hugely embarrassing reaction shot. I seriously hope it doesn’t find it’s way onto the internet. In that moment, however, I did not care – I was going to be sitting in the front row. Suddenly, all my 5.30am induced fears of insanity washed away and I felt completely justified in my dedication to queuing. Just yesterday I had texted Sinead saying: “There will always be someone who got on the first train and will get there before you” and in that moment I decided I would BE that person. It paid off (only the first 5 people – as you can buy 2 per person – got front row seats).

So the moral of this bonus blog post is: the next time an opportunity like this comes around, you (yes you) should be that first person. Try and beat me to the front of that queue – I dare you. Happy queuing!

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Left to right: Danny, Sinead, Me and Grace.

“To Miss Saigon! …. Miss Saigon!”

– Rebecca Ridout

Now, I have to just quickly get across that the lyrical title of this blog entry is not a reflection of my musical tastes. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Disney film (in fact I have the entire ‘Disney Classics’ collection on VHS in a special box at home) but despite these two facts I am not a Disney fangirl! It just so happened that Alan Menken chose very appropriate lyrics to suit the content of this particular blog post. There, now thats out in the open, let’s begin.

I am moving house this week and in the process of packing I realised I am a hoarder. I am a hoarder of a specific theatrical variety. I had a discussion with my housemate as to whether I should keep my soundtrack CD’s on the argument that in the future I want the same trip down nostalgia lane as I did when I found all my parent’s soundtrack cassettes. He tried to tell me that in the future when a 3D version of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ jumps out my laptop screen and fills my room I will not care for my CD collection at all. This argument, as exciting as it may sound, did not change a thing. I’m keeping them. I was, however, inspired to do a premature (to my promised fortnightly) blog as a bit of a “getting to know you” session. I’ll show you some of my hoards and throw some tips into the mix. Hopefully it is of interest to some of you and let me know if you do any of the same! We can make some kind of musical theatre hoarders support group.

First things first. My biggest collection: TICKETS

I have been keeping all my theatre tickets since September 2012 in my bedside table and I counted them this morning – there are 61 (and that’s not all the shows I’ve seen this year.)

Ever wondered what 61 theatre tickets looks like? Well now you don’t have to.

I’ll admit that’s a lot. However, I rarely spend more than £20 on theatre tickets (the only exceptions this year being Liza Minnelli, Patti LuPone, Merrily We Roll Along and The Color Purple – all of which I think are justifiable) so here are my tips for savvy ticket purchasing:

  • If you are 16-25 you unquestionably need to be registered with the National Theatre’s ‘Entry Pass‘ scheme. You’ll have to be very quick and ‘on it’ when the tickets become available but you’ll get to see some incredible productions at a bargain price.
  • Get used to being a morning person, take a book (see recommendations at the end of this blog!), and go and queue for day seats. Many theatres have this option you just need to check the websites beforehand. Again, if you’re 16-25 and you haven’t queued for £5 tickets for ‘Matilda’ yet then WHY NOT!? Suck it up, get up early and go. You won’t regret it.
  • Sign up to production companies newsletters via email – including productions that are coming up (I did this with Book of Mormon and just today I booked my Miss Saigon tickets) you can get cheaper preview tickets for shows that, as Mormon has proved, can get very expensive.
  • Shakespeare’s Globe. Sign up to the emails and then when the summer season goes on sale you can get £5 yard tickets for an entire season of shows for less money than a West End ticket price. You’ll have to be quick though – they’re very popular.
  • The Royal Opera House has a student standby scheme whereby you can get £10 tickets (sometimes in the stalls if you’re lucky) to a couple of productions each season. OR if you’re not a student just register and you will get emails with ticket prices as low as £3 to certain shows. It’s not an incredible view but it’s still the Royal Ballet/Opera company in the Opera House for cheaper than a Grande Starbucks. I know what I’d rather spend my money on.
  • Finally my best piece of advice: Be okay with going to the theatre alone! When you ‘need’ someone to go to the theatre with you you have to wait for friends to get back to you blah blah before booking a ticket and you often miss the cheap available seats in doing so. I had my first solo theatre visit in 2011 when I went to see Sondheim’s ‘Passion’ at the Donmar and I haven’t looked back since (and I haven’t missed a cheap ticket I’ve wanted to get hold of either)

That’s tips done. Then what to do with the tickets? I used to stick them on my wall, then on my wardrobe etc etc but as I move house every year because of house shares (which if you’re going to drama school you will do!) I soon realised it was easier to stick them all on a noticeboard and cart that round.

My fireplace.

I am definitely going to have to make a new one of these with the past years tickets. Two noticeboards of tickets? Too much?

Other items you can see in this photo are an applause board from LSMT’s production of ‘Applause’, an LP of ‘West Side Story’ given to me as a present when I got into NYMT’s production and on the wall is a poem about the life and career of Stephen Sondheim. Yep, that’s right, a poem. It concludes: “I hope you have a better understanding on of this talented old guy. If not, ask Rebecca Ridout, she knows everything about him. Thank you and Goodbye” I love it! How on earth could I part with it?

Obviously with all these visit’s to the theatre I can’t just have ticket stubs to show for it. I’ve never been a merchandise girl – I don’t own any show t-shirts or the famous Wicked Umbrella. In a previous ‘stop hoarding Rebecca, you’ve got no wall space’ efforts I got rid of my massive poster collection. It now only includes what I refer to as my ‘Donmar Wall’ (see below), a Royal Opera House ‘One Extraordinary World’ design (it’s beautiful), an Applause and West Side Story advertisement and in true nerdy fashion a Shakespeare timeline. Unfortunately I have no advice to offer regarding posters. I constantly struggle with mine falling down – as lovely as Eddie Redmayne falling on my bed in the middle of the night may be.

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An Eddie Redmayne sandwich. Yes please.

Then come the programmes…

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The depth of this pile was insane.

This picture does not reflect just how many programmes are in that pile. There are so many! So many that I cannot be bothered to count them. This is my one hoard I completely justify and I urge you to do the same. I have referred to these programmes on numerous occasions looking up performers (sometimes guest teachers you swear you’ve seen in something etc) finding out who the casting director was, the producers… I think it’s important to always read ALL of the creatives and try and remember them – especially if it’s a long running show that you think you will be suitable for in the future! Never mind the pretty ‘picture brochures’ some of the shows offer, always get the programmes with all the juicy details in. Bossy Ridout.

Finally, not so much a hoard but rather a very necessary collection of books is the last item on my list to talk about (you’re thinking ‘phew’.) I thought I’d share with you some of my recommendations if you’re going to drama school, you’re a graduate or just looking for some interesting reading:

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NB: The order of this pile does not correlate with the list below. Apologies.

  1. Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen – It’s just a bible of acting method. Highly recommended.
  2. So You Want To Go To…DRAMA SCHOOL? by Helen Freeman – what it says on the tin.
  3. So You Want To Be In…MUSICALS? by Ruthie Henshall – this one is just full of things you can refer back to over you career. Also, who doesn’t love a bit of Ruthie? (not featured in the picture because my copy is currently lent to a friend)
  4. True and False by David Mamet – controversially is a book questioning the purpose of training and acting methods. It is consequently an absolutely fascinating read and also helps you, when training, to embrace that not every approach will suit you.
  5. Auditions by Richard Evans – all the ins and outs of what to expect.

I think that’s about it – or at least these are the theatrical items in my room that I feel have some kind of explanation/something I can offer you about them. I also have costumes, shoes, props, a broken stage combat rehearsal spoon, the aforementioned CDs, countless DVDs (oh and an American DVD player just so I can watch all my Sondheim DVDs on what I call ‘Sondheim Sundays’) and of course alphabetized HOARDS of sheet music.

I hope that this bonus blog has been informative, that you feel like you know me a bit better and that you want to return next week to read what I have to say about some beautiful books I’ve been reading.

“Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me.”

– Rebecca Ridout

In true theatrical style, let’s start at the very beginning.

Firstly, let me explain the title of my blog. Whilst in my final year of training at the London School of Musical Theatre (from here on in I will use the acronym LSMT) I got a reputation for always having the answer to any kind of theatrical trivia question. A phrase soon came about stating “When in doubt, ask Ridout” and it caught on pretty quickly. Inspired by this I then used it as a way of getting people to pronounce my name correctly (when in doubt, its pronounced ‘Ridout’) – two birds with one stone: a nice little nerdy reputation and a correctly pronounced surname! Then over the course of the year the questions that were asked of me developed from musical theatre trivia to…well…absolutely anything. You name it, I was asked it.

Therefore, I think “When in doubt…Ridout” captures exactly what I want this blog to be (questions about my life answered) However, I’m still unsure as to what content will fill it on a fortnightly basis! Sometimes it will be an insight into the highs & lows of being a new graduate, sometimes it will be me needing to tell you all to read/watch/listen to something and sometimes it will just be a way for me to let off some musical theatre themed steam. I hope all of the above will be worth a read though! It may occasionally be an inspiration and it may occasionally have the ‘Jeremy Kyle’ effect of making you feel better about your own situation (even if its a case of schadenfreude at my expense) but that’s all it needs to be.

So here goes everything. My first experience of highs and (a very big) low since graduating.

On my first Monday morning as a graduate I had what you could call an exceptionally good day. I signed my contract with my agency, I went to the Tate Modern with some of my best friends pretending to be oh so cultured and finished the day drinking wine and rubbing shoulders with half the cast of Downton Abbey at Spamalot’s after show drinks for Hugh Bonneville’s debut. I felt pretty damn jammy. Life continued like this for two blissful weeks whilst knowing I was soon to start rehearsals for National Youth Music Theatre’s (from now on ‘NYMT’) production of ‘West Side Story’. High after high after high watching friends smash their professional debuts and thinking “that will be me soon enough” Then on the 3rd of August I lugged my suitcase (with pilates foam roller in hand) across London to head to Kent for rehearsals.

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Now I could write an entire essay on what an incredible experience ‘West Side Story’ was and what it meant to me as a performer. I won’t here though. If you’re interested though you can scroll back through my twitter (@beccaridout) and see what was happening and how blissfully happy it made me. My friend Amy replied to my tweets saying “Oh, are you enjoying your West Side Story experience then Rebecca? You should’ve said” and if you already follow me on twitter you’ll know exactly what she means. I was an incessantly happy tweeter. So I won’t bore you with it on here too!

The Saturday night performance of ‘West Side Story’ has now become what I’d like to call my “patronus moment” (just in case you aren’t a Harry Potter fan I mean one of the strongest, happiest memories you can recall). I was stood on the top of a shipping container on our incredible set and as soon as Amara said “Te adoro, Anton” I felt the vibrations of our 33 piece orchestra play out the closing chords of, arguably, the greatest musical ever written.

I think this photo shows how unbelievably elated I was – look at my little beaming face.

That was the ultimate high. In true dramatic fashion I do fear if it may genuinely be the ultimate high of my career. Not because I feel that my career won’t move onto bigger things than an NYMT production but rather because West Side Story is my favourite (and as previously stated, arguably the best) musical. It was a unique site specific production where we (or rather the creatives Nikolai Foster, Drew McOnie and Tom Deering) re-invented a classic. I can’t put it quite as eloquently as Mark Shenton did in his blog for The Stage so I’ll share what he thought:

“The joy of Drew McOnie’s work is that it is classically inspired, just as Robbins’ was, but also pulses and shimmers to its own distinctive vision, beautifully displayed by this eager young cast. There’s rawness and eagerness, vigour and danger in every step they take, and re-make; the usual critical language of dubbing it bold and breathtaking just won’t do. Instead, it does something even more vivid: it makes you look at the whole show in a new way.”

It really is going to be difficult to top that patronus moment I tell you!

Then after the high, as much as I tried to fight it, came the low. Hungover, I was driven back to London the following day (not helped by the bumpy road surfaces for miles stretching out of Manchester. I shudder at the memory) and BAM. Reality. I had a life admin to-do list as long as my arm and an insane amount of washing. I was no longer singing about a glorious place for us all or needing to have a dance off with someone over a small tiff. I had post-show blues. Then to add to this, on my kitchen table there was a letter from my school – it contained my diploma. Instead of being thrilled with my result I realised I had not mourned my loss of training because of the hiatus (remember? those two blissful weeks?) between graduation and ‘West Side Story’. These post-show blues then spiralled out of control because of combining with post-school blues. Ouch.

It’s been an emotional couple of days with tears springing out of my eyes at the most inappropriate moments (namely when I hear the words ‘somehow’,’someday’ or ‘somewhere’) However, as I learned from Uberfacts on twitter this morning: “Crying is good for your health – Flushing unhealthy bacteria out of your body, strengthening the immune system and relieving stress.” I’ve medicated my broken heart with 3 trips to the theatre in as many days, spending time in the sunshine and probably most significantly starting this blog. Rather than sitting down and thinking “I have nothing tangible in the future to look forward to” I’ve been thinking I have a great expanse of unknown in front of me in regards to my career and, to quote my favourite composer*, I am ‘excited and scared’ to start exploring it.

*I won’t say who it is, I’m hoping you’ll guess.

If you’ve got this far, thank you so much for reading this. I hope you return. Who knows what the next fortnight will hold but that’s the beauty of the industry. I guess any lessons from this experience to any newly graduated performer is to make sure you deal with any ‘no more training’ emotion before you may have to face post-show blues! Make sure you have tissues and friendly faces waiting for you when you return to normal life and if you’ve been away on residential have plenty of washing powder stocked up!

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Then when you’ve finished posing in front of a poster for a production you’ve just been in, giving it your best ‘sad face’, dust yourself off and step leap towards the next opportunity.

“Hold my hand and we’re halfway there, hold my hand and I’ll take you there. Somehow, someday, somewhere…”

– Rebecca Ridout