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Monday, December 05, 2011

Theatre Visit and Milton Keynes Centre

We went to see a production of "Henry V" by W. Shakespeare performed by Propellor Theatre at Milton Keynes Theatre on Saturday afternoon. We decided to leave the car and went into MK centre by bus, which was a good deal easier and far more stress-free than going by car as we didn't have to worry about where we were going to park, nor the cost of parking. We had imagined that it would be busy, in the build-up to Christmas, and we were absolutely right. We got into the centre with more than enough time to spare, so we walked into the shopping centre (the bus dropped us directly outside the theatre.) and couldn't believe how crowded the place was. It doesn't appear as if there's an 'economic downturn' as people were (supposedly) doing their Christmas shopping and not really taking much notice of the fact that things were so dire. We did notice that a lot of shops had pre-Christmas sales on. We went to W.H.Smith as Carol is interested in getting an E-reader. Smiths have their own one called a Kobo, and we got a good demonstration from a member of Smith's staff. Carol is more interested in the basic model, whilst I'd like the one that is wi-fi connected and colour so you can surf the internet.

We continued to walk through the shopping centre, then visiting Boot's as they have their usual 'Buy 2 items and get one free' and we selected what we'd buy as presents. I have won a £25 voucher from doing on-line surveys, which came at just the right time to spend on presents. We didn't buy the things there and then as it would have meant taking the shopping into the theatre, so we'll buy the items later. Next, we went to Waterstone's, thinking that they would have e-readers in stock. I have an idea that I saw a display of Kindles when we were last in the store in Midsummer Place a couple of weeks ago. We went upstairs and asked an assistant, to be told that, since Waterstone's was taken over by a new company, they no longer stocked Kindles. Very strange, as Kindles (and all brands of E-readers) where the latest 'must-have' gadget, and if that was the case, Waterstone's weren't doing themselves any favours by not stocking them.

We walked back through the shopping centre and ended up in John Lewis, and browsed in the gifts department. Then we walked towards the theatre, which is only a short distance from John Lewis. We had a good forty-five minutes before the play began, so we got coffee from the bar and sat in the foyer.

We could hear music and laughter and raised voices coming from behind a glass partition. I at first thought it might have been something to do with a drama course, as the theatre does have courses for acting and other stage-related business, such as fights, etc. It then turned out to be a rehearsal for the theatre's pantomime "Aladdin" which opens on 9th December. We could see into the rehearsal studios, and Carol got quite excited when she saw the 'star' of the show, Gareth Gates, a former winner/contender on something like 'Pop Idol' or at least, one of those so-called 'reality' television talent shows.  We could glimpse what was going on in the rehearsal room through little glass panels in the partition. It was difficult not to hear what was going on, and occasionally there were children's voices cheering, such as 'he's behind you!' and 'oh yes he is!' etc etc. It's certainly not every day that you get a glimpse into the rehearsal room for any show, and not least a pantomime. Having sat and drunk our coffee, we made our way into the theatre auditorium. We have seen several Shakespeare productions by Propellor. The first was when Carol was teaching at Stantonbury Campus, and we went with a party on a bus to the Old Vic in London to see their production of "The Taming Of The Shrew." This is an all-male ensemble, which means all the parts are played by men, as would have been the case in Shakespeare's day, when women weren't allowed on stage. "Henry V" is modern dress, with the cast dressed in army uniforms as if off to the war in Iraq or Afghanistan. By turns very emotional, funny and quite gripping. We have also seen their production of "Twelfth Night" at the Oxford Playhouse, and the fact that it's an all-male cast is even more effective, as the play involves characters who are not only twins, but one is supposed to be a girl who dresses up as a boy. Which makes it more relevant to the plot, which you certainly don't get if it's a cast of men and women. We last saw their production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" also at Oxford Playhouse, and "Henry V" is the first of their productions to be toured to Milton Keynes Theatre. It was a very sparse audience, unfortunately. Perhaps the people of Milton Keynes don't like Shakespeare or have never heard of this company. Our last visit to the theatre was to see the National Theatre production of "Hamlet" with Rory Kinnear in the lead.

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