The Play’s the Thing…

3032490151_1dd2bd84e0_mI don’t know how many of you Loose Muse followers are playwrights or interested in theatre, but the other day I read in the paper that ‘The Mousetrap’, Agatha Christie’s famous murder mystery play, celebrated its’ 25,000th performance in November, and reached its’ 60th year. It’s already in the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest-running play ever…an amazing achievement. It opened in the West Eng in 1952, and year after year has played to full houses, becoming as much a part of London’s tourist scene as Big Ben or Madame Tussaud’s.

In the vague mists of my memory I do recall going to see it when I was a teenager – and that was almost half a century ago, so it’s little wonder I can’t remember who actually done it. Apparently it began life as a short radio play, broadcasting in May 1947, that came out of a short story, and was based on a real-life case of the death of a boy in 1945. Also Agatha Christie asked that the story shouldn’t be published as long as it ran as a play in the West End of London, so it still hasn’t been published in the UK, although it appeared in the US in a collection of stories in 1950.

As part of its 60th birthday anniversary a whole host of famous thesps starred in a special performance, including Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, Miranda Hart and Patrick Stewart. I’ll bet they had an absolute ball, and in theatrical tradition played all sorts of tricks on each other spice things up a bit. Perhaps the butler didn’t do it after all!

Coming a close second must be ‘The Woman in Black’, the fabulous ghost story by Susan Hill, which has been running at the Fortune Theatre since 1989. I’ve seen that at least five times over the past few years, and always enjoyed it. The last time I took a pal to see it for her birthday. We went to a matinee so the theatre was filled with a crowd of teenagers clearly there on a school trip, and all boasting they weren’t going to be frightened by the scary bits. Oh yeah, I thought, not without reason. I’d seen it before so knew what to expect….hahahahaha!!!!! Their screams echoed round the auditorium so loudly I’m surprised they didn’t call an ambulance, and when I saw them leaving the theatre after it was all over, they all looked several shades paler. Apparently ‘Woman In Black’ has been seen by over seven million people…way to go.

It only goes to prove that when theatre’s mediocre you do wonder what all the fuss is about. But when it’s good it’s the best thing ever. I’ve been lucky enough to see two terrific performances recently. Firstly, the amazing Mark Rylance in his all-male version of ‘Richard lll’ at The Globe, which was astonishing. The play’s a tragedy filled with murder, bloodshed and betrayal, yet he played it like a comedy. And it worked! A-mazing!! And then last week I saw ‘Scenes from An Execution’ at the Lyttleton, written as a political satire by Howard Barker in the 1980’s. I think you always know when a play’s been really well written, even if you don’t go to the theatre a lot, and this really was incredibly well crafted, with themes as pertinent now as when it was first produced. I tried playwriting years ago; I even took a playwriting course, but was rubbish at it. Poetry and stories were always much more my thing, so the world has been spared my appalling efforts.

All of which leads me nicely to Loose Muse. The December 12th Loose Muse will contain a special performance of Linda Lander’s 10-minute play ‘A Perfectly Innocent Love’ about a middle-aged woman tired of the games men play, with a cast of four brawny young men (what’s not to like!). December features are poets Lesley Hale and Angela Stoner, both coming from Cornwall, and Dutch writer Vrouwkje Tuinman also making a welcome return.

In January (January 9th) the Special Play Spot will be filled by Claire Booker, whose talented troop of actors will perform two of her 5-minute plays. In ‘Rainbow Baby’ a woman addresses the birth mother of her teenage daughter, whilst something sinister stirs in the playground in ‘Harriet by the Swings’. January features will be writer Linda Shanson and poet Janice Windle.

And then in February Loose Muse welcome’s the return of playwright/poet Nandita Ghose, talking about her radio plays. So whether you’re a theatre lover or not, there’s an awful lot to get excited about…come along…tell your friends…write your own play-lette and share it at Loose Muse’s open mic spots. And don’t forget to break a leg!



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