Incident at Vichy, a one-act play by Arthur Miller, condenses and multiplies his usual sense of foreboding. It’s 1942 in Vichy France and an assorted group of suspected Jews and ‘asocials’ have been detained by Nazis in a makeshift prison. One hysterical young man has had his nose measured. The drip-drip-drip of rumours and panic start to build as the waiting game continues.
Miller’s play is a window into French deportations of Jews, which took place between 27th March 1942 and 17th August 1944. 77,000 deportees from France lost their lives at Nazi death camps or concentration camps, and 1/3 of these were official French citizens.
‘All the world’s a stage’, but let’s remember that not all stages are equal. If you’ve sat through a performance in a cramped or strangely pungent space, you’ll know it can be quite distracting (unless you’re at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in which case it can be a selling point, and the smell of damp is strangely comforting).
On World Theatre Day, it’s time to take a look at theatre facts: some of the strangest pieces of trivia from theatreland, including the playwright who became President, and the ghost who was used as a mascot.
Half a century after its debut, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead returns to The Old Vic. Things may have changed around these parts in the last fifty years – off the top of my head, there’s a branch of Byron down the road, and the price of theatre tickets has increased dramatically – but this play, just like its venue, remains sharp.
It famously lifts two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who we know end up dead, hence the non-spoiler-alert title, and tries to fathom how they met their fate. Was it just a case of really bad luck? Were they a bit dim? Was everyone out to get them from the start? Stoppard may not have all the answers, but he scrutinises their unfair side-lining by the Danish court, and gives them a chance to voice their side of the story. That is, if they even know what the story is. Or where they are. Or which one is which. In these ever more uncertain times, where we’re bombarded with cries of ‘fake news’, conspiracy theories and 24-hour coverage of distressing events, The Old Vic treats us to lines like ‘We are tied down to a language which makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style’. This could have easily described Donald Trump’s tweets, and not a key character’s philosophy on the language of acting.
It had me at ‘free tea and biscuits’. I’ve been to more museums than I can count in my 26 and 3/4 years, but never have I been offered a free cuppa and snacks as part of the deal… until now. Evidently, the Museum of Comedy isn’t your average tourist attraction, but the promise of a good old-fashioned English treat, alongside decades of authentic comedy memorabilia, worked wonders.
Based in a church undercroft between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn, this small but mighty two room venue covers the history of British comedy, from variety acts to TV sketch shows and stadium tours, and all that’s in between.
When I’m busy writing about far-flung city breaks or adventures abroad, I forget to shout about the sights on my doorstep here in Sussex. It’s high time this was resolved, especially as East and West Sussex have some really unusual attractions that need to be in the spotlight. From an Indian-inspired pavilion to a 15th century Chaucer text, these unique locations are certainly worth your time.
It started life as a small Saxon village, but today Arundel is a busy town, dwarfed by a cathedral and a huge castle that’s nearly 1,000 years old. Just along from the castle, you can hire a rowing boat at Swanbourne Lake, before checking out the Blackfriars ruins as you head back to the main streets.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is nearly upon us for another year – where does the time go? In fact, time is all too precious when you’re at the Fringe, and it can feel as though you need to be a logistics expert to pack as much into your day as possible.
However, taking a breather in between shows doesn’t have to involve lurking in the nearest Starbucks. Those tiny bits of free time can be maximised by doing something fun, unusual and also cheap.
Dine student-style in Southside – 30 mins
Nearby venues: Underbelly Med Quad (V302), BBC@Potterow (V25), Assembly George Square Theatre (V8).
Hermann Goering called it escape-proof… he was badly wrong. Colditz Castle has been immortalised in films, books, TV shows and even in a board game, as a place where brave Allied prisoners kept guards on their toes with pretty much constant escape attempts during WWII. Part tactical distraction, part desperation to get home, it was a full-time occupation for the men held here. I visited the castle to see inside the prisoners’ world, right down to their tunnelling tools and forged documents.
The Portuguese capital is associated with WWII spies and dimly lit cobbled streets, but at face value it would seem to be missing the deadly undertones of cities like Paris (bloody revolution, catacombs, the Père Lachaise Cemetery) or London (plague pits, the Great Fire, Jack the Ripper).
As with most major cities, there are the inevitable ghost stories associated with Lisbon, and the ghost tours that go hand in hand; it would be naive to say that death doesn’t have a global entertainment value. Last year there was even a play called Dark Tourism, devised by local dance and drama group Silly Season, staged in a theatre on Rua Garrett. But if you want something more concrete, more respectful, there are plenty of options – you just have to know where to find them.
Lonely Planet describes the Chichester Festival Theatre (CFT) as ‘somewhat Soviet-looking’. However, the interior is definitely bang up to date, thanks to a £22 million renovation project affecting every part of the inner space, from the snazzy trap door in the stage to the 100 extra seats and the distinctive ceiling art in the cafe.
I took a free tour of the new layout, as part of the first Live Night, a special event aimed at theatregoers aged 16-25, which took place shortly before the evening’s performance of Amadeus.
Roman Holiday; La Dolce Vita; To Rome with Love. Notice a pattern? Rome has been the backdrop to plenty of international films since the 1950s, but it often becomes the accidental star of the show and continues to lure tourists who can’t wait to recreate the scenes for themselves.
You only have to head to the Trevi Fountain or the Bocca Della Verita and wait for the crowds of devotees to form (and don’t deny that you want to join in with them), looking to channel Anita Ekberg and Audrey Hepburn. 19th July saw the re-release of Roman Holiday at cinemas across the UK, making this the perfect time to indulge in a tour of the streets that made their way onto the screen.
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.