an odd thing to appreciate if you’re looking in from the outside, like
myself, having never seen a live performance. From a distance it looks
somewhat archaic, sharing public consciousness with more glaring forms
of media such as film, television and video games. And yet in this age
of electronic entertainment, the very old art of acting on stage has
persisted, and has in some cases flourished.
‘Theatreland’ is a documentary about the Royal Theatre, Haymarket, in
London’s West End. Over the course of the eight episodes we are
introduced to the performers, ushers, managers and maintenance people
who play a crucial role in keeping the theatre running. The show
overlaps two key shows, each with its own actors and its own special
problems. The first is ‘Waiting for Godot,’ a deep and dark performance
about two men waiting for the titular character. ‘Breakfast at
Tiffany’s’ is a re-envisioning of Truman Capote’s book, and sets out to
distance itself from the famous movie version.
few episodes of ‘Theatreland’ just plod along, as the camera crew track
the theatre staff in the hope of finding something interesting.
Sometimes this approach works, and sometimes it doesn’t. We get to meet
a few intriguing characters:
plumber’s daughter who simply can’t get enough of grouting, and the out
of work actress looking for her big break while trying out as an
usherette, are but a couple.
these people and their stories are interesting, you never feel as if you
get to the heart of what makes them tick.
particular you don’t get to know enough about Gareth Williams, the
perpetual understudy who finally gets his chance to shine.
only really hits its stride in episode 6, when ‘Waiting for Godot’
finally comes to the end of its run, and all of the pent-up emotions are
released. Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellen (the two lead actors) offer
their insights and reflections on the show and theatre in general.
Stewart is always fascinating to listen to, but particularly so here as
he talks about the unique relationship between a stage actor and his
someone completely ignorant of this art form (like I was), Theatreland
will open your eyes to something new. It gives you a glimpse of a
fascinating world, rich in tradition and full of colourful characters.
It’s just a shame that they didn’t dig a little deeper.