June 14, 2013

The Lesser-Known South West End

             The lure of the West End is a strong one, but it sometimes can overshadow the pull of smaller, but just as grand, theatres and their respective productions. Before hitting the West End, many performances actually start out in less hyped venues. All I need to do is travel into town from my university in order to reach Frank Matcham’s creation, Richmond Theatre. In other words, I’m spoiled! Opened in 1899 as the Theatre Royal and Opera House, Richmond Theatre was renovated in 1991 and is now run by The Ambassador Theatre Group Limited. It puts on more than 40 shows for 49 weeks per year, offering a versatile selection of drama, opera, musicals, dance, and family entertainment.

             Richmond Theatre’s interior is illuminated with silky reds, classical creams, and exuberant golds. An embellished “R” rests haughtily on the stage’s curtains, overlooking the assembled crowd of eager theatre patrons. I became one such theatre patron to attend the viewings of The Woman in Black in March and just recently, The Governess. Both can be considered psychological thrillers that unnervingly command the stage and scream for their building suspense to be appreciated on a personal level.

The Woman in Black at Richmond Theatre

             My mom came to visit me for the weekend, and on a whim, we decided to pick up some theatre tickets. After drinking our afternoon tea, it was as simple as waltzing into the theatre, choosing what show we wanted to watch, and paying for our tickets. My mom and I had no prior knowledge of The Governess,but the chances of choosing a bad show are slim to none, so a little spontaneity often pays off. On the evening of the performance, we ate at my favorite Italian restaurant in Richmond, Pizzeria Rustica. Since the restaurant is situated relatively close to the theatre, they offer a 20 percent discount off the bill for theatregoers. I never need an excuse to plunge into spaghetti bolognese, but the gratuitous deal gave me even more reason! It wasn’t hard to guess where most of the people in the restaurant were headed afterwards. Everyone was abuzz with chatter of the theatre and dressed smartly in suit jackets and breezy summer dresses. 

             Patrick Hamilton’s, The Governess, centers on a story of the Drew household’s missing baby. What seems like an innocent misunderstanding quickly turns into a living hell as the scramble to find the child becomes fruitless. Starring Peter Bowles as Detective Inspector Rough and Jenny Seagrove as Ethel Fry (the Governess), this whodunit has the audience suspecting everyone of the crime. Seagrove delivers an intense and maniacal performance as she starts to unravel near the play’s end. The play is not without its comedic elements sprinkled throughout, attributing Detective Inspector Rough as their main source. He remarks that if Mr. George Drew (Colin Buchanan) is an “irresistible force,” then he is an “immovable object,” in keeping with the paradox. One family’s secrets burst out into the open and we as an audience are brought along for the ride as mere voyeurs. The play comes in at no more than an hour and a half long, making it a delightful evening out regardless of the day of the week.

             The glitz and glam of London can put stars in your eyes, but when you wipe those stars from your eyes, every nook and cranny of London has something special to bring to the table. All you have to do is look, look and explore. Richmond Theatre has many coming attractions and part of their appeal lies in the fact that they only run for a few days each until they are replaced with new performances. To snap up your tickets and look at show listings, see here.

No comments:

Post a Comment