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One Year On: The Small Minded 2014-2015 Retrospective

On the first of March 2014 I attended a play at the Royal & Derngate for the first time in twenty-one years (Sylvester McCoy starring in the The Invisible Man). It was a tremendous neglect on my part that my hometown's theatre had been ignored for so long. During that time my theatre visits had consisted of sporadic (but expensive) trips to London. A Tale Of Two Cities on Saturday 1st March totally changed that. Well not totally maybe, perhaps the wonder of A Body Of An American on Thursday 6th made a bigger impact. However show by show the momentum built until I found myself coming quite often. Well very often in fact. It also had a spin-off effect, so just as I had found R&D, I found other worlds within my town.

I found University students performing at the Holy Sepulchre. I found the amateur Masque Theatre performing at the same venue. I found the Errol Flynn showing plays from London. I found the Looking Glass Theatre via the University shows for the Flash Theatre festival. I found the Northampton Musical Theatre Company performing at my old school of NSB. I found myself watching theatre, dance and students wielding smelly meat during performances at the Northampton University. There were the St Albans Charity Players at the same named church. I found myself walking around town with an umbrella learning history, and seeking ghosts. I found myself at the back of what seemed like a terraced house at the Playhouse Theatre. I even went to London, and just the once to Milton Keynes.

During that single year I sat down for 32 shows in the Royal, 8 in the Derngate, 16 in the Underground, 11 at the Looking Glass, 4 at the Holy Sepulchre, 6 at the Errol Flynn, 3 at the Northampton University, 1 at the Cripps Hall Theatre, 2 at St Albans Church rooms, 3 at the Playhouse Theatre, 8 in London and 1 in Milton Keynes. I kept busy its best to say and occasionally got a sore bottom.

The plays were varied and wonderful. The power of A Body Of An American held long in the memory. I felt like I was on drugs during Every Last Trick. I admired the card sharks of Dealer's Choice. I watched people try to lift chests during One Man, Two Guvnor's. I saw a young girl eat dirt during DNA. I admired the shear joy of movement that was Let The Right One In. I watched a butterfly fly around the Royal during not one, but two shows. All and everything dazzled me.

Dazzled also did my very first encounter with a live stage musical in the form of Blood Brothers. I have since seen nine of them, including my first in London, the amazing Urinetown. I also saw one twice as it was so good, take a bow R&D Youth Theatre and your Sweeney Todd. I also saw one in development in concert in the form of ODD.

May 12th to the 17th was the most landmark week of the year. Flash Festival week where the Northampton University acting students performed their dissertation performances was an incredible experience. Over those six days I was able to see eleven of the fourteen on offer (some did all, well done @mudbeast76). I shall try to see them all this year.

The Thursday of that week I also saw what was the best play for me that year. The day I discovered Mischief Theatre and their The Play That Goes Wrong was a groundbreaking moment. I had been amazed by theatre up to then, but I had not been in so much agony from laughter until that night. I also had the honour of making my first appearance on stage during that performance to offer a little assistance to the set. Holding a mantelpiece here, doing a bit of sweeping there. Just in front of a few hundred people. Thank you @NancyWallinger (or should that be Annie?) for the opportunity. I was terrifying but oh such an incredible moment, and a devastatingly funny show. The next day I was lucky enough to grab a couple more tickets for it and I took my dad to see it, his first show in the Royal since the sixties. He has been a few more times since. I also had the pleasure of seeing it down in London where it is now encamped at the Duchess and I heartily recommend you try to see it. As also their follow-up Peter Pan Goes Wrong which I saw this very week (and did try so hard to see again, but it was just so popular). They are both remarkable shows.

I saw many other remarkable shows as well. Skylight which I was able to see twice (once as the understudy performance, who were really rather good). It was an exceptional piece of work and held two incredible performances from Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan. South Pacific from the Northampton Musical Theatre Company was without doubt the most polished of the amateur shows I saw as a complete package. While the Masque Theatre provided a consistently high level of shows during the year.

The lovely Looking Glass Theatre was also an incredibly fun find (and purveyor of a fine hot chocolate with marsh mallows) and run by the incredibly welcoming James and Leigh. Although I get there much less often that the R&D, it is always a lovely place to be. I look forward come May when I suspect I shall be there a few times for the next Flash Festival.

Mentioning Flash, special mention for the Northampton University. Their very talented students brought a great deal of entertainment (and more than a little stress from themes during Flash). Both Animal Farm and Love & Information at the Royal were incredible pieces of work. I also admired Macbeth and Richard III despite a general hate/hate relationship with Mr Shakespeare.

So, I have perhaps wrote far too much here and if you are really still reading I salute you. My ramblings here have been my hobby of the last twelve months as much as going to the shows themselves. I have purported to know enough about theatre to dare to review it. However I hope that it as been clear enough that I write as someone moving into this realm and just saying honestly whether I liked a show or not. I leave the proper criticism to the experts, whoever they may be.

The last twelve months have been a joy on the eye and on the brain. I have met a good deal of interesting and fascinating people, despite my inherent social incompetence. So I name drop a few. Thank you Jim and Lynne (@mudbeast), Chris and Pam (@chrispoppe), Erica (@theEricaM), Lisa (@TheatreTherapy), Leigh and James (@LGTheatre) and last but certainly not lease Mr Dacre (@James_Dacre)  and Mr Sutherland (@masutherland). There are many others and you are forgotten, so I thank you all. Over the next twelve months I hope to speak to more, rather than skulk in the corner looking shifty.

Those of you who have read a bit of this blog I thank you. It's been a pleasure spending the last year with you. Here's to the next!

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