Katie Antoniou spoke to Gill Kirk, winner of the TasteTheatre Golden Ticket to all the World Stages London shows, about her thoughts on the shows she’s seen so far and the WSL initiative as a whole.
Had you read Wild Swans before you saw the production and if so, did it live up to your expectations?
I had had the book on my shelves for - ahem - a decade, where it had smiled, a bit worthily, I felt, at me but I never got round to reading it - I still haven’t! Such a shame because, as the play showed, it is a very human story - and not a history lesson or political polemic.
Are you more likely to go and see a play if the cast includes film actors and actresses you might have seen on screen- e.g Katie Leung of Harry Potter fame?
I’m not, but I work in theatre as a writer, so I see a lot of productions and am very keen to see new faces and new work.
The set design in Wild Swan has received a lot of praise- do you think theatres have to work harder with their visual effects these days in order to keep people’s attention since we’re used to being over stimulated by action movies, video games and TV?
Great question! I did wonder about this - the set is a major part of this production, and an important one, I think. It’s not so much about keeping our attention because of over-stimulation from the variety of screens we all face, but theatre MUST raise its game - as has been the case since the dawn of cinema and TV and so on. We now expect something from theatre that we don’t get on screen (well - a certain part of the theatre-going puntership does).
Actually – you could even suggest that theatre almost divides into stuff you could see on telly (“populist”) and stuff that can only be theatre (is this “elitist”?!) But if you go back to pre-screen theatre, visual effects were always vital (for example; “exit pursued by bear”!)
Did Wild Swans teach you anything about China that you were unaware of before?
I used to be a pro-Tibet activist, so knew quite a lot, but this humanised the history for me.
Three Kingdoms has provoked a love/hate response from critics - did you love it or hate it?!
Hmm. Lots to think about and I am straddled between both camps - tho’ not such a strong “marmite” reaction on either side. I like the bravery, the fun (there could have been more conscious laughter from the audience, perhaps), the audacity, but I got bored with some of the less mature humour. I wasn’t at all bothered (as some critics are) by the depictions of misogyny - as a woman, feminist and past activist, it didn’t surprise me or feel unreal - just spot on in fact; we see harder depictions of women’s abuse on TV drama daily.
There’s also been some controversy over whether a critic’s review is of more value than the audiences- either via their blogposts or vox pops taken at the event. Would you be more likely to go and see a production based on what a critic has said, or what a member of the general public has said?
Anything that evens up the audience/critic relationship is a good thing - I’m delighted that there’s been kick-back, whatever the show!
Are there any WSL productions you’ve been to see that you think you definitely wouldn’t have bought a ticket to see independently? Shows that you instinctively felt weren’t your cup of tea? Were those feelings confirmed when you went to see them or did they surprise you?!
I might have seen Three Kingdoms independently because of the writer’s importance, but living out of London, it’s unlikely I would have come in for any of the others. But I’m lucky in Bath - we get a lot of tours.
Have you been to any venues for the first time because of WSL? Do you think you will go again? Would you recommend them to friends?
Absolutely on all counts: never been to Lyric Hammersmith and of course, today I will be at the new Bush! I love the Young Vic and would definitely recommend all these venues.
Coming from outside London, do you think the collaboration of the WSL venues has raised the profile of the London theatre scene and encouraged people to visit the capital?
Oh, that is hard to say. It’s such a crowded marketplace with the Jubilee and cultural olympiad and so on. Here’s a telling - and irritating thing - I have offered my +1 tickets to tens of people, all theatrical - only ONE person has taken me up on ONE show. Perhaps this is sign of people being lazier when it comes to entertainment- it is easier to stick on a DVD than to travel to a theatre, but that’s why theatre has to up it’s game to motivate people to make the effort.