Category Archives: Blog

Happenings in the Young Critics universe and theatre world

My Theatre Grudge: Standing ovations 


If you do want to stand up, know that your final decision will be definitive and 100% correct. Authentic, voluntary, high spirited standing ovations are truly uncommon things.”

Standing ovations are dished out like cocktail sausages. That’s right ladies and gentlemen. We are living in an era where hundreds of reasonably sensible people are falling over each other to leap to their feet and clap at the drop of a hat. Since when did ovations become so unavoidable?  Is it because we have spent so much on a ticket? So often audiences appear fulfilled by work that is “not terrible” or that “could have been worse”. And then they get up on their feet and applaud. Very rarely I do too, credit where its due etc.

If you are one of these people, how often do you mean it? Would you stand up if the “posh people” around you didn’t, but the work you’d just seen had changed the very fibre of your existence? Because that is when you should get up and show your appreciation. If you do want to stand up – get up and know that your final decision will be definitive and 100% correct. Authentic, voluntary, high-spirited standing ovations are truly uncommon things.

We’ve all been in an auditorium where folk bounce up and down like a Jack in a box when it isn’t earned. There is a lot to be said about mawkishness around standing ovations.


Sunset Boulevard has got people up and out of their seats thanks to Glenn Close making sure the revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ’50s noir-inspired musical was a triumph. Audiences gave a standing ovation the second she walked on the stage and before she’d sung a note. But this kind of ovation isn’t entirely for her performance but for who she is, her bona fide celebrity glamour and what she embodies. (I stood up too.)

I watched GYPSY at Chichester Festival Theatre and was all too happy to participate in a standing ovation for Imelda Staunton mid-song. It felt natural and I did so of my own free will. It was an almost instinctive experience whereby the entire audience spontaneously combusted. The audience, briefly, matched the show.

A standing ovation is a public situation, so I suppose is open to manipulation such as, for instance on Press Nights where family, friends and supporters gather to show considerable support for a production. Or in big shows like Bend it Like Beckham or Mamma Mia where the false-ending is cynically engineered to achieve a standing ovation from the people in the stalls. In any case, a standing ovation that has simply become part of convention is basically futile.

As a general rule I would suggest that you stand up and clap when someone delivers the goods (‘the goods’ being at least six exciting moments per show, usually more) Be open to life itself, and the surprises of life. Standing ovations have to catch us by surprise, when we are the least looking for them. So, half-hearted ovations are, in the very purest sense, a load of old nonsense. And there, it would seem, we have it.

Note:  Article to be published in UK theatre Magazine- May 2016


Guest Blog: The Royal Court’s Young Court

Published by on 04.04.2016

Looking great for 60, the Royal Court celebrates its milestone with an array of outward looking projects. Lynne Gagliano, Head of Young Court, sure knows how to throw a party. Heading up the Royal Court’s inclusive programme of activities for young people up to 21 years, Lynne cheers the Young Court projects which aim to make new theatre, offering active, direct experiences alongside the on-stage work.

“It’s all about unique learning exchanges across all departments, placing young people at our centre, fostering a live dialogue in which their views and ideas are valued and encouraging young people to discover their power to influence and change theatre.”

No party planner is without their badge of experience, and youth isn’t wasted on the young. She talks about her career and how she herself became involved with theatre at an early age. “I volunteered. My first volunteer job was at a venue I loved, the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill. It was a fantastic experience. I learned a huge amount in my time there and met people that I’m still working with today.”

Lynne trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and, before that, taught Drama and English. How transferable are those skills in her current role? She explains, “The ability to collaborate successfully has helped me enormously in every theatre job I’ve had since leaving Central. Having worked as an English and Drama teacher has also helped me in countless ways in running an education department.”

With collaboration in mind, it’s clear the Court is really going all out to make this celebration as inclusive and open an opportunity as possible. “Being representative, and diversifying talent are core aims. We are driven by the aspiration for the Royal Court to be a proven place of opportunity for all with diverse and brilliant plays on stage and inclusive participation.” She goes on to add, “We actively seek, mentor, nurture and place writers and artists from the widest possible pool of talent and ensure that their work reaches audiences across London, nationally and internationally.”

She urges participants to let the Royal Court hear about their plans, “I think young playwrights need to try to do everything they can to let theatres know about their work. The new writing scene is incredibly robust and vibrant.”

One of the jewels in the Royal Court’s birthday crown is titled Open Court Festival. “This summer young people will be handed the keys to the Royal Court. The reins of each department are being handed over to the future of theatre. Our Youth Board and ten fantastic young writers will imagine, curate and produce a summer festival of new work. For three weeks in July, audiences can partake in thrilling, exciting events, performances, talks and projects.” Young people are not only invited to the party, but asked to shape the future years of the Royal Court, an iconic hot-bed of contemporary drama.

Source: Guest Blog: The Royal Court’s Young Court

An incomplete guide to mainstream


After a week of discussion around mainstream, this afternoon I have taken the step of shifting the Mainstream Level to Critical status. I was having trouble getting my head around what exactly this whole mainstream ‘thing’ is. Then it twigged. People cannot conceive of detachment as being part of artistic appreciation: this criticism is practical, active and positive. There is no reason that critical detachment must result in a negative approach. As far as I see it regional theatre has been *rightly so* punching above its weight for years.

This week I took a trip to Bristol to watch Iphigenia in Splott. On the way home I visited Salisbury to watch Hedda Gabler. Both of these fine shows are being performed outside of London. What struck me was the geography of two excellent producing venues (Bristol Old Vic and Salisbry Playhouse) and the exceptional production values on display. It would be moronic to suggest that Iphihenia in Splott might be too challenging for any regional audience because it is ‘alternative’. Regional theatre is often real value for money.

It’s a tricky one – if The Almeida were to go bust, it would be quite sad. But ultimately people would go to another of the many venues in town. If Salisbury Playhouse were to dissapear what provision would there be on that level?

We need a fundamental rethink.

I suppose at a push I like extremely and quite unfashionably traditional productions, yes. We all understand the artistic manouverings that are a fact of life for every subsidised arts organisation in England. Bums on seats etc. But there is a bigger thing going on here. This is a monumental time for British theatre.

Well i’m going to give the mainstream thing a rest… for now. Matt Trueman will do another blog soon, there’s bound to be something funny in that.

Theatre Critics To Teach On New Degree Module At Chichester University


Calling all wannabe theatre critics! Check out the University of Chichester’s unique new module on its BA Musical Theatre degree course.

The module, entitled Musical Theatre Critique and Arts Journalism, is the first of its kind in the UK. Designed to help develop your analytical skills by writing about plays and theatre productions in a constructive and instructive way, lectures will feature leading theatre critics giving their own take on the subject in a series of guest lectures at the university in West Sussex.

Mark Shenton is the associate editor of the theatre world’s bible The Stage magazine. He has backed the innovative scheme and will be appearing as one of the guest speakers on the course. According to Mr. Shenton, everyone can express their opinion about anything these days, through the use of social media and the internet. Because of this, journalists and critics who work in the theatre and arts sector have seen their role change a lot.

Read more about this new course in the link below:

Theatre Critics To Teach On New Degree Module At Chichester University

Critics’ choice: University course to coach new generation of theatre critics

THE art of becoming an international theatre critic is the subject of a new undergraduate programme at the University of Chichester.

Musical Theatre Critique and Arts Journalism, launched at the institution this year, is the first of its kind in the UK to feature guest lectures from the industry’s leading writers.

The innovative module, which is part of a wider joint honours degree in Musical Theatre, has been backed by renowned critic Mark Shenton,  an associate editor of national publication The Stage who will feature for the series.

Read more about this innovative here:

Critics’ choice: University course to coach new generation of theatre critics

Search for Meaning

The occasion

The Bournemouth and Poole Holocaust a Memorial Day Committee hosted it’s annual Commemoration at the Bournemouth International Centre on Sunday 31 January. The committee gave me an opportunity to stage a short devised performance piece through drama workshops with students from St.Peter’s School. Given the context of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, we were determined to put together something that would linger in the minds of the audience. We wanted to create a piece that would be a gentle reminder about what humanity should mean so we can learn the lessons of the murky past but look forward to a brighter future.

The inspiration

My chief inspiration for the performance was a 1972 lecture by Austrian psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl had given about man’s search for meaning. His speech has been a source of inspiration for me. I was keen to share Mr Frankl’s thoughts in his own words to bring alive its relevance to a modern context. The end result that you see is experiment with form and content of a traditional act of drama.

The experimentation

The stage set up can be seen as convergence of two different generations, two different periods, one taking inspiration from the other, and through movement both bringing alive the meaning of life.

Creating issue-based theatre with young people is a very rewarding process. The performance is a result of three, two hour rehearsals that took place throughout January. Working collaboratively with the group allowed the young people to be in control of the product they created. Supported by myself as facilitator with a holistic approach to the work we were making, offering not just drama skills, but linking this training to personal development, and group work. There is a strong sense of empowerment. The message that Viktor has for discovering the meaning of life is brought to life without use of any props, set or costume.

More than one visual narrative is at play, so a challenge to comprehend, but the richness in storytelling and the harmony in contrast that’s played out is very engaging. Having Viktor Frankl deliver his “Meaning of life” lecture from 40 years ago opens the door for several intriguing possibilities of time travel – a cohesive journey that tells a story of its own merit. The performance was met by receptive and supporting audience of 700 people.


Candles lit to remember millions of Holocaust victims


As Vice Chair of the Bournemouth and Poole Holocaust Memorial Day committee, its been a huge honor and privilege for me to contribute and co-organise the Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration.  This year, once again hundreds of people gathered at Bournemouth International Centre to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. Around 500 members of the community looked on as seven candles were lit in memory of seven million people murdered in atrocities across the world. It was a solemn moment as they watched the candles being lit as the theme song from the emotive Schindler’s List played over the sound system. You can read more about this event here Candles lit to remember millions of Holocaust victims