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Features Published 24 May 2017

Fantasy Theatre

When reality's a bit much...it's time to take a trip. Here are some hypothetical shows from the wildest imaginings of Exeunt's writers.
Exeunt Staff
Literal fantasy theatre - Lord of the Rings, the musical. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Literal fantasy theatre –
Lord of the Rings, the musical. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Okay, so there’s a lot of great theatre on at the moment (Ferryman, Angels in America, etc, etc) – but as the world takes endless lurches into dystopia, it feels like a good time to imagine something different. These hypothetical shows are things we dream of seeing on stage – and unlike cinema fans, we don’t get request screenings or focus groups to make our voices heard. Read on – and, if you happen to be a mega-bucks Broadway producer – take notes.

‘Appy Days
Everyone’s favourite Cockney salt of the earth bar room boys Chas and Dave present their own singular spin on the Beckett classic…. a study of alienation, dissociation and pie’n’ mash, featuring beloved songs like ‘Gertcha!’ ‘There Ain’t no Pleasing You’,and a deathly ‘Rabbit’ (when Winnie is interrupted by Willie at the bottom of the heap).

There are no answers, yet still they play, for want of nothing better. The old Joanna buried, still they sing to signify the days of youthful folly.

It’s not so much a knees- up as an ‘up to our necks in it’ romp. Andy Arnold directs, Chas as Winnie, Dave as Willie, scenography by Kenny Miller. A play for the ages. Boundless optimism in the face of Brexit. (Lorna Irvine)

Purer comedy, or Total Entertainment Forever and Ever and Ever Unto Infinity and Beyond
It’s totally presumptuous to suggest any ideas for the Father John Misty/ Ragnar Kjartansson collaboration that surely must happen please thanks. FJM has written three of the best albums by a bearded white American dude of all time (FACT); Kjartansson made the National perform the same song for six hours, threw a house party for indie musicians where he played guitar in the bath then went running semi-naked through a field, and filled a gallery with troubadours who crooned the sorrow of strangled desire: the two of them don’t need me or indeed anyone to tell them how to make a self-reflexive lovechild. So this isn’t an idea, just a picture in my mind, of mirrors, a room lined with mirrors, and within them a Misty multiplicity, each one regarding the other with a wild stare of amusement and hopeless disgust, singing concertinaed. Somewhere on the outside, Kjartansson dressing other skinny white dudes to look like Misty, combing out their luxuriant beards with a mother’s tender touch. I’d watch that for days. (Maddy Costa)

Trapped in the Closet (and beyond)
I’m desperate to see the full-length chamber “hip hop opera” Trapped in the Closet. R Kelly has been talking about a Broadway version for half a decade. I’d like to see the full resources of the Royal Opera House dedicated to it. Full orchestra. The whole deal.

I want to see Shia LaBoeuf the Musical. I think there’s definitely scope to extend it to a full length show. Probably also at the Royal Opera House.

I’d like to see a “crowd-sourced” Hamlet where there are no performers who have learnt the lines. Between the audience, they have to piece together the play to their best knowledge. (William Drew)

Waiting For The Thing
So The Thing (1982), ends with two knackered-out dudes on the verge of death, but mainly kept alive by the fact that they’re each waiting for something to happen.

And Waiting For Godot starts like this:

unnamed (12)

So yeah, same, except:

– One has a machinegun, the other a flamethrower.
– Full arctic survival gear.
– They’ve gone completely insane from stress/boredom/exhaustion.
– Lucky’s breakdown is a transformation into the Thing.

I’d watch the fuck out of that. Ideally with Keith David and Kurt Russell reprising their original roles. (Duncan Gates)

Simpsons Rep Season
Anne Washburn’s Mr Burns is currently being revived in Sydney, which is incredibly unfair because I’ve been single-handedly fighting for a West End transfer for the Almeida’s production since 2014. (For ‘fighting’ read ‘complaining to people I know who peripherally work in theatre). It’s an incredible post-apocalypic triptych about a future society who console themselves through the death of civilisation by swapping, then selling, then revering their memories of The Simpsons. No major theatre critic has a good working knowledge of Matt Groening’s ouevre, meaning that Mr Burns was widely panned. It deserves better. My Simpsons Rep Season would educate the tastes of certain sections of the theatre public by reviving Mr Burns alongside stage versions of classic episodes like Tennessee Williams musical ‘A Streetcar Named Marge’, making the theatrical potential of Matt Groening’s ouevre hummingly, toe-tappingly visible. (Alice Saville)

Czech Your Privilege
The production I have long dreamt of bringing to the West End is a play (en)titled Czech Your Privilege. It would depict the struggles of three Etonian six-formers applying for Arts Council funding to put on their own adaptation of Franz Kafka’s Das Schloss. My production will cast a different group of teenagers each night, alternating between pupils from London’s public and comprehensive schools. The first act ends on the news that their funding has come through. The second act occurs the morning after press night. None of the critics have enjoyed the production, and even Quentin Letts denounces the whole project as misogynist. Demoralised, the heroes resolve to finish their education and vow never to set foot in a theatre again. Unbeknownst to the audience, the play continues after the curtain falls: the cast are required to hurl expletives and class-based insults at the real-life audience for as long as it takes them all to leave the venue. I think this would be commercially successful and fondly received by visiting Americans. (Lucian Waugh)

West Wing Story, Act 1
The White House is under the control of the white nationalist Zealots (the “Zets”), led by “Biff” Bannon. Feeling unloved and disillusioned with the amount of work it takes to even pretend to run the gang’s interests, let alone the country, our hero Donny abandons ship, and spends his days wandering the White House grounds, dreaming of an escape (“Melania Coming”). Biff wants a show of loyalty, however, and demands Donny attend a press briefing in a public display of support. As he emerges from the bushes where he is adjusting his fly, he runs into a young reporter for Al Jazeera, Mariam, who is smoothing her hijab before walking into the press briefing room. Mariam has just arrived in the US from Iran. Her temporary visa application received support from Bernardo Sanders, the leader of the Sharps, whose mission is to call attention to the crimes of the Zets and above all to revoke the Muslim Ban. Earlier in the week, Mariam, looking for professional clothing to wear in the US, met Ivanka, Donny’s daughter, who gave her fashion advice and sang for her the glories of her father’s “America.” Now Mariam and Donny are falling in love across a crowded press briefing room. This makes Biff angry, and a rumble ensues. The ending is written in the stars and, partly, on the plot of the Bernstein-Sondheim musical: Donny will accidentally throw Biff onto Bernardo’s knife, ending the Zet’s power. He and Mariam will run off together, tweeting about their romance while evading ICE, and their love will heal the country. (Molly Grogan)

Take the wank out of British theatre…with 1900s sex education
We need more strong female characters on our stages – and nobody can dispute the fact that the purest breed of strong female character can be found in ‘The Meaning of Womanhood’, the “How to Travel The Golden Pathway” sex education brochure. A copy of this dainty pamphlet, published in 1900, found its way into my local charity shop – my local charity shop’s 20p bin, to be precise – yet, by some miracle, hasn’t yet blossomed into West End success.
Through poetry, Latin, unsubtle threats, “an abundance” of “quotation” and a clear ‘hands-off’ philosophy, ‘The Meaning of Womanhood’ coaxes the fin de siècle teenager towards the safety of abstinence, and the righteous pleasures of committed monogamy

-Cast of Characters-
St. Paul: m/30-55/Roman – traditional male authority
Thomas Gray: m/50s/English – assertive poet, with a problematic stance on ignorance
Foolish Girl I: f/any age – binds her breasts “in an attempt to preserve that ridiculous thing called “a boyish figure”
Foolish Girl II: f/any age – hockey player on her period, “run[s] risk for an afternoon’s exercise”
Foolish Girl III: f/any age- energetic, restless, or excited. Seen as “shifty and secretive” thanks to her unpleasant self-meddling
Handsome Reward: male, any age, any ethnicity
Fruits of Marriage: chorus of babes and berries – a reward for living “cleanly and well”

A script is available, on request, to all serious Producers with a Groucho membership and flexible moral compass. (Amelia Forsbrook)

Irrelevant for our time
‘Relevant for our time’ is quite possibly the most frequently used – and intentionally positive – sentiment I come across in reviews. Last winter I decided I’d had enough. My fantasy is not for one piece of theatre, but for a whole genre: Irrelevant For Our Time. Works performed under this title possess no obvious cohesion with the ‘issues’ of the day. They are the noxious gas in the echo chamber, the pieces of theatre that emphatically do not reinforce what we already know to be true. Nowhere is a paragraph written about these plays based around a tedious extended metaphor regarding Donald Trump. Programme notes enthusiastically describe how the AD of the producing house was reading a new script and thought, “Wow, this is utterly unlike any of the other conversations I have over the past week” and so they went with it. In an interview with The Guardian, the director of a trilogy of IFOT plays at the Barbican is asked “Why now?” to which she replies, “No reason at all.”

Only there will be a reason. And that reason will be that producing, performing and watching theatre that takes us as far as possible from the minutiae of the modern moment may well prove to be the best use possible of our time. It might even help us to say something that’s actually *cough* relevant. (Rosemary Waugh)

N.B. Producers looking to option any/all of the below, please get in touch at Editors[at]exeuntmagazine.com – creative control desirable but we’ll gladly sell out if the price is right.

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Exeunt Staff is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

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