The Cherry Orchard: Theatre Challenge Review

As the world’s newest theatre critic, I had to see me some proper theatre. You know, the stuff they made you study at GCSE.

Having seen that The Young Vic had some cheeky cheap seats, I chirpily booked myself on to see The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. The Young Vic offers “Standing seats” for around a fiver. Thankfully, a “Standing Ticket”, doesn’t mean you’re watching from the wings with leg cramp- you have to wait with the other paupers until the people who paid for specific seats are settled in, then run in to nab the best remaining- which I guess is risky business, but I got a pretty good view.

I have to admit, I’ve always fancied myself as one of those luvvie types who can quote the rest of the Hamlet “To be or not to be” soliloquy. I’m also the type to call it a “soliloquy”, rather than “speech”. You get the idea.

The thing is, I’m not a very good one. I’d never heard of Anton Chekhov, or The Cherry Orchard. I had no idea what to expect, and had no idea how big this play is. With this in mind, please take my interpretation with a pinch of salt. I resisted every urge to google it all afterwards, so these are purely my own, poorly informed thoughts.


Okay. We’re transported to Russia, inside a big ol’ crumbling house. There’s this poor pretty servant girl and two wispy daughters, all freaking about “Mummy” returning. I’m going to keep calling her “mummy”, despite this being creepy, as I cannot recall her name ever being used.

From what we can glean at this point, Mummy is returning from some ill-thought-out affair in Paris. Everyone’s stressed that returning to this house will trigger her grief for her son that drowned there. Oh, and Mummy is broke now. Scene.

On scurries Mummy and the rest of the family, and for the next hour an a half, I cannot even begin the describe the plot. It’s small instances of complex conversations that I’m sure have meaningful metaphors going on, all linked by inexplicably running everywhere. One dude proposes a toast to a bookcase, Mummy breaks down a couple of times, for some reason everyone is really mean to the frail old butler, and people are constantly referencing being broke-ass-hoes but still find the pennies to pay for a Jewish band to do a gig in their living room. There’s a brief earthquake, a few existential moments, and a bit where the governess stalks across the stage butt naked. She later shouts “I don’t even know how old I am” and takes a bite out of a cucumber before stalking offstage. I’m not sure she was part of the cast, come to think of it.

Ultimately, the house and the estate gets bought out by some douche who is probably the only guy that makes sense the whole play. His assistant then beats up and (spoiler alert) locks the old frail butler in the house as everyone drives off and The Cherry Orchard is chopped down.

 …Don’t ask me.

After thirty minutes of staring baffled at the stage, I decided to just accept that I would’ve enjoyed the play more if I’d read about the plot beforehand, and allowed myself to be immersed in the strange, bizarre intensity.

I had a few semi-intelligent thoughts throughout. Ah, this is demonstrating the significance of financial power in relationships. Ooh- isn’t the class divide stark, etc. Mostly, I spent the whole time questioning why everyone walks really fast. Like really fast. Even if they’re only travelling from one corner of the stage to the next, they fucking sprint. Why? Is this also a metaphor? Who knows.

Ultimately, it was a fiver well spent, and I would recommend it if you’re a) well into Russian class systems or b) up for flexing your brain muscles a bit.



The £50 theatre challenge


 I’m going on a mission to see as much theatre in London for £50. 

As is typical of anyone that lives in London, I get that familiar nagging feeling I should do more. You know, see more sights, go on the Eye, meet the Queen. Stuff Londoners are supposed to do.

Thing is, you’re always at risk of letting living in London pass you by. It doesn’t take long for your eyes to glaze over as your bus rolls past Big Ben, for the thrill of jumping through the slamming doors of a tube carriage to wear off. You forget that the rest of the country doesn’t have access to a near unlimited choice of restaurants, that no one else is paying by debit card for a bus journey, that you’re living in a city literally bursting with stuff to see and do and eat. Instead, you put your head down and earphones in.

To combat this weird pseudo-guilt, I’m dedicating £50 of this month’s paycheck to theatre. I’m gonna see as much of it as I can physically (and financially) can fit in. And it’s going to be awesome.

Why theatre? Why £50?

I DO WHAT I WANT THAT’S WHY. Also because I love going to the theatre, and I just haven’t been able to find the time or money to get tickets this last year. There is so much of it in London, and it’s not all £90 tickets for West End musicals. I want to dig out the freebies, the am-dram gems, the Shakespeare and the weird stuff too. I’ve picked £50 because that’s enough to keep it interesting without breaking the bank or restricting myself too much. I’m going to prove that theatre is accessible in London, and that it can be cheap as chips if you know where to go.

The rules:

  1. I have exactly £50 reserved- not a penny more.
  2. I want to see as many shows as possible- I’m not blowing it all on one ticket to see a Jacko impersonator.
  3. If I see a show for free, I will donate £2 to Mousetrap (a children’s theatre charity). This means a maximum possibility of 25 shows.
  4. It has to be a play. This excludes stand-up and cabaret, for instance, but includes musicals, improv and that stuff.
  5. There is no time limit, because sod that.
  6. I can get a ticket from wherever I want, including YPlan, Entry Pass, begging, and winning them at a poker game.
  7. I’mma review every show on the basis of how good it was, whether it was worth the dollar and on whether I’d pay full price for a ticket if it was discounted or free. Also if there were any hot cast members.

The plan

So I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to see upwards of five shows. I’m gonna call it now and say I’ll see 8, though more would be fantastic. The aim is to see at least one West End musical, because they’re the notoriously expensive ones, and for the rest to be as varied as possible.

I’ll try and restrict the ways I find cheap tickets to one per avenue, if that makes sense. I won’t just overdose on YPlan, or only use my under-25 discount five times, because that would be boring and I wouldn’t want to exclude the oldies reading. I’m aiming for one show a week until my funds run out, but don’t hold me to that.

So, there’s nothing more to say now until I actually, well, see a show. So I’ll shut up now and keep you posted. Here’s to the cheap seats!


PS: If you want to come with me, please do! I mean, as long as you are in London and don’t plan on stealing all my snacks or feeling me up at the interval, you’re more than welcome to join me. Just let me know and make sure I’ve got you on Facebook/mobile no, and when I find tickets I’ll message out to see if you fancy whatever show I’ve dregded up. 


Cheap tickets for Matilda the Musical

My sister isn’t one for an early start. It runs in the family, for sure, but she’s especially hard to drag out of bed. And on a weekend? Good luck seeing her before lunch time.

So when I set my alarm for 7am on Saturday, I wasn’t expecting her to be be impressed, or even responsive. But the early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the cheap theatre tickets, and I was determined.

Various theatres in London offer cheap tickets for their shows for us cash-stricken 16-25s. The catch is you have to buy them in person from the theatre’s box office, and it’s first-come-first-served. In practice, this means there’s usually a queue forming up to an hour before the doors swing open at 10am, which means no lie in for me or my sister.


Come 9am, Baby Kelly and I were running through Covent Garden, the Cambridge Theatre sparkling away in the distance. We wanted £5 tickets to see Matilda the Musical, but so did another twenty-odd twenty-somethings who had clearly got up earlier than us. Thankfully, we were in luck. The Cambridge Theatre reserves 16 tickets per show per day for young people, and we secured two matinee tickets without any problem.

I really, really recommend Matilda the Musical. It’s not as dark as the film or book- her parents are comically stupid rather than wilfully neglectful and the Trunchbull is a little bit panto villain rather than a hard nosed, disciplining demon. Understandable, really, as 80% of the audience were under ten years old. A kid’s musical is no place for in depth exploration of the effects on a neglected child’s imagination, amirite?

The show is amazing. It looks gorgeous and has brilliant wit throughout- Tim Minchin hits the sweet spot with lyrics that are the right mix of wink wink in-jokes for the adults and cute and cheeky lyrics for the kids- stand out lyrics including the gem “Ever since the day doc chopped the umbilical cord, It’s been clear there’s no peer for a miracle like me!”.

The choreography is smooth, fast, snappy and exciting. My personal highlight is the School Song, where letters of the alphabet appear shoved through school gates, with dancing pupils swinging from and jumping onto them, tap dancing and just generally having more physical coordination than I can ever dream of. Fast-paced, cheeky and sweet, if you’ve got to entertain some young’uns, it’s perfect, or if you’re just feeling pangs of nostalgia for the “ummway, umway I WOULD LIKE TO REACH OUT MY HAND” song, or for watching children shove giant chocolate cake in their face, then it’s a good day out for you too.

Anyone between 16 and 25 can get tickets- so if you have friends visiting or are going to be in the capital in the morning, it’s well worth getting out of bed for. With tickets for a measly £5 each, you really can’t argue with the early start. Details here.