Have you ever bought a standing ticket at the theatre?
Well I had not before, but there is always the first time! I think it was very good value for money especially for a short play in which first act is only 30 minutes and the second act – 55. But I still went for an empty seat after the interval, because 1) it felt weird to be standing and looking down at the stage, I guess looking up would have felt less weird, 2) isn’t it always good to sit down after standing for anything more than 30 minutes? 3) I felt awkward standing when everyone was seated except for 6 of us (standing ticket holders).
Playhouse theatre is part of the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), covered in my Lyceum Theatre post.
Playhouse opened in 1882 under the name of Royal Avenue Theatre and hosted comic operas, burlesques and farces. By 1890s the theatre was presenting drama until it was closed for reconstruction in 1905. During the rebuilt the part of the roof of the adjacent Charing Cross railway station collapsed, killing 6 people. The theatre reopened in 1907 with the new name – the Playhouse. In 1951 BBC took over the theatre and used it as a recording studio for live performances for the next 25 years. From 1976 to 1987 theatre was closed and in danger of demolition. In 1987 Playhouse was restored to its 1907 design and reopened with the musical Girlfriends. From 1987 to 2013 the theatre changed many owners and went through the complete refurbishment in 1996. ATG acquired the Playhouse in 2013.
In 1894 George Bernard Shaw made his West End debut in Playhouse with Arms and the man, a comedy he wrote on the request of his friend and actress Florence Farr.
On 3 April 1967, a live Pink Floyd concert was broadcast from the theatre.
The first act is 3 scenes at the same Chinese restaurant in Chicago with three different conversations. First scene is between Shelly Levene, a real estate agent and John Williams, office manager. We find out that Levene used to be a star agent, but he has not sold anything for a while, so he is trying to bribe the office manager to give him the best leads (names and contacts of prospective buyers). But they cannot agree on terms. Second conversation is between Dave Moss and George Aaronow, real estate agents who work in the same office. They have not been doing well on sales either and Dave tries to convince George that they should punish Mitch and Murray (owners of the real estate agency) for putting too much pressure on them and steal the leads and sell them to the local competitor. George refuses to break into the office. In the third scene Ricky Roma, a star agent of the same agency talks about his trade and then tries to sell a property to James Lingk, a random client with little negotiation skills. Second act is set at the agency office next morning, which was broken into previous night and the detective is interrogating employees to find the culprit. Shelly Levene walks into the office shining as he sold the property for the first time in a while. He is describing the sale process in detail to Ricky when James Lingk storms into the office saying he wants to cancel the purchase agreement for the property Ricky sold to him the night before. Ricky is using all his wit to make James change his mind, but John Williams interferes and spoils Ricky’s plan. Ricky has reached his tipping point and rages at John and then goes to the interrogation. Levene picks up from Ricky and continues mocking John, but John realises Levene is responsible for the robbery. We find out that Levene and Moss were the complices and sold the leads to the competitor. Levene is led to the interrogation room. George enters the office having spent all morning with the detective answering humiliating questions and then all afternoon at the restaurant trying to calm down and says “I hate this job”.
The play was written by David Mamet for which he won the Pulitzer Price in 1984. It premiered at the National Theatre in 1983 and was staged on Broadway in 1984. The play was adapted into a movie in 1992 with star casting including Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Al Pacino and special character added for Alec Baldwin.
Director: Sam Yates
I bought my ticket from ATG website. £18.5 for the standing ticket. The view was good from where I was standing, which is at the back of the dress circle, but it definitely got better as I set down in the front row of the dress circle.
Running time is 1 hour 45 minutes.
The Theatre Rat