Chariots of Fire

28 May 2012, Hampstead Theatre, London

The thing that mainly motivated me to see this was because Miriam Buether designed the stage. Having worked with her a few times before and having seen other shows with her stunning stage designs, I’ve become a fan.

When I worked on dance productions before, it never really struck me how incredibly important stage design is. Perhaps a lot of dance is done on a stripped bare stage, where an element like lighting is more important.

But the more I watch theatre, the more I realize and am amazed by how intricate, creative and elaborate stage design can be and how closely directors and stage designers work together to create a piece of theatre. For some productions, for example, Wild Swans, the stage design even almost dictated the script and content. It wasn’t an after product.

I digress. This production had a circular racing track that wove through two sections of an audience as well as a round rotating platform in the middle. This gave room for lots of racing space for the characters and meant that everyone was always up, close and surrounded by action.

The choreography for this show was great. Though the characters raced again and again, it never felt old because they raced in a different choreographed manner every time. Sometimes it was straight sprinting, sometimes with a circular platform, sometimes against, sometimes in slow-mo with non-racing people changing formations to create tunnels, cheering crowds…

I didn’t expect singing either, so that was a nice surprise. And as I always, I like listening to familiar music. Key in the theme song… bum bum – bum bum bum bum bum…

Just in time for the Olympics.

By the way, just how different are the Olympics now? Competitors in the 20s London games were saying how they would go to work in the morning, race in the afternoon after travelling to the stadium by public transport on their own means. And the prizes would be a £5 high-street coupon.

Anyway, another classic tale where although some of the values seem old-fashioned, the story itself has been translated onto stage quite well.

Oooh almost forgot. I also really enjoyed the lead up to the show as there was quite a lot of press about the rehearsal process. The actors had to train everyday (running) for weeks – to a point where two actors who had made a pact to run to rehearsal stopped as they then wouldn’t have enough energy to last through rehearsals. The amount of work actors and creatives put into shows is incredibly admirable.


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