8 May 2020

Isolation Interviews: Louise (LouReviews)

In this edition of the Isolation Interviews, I spoke to Louise from LouReviews (https://loureviews.blog).

Q - What was the first show that you remember seeing?
A - It was the Grange Arts Centre in Oldham (my home town) and a musical about maths. I can remember a song which went 'its binary, oh yes its called binary, can't you see, the answer is binary". I went with primary school so this would have been 1979-1980. A more conventional show was at the Oldham Coliseum and it was Our Gracie, a drama about Gracie Fields, a local star, starring Polly Hemingway. First large touring show was Charlie Girl in 1987, with Dora Bryan, Mark Wynter and Nicholas Parsons. Cyd Charisse did the London run but by Manchester when I saw it her role was played by Kathryn Evans.


Q - What inspired you to get into blogging about theatre?
A - I used to write poems and one or two in the early 90s were about shows. By then I was spending a week each year watching shows at the RSC in Stratford and doing a couple of London trips each year, always West End. I started my theatre blogging in 2011 on LiveJournal but moved to Wordpress in 2012. Eventually, I joined in with the London Theatre Bloggers but time was limited to get involved as much as I would like. In 2018 I gave up my 25-year career and decided to put all my energies into the blog proper which was relaunched with a new domain name as loureviews.blog. I had gained a few PR contacts and was able to build on that, which enabled me to see a few more shows than would be financially possible on my own. Of course, the 2-year plan I had in mind for the blog's development and identity has now been scuppered somewhat with the current closures but I keep going - check out my Lockdown series of reviews of digital content and interviews with theatre professionals!  It's.important for my mental wellbeing to blog on something that I enjoy and I value the connections I have made, especially in fringe theatre which was something of a mystery to me, but l which I recognised was something I needed to support. I still plan to support festivals across London when things get back up and running. I also wanted to do some videos and podcasts for my YouTube channel but that's been pushed back a bit. Currently, as well as the blog I am most active on Twitter (@loureviewsblog), Instagram (/loureviews.blog) and Facebook (loureviews). I also review films but that's mainly on a third-party platform called Letterboxd.

Q - Whose performances/productions have had the biggest impact on you?
A - I tend to remember small aspects of productions. Richard Armitage in The Crucible at the Old Vic was astounding, although the play always is. Sian Phillips singing Where Have All The Flowers Gone as Marlene Dietrich in Marlene at the Oldham Coliseum made me cry. Kathryn Hunter as Mother Courage at the West Yorkshire Playhouse was an incredible performance. Faith Brown as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard: an emotional powerhouse of a performance. David Troughton in Henry IV:2 in Stratford; usually the attention is on Prince Hal but here when the old King died in the Jerusalem Chamber it was such an engrossing and devastating piece of acting. Antony Sher and Wendell Pierce in different productions of Death of a Salesman. Helen McCrory at the NT in Medea, wailing at the self-induced loss of her children. In dance, Michael Clark (so beautiful and graceful) in O at the RNCM and Jonathan Ollivier with Northern Ballet Theatre as a sexy and terrifying Heathcliff. Ian McKellen as Iago in the RSC's Othello in the late 80s. Roy Barraclough in a dual role as brother and sister in A Different Way Home.

Q - What is your favourite musical movie?
A - West Side Story (1961). I know the principals are dubbed, but it is a textbook example of how to open out stage to screen, the score is sublime and the dance sequences are superb. Plus it is hands down the best musical of a Shakespeare play, it's early Sondheim and he has already found his lyrical feet, and it has a tearjerking ending which gets me every time. My mum introduced it to me, and I introduced it to my husband, and we all have the same reaction. My favourite routines in it are America and Cool. 

Q - What are your favourite show tunes? (You can up to 5 songs)
A - This is really hard! People Will Say We're in Love from Oklahoma. Endgame from Chess. Every Day a Little Death from A Little Night Music. Bui-Doi from Miss Saigon. The Greatest Star of All from Sunset Boulevard.

Q - What have been your favourite productions across the years?
A - Musicals - Les Mis, for a long time, although I haven't seen it on stage for years. I like how JCS changes and develops with each version; the Open Air Theatre version at the Barbican last year was superb. Hair is another show which grows with each revival. And Aspects of Love, which often gets lost in the ALW shuffle, but it has a sublime score and a clever plot. Plays - Shopping and Fucking made an impact on me way back.  Three versions of The Crucible (WYP, Old Vic (Richard Armitage), The Yard (Caoilfhionn Dunne)) which were all superb. And as a piece of pure spectacle, Carnival Messiah, with its steel drum Hallelujah Chorus.

Q - What are your favourite theatres to visit?
A - Another hard question! I love them all but my favourites to go to are the National, Soho, Above the Stag, King's Head, Omnibus, Young Vic, Union, Arcola and my locals - Questors, Chiswick Chiswick Playhouse, Lyric Hammersmith, Riverside Studios, and Waterman's. Out of London, I love the West Yorkshire Playhouse (now Leeds Playhouse), the Grand in Leeds, the Crucible in Sheffield, the Coliseum in Oldham (where I saw my first Sondheims) and the Octagon in Bolton.

Q - Away from the theatre what are your other favourite hobbies?
A - Film and archive TV - I write on both (you can find chapters of mine in the books Playboys, Spies and Private Eyes and 'Tis Magic: Our Memories of Catweazle. I love squirrels and birds, and right now have been doing a lot of watching of both. Also, I'm into my politics as a socialist activist but that becomes ever more frustrating.

Q - Can you tell us something we wouldn't know about you?
A - I collect stuffed animals (the toy kind, not taxidermy). Currently, share the house with 340 of them. They're great company for me and the other half while we're in lockdown.

I'd like to thank Louise for her time for taking part in this interview. You can visit her website https://loureviews.blog/ and follow her on Twitter www.twitter.com/loureviewsblog

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