Phillip East

Phillip East

I am a theatre-loving English teacher based in Birmingham. I'm always whipping around the Midlands and down to London seeing as much theatre as I can. Whether it's a deeper, more thoughtful piece or a lighter work, I always find time spent in the theatre enriching. You can't beat the immediacy and excitement of live performance.

I've kept theatre journals and scrapbooks for years and have always loved mulling over and reflecting on what I've seen. In 2018 I saw over 60 shows, ranging across a wide range of genres and styles. TheatreWhippet is the next step in my theatre-loving journey. I hope to spread the wonder and joy of this amazing and important art form through my reviews.

If you want to know even more about me, check out the Q&A section below.

Happy ThreatreWhipping
Phil

Theatre matters. I've always had a feeling that this particular art form has something over others, at least for me. I love reading and as an English teacher, spend much of my time encouraging young people to disappear into books. But there's something so immediate and powerful about live performance. Something wonderful about seeing actors on stage right in front of you, in real time. When you are able to completely suspend disbelief and go on a journey with the characters on stage, there's no feeling like it. Literature allows us to understand ourselves and through theatre we become better people. We learn about other lives. Other hopes and dreams. Other difficulties. And through the complex process of storytelling, we develop empathy and understanding.

For as many years as I can remember, I have loved being part of a theatre audience. I love travelling into different lives and worlds, exploring different views and ideas and seeing the world through the eyes of different characters. I love the poetry and beauty of Shakespeare's language and am drawn to lyrical plays - writers who manage to make the world on stage vivid and beautiful.

I have wide ranging tastes in both straight plays and musicals. I would like to see all 37 Shakespeare plays and am currently on 27! 10 to go. I probably most enjoy plays: work which asks interesting questions about our lives. Disappearing into a book is a pleasure but I find the shared experience of theatre wonderful. Something communal and special about sitting in the dark with a large group of strangers, all watching the same performance but all taking different things from it. It's a strangely shared yet personal experience watching a play.

For several years now, I've been keeping theatre memory journals. I enjoy discussing what I've seen and hearing what others thought. Reading reviews has always interested me and as a secondary school English teacher, I am keen to see how I can develop my own writing style. I enjoy the challenge of distilling the complex experience of seeing a play into several paragraphs. It's much more difficult to capture than I thought. Starting TheatreWhippet feels like the natural next step in my theatre-loving journey. I'll continue to take notes after everything I see. I may not always write full reviews but when I do, I'll upload them to the website.

I have many but 'Angels in America' by Tony Kushner stands out. I saw the National Theatre production in 2017 and was so moved and amazed by it. I loved the scale - a long, slow story told over 7 hours in which you really get to
know the characters. Theatre magic. I loved it so much that I booked tickets to see it on Broadway and made a trip to New York built around the play. I also saw the live broadcast.

I'm also developing a love for the plays of Tennessee Williams - recently seen 'Streetcar Named Desire' and 'Summer and Smoke'. Teaching 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' has allowed me to indulge this interest.

In terms of musicals, Sondheim is a favourite with the recent productions of 'Follies' and 'Company' being very special. Love the lyrics. He seems to understand us and combine poetry with music in a powerful way.

My first trip to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford was as an A Level English Literature student. We were taken to see 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in 1994. Stella Gonet was Titania and Desmond Barrit was Bottom. I was on the very back row of the theatre but can still remember being completely captivated. I was hooked. It kick-started what has become a lifelong love for Shakespeare.

I love the old West End theatres - some of them may be crumbling a bit and the toilet facilities aren't always up to scratch, but there's something charming about them. I'd have to say being a groundling at the Globe though. True time travel. Standing in the pit, open to the elements, I've had so many special theatre moments. Experiencing Shakespeare as Elizabethans would have done is magical. A very special place.

I am often whipping down to London for two-show days but I'm based in Birmingham so most of my theatre trips are local: The Rep, The Crescent, The Alex, The Hippodrome. I also go to Stratford regularly and tend to see everything at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre as well as The Swan.

I'm excited to share my writing and hopefully encourage others to make the effort to get out and go to their local theatres more often. It's such a vital art form. I've seen the transforming power of theatre on groups of students - I try to organise theatre trips from school as often as I can and have taken students to Birmingham theatres as well as Stratford and London on many occasions. All young people should get the chance to experience live performance. It can do so much more than I can in a classroom.

I'm excited to see how it grows as I continue to see more shows and write more reviews. I'll always be whipping around theatres so it makes sense to write about my experiences.

My Top Five Plays

Angels in America
King Lear
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
An Ideal Husband
The History Boys

My Top Five Musicals

Matilda
42nd Street
My Fair Lady
Rent
Company

My Top Five Theatres

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London
Birmingham Repertory Theatre - The Rep
The Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
The Minack Theatre, Cornwall
The Duke of York's Theatre, London

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