Image of Harold Abrahams winning the 100m in the 1924 Olympics courtesy of Mary Evans Picture Library.
Cut and pasted from the Hampstead Theatre website:
Chariots of Fire, Hampstead Theatre
Adapted for the stage by Mike Bartlett
Directed by Edward Hall
Until 16 June 2012
Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
1924. The Paris Olympic Games.
A devout Scottish Christian runs for the glory of God. The son of an immigrant Lithuanian Jew runs to overcome prejudice. Two young track athletes who live for the beautiful purity of running and who prevail in the face of overwhelming odds.
Based on the extraordinary true story of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, Chariots of Fire is an Olympic tale of hope, honour and belief.
Mike Bartlett is bringing one of the most thrilling Olympic stories to the stage for the first time in a dazzling new adaptation from Colin Welland's original screenplay (His plays include 13 for the National and Love, Love, Love for Paines Plough). Directed by Hampstead Theatre's Artistic Director Edward Hall, Chariots of Fire promises to be the theatrical event of our Olympic year. Award winning designer Miriam Buether will be transforming Hampstead Theatre into its very own stadium giving an immersive experience that evokes the 1924 Paris Olympics. The production will also feature the music of the legendary Vangelis score with additional live music and arrangements by Tony Award winning composer Jason Carr.
For full production details and to book tickets, follow the link:
James McArdle as Harold Abrahams and Jack Lowden as Eric Liddell
Photo credit: http://www.theartsdesk.com/theatre/chariots-fire-hampstead-theatre
I saw this at a preview on Saturday 19 May (it had its press night yesterday) and it totally and utterly blew me away. I thought it was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen at the theatre. It made my heart race and stop dead at the same time!
I originally booked to see it purely because London is hosting the Olympics this year. I am not going to a single London sporting Olympics event (I will be watching at home on my telly, like most people, or at All Souls on the big screen). But I had booked to see this as this was my way of paying tribute to the fact that London is hosting the Olympics this year. This is the closest I am getting to the London Olympics! If you are not able to get the Olympic tickets that you want, I highly recommend coming to see this as an alternative; being a theatre not a sports fan, I would argue that this is way better!
The first thing I wanted to talk about was the staging. I can honestly say that I think the staging is quite simply the best I have ever seen. As the audience walked in, everyone commented on how the theatre had been transformed into a stadium. It really looked and felt like a stadium.
Over the course of the show, the stage becomes many things, including the closed and closeted world of Cambridge, and all the settings are 100% believable and convincing. The staging totally transported me to that time, that place and that world, be that Cambridge, Scotland or Paris.
There is a great prologue to the piece with the actors all on stage, warming up. Stretching, preparing, jogging, running around the track, all set to music. I loved that!
Which brings me onto the second thing that I wanted to talk about, the actors. The acting across the whole ensemble was exceptional. It is unfair to single people out but I am going to give a special shout out to a few of the actors who spoke to my heart. Jack Lowden. I have never seen him before in anything and he just blew me away. He really conveyed a young man, torn between his passion for running and his family/family duties and responsibilities, who was steadfast and resolute in standing his ground and sticking to his principles ("I won't run on the Sabbath"), even in the face of pressure from HRH Prince of Wales. James McArdle was excellent. He played Agathon in Emperor and Galilean and so, like all the actors associated with that production, will always have a special place in my heart. Finally Sam Archer, who I have seen many times in a range of productions for New Adventures, was also exceptional; he always is.
The energy and excitement that the actors put onto the stage was phenomenal. This was especially true of all the "races" that were shown, right from the dash around the College Quad to the 100m and the 400m at the Paris Olympics. The staging is such that the track snakes right round and through the audience so that the actors are running at full tilt right by you as an audience member. This is a real thrill! And the constant firing of the starting gun never failed to make me jump every time it went off, even though I was expecting it!
There is a lot of music, singing and dancing in the production, which I was not at all expecting. James McArdle can sing very well! The music was usually live and all of it was fun and energetic. The music and dance ranged from waltzes, to "Three Little Maids", to Scottish music and dancing!
This is probably the closest you can get to immersive and interactive theatre in a theatre of this size. Obviously, if you are in a smaller space, or you are promenading etc, it is easier to get the audience interaction going, and for the audience to feel a part of the piece. I really felt a part of the piece, I was totally involved and engaged from the off, and actually I was desperate to get on the stage and join in! (don't worry, I didn't!). The audience in this show are part and parcel of the piece, they create the specific energy of the show on the night that they are seeing it.
The finale with both the Chariots of Fire theme tune and Jerusalem playing really spoke to me, bringing a tear to my eye and tugging at my heart. It really meant a lot to me. (I joined in singing Jerusalem; I couldn't resist; it is my favourite hymn of all time! Then again I used to join in with reciting The Lord's Prayer at the end of Emperor and Galilean!).
I gave the production a standing ovation. That was on a preview and that was the first time I saw it. I could do no less; to have given anything less than a standing ovation would have been a travesty.
I saw the original Chariots of Fire film on or around its original release date in the early 80s. I have only ever seen it once. I had considered re-watching it as homework for this production. In the end I decided not to. I am glad that I made that choice. It allowed me to come to the piece fresh, with no preconceived ideas or notions. It also meant I let the piece carry me with it, rather than knowing too much where it was going to take me. All of that was to the good. I will re-watch the film later in the Summer.
In a nutshell, mind-blowing and amazing. Truly exceptional. I know you might think I have been saying that a lot lately but I have to tell it like it is!
Once the production has closed at the Hampstead, it will be transferring to the Gielgud Theatre in the West End. The run will start on the 22 June and it is currently booking through until 10 November. For more details and to book tickets for the show's run at the Gielgud, follow the link:
Jack Lowden: Go Jack Go! Run like the wind!
Photo credit: http://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/2012/chariots-of-fire/