Paul T Davies reviews Amber Massie-Blomfield’s Twenty Theatres To See Before You Die published by Penned In The Margins.
Twenty Theatres To See Before You Die.
Penned in The Margins.
Buy A Copy
Despite the doom-laden implications of the title, (how many of us are assessing how we utilize the rest of our time?), Amber Massie-Blomfied’s lively, informative and hugely enjoyable book turned out to be the perfect lockdown getaway for me. Twenty theatres, chosen from a deep love of theatre and its spaces, an adventure began after the EU referendum result, from which Massie-Blomfield wanted to explore what theatre still has to offer. It’s not just a book about theatres though, it’s about the spirit of those places, about audiences, and, perhaps more importantly, about communities and what keeps us engaged in live performance.
Whittled down from a long list, the twenty are obviously a personal choice, but the range and differences between the theatres is astonishing. While some of them feel an obvious choice, (Theatre Royal, Bath, Everyman Theatre, Liverpool), especially if you have been to them, there are surprises and revelations. The Roman Theatre of Verulamium at St. Albans is fascinating in both it’s history and style, and The Theatre of Small Convenience in Great Malvern is a testament to the quirkiness and uniqueness of the British. I was so glad to see the National Theatre of Wales represented, because their theatre is Wales itself, and here the author attends We’re Still Here in Port Talbot. And that’s another successful key element of the book, it’s a road trip of theatres around the UK. Massie-Blomfield is also very positive and supportive of the performances she watches, even if the quality may vary. She keeps at the heart of her book that alchemy between stage, audience and space.
The chapter on The Minack Theatre is an absolute joy, (surely the history of that venue is a film waiting to be made with Maggie Smith as the elder Rowena Cade), and it heads my list of theatres that I am going to visit in 2021- I have to believe I will be going to the theatre then! I’m ashamed to confess I’ve never been to the Minack, and several of the theatres, frankly, I have no excuse for not attending. And that’s the therapeutic element of this book, I found myself planning visits, even though some may be harder to achieve than others! And of course, there is the worrying thought of how many theatres will remain closed post-Covid 19. But it’s also a fact that many of these theatres have survived war, plagues, governments and indifference, and theatre will survive this. I found this book quite supportive during this difficult time, and, along with the plays I am reading, it helped keep my creativity engaged, as I am plotting to start ticking off more of these venues
! Surely a sequel could be in the works to look at post- Covid theatres that need to be seen!