203 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

Review: Teenage suicide told through the eyes of teenagers in Breathe, Bunker Theatre

Despite the continual presence of others, the feelings of isolation and vulnerability remain.

Breathe is a play about teen suicide told through the eyes of teenagers.

Breathe  The Bunker - courtesy of DF Photography (1)
Breathe at The Bunker - courtesy of DF Photography

In fact, it's produced by youth theatre company Athenaeum which gives it an interesting and insightful lens through which to explore the topic.

We know right from the start how this play is going to end, the story is the journey: What leads three teens to step over the edge?

Jack (Byron Easmon) displays symptoms of manic depression and is obsessed with how he looks, Sam (Martha Hay) has got herself into an inappropriate relationship with an authority figure and Leo (George Jaques - also the writer of Breathe) is struggling with his sexuality - and grief.

Overwhelming turmoil

Each story is told via a relationship to a significant person in their life: Girlfriend (Elizabeth Brierley), boyfriend (Douglas Clarke-Wood) and older brother (Gus Flind-Henry) and the narratives interweave with sometimes two or three playing out simultaneously.

It has the effect of giving the play spikes of an almost overwhelming turmoil. Frustrations are not just expressed verbally but also in action, often repetitive behaviour such as hammering on a laptop keyboard.

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Edinburgh Fringe interview: 'We don’t go to the theatre to watch sane people talking about normal things' - Simon Evans and David Aula

Not content with performing one play at the Edinburgh Fringe director/performers Simon Evans and David Aula are performing two - back to back. The two plays - The Vanishing Man and The Extinction Event - are described as a 'marriage of poignant theatre and spellbinding close-up magic'.

Two plays back to back, are you mad?

The Vanishing Man (Simon Evans and David Aula) - courtesy of Michael Wharley_3
The Vanishing Man and The Extinction Event (Simon Evans and David Aula). Photo: Michael Wharley

Probably, but we don’t go to the theatre to watch sane people talking about normal things. We’re actually very lucky: both these shows are very audience-centred. We don’t like to throw “audience involvement” around much, as it tends to induce feelings of horror and fear of embarrassment, but we do ask a thing or two of the very kind people who’ve chosen to see us (and not just “Pick a card”). 

The audience is our uncredited third character, and that means the show takes on an energy and momentum that you just don’t get from more there’s-a-fourth-wall pieces. The energy is infectious, so we tend to come out the other end more elated than fatigued.

That said, David is also the recipient of a brand new baby boy. It’s possible that the added pressure of looking after a one-month-old might be the straw breaking our camel’s back. Also, Simon tends to get very sleepy around 3 pm and that’s far from ideal in a 2.10pm-4.40pm slot.

Honestly (and I’m aware these words may come back to haunt me) it’s two 60 minute shows separated by a generous 30-minute interval, so we’ve got it better than a lot of other actors currently treading the boards. I’m optimistic. What I mean is, you certainly won’t see two tired performers up there.

How are you preparing?

That’s a good question when you consider that there are two separate elements in the shows we’re presenting. The more standard elements (dialogue/staging/storytelling) are handled in a fairly standard way.

Both of us are established theatre directors (Simon currently has Killer Joe on in the West End with a Donmar show coming up, and David’s production of The Cement Garden recently headlined the Vault Festival) so we enjoy the process of building the show up physically.

We’ve spent a lot of time in each other’s company as we've written the script, re-written it, shown it, learned from it, re-written it, tried it again, cut it, cut more of it, re-written it, learned it, worked out where to stand while we say it.

On the other hand, our plays are also magic shows of a kind. There are individual tricks and a more arching idea that an entire show can be an effect in-and-of-itself if handled right.

Magic is entirely audience led; you can see a play that refuses to acknowledge an audience and still think “That was a good play”, but a magic trick which fails to amaze/delight/confound an audience, is a dead thing.

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Review: End of the Pier, Park Theatre - not the sum of all its parts

Danny Robins new play End of the Pier is at times very funny, it touches on some important issues but I'm not sure it fully does them justice and here's why.

Les Dennis & Blake Harrison (l-r) in End of the Pier at Park Theatre. Photo by Simon Annand 0216
Les Dennis & Blake Harrison (l-r) in End of the Pier at Park Theatre. Photo by Simon Annand

First a bit about the play. It's set in Blackpool where former 80s comic and household name Bobby (Les Dennis) gets by on pantomimes and summer seasons having fallen spectacularly from grace.

His son Mike (Blake Harrison) is a successful comedian and about to record a second TV series. His fiancé Jenna (Tala Gouveia) is high up in the BBC and expecting their first child.

Mike turns up on father's doorstep looking for help after an incident at his stag do threatens his career.

The play explores changing attitudes to comedy, what is cruel and discriminatory and what is a joke.

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Review: East End vernacular meets Shakespeare to create a revealing lyricism in Flesh and Bone, Soho Theatre

Its rich lyricism is matched by an angry energy but also a sense of love, loyalty and camaraderie.

Elliot Warren and Olivia Brady in Flesh and Bone  credit of Owen Baker
Elliot Warren and Olivia Brady in Flesh and Bone. Photo: Owen Baker

Flesh and Bone is an everyday tale of 'oi oi savaloy' East End working classes but told with a revealing Shakespearean lyricism.

It opens with 'What a piece of work is a man' but then uncouples from Hamlet's speech to talk about power, greed, love, hate, lust and fear.

Clever writing

Words like 'maketh' and 'coinage' mix with 'rock and roll' giving it the feel of something that is both familiar, contemporary and yet of another time. This is the cleverness of Elliot Warren's writing. 

Warren delivers the speech as Terrence, one of those lads we'll discover who reacts with his fists a little bit too quickly. He is a wide boy and the antithesis of the sage, considered poetry he speaks or is he?

 

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Best (and worst) of London theatre for 2018...so far...and the actress in two plays on the list

As the halfway mark of 2018 rushes past, it's time to reflect on the highlights and low lights of London's theatre productions so far (edit: scroll to the bottom for the most read posts).

julius caesar bridge theatre Rev stan
Julius Caesar warm-up gig, Bridge Theatre. Photo: Rev Stan

I'm not sure whether it's a reflection of more varied programming generally or just where my interests predominantly lie these days but it's a list dominated by women protagonists and BAME stories.

Best of the big stuff (West End and off West End)

Girls and Boys, Royal Court

Carey Mulligan's performance is a tour de force, precise, subtle and complex. It is a devastating and brilliant piece of theatre and it's transferred to the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York Theatre where it runs until July 22.

The York Realist, Donmar Warehouse

Like My Night With Reg crossed with God's Own Country and the steamiest flirtation on stage for a long while.

Julius Caesar, Bridge Theatre

Stuff with Ben Whishaw in it doesn't always make it into my best of lists but being part of the mob was at times like being at a rock concert, a rally and in the middle of a war - never thought I'd enjoy standing at the theatre.

The Great Wave, National Theatre

Had no prior knowledge about the true events this play is based on but it proved the adage that the truth really can be stranger than fiction.

Summer and Smoke, Almeida

The first of two appearances on this list for Patsy Ferran, Summer and Smoke was a delicate, yet tense and heartbreaking play and I'm so glad it's got a transfer to the West End. See ATG's official website for details.

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Fringe theatre review: In The Shadow of The Mountain, Old Red Lion Theatre

Laughter from the early scenes turns to exasperation and then gasps as the behaviour becomes more extreme - and desperate.

Ellie (Felicity Huxley-Miners) and Rob's (David Shears) relationship starts on a train platform in dramatic circumstances.

in the shadow of the mountain felicity huxley-miners david shears
In The Shadow of the Mountain: Felicity Huxley-Miners and David Shears

One is depressed, the other is manic but both feel like they don't fit in. Is this mismatch of personality the life-raft relationship it seems?

At first, the chaos of Ellie's mind and behaviour seems charmingly kooky and awkward. In her performance, Felicity reminded me a little of Patsy Ferran in My Mother's A Twat, Royal Court and Speech and Debate, Trafalgar Studios 2.

Manipulation

But it soon becomes clear that there are deeper emotional problems, a neediness and manipulation that is calculated to mask other feelings of a lack of self-worth.

Rob is emotionally bruised from an unfaithful relationship and feeling isolated and overwhelmed by the pressures of modern life, none of which equips him to properly help Ellie - or walk away.

What we get from David's performance is feeling of powerlessness against Ellie's manipulation despite his obvious feelings of discomfort and awkwardness. 

Laughter and gasps

Laughter from the early scenes turns to exasperation and then gasps as the behaviour becomes more extreme - and desperate.

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Review: Seeing the world through different eyes in 213 Things About Me, Battersea Arts Centre

...loaded with wit and humour, sharp observation and understanding.

213-web213 Things About Me started life as an art installation at Edinburgh Fringe and has evolved into a 60-minute monologue performed by Rosa Hoskins.

It is based on the life of Rose, a friend of the play's writer and director Richard Butchins who is a documentary filmmaker. 

When Rose was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, Richard asked her to write down five of her good traits. She drew up a list of 213 but later that same year she committed suicide.

Contrariness of human behaviour

In using Rose's own words and performing the piece as a monologue you not only get insight into how she sees the world but it also exposes the contrariness of human behaviour.

While Rose's way of seeing and interacting with the world might be different from what is perceived as the norm, her perspective makes you question that norm.

And, at times she is able to see what no one else around her can which allows her to be forgiving of less desirable behaviour when others perhaps cannot.

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Round up: That was April in London theatre - Monster casting and A-list actor spots

MTNEW* I'm excited and nervous about the forthcoming stage adaptation of Patrick Ness’s novel A Monster Calls (the book is a favourite) but I couldn’t think of a better actor than Matthew Tennyson to take on the lead Conor. The production will have a run at the Bristol Old Vic from May 31 and the Old Vic from July 7.

* David Haig’s play Pressure (in which he also stars) is transferring from Park Theatre to the Ambassadors following a successful run at the Finsbury venue. Malcolm Sinclair and Laura Rogers co-star.

* Stan-fav Adam Gillen has been cast in Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios, which stars Orlando Bloom and I'm really looking forward to seeing him in something very different to Amadeus. You can see photos of the cast in rehearsal over at What's On Stage and previews start on May 18.

* Kilburn's Tricycle Theatre has been renamed the Kiln Theatre post refurbishment with a new season that includes the UK premiere of Florian Zeller’s The Son.

* In a new twist on role swapping (recent role swaps: Mary Stuart, Almeida; RSC's Doctor Faustus and NT's Frankenstein to name just three) Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden are to alternate playing Isabella and Angelo in Measure For Measure at the Donmar Warehouse.

* There is part of me that is excited and really curious and part of me that thinks: 'Gimmick to get repeated visits'. There is one version I'd particularly like to see but no way of knowing, having booked at ticket whether I'll get it. Previews start September 28.

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Interview: From art installation to stage, Richard Butchins on play inspired by friend with Asperger's

Writer and filmmaker Richard Butchins talks about his play 213 Things About Me at the Battersea Arts Centre which was inspired by Rose, his long-time friend, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in her 30s.

Richard ButchinsRose committed suicide the same year she was diagnosed.

“We were having a conversation on Skype and I asked her to write a list. It was that standard thing where you ask someone to say five good things about themselves. I thought it might be a useful focus for her.

"When I spoke to her later in the week she said: 'I did that list. I’ve got 213 things.' What she had to say was touching, funny, moving and sad.”

Your background is photography and documentaries and 213 Things About Me started life as a video installation, what inspired you to turn it into a play?

I always thought that she (Rose) had a lot of interesting, funny and insightful things to say about her condition - discovering I was on the spectrum made it inevitable I would have to write something, and given her lovely songs - a play seemed the best route.

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Review: Family-friendly theatre fun with Infinite Jest's A Midsummer Night's Dream, JW3

As a gentle and fun introduction to Shakespeare for kids it is excellent

A Midsummer Night's Dream web Infinite JestThere is nothing more infectious than a theatre full of kids giggling at the name 'Nick Bottom' and I'm sure Shakespeare would have approved.

Infinite Jest Theatre Company - which specialises in family-friendly Shakespeare - has condensed A Midsummer Night's Dream down to 60 fun-packed minutes.

Amusing modern references

To tell the tricksy, misaligned love story they mix puppetry and magic with the Bard's original text and some updated modern vernacular, throwing in amusing contemporary references along the way. 

The Cockney, Bob the Builder-style Nick Bottom (Rod Silvers) occasionally does a handy 'translation' of what is going on for younger members of the audience.

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