192 posts categorized "Fringe/pub theatre" Feed

Interview: Wearing two hats with her new play - acting is the dream but writing keeps Felicity Huxley-Miners sane

Felicity Huxley-Miners talks about writing and acting in her new play In The Shadow of The Mountain, juggling the two roles and what her dream theatre production would be like (hint: it would have a big cast).

Felicity Huxley-Miners
Actor/Writer Felicity Huxley-Miners

The new play (more details at the bottom) is a love story about two people with Borderline Personality Disorder inspired by her meeting a woman with BPD and the production is supported by MIND.

You’ve written the play and you are also performing in it alongside David Shears, did you always have yourself in mind when you were writing?

Yes, I knew I wanted to play Ellie when I was writing but I really had to shut off that part of my brain when I was creating the play as you can start to censor and shape it around yourself instead of being true to a character and their story.

Thinking ‘I don’t want to say that’ or worrying about your character being likeable can be quite limiting so I really had to shut off that side of my brain.

I’ve found being an actor does help me write, as both are all about getting into different people’s heads and working out what makes them tick.

Which do you prefer - writing or acting - and which do you find the most challenging?

Acting has always been the dream and what I’ve funnelled most of my energy into over the years.

I’ve only started writing in the last few years and have been lucky enough to be a part of the Soho Theatre’s Writers Lab this year. I’ve found writing incredibly cathartic.

Acting can be a very perilous career and a lot of time the control is taken out of the actor’s hands.

Being proactive and creating my own work has really kept me sane in the leaner times and means that I always have a creative outlet even if it's just me sitting in a café having vivid hallucinations about my own fantasy world.

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Review: an effervescent story of love and self discovery in Coconut, Ovalhouse

Coconut bubbles with wit and laughs, it is illuminating, heart-warming and affecting.

Rumi (Kuran Dohil) is a bit tipsy when she meets Simon (Jimmy Carter). She's drowning her sorrows having had a disastrous night Halal Speed Dating, more of which we learn of later in the play.

Coconut  Ovalhouse - Courtesy of Greg Goodale (8) Kuran Dohil
Kuran Dohil in Coconut, Ovalhouse. Photo: Greg Goodale

Something clicks and the two start dating, the problem is that drinking and eating pork aside, Rumi comes from a Muslim family. Simon was raised Catholic.

Well, it is the germ of the problem.

This isn't a traditional tale of star-crossed lovers kept apart by external voices, by different cultural and religious backgrounds, any family resistance towards the match is in the background.

Simon decides to convert to Islam so that he can marry Rumi. It's just a short ceremony, repeating some vows Rumi assures Simon and then it's done with.

But it isn't done with and that is the primary source of tension as it forces the couple to question who they are, who they want to be and where they fit in.

Kuran Dohil's Rumi is funny, effervescent, relatable - one of those characters that are a delight to spend time with.

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Review: Some lovely lighter moments but something didn't gel - Reared, Theatre503

While there are some excellent individual scenes as a whole Reared just doesn't quite gel. I found myself wanting it to delve further.

There is a moment in Reared which reminded me of Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman when Aunt Maggie Far Away is having one of her lucid moments and telling the children stories.

Reared  Theatre503 - courtesy of The Other Richard (9) Paddy Glynn and Danielle Phillips
Paddy Glynn and Danielle Phillips in Reared, Theatre503. Photo: The Other Richard

In John Fitzpatrick's new play, it's the same scenario; Nora (Paddy Glyn) is telling her granddaughter Caitlin (Danielle Phillips) an old family story about the Irish potato famine but on finishing it she slips back into a confusion of memories.

It's a touching moment in a play about mounting family tensions as Caitlin's mother, Eileen (Shelley Atkinson), tries to persuade her husband Stuart (Daniel Crossley) that there is more to his mother's memory loss than simple old age. 

There is additional family drama as 15-year-old Caitlin is pregnant and doesn't want her parents to know who the father is. Caitlin's hapless friend Colin (Rohan Nedd) is the source of much humour as he tries to be supportive.

These lighter moments work really well but there aren't enough to make Reared a full-blown comedy but then neither does the play properly explore either dementia or teenage pregnancy/underage sex and, as a result, it lacks punch.

 

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Review: Powerful, haunting and gripping Plastic, Old Red Lion Theatre

There is a defined and painful tragedy in how a moment of lost control can have fundamental consequences but what haunted me most was that for some of the characters their school days were as good as it was ever going to get.

A piece of classical music is playing. It’s one of those evocative pieces that has mournful, tragic undertones, the sort that is used in war films.

A mirrorball rotates sending disco sparkles of light across a couple dancing slowly.

Plastic  Old Red Lion Theatre (Mark Weinman  Louis Greatorex  Thomas Coombes and Madison Clare) - courtesy of Mathew Foster
Mark Weinman, Louis Greatorex, Thomas Coombes and Madison Clare in Plastic, Old Red Lion Theatre. Photo: Mathew Foster

The music combined with the mirror ball perfectly set the scene for what is to come in Kenneth Emson’s new play Plastic.

Set in an Essex secondary school this is part reminiscence part flit back in time to a day when life was different.

Lisa (Madison Clare) - bright, sassy, popular - has decided that ‘tonight is the night’ with Kev (Mark Weinman), the former school football team captain who now has a car and a mundane job.

She wants the day to go as quickly as possible but the gossip machine is whirring.

Best friends Jack (Louis Greatorex) and Ben (Thomas Coombes) are the outsiders, the 'weirdos' who want to get through the day unnoticed, unmolested from verbal or physical abuse.

As the day crawls by, tension is mounting. Ben might be about to snap; he is a ball of broiling anger, frustration and resentment, sensitive to every perceived slight and constantly rising to the bait.

Looking to escape the stares, the gossip, the threats, the steaming brew of hormones and hierarchy Jack, Ben and Lisa bunk off, a decision that will change all their lives.

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Q&A Guleraana Mir on challenging cultural and gender stereotypes in 'irrerevant, dark comedy' Coconut, Ovalhouse

Writer Guleraana Mir talks about her new play Coconut, in which she wants to show that there is far more to British Asian women than is commonly portrayed.

22 - Guleraana Mir
Guleraana Mir

What is Coconut about and what inspired you to write it?

The term Coconut refers to someone who is brown on the outside and white on the inside. It is mostly used as a derogatory term, but that is how the protagonist Rumi, a British Pakistani woman self-identifies.

The play charts the course of the relationship between Rumi and Simon, a white man who converts to Islam to marry her.

It’s a story of two people trying to navigate what being in an intercultural and interracial marriage looks like when they’re not even sure where they fit in society individually.

Back in 2015 when I was asked to write the original 15-minute one-woman piece for Ladylogue! (an evening of one-woman shorts) I was given the extra caveat to consider what I wasn’t writing about: My heritage.

Of course, I wanted to meet the challenge but I was also inspired by the fact that I’ve never seen a character like Rumi on stage before.

We don’t have much range in our British Asian representation on stage, or screen. It’s all Bollywood-inspired wedding-based drama, colonialism, terrorists or doctors.

Some of us don’t fit into any of those boxes as people, so why should our characters?

It’s your first full-length production, what has the journey been like?

Long. No one ever tells you that theatre takes time, especially if you’re producing.

The Thelmas are co-producing Coconut with Ovalhouse and we’ve known for over a year that this production would happen, it’s just been a case of getting everything in place so that we’re ready to pack the theatre with an exciting and diverse audience once we open.

Before that we spent over a year developing the play with support from Park Theatre’s Script Accelerator and New Diorama’s BAMER program, so a lot of work has gone into this.

I’m really excited to show off the play in its final form as it’s undergone some serious rewrites since our last industry reading.

How involved are you in the rehearsal process?

Not very. Since the last rewrite, I’m comfortable with where the script is at, and I trust the creative team with it.

If they need clarification on something I know they will reach out, otherwise director Madelaine [Moore] has a strong vision for the piece and I trust her completely.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that once it’s all put together it’s going to look better than I could have ever imagined.

What I am doing is admin - helping organize the pick-up and drop-off of set, source props etc. all much less glamorous than sitting in a rehearsal room chewing the end of a pen, but ultimately much more useful.

Coconut is a described as ‘an irreverent, dark comedy', what role does humour play in the telling of this story?

Humour is essential otherwise when the play takes a dark turn the audience would just feel battered.

Most of the humour comes from the character of Rumi and her outlook on life.

She’s the kind of person that approaches everything lightheartedly with a smile and a one-liner.

In the play humour is what lulls Rumi (and the audience) into a false sense of security, as she’s constantly brushing everything off with a joke and so doesn’t realise what is going on until it’s too late.

 

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Church halls, tights and holding hands with actors, it's Macbeth, Factory Theatre-style

When an actor holds your hand or leads you into the performance space it is the encounter that is foremost in your mind and what is going on around you rather than the nuances of character, play and plot.

REVIEW: It's a cold, wet, Easter Friday and I'm in a church hall in Pimlico, sat in a circle on a plastic chair.

The strip lights are bright, the atmosphere friendly, the scouting posters on the walls betray the halls usual users - this isn't your standard theatre experience.

Factory Theatre macbeth signIt feels a little like a support group, a support group for theatre addicts - later an actor will stand next to me and hold my hand - but that's during the play, beforehand they mingle and chat. 

They aren't yet in character like at the Donmar's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui last year. Neither are they in costume.

I'm asked how I heard about the performance and whether I'd seen anything by Factory Theatre before - the company behind this production of Macbeth.

The atmosphere is relaxed, warm, full of expectation but with an underlying layer of nerves from the actors and perhaps the audience too - some are due to take part.

Audience participation is voluntary. Kind of. You can volunteer to 'play' a witch and are allocated a line or two together with the appropriate cue.

You can also join in with certain choruses of the witches. Or you can observe unless you find yourself being led gently by the hand to stand with the actors and other members of the audience during particular scenes.

But this is all to come. First us theatre addicts get an intro by our support group leader, RSC thesp and Factory artistic director Alex Hassell.

This, we are told, is the first performance of what will hopefully be an evolving production with the cast changing as often as the venues. Casting is colour, gender, age and disability blind.

The actors have a prompt, things might not go smoothly, we can pop out to the loo - the only real nod to convention is that phones should be switched off.

In a similar vein to recent productions where the lead actor is determined on the night (coin toss for Mary Stuart and burning matches for the RSC's Doctor Faustus) a game of rock, paper, scissors decides who will play Macbeth.

The two actors up for the part choose a member of the audience to play for them. We get a female Macbeth - what I was hoping for.

And then the play begins and we are in theatre-land with the actors wearing tights on their heads and silently moving around, shaping the performance space in the middle of the circle by either sitting, crouching, laying or standing.

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Review: Child stars and showbiz neglect in We Need To Talk About Bobby (Off EastEnders), King's Head Theatre

...it is at times an uncomfortable watch, it's also an angry watch as adults flounder and fail. 

The showbiz world is littered with examples of child actors who've gone off the rails and here Paperback Theatre examines the relationship between twelve-year-old Annie (Tara Groves), her parents and those she works with as she is thrust into the limelight in a TV series with rather gritty storylines.

We-need-to-talk-about-bobby-(off-eastenders)-6088-680x453-20180307It is a world where Annie is treated like an adult rather than a kid and her parents are increasingly out of their depth as her fame grows.

Sophie Portway and George Attwell Gerhards play her parents and also those she works with so that with the removal of a pair of glasses, we switch from a scene 'on set' between actors playing parent and child to parent and child. 

At first, there is a safe distance between the two but the lines begin to blur with damaging consequences.

As Annie's age and inexperience in the grown-up world are increasingly overlooked and her character's storylines get darker, her parents struggle to cope with the growing attention her fame is gathering and her subsequent behaviour.

Annie may not be suffering the physical and sexual abuse of the character she portrays but there is abuse in the neglect she experiences and the emotional distress she suffers as a result.

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Q&A: Josh Roche on directing 'thriller' Plastic and who he'd 'commit crimes' to work with

JMK Trust 2017 award winner Josh Roche (My Name is Rachel Corrie) is directing Kenneth Emson's new play Plastic at the Old Red Lion, here he talks about working on the play, 'entertaining' theatre and who he'd really like to work with.

Tell us a bit about Plastic and what drew you to the project.

Plastic is the most eloquent play I've ever read on the subject of adolescence. 

I'm twenty eight, so I don't know if this will change, but my teenage years are the toughest years I've had to get through.

Josh RocheThe combined pressures of sex, loneliness, self-image and a hundred other things, create a brutal cauldron of self-defence and bitterness. It's competitive, nasty, vengeful and manic.

Plastic makes us feel deeply how the seeds of our adult insecurities are planted in our teens.
 
This is a new play by Kenneth Emson with whom you’ve worked with before, does that help with bringing the piece to life and how collaborative is the rehearsal process?

Yeah we've got pretty efficient with our work. We can usually get the important notes done on the first pint these days, which frees up time for complaining about the industry for the rest of the meeting....

More seriously Kenny is an incredibly experienced writer, far more experienced than me. He's humble and exacting in equal measure, which makes him a dream to work with.
 
You say you like to produce 'entertaining political work’, how do you define ‘entertainment’?


Well entertainment makes you feel something, whether that's laughter, tears or horror. We're all humans and extreme feelings are novel, unusual and important to us. My aim is to move audiences to feel, using political stories.

How they respond to the story is up to them, but the main aim of entertainment is to move people.  If you don't enjoy being moved, then I'd give Plastic a miss.

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Review: Trap Street, New Diorama - raises more questions than it answers about social housing

There is far more to this subject than is, or can, be explored in an 80 minute play and as a result it feels like the brush strokes are too broad.

Social housing or rather the rise and fall of the post-war council estates comes under the spotlight in a new, devised, piece Trap Street at the New Diorama theatre but before I go on with my thoughts, I feel I should explain my background.

Trap street New diorama
Danusia Samal, Amelda Brown and Hamish MacDougall in Trap Street, New Diorama

I've spent the last 20 years as a journalist writing about development and regeneration so estates renewal and property is familiar territory and has undoubtedly influenced where my interest in the piece lies - and also my frustrations.

Trap Street - a reference to the fake streets added to maps by cartographers so as to protect copyright - focuses on one family to chart the history of an estate and generate social commentary.

It jumps back and forth in time from when Valerie (Amelda Brown) rents a brand new flat on the estate with her two young children - Andrea (Danusia Samal/Amelda Brown) and Graham (Hamish MacDougall) - through to the estate's decline and proposed demolition, by which time Andrea owns the flat.

At first life on the estate is full of promise, a sense of community with residents associations and organisations and people looking out for each other but gradually apathy sets in, cracks in the community appear and the sense of pride begins to disappear.

Rubbish, graffiti, crime and poor maintenance colour the years leading up to plans to demolish and replace with new housing, a mixture of private and social.

Andrea is offered a price for her flat which is a fraction of what it would cost to buy in the new development.

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Review: Napoleon Disrobed, Arcola Theatre - riotous, surreal and silly fun

What if Napoleon hadn't died in exile but had escaped using a body double? This is the opening premise of Napoleon Disrobed which has been adapted by Told By An Idiot from the novel The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys.

Napoleon disrobed arcola manuel Harlan
Ayesha Antoine and Paul Hunter in Napoleon Disrobed, Arcola Theatre. Photo Manuel Harlan

In what is a fun, silly, surreal and quirky piece we see the historical figure, played with brilliant Englishness by Paul Hunter, navigating modern-day Europe, trying to live the life of an ordinary person and not get spotted.

Until, that is, he wants people to know who he really is and that is where his problems really start and where the themes of the play start to bubble to the surface.

His story becomes a series of connected sketches that get more and more random - playing tennis with a frying pan and an inflatable fruit random.

Living in Paris with a melon seller 'Ostrich' (Ayesha Antoine), his friends grow concerned by his increasing insistence that he is indeed Napoleon.

So, they take him to a hospital and, in a nice piece of audience interaction, he is shown all the other people who insist they too are the French statesman.

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