Review: SOLD, Studio (Vault Festival 2020)

34B573E1-CC2F-4F93-8B15-2E35BBA7E0E3

Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Immensely powerful and artistically vibrant! A must see!

Co-produced by Kuumba Nia Arts and Unlock the Chains Collective, SOLD is a thrilling and unimaginably skilful blend of storytelling, song, drumming and dance. Taking inspiration from the storytelling traditions of the West African Griot/Jeli, the work does much to comment upon, embrace and explore the Black Experience and what exactly that means. Charting this through slavery suffered in Bermuda and British Caribbean colonies and more specifically through the eyes of slave, author and abolitionist Mary Prince. SOLD thus recounts Mary’s story, from her birth into slavery in Bermuda in 1788, through her various owners and years of suffering, to her arriving in England and writing a history of her life in 1831, beyond this, to her abolitionism, anti-slavery petition and testifying against brutality to her final disappearance from records in 1833.

The work is irrefutably thematic, affecting, strong and beautiful, written this way by writer and performer Amantha Edmead. Proving herself to be an adept and smart playwright, she cleverly situates the narrative within the moment Mary told her story for it to be transcribed for the purpose of being published. Not only allowing for a fast-paced and dynamic plot, as we explore all of Mary’s major life events, but also bringing immense weight to the significance of the book. As this was the first account of the life of a black women, let alone a complete history of a single slave, the book forming a personable record and example of the atrocities being committed across the empire. The ‘History of Mary Prince’ therefore demarcating the first step in Mary’s own abolitionism, a small, but nevertheless mighty step towards the end of anglo-slavery. Demonstrating not just how rare and important it was that she was given a platform, but also as a place marker for the many hundreds of thousands without a voice who she spoke for and the millions she evidently still speaks for.

Euton Daley’s direction and dramaturgy is inspired. Daley drawing from the fast-paced and thematic nature of Edmead’s writing, brings Mary’s story stubbornly to stage. With the help of Vocal Coach and Song Arranger Ayo-Dele Edwards and Choreographer Lati Saka, Daley creates a coruscating and emotive, truly stellar piece of theatre, where storytelling is ingeniously combined with recurring motifs to truly emote and convey the realities of Mary’s suffering, as well as her fleeting moments of joy. From childlike innocence, to her being Sold and torn from her family, to her endless beatings and gruelling work days, right through to her marriage and yearning to be free. There is something so ritual-like and spiritualistic about this methodology, the work allowing us to to really feel Mary’s pain and exults through the playful and domineering drumming, sorrowful and hopeful singing and strong, yet sometimes pained movement sequences. We experience it with her and that right there, is a true art form.

Edmead’s delivery is equally as captivating, not only is she a consummate storyteller, her characterisation is exquisite and her energy, boundless. Edmead effortlessly and instantaneously bringing to life several variegated characters, as well as measuring her physicality and vocal qualities to astutely demonstrate Mary’s changing age. Whilst Angie Amra Anderson is a fantastic musician, she is a wonderfully dexterous and soulful singer and drummer, providing the necessary glue to keep this piece together. Nomi Everall also deserves high praise for her malleable and symbolic set, the ropes and hanging nooses are wonderfully representative of not only the threat of punishment that hung over slaves, but also of their bindings through a lack of freedom, even when they weren’t bound or chained they were still answerable to their masters and ultimately not free.

For us, the question of whether to see SOLD this week at Vault Fest is a no brainer, go! It’s unique, moving and transcendent. ‘To be free is very sweet’. Click here to book now.

 

Director/Co-producer: Euton Daley

Writer/Performer: Amantha Edmead

Drummer/ Performer: Angie ‘Amra’ Anderson

Vocal Coach: Ayo-Dele Edwards

Choreographer: Lati Saka

KNA Co – Producer: John Sailsman

Review: Operation Mincemeat, Southwark Playhouse

3C20699A-2862-4DA2-98C6-2C75CCE84666
Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

You’d be mad to miss this in-demand and phenomenally executed, new British Musical. Bolstering a fantastic narrative, invigorating book and explosive score whilst packed, with humour, intelligence, precession, raw emotion and sentiment, this show quite simply has it all!

Based an a real British deception strategy employed during WWII by Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley, Operation Mincemeat tells the story of how they supposedly deceived Hitler, allowing the Allied forces to retake mainland Europe by entering through Sicily. The plan involved obtaining and planting a body off the coast of Spain, with correspondence in a briefcase chained to his wrist suggesting the Allies were planning to invade Sardinia. Knowing that the Spanish were neutral but working with the Germans, the ruse was fallen for and possibly played a part in convincing Hitler to move many of his troops from Sicily. Operation Mincemeat, (named after the operation itself), thus intelligibly and hilariously recounts how the pair proposed and then executed their plan, ‘Making a Man’ by creating the fictitious hero and Captain, ‘Bill’, which involved dressing a homeless man’s body with uniform, ID, receipts and momentos from his ‘fiancee’ to prove his legitimacy.

Presented by SpitLip the production is about to finish a sold out run at the Southwark Playhouse, having already completed a sell out stint at New Diorama last year. However, not to fear, due to popular demand they are returning to the Southwark Playhouse in May for a run in The Large this time and here’s why we think you should catch it…

As we’ve said before, Operation Mincemeat is based on actual events, so part of it’s striking nature, is the notion that it really is surprisingly accurate regarding the known facts of the strategy, (though it does employ some artistic license for the sake of pace, entertainment and gaps in what we actually know). Demonstrating how the initial idea was Cholmondeley’s, fleshed out and rehashed in collaboration with Montagu. The book cleverly drips in more detail such as describing the operation as like a Trojan Horse, not only because the plan was a deception like the Greek’s siege of Troy, but because Cholmondeley originally referred to the idea with the codename Trojan Horse. Whilst there are several (witty and depraving) references to Montagu’s naval career and a detailed staging of the transportation of the body, which was done on a submarine in a canister that prevented Oxygen from getting in. The piece also makes sure to include the key players such as the pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury, Bentley Purchase – a coroner tasked with finding a suitable body, Ian Fleming the English author and naval intelligence officer who reported to John Godfrey Director of Naval Intelligence, the British vice-consul Haselden who was stationed in Spain and instructed to let the British know when the body washed ashore, as well as to watch over the autopsy and make it look like the British wanted the ‘important documents’ back, Colonel John Henry ‘Johnny’ Bevan who worked with MI5 and headed up many deception strategies and an American Pilot Willie Watkins who coincidentally crashed in Spain only three days before the body washed up there.

But, not only is Operation Mincemeat a thrilling deep-dive into history, it is also wonderfully self aware. Knowing that many, in fact all of their key characters are white, privileged males who attended schools such as Eton, SpitLip choose to make fun of this fact in their opening number, characterising several of these privileged and esteemed men as fools. They then cleverly proceed to offset this by writing in smart and feisty female characters to represent legitimate (and during this period), silenced female ambition, as well as highlighting how women began working to help win the war in both WWI and II, giving the work an exciting, protofeminist edge, whilst ensuring the piece is endlessly entertaining and comedically vibrant. Snappy sections, chocked full of raucous punchlines and fast moving wit, where for instance, mad-cap ideas are suggested by Ian Fleming, riotously alluding to his later penmanship of the James Bond spy novels, alongside Monatgu envisioning his efforts will land him heroic honours and a film career, a nod to the history he wrote in 1953, The Man Who Never Was, made into a film in 1956 and scenes showing him stealing confidential files from the office, pointing to the spy novel Operation Heartbreak released in 1950 with a plot suspiciously similar to Mincemeat, are contrasted by slower, more sincere and weighted moments. Such as when Bevan’s spinster secretary Hester, (Jak Malone) heartbreakingly sings of a painful lost love as she helps compose a fake love-letter to ‘Bill’, (Dear Bill), truly and beautifully capturing the harrowing reality of war, whilst a female operative is shown to be hungry with ambition and seeks the renown of her male colleagues, agreeing to a series of dates with Montagu and paying him undying attention in the hope this will help her standing.

Needless to say SpitLip’s execution is stellar, they expertly weave caricature and comedy with Brechtian stylised performativity, employing representative costuming and set pieces, adept multi rolling and unequivocal gender blind casting. The onstage changes of persona for instance, are not only masterfully done, but are usually performed quickly and in full view of the audience for comedic and allusion-breaking effect. Resulting in: a whirlwind of eclectically different songs, bold characters and moving set pieces, generating a fast-paced, formidable and engaging piece of musical theatre, that still manages to supply gentle moments of humanity and realism despite its form and comedic content. Moving onto the aforementioned score, it’s phenomenally eclectic nature can be attributed to SpitLip’s use of Leitmotif, a successful methodology used by many much-loved musicals, involving applying musical styles to different characters. For instance, Cholmondeley is designed to be an unlikely hero, nerdy yet likeable, SpitLip give him power ballads to sing to demonstrate his aptitude despite his unassured nature. Bevan dives into Hamilton-esque politicised rap numbers demonstrable of his status, whilst throughlines of feminism are delivered in a fiery Girl band-style pop routine. Fascism comes in the form of Electro-funk dancing Nazis, whilst jazz and disco combine as the men of the tale forget about the blitz to put on the ritz. Finally a sea shanty is delivered by the Lieutenant and officers aboard the submarine as they float ‘Bill’’s body off into the sea, representing  Psalm 39 being supposedly read by Lt. Jewell at the time. The variegated nature of these compositions, as well as the undeniable brilliance of each, makes the music a true highlight, particularly due to the magnificence of the band; Felix Hagan, Ellen O’Reilly and Lewis Jenkins. The trio managing to dynamically accomplish a full and well-rounded sound, capturing with ease each of the chosen styles within the Leitmotif of the score.

Alongside them, the highly skilled cast of five are outstanding. David Cumming, Claire-Marie Hall, Natasha Hodgson, Jak Malone
 and Zoe Roberts can only be described as bounding balls of energy as they flit on, off and around the stage conveying such a wide-range of complex and uniquely different characters. All five displaying tremendous vocal tenacity and comedic intelligence. As previously mentioned, Malone’s Hester is a highlight, his delivery of ‘Dear Bill’ is monumentally emotive and raw, undoubtedly bringing a tear to many. Whilst Hall has a particularly beautiful and powerful voice, as well as a likeable and warming performance style. Alongside them, Hodgson and Cumming are endlessly energetic and stylised actors. Whilst Roberts, is similarly dynamic and sharp, she is also a remarkably malleable performer.

Regarding the design, as previously mentioned Helen Coyston’s work is wonderfully representative and includes several moving set pieces, these are cabinet draws for holding operation files in, that are pushed together to form tables, chairs, the submarine, Coroner Purchase’s morgue, raised platforms for the actors to stand on etc. The draws also hold key props, making them easily accessible and cleverly brought into the action. Not only does this allow for the fast-pace of the piece, moving from setting to setting, across Europe and back, it also constitutes the secrecy of the operation and highlights the arrogant characterisation of Montagu as he tries and succeeds in taking files from the office for his own gains. Brightly coloured telephones brighten-up and litter the backdrop of the playing space, also hanging above the actor’s heads, this does a marvellous and unassuming job in referencing the complications of communication during wartime, from the codebreaking at Bletchley letting Montagu and Cholmondeley know the ruse had been fallen for, to their correspondence with Haselden at his post in Spain and the manipulations of the German spy network both at home and abroad.

All in all, Operation Mincemeat is a triumph and should take its place amongst other great historically perceptive and hyped-up musicals such Hamilton and SIX. Click here to book now for the Southwark Playhouse in May.

 
Creative Team:

Writers/Composers – SpitLip
SpitLip are – David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson & Zoe Roberts
Choreography – Jenny Arnold
Set and Costume Design – Helen Coyston
Lighting Design – Sherry Coenen
Sound Design – Dan Balfour
Additional Casting – Pearson Casting
Publicity Artwork – Guy Sanders
Production Manager – Rich Irvine
Stage Manager – Roisin Symes

 

Cast:

David Cumming
, Claire-Marie Hall, 
Natasha Hodgson, 
Jak Malone and 
Zoe Roberts

 

Band:

Felix Hagan
, Ellen O’Reilly and 
Lewis Jenkins

Review: Bored of Knives, White Bear Theatre

CCECB25F-1D07-486E-9BDD-ACB8014FDDAB

Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

A bold and dynamic piece of new writing with plenty of grit to get your teeth into.

Written by Kitty Fox Davis and Megan Louise Wilson, Bored of Knives is a witty, affecting and truly intriguing debut piece from new theatre company FlawState. Performed precociously by Kitty Fox Davis and Molly Chesworth, the work explores the complexities of female friendships through the lense of two long lost school friends, 1 & 2. Set in their preserved childhood den at 1’s parent’s house, we are left wondering what event separated the two of them in secondary school and subsequently, what tragedy has caused 2 to return to the den in order to try and reconnect with 1. The writing itself, is a clever and wonderfully intricate trail of breadcrumbs, the pair allude to something that caused them to be separated during their school years, (with 2 having been sent to another school and 1 told to let her be), but we do not find out exactly what happened. The smatterings of references to this event, with the women finally telling each other how it made them feel and their perspectives on it, mean FlawState carefully reel their audience into the pair’s story, engaging and engendering a desire to find out more. This also wonderfully capitulates the commonalities and difficulties in maintaining female friendships in adulthood, as well as the need for sisterhood amongst women in order to get them through the tough times.

The idea of the den as the setting is so beautifully thematic. Not only does the den signify the women’s youthful dreams, it also forms a place of safety from the outside world as well as representing innocence and the loss of it. The den enacts as a time capsule, it has been preserved over the years by 1. Due to incapacitating anxiety, she finds it difficult to live in the outside world and thus spends most of her time in the sanctity of the den instead of working or socialising. By keeping it just as it’s always been, she has forced herself to stay stuck in the past with it, encapsulating herself in the time capsule. The den, thus signifying her innocence and isolation. Throughout the evening as the two women learn more about each other the den gets messier and messier, a wonderful foreshadowing of the fact their dreams will be broken, 1’s innocence gone and their future together extinguished. 1 is also shown to want to keep tidying up, demonstrating her resistance to moving forward. Kurtis Lowe’s sensational sound design woven throughout and thus breaking up the narrative, allows for not only a fast paced piece, but is a phenomenally executed, foreboding to the later revealed tragedy. Whilst Gino Santos’ creation of the den, (combined with Louis Caro’s lighting design), is marvellously labyrinthine, Santos forcing us to feel as if we are really looking into a childhood dream. Making 1 and 2’s world compellingly tangible.

The conversations broached by this piece are not only affecting, they are also exceedingly important. Wilson and Davis compassionately, truthfully, and often facetiously touch on topics such as sex and relationships, mental health and anxiety, abuse and betrayal. Causing their work to be relevant, relatable and wholeheartedly realistic, the extensive research and development phases explained in their programme notes certainly pay off. Whilst Tom Ryder’s direction is exquisite. Bored of Knives is a devastating exposé on hopes and dreams, whilst 1 is trying desperately to stay exactly how and where she is in her life, 2 is searching for a future and an escape. This pushing and pulling of alternative desires is intriguingly brought to the forefront in Ryder’s vision. Whilst 1 tidies around 2, desperate to keep things as they are, 2 mentions what would happen if she were to have a hen do and subsequently dresses up in a white dress, a subtle signifier of her future aspirations even if they are out of her reach. Ryder also includes joyful sections where the pair act like kids, their friendship seemingly mending itself as they revert back to their childhood and adolescence by wearing wigs, dressing up, singing, playing games, eating snacks and drinking, excellently contrasted by the darkness of Lowe’s sound design often abruptly tail-ending these motifs. It is these jovial moments that make the overall tragedy and betrayal so powerfully severe. Kitty Fox Davis’ meek and righteous 1, riddled with insecurities and an ingrained desire to stay where she is, is an absolute delight. Davis is comically gifted, providing both a layered and warm delivery. Whilst Molly Chesworth’s hardened 2 is remarkably spirited and tenacious, Chesworth dextrously from the off, gives the impression 2’s mind is in two places at once and thunders through the piece with some unshakeably powerful acting. Both are simply stunning performers with exceptional chemistry.

FlawState are clearly making waves and have a bright future, to find out more about them click here. Or to catch Bored of Knives (TODAY 14/12/19), click here.

 

1 – Kitty Fox Davis

2 – Molly Chesworth

Voiceovers – Max Gell, Clive Marlowe, Adam Elliott and Viv Keene

Writers – Megan Louise Wilson & Kitty Fox Davis

Director – Tom Ryder

Producer – Kurtis Lowe

Associate Producer – Kitty Fox Davis

Media & Marketing – Megan Louise Wilson

Set Design – Gino Santos

Sound Design – Kurtis Lowe

Lighting Design – Louis Caro

Review: Generation Whyyy?, London Tour

B44675F7-8932-41B5-9953-76053696849A.jpeg

Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

A smart, up-to-date and satirical sketch-comedy that wouldn’t seem out of place on prime time television.

Presented by the hilarious, Irish, female, comedy group Meela Goola, Generation Whyyy? is a fast-paced, witty and episodic sketch comedy navigating and capturing the trials and tribulations (or ‘first world problems’), encountered by many in Generation Y. Seizing hold of millennial fever, the trio wondrously take us on a madcap and intelligible adventure through the absurd and the intrinsically relatable. Delivering vibrant and rich snapshots of the difficulties and inanity of the ‘snowflake’ generation, these effortlessly weave together, the piece esoterically enveloping several recurring themes and plot lines. Resulting in a polished, sapient and side-splitting, high brow commentary on millennial culture. From those worrying about their follower counts and willing to do anything to grow them, to the phenomenon of reality tv, going viral and #influencers doing #ads that are totally genuine, to indie/gourmet food pop ups with their over complicated menus, the plain of online dating, (whether that be for those in their flirty thirties or the grannies amongst us), to modern day parenting, passive responses to the climate emergency and everything in between, Meela Goola successfully take a satirical survey of several nonsensical traits prevalent in the millennial populous, giving their audience plenty of food for thought and barrels of laughs.

Made up of comedians Sorcha Dawson, Laura Prendergast and Amy Kellett, the company are exceedingly talented writers, directors and caricaturists, creating a plethora of variegated and comedically rich characters drawn from their Irish background and beyond. These caricatures are thus wonderfully detailed and complex bouncing well off of each other. As aforementioned, the form includes recurring characters and motifs within several vignettes, the combined vignettes thus building towards the overarching commentary on today’s culture, enacting much like popular precursors such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live, a testament to the trio’s conviction and high-quality content. It is their comedic intelligence and relevancy that makes the work feel so incredibly fresh and daring. Whilst the potency of the comedy ensures the evening is wholeheartedly enjoyable from start to finish. The technical aspects, as well as the short and snappy nature of the vignettes, also do much for the enjoyability factor, these ensure the piece is fast-paced and engaging. A quick lights up and down with several well-placed sound bites, propels us rip-roaringly from vignette to vignette. Whilst the representative and malleable props and costume used, help to instantaneously create the spectrum of characters. Meaning Dawson, Prendergast and Kellett are masters of their craft, with an innumerable awarity of their audience asserting themselves as certainly ones to watch out for in the future.

Catch Meela Goola and their show Generation Whyyy? on the remainder of their London Tour, at Barons Court Theatre 11th & 12th December. Or in Dublin closer to Christmas. To find out about future shows and to keep up to date with Meela Goola, follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter by clicking the links.

Review: Pests, Drayton Arms Theatre

AE9AE4BC-F051-464C-A327-567D79B33B3F.jpeg
Martini Rating:
🍸🍸🍸🍸

Brilliantly acted, intelligibly designed and intuitively directed, Pests is an absolute treat.

Presented by brand new theatre company One Night Stand Theatre, Pests written by Vivienne Franzmann is a gritty and devastating snapshot of impoverished Britain. Providing a powerful and unfortunately authentic elucidation on the realities of substance abuse, rape, abuse, miscarriage and mental illness. The company are also donating all proceeds to ‘Women in Prison’, click here for more information on the charity.

Originally commissioned by Clean Break, (the critically acclaimed theatre company known for working with female-identifying ex-convicts or those at risk of breaking the law), Pests follows two tragically underprivileged sisters, Pink and Rolly. The pair, having been born to an addict mother and abusive father, grew up in the care system. As adults they have become heroin addicts and live in squalor. Rolly is pregnant and has recently spent time in prison, whilst Pink provides sexual favours to men for money and clearly suffers with trauma and mental illness. Both are undereducated and have prevalent literacy issues, leaving them with very little life prospects. Since Rolly previously spent four years with a foster family whist her older sister Pink, was left in a care home to be brutally abused by men, a deep seated jealousy has festered inside Pink, a jealously that wonderfully manifests itself throughout the play. As a constant, Pink and Rolly’s lives seemingly revolve around violence, unemployment and poverty, Rolly wants something more, but Pink selfishly wants to keep them both together as they are. Therefore Pests boldly tackles the failings of society regarding those that are vulnerable and/or living below the poverty line.

Franzmann’s writing is strikingly fresh, she litters her work with pop-culture references, visual motifs and her own approach to language that both engenders the common, undereducated nature of the sisters, whilst demonstrating a witty and clever edge, to show that though they both haven’t received the best education they aren’t dumb, humorously hiding complex words throughout. One Night Stand Theatre thus, in the direction and design wonderfully play with these conceptualisations to draw out the meaningful nature of Franzmann’s writing, making their work feel very fresh, vibrant and of the now, as well as asserting it as funny, heartbreaking and real. The design truly brings us into the squalor, a sofa and stained mattress are just about distinguishable above the mountains of newspaper and rubbish. The text making many references to homes as nests and birds as well as cats, whiskers and pups. The scattered newspaper in their home therefore beautifully creates nest-like surroundings. The two sisters are birds and this nest is all they have, it’s as if they are waiting for society, the cat, to destroy them, one sister Rolly wants to leave the nest, hence why she pursues a cleaning job miles away and we see her trying to clean the mess. One Night Stand Theatre therefore deliver simply stunning visualisations of this recurring motif. Whilst the TV set and radio combine with the excellence of the sound design, to perpetuate the pop-culture references in the text, locating the work in the now or recent past. Furthermore, the lighting and sound design are masterful, the reactivity in this leaves a powerful and astonishing delivery of the internalisations of the sisters, particularly Pink, we live her reminisces of past abuse with her, bookended with lighting flashes or changes. As well as understand her bouts of paranoia and confusion due to the state of her mental health and addictions. These sections of internalised anguish and movement do much to keep a fast pace as much as they strongly emote the piece. There are however moments of total black out where the actors are clearly still delivering scenes and it would be nice to see their faces in these moments. Nevertheless, the design excels and is incredibly perceptive to the script.

Just as Ross Barbour’s direction is phenomenal, he brings to life the realities of poverty in such a delicately crafted and intuitive manner, he is able to draw out and build the necessary raw emotion with power and conviction, whilst leaving room for the moments of wit and humour to land. Barbour wonderfully building the visual motifs provided by Franzmann into his version of the piece, particularly The Wizard of Oz theme. As stated Pink and Rolly loved The Wizard of Oz as kids, Pink continuously sings the song ‘If I Only Had…’ and encourages Rolly to join in. In her states of instability the song recurs and is echoed in the sound design, it catatonically both anchors her in that frantic moment and in the sound, demonstrates just how unstable ishe is. Additionally Rolly is learning to read and has been taught by a friend, we see her copy of The Wizard of Oz which she stashes and reads allowed, as well as see the ruby red slippers Pink buys for Rolly and obsessively wills her to wear. These moments are delivered with poignancy and wonderful thematic emphasis. Regarding performances, both Caroline Maitland and Megan Macey are captivating. Maitland delivers the boisterous, jealous and sporadic Pink with efficacy and power, her emotivity and drive are sensational, though we witness the character making mistakes Maitland delivers Pink with some much depth that she makes us want to empathise with her and right all of the wrongs in her life. Whilst Macey’s Rolly in contrast, is wonderfully youthful and hopeful, Macey playing her with a certain charm and innocence, again engendering the audience to will her to find something better. Macey like Maitland is exceedingly emotive and delivers the more poignant scenes with tenacity and maturity. Both are simply stunning performers with great presence and chemistry.

To conclude Pests displays greatness in every aspect, a wonderful opening piece for One Night Stand Theatre. Find them on Twitter and Instagram @onstheatre. Pests runs at the Drayton Arms Theatre until Saturday 9th November, click here to book now.

 

Caroline Maitland – Pink

Megan Macey – Rolly


Ross Barbour – Writer

Writer – Vivienne Franzmann

Caroline Barton – Producer

Gabi Coomber – Tech

Raniah Al-Sayed – Movement

Bradley Leech – Fight

Review: SIX The Musical, Malvern Theatre

C92540D6-DDE7-46A0-8F2B-042DFD591C72.jpeg

Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

****We took a trip to see SIX on tour and below is what we thought. However if you would like to read our original reviews of SIX, please click below, these decompartmentalise the delivery, content and form of the show, so for more on that, please click away…

Click here to read our review of the original Arts Theatre Workshop.

Click here to read our review of the London leg of the first UK tour, (Sept 2018).

Click here to read our review of the West End run, (inc. Vicki Manser as K Howard).

Click here to read our article on the Tower of London flash mob.

As a quick summary, SIX is both a pop concert and a musical set under the guise of Henry VIII’s six wives holding a contest to find out who will be the leading lady of their band, a position to be awarded (by the audience), to the one of them who conclusively had the most BS to deal with from Henry. Simple, right? Not quite, the show revolves around the theme of Her-story, (bringing women to forefront of history where they’ve previously been seen as secondary and their perspective ignored), the show ultimately concluding with the wives ditching the contest and reclaiming their stories. Remixing five hundred years of historical heartbreak. Noting that since the only thing they’ve got in common is their husband, grouping them together is an inherently comparative act and as such unnecessarily elevates a historical approach ingrained in patriarchal structures. (We can’t take credit for that). The point of the show being, that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to each other and that we should stick together rather than knocking each other down, true girl power at its best! A wonderful moral proposition by six Tudor Queens turned Pop-princesses.

Having seen SIX five times prior to this viewing at various stages in it’s development, there was something strikingly fresh about this tour. Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography seemed sharper and more vibrant than ever before. Whilst Gabriella Slade’s inventive, fusionist costumes appeared to dazzle especially more than usual, beautifully glinting under the lights. However, it is undoubtably this brand-new cast of six bad-ass monarchs that elevate the show to a new and fresh-feeling production. Each actor providing a uniquely different delivery to any of their predecessors, these characterisations, though idiosyncratic, prove to be expectantly comedically rich, enviously sassy and severely powerful. These six new Queens will reign supreme!

Lauren Drew’s feisty Catherine of Aragon is delivered with exceptionally powerful vocals and Drew’s signature thick Welsh accent. Adding another level of not only distinctive sass and humour, but also, a commentary on ethnicity. Though the character speaks a little Spanish during her song ‘No Way’ to signify Catherine’s Spanish heritage, whilst there are a few mentions of her being shipped over from Spain, the German ethnicity of Anna of Cleves is more expressively and consistently represented by that character’s use of German phraseology throughout. So Drew’s use of, (conveniently her own), but a different accent is intrinsically representative of Catherine’s different nationality than most of the other Queens. A simple, yet fascinating directorial choice. Maddison Bulleyment’s categorically rumbustious and cheeky Anne Boleyn is a tornado of energy and boundless wit. Bulleyment’s Boleyn is delightfully and deliberately troublesome, a twinkle in her eye throughout. Whilst Lauren Byrne’s Jane Seymour is instantaneously likeable, less plaintive but equally as affecting, her vocal quality and tonality are sensational. Shekinah McFarlane is no newcomer to Anna of a Cleves, having covered the role in the West End recently. McFarlane here, is an absolute pocket rocket, putting a feisty and energetic twist on Cleves. Her Cleves is wondrously both fully animated and hilariously ratchet. Moving on to Jodie Steele’s Katherine Howard, her version is raw and emotive, comedically vibrant and vocally powerful. Steele displaying and applying her killer vocals to Katherine Howard in true style, she instinctively conveys and contrasts K Howard’s flirty nature, with her heartbreaking moments of abuse and manipulation. An astonishing performance. Last but not least, Athena Collins’ Catherine Parr is wonderfully intelligible and astute, Collins displaying exceptional tonality and clarity throughout. She presents Parr’s heart-rendering longing for the love of her life, Thomas, with an in-numerous amount of power, weight and depth. Thus, this collective of sensational individual performers thrive in their roles as Henry VIII’s wives, yet they also blend together to deliver the severely tight harmonies and complex choreography with vigour and ease. We see them as an unstoppable girl group, as well as strong independent women in their own right.

To conclude SIX is in more than safe hands and absolutely thriving on tour, to find tickets at a venue near you, click here.

 

Lauren Drew – Catherine of Aragon

Maddison Bulleyment – Anne Boleyn

Lauren Byrne – Jane Seymour

Shekinah McFarlane – Anna of Cleves

Jodie Steele – Katherine Howard

Athena Collins- Catherine Parr

 

 

Toby Marlow – Writer

Lucy Moss – Writer / Co Director

Jamie Armitage – Co Director

Carrie-Anne Ingrouille – Choreographer

Emma Bailey – Set Designer

Gabriella Slade – Costume Designer

Paul Gatehouse – Sound Designer

Tim Deiling – Lighting Designer

Tom Curran – Orchestrator

Joe Beighton – Music Supervisor

Grace Taylor – Associate Director

Franny Anne Rafferty – Associate Director

Review: High Fidelity, The Turbine Theatre

77FDB262-8B07-4C2E-B95B-06F8F14B4E7C

Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

A stylised, retro musical, with plenty of heartbreaks and hilarity, High Fidelity at The Turbine Theatre bolsters an incredible and varied original score, insanely polished deliveries by all, an intricate set and punchy choreography. Asserting the theatre’s first musical as a must see!

Clearly stating their aim of: ‘Generating new work. Powering premieres. Re-energising classics.’ The Turbine Theatre’s UK premiere of High Fidelity is all that. Based on writer Nick Hornby’s novel of the same name, this high-flying, romantic, comedy-drama of a musical, has been re-energised for a British audience, bringing the setting back to the novel’s original location, London. The musical, which premiered in Boston before a Broadway engagement in 2006, alternatively had a Brooklyn setting. This staging as a result, gives the show an overall new and fresh feel, anglicising it, whilst of course bringing it to a British audience for the first time. As a result, High Fidelity is enviously vibrant and enthrallingly executed.

With music by Tom Kitt, lyrics by Amanda Green, and a book by David Lindsay-Abaire, High Fidelity follows record store owner Rob, a thirty-something obsessed with collecting rare vinyls, it hilariously charts Rob’s journey to self-discovery through his music collection and his lost loves. The narrative quickly denoting Rob’s talent for losing girlfriends. In response to Laura, (the love of his life) dumping him, he becomes determined to keep her off his list of ‘desert island, all time, top 5 most memorable breakups’, going on to reminisce about all of the girlfriends that he’s lost. What ensues, is a paradorical expedition which sees Rob reflecting on the past, whilst simultaneously hoping for one of the biggest romantic comebacks of all time. Though packed with humour and wit, the musical also boasts a lot of heart and vulnerability, providing a powerful look at what it is like to be a thirty-something and still figuring it out, highlighting just how much music can mean to someone. David Lindsay-Abaire’s book is consequently brilliantly constructed, his work is satirical and light-heated, yet emotionally rich. The time spent by Vikki Stone on the relocation of the setting back to London is clear, the references to Woolworth’s and places in Camden specifically, do much to give the piece a truly British sentiment and provide much more weight to the comedy from a British perspective. Additionally Tom Jackson Greaves’ direction wonderfully draws out the abundance of comedy written by Lindsay-Abaire, making High Fidelity, for its humour, a much needed form of escapism. (And by humour, we mean the laugh out loud kind of humour).

This production marvellously invites its audience into Rob’s ‘Last Real Record Store on Earth’. Engendering this through strip-lights that hang not only in the playing space, but also over the audience’s heads. So when these are initially switched on by store owner Rob, (Oliver Ormson), there is certain spark of magic that makes you feel as if you are instantly there with him, a moment that is beautifully paired with the plethora of band posters scattered around the auditorium. Yet it is the direction by Greaves, requiring the actors to move around and use the auditorium as a playing space, jumping down from the semicircular stage onto a stack of records and then the floor, that really envelops and immerses the audience into Rob’s world. As he addresses us directly, breaking the fourth wall and letting us know his internalisations, we are invited further and further into his story. In conjunction with this, Oliver Ormson makes a stellar leading man, his Rob, although a problematic and flawed character, is charming, exceedingly likeable and comedically vibrant. Ormson excels narratorially, knowing how to work a crowd with ease and as a result delivers several ‘knowing looks’ with just the right amount of intensity and hilarity, timing them perfectly. Similarly his voice is sensational, he has excellent power and tonality, perfect for such a rock-heavy role. Ormson also manages to emote the part superbly, making him a well-rounded, intelligent and truly entertaining performer, he is certainly one to watch.

Alongside Ormson, the entire company of eleven, (including him), are absolute powerhouses. Their conviction and attack is refreshingly inspiring, they deliver Greaves’ uniquely inventive and affectional choreography with ease and determination. Greaves doing well to fill, but not crowd the small space. Additionally the company effortlessly combine voices to deliver the intricacies and nuanced character of Kitt and Green’s variegated score strikingly well. The music is an eclectic and enjoyable collection of Pop, RnB, Soul and Rock inspired songs. The writers taking influence from artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Beastie Boys, Indigo Girls, Talking Heads, Aretha Franklin, The Who, Guns N’ Roses, Billy Joel, George Harrison, Percy Sledge and more. The sound therefore feels very nostalgic, the songs are ultimately original and new, yet they feel familiar, making the score a wonderful and exciting journey through music history. With this in mind, it is worth mentioning that the live band, placed just in view above the stage, are phenomenal. They provide an authentically retro-feeling sound that is big, bold and bluesy. Dan Samson should therefore be commended for his sound design to help to realise and integrate this, (his work of course replicating the sound of a record player’s stylus hitting a vinyl). Like many successful and popular musicals, High Fidelity employs a technique known as Leitmotif. This is where a certain musical style is applied to each character. As aforementioned, Kitt and Green took inspiration from several acclaimed artists, therefore they have crafted a unique and historically-inspired sound for each of their show’s characters. For example, Rob’s straight talking friend Liz is very much inspired by Aretha Franklin. Bobbie Little therefore delivers Liz’s song ‘She Goes’, with a certain Aretha Franklin-esque sass and power. Vocally, Little proving herself to be one of the best. Going back to Leitmotif, the methodology appears in shows such as SIX, Cats and Hamilton, it inevitably, as a form succeeds in High Fidelity as much as it does in those shows. The idea of Leitmotif congruently helping the composers to provided songs that are not only diversified, but reflective of the show’s theme of Rob’s passion for music, allowing them to beautifully pay homage to some of the greatest musicians of our time.

As far as the design goes, as aforementioned it ebbs out into the auditorium, but the stage itself, is designed with an innumerable amount of attention to detail and dexterity. The stage, semicircular in design is literally made to look like a record, giving it an overall thematic and retro aesthetic. Whilst, the shelving units that revolve to provide extra set pieces, are intricately littered with vinyls, they along with Rob’s till and record player, actually bring the shop realistically to life. Other movable set pieces, such as stairs and beds that slot away and almost appear from no where, are incredibly malleable and useful additions to take us momentarily out of Rob’s store. Making the design practical and compact, but ultimately aesthetically intriguing.

Having already mentioned the charm of Ormson and sheer power of Little, we cannot finish this review without commenting on the remaining individual performances as each one is equally as strong and unique, the company proving their adaptability by multi-roling successfully throughout. Carl Au’s absolutely adorable Scouser Dick, (Rob’s friend), is such a treat. Au presenting Dick’s naivety and anxieties with precision and dexterity, his song ‘It’s No Problem’ is irrefutably a highlight. Dick’s love interest Anna, is similarly played to perfection by Rosie Fletcher, she distinctively captures the character’s winsome charm and innocence, as well as her mild discomfiture when faced with romance. Au and Fletcher sharing breathtaking chemistry. Robbie Durham as Rob’s other friend Barry is severely entertaining and astute, whilst Joshua Dever’s delivery of Neil Young/Bruce Springsteen is packed with comedic excellence, Dever proving to be an ardent performer. Alongside them, Jessica Lee and Lauran Rae exude energy and excellence, pulling focus throughout, whilst Eleanor Kane is another highlight. Her delivery of American Country Singer Marie, is sensational, the characterisation and humour perfectly lands, alongside the character’s omnipotent allure. Shanay Holmes’ apple-of-Rob’s-eye Laura is a beacon of clarity, her voice is simply stunning, whilst her emotivity is strong. Finally, last but not least, Robert Tripolino’s Ian, a yogi who ‘handled Kurt Cobain’s intervention’ that Laura  evidently moves in with, is strikingly eccentric. Tripolino’s comedically rich performance is defined by his sharp wit and madcap characterisation, impeccably capturing the obliviously annoying and self-centred nature of the Ian.

To conclude every aspect of High Fidelity is flawless. From the cast, to the design, the direction and choreography, to the book and score, we can’t find a single fault, please do take the time to go and support this re-energised musical, you won’t regret it! Click here to find out more.

 

Book: David Lindsay-Abaire, (based on a novel by Nick Hornby)

Director: Tom Jackson Greaves

Music and Lyrics: Tom Kitt and Amanda Green

Lighting: Andrew Exeter

Design: David Shields

Sound: Dan Samson

Choreography: Tom Jackson Greaves

Paul Schofield: Musical Director & Music Supervisor

Vikki Stone: Book & Lyrics Adaptor

Will Burton CDG: Casting Director

Helen Siveter: Associate Director

Lewis Andrews : Music Programmer & Musician (Guitar)

Robyn Brown: Musician (Bass)

Steve Hynes: Musician (Drums)


Cast:

Oliver Ormson – Rob

Carl Au – Dick

Robbie Durham – Barry

Rosie Fletcher – Anna/Alison

Joshua Dever – Neil Young/Bruce Springsteen

Shanay Holmes – Laura

Eleanor Kane – Marie/Sarah

Jessica Lee – Ensemble/Jackie

Bobbie Little – Liz/Charlie

Lauran Rae – Ensemble/Penny

Robert Tripolino – Ian