Review: &Juliet, Manchester Opera House

9E327D6C-830A-4985-8DAD-30AF882C2E10

Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

We predict a hit!

Starting it’s ‘out of town’ try out before transferring to London’s West End, &Juliet opened with a bang at Manchester’s historic Opera House last night. This incredibly witty and immensely comedic musical, bolsters a soundtrack of 30 pop anthems, a ridiculously talented cast and a design to die for. Making it a must see event in either Manchester or London.

The show is set up on the premise that William Shakespeare, (Oliver Tompsett) has just finished writing Romeo & Juliet, but his wife Anne Hathaway, (Cassidy Janson) has other ideas. What ensues is a femme-positive and wonderfully inclusive musical remix that smashes all gender stereotypes as Anne sets about writing the show she wants to see. Which just so turns out to be a meaningful comedy and not the dark, dark tragedy Shakespeare is so keen to write. &Juliet thus beautifully re-imagines this Shakespearean classic, making an interesting commentary on Shakespeare and Anne’s marriage, as the pair begin to spar over what is to happen in the play and draw various comparisons between themselves and the star-crossed lovers. The show also intriguingly gives a nod to Shakespeare as an actor-writer with a share-hold in an acting company by having the couple write themselves into their new play, the opening showing the pair surrounded by a company of players. Throughout, Oliver Tompsett and Cassidy Janson have fantastically fiery chemistry that offers up a lot of opportunity for both comedy and depth. Tompsett’s William Shakespeare is remarkably flamboyant, mischievous and narcissistic, his delivery of the ‘world’s greatest playwright’ who wants it his way, is a perfect mansplaining and hard-headed counterpart to Cassidy Janson’s Anne Hathaway, who is incredibly witty, smart and independent. Anne is a bold, self-assured, rationalising character who just wants to see a women given a choice for once, rather than the passive character’s her husband has previously written – who are often told what to do. Janson delivers Anne effervescently with great clarity and witticism. Both Janson and Tompsett ultimately provide powerful vocals and comedically rich performances as they fumble about the stage together, their character’s playfully manipulating the story.

The mise en scène narrative that the pair devise, therefore starts with Juliet having awoken to find Romeo dead and instead of ending it all, she chooses to go on living. We get to follow her as she, (along with friends), seeks something more, tries to escape the will of her parents and almost makes the same mistakes. It is, like any good Shakespeare, subversive and full of twists and turns with various sub-plots, love stories and disguises. Thus, David West Read’s writing is a triumph, he has managed to reimagine and create complex characters that are exceedingly relatable and fresh. His book is a clever, vibrant and raucous ode to the bard with a modern twist that can symbiotically be seen as a meaningful parody. Juliet reclaiming her story asserts itself as the perfect girl-power take-back for this generation. Though at times the piece dances on the edge of pantomime, the level of comedy is groundbreaking and the storyline, inspired. As far as the music is concerned, as aforementioned the piece contains 30 pop classics, but &Juliet is no jukebox musical. Max Martin, (Dominic Fallacaro and Bill Sherman)’s choices and arrangements are strong, unique and impassioned, they interweave throughout the story effortlessly, propelling on the plot and artfully emoting. Whilst enraptured, it is easy to forget that all of these popular songs exist outside of this show, the incited delivery and obvious fresh arrangements ensure that they feel as if they were written for it. All of which is staged by the invigorating direction of Luke Sheppard, which certifies that the comedy and vibrancy of Read’s book packs-a-punch and is well-sustained and balanced, whilst allowing room for tender and understated moments to also trickle through, enacting to be as powerful and sincere as those of high intensity, or of visible teem. Additionally, Jennifer Weber’s choreography accents the arrangements flawlessly, her work is energetic, bold and connective. Allowing for beautifully ensemble-led work and aesthetically pleasing moments of awe.

The overall approach, thus fuses a new fiction, the historical past and today’s socio-political climate, the intent being to create a retrospective Shakespearean comedy for our times, which looks back to look forward, with the objective of promoting both female empowerment and the dismantling of the patriarchy. So whilst the music, choreography and dialogue are modern, (a critical choice to the ensure work’s relevance to its audience), the setting is still the 1590s. A necessity to allow Shakespeare and Anne to appear as characters and ringmasters, using fact and artistic licence to allow the audience look at Shakespeare critically, (as a potentially blinkered man who probably wrote without considering a women’s perspective). Not only does it show how far we’ve come towards gender equality since the time of Shakespeare, it dictates just how far we have to go, with many women internationally still in Juliet’s position, fighting for the freedom to take back their own story. Thus, this fusion is intricately shown in the representative costuming and design. Bright and modern coloured doublets, hose, corsets and tunics combine with baseball jackets, headphones, SnapBacks and sunglasses. Whilst hydrolic lifts, a revolve, confetti, coloured washes of lighting, projections and various modern set pieces – either lowered from the flies or carried in by the ensemble, combine with other design elements that do much to nod towards the playhouses of Shakespeare’s day, (in particular the Globe, or the modern reconstruction of it). For example, the projections often appear like ‘the Heavens’ painted onto the false ceiling of the Globe’s stage, whilst two colonnades flown down from the flies look very much like those that also reside on the stage there and the white wreath of flowers propped up centre-stage at Romeo’s funeral looks similar to the modern Globe’s circular logo, which represents the reconstructed theatre building. Furthermore, the walls around the edges of the stage are shown to be falling into disrepair and a balcony, like the one from which Juliet was wooed by Romeo looms centre stage, this is a gritty indication towards the ‘new fiction’. Juliet will/is tearing down her story and reclaiming it. Shown in her rousing number Roar as she finally takes control and subsequently rises in a new balcony, the railings including some padlocks similar to love-locks left at Juliet’s balcony in Verona, denoting Juliet as a female hero to look up to, as so many do when they pilgrimage to Verona to leave her letters. Therefore the design by Soutra Gilmour (Set), Andrzej Goulding (Video & Projection), Paloma Young (Costume) and Howard Hudson (Lighting) is beautifully representative, it’s modern flavour is a necessity to make the narrative ultimately relatable, whilst the historic allows us to look back at Shakespeare contrarily and for the use of Shakespeare and Anne as a vehicle for the narrative. Regarding Young’s work there are a few other enigmatic design elements that are worth mentioning. Throughout, Janson and Tompsett wield a quill in their hand dependent on who’s character is writing the narrative at that point, when Juliet finally takes back her story and ascends on the balcony, she is revealed to be wearing a doublet and hose, the top half of which is an intricate embellished golden quill, she literally wears the trousers and is the playwright of her own destiny here. The piece also does a lot to break gender stereotypes, Romeo’s initial costume is mainly pink, accented by a flowery pink backpack, the costume Juliet wears opposite him is, in contrast, a blue trouser suit. This seems like a pretty basic statement on the whole ‘pink for girls’ and ‘blue for boys’ gender stuff by swapping them over, however there is a delightful subtly in the fact that this moment can be compared to May (Juliet’s best friend’s)’s initial purple costume. As the gender-ambiguous character, there is something so tempered and pure in the signifier of them wearing a costume colour that is a mixture of the two colours the male and female Romeo and Juliet wear. The character of May, not only adds an air of inclusivity, they are also a great nod to Shakespeare himself who often toyed with subverting gender in his work, though of course, not in the same way. Arun Blair-Mangat plays May with a certain maturity and sincerity, though the character is somewhat naive, Blair-Mangat also manages to capture the uncertainty the character has in them-self and the rawness of the pain May has evidently experienced. He also has a particularly rich and unique voice. However, it does also feel like May was slightly underwritten, they disappear for a large proportion of Act 2 and their exact trajectory is partially unclear. May struggling with which toilet to go to followed by their rendition of I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman suggests the character is in the process of transitioning to be a woman, yet May later joins a boy-band. Would a girl in transition realistically agree to this? Therefore it is easier to try and understand May as simply gender-fluid, as aforementioned in the show, is it really any of our business which, if any gender they ascribe to?

Finally onto the rest of the individual performances. Looking into the credits of the entire cast, it is plain to see that they are pretty much all veterans when it comes to big musicals, something that is mind-blaringly obvious in the deliveries, as every single cast members can quite simply be regarded as sensational. Leading the company as Juliet, is the powerhouse that is Miriam-Teak Lee. Her voice is out of this world, with impeccable control and an immense range she battles from huge belting song to huge belting song, she will hence force be known as the riff queen. Her delivery is edgy, sharp-witted and enviably confident, she makes Juliet the Herculean hero that every girl should and will want to be, a self-assured, fiesty, independent woman that Shakespeare could never write. Whilst opposite her, Jordan Luke Gage’s vein, pouty, love-rat Romeo is a hilarious counterpart, Gage also displaying his wondrous vocal tonality. Tim Mahendran’s Francois, the self-effacing son of french nobility, like May has a great sense of naivety about him. Mehendran’s performance, like Blair-Mangat’s, has a purity and sincerity to it, the pair displaying infinite chemistry with one another, sharing in several well-crafted tender moments. However, the true award for on-stage chemistry goes to David Badella, (Lance – Francois’ Father) and Melanie La Barrie, (Juliet’s Nurse). The pair are intoxicating together, La Barrie, with her sardonic wit and enviable comedic timing and Badella, with his charm and silky voice. Their deliveries of the rekindled lovers are definitely a highlight! Whilst the ensemble of players surrounding them are strong, proving themselves to be multifaceted performers and a tight-knit collective, successfully moving set pieces, hitting the choreography hard and adding wondrous vocal depth, they do feel somewhat under-utilised. Particularly as they are often left loitering at the sides. Despite this many of them did manage to continuously pull focus, particularly Grace Mouat, Jocasta Almgill, Kirstie Skivington, Antoine Murray-Straughan and Kerri Norville.

To conclude, we have a revitalised hero on our hands and her name is Juliet. This female-positive show has it all, from the writing to the design to the delivery, the execution of it provides an inspirational, witty musical for our times, filled to the brim with relevance and passion not to mention its abundance of pop songs. Romeo Who? &Juliet runs in Manchester until Saturday 12th October and then on to London. Click here to book now for Manchester and here for London.

 

Cast:

Juliet- Miriam-Teak Lee

Shakespeare – Oliver Tompsett

Anne Hathaway – Cassidy Janson

Lance – David Badella

May – Arun Blair Mangat

Romeo – Jordan Luke Gage

Nurse – Melanie La Barrie

Francois – Tim Mahendran

Company of Players – Jocasta Almgill, Josh Baker, Ivan De Freitas, Rhian Duncan, Danielle Fiamanya, Kieran Lai, Nathan Lorainey-Dineen, Jaye Marshall, Grace Mouat, Antoine Murray-Straughan, Billy Nevers, Kerri Norville, Christopher Parkinson, Dillon Scott-Lewis, Kirstie Skivington, Alex Tranter and Sophie Usher.

 

 

Music and Lyrics – Max Martin & Friends

Book – David West Read

Director – Luke Sheppard

Choreographer – Jennifer Weber

Set Designer – Soutra Gilmour

Lighting Designer – Howard Hudson

Costume Designer – Paloma Young

Sound Designer – Gareth Owen

Video & Projection Designer – Andrzej Goulding

Wig Designer – Linda McKnight

Musical Director, Additional Orchestrations & Arrangements – Dominic Fallacaro

Music Supervisor, Orchestrator & Arranger – Bill Sherman

Associate Director – Anna Fox

Associate Choreographer – Kendra Horsburgh

Casting Director – Stuart Burg CDG

Advertisements

Review: The Feeling, The Other Palace Studio

B69F0E77-6B5D-4A78-9D94-5287B6FFD7FC.jpeg

Martini Rating: 🍸🍸

Presented by Monsteers Artistry in the intimate space of The Other Palace Studio, The Feeling written by Kyra Jessica Willis was dubbed ‘a new dark comedy musical’. Though the work tackled many social issues and fought fiercely to create tangible characters in the six friends the narrative revolved around – each with their own problems and differences, the musical quite clearly needs a lot of work and doesn’t quite feel as dark as the title suggests. It has gritty moments, but lacked either a shock factor or an engendered deep tragedy that had been truly built up to.

Monsteers are a young, British talent agency and collaboration of creative minds who garnered their name by merging two of their inspirations: Marilyn Monroe and West-End star Danielle Steers. Here, they collaborated to present a uniquely British, millennial-centric, jukebox musical featuring many modern rock, indie and pop classics. The piece, dramatically focussing on toxic relationships between mates and lovers, followed six problematic friends: Edie, Kasey, Jessie, Lexie, Archie and Mel, each with their own unique source of misery. However, unfortunately its sporadic and fleeting superficial conversations between characters meant it struggled to build the necessary levels of sincerity and believability, leaving its audience somewhat uninvested in both the narrative and the characters. As far as characterisation goes, this simply didn’t stretch too far beyond the two-dimensional. Which is a shame, as the writing posed a worthy attempt, there were several enigmatic moments of both depth and comedy, whilst the intent was good, aiming to shed light on social problems such as mental health, addiction, suicide, unrequited love and unwanted pregnancy. Perhaps part of the problem was the songs and their placements, these seemingly came from no where and weren’t always built up to, or interwoven well into the narrative. The changes from dialogue to song were also made severely abrupt as they were often accompanied by stark lighting changes and the loud beating of the piano, the sound and lighting thus neglecting to form a gentle incline into the musical sections. Furthermore, to its detriment, occasionally the choices of song didn’t quite fit the engendered mood. Thus the premise was strong, the format and design just didn’t quite lend itself to the proposed narrative. Perhaps a naturalistic play would have worked better, as the characters are reasonably relatable, with everyone knowing someone like at least one of the friends. From the shy and reserved cafe owner Mel to the cutting and sarcastic addict Jessie, or the sweet and nerdy love interest, Jamie.

Staging wise, the direction by George C. Francis did provide some vibrant moments, where characters had heated or tender exchanges, peppered with tension and passion. Francis ultimately utilising the small space well. But in direct contrast to this, there were also many rushed moments with the actors hurriedly bustling in or out of playing space that ultimately fell flat. As well as far too many directed exchanges between characters in the background, meaning attention was often drawn away from those in the foreground singing a ‘soliloquy’ to the actors residing behind them. These ‘knowing glances’ were both repetitive and distracting. As far as individual performances go there were a few diamonds in the rough. Firstly, Halie Darling’s Mel, the owner of the café they frequent throughout, is wonderfully naive and righteous. Darling’s performance showcases balance and clarity whilst remaining  understated, perfect for the character’s reserved nature. Whilst George C. Francis’ nerdy Jamie was both charming and adorable, his chemistry, (as Mel’s love interest), with Darling was particularly strong. Chloe Hazel’s obsessive and bitter Edie chasing after her ‘stolen ex’ Kasey, was perfectly sharp-witted and powerful at times. Her voice along with PJ Tomlinson, (Kasey) and Sean Erwood, (Archie) delivered some of the best vocals. It’s plain to see, that most of the issues with the rest of the performances would be easily rectified with more character development, in both the text and the rehearsal process.

To conclude, Monsteers Artistry show some creative promise, they just need to work on their craft to get the overall form right and with that, sincerity and proficiency will come.

 

Cast:

Kasey – PJ Tomlinson

Archie – Sean Erwood

Lexie – Pippa Lea

Mel – Halie Darling

Jessie – Kyra Jessica Willis

Edie – Chloe Hazel

Jamie – George C. Francis

Holt – Chris Barton

 

Writer and Producer – Kyra Jessica Willis

Director – George C. Francis

Associate Director – Chris Barton

Musical MD – Connagh Tonkinson

Casting – Tara Jones

Stage Manager – Adeane Hardy

Review: Macbeth the Musical, White Bear Theatre

6834A707-6666-4007-8F86-EFAF039B4036.jpeg

Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸

Stage Splinters are a vibrant theatre company who premise their work as the telling of ‘untold stories’. Whether that be an old tale in a totally new way, or the staging of an entirely new narrative. They intend to be definitive storytellers who create worlds for their audiences and most importantly, provoke thought. Well it can’t get more fresh and exciting than a boldly re-imagined version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The narrative here, is presented congruently in puppet and song form by only four actors, the adaptation taking on a unique perspective by determinately focussing on how the other characters are affected by Macbeth’s actions. It sounds bonkers and let us be there first to tell you, that it is!

Adapted by Chuma Emembolu and Ruth Nicolas, this new musical-comedy is wonderfully self-aware. It juxtaposes satire, smut and profanity with a largely operatic score and classic tale, condensing the narrative to cover the main plot points. Instead of dwindling on Macbeth himself, it explores the non-speaking, (or barely-speaking) characters such as the women and servants. Not only does this make the story more accessible, (the narrative arc of Macbeth‘s ascension to corruptive power remaining simplified and easy to follow), the characters developed behind the crown provide an abundance of depth and weight to the story, engendering more empathy than Macbeth ever could as a man who was tempted to kill by fate and subsequently falls into descent. A clever and enigmatic concept taking Macbeth from tragedy to comedy.

Stylistically, the work seemingly pays homage to the puppetry and essence of Avenue Q. Firstly in the phenomenal design of the puppets. Much like the Lyon Puppets servicing the many productions of Avenue Q around the world, the puppet design here, showcases vibrantly coloured, geometric, human-like figures, their shape and features fiercely resembling the residents of Avenue Q. These, like Lyon’s are operated by a single rod with one arm posed, as a double rod, or instead, they are a live hand puppet. Additionally, much like Avenue Q, the piece is a conundrum of versatile actors successfully multi-rolling. With assistance, they occasionally even change characters whilst onstage. Furthermore, as aforementioned there is an abundance of satire, wit and profanity making the production as outspoken and unapologetic as Avenue Q is. This devised work blisteringly not shying away from the problematics of the source material. Instead it cleverly pokes fun at the moral ambiguities or rashness of the character’s decisions and their variegated motivations. The result is a severely modernised production that allows for a comparative view between then and now to be drawn, another wonderful step closer to making Shakespeare accessible to all. It wittily touches on topics such as toxic masculinity, rape culture and the corruptive nature of power. Design-wise, much like Avenue Q, television screens are hung and utilised to present various cartoon storyboards, helping to situate scenes or move the narrative along. These intricate, sketched animations are also underscored well by the sound design.

Unfortunately, what Macbeth the Musical doesn’t have from Avenue Q, is it’s score. This is practically none existent. Which is kind of an issue for a piece billed as a musical. There is an abundance of songs, but unfortunately no stand-out or remotely memorable compositions materialise. In fact, most of the numbers sound exactly the same and though there are moments of glimmering harmony, for the most part it regrettably sounds like operatic wailing with no real purpose or structure. The operatic style, does however give a charming nod towards the story being a timeless classic. Subsequently, this style doesn’t particularly show off the actors voices well either. Although it is apparent Eloise Jones and Red Picasso have exceptional vocal talents. However, this isn’t to say the performances weren’t strong. The cast prove themselves to be wonderfully versatile and adroit performers. Eloise Jones’ Lady Macbeth is formidable, she is a powerful and expressive performer displaying beautiful intricacies in her physicality and demeanour. Whilst Elliott Moore’s comedic timing shines, he is a smart and emphatic actor. Alongside them, Bryony Reynolds and Red Picasso are exceedingly dexterous performers, able to instantaneously switch between personas whilst adding a vividness to their delivery. Reynold’s Rose, the servant girl is an especially enchanting character, delivered beautifully and brilliantly written/directed. 

Macbeth the Musical certainly needs a lot of work, it felt a little rushed in parts, somewhat diminishing the humour and meaning-making and definitely lacked a sizzling score. However, it has moments that are incredibly humorous or poignant and is a good concept. All it needs is a little development. The show runs at White Bear Theatre until Saturday 7th September, click here to book now.

 

 

Creatives:

Director: Chuma Emembolu

Adaptation: Chuma Emembolu and Ruth Nicolas

Stage Manager: Sophia Start

Assistant Director: Gwenan Bain

Music: Stefan Potiuk

Lighting and Sound Design: Chuma Emembolu Animation: Lizzy Rogers

Movement Director: Eloise Jones

General Manager: Faye Maughan

Associate Producer: Laura Shoebottom

 

 

Cast:

Elliott Moore: Macbeth, John

Eloise Jones: Lady Macbeth, Madison, Agnes, John

Bryony Reynolds: Rose, Breanna, Duncan

Red Picasso: Macduff, Conleth, Banquo, Agnes

Review: Hansard, Lyttelton Theatre (National Theatre)

52542884-B06E-49D3-8693-5684ECB34EB1

Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Simon Woods’ brand new new play Hansard is a wonderfully visceral and self-aware masterpiece. Delivering a gripping portrait of the governing class, it is an emotive and witty tragedy. Humanising politicians, Hansard intriguingly dips into and critiques Tory ambitions and motivations, that are often defined towards personal gain or at a moral cost.

Providing both a witty commentary on, and an anguished examination of, the current political climate, Woods, situating his work in the home of Tory politician Robin Hesketh on a summer’s morning in 1988, makes politics strikingly tangible and personal. As the title suggests, (Hansard being the professional report of all Parliamentary debates), he prophetically and personably comments upon political legacy. A large part of the determining legacy of the 1988 government remaining that on the 24th May they passed Section 28, a clause that banned the “promotion of homosexual” by local government. Woods thus presenting, through the lense of the 1988 government, the opportunity for his audience to bleakly imagine what the legacy of our current government will be, a tangible notion when both a no-deal Brexit and Boris Johnson’s attempt at Proroguing looms. Will the current government be known for allowing something oppressive, catastrophic to our economy, or worse to happen? Reminding us that whatever decisions our government makes, it’s politicians will ultimately be held accountable by history. Though perhaps only in a few lines in a file, if that. Whether that is a comfort or not is, in its totality, debatable.

The piece with bold and dynamic direction by Simon Godwin is cuttingly direct. When Hesketh returns home to the idyllic Cotswold house he shares with his wife of 30 years, Diana, what ensues is more than a little turbulence. Marital bliss is no more and has seemingly been dead for years, what starts as gentle prodding and picking at each other, (elements of the familiar rhythms of marital sparring), quickly turns to blood-sport. Not only is this format comedically rich, as a fairly liberal individual, Diana is a wonderful vehicle of opposition to the Conservative ambition demonstrated through Hesketh. The commentary made, thus unmasks Conservative ambitions that often have personal focus and aim to make them, (the rich) richer, whilst going against the interests of the masses and even their own personal beliefs. It therefore, rivetingly examines how personal beliefs can often reside against the party line.

As the fiery couple, Lindsay Duncan and Alex Jennings are phenomenal. Their on-stage chemistry is electric, whilst their performances remain devastatingly raw and impassioned. Godwin draws out an emboldened tug-of-war between the two actors. With incredible tension and power, they deliver dramatic, heart-rendering and realistic performances. Cementing themselves as two of the best British actors of our time. Alongside them, the design, creating the grandiose and rustic, quintessential nature of the pair’s rural home, is wonderfully layered and complex. A hallway and anti-chambers leading to bathrooms and the kitchen, do much to create the feel of a large and spacious home. A comment in the dialogue refers to it as a home with nine bedrooms, demonstrating that the couple truly are the elites, the 1%. However, the corruptivity of politics in their relationship is visibly creeping in, shown not just by their sparring, but by cracks and dull stains on the ceiling. It is clear they have lived there many years and that it is, like their marriage, not in its prime condition.

To conclude, Hansard is exceedingly relevant to today and reflective of our own government and its choices, a beautiful and personable dissection of Tory ambition. The production runs until 25th November, click here to book now.

 

Alex Jennings – Robin Hesketh
Lindsay Duncan – Diana Hesketh

Director – Simon Godwin
Set and Costume Designer – Hildegard Bechtler
Lighting Designer – Jackie Shemesh
Music – Michael Bruce
Sound Designer – Christopher Shutt
Movement Director – Shelley Maxwell
Company Voice Work – Jeannette Nelson
Video Content -Isaac Madge
Associate Director – Emily Burns

Review: Fleabag, Wyndham’s Theatre

AE873063-414A-4BC1-8899-1D6395EA0EFF

Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Fleabag’s limited and last-ever West End run sold out in what was an astonishing and stressful matter of minutes, leaving the only possible channels through which to now secure tickets as: by daily returns, on-the-day standing places or via the Today Tix lottery. However, we are here to tell that you should believe the hype that has evidently ensued, if you can beg, borrow or steal tickets, do it! The entire hour and five minutes are irreverently important and so very worth it from an entertainment perspective.

As the inspiration for Waller-Bridge’s television series of the same name, the piece is almost a verbatim of the first few episodes. (We are so very glad she kept all of the iconic one-liners and boldly awkward moments in her televised version). Here, Phoebe Waller-Bridge is quite simply a master storyteller with both the brains and the balls to pull off Fleabag and it’s premise. The piece follows ‘some sort of woman living her sort of life’. Struggling to keep a float a failing Guinea Pig Café that she has no real passion for, all that remains is an emotional tie and a guinea pig she bought on a whim. Alongside this, she is plagued by complex and crumbling relationships with her friends, family and lovers, meaning she doesn’t have much to lose. The result is an enigmatic and tragic character who is unfiltered, unapologetic and wonderfully universal. Her perspective and journey provides something that is both a cuttingly brutal and rip-roaringly funny look at today.

The writing is sublime, it presents a unique tragicomedy bolstering wondrous levels of hilarity and dexterity as well as remaining incredibly raw. Enacting much like a stand-up routine, the wit, the pacing, elaborate through-lines and sheer tenacity of the story presented, means an extraordinary level of emotional investment and empathy towards Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag is fostered and sustained. We tragically laugh both with and at her, whilst willing her on to find happiness again. Similarly Waller-Bridge’s delivery is equally as poignant and gritty. She is incredibly malleable, able to instantaneously switch between personas, beautifully giving a sense of the various individuals that her character encounters throughout the work. Fleabag is potential the best one-actor show we’ve ever seen. The performance is both emotive and effervescent, she with distinct power and clarity, effortlessly reaches each seat of theatre, (which is by the way 747 seats strong). The result is a piece that is an honest, smutty, female-lead exegesis on the ‘some sort’ of human experience that is exceedingly well acted and wonderfully relatable. Vicky Jones’ direction should be commended, it is intricate, energised and strong. Allowing Waller-Bridge to truly shine and perfectly showcases her intelligible writing.

Recent articles from certain newspapers have alluded to the work as being ‘grotesque’ or ‘too sexualised’. Let us set you straight, Fleabag is not filth. Waller-Bridge does much to systematically normalise female sexual urges, something women are far too often shamed for. The work essentially screams ‘everyone gets horny, grow up’. It’s empowered feminism like you’ve never seen it before! Elsewhere, Waller-Bridge adds charming lightness to and unflinchingly, (in her own way), highlights many issues still prevalent in the female struggle for equality and self-assurance from sexual assault to mansplaining and so much more.

As far as the production goes, the design is an intrinsic tempered balance. Holly Pigott’s work is excellent, it combines with Elliot Griggs’ Lighting and particularly Isobel Waller-Bridge’s delicate Sound Design to perfectly accent the dialogue. For instance office-esque strip lights beat and flicker in time with the screeches of a tube carriage. These tender droplets of detail add depth and dimension to the piece and atmospherically drive it to a new level. Whilst the small square island within which Waller-Bridge acts and resides, is the perfect physical representation of her character’s isolation and despair.

To conclude, the hottest ticket in town is in fact the hottest ticket in town. But don’t fret, an NT Live screening is due nationwide on 12th September, but if Liveness is your jam, better get on Today Tix or queue as early as you can!

 

 

Cast – 

Phoebe Waller-Bridge – Writer and Performer

 

Creatives –

Vicky Jones – Director

Holly Pigott – Designer

Elliot Griggs – Lighting Designer

Isobel Waller-Bridge – Sound Designer

Review: Truth After Murder, The Etcetera Theatre,(Camden Fringe)

A16A528B-F0CC-4C33-A3D5-D365768FE88A.jpeg

Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Fresh, fast-paced, stirring and raw. Truth After Murder takes part of an epic Greek trilogy and thrillingly reimagines it for the modern audience, with effortless meaning-making and intent.

Presented by To Be Creative the piece is a modern and dystopian adaptation of The Orestia, set after a Fourth World War leaving mass devastation and a cut in international communications. It enigmatically frames the events from Orestes’ resurgence from exile and his reunification with his sister Electra, up until the murder of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, within the concept of a talk being given by famous author Orestes Carter on his new book Truth After Murder, a ‘fictional’ and thrilling retelling of the events. The result of this, is a pacey, relevant and thrilling reimagining, that is both reflective of the modern society and presents many questions on identity, morality, truth, financial greed and social justice.

The actuality of the plot is centred within a mental institution that Electra has been held in for 15 years. Orestes returns from Spain in the guise of an appointed psychiatrist to clinically evaluate his sister. Without revealing himself, he urges her towards sanity. His plan being to present himself and Electra as the rightful inheritants of their slain father’s assets and, (as the sibling guided strictly by his moral compass), to calmly and lawfully ask his mother and step-father to obey, leaving the island they rule behind. However, as this plan falls apart so does Orestes’ morality. Resulting in an interesting exegesis on whether we are defined by our actions, motivations or both? Examining greed, revenge, sought justice and trauma as determinants towards action. And whether we all could be, should we ever be given the chance, capable of murder? Particularly if we could get away with it.

Ricardo Carollo (Orestes) and Mariana Elicetche (Electra) are phenomenal performers. Carollo adeptly switches between his fourth-wall-breaking dialogues with the audience – explicating on the character’s  ‘new book’ and reading out various passages, into his vulnerable narrative-enacting scenes with Elicetche. He is an adroit and strong storyteller with excellent pacing and clarity. Whilst Elicetche is an exceedingly emotive and expressive performer, able to realistically convey incredible amounts pain and anguish. She is effervescent on stage. The pair are sublime counterparts for each other and should be commended for their powerful deliveries. The music by Catarina Dos Santos  is incredibly divisive, it builds tension wonderfully and quickly and effectively moves the piece on, keeping a good pace it divides scenes up perfectly. Alongside this, the writing itself exquisite, it is impassioned and bold. Arif Alfaraz get this adaptation so very right. Creating two layered and complex characters, their differing and pained experiences provides a dialogue on many prevalent cruxes in society such as homophobia, sexual assault, how we handle mental health, financial greed, corruption of power and the criminal justice system. It is impressive that Alfaraz is able to curb so many topics in one short show.

There is however, not much development on the year being 2099 and why this choice has been made or why this is significant. It is simply mentioned in a few fly away comments. As the work is so relevant to today, perhaps 2019 would have been more apt and striking. Furthermore, there is a little confusion over mobile phones. Orestes mentions the limited nature of communications as a result of the war. Necessary to explain why the siblings haven’t spoken or even seen each other on social media. Yet Orestes goes on to use a smartphone in several scenes alongside an old fashioned dictaphone. If he has a smartphone  an app would replace this bulky equipment, yet according to the dialogue he shouldn’t really have one at all. However these are minor technicalities that do not spoil the overall delivery.

Truth After Murder is a Camden Fringe must see! There’s only one performance left on Sunday 25th August, book here.

 

Playwright and Director: Arif Alfaraz

Producer: Montse Carrasco

Cast: Riccardo Carollo and Mariana Elicetche

Costume Designer: Ruth Chesterton

Music: Catarina Racha

Review: The King in Yellow, The Lion and Unicorn Theatre (Camden Fringe)

0CE8CA57-B3CF-4ACB-BC59-5348BCC5EC64.jpeg

Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Presented by GayInnocentHeartless Theatrics, (a relatively new and exciting London-based theatre company), The King is Yellow is an intelligent, darkly enchanting, totally unique and deliciously decadent adaptation, based on the Victorian cosmic horror anthology by R. W. Chambers of the same name.

This suspense-driven work by Josephine Czarnecki and Darwin Garrett, beautifully takes inspiration from and pays homage to, The King in Yellow, Chambers’ aforementioned anthology of surreal and macabre tales. The collection is an unusual, supernatural fiction set in a dystopian 1920s America and was inspired by a play of the same name, (referenced in several of the stories and said to drive the reader to madness by the second act). GayInnocentHeartless tackles the dystopian writing by staging their adaptation in a Brechtian and highly representative manner. Their ambiguity in era does much to aid the understanding and drawing of various parallels to today. Whilst the original play retains much of the significance it holds in Chambers’ text, representatively featuring in many scenes, (a strikingly yellow copy of Chambers’ book enacting as the place holder here). The yellow cover is thus intrinsically highlighted against the backdrop of the monochromatic set, costume and props.

The prime appeal of Czarnecki and Garrett’s adaptation is however, the format. Though the pace did drop at points, their version effortlessly with both wit and charm, interweaves the narrative between re-enactments of Chambers’ first four interconnected stories; The Repairer of Reputations, The Mask, In The Court of the Dragon and The Yellow Sign. The production commands its audience to bear witness to a group of young bohemians, artists and decadents who fall under the influence of the sinister play. This demonstrated indoctrination is melancholically coupled with hints towards imperialism, (in both the dialogue and the execution), making for a deeply striking comparison to Donald Trump and other world leader’s own seemingly imperialistic intent, (hello Greenland) and of course, his indoctrination of a large proportion of American citizens who unwittingly support him.

The resulting work is wonderfully ensemble-led, stylised and episodic. It darkly explores the thematic of sanity against madness and investigates the infectious nature of an idea. On par, the piece is superbly well acted, Ashton Spear, Robbie Heath, Owen Clark and Nina Atesh are all particularly emotive and strong performers. Whilst Charlene Segeral and Zuzana Spacirova are stand outs, they both display clarity, prosaic passion and certain subtleties in their delivery.

Despite this, the ensemble nature of the piece does cause some confusion. The multi-rolling converging with the interwoven stories makes it difficult to keep up with the characters and who exactly is who. Whilst the relatively niché nature of the stimuli means those who aren’t familiar with Chambers’ work can be left struggling to understand the significance of particular moments and overall plot, at least until some of the later scenes.

Overall, The King is Yellow is unique and well thought out. It does need some tweaking, but is reasonably insightful and has certain striking and witty moments. The King in Yellow runs at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre as part of Camden Fringe until Sunday 25th August, book here. 

 

WRITTEN BY: Josephine Czarnecki & Darwin Garrett

DIRECTED BY: Josephine Czarnecki & Darwin Garrett

ENSEMBLE: Ashton Spear, Robbie Heath, Owen Clark, Nina Atesh, Charlene Segeral and Zuzana Spacirova.