Review: Bored of Knives, White Bear Theatre

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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: Pests, Drayton Arms Theatre

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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: The Antipodes, Dorfman Theatre, (National Theatre)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸

To put it simply, The Antipodes is about storytelling.

Pulitzer-Prize winner Annie Baker has returned to the National with her newest play, The Antipodes. The narrative sees a group of people gather in a boardroom, (oddly well stocked with Perrier Natural Mineral Water), they are employed with the task of coming up with a new story, though it is never made clear exactly why and for what purpose. This satirical, absurd and intellectual exegesis, thus sees the characters tell, categorise and theorise stories over the course of the two hours. From the fantastical to the familiar, we hear how the character’s first lost their virginity and other anecdotes, as well as the plethora of historic myths and legends they are aware of, merging many of them in an attempt to come up with something new. Though the boardroom and the people in it seem familiar and realistic, as the stories become more absurd so does the play, their endless brainstorming session transgressing from the expected and known to the outlandish. The characters searching for something truly monstrous, the monsters in themselves somewhat coming to light instead.

The conceptualisation is particularly intriguing. It is as if Baker has spent her time deconstructing and compartmentalising the idea of a story, wanting to thus show what she has found, using this group of people she has created and brought together as the vehicle. For instance she refers to the belief that many have in regard to there only being so many types of stories, whether that be 6, 19, 36 or 10, (amounts suggested and explicated upon by the characters – referring to academic notions such as the ‘Hero’s Journey’ etc.). Yet she also seems to want to propose to her audience a question, is the piece she has written a story? Yes there are characters, but their true purpose for being where they are is unclear and their journey, non-existent, they remain in the same room throughout and make little progress on whatever task has been set of them, though it is important to note that time does pass, indicated by the various costume changes of Office Admin Sarah, (Imogen Doel). Furthermore, in naming her work The Antipodes, Baker is suggestive that her aim is to create something that is diametrical opposed to tradition, therefore it is an anti-story. It can can still be considered a story, but she has purposefully made it ambiguous, full of questions and surreal. Wittily, she makes charming references to the traditions of storytelling, whether that be conveying narratives through oration, painting, drawing, dictating, performing, typing or writing, going on to intrinsically refer to several institutions, from Greek myths and fairytales, to personal anecdotes and religious retellings. As well as the idea of stories as culturally relevant and at one time free/freely circulated, to them now being a paid for commodity, the irony remaining strong that we have, for the most part all paid for the pleasure of seeing, hearing and experiencing the story being presented to us now. The cogency here leads us on to question the value we give to stories particularly in a world in crisis, Baker beautifully depicting the ubiquitous nature of stories in our everyday lives and their necessity to keep us going. Therefore the writing is that of potency, intellect and acuity, Baker formulating many moments of pure hilarity, as well as those that shock, intrigue and confuse.

However the problem with the work is, that for many it is too cryptic and ambiguous. Making it very much marmite. We have to admit we did disengage and as a result, the two hours seemed to last a lifetime. Though it was the intention, the piece creates far more questions than it answers, it can feel at points desensitising and frustrating when no ripostes are given, particularly when the transgression enters the ‘chaos sphere’, with some truly unearthly moments. Yet there is a fun game to be played in spotting the numerous references Baker has crafted, paying homage to several well-known stories/myths. Her direction, alongside Co-Director and Designer Chloe Lamford is amicable. As aforementioned there are many moments of humour and stupor, which Lamford and Baker wonderfully ensure are delivered in a balanced, resolute, well-timed and provocative manner, doing a lot to really draw out the hilarity, absurdity or aesthetic conjecture provided by Baker’s own writing. Their approach effortlessly moving from naturalism, to representationalism, to Theatre of the Absurd. As far as the design goes, Lamford delivers a great sense of juxtaposition. She has dressed the nine characters as realistically as possible, they could be anyone, they are normal, everyday people. Yet her set, in contrast, is that of excess and absurdity. An excessively large glass boardroom table stretches across much of the stage and is surrounded by movable chairs, whilst the carpet is a garishly acidic orange with large geometric patterns upon it, the back left corner is coincidentally consumed by crates upon crates of Perrier water. The combination of these pieces is in itself absurd and generates an overall unusually bright aesthetic, very in-keeping with the unusual and complex nature of the piece.

Regarding individual performances, each delivery is dexterous and strong, the company proving themselves to be distinctive actors in their own right. Hadley Fraser, Arthur Darvill, Matt Bardock and Fisayo Akinade are particularly intelligible performers, full of vibrancy and clarity each able to convey the variegated nuances of their characters with wit and charm. Whilst Imogen Doel’s sprightly Sarah, is exceedingly enjoyable, her delivery is spellbindingly effervescent and dry humoured, Doel’s comedic timing proving to be razor sharp. Bill Milner’s note-taking Brian, is darkly solemn and for the most part, silent. Milner’s delivery is accomplished, sustaining just the right amount of curiosity and eldrich. Whilst Conleth Hill’s Sandy, the American in charge of the boardroom, (though evidently not the entire project), and Sinéad Matthews’ Eleanor each assert themselves as enthrallingly satirical and adept characterisations, Hill and Matthews, along with Doel, generating much of the comedically-rich moments.

To conclude, we can see and appreciate the vision for Annie Baker’s The Antipodes as well as appreciate the agility of the direction and deliveries. However the show is not for everyone, it’s Delphic and perplexing, so much so that in our case, it wasn’t our favourite. But if you want to be intellectually challenged it’s certainly worth a watch, click here to book now.

 

Adam – Fisayo Akinade.
Danny M1 – Matt Bardock.
Dave – Arthur Darvill.
Sarah – Imogen Doel.
Josh – Hadley Fraser.
Sandy – Conleth Hill.
Eleanor – Sinéad Matthews.
Danny M2 – Stuart McQuarrie.
Brian – Bill Milner.

Director – Annie Baker
Director and Set and Costume Designer – Chloe Lamford
Lighting Designer – Natasha Chivers
Sound Designer – Tom Gibbons
Movement Director – Sasha Milavic Davies
Sound Designer – Tom Gibbons
Illusion Designer – Steve Cuiffo
Dialect Coach – Charmian Hoare
Staff Director – Nimmo Ismail

Review: Lungs, Old Vic

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Bolstering explosive performances, dynamic direction and an intriguing narrative beautifully littered with visual motifs and ethical dilemmas, the Old Vic’s revival of Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith, directed by Matthew Warchus, is an absolute triumph. Sharp, witty and heart-wrenchingly powerful, the performances by Foy and Smith are definitively the best you can witness in the current theatrical landscape. The pair displaying insurmountable amounts of chemistry whilst tumultuously diving into the emotive subject matter.

First performed in 2011, Lungs is part fast-paced contemporary drama, part enigmatic climate play. As an unconventional love-story where modern, politically aware and somewhat climate-conscious couple M and W wrestle with the idea of starting a family, considering the amount of carbon offsetting they’d have to do to in order to counteract it, Lungs is, in this age of Extinction Rebellion, a painfully current, urgent and exceedingly relevant piece of theatre. Macmillan however, does more than pose the extremities of the environmental crisis to his audience, he makes the issues personable. This exegesis on both global ecological issues and the attitude towards them is therefore wonderfully delivered through the lense and world of the young couple. By letting us into their world, Macmillan is able to create a realistic and relatable relationship for us to dissect and to compare our experiences to, as well as to empathise with. An intention fantastically brought to fruition in Rob Howell’s design, the actors, using Howell’s round stage to revolve around and encircle each other. The circular stage demarcating their world, the surrounding audience becoming outsiders looking in. An idea artfully enhanced by Tim Lutkin’s Lighting Design, the white over-head lights beat down on the couple as if they are under scrutiny, below a microscope or in a test facility. Not only does the lighting and shape/proximity of the stage intensify the atmosphere but the malleability allows for a quick pace and a multiplicity of locations, resulting in a dynamic and incredibly engaging piece. Two doors are propped up by mountains of plastic, the doors are metaphorical lids on single use plastic, we, just as the couple have an awareness of the carbon legacy produced by a single child, know how much waste single use plastic causes, but still allow the mass production and use of it. A powerful and exceedingly literal demonstration by Howell of widespread ignorance towards the climate emergency with the doors remaining visible throughout, whilst the actors climb, sit and lie upon them in ignorant bliss. Furthermore, though M and W show an awareness of global issues, this awareness fades over time, until they become completely unaware of current affairs, cleverly demonstrating the generational flippancy many hold in response to the climate emergency, (with climate protests in the present being led by the younger generation). The stage and realm of the play therefore, is the couple’s personal world, though they are aware of outside issues, they don’t act. The surrounding space, (the outside), is the global plane, issues on the global plane, due to political inaction are often ignored by the individual as their personal world takes priority. The idea of these two separate worlds that coincide is therefore beautifully crafted using visual references to planets, the sun, orbiting and protons centring on a nucleus.

As aforementioned, the narrative puts the idea of how much it costs the planet to have a child as one of several factors to consider in whether to add to the population or not. CO2 emission-based climate change, overpopulation and political unrest are therefore considered as much as the individual’s career, financial reasons, the desire to retain one’s freedom, as well as the consideration of bringing a child into the world as it is. An idea wonderfully demonstrated with the title of the play, Lungs, referring to the process of breathing. The characters are thus shown to struggle to breathe because of their anxieties over having a child, anxieties that could eventually lead them to choose not to. Yet, they also complain about not being able to breathe because of the pollution outside, the prevalence of the climate emergency thus providing another good reason not to procreate. But they still do, much like the act of smoking; at one point or another M and W each smoke, though they know how bad it is for them, (much like they know how much a baby will add to the global footprint but they still proceed). They begin to ignore global issues and primal urges prevail. Macmillan thus provocatively exceeds, putting ethical dilemmas in direct contrast to primal urges, using scenes of a sexual nature and perfidious behaviour to refer to a humans as still driven by primal instincts moving us to copulate and therefore reproduce. In doing this Macmillan intrinsically captures the passive and often selfish nature of many ‘climate-conscious’ individuals, though the couple are aware and do discuss the strain a single child puts on the planet, they still choose to reproduce and are ultimately shown to be complex and flawed individuals, putting their desires and instincts before their own ethics. By moving the characters to even going as far as to ask each other if they are truly good people, Macmillan brutally provides a discussion on ethics and whether humans can be truly good or bad, particularly when swayed by the personal realm.

Matthew Warchus’ delphian direction is unequivocally superior, he ensures that Smith and Foy’s characters are multilayered, emotive and resilient. The pacing Warchus has created, that moves the piece instantaneously from scene to scene and location to location with a simple look or movement from either of the actors as they tear through the Herculean dialogue, is incredibly reactive and intelligible. The flow here is enviably quick, vibrant and full of purpose, easily encouraging the audience to be attentive, as they are gently reeled into M and W’s world until they are completely invested, whilst also provocatively being ethically and emotionally challenged. Additionally the levels of comedy and wit are extraordinary, delivered in a measured, well-timed and potent manner, Warchus suitably ensures that this play truly does make you laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time! M and W are thus, two very real human beings and Warchus’ can be credited with bringing these complex, clever, comedically rich and relatable individuals to life. As for Smith and Foy, as previously mentioned their chemistry is seriously fiery and connective. Having appeared together in The Crown, this is of course to be expected, however their performances supersede the predicted. Foy is insanely talented, the raw emotion she pours into W is astonishing. She proves herself to be a divinely dexterous performer able to visibly show a character’s thought processes, sustaining a wondrous presence throughout. The clarity, power and emotional journey she provides is truly breathtaking, from naivety to heartbreak, love and loss, Foy delivers it all with ease and intensity. Her is M is a smart, loveable and piquant individual. A world class delivery. Smith similarly provides an abundance of depth, capturing the passive nature of M magnificently. His performance is strong, full of tension and expresses the almost emotionally detached side of M brilliantly, the perfect counterpart for Foy’s particularly stirring W. Smith makes M a sort Everyman, relatable, capable of love, but also flawed and somewhat un-empathetic/at times, thoughtless. An inspiring delivery.

To conclude, Lungs is the event of the season, we can’t urge you enough to watch it. It is urgent, politically charged, beautifully written, but most importantly delivered to perfection. Go, go, go! Click here to book now.

Writer – Duncan Macmillan
Director – Matthew Warchus
Set & Costume – Rob Howell
Lighting – Tim Lutkin
Sound – Simon Baker
Associate Director – Katy Rudd

Claire Foy
Matt Smith

Review: ‘Master Harold’… and the boys, Lyttelton Theatre, (National Theatre)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Roy Alexander Weise directs an enigmatic and strong production of Athol Fugard’s semi-autobiographical play, first performed in 1982 when white-black segregation was still prevalent. This beautifully balanced, racially charged, aesthetic masterpiece, is a resilient addition to the Lyttelton’s Autumn season.

Set in 1950, apartheid South Africa, ‘Master Harold’… and the boys explores the nature of friendship, and the ways people are capable of hurting even those they love. Following two black men Sam and Willie, who work for a white family, the play mightily tackles the unjust nature and significance of racial segregation through the innocent eyes of a child, Hally. As the boy has grown, despite his friendship with Sam, who has tried to protect him from being capable of such hatred, he has been exposed to the inherent white vs. black racism of the time and doesn’t yet realise the weight of his words. Providing a powerful demonstration of generational indoctrination and white supremacy. Sound familiar? As the present socio-political climate shifts once more to a landscape where policy doesn’t necessary favour minorities, there are many pressing and relevant parallels to be drawn between then and now, from the mentions of American and Russian relations to the dreamlike imaginings of a world defined by peace and equality, something that is now still a dream.

Fugard’s writing is endlessly beautiful, he intricately litters the narrative with visual motifs and metaphors. From the kite it is mentioned that Sam and Hally made together, (signifying a hope for a better and united future between them and their races), Sam leaving Hally to sit on a ‘white’s only’ bench, a detail Hally is innocently oblivious of, a later reference being made that they need to fly a kite together now more than ever as their relationship crumbles and racial divisions prograde a barrier between them. To the descriptions of the ballroom competitions Sam and Willie enter, the competitors never colliding on the dance floor being representative of the beautiful and seemingly impossible idea of, ‘a world without collisions’. Weise’s direction therefore lovingly perpetuates and accents the visual stimuli woven throughout, as Sam, Willie and Hally prove to be enigmatic storytellers excitedly enacting much of their various recollections as they jovially remember their past together. Then, with fantastic collaboration between Movement Director/Choreographer Shelley Maxwell and Set/Costume Designer Rajha Shakiry, (with wonderful Lighting Design by Paule Constable and Sound Design from Giles Thomas), we are cinematically transitioned from St George’s Park Tea Room in Port Elizabeth, to the ballroom as Sam and Willie glide together, powerfully demonstrating the pair’s resilience in the face of oppression. Shakiry’s detailed, intricate and vitalising design wondrously brings to life the tea room and bleak, (definitely not kite flying) weather conditions, as realistic rain pelts on the windows above throughout. The pacing of the piece is particularly strong and balanced as Sam and Willie playfully converse with Hally – attempting to do his homework, whilst keeping somewhat focussed on their work, setting about putting the tables and chairs out ready for the next day, demonstrating their subservient societal position. Also allowing for the chairs and tables to be intriguingly used as props and characters in their storytelling.

Performance-wise all three actors do a phenomenal job, as aforementioned they are keen storytellers, each of them remaining equally as captivating and strong. Lucian Msamati, (Sam) and Hammed Animashaun, (Willie) have stunning physicality and seem to have picked up ballroom dancing effortlessly, whilst their presence is determinately fierce, entertaining and passionate. Delivering exceedingly raw and emotive performances. Whilst Anson Boon’s Hally is a wonderful counterpart, plagued by teen angst and an unhappy home-life, Boon gives Hally great depth and meaningful intent, his performance likewise carries much emotion. Though Boon’s South African accent is somewhat jarring and needs a little toning down to make the character slightly more bearable.

To conclude ‘Master Harold’… and the boys is a solidly performed, provocative piece with a lot of depth and food-for-thought. It’s definitely still relevant today and masterfully/effortlessly delivered. Do go and see it whilst you still can, click here.

 

Roy Alexander Weise – Director

Lucian Msamati – Sam

Hammed Animashaun – Willie

Anson Boon – Hally

Rajha Shakiry – Set and Costume Designer

Paule Constable – Lighting Designer

Shelley Maxwell – Movement Director and Choreographer

Giles Thomas – Sound Designer

Simon Money – Company Voice Work

Joel Trill – Dialect Coach

Anthony Simpson Pike – Staff Director

Review: Faith, Hope and Charity, Dorfman Theatre (National Theatre)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Poignant, heartbreaking and urgent. Zeldin paints a bleak and meaningful portrait of society’s current failings to protect its most vulnerable, crafting a piece that is rife with intriguingly resilient, complex and connective characters. Whilst Cecilia Noble at the centre gives a blindingly good performance.

As the third instalment of Alexander Zeldin’s trilogy that began with Beyond Caring followed by LOVE; Faith, Hope and Charity is a devastating culmination to the series. Offering up an emotionally volatile and gritty commentary on those surviving below the bottom line in this age of austerity, it symbiotically commends those brave enough to do the best they can with what they have for the sake of compassion and human decency, such as ensuring something so simple as a regular hot meal for those in need. Zeldin’s piece is therefore so incredibly needed and exceedingly provocative, particularly in a climate where many of us are inclined to pass something off as not our problem. We are led here by Zeldin, to admire the protagonist’s spirit whilst feeling somewhat sick and angry that we live in an age that the reality of struggling for basic necessities is so painfully real. Set in a run down community hall, the narrative follows Hazel, (Cecelia Noble) a strong-willed individual, who is singlehandedly running a soup kitchen for anyone who needs it, all without any real aid from the local council. Fighting to keep it open as the building falls into dilapidation, she, alongside Mason, (Nick Holder), an ex-criminal seeking a new start, is shown to be iron-willed, patient and attentive to her self-made community. With Mason running a new choir for them as a means by which to divert them away from their harsh realities for an hour or so.

Natasha Jenkin’s design is perfect for Zeldin’s vision. The crafted naturalism of the community hall in all of its worn intricacies, including it’s plastic chairs, over-used toys, faded notice board and rusting old-fashioned radiator, is blisteringly authentic. Giving a very real impression of a well-loved place that was once the pillar of its community but, as the years have gone by and the number of children’s parties or community activities hosted there have probably dwindled, it hasn’t really been updated or financially supported and has therefore fallen into disrepair. A wonderfully sewn in commentary on the dissipation of community spirit in society today and lack of financial support for community spaces. Jenkin’s has thus engendered this worn, outdated verisimilitude with reverence, proving her attention to detail to be insurmountable, as a gritty realism is presented before us. Her set ebbs out into the auditorium of the Dorfman Theatre, enveloping and inviting the audience into the world of the play. The water-damaged and peeling green wallpaper fading into the walls of the theatre auditorium whilst flickering strip-lights hang above the audience. This pairs well with Zeldin’s playful direction that often places his actors amongst their audience. Intrinsically complemented by Marc Williams’ lighting design, Williams choosing to light the audience when hall’s lights are on, these elements thus work arduously to pull the passive audience member into the action, inviting them into the community and to consider their own responsibility to those less fortunate.

The semantics of the play, therefore do much to build a stirringly emotional and moral commentary, giving voices to the those that we usually don’t hear from and pulling its audience in, making them part of the narrative and hopefully, voices for change. For instance, the work allows us to hear from the man who was stuck in the care system and fell into crime now trying to make a better life, to the struggling to stay afloat mother seeking help in her fight to keep her young daughter from being taken into care. Or from those old and young living from shelter to shelter, to those not provided with, or unable to afford the care they need, or to those struggling to find safety as refuges. Culminating in wondrously thoughtful and provocative writing from Zeldin. His work is not only painfully believable but gives a breadth of exposure to the struggles of society’s most vulnerable. Making Faith, Hope and Charity an observant piece, providing a much needed lesson in compassion. Though, in its tragedy, it enacts more as demonstrative reality than suggestive problem-solving, Zeldin intends to and successfully shows a gritty sensibility to promote positive change. However, the sustained naturalism is unfortunately brutally broken at pints by the scene changes and abrupt end of the piece. Periodically, the audience is plunged into darkness with very little warning and a loud soundscape ensues, making for a jarring and broken effect that is ultimately damaging to the power of narrative. And unfortunately there is no clear end or resolution, a maybe intentional move to state that something needs to be done for us to move forward, yet it was unclear the work had even ended.

Performance wise, this ensemble is a variegated and strong collective. As aforementioned, Cecilia Noble at the centre is blisteringly good, she is a raw, emotive and commanding performer, who makes Hazel a remarkably caring matriarch with her own complexities and problems, delivered with intricacy, sincerity and potency. Whilst Nick Holder is a vivid and dexterous actor, his Mason is charmingly childlike and well-intentioned. Alongside them, Susan Lynch is captivating, her performance as struggling mother Beth radiates raw emotion and is a tirade of power and pain. Much like Bobby Stallward’s delivery of Marc her son, proving himself to be a mighty and emotive performer. Standout performances come from Dayo Koleosho and Alan Williams, who are each equally smart, witty, entertaining and impassioned actors with unflinching characterisation skills perfectly displayed here.

To conclude, Faith, Hope and Charity needs streamlining, but is a powerful and visceral look at society today, with heart rendering performances and brilliantly detailed design. We thoroughly recommend it. Click here to book now.

 
Hazel – Cecilia Noble
Anthony – Corey Peterson
Marc – Bobby Stallwood
Tharwa – Hind Swareldahab
Bernard – Alan Williams
Ensemble – Nathan Armarkwei-Laryea
Mason – Nick Holder
Karl – Dayo Koleosho
Beth – Susan Lynch

Director – Alexander Zeldin
Set and Costume Designer – Natasha Jenkins
Lighting Designer – Marc Williams
Movement Director – Marcin Rudy
Sound Designer – Josh Anio Grigg
Rehearsal Music Director – Laurie Blundell
Associate Director – Diyan Zora
Company Voice Work – Jeannette Nelson
Assistant Voice Coach – Victoria Woodward

Review: Macbeth the Musical, White Bear Theatre

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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