Review: Zoo, Cavern (Vault Festival 2020)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

If you aren’t planning on catching Lily Bevan’s Zoo at VAULT Festival this week, what are you doing? Bevan’s smash-hit play is running until Sunday and is quite simply sensational. Full of depth, heart, intelligence and comedic wonderment, it’s a must see!

Having ran previously at Assembly in Edinburgh and Theatre 503 to great critical acclaim, Zoo has now been published by Nick Hern Books and is a bittersweet, tragicomedy about friendship, courage and flamingos. Set in both Miami and Yorkshire, the narrative harmonically follows two close female friends, Bonnie, who works at Cherokee Valley Zoo and Carol who devotes her time to bat conservation in the Yorkshire Dales, the pair, despite living thousands of miles apart, care greatly for each other. Making Zoo, a timeless story of love and friendship. We watch how they navigate their passion for animals, alongside the troublesome men prevalent in their lives. Animals proving to be much easier for them to cope with, an engaging counter-balance to their pair’s mild disdain for human connection.

Zoo therefore, eloquently traverses the female experience with immaculate wit and charm, meaningfully and affectingly touching upon strong topics such as domestic abuse, divorce, single parenthood and gender discrimination/misogyny. When a hurricane heads straight for Miami, Bonnie rushes to keep her animals safe. Across the world in Yorkshire, Carol feels the repercussions. From Carol’s pantomathic knowledge of bats and fear that cavers will disturb them, to Bonnie’s resistance in leaving her animals alone in the storm, Bevan dutifully captures absolute passion, love, loyalty, commitment and solicitude, as well as a creating dialogue about humanity’s relationship to the natural world. Demonstrating the lengths people will go to in order to save what they love and depicting how split-decisions in a crisis can shape one’s destiny. Meaning Zoo is not only a tender tale of sisterhood set to the back drop of animal facts and raucous comedy, but a turbulent play about change, both in the climate sense as the storms hit much harder than expected and in the female characters, Carol for instance is forced to find friendship in those around her and reform a relationship with her son, she is therefore, tentatively rejoining the human world with help from Bonnie. Opening up an intriguing discourse on purpose, legacy, spirituality and the concept of a life well lived.

However, Zoo has even more going for it than its clever, complex and hilarious writing. Bevan and Hamish MacDougall’s vibrant direction brings to life both Carol’s bountiful Yorkshire and Bonnie’s cherished Cherokee Valley Zoo. Bonnie therefore resides in Miami on the left, whilst Carol remains on the right in Yorkshire, the pair meeting in the middle when reminiscing about their first meeting at Chester Zoo or Carol’s recent trip to visit Bonnie. This physical representation of their locative distance being wonderfully envisioned by designer Erica Greenshields. Cherokee is brought to life by a neatly painted zoo sign and a series of cages moved around by Bonnie and to be used to safely house the animals, with precautionate sand bags surrounding the perimeter of the stage. Whilst Yorkshire is bare and less colourful, a reflection of the dark caves Carol spends her time studying bats in, the prevalent zoo sign later flipping to reveal a sign for Yorkshire instead, demonstrating the focus switching to Carol. Furthermore, the bench centre stage upon which we see Bonnie and Carol meet for the first time, is later and strikingly used by Carol alone, as she debates her next cause of action. Symbiotically, Tom Clutterbuck’s lighting and Mike Winship’s sound do much to artfully complement and embellish the locative nature of the work and its direction. Regarding performances, Bevan is a comedic tour de force, her Bonnie is impassioned, witty, instantaneously likeable and good-natured. Bevan is not only expressive and vivacious, her delivery is also smart and committed, Bevan knows exactly when to play to her audience. Whilst Lorna Beckett’s Carol is tough, determined and resilient, despite the harder, more reserved nature of the character, Beckett toys with the part and takes every opportunity for comedic relief, she like Bevan, is an effortless and smart storyteller.

To conclude, we cannot reccomend Zoo enough! CLICK HERE TO BOOK. Or HERE to buy a copy of the play text.

 

Performed by Lily Bevan (Bonnie Young) and Lorna Beckett (Carol Alsop)

Co-directed by Hamish MacDougall and Lily Bevan

Assistant Producer Alice Robinson

Production Assistant Sophia Tuffin

Designer Erica Greenshields

Sound Design by Mike Winship

Lighting Design by Tom Clutterbuck

Technical Stage Manager Eleanor Theodorou

Review: Omelette, Cavern (Vault Festival)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Omelette is a bizarre, yet absolutely charming love story full of wit and intelligence.

Set in a climate-conscious London, the piece follows Mia and Mo, who fall hard and fast for each other, after unexpectedly meeting in a shared Uber one night. The couple consolidate their affection for each other and hit the big milestones, whilst doing their bit for the planet. They attend all the marches, move in together, turn off the heating, stay indoors and even in a surreal twist of events, eat their goldfish, (waste not, want not). But as they begin to buckle under the pressure of neutralising their carbon footprint and the climate continues to collapse, their passionate love affair bitterly crumbles around them, much like the planet. Anna Spearpoint thus, writes a beautifully thematic love story, Mia and Mo’s all in, cult-like approach to becoming, in totality, eco-friendly, fantastically mirrors their intensely tempestuous relationship that seemingly forms over night. A wonderful examination of the prevalent extremism demonstrated by some climate activists, using the absurdity of the couple to subtly suggest that we don’t all have to be perfect all of the time to make a difference. Spearpoint phenomenally using the rise and fall of the relationship to highlight a hope that we can undo things, a hope that she breaks just as the relationship falls apart, demonstrating how futile individual efforts can seem, as well as the way in which this pressure to be perfect can affect everything, from relationships to how we act regarding climate change. The piece ultimately becoming a rallying cry to work together, to not necessarily be perfect, but to offset as much as we can, by planting trees for instance. Spearpoint’s writing is therefore hugely relevant and engaging, her comedic and emotional intelligence being wonderfully flexed here.

Tash Hyman’s direction is likewise, severely dexterous and does much to stage climate anxiety and the intensity of the aforementioned marches that the pair pledge to attend. Her decisions, mixed with Alice Boyd’s intricate Sound Design and Rajiv Pattani’s sharp, yet aesthetically stunning Lighting create an intense, fast-paced piece with swift and cutting scene changes that bring a certain riotous sense of anticipation and building pressure. Perfect for the climate anxiety the piece intends to convey. Whilst the circular nature of Seren Noel’s design, the audience sitting on all sides, not only hones in on this built-up, pressurised atmosphere, but cleverly engenders this sense of the couple going no where. Both figuratively and literally. As they take the decision to stay indoors in order to avoid doing anything to harm the environment, they remain on a circular disc centre stage, trapped. Their eco-efforts are the same, despite seemingly doing more, they are getting no where in terms of the bigger picture. Finally, a spiral at the centre of the disc they reside on, is revealed and this enacts the centre of their fixation on absurdly going to extremes to do everything they possibly can and therefore disregarding all rationality. Making Omelette a succinctly layered and intelligible piece. The couple’s movement around the disc combined with conversation, providing an exciting discourse on the Climate Action strikes, veganism, privilege when it comes to being able to afford to not work and go on the marches, love and more. Whilst Anna Spearpoint and Kwami Odoom’s performances are simply brilliant. They are both equally as vibrant, demonstrating themselves to be comedically smart and emotive actors. Their performances are a joy to watch.

Long Distance Theatre’s Omelette runs at VAULT festival until 23rd February, click here to book now.

Cast

Mia: Anna Spearpoint

Mo: Kwami Odoom

 

Creative Team

Writer: Anna Spearpoint

Director: Tash Hyman

Dramaturg: Tommo Fowler

Designer: Seren Noel

Sound Designer: Alice Boyd

Lighting Designer: Rajiv Pattani

Producer: Tom Bevan

Review: Coming Out Of My Cage (And I’ve Been Doing Just Fine), Pit (Vault Festival 2020)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Is it possible to write an entire show about a single song? More specifically about a rock anthem? And more specifically than that, about Mr Brightside, The Killers biggest hit, so adored that it hasn’t left the UK charts in 16 years. Shepard Tone say unequivocally yes because that’s exactly what they’ve done, How did it end up like this? It was only a hit, it was only a hit.

Combining karaoke, clowning, projections, interviews, videos, live instruments, lip-syncing and more. Performers Tim and Hannah navigate the universality of a tune that became ‘the song’ of the noughties. Known for uniting people whether that be on a night out, in a pub, or beyond. Using unadulterated silliness, music and storytelling to truly connect with and unify their audience, Coming Out Of My Cage (And I’ve Been Doing Just Fine) is therefore, a damn good time and has a lot going for it. From the nostalgic factor, all but one person in the room knowing the song – connecting it to one memory or more and needing no coercion to sing it triumphantly, to the engendered, uniquely un-manipulatory audience participation promoting total investment. We laugh endlessly, we answer a call from Destiny, we help Tim and Hannah out of a literal cage, we close and open our eager eyes, we sing, we clap, we dance. It’s just fun! What more could you want from a night out?

Whilst the narrative is an episodic investigation into the song, traversing it’s history and the music video, to the subsequent memes, viral videos and tangible experiences that ensued. Sewn together by an overarching plot through which Tim and Hannah (and their audience), recreate a viral video filmed in an Irish bar, where the community are singing Mr Brightside for their recently departed friend. With one man enigmatically standing on the L-shaped bar as he and his friend used to. In each scene we learn more about, and are then reminded of the bar, crowded with people, all with drinks in-hand, singing this song for a lost friend, and are led to wonder who they are and if they all know each other… So not only is the piece a tender reimagining of a real instance, but a heartwarming reminder of genuine human connection. Much inline with the unifying nature of this show and the song that inspired it, the audience are brought together by the phenomenon that is Mr Brightside, like the people in the bar were brought together in their grief, symbiotically celebrating a life with this song. How’s that for universality?

In conjunction with this, is the main investigation. Beyond the facets of memes and viral videos, the duo are led to Rotherham, ‘the north’ of all places, in pursuit of a karaoke artist known as Brampton Flowers, who they’ve watched online. Of course, hilarity ensues as they try to infiltrate the community and their curiosity grows. Who is she, why does she always sing the same song and what inspires her to dress up week-on-week? The dazzling, (some would say), costumes wittily paying homage to her dressing up and the original music video itself, (yes there is a touch of apple throwing!) This, entwined with the Irish man’s wake, conducts a bitter-sweetness in the way a single song ties these incredible people and stories together.

The work is also particularly tech-heavy, though this can be clunky at times, the relatability of the projected ‘Vlog content’ from Rotherham, or displayed facebook conversations/stalking sessions and layers of endless memes are completely worth it. We are also total suckers for puns and you can be sure that this show contains plenty of cleverly-timed gags, the perfect homage to the meme-community spawned from Mr Brightside. Whilst the vastitude of instruments played remind us, not only of how talented the pair are – referring to the endless covers of the song that can be found online, but also of how this is a piece ultimately about music and that music has an unimaginably powerful way of bringing people together. In a show about unity, an EU flag fading into the distance didn’t go awry, making a sharp, fleeting and perhaps too soon jab at Brexit. Nonetheless, Coming Out Of My Cage (And I’ve Been Doing Just Fine) is a much needed antidote to the February Blues, (if that’s a thing, it’s a thing now!)

Click here to book your tickets and don’t forget to sing your heart out.

Review: Me Myself I, Pit (Vault Festival 2020)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Carla GraulsMe Myself I is a striking and much-needed portrayal of humanity and it’s dulcet response to the climate crisis. Delving deep into the idea of legacy and the meaning of life, Grauls heartbreakingly captures the rate at which the planet is dying whilst humans keep on living, focussing more on legacy and online presence than the world they are actually in.

We meet Lana and Lena in a facility, where Lana, having chosen to replace herself before she dies, is having her clone Lena sign over her servitude for 100 years, should she even live that long, agreeing to taking on Lana’s identity in its entirety. The contract thus inciting Lena to adopt her life, relationship and digital presence, with guidelines explaining how to do so. But as we quickly see, the life that Lena inherits isn’t quite what she expected. The world is different to what she’s been told and the life, paper-thin, a loveless relationship with very little affection, a purposeless existence all riding on a falsified digital presence.

Going through several generations of clones, the work has a wonderfully artistic Samuel Beckett-esque monotony to it. As clone by clone goes by, the same single-perspective anecdotes being told to help the next understand who they are becoming, more birds die, forests burn, marshes swamp and houses are swallowed whole. Not only is the extent of the climate emergency therefore harshly constructed in front of us, humanity is congruently deconstructed, it’s loss of meaning, potent. With the clones almost willing the next to not sign the agreement and end the line. Humans become a mass of selfie-posting, idealism-lovers, obsessed with perfection, their image and their legacy, unable to authentically live and love and blind to their own destruction. Sound familiar? Lana’s decision to ‘go on living’ thus coming from a place of selfish vanity and insecurity, not wanting her boyfriend to find someone else, her privilege in full view as she mentions how she has paid for this service. The only ‘good’, preventative deed  regarding the climate emergency that she completes and explains to her clone, is the washing and recycling of plastics, an ironic drop in the ocean on the grand-scale of saving the planet. Grauls’ writing is therefore intelligible, reactive, sharp and clear in its call to action, whilst vibrant in its eloquence and poeticism.

Andrew Twyman’s direction vividly responds, taking Grauls’ stirring and bold lead. Twyman thematically chooses to stage the destruction, the action happening on a platform above dirt and bark mixed in with plastic waste, demonstrable of the human tendency to act above and oblivious to what surrounds them. Culminating in the actors throwing the bark and then examining the plastic, a visual depiction of how single use plastic is one of the things killing the planet. Whilst the square is plain and adorned with white furniture, a clinical man-made cell of privilege, it becomes dirty with the bark demonstrating the insistence that we cannot ignore what is happening forever. The dexterity of Twyman’s direction wonderfully enhancing Grauls’ wit and humour, intuitively referencing and enacting much of what is in the text. He cleverly brings to the forefront the clones becoming Lana, adopting and copying her nuances, inflections, gestures and poses, (for her all important selfies). Intricately physicalising the contract and the taking over of Lana’s life. Lana, Lena and co. are played fantastically by identical twins Leah and Mhairi Gayer. Both are perceptive performers, self-assured and filled with clarity. Locked into the action and utterly in sync, they resiliently blaze through the piece and it’s demanding pace. Pure excellence. 

Me Myself I, ultimately asks what’s the point in living forever in a world that won’t exist? Catch Me Myself I at Vault Festival on Sunday 9th February at 4:30pm and 7:30pm, click here to book now.

 

Written by Carla Grauls

Directed by Andrew Twyman

Produced and presented by Holly White

Actor – Leah Gayer

Actor – Mhairi Gayer

Casting Director – Belinda Norcliffe CDG

Review: Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man that used to hit her), Crypt (Vault Festival 2020)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

A refreshingly honest, witty and affecting ‘get ready with me’ like no other.

Playing on the ‘grwm’ form made famous by beauty and lifestyle vloggers, (a trend where content creators film their processes whilst addressing their audience), Martha Watson Allpress wonderfully finds a direct medium through which to tell an authentic story of abuse. She vividly captures the trauma, the questions people often have, the stigma attached, the healing process, the need for coping mechanisms, hope, the love that convinces those in abusive relationships to stay, and more. All culminating in a funny, intelligent and heart-rendering shattering of the stereotype and this projected idea of ‘shame’ around abuse. Patricia demonstrating a women owning her own narrative and telling it how she wants to. The purpose of this being, firstly, to devolve that those who haven’t experienced it can never possibly know what it’s like and it helps if they stop trying to. Secondly, to dismember the age-old idea of the ‘broken’ or ‘battered women’ that doesn’t actually exist, she doesn’t look a certain way or act a certain way, someone now putting their life back together could be anyone you know. A powerful message of unity that reminds us that survivors are of all colours, shapes and sizes, with their own stories to tell if and when they choose.

The getting ready process is therefore acted out, whilst Patricia, (Angelina Chudi), directly addresses her audience. We hear how she bumped into her ex on the street and having been taken off-guard she has accidentally agreed to go to dinner with him that night. This mishap, is instead of her delivering the kick-ass speech she’s spent a year crafting about his violent treatment of her and her own self-worth. Whilst she ponders over what to wear, what to to say and whether to actually even go, she nostalgically talks us through her past, how they met and what it was like, to her present and then her hopes for the future. A tender and personable image of recovery, with Patricia describing and even enacting the scars that remain, juxtaposed with her ultimately demonstrating her power when faced with this impossible situation and a man she still loves. Alongside, using the semantics of words to reflect the fact that the affects can never truly be understood by anyone else. Such as ‘Abuse. Verb. To treat with cruelty or violence…’, playing with the ideology that though you understand the meaning of a word, you may not actually understand what it is like. An ingenious proposition sustained throughout.

Furthermore, Chudi is sensational, her performance is warm, brimming with emotion, clarity and smart choices, bouncing off her audience to boundless comedic effect. Whilst Kaleya Baxe’s direction is again smart and dexterous, helping to accurately capture Patricia’s various states of tension as she goes from embarrassment to dread, hurt yet still totally in love to motivated and enraged. The work also includes some particularly consequential sound design, paired well with the lighting, doing much to amalgamate the overall storytelling. The only thing we would actively change is to have Patricia really getting ready rather than just mime, just to see how the realism of it affects the piece. Despite it’s heavy subject matter, Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man that used to hit her) is exceedingly uplifting, funny and well-written, definitely worth a watch.

If you would like to see Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man that used to hit her) at Vault Festival click here.

 

 

Playwright – Martha Watson Allpress

Director – Kaleya Baxe

Performer – Angelina Chudi

Sound Design- Beth Duke

Production/ Technical- Steven Frost

Producer – Nur Khairiyah Bte Ramli

Review: Be Longing, Forge (Vault Festival 2020)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Bolstering an affecting and meaningful queer narrative, Be Longing is a stunning, vividly-written, dystopian paragon. Expertly navigating the morality of genetic engineering, whilst beautifully capturing the slow and painful fizzle of losing love. To put it plainly, it’s a must see!

Set in the not-too-distant present, the piece follows Sigrid and Jim, a relatively normal couple. Episodically, we experience their highs and lows, they laugh, they fight, they make up. These fast-paced snapshots engendering a charming fondness between the two of them, as well as a genuine sense of pain that they seem to cause each-other. The fluctuation of their relationship is palpable, ensuring characters remain tangible and universally relatable. Things start to turn sour when the possibility enters their relationship, of using gene splicing to create a baby from both of their eggs, (a process devoid of any sperm). Their different opinions cleverly becoming the grounds for an enamouring discourse on the morals of medalling with nature and natural selection. Jim is therefore, the clinical, matter-of-fact geneticist who cannot ignore her maternal instincts. Craving to carry a biological child, she sees nothing wrong with the anti-natural selection of the future family model, allowing not only for queer couples to conceive, but for them to box-check the features they would like, i.e skin pigmentation, eye colour and more, theoretically erasing genetic diseases and building their perfect child. This sentiment and style reminding us much of Ella Road’s award-winning play The Phlebotomist. Be Longing thus, fantastically plays on the idea of selection, pitting natural selection, the process through which heritable traits are changed and passed down, against the dystopian idea of manually selecting genes through ticking boxes and signing forms, ready for a lab to engineer it so. Sigrid, comparatively, doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body and has no desire to carry or birth a baby. It doesn’t sit so easy with her to manufacture offspring. She is unsure if she even wants to procreate at first and when it comes down to it, wishes she could leave things to chance. Counter-balancing the argument, she wonders if protesters to the lab’s experimentation are right and questions the ethics, such as what happens to the ‘half-cooked’ embryos. Lauren Gibson’s writing, is therefore a wonderfully balanced and didactic exegesis, she delivers something unimaginably complex and proficient, truthfully navigating the primal urge to want to reproduce. Writing for-the-now, her work is politically and socially aware, for example imagining the probable Tory opinion on lab’s pro LGBTQ+ work and creating a realistic idea of what the media circus around it would be like. Not only does Gibson pose these irreproachable questions and champion everyone’s right to a family, she also demonstrates her wit, leaving plenty of room for comedic relief, i.e Sigrid comparing the process to buying their baby from Argos on Click and Collect.

Lizzie Fitzpatrick’s direction is scintillating, subtle yet strong it combines intimate moments love or emotive impassioned arguments with swift changes in lighting and empowered musical underscoring to maintain a snappy pace, whilst not undermining the overall intent. The scenes in which they each take it in turns to address some thoughts to their embryo(s), documenting their journey for the baby’s future, do much to convey a realistic sense of maternal anticipation, from the nerves, to the excitement, fears and more. This is were the beauty in the design comes in.   White orbs of light, representative of the potential child surround the edges of the playing space, one sitting centre on the couple’s coffee table, these are picked up and addressed directly in these moments. Enacting as endearing, humanising letters. The suggestion of the domestic setting of their home, (i.e with the coffee table, chairs and rug), doing much to contain them as a family unit, grounding and personalising the narrative. Whilst the inclusion of the idea of infertility, through a fault in the body not the eggs, despite all of the science, brings the dystopian fantasy brutally back to earth. 

Performance-wise, Lauren Gibson’s Sigrid is a breath of fresh air, her clarity and nuanced performance phenomenally conveying the unease Sigrid has over the idea of co-parenting, as well as the unfaltering adoration she holds for Jim, Sigrid would do anything for her. Whilst Keagan Carr Fransch’s Jim is passionate and strong, Fransch providing a fantastically visceral portrayal of Jim’s inward frustrations and sharply-practical nature. Both are hugely emotive and dextrously actors.

Do not miss Be Longing on until 8th February, (with a relaxed performance at 3pm on the 8th). Click here.

 

Jim: Keagan Carr Fransch

Sigrid: Lauren Gibson

Director: Lizzie Fitzpatrick

Dramaturg: Molly O’Shea

Producer: Caroline Tyka

Writer: Lauren Gibson

Review: Lily Bevan Character Monologues, The Gift Horse at The Horse and Stables (Vault Festival 2020)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Encapsulated within in Nick Hern Books’ recent publishing of Lily Bevan’s blistering new play Zoo, are her Twelve Comedy Monologues (and one for luck), a rib-tickling collective of very human, expertly written comedy, character monologues for women, some of which featured in the BBC Radio 4 series, Talking to Strangers (co-written with Sally Phillips). Performed here by Bevan herself, Anne Odeke, Pandora Colin, Hedydd Dylan and Charity Wakefield, the twelve-ish monologues are delivered vibrantly by this cast of 5 with extraordinary prowess and comedic supremacy.

The monologues include: an overzealous guest dressed as an ass at a Nativity-themed fancy dress party, a pirate enthusiast vying for a loan to make her pirate cafe dreams come true, a strident pupil touring parents around her school and unknowingly over-sharing her observations as she goes, a tattooist who can’t quite seem to grasp scale or the logistics of helicopters, a Tudor-enthusiast determined to give newly weds the most authentic feast at their reception whether legal or not, a paranoid walker afraid of a swan who is ‘acting suspiciously’, a drunk women in the bathroom of an opera house who, after seeing Carmen is deliberating whether to tell her boyfriend she has cheated, a Hampton Court Palace shop assistant unwittingly thrust into the role of Catherine of Aragon as everyone else has Norovirus, a nervous women who cannot seem to stop asking questions during a waxing session, a Bridesmaid staging a coup on the Best Man’s speech due to his prior examples of misogyny, a blogging allotment owner berating her neighbour’s use of untreated manure, a nervous and extremely rambled voicemail following up from a steamy sex session and more.

Part of the allure of this selection of misfits and their stories is the absurdly relatable nature of their predicaments. Each monologue proving to be wildly variegated, yet distinctly rich with just the right dose of comedy and character. Demonstrating how masterful at her craft Lily Bevan is. Grouping these women and championing their ‘longing and loss and sadness’. Bevan intuitively touches on themes such as passion, dreams, desire, divorce, innocence, allure, the female experience and expectations, love and much more. Her dry-wit and sharp humour taking the audience on a joyful and hilarious rollercoaster, pinned together by recurring scenes, (i.e Nativity), yet they indefinitely will work as stand-alone pieces and we can see actor’s in training  picking these up in the future. They are just that good, and are cleverly often addressed to a silent character, providing even more hilarity. Whilst the comedic intelligence of the 5 tasked with delivering these pieces is perfection, each putting their own stamp on their chosen monologues, conveying and embodying the vastitude of the characters and enthusiastically staging and physicalising their situations, despite the ephemeral nature of the performance. Hamish MacDougall’s direction is at play here, the monologues vibrantly lifting from the pages.

Lily Bevan’s Character Monologues are back on Sunday 9th February, click here to book now. Click here to buy a copy of Zoo, which includes the monologues and click here to book tickets for Zoo at Vault Festival.

Review: The Journey of a Warlike Mind, Cage (Vault Festival 2020)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

The Journey of a Warlike Mind sees Ana Luiza Ulsig push the boundaries of artistic expression to deliver a vibrant, comedically-rich and affecting feminist exposé, that intimately delves into the inner workings of the mind, beautifully charting a journey of self-discovery and transformation from within.

Masterfully combining storytelling and dramatisation with movement, poeticism, dance, caricature and music, the work follows Eva on the most arduous journey of them all. Inside her own mind, as she finds the way to the bottom of her heart. Based on a true episode of a mental breakdown, which occurred during the impeachment process of Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rouseff, in 2016, Ulsig playfully challenges her audience to decide which stories are her own and which are borrowed from friends, though all are irrevocably true and as result, remarkably affecting. This collection of narratives artfully weaves together, juxtaposing the abstract with realism and comedy with despair to form a bitter-sweet adventure through imagination, fantasy, mystery, laughter and tears. Resulting in a Herculean exegesis on the female experience and ingrained patriarchal structures, from our silence in the face of oppression and sexual abuse to our attitudes positive or negative towards men. Ultimately concurring that the change first comes from within, beginning with seeking your essential voice.

Ulsig thus dextrously displays the complexities of finding this essential voice, staging the inherent tension between the voices which inhabit our minds. Eva’s many selfs proving to be a battleground she must persist through however difficult or painful it is. An emotive and witty demonstration of the importance of our mental health and the healing process, with the ugliness of pain and scars of trauma being powerful contrasted against the the beauty of transformation and learning to love and feel again.

Ulsig is an enamouring writer and performer, there is true hope, beauty and poetry to her words and the performance of them. She is vibrant, sharp-witted and intelligible, using a plethora of representative costume and props to spin an exhilarating adventure, hurtling at 100 miles an hour, cleverly using movement, music and dance to balance, segment and emote. Her characterisation and ability to instantaneously embody the many facets of Eva’s imagination is wondrous, from an excitable little boy, to a tobacco-smoking, ‘outside-eye’ film director, her melancholic and frail heart, to the manly man she is in potentially in love with, to Shakespeare himself and more. Eva’s relationship with men, through these imagined male figures, is therefore broken down, does she hate men? And if so, why does she hate them? Thus cleverly capturing the conflict and resolution of our brains. We also hilariously see Eva wrestle with the idea of love, is she in love? Is marriage what she wants? Or is it because that’s what’s expect of her? Whilst we heartbreakingly see her come face-to-face with the repressed scarring of sexual abuse. An exquisite snapshot into the modern female experience. Ulsig also beautifully frames her work with the character of Rose, a seeming signifier of all the women who have gone before Eva and all the women that will come after her. The narrative begins with Rose rising from her tomb, from the dead, from the past. She alerts for an imminent war and Eva’s journey begins. At the end Rose fades, a memory.

If you want to witness Ulsig’s prepossessing art and skill, catch The Journey of a Warlike Mind today! Click here.

 

Written and performed by Ana Luiza Ulsig

African Dance Supervision: Joana Marinho (Brazil)

Costume Design: Camila Crus (Brazil)

Rehearsals / Sound collaboration: Mariana Santos Silva (Portugal/UK)

Performative writing collaboration: Joseph Dunne-Dowrie (UK)

Character development collaboration: Olavo Cavalheiro (Brazil)

Artistic and Graphic Design: Sofie Ulsig cargocollective.com/sofieart & Radoslav Nedyalkov radographic.com

Photos by Aidan Huxford

Review: VOiD, Pit (Vault Festival 2020)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

In our opinion great theatre makes you think and makes you feel, Tutti Tutti ProductionsVOiD does just that.

Coming with a strong content warning, i.e ‘themes of rape, sexual abuse and knife crime’, VOiD is as expected an empowered and gut-wrenching drama, that keeps its audience on the edge of their seats, proving to be gripping, cognitive and raw.

Adroitly written and performed by Sophia Capasso, the piece is a playfully ominous story that challenges its audience to decipher between Ali’s reality and her imagination. On the surface, she is a feisty young women who has always felt invincible, but something has changed, she feels suffocated and exhausted with the world, (particularly the world glued to her finger tips), she wants it to go away and at points it does, in the form of episodic blackouts. When she snaps, breaking her phone and blacking out again, she stabs a man outside of Shepherd’s Bush Tube Station, are the allegations she makes against the man the truth or has she convinced herself to believe an imagined version of events, does she know more than she’s letting on? A tangled web unfolds, providing multiple questions, a remarkably engaging format through which we hear it all from Ali herself. The play vicariously traversing the boundaries of identity, dancing on the edges between monster and victim, which are both shown in equal measure. Also delivering a powerful exegesis on mental health and how we treat it, questioning how helpful it is to simply medicate as well as what the true meaning of sanity is.

The smashing of Ali’s phone and the freeing euphoria she subsequently describes, provides a strong message about our reliance on smart phones in this digital age. Capasso, (Ali) then cupping the air where a phone used to be, describing it as an addiction, an itch we need to scratch. Yet, a phone symbolises much more than this here, it’s an example of a falsified reality, something as aforementioned VOiD wonderfully navigates. Referring to the fact that what we post online is usually never the full story, a highlight reel of how we want to be viewed, with how we interact often not being how we would in real life, the digital version of us is therefore falsified or enhanced. As earlier mentioned, the piece also touches upon rape as well as the criminal justice system. It torturously captures the flaws in ‘the system’ and unwarranted treatment of victims, such as disbelief in their claims entirely and asking questions like ‘what were you wearing?’. Whilst the prison system and its ability to rehabilitate is dextrously debated alongside this.

Bruce Webb’s direction is fantastic, incredibly paced, full of vibrancy and depth, creating a darkly sinister atmosphere that twist and turn, continuously playing with the audience. Whilst Capasso’s performance is absolutely stunning. Her delivery is gritty and complex, perfectly conveying the multiple layers and extremities of Ali. We were in awe.

Catch VOiD now, go, go, go! Click here.

 

Director – Bruce Webb

Performer and Writer – Sophia Capasso

Review: The Wild Unfeeling World, Cavern (Vault Festival 2020)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Casey Jay AndrewsThe Wild Unfeeling World is a crisp and relevant reimagining of Moby Dick, lyrically exploring a plethora of potent themes such as isolation, mental health and the quest for help. Andrews situating the tale in the not-so-distant past, her adaptation becoming a socially conscious story for the now, the ‘Wild Unfeeling World’ of today as it were. Perfectly capturing how easy it is to fall into solitude in the big smoke, especially when your world starts to crumble. The great whale Dylan is therefore, humanised, transformed into a modern, London women on the brink of self-destruction, having hit rock bottom and feeling utterly alone, she is frantically searching for a something, someone or somewhere to neutralise her self deprecation and a great journey of self discovery ensues. The narrative culminating with her finding affinity with a lost whale she discovers in the Thames, a beautifully tragic nod to the juvenile bottlenose whale who died of such a fate in January 2006. However, whale-lovers do not despair, as the tagline of the show warns, ‘expect whale facts’.

The most charming part about Andrews’ work is quite simply how much of an exquisite storyteller she is, projecting a certain warmth and clarity, revelling in the beautiful simplicity of her own work, breaking the fourth wall to juxtapose silliness against sincerity, surrealism against irrational hope. Ultimately presenting a suburban fable in which bad luck and questionable decisions can make or break you and there’s a fine line between the two. Andrews’ vision thus proves itself to be incredibly visceral and poetic and her narrative, charming and hugely moving. Whilst the writing is intelligible, factual and scientifically driven, the personable, charming nature of it balances and warms the heart.

As The Wild Unfeeling World is based on such a renowned piece of literature it is inevitable that Andrews references other great literary works and their authors such as J.M. Barrie and Peter Pan, mentioning Barrie’s theorising on desire paths and Kensington Gardens where it all began, Andrews hiding these gems like intoxicating secrets throughout. Another skilled element is the technical design of the piece, underscoring controlled by Andrews herself, dictates the atmosphere, conveys emotion, moves the plot along and sets the pace, wonderfully enhanced by some dexterous lighting. And when coupled with the directly addressed scientific musings on whales and the world, there is a slight National Theatre: A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time vibe to it. Clear, sharp and smart, yet relatable and poignant. The sound design is also aptly reflective of the ocean, the setting of the original fable, demonstrating the importance of water to the piece. For instance, Dylan remarks about how she finds tranquility in the Sea Life Centre marvelling at the underwater exhibits, she is also pursued down a body of water (the Thames) past famous war ships by Ahab, in this version, a ginger cat seeking revenge after being clipped by Dylan’s car (Moby Dick – A White Renault Clio), whilst Dylan as aforementioned comes face to face with a Whale in the river, wading in the water and frantically calling for help – symbiotic to her own need for help. In Ahab’s pursuit real water is chaotically utilised. We did say silliness counterbalances the meaning-making.

To conclude, if you want to witness water being thrown, cats seeking revenge and a women on the brink, encapsulated in skilled storytelling, catch The Wild Unfeeling World at Vault Festival this week. Click here to book.