Review: The Feeling, The Other Palace Studio

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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

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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

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

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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)

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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.

Review: Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ‘S’ on her Vest, Lion and Unicorn Theatre (Camden Fringe)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸

Laura Shoebottom’s Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ‘S’ on her Vest presented by Thematic Theatre is a personable, touching and intriguingly realistic dissection of the pressures surrounding anxiety. Way to shatter the stigma!

This witty monologue delivered by the writer herself, recounts the tribulations of Jenna, a young professional who is silently drowning as she tries to free herself from the solitude that is her own anxiety, a powerful and affecting reminder that it is okay to take off the costume every once in awhile. It follows her from the initial devastation of her friend David moving out – blaming it on Jenna’s condition, to the bullying she receives in her workplace, on to her coping sessions that seem to be getting her nowhere and to top it all off, to her unsympathetic mother and their endless phone conversations. Shoebottom’s writing is wonderfully raw and genuine, this, coupled with her enigmatic delivery, means the work has an instantaneously warm feeling. We can all find a bit of ourselves in Jenna.

The design collectively achieved by Chuma Emembolu, Daniel Foggo and Phil Matejtschuk is particularly invigorating. In the moments that Jenna’s anxiety is heightened and at its worst, the design beautifully reflects this. The volume of the sound increases as sound bites overlap, whilst the lighting harshly brightens, shining from a rig at the back of the stage directly into the audience, the effect of this is to recreate the overwhelming sensation that Jenna is feeling, desensitising and allowing the audience to share in it and experience the paralysis anxiety engenders. Furthermore, the sound throughout is particularly slick, the piece employing a series of voiceovers to manifest the various figures in Jenna’s life, from her phone conversations, to the voices inside her head. The staging is also wonderfully representative of Jenna’s character journey. The stage starts out with a cluttering of boxes scattered, the remnants of her move from the house she shared with David, him leaving being the point Jenna notes as her worst. As she battles through various obstacles from her lowest low toward a moment of clarity, she moves the boxes away, we physically see her struggle with her own demons and eventually carry them away. This is an inspired choice and wonderful direction from Liam Ashmead.

The only element holding this back is the format. The writing is gritty and strong, yet the piece employs present tense scenes intermittently amongst Jenna describing in the past tense, whilst occasionally acting as if she is in the present tense. Culminating in a confusing understanding of the concept of time within the work, as well as some of the genuine anguish being lost and coming across as melodramatic and exaggerated, which of course is far from the piece’s intent. The actions either need to happen in the present moment and Jenna comment using asides, (in kind of Fleabag-esque manner), or Jenna needs to wholeheartedly adopt the role of the storyteller and cleverly recount her tale. With a little work we are sure it wouldn’t be difficult for the narrative to be streamlined and clarified in this way.

To conclude, Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ‘S’ on her Vest is a fun, enchanting, one-woman show with a lot of heart and a lot to say. Does it need work? Yes. But it’s still worth the watch? Yes. Pop down to the Lion and Unicorn to see it this week as part of Camden Fringe. Click here

 

Laura Shoebottom (writer and Jenna)

Liam Ashmead (Director and David voice-over)

Georgia Richardson (Clare voice-over)

Natasha Calland (Trish voice-over)

Connor Maxwell (Tom voice-over)

Ela Yalçin (Mum voice-over)

Chuma Emembolu/Daniel Foggo (Lighting and Sound)

Phil Matejtschuk/Chuma Emembolu (Sound Designer)

Review: Orlando, Pit – The Vaults, (Vaults Festival 2019)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸

A charming and vivacious exegesis on love, identity, time and of course, Virginia Woolf.

Having surmised the entire plot of Virginia Woolf’s classic 1928 novel Orlando, published just a year shy of the Great Depression, Lucy Roslyn goes on to deliver a witty, if somewhat jumbled and misguided comparison of ‘her own’ circumstances to those of Orlando. She both imagines the character as if in front of her, suggesting what Orlando would say when experiencing the world today, whilst symbiotically taking on that role herself and acting as the character. We’re sure there is meant to be a clever commentary on the ideology behind characterisation and the adoption of different guises here, but unfortunately it gets lost as we scramble to try and understand the point to Roslyn’s nebulous conversationals. It’s kind of ironic that the piece starts with her asking when and how does a play start? and how do we define the beginning and the end? when it’s difficult to define her version of Orlando, was it simply an analytical delivery of the plot, mixed in with a modern comparison? Or was the offering deliberately vague as an overall commentary on identity and labels? It’s a long stretch, but as Roslyn navigates the changes in gender of the character and ‘her own’ choice to shy away from the label of bisexuality, we begin to understand the overarching theme of identity as a choice. Orlando could therefore have been presented as deliberately open to interpretation, open to be what you want it to be. As much as the novel promotes being seen for who you choose to be.

Despite this, Lucy Roslyn herself is a competent and exuberant performer and storyteller, commanding the space well whilst dynamically holding her audience’s attention, making it all the more frustrating that the work seems to have no solid through-line. Don’t get us wrong a through-line exists and there are interesting explications on the aforementioned thematics, whilst Roslyn fosters a genuine warmth on the subject of love and lost love. The piece just needs more focus and overall clarity. It does however craft a beautifully balanced love-letter to Woolf’s original novel, building on the motifs and symbols found within. Allowing for an acknowledgement of the novels relevancy even today, a stand against the ‘identitarian bullshit of 2019’.

Orlando plays until Sunday at Vaults Festival. Click here to book.

Written and performed by Lucy Roslyn
Directed by Josh Roche

Producer: Jessie Anand
Designer: Sophie Thomas
Lighting Designer: Peter Small
Sound Designer: Kieran Lucas

Review: Drought, Pit – The Vaults, (Vaults Festival 2019)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Hauntingly beautiful!

Theatre-maker Kate Radford is a true artist, visionary and storyteller. Navigating the ancient mythology surrounding Caenis, a woman known for her beauty, charm and knowledge, Radford veraciously explores what it is to be a women, through the lenses of both consent and expectation. Utilising this age old story of submission as a vehicle for her bright, bold and witty sound offs, noting of the tale’s consistent repetition and the fact it should be dutifully learned from. No doubt inspired by this erupting #MeToo era.

From the offset it is abundantly clear that Radford is an immensely talented spoken word writer and performer. Regaling her audience with an informative and well-crafted anarchistic dialogue, she speaks with masses of passion and conviction in metered prose, rightfully leaving her spectators in awe. Not only is her dialogue impeccable, she is also insanely musically gifted, turning her talents to song throughout and blending her chosen styles expertly. The spoken word, storytelling and musicianship mix with digital aspects to bring this retelling prominently into the modern age and pinpoint its utter relevancy. With this in mind Radford spiritedly utilises a looping system to craft vibrant soundscapes, layering variegated sounds and colourful harmonies, whilst projections of images and landscapes help further to locate Caenis’ story. Sound and visualisations thus engender a series of exciting ‘digital landscapes’, these digital vistas gently entwine and cohere to the explored thematics. Caenis’ narrative traversing both water and sand, ocean and desert, wet and dry, the drought and not, yes and no, a simple black and white explorative, yet raging discussion on consent. These elements all therefore surmise into an atmospherically powerful piece that promotes the generation of new narratives for women, an end to this ‘drought’ as it were.

The story does at points somewhat deviate from Caenis’, making it intermittently difficult to follow. However this is forgivable as the character’s experience can be seen as that of a universal female experience, the work promoting the need for a change away from this. The crafted soundscapes also tend to drown out Radford, though again, at points this is necessary to promote a sense of women being seen as ‘secondary’, not the heroes of their own story something simply to be had by men.

To conclude Kate Radford is hugely talented and Drought is an artistic delight, beautifully blending Ancient mythology with performance genres and digital elements aplenty. You can catch the show at Vault Festival until Sunday, click here to book.

 

Written and Performed by Kate Radford
Video composition and design by Kate Radford
Photography – Bryony Good
Associate Artist – Laurence Alliston-Greiner