That Moment

Following the life and struggles of a young actress, That Moment, is a funny and honest look at what it’s like to be young and work in theatre. Obviously, this was very relatable to my life and so much of what Dougie Blaxland wrote felt like it had come right out of my brain. Alicia Harding (played by Madeleine Gray) auditions for a show with a top director, and ends up having to dog sit for him instead of getting a role. Playing around twenty characters in the whole show Gray is a triumph. Her sincere and hilarious performance is a credit to both her and the team behind her.

I needed an escape for an hour on that night, and this show was exactly that. I could be absorbed in Harding’s world of messy dogs, northern kind-of-boyfriends, and useless agents. Obviously, the audience were completely besotted with their heroine. She giggles and shouts and says all those things we want to say but can’t. The writing and performance never let up once. There were no slow moments, and there didn’t seem to be a weak link in the chain.

I’d highly recommend this show as a way to absorb yourself in pure, talented comedy for an evening. I expect really good things for BlueLeaf Theatre if they carry on like this, making shows of joys and mishaps in our world.

See That Moment @ C Cubed, venue 50 @ 10.20pm, everyday

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Rock and Hunt

Rock and Hunt, from Sonder Theatre, follows six people in their quest for love, sex, validation, and happiness. Over the course of an hour we hear six monologues, each from people leading seemingly unconnected lives. The stories are sometimes sweet, sometimes gratuitous, sometimes upsetting. First we hear from Laura, played by Anoushka Kohli, who lost her baby in childbirth. Then each character interrupts the next, and slowly their lives are revealed and we learn more about them.

As an examination of humanity and contemporary Britain, this play does well. Helena Jacques-Morton creates voice expertly, weaving separate lives into a cogent piece. Each character is well defined and the actors execute their roles with confidence and sensitivity. None of the characters are stereotypes or caricatures, and each holds a different drinking vessel (mug, beer can, teacup, plastic glass). Sonder Theatre focuses on individual lives, and what we so often miss in knowing and seeing other humans.

However, when watching this I felt static. When making, watching, or writing theatre, I always ask ‘Why this and why now?’ For me, this show didn’t seem to know the answer to that question. That question doesn’t mean all shows have to be political, that would be boring, but it’s about urgency. A question of why are we performing this, why does this have to be seen? The lack of answers to those questions came across in the direction; all the actors were sat down, facing us for the whole show. It was a good image but for 50 minutes I started to wonder where the spark was. There was no driving force behind the writing or the direction. Maybe this isn’t what the company wanted, in which case, all power to them. But I think I wanted a little more play/spontaneity/drive in this piece.

See Rock and Hunt @Paradise in the Vaults, 5.50, 10-12 and 14-19 August

Open Road

Open Road follows three relationships, each of them compatible, each of them falling apart. Ecce Theatre’s new show gives an insight into predetermined grief, love, and how far we will go for a happy life. The central couple are two women and it was never about that, which was quite refreshing. It was treated exactly the same as all the other relationships on stage.

The naturalism of the show was so close to real life that it often didn’t feel like much had been dramatized. The general premise of the show was that these couples are together because they have similar life spans. Each person is aware of the year of their death. This is a time that could be now but isn’t. It’s the heat of the debates, with secrets and lies revealed as the dinner party continues.

So this dystopian twist was the hook, but it felt half-hearted. The world wasn’t fully realised, and although the characters had ideological debates about it, the fantasy seemed like an afterthought. I love science fiction theatre, but this was underdeveloped in its execution.

I want theatre which challenges me to think differently about my world, myself, my identity. Perhaps this may have worked better with a change of form, exploring how theatre itself reflects the disintegration of our capitalist society. Pretension, I know, but at least it creates debate.

Me and My Bee

Me and My Bee, from This Egg, is a wonderful and wholesome family show. The company have managed to make a show which is both political and hilarious, and for kids. It’s really difficult to make theatre about climate change, or similar slow-burn crisis’, that aren’t apocalyptic or very bleak. This Egg creates a loving, sweet show about bees and our earth. It follows the story of a bee (Joe Boylan) who loses his flower and searches to get her back. Greta and Josie (pronounced Gree-ta and Jo-sigh) are having a party. It’s not a normal party, you understand, it’s a political party, disguised as a party party, disguised as a show.

Ecologically conscious theatre (if there is such a thing?) is not just about a message, it’s about a making a tangible change. Planting seeds for flowers is an activist performance just as much as making a politically active show is. The company pass out seed at the end, with instructions to plant them. By combining humour with sincerity, they might actually get the kids out there planting them.

I was given hope for the future when I saw the kids smiling and laughing with us about politics and people falling over. I’d highly recommend this show for kids and adults and young adults(?) alike. There is just as much in there for the kids as there is for the parents. It is teeming with political satire and love for all kinds of bees. And those are some stellar costumes too.

See Me and My Bee @ Pleasance Courtyard, 11.45 9th-28th August

HOTTER

I’m so damn excited to write this review because oh my GOSH I loved this show. Number one I would like for Ell and Mary to be my best friends please they are amazing. Also they are totally and completely talented and beautiful. I just love seeing women succeed. It’s so fulfilling and gives me so much goddamn joy.

HOTTER, as well as being a defiantly feminist show, is also a very skilled piece of verbatim work. The precision and dexterity with which the performers manoeuvre around and with the voices of the people they’ve spoken to is as admirable as it is innovative. I’d also like to take a quick moment to talk about THE OUTFITS. Each layer of clothing is a new look that I can only hope to aspire to with excellent shades of pink, sunglasses to die for, and layering that is, frankly, ingenious.

Both Ell and Mary deliver shattering monologues addressed to people they interviewed, but also to themselves. Both about body image, both about not really being happy with it. Ell’s punched me in the stomach because she looks like me so everything she was saying felt like it could be me saying it to myself, to my sister, even to my mother. I felt the jealousy and self-consciousness they were talking about when I walked into their show because these were two very cool, stunning women and I can never live up to that. Just like Ell and Mary I’m not looking for sympathy. It’s not about that. I love these girls and I loved every single girl in that room, and all the ones not in the room.

At the end, we learn a dance and I don’t feel worried when we get up to dance. I’ve gone to the show on my own because it was quite late and my friends were doing other things. But it’s okay and I feel safe. I will be taking all my wonderful, intelligent, flawed, fabulous friends with me to this show because I want us all to celebrate and dance to Dev Hynes*

*An absolutely stellar song choice (I love Dev) and a stand out playlist in general really.

See HOTTER @ Paradise in Augustines, 10.45pm, 5-27th (not 13, 20)

threadbare

Taking place in the Hilton hotel, this show was completely sold out on the day I saw it. That’s fantastic. It’s great seeing new student work doing well. Massive congratulations to the company for that.

threadbare follows the story of a victim of revenge porn which is essentially when someone posts revealing or naked pictures without consent. It’s a common crime and it’s pretty horrific. This point was very much drilled home during the show, although by the end I’m not sure what angle they were trying to take. The story follows a family and it centres on the revenge, but Maddy Barnes’ script seems to be more concerned with the other problems in her life. I loved her best friend, played by Lily Millar; she shined with humour and honesty.

It’s very difficult to make a show about social media that doesn’t stereotype or assume. It could have been easy for Minotaur theatre to fall into these traps, in some places they did. It’s difficult to feel connection to a show where the teenagers seem to be being told they’re always on their phones and that’s wrong. I also think it could have been slightly more forgiving to its female characters. We hear about mothers who leave, girls who bully, girls who take revenge, girls who cheat, while the male characters (save a classic f*ckboy character) were all let off pretty easy. It’s just something to think about.

I understand this is a contentious topic, and the show covers a number of really difficult issues, from body image, to Facebook privacy, to whether freeing our nipples is empowerment or exploitation. I don’t have all the answers, and I didn’t expect this show to either. It was a solid job and I hope the show has a really good run, and keeps up the good numbers.

See threadbare @ theSpace Northbridge, 12.20, 4th-19th August

Morale is High (Since We Gave Up Hope)

This latest innovation from Powder Keg is a fuck off, head banging, dark, celebratory gig/show/fortune telling/revolution. That’s a lot of words. You need them to try and encapsulate the joy and anger everyone in that room (I think) felt. We’re going to be okay. We aren’t okay yet, but we will be.

Ross has woken up in the future and he’s here to tell Jake, and us, everything. He’s got a futuristic silver sparkly jacket from Primark and he looks super cool. He tells us tomorrow’s headline (and he’s right about it – go on, look it up). He tells us about his local pub, about coming back home.

Ross and Jake are our guides for the evening, leading us through Manchester from today, to tomorrow, to 2020 where none of the things we want to have happened have actually happened but there’s a sense that’s they could, and maybe we’re alright. The frustration that comes with not being listened to, being interrupted, being given £50 for the train fare by Michael Gove after you wake up in his house when it’s actually £75, is articulated pretty well in PK’s show. There’s a tug between collective resistance and hopelessness (despite what the title might suggest). The protest in 2020 is going really well (says Jake), except it’s not (says Ross).

It’s really really hard to make a coherent, well formed, funny, sincere show about politics without making people shy away. Powder Keg manage to help us escape and bring us to action. They join us together in jeers and laughter, help us share in our anger at jobs disappearing, at benefit cuts, at gentrification.

See this show for many reasons, but also see it for the music: the super catchy, spangled banner, rock heavy anthems that you want to scream along to. On the last night I want to have a dance party on the stage, holding our middle fingers and placards to the elite, and hugging tightly as we scream and laugh our way into the apocalypse, or maybe just into a pub in the year 2020.