Hannah Goslin

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Review Living with a Dark Lord, Mighty Pen Theatre, Drayton Arms Theatre by Hannah Goslin

 

(4 / 5)

Who thought that this play would be about Harry Potter?

Hands up!

Well … yes, I did. However, when I discovered it was not, I was not disappointed but in fact, probably enjoyed it A LOT more than I would a Harry Potter play (no, I haven’t seen The Cursed Child yet).

While lacking in Wizards and Dragons, Living with a Dark Lord is full of comedy, heartfelt essence and a true family connection.

The play sees the story of 3 sisters celebrating their brother’s birthday – Sean has autism, and this leads him to not enjoy birthday parties as the loud lights and noises unnerve him. But this loving family still celebrate without him because, that’s true family love.

The three sisters are… real sisters. Sean is a real person. This is a theatrical story of their lives. And it is truly engaging, hilarious and the actresses are fully talented – how come the O’Sullivan’s got all the genes in their family huh!

Retelling the stories of their brother is heartwarming, it is at times sad, at times difficult yet full of fondness, love and oodles of comedy. The 3 bounce off each other, which, as sisters, you would expect. And this makes for a fantastic performance from all – I doubt that three strangers or ones not blood related could ping such comedy from one another and manage to show the true, yet theatrical essence of not only their family, but of themselves as individuals.

They looked at home – the props and staging felt necessary and they maneuvered around with ease and naturally. It helped give us a insight into their communication, but relate to us in our own families and how we react to the homes we own.

If this wasn’t enough, at the end of their first night, when the curtain (metaphorically) comes down from their performance, the three are rightfully very emotional leaving the stage, and somehow, this tops this performance as we know how real and meaningful it is to all of them.

Living with a Dark Lord is full of real family, real life, real love, and real comedy.  If you aren’t into that then… well… you better get into it or you are missing out!

 

 

Review Carmen La Cubana, Sadlers Wells by Hannah Goslin

 

(4 / 5)

If you do not already know the story of Carmen, you will at least recognise the music.

Usually performed as an Opera, Carmen has been taken through lots of different twists and turns, in dance, in performance and the tale is retold in different places, in different ways. It is a versatile and, at times, relatable story.

For those who are unaware, Carmen tells the tale of the meeting of an elusive woman, and an (at the time) attached man. They fall in love but in the end, their love is too detrimental and Carmen grows bored, leaving Jose. With rage and jealousy, Jose returns, finding Carmen with another man and he decides that if he cannot have her, no one can.

The original Opera was set in Seville, Spain. This time around, at Sadler’s wells, we are transported to Cuba; rife with latin music, dance and attitude. It is fierce, sexy and full of drama and life – almost like a soap opera. We laugh, we cry, and we notice how ridiculous some of the dramatic storyline is.

Seeing Carmen at Sadler’s wells a few years ago, the premise was very different – set in a garage – a literal ‘Car-man’. It was full of dance, full of what we would expect from contemporary – showing all these fighting emotions through movement.

Whether I was assuming something similar, while set in a different part of the World, this time, Carmen La Cubana was in a way very traditional; there was plenty of singing, an almost Opera meets Musical theatre production with the same hammed up characters, fighting and ensemble dance.

While it was perfection in all emphasis of musical theatre, and could not be faulted in its execution, I think part of me wanted more dance – latin dance is so energetic and beautiful, it felt as if there was little room for this and it was just an after thought. When it did happen, it was beautiful and vibrant, it flowed well and left us in awe of their abilities, but there was a lot more emphasis on speech and the singing.

I did enjoy this, but maybe the fault is in me thinking more with a dance head, when attending a dance venue such as Sadler’s wells.

I was also undecided whether the narration should have had translation or not – on screens to the side and above, we had translation, which, with the speed of Spanish, was unable to keep up and I felt my eyes being drawn more to this than the stage. I felt perhaps if I did not have to read as well as watch, I would have been more invested in the on stage action. This is not to say it should be in English – far from it. While my Spanish ability has little to be admired, knowing the story, I would have liked the performance to tell me it; much like Carmen a few years ago, in only dance, did.

Overall, Carmen La Cubana is brilliant, beautiful and to all intent and purpose, perfection. But I felt a little disappointed with the lack of dance in the production, when Cuban dance is so energetic, beautiful and fantastic to watch.

 

 

Review, DOTS by Annie Cheung, Camden Fringe, The Lion and Unicorn by Hannah Goslin

 

(3 / 5)

 

In the simplistic black box at the top of The Lion and Unicorn, we are confronted by a minimalist set featuring upturned chairs and small balls.

Annie Cheung is a performing artist from Hong Kong, with her work dipping into a combination of therapy and theatre.

With DOTS, the main intriguing aspect of this production is the narrative. We see Cheung go through a series of emotions, stories, and feelings ; there’s a sense that this may be biographical but if not, and changed for dramatic effect, she still manages to pull at our heart strings, make our sides split and relate wholeheartedly.

Some of the narrative relates more to theatre and her struggle as an actress – asking whether The Stage and its uncertainties are worth it over the sturdiness of The Law Firm. A clever viewpoint of this is that she makes these as character’s themselves – she interacts and refers to them as if they were human, adding her husband’s business, or his ‘Mistress’, to the mix. It gives these more of a face, and the conversation is comedic and relatable.

And while her production is very much about the narrative, combating her mental health and the ups and downs in her life and industry, she manages to throw in physicality, using a chair as former partners when referring to her sex life, and moving around the small stage at great speed.

I would have liked to see more- while I love minimalist sets, and for a show to be all about the writing and the physicality, I do feel that DOTS could go even further, and maybe could develop into something even bigger.

DOTS really combats the mental health in the arts, but also manages to connect with anyone who has ever felt lost or struggling with where they are, at any time in their life.

 

 

Review Pity, The Royal Court by Hannah Goslin

 

 

(5 / 5)

 

One thing I did not feel for or during this show was, Pity.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am really into ‘theatrical experiences’ or ‘immersive theatre’. Something that I studied in my MSc and eventually would like to continue into a PhD, is the concept of creating an experience in Theatre, so that the audience feels included and forgets the outside world. But, just like with The Royal Court, architecture of standard theatre’s sometimes stops this from happening.

Beginning with starting from entering the back of the building, we encounter a temporary bar, an ice cream stand, and a brass band which we are encouraged to walk through. The neon green ground creates a hypnotic and almost another-world essence of a market square, and while we feel at home, we also feel as if we are in a different world.

Pity  written by Rory Mullarkey and Directed by Sam Pritchard is a crazy and mad, roller-coaster of a ride – it encounters the most ridiculous but yet still questions important social and political aspects. Politicians are made satire, war is a satire – this little town encounters everything ridiculous and bad that could ever happen, and will never happen all at once in 24hours.

The characters begin one dimensional – they are comedic, and unlike anyone we know. But as life deteriorates, they become more relatable.

Without giving away too much, there are so many surprises, so many hilarious moments, that it’s really hard to contain any of your emotions. Yet through the chaos, it is so well constructed, so perfect and seamless, that you can’t help but have a smile and laugh constantly throughout.

It’s really hard to review this show for the pure fact it is unlike anything I have ever seen – the creation of the narrative is beyond anyone’s brain, and yet someone has created such perfection in such disaster.

Pity is, probably one of the best shows I have ever seen. It ticks every box for me, although I can fully admit, it is probably not for everyone – the way the story line and the creation, with it being so far out, may not appeal to the traditional. But, by gosh, is it bloody good!

 

 

Review Home, I’m Darling, National Theatre/Theatr Clwyd by Hannah Goslin

 

(4 / 5)

 

I’m going to begin this review, simply with, what a lovely play.

I wouldn’t say it is extraordinary, ground breaking or shocking. But it is clever, interesting, and a new view on feminism and the Me Too movement.

Judy (Katherine Parkinson, of The IT Crowd) and her husband Johnny (Richard Harrington, Hinterland, Poldark) love the 50’s. So much so, that one day they decide that with what they have in earnings, they could live the life of a real 50’s couple. The wife as a stay at home housewife, and the husband bringing home the bacon. Their home is styled of the era; their clothing is of the time period; technology is barely visible in their lives. All in all, they have a perfect yet romanticised life.

As time continues, their lives break down, and there are cracks in this perfect life. Questions on morality and feminism becomes heightened, with Judy announcing she is a feminist as she chose this lifestyle. The lifestyle of keeping a home and her husband.

From a unusual childhood, with divorced parents, this seems like Judy’s way to make her life and her marriage perfect. But is a relationship all about the aesthetics?

The set is beautiful – a cut away house, we fully delve into the ins and outs of their lives, the bad and the good and still feeling as if we are intruding in their facade of a life.  We are fooled, with how good the beginning premise is, that when she cracks out a laptop, there is a roar of laughter – is this some multi-dimensional world? No – it’s something even stranger; a couple living in the past.

 

Katherine Parkinson, is one of my favourite actresses. She adapts to any character, from The IT Crowd, to The Boat that Rocked and so on – this is no different. Every element of her acting is perfection – from her pristine housewife life, where even her walk is meticulous and precise, to a flash back to her as a finance manager, who is more laid back and carefree.

Richard Harrington, to our Welsh readers, is more well known for his starring role in Hinterland. Another well established actor, he takes on this doting and fun loving husband character, with gusto. When they become extremely emotional, it is natural and a triumph to acting relationships.

Home, I’m Darling, which had it’s debut at Theatr Clwyd, features two promising and excellent Welsh performers, (supported with the character, Alex, played by Sara Gregory). It is not only a wonderful play, showcasing welsh and english talent, but also surprisingly poignant for current climate in relation to feminism.

Home, I’m Darling continues its runs at The National Theatre until the 5th of September.

Hannah Goslin

 

Review Instructions For Correct Assembly, by Thomas Eccleshare, The Royal Court by Hannah Goslin

 

(4 / 5)

 

The Royal Court does a wonderful thing with it’s writing/writers. There always tends to be a simple premise – a production will often start as normal as possible, with it then changing and surprising you through time.

Instructions for Correct Assembly, written by Thomas Eccleshare and directed by Hamish Pirie features a plain family – Mother, Father and Son. They have fun neighbours who are their best friends, who boast excellent children which always feels like a comparison. Their home is perfect, precise and generally like an Ikea show room.

There is a difference to this story however – as time goes by we see flash backs of their son who finds himself deteriorating in life; their struggle to help and eventually their resistance after the last straw. And once he is gone, their need to fill the void. In this futuristic world, the void is in the shape of a robot son.

The narrative is relatable even though the events seem a little impossible in our current world. We relate to the characters, feel what they feel, laugh at the right parts, but we also question how we would take the situation.

Jane Horrocks, of Little Voice and Ab Fab fame takes a front seat in this production as our mother. She is as homely and approachable as a stereotyped mother is. It’s nice to see her in a more ‘ordinary’ role in comparison to the hyper-comical characters we are used to seeing her in.

Mark Bonnar, known for Shetland and Apple Tree Farm is the doting husband and father who is easily bent by his son. He does well to play this goody-teacher type but together with Horrocks, evokes the emotion and feelings of a Mother and Father duo who are distress and worry for their son.

Brian Vernel does a fantastic job in a double role as our robot and the human son. His movements in comparison to the two characters are distinguished and differentiate them very easily. But he is also believable. As if this situation is real in our current society.

My only issue with the acting is at times when they have been instructed to move in jumpy motions, I can only assume to represent ‘models’/’robots at their basic moments, but this doesn’t feel like it fits. While I can see what they have done and why, and it does seem fitting, it just felt disjointed to the process of the production.

A review cannot be left without a comment on the staging and lighting/sound. Design is by Cai Dyfan and lighting by Jack Knowles. The Royal Court is known for its unusual take on these and this is no exception. For the ‘perfect’ family, the rooms look like they are all made of Ikea furniture and works well with the narrative, especially as the characters like to build flat packs. Slowly as the perfection breaks down, parts of the staging come away, revealing more emptiness, possibly close to how they feel. Finally a large natural wall of flowers and fauna appears at the back – an argument against robotics in comparison to naturalism? For whatever reason, this adds such depth and interest to the so far basic, perfect rooms.

Instructions for Correct Assembly is an interesting and inventive piece of theatre. While the concept of the breakdown of robotics in our future is a common topic, there is something more human and certainly different to similar writings.

 

 

Review Love Me Now, Michelle Barnette, Tristan Bates Theatre by Hannah Goslin

(4 / 5)

 

This little black box of a room is unexpected in The Actors Centre, London, but lovely none the less.

Faced with a slanted bed, Tracey Emin-style mess around it and red wired lights above, it is a simple but provocative set.

Love Me Now sends us on the journey of one woman, her want for love, her mixed relationships and the general lifestyle of single, young people in Britain.

Without delving too personal, the narrative is full of situations, conversations, thoughts, feelings and actions that are not unusual for a 20-30 something these days. How anyone only meets through online apps; women being chastised to this day about their sexual prowess but men still looking like the true ‘stud’ for the same actions; the fear of sexual abuse; and the characters we all relate to.

Alistair Toovey plays the cool bad boy that every girl has fallen for – the one who somewhere deep down cares but realistically is too frightened themselves to really let down their guard. But full of masculinity, he sees Helena Wilson’s character as nothing but a sex object, when once they were friends despite his arguments against this.  Toovey is the right kind of stand-offish but with the right amount of charm that we still fall for him, like Wilson.

Wilson’s character is full of insecurities; the one guy (Toovey) who completely rocks her world turns her into something she no longer recognises and that leaves her unsure of what she is doing, what she wants and what she believes. A character played so well that any woman could project themselves into her spot.

Gianbruno Spena has a small but still vital role – playing the boy after Toovey’s character has left, he is nice enough, not as fun or interesting as the bad boy but also a complete opposite – believing women shouldn’t swear, very traditional and very… urgh. Spena plays a great part, still bringing this character to fruition but also, with Barnette’s writing, is able to still become ‘like all men’ and still think and see that same things in Wilson that Toovey did.

She is still an untouchable – not worth anything.

Barnette has done well to take all insecurities, situations and actions from today’s dating and sex scene and transformed it into one short play. She summarises how women and indeed how men feel, and highlights a culture where we define our personal worth on a romantic outcome.

Love Me Now is funny, meaningful and really in keeping with today’s society. If you have ever had a bad date, loved the bad boy/girl, or just didn’t feel good enough, you will relate to Barnette’s play.

Hannah Goslin

 

Review Stud, Paloma Oakenfold, Vault Festival by Hannah Goslin

Photo credit Bernadette Baksa

(3 / 5)

 

When someone said to me to watch a play about Football, I did an audible groan.

I like football (not as much as rugby) but what could a play about Football really draw upon (let’s ignore Bend it like Beckham a sec…)

Stud, by Paloma Oakenfold, is not just about Football. Stud sees the current state of the sport and its homophobia in a society and world that is ever increasingly adjusting and accepting of LGBTQ+ communities. We are forever moving forward, yet in 2018, we are still going backwards in sport. Not only with homophobia but racism and sexism.

Stud sees a fantastic player, who has the whole world ahead of him, realise his sexuality, fall in love and yet make a real life changing decision which means either hiding who he really is or losing everything. There is a large essence of family and that union which also preys upon this big decision.

Stud only has two performers – Tom who is a constant. His life is the story and so it is imperative we always see him on stage, his emotions moving and how he continues life. The performer does this well and he plays a boy at a teenage age very well – all the moody, confusion that comes with teen life, with the addition of sexual confusion.

His Dad/Coach/Love/miscellaneous characters chop and change with the other performer, all becoming very hammed up and comical, all apart from his love interest. While he does all of this in a brilliant way, I am not sure this works. Okay, it brings plenty of laughs and maybe we need that but to me it almost turned into a way of laughing at the conundrum Tom is going through and showing his love is all that matters. Which we soon find out is not the case – love, family and being yourself are all important and I feel that with these cartoonish characters, a little of the heartfelt emotion is lost.

I did however love the modernisation of the stage. The floor is astro-turf, the changing room seat is there, and all utilised no matter what the scene is. The music is camp and upbeat, also utilising  the lighting and tech. And it suddenly gives a new dynamic to the duologues.

Stud is good fun, and while it tries its hardest to be everything, it struggles to merge the comedy and the serious.

Hannah Goslin

Review You, Longsight Theatre, Vault Festival by Hannah Goslin

 

(5 / 5)

 

You. What would YOU do if were young and made to give up your baby? How would you life change or would it? And what would happen if 30 years later, your baby contacts you to met you?

You is a play focusing on all the different parts of adoption- from the beginning, how the mother feels, the father feels, how HER parents feel about their daughter and baby on its way, to how the baby feels once they reach adulthood, and the lives of those who adopt him.

We see plenty of programmes, documentaries, films about adoption and how it feels from the mother’s point of view, but this production brings all the lives and elements together. We see the heart break, the joy, the hard parts and the easy, lovely parts.

This production is really simple – two performers and two chairs, beautiful music in the background and soft lighting that changes throughout. The performers differentiate the characters well – especially seeing as the stories chop and change within each other. We are addressed by the performers with their stories – they are telling us their story and we can’t help but be captivated, staring into their deep eyes and feeling the true emotion that comes from their performances.

I always say that while tech, fancy lights and props can be great, sometimes the real skill and the real emotion is brought through the simplistic. By just engaging with us as an audience, inviting us into the story, and telling it to us, filled with the emotion that comes with the narrative, we are hooked and time speeds by.

You is a beautiful play. It has real emotion and what feels like real stories. And while we may not all know how adoption feels from any party involved, we can definitely relate to the feelings that these performers evoke, coming away feeling personally touched.

Hannah Goslin

Review The Vagina Dialogues, The Volvas, Vault Festival by Hannah Goslin

(5 / 5)

 

We’ve all heard of the Vagina Monologues. While maybe a little dated , it is a key theatrical production in the history of performing arts for women and with International Women’s Day fast approaching, The Volva’s bring a freshened up version with The Vagina Dialogues.

These women are clever, talented and fierce. The are all able to play different characters, changing their voices, general approach to show this and so the transition between the scenes are flawless and easy; with minimum set as well, we are able to focus on the story and their performance rather than gadgets and gizmos.

The Vagina Dialogues takes three stories ; the story of two sisters, long drifted apart, the story of best friends facing a pregnancy scare and one of a comedic office woman that we all can relate to in many different ways. The stories and sliced and interlink within each other to create a suspense to the conclusions. It is interrupted by comical songs and an advert for finding the Female Orgasm, shown by (the attempt) to juggle balls and dropping them every time with their eyes closed…

Somehow all these pieces of theatre, these stories are so relatable, making us feel safe and somehow settling our minds that we are not the only ones. And therefore, that brings on the comedy. I have never laughed so much in my life and agreed so much with every point being made.

But it is not all about the comedy – there are heartfelt moments; moments of real pain, struggle and unease. And they are important parts of the story to tell. It is all well and good having a good old laugh, but with issues such as the Weinstein news and #MeToo trending on our social media, more than ever we need these stories told; of harassment, of mistreatment of women.

The Vagina Dialogues is a must see – any woman would come away with not only sides hurting from laughter but with a real sense of camaraderie with fellow woman kind and euphoria at the state gender politics are in.

Hannah Goslin