Hannah Goslin

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Review Top Girls, Caryl Churchill, National Theatre by Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Upon the National Theatre stage – a stage I only saw a short time ago transformed into a slanted living room, I now see a chic and expensive looking restaurant set.

Coming into celebrate, we meet a whole host of historical female figures – all with their own blood thirsty, unbelievable and hilarious stories, the cross over between the time set play in the 1980’s with much older eras makes this play instantly comical and poignant to the power of women.

In a time of the Me Too movement, and continued fight for equality, a play focussing on how extraordinary women have always been, the struggles the still face and the pressures we experience is not exactly new. But Churchill, having written this 1982, seems to have been way ahead of her time in writing a piece of theatre that we have only really been seeing develop across fringe and west end stages in the last few years. While at the time of Maggie Thatcher; a time where the glass ceiling began to break, we have still found ourselves continuing the fight till 2019. And so Top Girls feels even more inspiring to this day.

The performers, as expected at the NT are impeccable. A beautiful all female cast, not a single male is seen on stage and this emphasises the sheer power of the play.

The first half features these hammed up yet interesting characters – perhaps a little stereotyped – they cover a range of feminist topics that we were unaware that would be an issue in their era. They did try to cross over conversations, perhaps to make this seem more like a natural meal amongst friends than a staged one. I am not sure how much I felt it worked; it was a struggle to tell what each person was saying at different times.

The second half really brought up the sense of family, of growing up and a dysfunctional family and their relationship with one another and men. Again, the interactions were perfect and we felt real emotion in the scenes.

A play that could have easily aged badly, Top Girls is as important as ever – funny, clever and poignant, any female identifying as a feminist needs this play in their life.

Review The Church of the Sturdy Virgin, Dank Parish, Vault Festival By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

In the deep underbelly of the vaults, we are lead into a almost parisian but definite tomb that sways with the changing of times. 

There are corners with dark and erie images of dirt and skulls, a glimpse of the universe in a coffin, shrines and so on. We are gently lead through these in the damp, and dusty wannabe catacombs. 

The Church of the Sturdy Virgin is an immersive experience of the dead but also of humility. We are prompted to take it all very seriously but there are times of poking fun at the dead and the way different people grieve, celebrating death, and sometimes we are even poked at. But we are engaged and told to take this seriously and so, we are dutiful. 

Split into ‘families’ we are taken on journeys to experience the different elements of burial, death, the afterlife from a comedy duo who show you how to embalm a member of the audience, to selecting a eulogy for our dearly departed that can be satirical, heartfelt or just societal. 

The performers are always on point – they encompass their characters into their entire entity, enjoying the freedom of ad lib and engagement with the audience right from meeting us in the queue to the end when we leave, asking us to ‘Stay Sturdy’. At one moment there seems to be a confrontation from the ‘religious’ of the church and the more ‘spiritual’ yet this isn’t explored much more than a slight outburst and a mention of differences. I felt that this would have been great to explore some more – to show more of a darker, deeper and controversial side behind The Church of the Sturdy Virgin. 

Over all I had a great time – I went in feeling apprehensive, as the wimp in me who shys away from horror films and shudders at the thought of ghosts, thought that I would find myself immersed in something my nerves just wouldn’t cope with. However, while subtle elements of this, The Church of the Sturdy Virgin was also fun, hilarious and did well to not only immerse us in their world, but break us out of our British shells and interact more. 

Review, Tartuffe, National Theatre By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

In my naivety and lack of French speech (despite learning it for quite the number of years), I spent most of the week in the run up to this review, completely mispronouncing it.

However, after this production, there is no mistaking the name of Tartuffe.

Tartuffe by Molière is a comical yet poignant play about the differences and priorities of the class system. Tartuffe is brought into a rich family, when the man of the house begins questioning life and everything underneath his roof. This affects his family and his general existence and we question who really is the villain of the piece.

Denis O’Hare, who plays Tartuffe himself is excellent. He is the quintessential homeless hippy yet never tries to be anything other than what the family members say he is. He is vibrant and hilarious and while we are geared to hate him, we kind of love him too.

He embodies this smelly and unhealthy man, and yet the way he is portrayed and allows himself to be portrayed to the point where we feel like we can smell, taste and feel everything he is.

The whole production is full of very well rehearsed and thought out moments of slapstick humour and action – it is fast paced and full to the brim with comedy that we are never uncomfortable or lacking a moment of interest in what is on stage. All the actors react and perform with complete perfection.

When we reach the end, our hilarity is cut short. We are suddenly reminded of the ‘moral story’ and things become dark and real. This echoes much of the writing at The Royal Court and feels like a shock change to the laughter we encountered previously.

For a very old play, Tartuffe is extremely poignant and has the great ability to hold us in comedy to then suddenly drop us into doom.

Review Follies, National Theatre By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

If you are a fan of my reviews, you will know that my favourite production is one with no interval. I believe to be fully involved, the interruption of ice cream and loo breaks seriously disrupts this immersion.

However, when you are told a production is 2 hours 15 minutes, no interval, suddenly that lovely wish feels sour, daunting and worrying.

Friends who had previously seen Follies, assured me that I wouldn’t notice this – that it is so good that the time will fly by.

And I am happy to report, that some of this is true.

Follies is a story about the end of an era. Show girls are taken back to the good old days of their youth, in a ruined building that was once a bustling theatre, admired by all. Now it is dilapidated, being knocked down. And this is the last hurrah!
The now matured performers are haunted by their younger selves – dressed in their glam and changing of time outfits, looking upon their future selves in sometimes disapproval, sometimes admiration, and sometimes awe.

It’s right to say that you go through Follies and the need for an interval isn’t present. You feel involved and interested in the action, but for a theatre production, while it has it moments of quirkiness, of enjoyment, some lovely songs and some impeccable acting, it feels like a story where nothing much happens.

I really enjoyed being able to see their past selves – their youth. The glitz, the glamour, the femininity; all makes the showgirl/burlesque girl in me scream with delight. It is the quintessential 1930’s/1940’s era and it shows in the style and elegance of the performers. The current day being the 70’s, costumes and styles have changed and it’s easy to see how good the casting is and how true to the eras they keep to.

The dancing is enjoyable and typical musical based. The songs are belted with every breath. No one holds back. And the character of Phyllis, played by Janie Dee is by far my favourite and executed with great hilarity and almost becomes a bitter reminder of myself.

Follies is fun, it is enjoyable, but I wouldn’t come away saying it was anything spectacular or breath taking. If you are looking for a exciting and typical musical, something to sit back and enjoy a G&T with, then this is it.


Review In Search of Applause, Maroussia Vladi, The Old Red Lion By Hannah Goslin

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

A night of one woman plays.

How could I resist my theatrical sisters and not see another solo show after another!

In Search of Applause features a struggling actress, a trained clown who falls into the comfortable and routine life of a relationship. She doesn’t really love him. He has money and they live an interesting lifestyle, but ultimately, he seemed kind.


Now with this premise, we expect some hard hitting shock to the system- is this about domestic abuse? Perhaps a Phoenix from the ashes moment? Unfortunately there is no such thing. And the hour or so feels unremarkable.

Maroussia Vladi, both the writer and actress of the piece is very good- don’t get me wrong. She has a presence to the stage; the narrative is interesting … but it felt unfinished.

If Vladi has indeed trained as a clown, this shows. And I don’t mean this necessarily negatively. She obviously has talent but some reactions and mime seemed a little too over the top and unnecessary – perhaps in a clowning piece it would have been perfect, but for this, it didn’t. I badly wanted to associate myself with her but I just couldn’t fight through the over-theatrical wall.

The moments she really broke down, let her guard lower for a moment- where the real anger and emotion lay was what I craved and while it was only a small amount over all and near the end, it was good and what we needed throughout.  

Vladi’s In Search of Applause is a nice piece of theatre – the idea is there, the talent is, but the two didn’t match quite enough for me to really enjoy it and feel a connection.

Review Rattled, Rachel Harper, Mismanaged Theatre, The Old Red Lion By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

A black box theatre above a pub seems like the perfect setting for Rattled.

The stage is basic, there isn’t much to it, and this works well for a one woman show where the acting and the writing is imperative.

It is dark, gloomy, our focus over a bench and with a light that swings above. It begins with flashing of lights and a hooded figure thrashing around. When the lights begin, it’s a young lady and she’s found a car holdall with a baby in it.

The narrative continues with the woman speaking a monologue; looking back at her past, at her present and inputted with moments of anxiety and worry; some directed to and about the baby in the holdall.

Rattled is a play based on true events of a woman with post-natal depression. The series of events are mixed for theatrical effect, but Rachel Harper does a very good job of bringing realism and emotion to the character. Part of me felt uneasy and a little unconvinced at times when her character continued with nervous giggling – obviously this is for theatrical purposes, but after a while it became grating and unreal.

Harper, however, is very emotional and while this may not be her story, it is obvious that she feels connected to it – this certainly gives some backing to her acting and helps it to be as natural as possible. You wanted to hug her and tell her all is okay – you want her to stop talking to her baby as someone she doesn’t know. Ultimately, you want to help.

Rattled is a wonderful play and really in-depth and true. With some work and maybe a bigger stage, Rattled could be something special and really make waves.

Review, German Cornejo’s Tango Fire, Peacock Theatre By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

I always feel a sense of joy when I head to the Peacock Theatre; their programming is always fun and whimsical. This is exactly what I experienced again,  on my trip this time.

A beautiful part of this production, was the initial entrance into the foyer and by the bar. A collection of Spanish speaking patrons mingling and speaking this delicious language which really set the tone for the show itself. 

Whilst in Argentina myself, I took a tango class with a short show afterwards and found this beautiful, sexy and interesting language to Tango. It’s fierce, it’s unapologetic and it has a feat of awe. 

And this show definitely hit those checkboxes. The staging is simple, with our first half in the typical 1940’s-1950’s costume, lustrous summer scene with only a bench and lamppost. The dancers have a conversation with their movement and there’s humour and plenty of elements that we all recognise – the loved up couple, the unrequited lovers, the males vs females. We enjoy the movement between them, the conversation through dance and it over all is a joyous beginning to the show. 

Our second half is more hot and steamy. The women are wearing less, the interaction is raw and fierce and it’s hard to take your eyes off them. The feat to which the woman are lifted and thrown across the male dancer’s bodies and across the stage left a few with gasps and awes. Feet moving and legs kicking at extreme pace; it is hard to ignore such ability and grace.

While a lovely show, and picking on all the elements of Tango, I didn’t feel too awe-struck or inspired. It was lovely to watch and interesting to see the skill involved but it didn’t feel too original. It felt very quintessential. 

Over all German Cornejo’s Tango Fire is something to be enjoyed. If you are ready for a show with little to complain about and sit for a nice evening, it’s a safe bet to take. You won’t come away disappointed.  But do not expect to come out speechless. 

©Alastair Muir 31.01.17 Tango Fire 556

Hear Me Howl, Lydia Rynne, Vaults Festival by Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

You tell me that a piece involves a drum kit?

I’m bloomin’ well there!

Hear Me Howl is a extraordinary tale. We meet Jess in her late 20’s who after a brief fear that her latest smear test is going to be a positive, is instead told that she is pregnant. During her existential crisis and wonder at her life past, present and future, she decides after meeting an inspiring woman, to join a Punk Rock Band.

 
I realise the story itself may not be necessarily extraordinary in my brief attempt at a blurb, but let me tell you more. 

As a reviewer, I try to learn as little about a production as possible in advance to avoid any preconceived ideas or bias. So learning that this story was from the incredible imagination of Lydia Rhnne, and that the performer, Alice Pitt-Carter, was an actress who was cast for the role, I was in shock and disbelief that this wasn’t a true, one woman story.

Firstly – the writing is incredible. There are so many ‘I’m with you sister’, and (in the words of RuPaul’s Drag Race) ‘Yasss’ moments that felt so intimate, yet called out the truths of being a woman, with no qualms or fear. While the general narrative is entirely plausible, but just not a common one, we still see ourselves in the character of Jess; sitting in this tunnel, we think what we would do in such a situation. 

Pitt-Carter is the perfect candidate to evoke this role and to bring even more realism to it. She is truthful yet very funny; part of me wants to be her, part of me entirely affiliates with her. While the story isn’t entirely something I understand without the experience of it myself, there are moments of general womanhood and thoughts and feelings that I personally felt akin to. 

Hear Me Howl, is so far, the best thing I have seen in 2019. It is real, emotional, hilarious and (as a drummer myself) the ending of a awesome drum solo brings a sense of fun and awe. This production is one to watch and is nothing short of perfection. 

Of course i’m hot… i’m 50, yellow coat theatre company, vault festival, by Hannah goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

When invited to a show called, Of Course I’m Hot… I’m 50, I admit part of me wondered if this was something I was geared for. Would I understand the topics, the references; was this for me? But age really is only a number. 

Of Course I’m Hot… I’m 50! tells the story of a women, her life up to the age of 50 and her struggle with menopause. We meet her family, her friends, her problems, her woes, and her happy moments and lust for life. 

There’s very much a Shirley Valentine feel about the performance – part of this may be down to the main performer’s accent but her address to the audience, her small gestures and facial expressions that are all too real but also at times, all too funny are very much like Pauline Collins in the outstanding role. We even hear the real truths and thoughts behind verbal actions – an ‘I love you’ had a different meaning to her, and we get the sense of settlement and a time that had more ease with saying yes than no. 

Other performers dip in and out as different characters, all changing their persona and address to her, but our eyes are transfixed on the main character. She’s our story.

The topic of menopause is something that begins and ends this piece. We hear more of information and facts, that even I didn’t know. And soon it’s an informative production as well as an interesting and fun one!

There is the right amount of comedy verses tragedy – audiences are cackling with laughter but also broken in tears, as reality of losing your mum and the passing of time becomes all too real for us. It really is an emotional rollercoaster – just what you want from a piece. 

Of Course I’m Hot… I’m 50 is a lovely, heartfelt play that despite my concerns, is in fact for women of any age, and I would say, an important play for all women to see.  I came away with new information as well as what felt was a new friend. 

WOMANS (LIKE ROMANS BUT WITH A ‘W’), SCRATCHWORKS THEATRE COMPANY, VAULT FESTIVAL, BY HANNAH GOSLIN

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

2019 has begun – and so have this year’s Vault Festival.

Recommended by a associate in the Welsh art scene, Scratchworks Theatre hail from my good ol’ (once) locale town of Exeter. How small the theatre world is!

Womans (like Romans but with a ‘W’) takes our original and taught understanding of Roman history, and brings us the extraordinary tale of the women behind this.

A story we’ve always been presented to from the powerful male perspective, as we become more intrigued and more inclusive, we keep finding these women who have been hidden for centuries.

Scratchworks bring us a very basic yet very effective performance. There’s not fancy trickery or sculpted props, but old fashioned devised theatre with every day items.

Roman soldiers are identified by red brushes held to their heads, mattress covers are used for not only clothing for character differentiating but carriages, backdrops, staircases and architecture.

The performers themselves are quick to improv over minor hiccups, never losing focus or the essence of their character; and for a small cast of 3, they cover a enormous host of characters, all with their own quirks and mannerisms.

And their physicality is one to be admired – they may not be leaping like a contemporary dancer or performing interpretive dance but their physical comedy and interaction is on point and side splitting.

Scratchworks are a wonderful company, with the right intention and have narrowed their key skills down to a key. Womans… was not only a joy to watch but makes you eager to be apart of.