Tag Archives: farce

Review The Flop at Theatr Brycheiniog by Roger Barrington

 

 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

The Flop produced by Cardiff’s Hijinx  theatre company in association with Brighton’s Spymonkey arrived in Brecon fresh from a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The six-strong cast is equally split between  able-bodied actors and those with learning difficulties. This i s a feature of earlier Hijinx productions and on the basis of the seamless integration on show in The Flop, works brilliantly.

At the heart of this short play, is the physical theatre of Jacques Lecoq. This great French mimic and teacher, believed that performers should work in such a way that brings out the best in their talents rather than be directed to work to a standard form.  The end result should be one where the actors are liberated from realism and to provide a truly imaginative and creative forcefulness to their performance.

Spymonkey are a leading physical theatre company with an international reputation, having collaborated with household names such as Cirque du Soleil with their comedy routines in  Zumanity – Another Side of Cirque du Soleil which they presented in Los Vegas. Their style of  madcap buffoonery is clearly apparent  in this production.

The show is a dream for the student of theatre. It is fun to spot the many theatrical styles on display. Besides physical theatre, you have The Theatre of the Absurd, (check out the surreal giant hedgehog in the final scene), The Theatre of Cruetly,  Commedia dell’arte,  farce, pantomime and musicals. All packed into seventy minutes of High Jinx. Hijinx’s ability to break constantly break down “the fourth wall” and the introduction of audience participation that results from it, works a treat.

The story revolves around the mad trials by impotence that existed in Pre-Revolutionary France. Unable to provide an heir, the Marquis de Langey, (Iain Gibbons) is subjected to the ridicule of public exposure when having to prove his ability to achieve sexual potency. brought about by his wife’s (Jess Mabel Jones) Machiavellian aunt, (Hannah McPake). The latter also doubling up as the Judge in the subsequent trial.

It would be wrong to select any individual members of the cast for praise, as they are uniformly excellent in their roles. Ben Pettitt-Wade’s direction keeps the show’s relentless comedy running at a breathtaking pace. At 70 minutes duration, it is just about right, for a lengthier production may prove to be a little wearing on the audience.

The Flop continues it run in England and Wales through to mid-October. Full details can be found at

http://www.hijinx.org.uk/the-flop/

 

Roger Barrington

Review: Little Wolf by LUCID at Chapter

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Introduction

Well, hold on to your hats theatergoers! Little Wolf by LUCID theatre company is going to shake you up a bit.

Little Wolf written and directed by LUCID’s founder Swansea-born Stephen Harris, is a reworking of Ibsen’s classic 1894 play Little Eyolf. The action takes place in contemporary Norway and the dialogue reflects that with references to Facebook and GPS for example.

It is surprising, when considering 21st-century attitudes  that Ibsen was a very provocative writer for his time and often felt foul of censorship and Victorian prudity. Simon Harris revitalises Ibsen with his “in yer face” treatment. Subtleties that you find in Ibsen’s play regarding the very close relationship between supposedly half-siblings Freddie and Asta, is transformed to Rita asking her husband,, “Did you fuck her?” No question of  ambiguity there.

Ibsen wrote Little Eyolf in 1894, late on in his writing career, and at a time he was moving away from Naturalistic to Expressionist drama. This is a very expressionist production. It purveys an atmosphere which is both dreamlike and nightmarish. The starkness of its setting, the plot and structure is episodic , the expletives in the dialogue and the acting bordering on overacting at times are more closely linked with Strindberg than how we think of Ibsen.

Little Eyolf, compared to other Ibsen classic drama, is not performed as often as “A Doll’s House”, “Hedda Gabler” and “Peer Gynt”. The one recent exception that stands out is Richard Eyre’s Almeida Theatre 2016 production which The Guardian’s critic Michael Billington described as “shockingly intense”. That’s where the problem lies in terms of its comparative rareness of performance, as it is a very demanding play to watch. Demanding in terms of its emotional ferocity.

Design and Direction

At the start of the performance, the audience is greeted with the sounds of birds tweeting and children playing. The stage design is basically simple but works very effectively. It consists of children’s toys scattered centre stage with the most prominent item being a child’s railway set. A wardrobe is placed upstage left and this plays a very important part in the story later on. Upstage right is the only door. A stool is the only other significant object.  The lighting is used very effectively, sometimes evoking the dreamlike atmosphere that I have already alluded to.

Attention to detail has been paid in terms of the selected music – Norwegian children’s songs and rhymes, and the  wearing of contemporary Norwegian casual attire. Both contribute to creating a sense of realism that the action is taking place in Norway.

One of the features that I particularly like was the use of a Robert Lepage-like video screen projected the entire width of the stage and located upstage, which is used often at the end of a scene. An example of this is underwater scenes after the announcement of Eyolf’s death by drowning. Another time is was used when Freddie was reminiscing with Asta some childhood experiences which had a young boy and girl playing in the background on the projected screen.

I also like the symbolic way the railway track was slowly being picked up by Freddie after Wolf had drowned. Railway tracks symbolise a journey and the retrieving of Wolf’s toy represents the ending of his life’s journey.

Symbolism also features, (as it does in the Ibsen play), in the use of water-lilies to indicate rebirth and regeneration.

The Cast

The  talented cast is uniformly good with Gwydion Rhys as Freddie taking the honours. His overwrought delivery of the artistically temperamental Freddie was very believable.

 

Alex Clatworthy as Freddie’s sexually frustrated wife Rita grows into the part and delivered a piercing delivery of sarcasm and irony mixed with ferocious intensity . When Wolf is missing, she welcomes the excitement of the event over her mundane day to day existence.

Melangell Dolma plays Asta, Freddie’s believed half-sister has a more understated role which she manages to portray well.

The final member of the cast, John-Paul Macleod as Lars, (a departure from the name of the character in Little Eyolf – Borghejm brings a comedic element to the production. Instead of the engineer in Ibsen’s version, Lars is a computer nerd and a candidate for twit of the year. Bordering on overacting at times, (reasonable in an expressionist play), he gets nearly all the laughs, although at the end shows a sensitivity when referring to Wolf that was very touching.

 

The cast works at its best in the most highly charged scenes. Some of the more quieter passages are a little too passive for my liking. Possibly, this is by way of contrast to the  angry angstful interplay which exaggerates  the passivity of these scenes.

Little Wolf vs. Little Eyolf

Lasting only 90 minutes, Little Wolf is roughly two thirds of the duration of the Ibsen play. Inevitably certain elements of the story have to be left out. The most dramatic departure is the absence of the important role of the Rat-Wife, who is only mentioned in the third person in the Little Wolf version. The character is based on the  Pied Piper because she has charmed all the rats in the locality into a boat and drowned them in the fjord. The comparison between the unwanted rats and the unwanted Eywolf is clearly apparent.   This part is a great opportunity for a character actress as exemplified by the lauded performance by Eileen Walsh at the Almeida last year. Ibsen wrote ambivalent roles; he wasn’t one for archetypes. The Rat-woman helps to show this ambivalence, but Simon Harris manages to capture this within his script. Rita is a case in point. At times she is monumentally sarcastic to Freddie, although he undoubtedly deserved it. She mocks his writing about orcs and other monsters when later she praises his artistic talent.

The sexual tension is considerably more explicit in the Little Wolf production. Nothing is left to the imagination. In fact the strong language does become a little grating at times and I felt that a little more restraint wouldn’t have softened the power of the dialogue.

Such restraint was more apparent in the interaction between Freddie and Asta which reveals their complicated relationship.

Lars’s character transforms Little Wolf into high farce in places, and I am not convinced that this sits comfortably with the intensity of this highly charged play. Having said that the scene where Rita is trying to have sex with Lars up against the wardrobe where Freddie has retreated, when interrupted  by the arrival of  Asta is highly amusing.

Fundamentally, the story remains intact. The guilt felt, primarily through the incapacity of Freddie and Rita’s baby son, through an act of negligence whilst pursuing  animalistic sexual urges had taken their mind of the safety of their boy and continued after Wolf’s drowning. Freddie’s dramatic decline afterwards, retreating into his own world, hiding away in the wardrobe.  His searching for something symbolised by his systematically tearing up the stage – searching but not finding until Rita’s triumphant rationalisation of their situation in the final scene.

The ending is even more open than Ibsen’s version. In Little Eyolf, Rita and Freddie devote themselves to helping the local orphan children; the same kids that could have been responsible for Eyolf’s drowning. Simon Harris realises that this wouldn’t be a realistic scenario today and ops for a decision for the couple to move away from atheir and make a new start elsewhere. However, I feel that I am more confident that Ibsen’s complicated couple would have a better chance of moving on than Little Wolf’s pair.

Conclusion

“LUCID makes vivid, urgent must-see theatre..” the playlist boasts, and this is fulfilled in this production.  The concentrated power, relentless, austere, urgent nature of the Ibsen play has been retained in Little Wolf. People today should be able to identify with the issues that Freddie and Rita face, and, although not perfect in its delivery, I can certainly recommend it to an audience, I guarantee will not be bored.

Photography credits: Jorge Lizalcde

4 stars

For ages 14+ for pervasive language throughout and strong adult themes.

Wheelchair access

The show tours South Wales during late October and November 2017.

For venues and timings please see my preview at http://getthechance.wales/2017/10/18/preview-of-henrik-ibsens-little-wolf-by-lucid/

 

Review Service Episode Four: Fire Walk, Cardiff Fringe by Kaitlin Wray

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

After the success of Episode Three: Taking Stock, I saw at the start of my Cardiff fringe theatre festival, I was excited to watch Episode Four: Fire Walk. I was not disappointed in the slightest. The story line was even crazier and funnier than the first one. The writing  by George Infini is incredible, he knows exactly what will make the audience laugh.

One of the great things about this show and Episode 3 was the little sketches at the beginning. It sets the scene and gets you right into the show straight away. The ‘forbidden’ romance between Steven and Gene, played by Grant Cawley and Isabelle Paige escalated even more. It got to the point where Gene had to ask for Gavin’s help, played by Sam Harding. This whole interaction was hilarious and got the audience fully immersed with their romance. All actors stayed true to their characters from episode three and it felt like I was watching a series. For episode four there was an additional character called Marshall acted by Jonathan Dunn. His character fitted perfectly with the old manager, Jackie, played by Susan Monkton. They worked as a double team which felt the need to torment the restaurant staff in every way possible. They were a perfect combo that had some marvellous quirks added to their characters.

Even though it was a short comedy it told a great story and the ending left us wanting to see more. This is a well collaborated group where everyone has put in their time and effort into creating a great performance. It was wonderfully directed by Steve Bennett who added even more comedy moments to the already remarkable writing. I thoroughly love the collaboration between Infini Productions and A Clock Tower Theatre Company. I will be looking out for them in future productions.