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Review, The Weir, Theatr Clwyd by Gareth Williams

(4 / 5)

Whilst on holiday in Ireland a couple of years ago, a visit to the low-lying valley of Glendalough found us walking through the stone ruins of a monastery. On this particular day, the mist had come down. There was rain in the air. For a popular tourist destination, there were few people around. It was still. It was quiet. There was something about the place that gave off a mystical, otherworldly vibe. It is little wonder then that belief in the supernatural is a prominent feature in Irish storytelling. It is certainly a fixture in the stories told by the characters in The Weir. The Mercury Theatre, in a co-production with English Touring Theatre, has decided to revive Conor McPherson’s play to mark its 20th anniversary. It is a decision which should be celebrated, not only because of the exceptional quality of the script but because it speaks some important truths into contemporary society.

The audience is invited into a small town pub in rural Ireland where we are witness to the folkloric tales and ghostly stories of a couple of regulars. They are prompted to delve into the art of storytelling by a newcomer to the village. Beneath such paranormal content however, lies a much deeper and darker level of human thought and emotion. As the stories open up to reveal dark and unsettling truths, it prompts this female stranger to share a secret from her past. She has a story of her own, and its truth will shake them all. So disconcerting are the stories that they tell, several members of the audience (at least around me) clearly felt the need to react in the form of whispered commentary to neighbours or the placement of a hand over a mouth. Such audience reaction was clearly in relation to the stories, yet such impact is as much down to the delivery of these stories as their content. In this respect, much applause must go to the actors on stage. In particular, Sean Murray (Jack) was so captivatingly brilliant that one could have heard a pin-drop inside the auditorium. A large slice of recognition must also go to the production team, particularly Madeleine Girling (Designer) and lighting designers Lee Curran and Dara Hoban. To present a cross-section of the pub, where the lines between the stage and the stalls were blurred, I found, had the effect of assuming the audience as part of the action. We were, in effect, sat inside with these people, the attentive listeners to their gripping narratives. As each story was told, the gradual reduction of light caused an acute focus which made such attentiveness all the more palpable. It also created an atmosphere that became increasingly eerie and unnerving, culminating with the actors speaking under a single spotlight, and accompanied by the occasional single sharp note of a violin. Truly engrossing.

One of the fascinating elements of McPherson’s play, from a contemporary perspective, is the impact of a female presence upon the typically-masculine world of the boozer. It is clear that Brendan, the pub’s owner, has not had to bother accommodating for a female visitor for some time. He has to dash through to his living quarters to source a bottle of wine, then has to promptly serve it in a pint glass, and later must announce that the women’s toilets don’t work. This haphazard, unaccommodating state of events is taken humorously by the audience, yet despite these light-hearted observational moments, much like the character’s stories, there is also a deeper level of social commentary that speaks to the ongoing problem of gender inequality evident in traditionally male-dominated institutions. It is fascinating to see the subtle and gradual shift that takes place in these men once Valerie (Natalie Radmall-Quirke) has entered their midst. Themes of loneliness, fear and loss start to come to the surface in a less-mediated way. Vulnerability and emotional capacity open up. Suddenly, there is a glimpse of raw reality. The masculine ideal begins to crack. It is subtly powerful stuff.

If you want to be entertained, challenged, moved, and inspired then The Weir will certainly tick all of those boxes, and more. It combines pathos and humour exceedingly well. It invites the audience to inhabit its world and become utterly engrossed in its content. The stories told may be unsettling but they are gripping too. The cast excel in creating an intimate atmosphere that draws the listener in and has them hanging on every word, helped by the inspired set design and excellent use of lighting. It reminds you of the simple power of oral storytelling. So step away from your screen. Turn those electronic devices off. And experience the thrill of immediate, live storytelling.

https://www.theatrclwyd.com/en/whats-on/the-weir/

Gareth Williams

Review Red Bastard : The Original Show by Hannah Goslin

 

(5 / 5)

 

How lucky am I, that less than a week after seeing a theatrical hero for the first time, I was able to see the show that started it all – Red Bastard : The Original Show.

While Lie With Me focuses on love and how we all lie, the original show questions our dreams, our lack of or even fear of the truth and our lack of being interesting. What a perfect audience are the British to tackle these issues!

Red Bastard has a commanding power. Unlike other performances when audience members hesitate and struggle with being interacted with, you expect it with Red Bastard. But part of you wants to be commanded by him, you want him to interact and his clever approach to the performance is to feed off what we give. How amazing is this performer that he is unfazed by this and utalising it for his own theatrical creation.

He is mean. He is loving. He gives 0 sh**s and we love it. We are masochistic in a sense that we crave his abuse, his comedy and his surprises. Because BOY are there surprises. You can never tell when the next one will be.

It is admiring to watch his ability to push boundaries with a sense that the fundamentals are rehearsed but that Red Bastard is the master of improv.

If you ever do anything with your life – see Red Bastard. Join in. And come away with possibly one of the funniest, most enjoyably insulting performances that you will never want to end.

 

 

Review AI Love You, Heart To Heart Theatre, Vault Festival by Hannah Goslin

 

 

(4 / 5)

 

Sometimes interesting theatre is simple theatre.

Welcomed into a blank canvas of a room, there are only two performers on stools, and a mirror suspended behind.

With no prior knowledge (I personally avoid this before shows so that I am surprised and can deduce my own conclusions and interpretations) it is daunting to see such little to the room of a performance.

We are handed a blank piece of white paper and are smiled at one performer and almost frowned by the other.

As the title suggests , AI Love You features a) love and b) robotics. Now stay with me – this is no sci-fi, out of this world, incapable apocalyptic world where everything is alien and new. This is actually a heartfelt production, questioning morals and seeing the inside of a relationship.

April and Adam are a couple. A normal relationship, they are in love and… April is a robot. Created to be Adam’s ‘perfect woman’ , she has now reached a point where she is breaking, ‘malfunctioning’ and plans to end her life. But Adam is against it as he loves her. For all intense and purposes, they seem like a general couple with all the feelings and experiences any would, and if this was two human’s it would be a difficult decision, suicide, anyway but morals are questioned when you consider that April is an AI.

The great thing about this piece is the set up – we are fully included. Like a court room trial, we hear each side of their cases which is ordered by the facility that made her and are asked to vote who we agree with. And so we can only assume they have prepared alternative options dependent on the vote conclusions. This in itself is pretty impressive when you think that these performers have potentially learnt two different scripts.

April is at times cold and well… robotic, at times breaking into recognisable sensitivity and love but is still different to the obvious torment Adam is facing. And it works well, and gels in a way you would not think it would.

Adam is more comedic, almost dry in humour but little of this is given to April which I feel lacked with continuity – if there is an element of comedy then it needs to run through with both performers.

However, over all the concept and writing is brilliant. When reading the blurb after the show, they performers also change who is the robot and who is human, and this makes me wonder how changed is the performance and does it change what we think and how we would vote.

AI Love You is heartbreaking but also a very intelligent production – of something that with recent news… well who knows, could it become true?

 

 

Review Be Prepared, Ian Bonar, Vault Festival by Hannah Goslin

 

(4 / 5)

 

A room with only a table, bible and vase of flowers, Be Prepared certainly is not preparing us for what is ahead.

As the lights go down, some quirky music begins from the audience and out comes our performer, hidden within us.

Be Prepared takes a look at one man, his grief of losing his father, reminiscence of his childhood and life and his chance encounter with a stranger that brings his life and grief into perspective.

The majority of this production is a monologue; chopping and changing the story, we pick up bits and pieces of his narration and feel the tense and nervous mannerisms of the character. Ian Bonar is captivating in his production and this monologue is never boring and always engaging; taking the time to look directly at us as he talks, making us feel included and that this production is very personal.

This addictive speech is interrupted by physical breaks, highlighted by changes in light and sound. It shocks the system, shocks you out of rhythm and emanates the system interruption that grief must also give.

This combination of two theatrical forms is never boring and we sit wishing to hear more, to know the story and find out what happens. He is comical, earnest and friendly and all we want to do it sit and listen.

Ian Bonar has taken on a creative and unusual approach to story telling in theatre. Be Prepared is honest, warm and in a way relaxing to watch which is what captivating theatre should sometimes be.

 

 

Review The Sound of Music by Jane Bissett

 

(5 / 5)

 

The Sound of Music is a musical masterpiece from the talented duo Rodgers and Hammerstein. Based loosely on the life of Maria Augusta Trapp and her journey from novice Nun to devoted mother. The Sound of Music has taken the drama which hangs on the story ‘The Trapp Family Singers’ (written by Maria) and has condensed it into a stage musical with a romantic rosy glow.

Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics are set to music by Richard Rodgers and between them they produced wonderfully descriptive songs that take us from an abbey, to the top of a mountain and capture family life in its simplicity. These songs have been sung by enthralled cinema and theatre goers worldwide for the last five decades.

Indeed, I found myself singing whilst working the following morning, tending sheep in a windswept field in South Wales. Perhaps not such a dramatic landscape as mountains of Austria in the summer, but uplifting all the same.

The story of the family is set in Austria in 1938 with WWII on the horizon. Maria is a young novice Nun who is sent by the Mother Abbess to the home of Captain von Trapp to act as governess and care for his seven children.

Without a mother the children crave the attentions of their father who in his grief has distanced himself from the children, their family home and the memories it holds.

The welfare of the children is Maria’s primary concern and she can see how much they need to regain the love of their father. All she wants is to see the children happy again. She teaches them how to sing and bring music back into their lives. Little does she know that the Captain is himself an accomplished musician and singer and when eventually he hears the children singing it breaks the spell of his unhappiness and allows him to rebuild his relationship with his children whilst unwittingly falling in love with their governess.

Lucy O’Byrne gives an outstanding performance as Maria as does Neil McDermott as Captain von Trapp and for me, much more believable that Christopher Plummer ever was, maybe it was the beard.

Megan Llewellyn was a truly realistic Mother Abbess, kind, compassionate, and wow, what a voice!

The nuns were outstanding, their voices breathtaking and the children adorable in every scene. It was easy to imagine their lives being improved by the arrival of a much needed mother figure who would love them and bring their family back to life.

The set design was a triumph. The audience was transported from the Abbey to the Von Trapp residence effortlessly. The sets were vast and visually beautiful providing an atmosphere that extended well beyond the boundary of the stage. The vastness of the scenery and the skillful way in which it was brought to the stage added to the audience being effortlessly transported from place to place. Although the New Theatre is not the size of a West End stage, for the visual effect and the performances, it was for this production.

It would be unjust to single performers out as this was a whole cast production of talented individuals who together made us believe that we were there.

The audience were so engaged with story and the performances that I am certain that I head an audible ‘boo’ for the Nazi Officer!

Although unseen the orchestra gave an awe inspiring performance of musical talent. The balance of instruments and voices were perfect and crated a world of musical pleasure that elevated the entire show to completely fill the auditorium.

It was no surprise at the end of the performance when the audience rose to their feet before the curtain call and gave the entire cast the standing ovation that they so clearly deserved.

This really is a ‘must see’ production. I was only disappointed that it was not like the film shown in the 1960’s when you could remain in your seat and see it all over again.

The Sound of Music

The New Theatre Cardiff

Tuesday 13 – Saturday 17 February 2018

Evenings 7.30pm

Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday Matinees 2.30pm

For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889

Review The Poetry We Make, Flugelman Productions, Vaults Festival by Hannah Goslin

 

(4 / 5)

 

What is wonderful about the Vault Festival is the eclectic mix of theatre and performance on show.

Last week I faced the refugee crisis and misogyny and this week, a LGBTQ+ story of change and pain.

The Poetry We Make sees the story of a loved up couple, the decline of the relationship and the change when Robin begins to realise that they are the wrong gender. Elliot struggles to face this truth and we see the decline of not only their love but their friendship, along with the questions, curiosity and frustration behind such a huge life change. And then there’s Dolly Parton – you cannot go wrong!

We affiliate so much with the characters’ – the loved up couple, their painful break up and the coping afterwards. We recognise the ladies man best friend, void of feelings for women but a laugh all the same. And Dolly Parton is there, creating comedy and musical interludes.

The performer’s bring such a honest and heartfelt approach to the characters, letting us not only relate but also question ourselves in their situations. The story is tough and it is great to see it brought to the forefront through theatre.

My only issue with this is that it is written from the perspective of Elliot. We see her decline, her pain and frustration at knowing Robin is not the gender they once were and questioning their relationship and love. I see that perhaps this highlights the issues of loved ones and even outsiders when they feel personally victimised, threatened or even frightened by something that is not ‘the norm’ and the general approach LGBTQ+ persons sometimes come accross. But at the same time I would have liked to hear more from Robin and what they were going through and their feelings.

The stage is simple yet effective; easily changed to fit the scene and does not need any huge changes to do so. The acoustics of the tunnel of the Vaults only helps to add to this vibrating feeling of a sensitive, funny and honest piece.

The Poetry We Make is heartfelt, not afraid to tell the truth but also full of comedy. A culturally significant piece of theatre.

 

 

REVIEW: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN: THE MUSICAL, GARRICK THEATRE LONDON

Abby-normally good

I’m a huge fan of Gene Wilder & Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. Released in 1974, it’s the paragon of horror-comedies for me and the most lovingly crafted homage to the Gothic monster movies of the 1930s I’ve ever seen. Not only is it funny, but it does what all the best sequels/ reboots should: it does justice to the original, whilst also creating new characters to love and root for.

So, naturally, I was both excited and anxious when I heard that it would be turned into a musical, because how can you improve on perfection? And who could ever do justice to the roles originated by Gene Wilder and co? But, then again, the last time a Mel Brooks classic was Broadway-ified was The Producers, and for me its musical adaptation is far superior to the original.

With that hope in mind, I took my seat in the Garrick Theatre and waited to be impressed. It didn’t take long for that to happen. Far and away the best thing about this production is Hadley Fraser as the eponymous scientist burdened with a monstrous legacy. Fraser has always had a wonderful presence on the stage – his performance as Raoul in the 25th Anniversary adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera is the only time I have ever liked that particular character – but he’s incandescent as Frederick Frankenstein, grandson of Victor, who is initially resolved to shirk his infamous heritage. He impressively handles his introductory song ‘The Brain’ in which he elegantly and eloquently rattles off a wordy self-treatise that rivalled the Major General’s song for speed and complexity. From that moment on, he had the audience in the palm of his hand. Gene Wilder is a singularly hard act to follow, but Fraser owns the role and makes it his own, mixing arrogance and charm with vulnerability and compassion, and crafting a wonderfully fulfilling character arc whilst singing, dancing and acting with brio from the first note to the last.

Ross Noble is charged with the responsibility of inhabiting the inimitable Marty Feldman in the role of Igor, Frederick Frankenstein’s eccentric accomplice. Happily, he too decides on evocation over imitation, and delivers a knowingly offbeat performance that nicely complements Fraser’s more prudish counterpart; their amusing dynamic is nicely showcased in the ‘Together Again’ duet, complete with physical comedy and the iconic ‘walk this way’ joke. Lesley Joseph approaches the role of Frau Blucher (*frenzied neighing*) with admirable gusto, belting out the standout Ursula-esque number ‘He Vas My Boyfriend!’ with joyful abandon. However, the speaking segments of the song were a bit unnecessary, clumsily and crudely spelling out what the song has thus far aptly alluded to – though the blame for this lies with the writers. But though Cloris Leachman set a high bar, Joseph is hilarious in the role and it was great to see her less as an antagonist (as she was for most of the film) and more as a core member of the main team throughout.

However, something that irked me about this musical was the way in which the female leads were framed. It’s shocking that a production in 2018 manages to sexualise its female characters even more than a film from the 70s does. But with Summer Strallen’s Inga, they do just that – something which seems especially egregious when the male characters don’t receive the same framing or treatment. The character of Inga, originated by Teri Garr, was always progressively, defiantly in control of her sexuality – though it was often utilised more in the enterprise of producing innuendo than in asserting her strength as a character and her admirable sexual agency. Strallen’s two major musical numbers – ‘Roll in The Hay’ and ‘Listen to Your Heart’ – are both laden with sexual innuendo and mostly involve her draping herself seductively over Frederick. It would seem progressive but for the framing, which is planted firmly in Male Gaze territory. However, the lyrical content of those songs are perhaps more layered than they may seem on the surface: the former is, at its core, a Hakuna Matata-style treatise on letting go of your worries; and the latter is an interesting gender reversal of the usual dynamics between heterosexual couples in musicals – this time, it’s the woman who seduces the man through song. Strallen is a sparkling stage presence, and it’s a credit to her skill and charm that she renders the role as more than a bland stereotype.

Even the character of Elizabeth, whose disgust at the thought of touching her fiancée Frederick is the butt of many jokes, is sexualised (along with Inga) where the male characters are not. Her solo ‘Please Don’t Touch Me’ has an extended section in which she repeats a vulgar term for a part of her anatomy over and over again – much to Frederick’s sexually-frustrated chagrin – that proved ultimately more embarrassing than entertaining. Again, there are some interesting, even admirable, elements of the song – it’s arguably an example of a female character asserting her own sexual agency and establishing boundaries in a relationship. However, it’s framed as if Elizabeth is cruelly leading Frederick on, and her lack of romantic attraction to him is starkly confirmed when she later engages in a whirlwind romance with the Creature.

A lot of these problematic aspects admittedly have their roots in the source material; as with all Mel Brooks properties, there are as many potentially offensive jokes as there are progressive ones, to be found in the 1974 original as well as here. Madeline Kahn is damn near irreplaceable in the role, but Dianne Pilkington’s amazing voice and great comedic chops are both allowed to shine in spades. Her interactions with the Creature are a particular highlight – and Nic Greenshields portrays the hulking outcast with just the right balance of monstrosity and vulnerability. He had to hit all the right comedic beats both in physical and verbal performance, and managed to achieve the balance that his predecessor Peter Boyle achieved all those years ago.

I have to commend the production design for its creativity; all of the settings were atmospherically invoked, the Gothic laboratory in particular, as well as the horse-drawn hay cart being pulled by guys in War Horse-esque equine puppet heads (it looked better than I’m describing it). However, I’m in two minds about the Transylvania Mania sequence, which was a conceit of the production rather than the movie. In it, Frederick, Inga and Igor have to distract Inspector Kemp and the townspeople from investigating the reanimated Creature’s howling, so they fabricate this tacky dance crazy on the fly. It was nicely staged, and objectively amusing, but it just felt a little pointless.

I have to say, the townsfolk storyline overall never involved me even in the original movie, and it continues to fall a little flat here, despite enthusiasm from the chorus and some fantastic costuming. Every scene with them feels a little dull, except when Patrick Clancy moodily storms around as the animatronically-armed Inspector Kemp. He also plays the lonely Hermit, the better role of the two, and the one which earned the most laughs in the shortest time period. His dry delivery and aged prosthetics called to mind Billy Crystal’s Miracle Max in The Princess Bride, and his melancholy, musical plea to ‘Please Send Me Someone’ was a standout number of the whole show. His performances as Kemp and the hermit were so dissimilar that I genuinely didn’t know they were played by the same guy until he ripped off his hermit beard during the final bow – serious kudos to Clancy for that.

However, the number which stood head and shoulders above the rest was, of course, ‘Puttin’ On the Ritz’, and how could it not be? The show takes the original’s delightful novelty of Frankenstein dancing with his monster, and turns it up to 11. They absolutely make the most of their theatrical setting, transforming what was once a duet into a chorus-line of joy and strangeness and 30s charm. I particularly like how every cast member is part of the number this time around, and in fact the group/ friendship dynamic is (happily) front and centre in this version.

I also like the expansion of the romantic aspects of the story. Frederick and Inga’s blossoming relationship was enjoyable, mainly due to the chemistry between Fraser and Strallen, who made even the hokiest romantic/ innuendo-laden dialogue charming through their line readings alone. But the other characters get a little love too: from the unexpected union of Frau Blucher (*frenzied neighing*) and the blind hermit, to the expansion of Elizabeth’s liaison with the Creature.

One of the happy surprises was the inclusion of the original film’s main musical theme, a hauntingly angsty violin solo that is also beautifully integral to the plot because of the humanising effect it has on the Creature. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but there is a moment at the climax of this musical where Frederick sings a song to this iconic melody (‘Frederick’s Soliloquy’) and it was without a doubt one of the best moments of theatre I’ve ever seen. It beautifully completes Frederick’s character arc – as a scientist, as a Frankenstein, as his own person – and also heals the past wrongs with which his legacy had burdened him. It is an emotional, poignant and utterly transcendent moment in a Mel Brooks comedy musical – and if that’s not one hell of an achievement, I don’t know what is.

The lines don’t have quite the mix of bombast and subtlety that the original pioneered, but some of that comedic nuance needs to be abandoned when translating into the theatrical medium. I was pleasantly surprised at how much of the original this musical adaptation maintained, particularly its core message of lonely outcasts finding acceptance and affection with each other. Just as Victor Frankenstein stitched together his Creature, so does his grandson Frederick weave a family for himself, and in so doing, heal the wounds of the past. If you have even the slightest Gothic tendencies, or if you enjoy a bit of comedy/ horror with your laughs, I highly recommend Young Frankenstein: the Musical for an abby-normally good night out!

Review, Wild Silence, The Wandering Hearts by Gareth Williams

(5 / 5)

Following on from the success of The Shires, The Wandering Hearts are surely the next big breakthrough act in the world of British Country Music. On the evidence of their debut album, Wild Silence, it would be hard to argue otherwise. The recipients of the ‘Best Emerging Artist’ at last week’s Americana Awards have produced something of incredible scope. Here are twelve tracks that seamlessly flow into one another – a musical river of harmonies carving its way through a landscape of various genres and musical arrangements. The inclusion of such a vast array of influences into their songs could so easily have gone wrong. Yet far from a cacophony of sounds, here we have an album that triumphs in the audio equivalent of cocktail making. It shakes together a number of musical ingredients to create a drink bursting with flavour. Such a diverse recipe – including folk, rock, pop, country, and bluegrass – in the wrong hands, has the potential to be a disaster. Yet The Wandering Hearts have created something that packs an authentically tasty punch. It is an incredible and delicious sound.

This four-piece group are far from one-trick ponies. The album takes us on a journey through a soundscape that twists and turns at regular intervals. It is not only between each song, but within each song too, that such changing of musical direction and pace takes place. Opening track “Rattle”, for instance, begins with the floating harmonies of Tara Wilcox and Tim Prottey-Jones. Then, with a single drumbeat, the gravelly tones of AJ Dean-Revington are introduced and we are suddenly exposed to heavily-laden rock. The switch from one style to another is unexpected. Yet it is far from disjointed or off-putting.  Similarly, “Laid into the Ground” begins as a sea shanty before rising to a crescendo of electronic rock. Again, it is unexpected, but surprising alluring. It seems that The Wandering Hearts have refused to sacrifice their multifarious influences in favour of one over all others. Instead, they have sought to incorporate all of them to one degree or another. As a result, it makes for a hugely enjoyable album that defies categorisation.

An inability to generically label The Wandering Hearts makes it hard to offer up comparisons. However, as I listened to Wild Silence, I couldn’t help thinking of Rend Collective. Both band’s albums are of an eclectic nature, and there is a definite similarity between the vocals of their female leads. There is also an ethereal quality to Wild Silence that is produced in a similar way to that found on the albums of Wildwood Kin and The Pierces. In all of these cases, it is the vocal harmonies of their members that manage to evoke such a transcendent sound. Certainly, during the title track for instance, I found that I was transported out of myself somehow. Not so much ‘our only sound’ as a holy sound.

I cannot speak highly enough of The Wandering Hearts. They have produced a stunning first album that deserves to be lauded with every award going. Wild Silence blends together an assortment of styles to create something that is distinct and hugely enjoyable. It is certainly my new favourite thing. Whether you’re a lover of the great outdoors or someone who loves to party on a Friday night, you are sure to find something that fits your mood here. Wild Silence is a musical selection box, full of tasty treats. I urge you to go and unwrap it now, and experience its beautiful, almost sacred, sounds.

Click here to visit their website

Review Evros : The Crossing River, Seemia Theatre, The Vault Festival by Hannah Goslin

 

(4 / 5)

 

Very regimental, emotionless and demanding, walking into Evros : The Crossing River, we are split into different seating through the tunnel in direct fashion. This production has many layers to it, with our entrance only being of one, highlighting the narrative.

Evros is a production that looks at and gets in depth with the Syrian refugee crisis. Taking several stories, we see the sheer terror, the difficulties and the tragedy that many families have and do endure, while contrasting this with normal events of happiness, family, and love. It is an emotional play, tugging at your emotions but also opening your eyes to the sheer truth.

The performers from Seemia Theatre have happily (and what a rarity) gone back to basics – we have character swapping with identity being confirmed by small changes of costuming, translating into their character development. The performers do well to change ages, relationships through physicalisation and change in voice.

Back to basics, they also use basic lighting, a simple wash with a spotlight change – nothing fancy and distracting, this production is purely about content and physicality. And there is no recorded music – the performers take it in turns and also join together with instruments and their voices which resounds across the tunnel creating the ultimate atmospheric feeling.

It’s also refreshing to see a narrative combined with physical theatre – encompassing the feeling of running, of loss, of exhaustion with repeated, almost light-motif’s of movement to enhance the deterioration of these lives.

The narrative itself is split; we see characters go from normal happy lives, to tragedy; creating the basics we need to affiliate with them as people living normal lives, to then question and try to understand how such awful events can change that simple dynamic quickly.

The performers are at all times in character – from the moment you walk in to when you leave. This becomes a safe space where we experience these stories but feel contained and in a way, involved.

Evros : The Crossing River is steeped in emotion, creating the most intense atmosphere and leaving you feeling a sense of sorrow unlike any other.

Hannah Goslin

 

 

Review The Greatest Showman by Jonathan Evans

The Greatest Showman comes in loud and proud to be a movie musical. I relishes in it’s ability to sing and dance and show colour before you. I wonder how it will fair with the not clear advertising that seemingly wants to hide the fact that it’s  musical.

It’s opening song says that you yourself want to be  entertained with a musical and showmanship and it will provide. If you are not in for the ride now you should leave the theater because then it’s not for you. We are then taken back in time to a young boy named P.T. Barnum, he is the son of a poor tailor, they serve some sort of rich man who has a daughter (guess what happens). Time passes and as they grow up and marry two children join them. While working as a clerk at a shipping company everyone looses their job because all the ships were sank. So he is out of a job but also reflects that this is not the life he promises his wife and seeks out wonder. He opens a museum of oddities, but mannequins and stuffed animals don’t do good business. So he seeks out real life oddities, little people, giants, women with beards etc.

Hugh Jackman is by no means a closeted musical lover. He has spoken about it in interviews, hosted the Oscars with opening musical numbers and stared in other musicals and worn it on his sleeve very proudly. You can tell that he is so happy to be here as a character that gets to sing and dance to entertain you, he is of course no slouch in the singing and dancing department (he greatly excels at it in-fact).

To gain respect Barnum recruits Philip Carlyle (Zac Efron) a highbrow theater producer. He is talked into by being reminded that this career he is on gives him no joy and is sold on the promise of excitement in what he does (also a few shots). While working there a spark develops between him and the trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya). They are an attractive movie couple and have both acting and dancing chemistry together. I want to highlight Zendaya’s performance because she very strongly conveys the characters repressed mentality to the public with very little screen-time she’s given, possibly due to limited run-time and a lot of focus given to Barnum. But knowing that she is completely different from how she was in Spider-Man: Homecoming truly highlights her as a talent to watch-out for.

This is Michael Gracey’s directorial debut however he has been in the business since 1997. He has been a visual effects artist, which he probably channeled into his vision of this bouncing, high speed world. I believe this man has a strong future in this business.

It wouldn’t be much of a musical if the songs weren’t up to scratch. Most of them are big, upbeat showy numbers designed to impress. There are variations, with ones of different genres and slower and/or more intimate ones. They are catchy and have visuals that compliment them nicely, but they don’t really push the characters and story forward very much, they are just minor moves in the plot or a character saying what we already know about them.

This movie is so happy to be doing what it does. The director absolutely got high on their own supply and got actors that are just as happy to be dancing and singing for us. There are shortcomings, in the passing and compared other top movie musicals, like La La Land, it falls short of perfection. But the movie’s smiles and enthusiasm melts away all those criticisms and made me and will probably leave you smiling.

Jonathan Evans