Tag Archives: Review

Review Ghost in the Shell by Jonathan Evans

(3 / 5)

Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell is one of the greatest pinnacles of intellectual science-fiction and cult fan-base. It is material that has passion from both sophisticated movie analyzers and the enthusiastic nerds that wear the t-shirts. It popularity and longevity has been more than proved so it is only natural that an English speaking studio would seek to adapt it.

The question of Ghost in the Shell has always been about the progress of technology and how that will effect humanity. What is the line or organic and the manufactured for the living?

You shouldn’t always have to compare one movie to another, you don’t need to compare 2001: A Space Odyssey to Star Wars, however you do need to compare the original Oldboy the the remake, because it has the same name and tells the same story. But how much? You also shouldn’t want the exact replica, because then it’s just a waste of time. With a remake of any sort, you need something that understands the material but tells it in it’s own unique way.

Director Rupert Sanders (who also made Snow White and the Huntsman) has a mastery of creating extremely good looking movies. He and his team have captured the world of the source material with the bright vibrant lights of all the advertisements, the dark shadows of the alleyways and the intricate as-well as organic look to the technology.

Being that it’s source material is Japanese the decision was made to incorporate a lot of Japanese aesthetics and cast members into this American adaptation. It comes off odd, I don’t know whether this actually takes place in Japan or whether or not there’s just some big cultural merging that has happened over the years.

Scarlett Johansson as the Major is different from what people are use to. She is more expressive and vulnerable, but that’s because her origin is changed (I’ll forgo that explanation). However she is still stern and commanding, can clearly combat a threat in either hand-to-hand or gunfire.

This is not a straight remake of the original, it is more like a channeling. It takes moments and set-pieces from the original and tells an altered story with it. You will recognise situations an images, but their place and context has change or altered.

The original movie was able to have loads of detail within it at times to explain certain elements of how the world works, but it also allowed other moments where it left it to interpretation original had blank spaces, this over explains.Rarely does it leave moments of ambiguity, this is more like a traditional Hollywood movie with ensuring all the questions are answered.

Is this still Ghost in the Shell? Yes, this is the world and it asks similar questions. It is not as unique or as haunting as the original but then it’s not trying to be a straight adaptation of it anyway. This is one of the best looking movies out right now and probably will be for awhile. It will also make you ask questions, not super deep questions that you can find in other Science fiction material, but their still worthwhile questions and all while being enveloped in a luscious conceived and realized world.

Review Wild Card, Dan Daw, Sadlers Wells by Hannah Goslin

(4 / 5)

Over at Sadler’s Wells we were taken into a smaller studio to the side of the usual theatre. This venue was very welcoming and intimate which I thought was ideal for the dance come performance arts pieces.

Both pieces were conceived by Graham Adel noted for his work challenging the social norm  and focussing on people.

First half of the show was a piece called Gender F**k (er). Featuring one woman, Keren Rosenberg, the 50mins performance aimed to cross the barriers of gender. A relatively slow piece, Rosenberg transforms her body from masculine to famine throughout with astonishing movement and physical change. There are times where clothing or props are used to help create these different ideas but the transformations are fluid and at times mixed showing stereotyped differences but also highlighting realistic opinions of little difference .

Very adult in its content, it is quite raw and almost hypnotic as Rosenberg manages to fill the space with her movement.

The second half saw Dan Daw in On One Condition.  The set was a like a above view / blueprint version of his family home giving it anonymity but also taking away any emotional ties.  The piece shows his life in a snapshot with short spoken tales and movement to catchy music.

 Daw has a disability that affects his movement but uses this to create beautiful images and movement highlighting a key message in the piece about not letting things stop you in your dream and the ability for everyone to do anything.  It isn’t a hindrance but actually inspiration and used to its advantage.

He’s also very comical, not only poking fun at himself and at his disability but wider humour in satire of dance themes and genres.  What I loved so much about this piece was the sheer intelligence in the concept and creation but also the honesty.

Two very different pieces, it was interesting to have a mixture of concepts and the clever ways both Graham and Dan Daw create a narrative; sending out vital messages about today’s society.

http://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2017/wild-card-dan-daw/

Review Junkyard: A New Musical at Theatr Clwyd by Gareth Williams

 

(5 / 5)

 

Please don’t misunderstand me when I say that Junkyard: A New Musical is a load of rubbish. It is by no means of poor quality, lacking in characterisation, or short on story. I am actually making reference to the dynamic and inventive set. It is made (almost entirely) of waste material: planks of wood, old tyres, thick blue twine. It is a representation of the ‘Adventure Playground’, an idea pioneered in the 1960s and ‘70s. It provided a space for kids to call their own, where they could embrace risk and unleash their creativity.

Writer and director Jack Thorne has made this the setting for his latest production, having been inspired by his father, Mick. As one of the first play leaders at an adventure playground in Bristol, Thorne pays tribute to him in the character of Rick. Played by Calum Callaghan, Rick is a laid-back, rather soft man who, nevertheless, has a big heart. He wants to build a ‘Junk Playground’ in Bristol and hopes to get a group of teenagers involved in the process. However, this rowdy group of misfits prove more challenging than expected. What follows is a tragi-comic story as the lives of these young people become inextricably entwined in the building of this unconventional structure.

Leading this group of kids is Fiz, an outspoken and confident young lady played to perfection by Erin Doherty. Doherty is a delight to watch. Utterly captivating, she makes Fiz an instantly loveable personality. Full of humour and expressive action, Doherty allows just the right amount of vulnerability to seep through. Her performance is enhanced by an incredibly strong supporting cast. Each brings such life and vitality to their characters that one could easily mistake this for a social documentary. I recognise in the passionate anger of Ginger (Josef Davies), the stuttering speech of Talc (Enyi Okoronkwo), and the crude insults of Higgy (Jack Riddiford), traits not only from my own teenage years but personalities that I came across during my own time as a (not very good) youth worker.

It is testament to the performances and quality of writing that one looks upon this as a marvellous work of social commentary. Yet what enhances this production to make it, in my opinion, a five-star play is the effective use of lighting and music. The opening sequence, repeated later in the play, is mesmerising. The use of torches and lighters immediately captures your attention and from then on, you are hooked. Stage-side throughout is a live band; always a winner in my book, but what makes this particular piece of musical theatre stand out is its intriguing blend of speech and lyrics. It uses a similar technique to the sung verbatim in London Road, yet here it is largely the internal thoughts and emotions of the characters that are sung as part of a more traditional narrative script.

There is plenty of humour in Junkyard. Some people may find the language a bit too crude or near-the-knuckle at times. There is also quite a lot of swearing. Again, some people might find this excessive. But I think it adds real charm to the whole thing. Its sense of realism cannot be questioned. It is a really immersive piece of theatre. It is challenging too. It makes you reconsider the very notion of what a playground is, how it is treated, and who it’s for.

Junkyards may be a load of rubbish, but this one is a work of art.

Junkyard – A New Musical

Review Custody, Ovalhouse by Hannah Goslin

(5 / 5)

It is hard to ignore a storyline such as Custody.

Based in Brixton, Custody, created by Urban Wolf and written by Tom Wainwright tells the fictional tale of a young black man’s death in police hands.  As we have seen over the years of news reports with the similar headline but we only see the headline as voyeurs. This production takes the heart and soul behind these and gives them a face in a 2 year play by play of how the family of this fictional yet very real character process through this tragic event.

There’s moments of comedy for light relief, a little of black humour and satire of stereotypes but also such fantastic theatricality.

While there is music, the performers create soundscapes through sound and words. They build this into themselves physically and while it would seem a low physical production, you can tell it takes much hard work and perfection to get all of the timing and embodiment just right.

And the set is fantastic.  Move able, dark and deep to bright, white and clinical.  We never meet Brian he is spoken to as if he was there but we essentially feel his presence in the performers emotions.  And these emotions are natural and relatable.

Attention to detail is key – the weight of Brian’s memory is represented by bags that each performer wears, very little are these let go until they let go of him.

Custody is everything you want in a production, it has heart, theatricality and sends a message.

http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/custody-by-urban-wolf

Review Power Rangers by Jonathan Evans

(3 / 5)

Power Rangers is a franchise that has lasted because it has a tried and tested formula that works. Teenagers get superpower as well as colorful outfits and must defend the earth (or neighborhood) from a galactic threat that then escalates to giant monster vs giant robot.

There have been other movies before, but none have done that well. Now it seems that every studio needs a big franchise under their belt so why not this one?

Kicking off everything is a flashback to prehistoric Earth where colorful warriors lay defeated from a battle, when their armor disintegrates it reveals them to be aliens. One of them stands victorious over the others, this one is named Rita, the last one living, Zordon (Bryan Cranston) orders a meteor to hit earth and buries five colorful coins until the right people can claim them. Cut to present time where the land has become the small town of Angel Grove.

In the town we see a young man named Jason (Dacre Montgomery) attempting a prank that involves the school mascot cow, this goes awry and he is then sentenced to school on Saturday’s just so he can graduate. In this same class there is Billy (RJ Cyler) a possibly autistic kid that is the motormouth and juxtaposes the others with his offbeat ways (probably my favorite). Kimbery (Naomi Scott) a former popular girl but is now in-class and unfriended because she sent a picture and punched out a popular boys tooth (they put it back), later they run into Rini (Becky G) a girl who wander around pretty much and isn’t interested in getting to know the gang, then there’s Zack (Ludi Lin) who also wanders around but is also crazy (cause he tells us so) and more invites himself.

Eventually they do uncover the coins and they get powers and unlock other things and must face the threat, yadda-yadda-yadda.

Clearly the most effort has gone into adding depth to these teenage characters, giving them backstory and trauma and some kind of adversity to tackle. They are all part of a different ethnicity which adds diversity and is more like humanity coming together rather than mostly white people and the token minority.

The thing about all of this is that this is Power Rangers (try saying it out loud). This is by its nature corny, colorful and lighthearted. So they keep in some of the quips and color but when they introduce the dark, edgy elements it doesn’t mesh. A comedic scene can play out and it’s fine, however a dark scene can be pulled-off well but becomes that just happened in a movie where the cheesy things happened it’s like we’re in another movie. Good movies have a theme and tone consistent throughout, they establish if this is for children, teenagers or adults and plays to the kind of mood for said audience. This comes off more unhinged.

Rita Repulsa is the original big villain in the first season of Power Rangers. Here she is given a now look but still taking ques from the original (mostly in the staff) and reworked to be more threatening. The main draw is Elizabeth Banks who decides to go all out in performing her as well as clearly having a lot of fun. It’s hammy, but in a controlled way.

This movie has everything that fans of Power Rangers will expect, but may be not how they’re used to getting it. But even then, does this movie work? It works well enough, it is self aware enough to point out some more obvious cliches and pokes fun of itself enough while clearly being enthusiastic over the source material. For a summer blockbuster for kids and teenagers this is a standard plot with good intention of having a diverse cast. It will do no harm and there are moments where people will be entertained.

 

Review, Big Guns, Yard Theatre, by Hannah Goslin

In The Yard, this quaint and interesting theatre in a industrial state is flooded in red lighting, with two ladies eating popcorn, 3D glasses on and sat comfortably in a cut out piece of staging.
The music is ominous and leads us not to expect what we will witness the next hour or so.
Basic in its approach, Big Guns is filled with lighting changes from house lights, the red flooding, darkness and torches. The ominous music constantly giving us this uneasy feeling.
The performers perform a hour long duologue which aims to delve into the violence, danger and fear of every day, this increasing in today’s society. And while this is essentially a duologue, I was dubious a few minutes in as to whether this was all there was and was it worth it.
But somehow, the way the performers brought the stories, the thoughts, the emotions, the sense of fear was well done and I increasingly felt uneasy and a little scared of my walk home.
With recent attacks in London, daily negative news on our television screens and newspapers, the presence of social media ever apparent, the narrative hit the nail on the head and summed up our ever increasing danger.
Big Guns is certainly an interesting piece of theatre with an unusual approach and interesting set, lights and sound.

 

Review Kicked In The Sh*tter, The Hope Theatre by Hannah Goslin

(4 / 5)

Back again to The Hope which is always full of quintessential good writing and interesting drama.

Kicked In The Sh*tter is by Leon Fleming and directed by Scott Le Crass who are known for Sid which previously played at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff . The play aims to look at the welfare state, at mental health, the two coinciding and in between this, relationships and trying to live.

The production is ambiguous and simple in its attire – Fleming notes this in the programme as making the narrative be relatable and able to be placed anywhere but also to not avoid drawing attention from the storyline. And this all works well – a lot of productions at the moment are adhering to this and it is welcomed when a lot of productions think that special effects and pomp and circumstance is needed to make an impact. While as a theatre creator myself, these are all aspects that I like to explore, something so realistic and relatable does not need such accessories if it is good writing.

The performers of course do a great job – switching from their younger days to current day, they manage to change their approach to show the distinction.  The fact that they bounce off each other works well for a brother and sister relationship and when emotion is needed, awkwardness, a sense of struggling to help or accept help, we can relate to how they portray these.

A weird and subtle addition that I really liked was the stage movement – the sister does this always, with the brother watching, adhering to the essence that she has been left all responsibility. Subtle and small but I loved the attention to detail.

Despite all these good points, it was a good piece of theatre and I enjoyed watching but it did not astound me. But I cannot understand why. The elements were all there and Kicked in The Sh*tter should definitely been seen, if not only to be entertained but informed in the issues highlighted… there was just a spark that was missing for me.

 

Review, A Profoundly Affectionate, Passionate Devotion to Someone (-Noun), The Royal Court, by Hannah Goslin

(5 / 5)

Again, The Royal Court does nothing but astound us with its epic writing and unique staging.

A profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone, written and directed by Debbie Tucker Green sees three relationships, intertwined and the love, passion, hate and pain that comes with being with someone.

What The Royal Court is very good at doing is by not masking the fantastic writing with bells and whistles. Set a little taller than us, the action happens around three edges of the squared room, where the performers move from side to side, from story to story – us being on chairs that rotate giving us the sense of choice as to whether we engage in stories that feel so private.

The performers are phenomenal – with such fantastic and funny writing they are open to exploration of feelings and expression and it feels very natural, very at home and pulls at our heart strings and our emotions.  We relate to the stories and relate to the characters, their emotions and circumstances. And it is evident that the performers are invested in their characters – not one break of it, not one slip, and when not the initial focus, their characters continue out of the spotlight.

Another triumph for The Royal Court- another fantastically written piece executed to perfection.

 

Review The Far Side of the Moon, ExMachina, WMC 24th-25th March 2017 by Emily Garside


It is a rare opportunity to see Ex Machina, company of renowned theatre maker Robert LePage, perform outside of London in the UK, and the opportunity to see such a trailblazer of theatre practice first hand. The Far Side of the Moon, originally conceived and performed by LePage himself, now in the more than capable hands of Yve Jacques.
LePage, founded Ex Machina in 1994 and quickly gained attention with their early works notably The Seven Streams of the River Ota (1994) and Elsinore (1995). LePage’s work fuses styles and disciplines, he does not characterise Ex Machina as a theatre company, and nor does his work, either in performance or in film does not slot easily into traditional descriptions. LePage has become known for his fusing of film and performance, of multimedia across his work- video projections, soundscapes and projected dialogue sit alongside puppetry and performance and choreography. Meanwhile his interests as an artist similarly span multifaceted and multimedia approaches incorporating science alongside philosophy and art. It is fitting then, in 1999 when beginning work on The Far Side of the Moon, it was the question of science alongside art that is a catalyst to the narrative.
In parallel narratives- one public, the story of the space race, one private, the story of two brothers, LePage explores the nature of humanity, and the direction of life. The story unfolds of two brothers, one gay one straight, one confident, one shy, the younger seemingly successful, the younger still struggling. Their domestic narrative is played out against the backdrop of the Space Race and younger brother Phillipe’s endless fascination with the cosmonauts, pitted against their ever more glamorous American counterparts the American Astronauts. The parallels between the struggling student and his glamorous and famous weather presenter brother are clear.
The storytelling is tightly woven, and complex, veering across Phillipe and Andre’s lives, touching on their childhood and adolescence, through their current situations and frustrations. It is a highly domestic, family oriented tale at its heart with everything circling back to the death of their Mother, and the realisation of what life is like without any parents.

 
The technical elements of the show are, as expected, astounding. In the hands of a lesser company the might come off as gimmicky, but here the fusion of projections alongside The performance is truly theatrical in its reliance on Jacques performance to encapsulate both brothers and a variety of peripheral characters, but also in the use of stage and props in a very traditional way. Although LePage is perhaps best known for his fusing of film and theatre, here although the film and multimedia elements are moments of brilliance, it is moments of simple theatricality that highlight the skill and attention to detail in the performance. When an ironing board becomes a bike, for example, and later a bed, or when through subtle costume change and mannerism Jacques becomes another character. The brilliance of LePage’s work is the fusion of these elements, and despite being a work of technical precision, it also has a very instinctual, organic feel that comes back to the engaging storytelling at its heart.
As LePage’s creation is always about fusion of elements, the bringing together of The Far Side of the Moon rests on the performance of Jacques. An intimidating ask to take on the very personal story that LePage wrote- he draws on his own Mother’s death, as well as hinting at his personal struggles with depression and coming to terms with his sexuality- as well as taking on the piece that LePage performed himself. However, Jacques having toured this piece for several years, has an easy stage presence which makes the precision performance of both hitting technical markers to allow projection, puppeteer or set to take over the storytelling, while also delivering two hours of single-handed narration while embodying Andre and Phillipe’s characters. Jacques does it with an engaging personable warmth that also brings the audience into what for those uninitiated might see as the daunting prospect of LePage’s theatrical world.
Robert LePage sets out to create fusion in his work- fusion in performance through multimedia, traditional and innovation, and through thematically, addressing issues side by side that might not traditionally be addressed. These elements alone could be a cold exercise in performance for performance sake, experimentation for experimentation’s sake which could leave the average audience alienated. It is the credit of LePage and the company that his work does not do this, while The Far Side of the Moon is a great introduction to the theatrical style Le Page is known for, while it is a challenging fascinating study of performance methods, it also keeps at it’s heart the element of storytelling. So while audiences may be intrigued, puzzled and hopefully challenged by seeing what may be a new approach to theatre for them as this work tours the UK and the world, they will also be invited in, and moved by, the story that facilitates the performance.

http://lacaserne.net/index2.php/theatre/the_far_side_of_the_moon/

Review Yamato, Peacock Theatre by Hannah Goslin

(5 / 5)

Japanese drumming seems like an odd production to have at a well renowned dance theatre. But bear with me – it is not just drumming.

My interest has always been grabbed by Asia, especially Japan. Last year I visited Tokyo and saw what we all think of in Japan – a mixture of tradition and unusual things. My very small and brief cross with Japanese drumming was at the Robot Cafe where giant drums played by smiling men and women in bright clothing came inches away from my face.

So my expectation was a little different – I expected something more traditional and more quaint I suppose. I was surprised, shocked and entertained like never before.

Yamato bring the essence of Japan – the curiosities, the tradition and the uniqueness. The performers throw their all into each performance; they smile, they have fun, they engage with us and play with us but there are times of what would seem like ritual and tradition.

They show the mixture of something so old with the way they play, the instruments and their movements – being very low squatted and grounded. But also they enjoy what they are doing, bouncing from one area to another, dancing to accompany the music but also doing comedic moves that everyone relates to and so it then makes sense that this is at a dance theatre.

What I found intriguing is the mix of performers. Both men and women played the same instruments – there was little sexism in what they wore, what they were capable of and it felt like a very equal participation-something much of the British theatrical scene could learn from!

While its evident their English is very small, we engage with them in universal movements and find comedy in actions rather than words. We do not feel so far apart from their culture as we may anticipate.

Yamato is heaps of fun and extraordinary – as a drummer I found their skills astonishing but even a novice would do so. They are so perfected and fantastic, it would be hard to attend and not to come away smiling.

http://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2017/yamato-chousensha-the-challengers/