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Review: Archetypical, The Gate Arts Centre by Luke Seidel-Haas

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★★★☆☆

Devised by students at University of Wales Trinity St David’s, Archetypical is a promenade performance which aims to tackle 21st century representations of women by exposing the historical archetypes by which women were defined – The Saint, The Martyr, The Witch and The Whore. Powerfully performed by Niamh Provan and Syamala Skinner, the piece is an engaging, humorous and thought provoking look at the female form. Archetypical a part of the “Fringe Labs” thread of Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival, meaning it is a work in progress and will be reviewed as such. Any criticism will aim to be constructive to allow the company an opportunity to improve their work.

Starting off in the main bar area of The Gate, Niamh and Syamala enter the space and abruptly stand on their heads. Legs open and in the air, the pair chastise each other  for not being able to close their legs and not be able to pose in a “ladylike” manner.  Before long we are whisked away by Syamala who invites us upstairs to view a house viewing. Escorted upstairs and into the main auditorium of The Gate, we are then introduced to the property for sale – Niamh. Syamala describes each part of Niamh’s body as if it were a house, using innuendo laden metaphors. The meaning behind this is clear – we are being shown the ways in which women’s bodies are reduced to their mere functions such as their ability to bear children or run a household.

As the piece progresses we see in turn a catwalk, an auction house and a witch hunt. Each is presented by the two performers with structured interactions between themselves and the audience. Often these segments are absurd and funny – a section in which the audience bids for Syamala’s body parts is ludicrous. Yet it suddenly hits home that the auction is highlighting the objectification of the female body and the complicity that people have in this. As a promenade piece of work it works relatively well – arguably the show is not site specific as it could be easily adapted to a variety of different spaces and does not necessarily integrate fully into the specifics of the space. The show may well have worked just as well in the single performance space of the main Auditorium. Having said that, both performers were adept at shepherding and interacting with the audience in the welcoming yet firm style needed to ensure the audience go where needed.

The movement of both performers was engaging and confidently executed, and generally fitted well with the text used. At times these could have been further integrated by combining movement and text in a more fluid manner. While this may have been a challenge based on the movements the performers were , the use of recorded audio could have added further layers to the piece. Each section of the piece was cleverly structured and the use of humour allowed  the audience to engage on a lighter level with the themes, perhaps before realising the meaning behind it. Archetypical cleverly weaves themes of female objectification, submission and the saint/whore dichotomy into a well performed and dynamic piece. An interesting concept, brimming with potential for development and powerfully executed by both performers.

Archetypical

Physical Theatre/Dance

The Gate Arts Centre

14th June 2018

Directed by Thania Acaron

Performed by  Niamh Provan and Syamala Skinner

Part of the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival – more information and tickets here.

 

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Luke Seidel-Haas

Review Scrambled Stories, UWTSD by Kiera Sikora

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Images  by Jennie Caldwell.

At the Halliwell Theatre in Carmarthen tonight I and many others were treated to some magically, musical, modernised, mashed up versions of our best loved fairy tales. Cleverly concocted by James Scannell and performed by BA3 Acting and Design & Production students from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Carmarthen. The production had a very cheeky guilty pleasure playlist and some wonderful Welsh wit, the telling of many tales begins and we are immediately thrown into the magical world of make-believe.

We race through the rhymes, from Cinderella (Emma Davies) to Snow White (Suzy Hambrige), The Three Little Pigs to Goldilocks (Alex Delaney) and Jack and the Beanstalk to Little Red Riding Hood (Hannah Gray). With some hilarious narration from our constant comic, Jack, (Ryan Edmunds) who’s own story is told later too, and as well as being the Evil Queen’s (Rebecca Hazzleton) most hysterically blunt magic mirror, he also keeps us up to date with where we’re off to next in this scrambled world of magical mayhem.

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In Cinderella’s world we meet a very proper yet fairly pompous Prince Charming (Thomas Halkes) who is much more suited to Cinder’s ugly sisters, and so the lovable Buttons (Abbie Edwards) is finally given his perfect happy ending. From there we’re taken to Snow White’s world where the magic mirror gets a promotion and the huntsman becomes a hero, and in a bright flash we find ourselves the cosy home of The Three Little Bear’s. Here baby bear’s a Bieber fan and guilty Goldilocks gets taken to court, which is where we aptly learn the moral of the story. And of course, a fairy-tale farce is never complete without a little rendezvous into the woods! Here we find our favourite Grandma, (Jessica Kabesh) who’s got some dangerously good dance moves and an admirable love for Mars Bars. She’s waiting for her Little Red Riding Hood (Hannah Gray), who may well have just caught the last train back from Barry, to deliver her Grandma her favourite treats only to be met by the wicked wolf, who doesn’t stand a chance against Little Red and her Judo skills. But last but not least we are met with Jack, his ex-wrestler mother, his cow and his beanstalk. I’d say you know how the story goes but not this time, Jack’s mother tackles the giant (wonderfully voiced by none other than Dave Ainsworth) and all is well again in the world of scrambled stories. Oh and did I mention the Three Little Pigs are in this piece too? They forgot to get planning permission for their houses and so the vegetarian wolf (who, funnily enough, used to baby sit them) has had to pop over and remind them how important it is to ‘always ask first’.

This impressively energetic and wonderfully manic piece of magical comedy is a perfect treat to see for all ages. There’s rewritten pop songs, hysterical dance routines, a contagious energy from start to finish and a whole lot of laughter- a perfect pick-me-up performance and a wonderfully panto-esque affair! 

The tour ends in Laugharne on Friday 11th December after touring to Devon and in and around Wales.

https://www.facebook.com/events/911269012255796
Directed by James Scannell and produced by UWTSD School of Performing Arts.
Stage Manager: Lucie Mitchell
Sound and Lighting: Connor Manning