Category Archives: Festivals

Review, YOU ARE GOING TO DIE, Adam Scott-Rowley, Vault Festival, By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Theatre is very much a powerful tool to highlight topics of the time, to create political commentary and express the injustices and emotions of people. With the last 3 years adding to the feeling of the world getting seemingly worse, there’s something to be said of a production that makes these comments but encourages us to see the humility of it all.

Adam Scott-Rowley’s, YOU ARE GOING TO DIE, does just this. Featuring Scott-Rowley completely in the nude, he vulnerably cycles through different ages, different people, thoughts and attitudes to give a holistic view of our world, of growing older and of experiencing oneself in a climate slowly getting worse. He creates highs and lows of comedy vs reflection, of matter of fact hilarity vs deep emotion which is poignant and effective; a emotional and thought provoking rollercoaster.

The action is already started as we take our seats; Scott-Rowley sat on a lit up toilet, with music and lights that make you feel as if you are entering a Berlin rave club, there’s this feeling of voyeurism on him while the audience chatter and wait for the start. There is something amazingly powerful of watching as the audience slowly come to the realisation that a production has started without this being clear.

Scott-Rowley is able to contort his body and facial structure to create different characters and scenarios – you rarely find that you truly know who he is or what his natural form is as he so amazingly transforms. He creates characters we know or see in modern world, or frighteningly creates people we know we have been or will become. There’s a tongue and cheek to it at times, but it is subtly and easily transformed into serious commentary. Abstract, with little dialogue and heavily leaning of physical theatre, some makes you laugh and intends comedic effect, some is beautiful and a work of art in itself and some is grotesque and full of truth. There’s a fluidity and seemingly subtle transition to the different “scenes” (if you could call it that) and a return to different characters, adding to a sense of monotonous repetition of life but also hitting home humorous but entirely serious points of who we are in a world going up in smoke.

YOU ARE GOING TO DIE is a physical theatre masterpiece. It is entirely absorbing, entertaining, humorous but hitting really poignant spots in every audience member.

Review, OMELETTEMACHINE, Tommaso Giacomin, Vault Festival, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you are not familiar with the style of Bouffon theatre, then you are severely missing out.

Myself having trained in this art and a huge fan of Red Bastard, was so pleased to see and be invited to a show using this type of theatre, so little seen or experienced in modern theatre, while being the right genre to grace our stages.

A brief outline of Bouffon; grotesque creatures are made with costume and physicality, to comment on taboos of the world. These clowns address these topics without barriers and put them almost uncomfortably into your face, leaving you not knowing whether to laugh, cry or be thought provoked.

OMELETTEMACHINE, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, addressing issues around family trauma, of power and mental violence and to some degree, of capitalism. A clowned chicken meets egg is forcibly made to work in his father’s butchery, unable to leave and tortured to massacre fellow chickens. He is unable to leave, and if so, commits punishments of almost cannibalism with “rotten” egg eating, smashing of eggs and chopping of chicken meat.

This production is very powerful; Bouffon aims to make the audience uncomfortable and Giacomin does this in spades. He isn’t afraid of addressing the audience, bringing them into the folds of his torture. This is through direct interaction, through the use of raw meat and blood-like liquid, through the beginning projection of live chicks in a factory. Real blades are used, unceremoniously chopping at raw meat; raw chickens still in tact and grotesquely danced on stage or come through the audience on a electric toy car. It’s these elements of surprise that are comedic but make you uneasy. It entirely and fantastically achieves what it is meant to, really making you think. And if you’re vegetarian like myself, there’s a barrier of disgust but admiration for the boundaries that are being pushed to make comments on these topics. A sense of “working for the man” comes to mind when Giacomin uses repetition to advertise his father’s butchers, with monotonous and repeated tasks and conversations. There’s the family trauma but also a sense of working for something and someone you are against.

Giacomin has the style of Bouffon on instant look; plumped up with padding and contorted physicality, he is comedic and difficult to look at, moving his face into an almost unrecognisable clown. When we reach the end of the production, he lays himself bare, releasing the shackles of his costume and returning to his natural features and this is when you truly realise the lengths he has taken in his bodily and facial contortion to create the character. If we had not seen him undress on stage before us, you would almost think they were two different actors. He is childlike, to meet the idea of his father’s control yet somehow uncomfortably adult, with the mixture of the two creating a feeling uneasiness. He is full of emotions of anger, of fear, of borderline mental illness and it makes it subtly chaotic, your body itchy with uncomfortability but entirely thought provoked. This is a triumph of Bouffon.

OMELETTEMACHINE is brilliant – it is everything that Bouffon is meant to be and leaves you laughing, uncomfortable and yet with a profound thought on family relationships and the capitalist world.

Review, The Messiah Complex, Bag of Beard, Vault Festival, By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I love when you go to a production and come away having seen perfection.

The Messiah Complex, by Bag of Beard, is the Utopian, almost post-apocalyptic-world story of Sethian, interned in a mental asylum for his faith and the actions that lead him towards this situation. We see flashbacks of what happened along with what led to these, analysed within the controlling and manipulative asylum, equally flawed and equally cult-like. The story makes it hard to side with anyone within the story, both deeply poisoned in their thinking, but also very similar in their approach to life. A world where it is illegal to have faith, believed to lead to crimes, war, disease but those who control this belief, themselves, have arguable opinions and actions themselves. Two cults against one another.

The Messiah Complex in its aesthetic and narrative very much made me think of The Royal Court Theatre and their productions – greeted with Sethian already in a trance, he is surrounded by a square of light with projection images running behind him – very abstract and visually appealing, creating an atmosphere instead of waiting for it. The narrative being easily believable yet also wide enough a concept to be almost futuristic.

I could not distinguish a “better” performer in the production. All very different characters, all were entirely formed, believable to the point of feeling intrusive; we could have cut the fourth wall away and be looking directly into the house, the cell, their world. Sethian is kind, he is clearly in love and at the same time, clearly influenced and mentally affected by this. His wife Sophia is likeable, but clearly powerful and influential, convincing Sethian with her looks, her love, her mind to believe in the religion, the cult and he will do anything to satisfy that. The nurse, also entirely influenced, if not also brainwashed by the government and information of the time, has a level of authority and vacancy of emotion, but at the same time is frustrated and wants to help – she is human despite her initial appearance.

All three interact with one another impeccably, their relationships clearly formalised well and this gives levels to the production, feeling the real emotion and connections. The Utopian but entirely possible story line is visualised easily before our eyes and gives you a trembling feeling on inevitability; the emotions shown especially by Sethian adding to this realism.

The Messiah Complex, while only at their first run of the show, is already perfection. It has the right levels of fiction to potential fact, easily supported by the clearly skilled and full embodiment of the actors of their characters and the story. It is heartbreaking but also quite frightening in its realism. This is a play not to miss and meant for a larger stage for sure!

Review, Acid’s Reign, Relish Theatre, Vault Festival by Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

I am sad that, with this likely the last Vault’s Festival, I haven’t had the chance to visit as much as previous years. But how intriguing, to come across two pieces of Queer Theatre, touching on similar themes.

Acid’s Reign is a drag show come informative theatre, highlighting in a cabaret yet theatre narrative, the impact of various pollutants on the World and how it is slowly being destroyed. When I say that there are similar themes, Queer Planet and Acid’s Reign both touch on nature and the element of same sex or a-sexual animals that is not taught in biology class. It was interesting that these were approached for different reasons, but also really great to see different genres of Theatre taking up the political and educational baton with their shows.

Acid’s Reign uses various Drag Queens and Kings to feature as representations of nature – Acid (Joshua Oakes-Rogers) themselves are the “bad guy” that faces support towards redemption, representing a younger character to highlight generational attitudes towards the environment. They are witty, funny, and time of corpse-ing or loss of lines is hilariously well managed, creating layers of comedy and enjoyment that was unintended. They want to build a series of clubs because the World is beyond repair and this is where Mother Nature, played by Son of Tutu (Everybody’s talking about Jamie, film) begins a Christmas Carol style story of different “ghosts” visiting and trying to change Acid’s mind. Son of Tutu holds the stage, certainly embodying the Mother image but also had incredible comedic effect, even in the background.

Scarlett Harlett (Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK) plays the insatiable A-shell, Queen of the Sea, with her wall-shakingly amazing singing voice and continuous innuendo, her character reminding me of a dirty old Hollywood star meets Patsy from Ab Fab. For me, she stood out the most. Maybe some as a Drag Race fan, but I also felt she really commanded the stage and was always on point, even if not at the centre of the story.

Jamie Fuxx brings some masculine energy as our Drag King, Land, bringing yet another incredible singing voice to the mix and some hilarious tongue n cheek dirtiness to the stage. They slot into the cast impeccably, adding to the cacophony of different voices and characters.

Finally, Air is represented by audio, apt in what it is represented. The characters are enveloped with this, as if air can move and embody different persons and helps to culminate the activity and story. Acid is redeemed, and along the way we have been given nuggets of educational facts, some known, some unknown, tinged with comedic effect but also clearly affecting Acid in their solemn response and over all change of heart. We equally come away entertained, but thought provoked.

Acid’s Reign has a cast of incredible talents, all with their own approach and techniques but all with incredible voices and typical comedy skills from Drag/Cabaret shows. But something was missing for me. Perhaps it was just that the show needed a clear format – is this a traditional Cabaret show, where there’s an element of improvisation and crowd inspiration. Is this a musical and therefore represented by the songs that are changed slightly for the message. Or is this a straight play, with the addition of song, trying to bring a message and sticking to a written script. There’s nothing to say that any of it needs to be put in a certain box and cannot be more than one of these things, but at times it felt like too much was trying to be achieved and so lost the spark and perfection of a fully formed production. This clear path may come as a result of many productions, of working on it over years, and we may just be at the beginning of its development.

Acid’s Reign is a brilliant show – it is funny, it is informative, it is entertaining and a feast for the eyes. However, likely still in its infant stage of production, there is so much potential for the show, with the ability to open an important theme to an ever increasing audience as Queer Theatre and Drag comes more mainstream.

Review, Queer Planet, Bi-Curious George, Vault Festival

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Have you ever thought of how hetero-normative nature documentaries are. No? Bi-Curious George has, and they are here to shake the natural world.

This is a Drag King, Cabaret show like no other. Comedic, yet informative, this is a live, stage documentary with song, dance, comedy and a whole heap of camp. Think of a Queer David Attenborough meets Steve Irwin. Then triple it and add some comedy and sparkle.

George is a natural on stage. A performance of sheer perfection, we all felt as if we were their friend, as they interacted with us one by one, whether that is by audience interaction or just general eye contact. There are a many people in a room but we are all welcomed. They also made sure that everyone was comfortable – usually audience interaction is something forced upon participants, but George begins by ensuring we are comfortable at the door and then early on, giving us a signal just in case. This is a safe room and that is brilliant to impose upon within a production without taking away its essence or interrupting the discourse.

George brings us a range of factual stories of real animals, real queer relationships, intercourse, courtship and unions. But this is enhanced with songs that have been changed to fit queer narratives, with effective and, in themselves, comedic costumes and guests. The guests themselves are excellent – a singing shrimp, a almost mute magician making balloon animals from plastic bags (trust me when I say, it is something to behold, as this act was of pure genius) which add different levels and elements to the overall production, adding in the cabaret element, with George as our compere.

Queer Planet is probably one of the most genius ideas for a production I have ever seen. It is so excellently executed, with perfection as a performance, informative as a piece of education, yet at the same time, creating a easy safe and welcoming space for all with comedy, pizzazz and genius yet ridiculous concepts and costumes.

Review, Caligula and the Sea, The Company, Vault Festival

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

I think most people have heard of the famous Emperor of Caligula; a fierce ruler, with many a famous story about him, like any infamous Roman Emperor. Roman tales are rarely of happy exploits and kindness. And this has not stopped here.

Caligula and the Sea is a growing of age tale of Caligula, from boyhood to ruling an empire. With this, growing through adolescence and adulthood, through turbulent relationships with the God of the sea and his closest companion and how easily power can destroy those innocent relationships.

The production itself has taken an interesting approach; dressed in 1920 – 1940’s garb, there are still elements of ancient Rome, with miniature columns in the garden to Roman armour, it brings a modernity to the story, yet harking back to its roots. However, it did seem a little out of place and there wasn’t much to tie this together with the overall production or story.

The scene they created, with the overbearing blue sheet representing the sea, using this for movement and puppetry was well done and it added to the imposition that Neptune has in the narrative. It was a centre piece to the production, always looming and always above Caligula. It was in itself a visual metaphor to his downfall after thinking he was more than of the immortal power.

Neptune was represented as the waves, as a warrior, as a woman, as puppetry creatures, and this was interesting and mesmerising in the work that went into the different physicality and puppetry skills. It added to the concept of Gods being able to shape shift upon the Earth, yet they were also never frightening. The was something trustworthy, echoing Caligula’s relationship with the God.

The main performers of Caligula and Chaerea had a natural magnetism to one another; bouncing off each other as friends, as brothers, as lovers. In the blink of an eye we see their entire relationship as it evolves and the moments that it goes all too wrong. The heartbreak and turmoil – it becomes evident in Chaerea’s performance and you want only to reach out and support him.

Caligula and the Sea is a unique telling of the story of Caligula’s life and has many theatrical elements to enhance this summary of his rise and fall. It only felt a slight disconnect in the over all aesthetic and felt it would either benefit from completely immersing in one era or the other.

Review, Someone of Significance, Chelsea Rep, The Acting Studio, Vault Festival

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Based in the USA, Someone of Significance features the story of two people who fall in love against the obstacles of life, careers, of each other. The two couldn’t be more different and were it not for a chance encounter, Rosie, a black, left, working class woman and Brad, a white, CEO of a property corporation, would never have met. They have similarities, they have differences, but over a lifetime, their love continues.

For a two person play, the production values are minimal, and this is all that is needed. Props and staging that is changed upon the stage and in front of our eyes, while under the guise of a dimmed light, help to set the scene. Often based in rooms alone, this adds to the secrecy of their union and career, with its limited furniture and lack of distractions.

Each performer has their own corner with a range of clothing and accessories which they change into intermittently for each scene. Unless it is a drastic change, this often seemed unnecessary to the scene and often overlooked. When they changed something to showcase the passage of time, this is obvious and helps to bring the idea of time to the story line. Sometimes, it only felt like a reason for a break during the production, which could have been utilised differently.

The performers themselves were very good. With clear skill and a good approach to naturalism, they were convincing enough as their two characters. They interacted well and bounced off one another but I found it hard to feel this budding love that they were meant to share. Perhaps it was their limitation of stage and direction; often they stood in the same place, facing the audience but there was little movement around the stage to give levels and something with more action. Yes, there was the occasional sitting or a moment when Brad is involved in yoga, but it often felt as if there were invisible X marks the spot for each scene, and it was always the same spot.

Someone of Significance has a great narrative and intention, with good performers who understood their assignment. But it missed something special to believe in the true connection of these characters and left the performers at the will of direction, creating a limitation on the movement on stage.

Review Bill’s 44th, London International Mime Festival, Barbican Centre by James Ellis 

Photo Credit: Richard Termine


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

In what might prove to be a testing trip to London, amid strikes and cold streaks, any fears or doubts floated away on opening night, an hour in the company of Bill for this 44th birthday.

This work of Dorothy James and Andy Manjuck is what could only be described as the the creation of an apparition, or more specially Bill. He is brought to life with such conviction, a mere pot-bellied torso, arms and eyeless head. The fun and bravado of Bill prepping for his big night, is gradually met with disappointment and the awful feeling of loneliness, something we can easily relate to, the past few years considered. 

Thanks to the easy appeal of the show and witty, British like humour this will go down very easy. Dorothy and Andy have a kinetic energy, each sharing one of Bill’s arms, the former also accommodating his torso, the latter his head. There is Mr Bean and Wallace and Gromit in some of the flamboyant mannerisms and weird dance moves, Andy’s legs are also Bill’s legs. It held up as rather touching as well, Bill later watches a VHS seeing his life go by from cradle to current day, a smaller wooden puppet used to astounding effect. Surreal, drunken episodes feature party crashing balloons and a giant version of Cary the carrot, a crudités that no one ate.    

Photo Credit: Richard Termine

This is a piece which has seen some delays in getting out there, this being Bill’s first London adventure and we simply cannot believe his luck. Also, shoutout to Jon Riddleberger who dealt with a lot of the prop side of things and was an extra injection of humour, amid the sad revelations. Music by Eamon Fogarty was also noteworthy for each vibe and tone change. We are all essentially Bill, finding our way in this post-pandemic world, seeking friends to define and make us, to aid in the blandest of life and also reflect upon the pang of memories filled with regrets and of course, happiness.

In short, London loves Bill!     

Bill’s 44th continues at The Pit, Barbican Centre till 4 Feb 2023.   

Photo Credit: Richard Termine

Review The RSK Convention 2022, The Lighthouse Venue, Salford by James Ellis 


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

For the past year I have been awash in the old radio broadcasts from XFM and that of the Ricky Gervais Show. Whilst this show has always had a cult following, an even more curious subculture has formed where people listen to fall asleep. One of the most enduring faculties of the show was the shoddy nature to proceedings. Along with co-writer Steven Merchant and the now infamous producer Karl Pilkington, they created what is now seen as some of the funniest radio ever heard in this land. Though the trio’s relationship has not been as close as it once was, this was their golden era, The Office making it’s rounds on the TV and Extras also a soon to be comedy joy. 

One question remains: why do we keep coming back and listening? One answer would be the outrageous, un-PC nature of the whole show. Though Ricky’s show by name, the star does very much belong to Karl for this bizarre and hilarious stories, beliefs and insights. Along with Steven who is the dry, piffy sort, Ricky’s most memorable asset remains his earth shattering, shrill laugh after Karl has usually said something odd. There would be dead air, they would fluff their lines, swear, CDs would skip and phone in’s would be met with the dial tone instead of a caller. All this and more we love from this show. I’ve only realised recently that I could have listened back in the day on Sky TV, as the station would broadcast on their and on the XFM website as well.         

Being in Manchester for the weekend, I had my own Karl “wrong supermarket” moment by going to the wrong Lighthouse in Salford (Karl’s home turf, naturally). Along the way to the daunting industrial estate, I began to meet fellow attendees also on their way to the convention. Finally in a room with fellow fans and dressed in my respectable “Little gay, monkey fella” costume I truly felt at home. There were some discrepancies to do with the day, though things were dealt with well and things knocked about smoothly. 

Photo credit: James Ellis 

This was a shared community who relished in the absurdity of the whole affair. A quiz got us thinking of some of Karl’s weirdest moments, a Kick Your Height competition saw how high someone could kick a globe positioned with their stature and other thrills. Props related to the show loitered around the venue and all food and drinks were themed. Whilst I’m not much of a drinker I did chuckle at the names of some of the cocktails and that the cafe did in fact have pikelets and congress tarts, if only for the day. 

There was much buzz over who the special celebrity guests would be, after hearing the De Trout Spinners Podcast (another one of Karl’s puns) had to bail due to ill health. Richard Anderson who wrote brilliant and cutting emails into the show back in the day turned up and spoke about his of sorts celebrity within the fandom. Also flogging his own book The Wonderful Adventure of Uncle Wizard, photos with him were welcome providing a copy was bought. I thanked him at the end of the night for the marvellous emails. Nice to finally put a face to a name.  

Photo credit: James Ellis 

Doc Brown was another guest, a rapper and actor who has been in The Office, Law & Order: UK amongst other ventures. His stories about how Ricky called him up for an opportunity are very telling and sweet, his music career also a testament to his talents. Whilst it was great to hear him talk, I think someone a bit more related to the XFM shows would go down well, a few on the day were under the impression DJ Claire Sturgess may have made an appearance, possibly even Warrick Davis. The live band Le Beat rapped up things nicely with an expected patter of song covers from David Bowie, Rod Stewart and Kings of Leon. Their bass player also resembled Steven Merchant, another surreal turn of the day. Though I missed their second set, a friend on the table had to get a train and being so far out it made sense we might shoot off when we did.   

I was disappointed to see how few people dressed up for the convention. Though I really came second place after a couple who had dressed up as Ricky’s Croque monsieur lunch, they had left by the time the winner was announced. I couldn’t believe my luck when it was I who won best costume. In a little speech I blathered some stuff about how much the shahs helped people with mental health issues and that I hope to cola with the festival in the future. Friends were also made on the day, the table I was sat with was alive with quiz answers and the amount of rapid fire quotes we had was also brilliant. I find myself very relaxed being able to shout out the most random things from the show. New friendships have blossomed from the convention, even if the trophy I won was nicked by a Northerner…all in good fun of course!  

Whether the next year’s convention will be in a fitting Slough, Reading or Bristol, we all know it will continue to expand and be a great success. Great work chuck!  The RSK Convention will continue in 2023

Review, Kites, LipZinc Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Coming into this production, I thought I knew what I would experience but I was in for a surprise.

Based in the time of the second world war, Kites is a tale of female friendships that grow with time, with age and within different and ever changing time periods. Kitty and Angel begin a friendship from small children and we experience with them how they become friends, take on the world through boys and travel and challenges of the time periods from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and onwards. There is a nostalgic feel yet a tale we can relate to to some degree, no matter who we are.

Instantly, it is clear that these two performers not only have a good relationship as acting partners but that this obvious connection potentially draws from personal relationships. Female friendship is something unique, and this production adds to this by touching upon a time when women weren’t as free and liberal as they can be now days; it showcases the pressures on woman back then and how detrimental it can be to mental health and relationships.

There is a youthfulness to this production; as we travel through time with these two, we see them play and create ideas together; they dream of the moon and the world and the adventures that they can experience and we relate to this from our own dreams. We remember those days of make believe and ease of being a child. We know the feeling when life gets in the way or we have to grow up. The transition for each character is gradual and relatable.

The only issue I had was that it felt as if it lost momentum. Time is taken to establish the characters, their lives, their friendships but it becomes rushed – as if the change that they want to convey needed to be squeezed into the time frame. When it was meant to get meatier, I wanted it meaty. I wanted to feel the raw emotion and the turmoil, to see the difference and to feel the reconciliation between these old friends. But it just felt like a rushed end when it would have been nice to give more time to these emotions.

Kites is a lovely play that any friendship, no matter gender, can relate to. Setting it in a past time period echoes the challenges women faced and how, despite this, friendship begins and grows, just as it does now. I just wanted there to be a little bit of breathing space to feel more of the emotions.