Category Archives: Festivals

Review, The Rip Current, Edinburgh University Theatre Company, Edinburgh Fringe Theatre, by Hannah Goslin

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

The Pleasance are pioneers in new writing and staging wonderful productions. The Rip Current, a debut piece written by Molly Keating, featured at the Pleasance, which in itself, should be an achievement for these early career artists.

The Rip Current sees the story of Jamie as he attends Cambridge University, all the way from Scotland. But it doesn’t turn out to be everything he had worked hard for. He begins to feel disconnected to life and it leads to him delving into his past, asking the questions he longed to ask about his estranged father and finding out who he really is.

For a first production at fringe, The Rip Current is a good start to what could be a fantastic production. The concepts of growing up, of discovering your past and who you are, to family, domestic violence, Scottish culture are all great combinations and highlight many a relatable issue.

The performers clearly put their heart and soul into their characters and did well to portray with believable emotion what was needed from them for the story line. Not one broke character and therefore created extremely believable scenes and relationships.

However, this production felt as if it was still in an infant stage. This isn’t to criticise or to say that this production wasn’t any good, because it was, but it still felt as if it needed some tweaking and working on, as all great productions do in their development till they reach ultimate success. The performers perhaps focussed too much on the sheer painful emotions and so lost a little of the different emotional levels that could be experienced within naturalism.

They also made the mistake that we all do at some point in theatre of relying heavily on set and props. Much of what was put on stage seemed to function more as a way for performers to keep their hands busy, when it wasn’t necessarily needed or added to the plot. Taking away some and filling those voids with confidence in their characters and performance would avoid distraction for the audience but also help with their character and story development.

The Rip Current is very much a great starting point for this young company. All the elements are there and it is in great shape for a first production. With continued work, this production could prove to be something quite special.

Review, The Rest of Our Lives, Jo Fong & George Orange, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I’m going to begin this review with a very strong opening. A strong, and 100% deserved opening: If there is one thing you do this year, it’s go and see The Rest of Our Lives.

The Rest of Our Lives is a post-pandemic show in some respects but it isn’t about the pandemic. It is a question of what we do after a monumental change in our lives. How do we cope, move on, return to life as we know it. How do we enjoy it and laugh, and love, and cry. How do we become us again. How do we create community again.

This brilliant show is prime example of the unique, inspirational and exquisite style of performance that comes only from the Welsh theatre and arts scene. Perhaps some bias in my admiration for Jo Fong that has stemmed since my own performance training years in Wales, I still stand by the genius and beauty behind this piece with George Orange.

The Rest of Our Lives is a physical theatre, multi-media, dance and movement piece. It is comical, warm, open and personal. There is no barrier between us and the performers – we are welcomed and treated as friends, making regular eye contact and somehow having a feeling of a personal relationship with the performers, as if we were in their living room of an evening.

Physically, the performance was abstract yet gentle and evoked any emotion from hilarity to sadness. The performers pushed themselves to the limits and broke physical and environmental boundaries without a sense of fear or hesitation. There was many a moment that I found myself crying at how moved I was at their portrayal of normal human elements such as romance and pain, and how I would soon be laughing and smiling through my tears. I didn’t feel like an audience member – I was a friend, a family member, some one close and welcomed and it was such a unique and beautiful feeling and created so simply yet mysteriously – that space felt safe as soon as we came in and I still can’t pinpoint why; the signs of a successful production.

Audience interaction is a huge part of this show and it continues the feeling of inclusion in the action, with no formality to any of the proceedings or interaction. It created an almost immersive atmosphere that you never wanted to end. Finishing the production, we are welcomed onto the stage where we dance and sing to Donna Summer and congratulate Fong and Orange. Hardly any of us know one another but there we hugged, we held hands, we sung together as if we were in Karaoke and all of it was euphoric, beautiful and special.

The Rest of Our Lives is a triumph of theatre, dance and physical theatre. It is everything and more that Welsh theatre brings to the table and is unlike anything I have ever seen. It reminds us of who we are and once were and brings us together as humans and friends.

Review BBC Symphony Orchestra, Besty Jolas’ bTunes BBC Proms 22, Royal Albert Hall by James Ellis  

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

For my finale Prom this season, an appearance from the BBC Symphony was offered for the last Monday concert. Mighty Conductor Karina Canellakis excited with an array of varied delights in a concert that had a lot going for it. 

Beethoven’s The Creatures of Prometheus overture thrills in its few minutes, a tantalising taste of the full ballet score. This makes a great concert opener with it’s charm on it’s sleeve, Karina getting off to a fabulous start here. Of note was the world premiere and BBC commission from Besty Jolas of bTunes. Here in the Albert Hall with us at the age of 96, this added a special weight to proceedings. Her odd piece used theatrical elements that could have been utilised more. We saw the lead violinist conduct for the first few bars, as the pianist and conductor arrive late flustered. 

This funny little moment lead into a harsh and insightful sound world, Betsy creating some intriguing compositions. Pianist Nicolas Hodges got busy with lid slamming, string plucking and smashing tone clusters, also notated into the score for him. The whole things was barmy, trying to pass off as a playlist of music, it seems to have gone down well and with her presence on the night proved a success. 

The 1st Symphony makes for gateway Mahler and here it was executed with a fiery focus. All the hallmarks Arte here in what would be heard later in his music. This graduation piece shows a vast array of musical brilliance, the meshing of popular songs, the waltzes, Alpine bliss and mirky underwater stand out as check points. With a pristine beauty, this held up as a highlight of my Proms live this year. There is a promise in this first symphony, perhaps one of the finest firsts ever written. The panache of it’s delivery, the mighty mood swings and the composer himself having conducted this more than any other of his works proves its importance. Highlight include the Frère Jacques variation, a evocative double bass solo and all round impassioned occupation that sells it and more. Would to hear Karina conduct the following on two symphonies by Mahler now. 

You can listen to the event on BBC Sounds here

Review, Horrible Herstories, Lost Pages Theatre Company, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

We are a nation and a current series of generations where our childhood and knowledge of history is emphasised by the brilliant Horrible Histories books by Terry Deary and the beloved show shown on CBBC (but let’s be honest: when was it ever for the kids!).

So when invited to a show that has changed this to “Herstories” I was definitely intrigued and excited. Horrible Herstories is a hilarious and unbridled take on female history, flittering between different parts of history in a sketch-show-like manner. The premise basis itself on a group of men who are all hammed up and one dimensional and hilarious versions of the gender. All called Phil, they are unaware of anything to do with women, let alone their place in history, and the mick is very much taken of them. This is where it leads to them learning just what an impact woman had and what they had to put up with.

Like any sketch-show, the sketches are small and to the point. They don’t need to be long to be absolutely side-splittingly hilarious and it was in a way brilliant to see the occasional man in the audience not quite get the quip or feel uncomfortable. It was a shake up of the comedic kind but also a political stance with no inhibitions.

The performers were all brilliant; just like the television programme, they could all turn their hand to a huge range of characters – from the typical news reporter, the egotistical man, the girly girl women. And it all worked brilliantly. They were fully in each character, supported with minimal staging and costume, but this didn’t matter; in fact I would say it enhanced this. We didn’t need sparkle and flashy theatrics; all we needed was the brilliant writing and comedic approach to true history.

As this was the last night and they had run for a month, there were moments of corpsing and if you have read any of my former reviews, you know that I love this. I think it shows the comradery of the actors, the fun they are having and as a performer myself, I know that a long run is always met by silliness and a euphoria in the end. It was clear that the performers had a great connection and were having fun, celebrating the end of a successful run of such a brilliant production.

Horrible Herstories seems much in its infant stage, but what a brilliant place it is at this point. It is witty, funny, clever and an absolutely brilliant production, that can only go from strength to strength.

Review, Tempus Fugit: Troy & Us, NMT Automatics, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Set in the basement of the Edinburgh Army centre, NMT Automatics production of Troy & Us is very apt for such a setting.

Tempus Fugit: Troy & Us is the story of a British soldier, his wife and his tours in Afghanistan. It addresses their progressive relationship from marriage, to war PTSD, to a baby and all the other bits in between. It is a raw and poignant production, mirroring the story of Andromache and her soldier husband Hector in the Trojan war, this production shows the pain of war and that this is a phenomenon that is almost as old as time.

Tempus Fugit is a combination of short dialogue meeting physical theatre and dance; the moments where we are transported into the past to look at the Trojan War are signified with beautiful mask work to break the difference in scenes. Focussed mainly around plain brown boxes that create furniture, barriers, sculptures and buildings, the performers move effortlessly between and with one another, showcasing euphoria, pain, war scenes and so much more. It is accompanied by music and storytelling recorded narrative to enhance the scene and show the juxtaposition but the similarities of the past and the present.

The performance is beautiful and there does seem to be genuine (or at least realistic) emotion and connection between the characters, whether they are the modern characters or the Ancient Greek ones. They effortlessly flick between the two and moments can be recognised that have cleverly been shown earlier on in the production, mirroring the modern day equivalent with the same movements and emotion.

However, for me, the scenes were all too quick. It felt like we flittered from scene to scene very quickly, whether that was from Troy or to the modern day, and I felt it needed a moment of stillness, or just a breathe. The fast paced nature left me wanting something meatier to hold onto for just a moment before we were catapulted to the next element. To really revel in and feel the emotion and the, what is a beautiful and painful story to engage with, it would have been nice for some different levels in energy.

Tempus Fugit: Troy & Us is a unique and interesting approach to real stories and of a kind of life only a small amount of people experience. It shows the truth of the feelings and thoughts behind war but it also needed to let us have a moment to internalise the story and feel it for ourselves.

Review, Prometheus Bound (Io’s Version), Myths Unbound Productions, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

The world of Greek Myths is full of tyranny, of hypocrisy, of sex, of comedy, of sheer power and grotesque storytelling. They are the stories that have most been carried through time, updated and mirrored in popular culture and continue to be apart of society. This is very much what we get from Myths Unbound Productions and their production of Prometheus Bound (Io’s story).

Taking a new approach to Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound, Myths Unbound have updated and changed the viewpoint of this tale. An ancient Greek tragedy, this story focuses on the competition between the God’s, the injustice of punishment for helping humans to progress and, by taking it from the point of view of Io, a mortal plagued by the God’s doings, looks at what it means to be a human as opposed to a higher being that society trusts the judgement of.

This production has an edgy-ness to it. No toga’s or golden crowns but a gothic, alternative take. All in black, there are little elements added to the immortal beings to differentiate them using colour and make up that Tik Tok stars would admire, along with their differing personalities and interactions, to show these staple characters and their impact to the story. Simple changing of jackets helps to double up on a character and with this and other parts of the writing, Myths Unbound take a comical view of breaking the fourth wall and playing upon being self aware as a theatre production – the same actor is acknowledged and the confusion of the characters; we are addressed and yet Io asks “who are you talking to” which for sure brings comical moments. The only difference is Io who is dressed in a cream to create the dynamic between the humans and the Gods. This was quite refreshing, showcasing that the Gods aren’t so “heavenly” and actually the darker part of the tale, despite their idolisation.

Despite these interesting elements, I found it hard to engage. With such a complex story, it felt that you probably had to know the tale well to understand their changes to the original story. A story I’ve not heard before, it therefore left me a little confused and some elements I wasn’t sure were fully explained. Not a criticism, but the performer playing Prometheus was of slight distraction with his uncanny performance and looks similar to Captain America’s, Chris Evans.

Overall, the aesthetics of Myths Unbound Productions, Prometheus Unbound (Io’s Story), were refreshing and a modern take on such an ancient story. I just found it slightly a hard storyline to follow which, I can completely understand could plainly be to my own lack of knowledge.

Review James Bonas with Anthony Roth Costanzo, Glass Handel, ENO/BBC Proms 22,The Printworks by James Ellis 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

In a return to the BBC Proms in London, a new venue for the festival would call. Whilst I’ll confess  the Printworks in Canada Water is a bit out of the way for this travelling reviewer, it was a fleeting chance to see another side of London. In a more laid-back, approachable look on classical music, the venue itself on first appearance looked cluttered, very busy.

 As things went on, I found the whole thing to be truly wonderful, the direction of James Bonas with a metaphorical butterfly net keeping everything grounded, yet delightful.

The head turning array of soloist, orchestra, dance, art, beat-boxing and sound design filled the venue with the ambition of a classic happening. The star of the show was very much American counter-tenor Anthony Roth Costanzo who has dazzled audiences across the pond and over the world. It is his clear sex appeal and queer ideals that dust the show with beautiful goings on. In both the bejewelled Handel and Phillip Glass repertoire (extracts from both their operas, some never heard at the Proms along with a world premier from Glass) he proves his broad taste and mighty passions, his voice sharp and touching. 

All the other goings on segway well into each aria, the dancers never quite getting the limelight (with emotive choreography by Justin Peck). The live painting of Glenn Brown was only truly visible to one side of the vast elongated factory. Players from English National Opera and conductor Karen Kamensek never wained is this apparent gamble that paid off all round. Costumes by Raf Simons are billowy, colourfull fun creations, slight and web like for the dancers, exaggerated for Costanzo.

Jason Singh would beatbox and add whispy vocal tricks to make space between the notes of the arias. What almost attempted to steal the show was the finely crafted surreal video work which graced the brick walls. The likes of James Ivory with Pix Talarico, Tilda Swinton and Daniel Askill and more had unsettling, vivid and witty films that got away with a lot of it’s demands. 

A fine event I won’t forget yet.

You can listen to the event on BBC Sounds here

Review, Sandcastles, Brite Theater, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

In this tiny shipping container, we are welcome by an almost “ying and yang” symbol from two bodies in a box, amongst torn paper. What unfolds is emotional, fun and shocking altogether.

Sandcastles is about a unique friendship between two girls. Meeting as children, they grow up together and grow apart, as one stays to the town she has always known and the other moves across the world. Sandcastles takes on the trial and tribulations of female friendships, of long term friendships, of belonging and feeling displaced.

Focussed around this box, it took a long time into the production for me to realise that this was a representation of the sand box that these two characters meet in, building sandcastles as children. Two very opposing types of people, their comradery comes from the lack of inhibitions as children. As they grow up, they get drunk and hold eachother’s hair, they kiss boys and bundle around their local town and soon there is a realisation on their differences; the fear and the anxiety from one of leaving a place she knows and the other of someone who feels as if she doesn’t belong any where physical.

The friendship between these two seems natural, it seems uninhibited and naturalistic to an extent. Both performers did their characters justice, bringing a reality to this environment somewhat void of reality. You feel included somehow, even if this is between only two people and it makes you re-evaluate your own friendships.

The box of paper became extremely significant; the performance featuring around, in, on, by, using this box of paper, it doubles up as many things and signifies much of their friendship, centralising it. The choice to not use sand by white paper added an angelic and ethereal element to this story.

My only criticism was that there felt like a lot of content bundled in and a slow pace. Some elements could perhaps be condensed or not used at all, feeling more like buffer content. It also needed a little change of pace, something to break this and give it a little momentum.

Sandcastles is a really beautiful play and certainly can be relatable to female friendships, general friendships and growing up. It just needed a different dynamic occasionally to keep the pace interesting.

Review, The Rodney Buzzard Tapes, Prefontaine Productions, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

This surreal and funny production was the first show I saw of this fringe. Late at night, the room was nicely packed for something billed at this time and rightfully so.

The Rodney Buzzard tapes: Evidence of an Honourable Man touches upon the recent phenomena of True Crime. Utilising quintessential themes of these documentaries, a group of amateurist drama nerds and a criminology nut embark of telling this fictional story; full of satire and tongue and cheek of these shows, this production is hammed up and as absurd as it can get, which makes it all the funnier while they endeavour to find the truth about this serial killer.

It begins with, what I can only describe as something from The Mighty Boosh – very much looking as if they were inspired by the Betamax character from this shows third season, a tape enhanced monster, almost slimy in appearance appears, creating movement and shapes that are comedic but also slightly intimidating. It very much didn’t give anything away to what the rest of the hour would entail; whether this would be frightening or fun.

The story continues to be as absurdist and bizarre as this initial introduction. The premise being that a criminology enthusiast has coaxed his drama friends into re-enacting a series of experiences, from not only him but also the serial killer. There is very much a sense of making fun of themselves, of the situation they are in but also of drama students in general and so this is a particular element of comedy that fits with a good chunk of the fringe audience.

Unfortunately, while fringe is very much a place to explore productions, it did at times feel as if there was too much content and so lost some of the comical factors in this. This is something all theatre makers continue to face when creating something new and so isn’t the biggest of issues and i’m sure will be challenged in each rehearsal and performance as all productions do.

The Rodney Buzzard Tapes was a lovely surprise for a first production viewing of 2022 fringe. With a little more challenge of their content, this piece could hit every element of comedy and bizarrest intent, with ease.