Category Archives: Theatre

Review Big Bottom Bonanza, London Burlesque Festival, by Hannah Goslin

London Burlesque Festival

Big Bottom Bonanza

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

It’s that time of year again. In the heart of Camden ladies and gentleman travel near and far as performers and audiences to see this famous name – a festival collating cabaret and burlesque performers from all across the world.

For the first time ever, the festival brings a night of big bottoms but not for the first time, talent, beauty, charisma, gorgeous costumes and dazzling routines.  Known for its body appreciation and acceptance and celebration of men and women alike, this themed night doesn’t seem like something new. Burlesque crowds accept the art and not the looks and celebrate all forms of people. But this night collates these curvaceous beauties and their amazing confidence.

From the patriotic British routine, where we are made to salute our queen and country in the name of wiggling bottoms to a flown in New Yorker bringing us a cheeky classical routine, as always the festival brings a range of routines that make us laugh and leave us in awe. We’re transported from the 1940’s cabaret scene to a 70’s disco and each time there is excitement, there’s something new and something even more admirable than the last.

Anyone can love burlesque – and I urge everyone whether into theatre, into cabaret or none of these art forms at all to see a show. There’s always something either in the theme, in the types of performers or in the choice of routine ideas – one show leaves you confident, elated and able to conquer the World.

 London Burlesque Festival
May 6-22
Dingwalls
 

Review Richard III, Brite Theater, Lion and Unicorn Theatre by Hannah Goslin

 

Richard III

Brite Theater

 Lion and Unicorn Theatre

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Notably this year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. His time was one of his writing  on a standard stage, an all-male cast – the theatre not being a place for women to perform. And this would take a long while to change.

So who would have thought back then that so many different developments over the 400 odd years of his texts would lead to a one woman show of Richard the third in the top theatre of one of London’s quintessential London Theatre Pubs.

Those who are unaware of this play – (and where have you been?) – Richard is a deformed hunchback whose is treated outcast due to this. His anger and jealousy from being overlooked overcomes him to lead him into plotting deaths, marriage and eventually becoming King. As all villains, he soon gets his comeuppance leaving the scene with the famous line ‘’A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’’

Described as a ‘one woman show’ – Emily Carding playing Richard is not alone. We are greeted to her room and given characters ourselves. The story is told through a narrative and we are spoken to as the characters but not with needing to respond. Carding manages to include us and show the two faced nature of the character – the welcoming and personal nature to each of us, and then the ‘behind the back’ narrative of what she really thinks of each of us – revealing her plots one after another.

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We each feel different throughout this exchange – we feel like the characters and then we feel as part of her plot. Watching her interaction with the other audiences, her well constructed character she has developed rubs off onto each of them, making them believe their characters. The King is notably more proud than the average Joe who walks in, the love interest soon becomes flirtatious and shy at the conversation and touch of the actress, and myself as the Richard’s friend? My outsider critical self could not tell but perhaps I was even convinced by her charm to be someone else for the night.

A minimalist set but full of skilled content, this ‘one woman show’ becomes about all of us and by doing so, becomes a very clever and immersive piece of theatre.

Drama

Richard III
The Lion and the Unicorn Theatre
May 16-28 May
Written by William Shakespeare
Direction by Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir
Performance, props and poster by Emily Carding
Adaptation by Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir and Emily Carding
Direction by Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir
A Brite Theater Production
 
 

Review Bird Sherman Cymru by Corinne Cox

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
 

Chandler weaves a narrative that is a mix of raw heady emotion with some truly lyrical writing.

Ava is on the cusp of adulthood. 16 next month and facing a future outside the care home, all that currently lies ahead of her is an expansive and overwhelming unknown. Her mum doesn’t want her to come home, sheltered accommodation will be miles away from manipulative Lee, and Dan might just like her. Luckily, as best friend Tash reassures her, they always have the option of just flying away…

As we join Ava as she navigates her way through this minefield of complex relationships, from the exploitative to the genuinely heartfelt, Chandler weaves a narrative that is a mix of raw heady emotion with some truly lyrical writing.

The stand out performance for me was Siwan Morris’s portrayal of Ava’s Mum, Claire. Throughout her interactions with Ava there was a stark discrepancy between what I was seeing and how it made me feel. We witness a mother, riddled with jealousy, rejecting her daughter time and again, in complete denial of the fact that her judgement of a new partner could be at fault. Yet underneath this front we feel the desperation of Claire’s intrinsic love for her daughter, a love that perhaps blinds her to the fact that she could ever have wronged her to this extent. A denial which continues to define both her and her daughter’s lives. Morris draws us in with her subtle portrayal of Claire’s own vulnerability as she asserts, as if to convince herself more than us, that she ‘had no choice’.

Georgia Henshaw’s portrayal of Ava is brave, raw and heartbreakingly funny, achieving a sensitive balance between Ava’s anger and her innocence, which is frequently represented in the damaging relationships she enters to fill the void that the desperation for a sense of belonging can create. Georgia subtly teases out these different levels of Ava, from the frantic energy that exudes from the character when she is engaging with her mum, to the fiery exchanges her evident frustration at her circumstance often results in these exchanges resorting to.

What is undoubtedly a challenging view is softened by some stark moments of tenderness – beacons of hope which the audience cling to desperately amongst the evident turmoil Chandler’s characters are facing. The unfiltered emotion in Dan and Ava’s embrace, Ava’s raucous cackling as she’s tickled by Tash, Claire’s reluctant admittance that she may in fact have got it wrong; moments such as these provide some light relief for the audience and humanises the characters.

The world premiere of Katherine Chandler’s Bird at Sherman Cymru this month immerses audiences in a range of difficult themes which more often than not simply aren’t provided with a platform. By giving a voice to those who are increasingly marginalised by society and the media, Chandler humanises individuals in Ava’s position, providing a refreshing alternative narrative which challenges established preconceptions and explores the individuals behind the circumstance. Bird is a thought provoking piece and an accolade to Welsh new writing.


 
Director- Rachel O’Riordan
Writer- Katherine Chandler
Designer- Kenny Miller
Composer and Sound Designer- Simon Slater
Deputy Stage Manager- Charlotte Unwin
Lighting Designer- Kevin Treacy
Assistant Director- Elgan Rhys

Review Belonging Re-live by Kiera Sikora

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
The new production from Re-Live, written by Karin Diamond and directed by Peter Doran, focuses on the stories of two different families. Both families have one thing in common; one member of each family has dementia. But this play does more than tell the story of the horribly hurtful truth of the illness, it also tells us the story of the people who surround those with dementia, in a deeply delicate and witty Welsh way.
One family, a mother (Francine Morgan) with a son (Nathan Sussex), a daughter (Karin Diamond) and a grandchild are struggling through what seems to be the beginning of them recognising the mother’s illness. Her daughter is worried; her son is (at first) oblivious. The mother is frightened and increasingly forgetful sparking some worry in not only her family but her friends too. But amid the worry is the ever faithful humour the mother inhabits, her ability to make a laugh and a joke about her forgetfulness carries them as does her eventual willingness to listen to her family, their worries and fears and also her own.
The other family are an older married couple who have spent 42 beautiful years together in their happily bilingual love story of a life. But their story changes in front of us. We see Morris (Llion Williams), the husband, transform into the illness at a rapid pace. It is, in the most innocently brutal way, hard to watch. His chatty self disappears almost, as he loses his English and speaks only Welsh making communication a difficult deed for his non-Welsh speaking wife. He reverts back to his childhood memories frequently and it is only when his wonderful carer helps him to indulge his own world that we see him feeling comfortable again. Their story pays particular attention to Morris’ wife (Clêr Stephens) too, showing how far those around an ill loved one can feel pushed to the brink while also showing us how the courage, positivity and happy help of others is a golden necessity for anyone living with dementia.
‘Belonging’ is a deeply effective play. Yes, it’s upsetting and painful to watch at times and it’s quick wit does make it’s story feel very close to home. But it’s also a privilege. Rarely do we feel truly touched by what we see on stage; rarely do we see illness being talked about so freely. And rarely do we take the time to recognise that there are people who need us to do just that. To just talk. And to be told how to help and to be told that it’s okay to ask a person if they’d like our help. To some that message may seem obvious but seeing what we need to hear on stage brings a certain confidence to an audience. Re-Live have done just that having used theatre so warmly, to help us engage in conversation that would otherwise go unspoken because of the silence that can sometimes surround an illness like dementia.
Karin Diamond along with Peter Doran and their superb cast have tackled a treat of show. It’ll make you smile, cry and laugh- and you may even do all three all at once.

Torch Theatre, Milford Haven- 19th, 20th May
Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli- 24th May
Pontio, Bangor- 26th, 27th May
Neaudd Ucheldre, Holyhead- 31st May
Galeri, Caernarfon- 2nd June
Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon- June 8th
http://www.re-live.org.uk/belonging/

Review Bird Sherman Cymru by Kiera Sikora

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

If you believe that theatre should make you feel like you’ve been hit in the head and heart with raw, honest and thought provoking reality then ‘Bird’ is a play that will soar through your mind well after you’ve applauded and left the theatre.

Set by the coast ‘Bird’ follows the story of two young girls in a care home, lost to the loniless of forced and inflicted cruelty. Ava, played incredibly by Georgia Henshaw, is torn inside the comfort she wants and the comfort she is given. Her friend Tash (Rosie Sheehy) a victim of the same complex, is her stead and dancing heroine who speaks more sense than sense usually allows. Together they are our focus- and we are thrown into their world of dance, danger and desolate distress.

We meet Ava’s mother (Siwan Morris), an irate yet seemingly frightened woman with a brash voice and an even brasher manner, who’s discomfort with dialogue mirrors her daughter’s physicality, and we are immediately shown the disfunctional relationship the two share- with the reasons why hinted at ambiguously. We see from the very beginning that Ava longs for a relationship with her mother, the lack of which which we assume to be her reason for wanting to find a certain sense of comfort wherever she can. It is this search for comfort and security that throws both of these girls into the danger of the men around them. Dan (Connor Allen) is a young boy looking to get lucky with a kind wit and a convincing smile, and Lee (Guy Rhys) is a middle aged taxi driver looking to lure and nest young sparrows at their very weakest.

But it is what Chandler does here, that really makes ‘Bird’ the prime play that it is. She humanises each character. With every flaw and every laugh, every smile and every slice of persuasion- she lets us see the people inside the story so closely that you feel sick for thinking that you could like a person like Lee. The horrendous thing is, Bird shows you how easy it to like him. And also how easy it is for vulnerable young women to disregard themselves so deeply that they become a target for the inhumane vultures who prey on them as he does. We steer away from these people in society, we ignore them and hope that we aren’t the type to socialise with ‘people like them’. But when human interaction is all that you want because it’s all that you feel you need to make your world more liveable, then you will find it and you will saver it, whether it’s wrong or right because nothing is more overpowering than desire. It is that that connects Ava and Lee, Lee and Tash, Dan and Ava and indeed Claire and Paul. The connections, the emotion and the drama that corrupts these individuals is harrowing and it’s hunger for revelation is hurtfully desperate.

There is so much to be said for this play- it’s impact, it’s design, it’s softly suited sound and simplistic yet cleverly constructed set. But it’s what this play achieves, along with it’s strong cast and carefully crafted direction that headlines it’s importance. To voice what it is to be a person on the outskirts of a society that has disregarded them. And what it is to listen to those voices and know that it’s happening. It’s real. And that we must think. Deeply. Often.

Katherine Chandler yet again strikes a burning match with her words and invites the audience into a world that many feel they cannot or will not understand- we owe her greatly for giving us the chance to try.

‘Bird’ runs at the Sherman Cymru, Cardiff until 28th May and then at Royal Exchange, Manchester from 8th-25th June.

It’ll hurt your heart but it’s worth it.

Director- Rachel O’Riordan
Designer- Kenny Miller
Composer and Sound Designer- Simon Slater
Deputy Stage Manager- Charlotte Unwin
Lighting Designer- Kevin Treacy
Assistant Director- Elgan Rhys

Review Bird Sherman Cymru by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Ava (Georgia Henshaw) and Tash (Rosie Sheehy) are young, optimistic and disfigured teens. Their friendship and integral bond is rooted within the whirlwind of complicated lives and a callous society. As Ava dashes and flitters off every object, person and syllable, Tash is always at heights, dancing at the edge of the world – awaiting flight.

Never have I experienced such an encompassing performance. I strolled into the Sherman, and left sprinting. But, regardless of my train times, Bird is a play that melts the facades and the barriers, and leaves you trying to fly – in all senses of the word.

An elderly man, as the audience were sipping the last dregs of their wine/settling, I heard from the front row, turn to his wife and speculate ‘I think it’s a comedy’. ‘I don’t think so mate’ I quipped, in thought. However, now I see that Bird cannot be constrained to a genre, or what people want it to be. Ava – stunningly performed by Georgia Henshaw – has an infectious spirit and an undeniably truthful perception of life. Resulting in imposing moments of frolic and uncontained rage, I didn’t feel the back of my chair once. Rosie Sheehy, too, must be applauded. Her exploration of the depth within the thirteen-year-old was wonderfully perceptive and chilling.

Katherine Chandler is a writer who sees the world empathetically and urges us all to do so. Desperation is far too attainable as the play’s women appease the men surrounding them. Does the honesty of ‘It just got too much,’ vindicate all the vodka, and the manipulation, and the self-serving? Chandler holds up a mirror to the real world and the audience are almost blinded by the familiar reflections.

Close to the surface lurks the grit and tensions of the women’s lives. The set designed by Kenny Miller, ingeniously incorporates this theme as the characters stand upon the yellowing, moulded tiles of a swimming pool beneath a sky of industrial light.

‘Bird’ is a sharply directed play – so successfully done that it’s easy to forget it had to be constructed that way. Rachel O’Riordan presents a piece of astoundingly compelling theatre as every silence, gesture and intonation propels the audience deeper within the crevices of the narrative.

Very rarely do you leave the theatre in, slightly paralysing, awe. A play as impacting as ‘Bird’ is not to be missed!

Review A Sunny Disposition The Other Room by Caitlin Finn

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A Vlog review by Young Critic Caitlin Finn of A Sunny Disposition written/directed by Nicola Reynolds, The Other Room, Porters Cardiff.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

A Sunny Disposition, The Other Room, Porters, Cardiff.

Cast:
Charlie – Neal McWilliams

Creative Team:
Director – Nicola Reynolds
Designer – Amy Jane Cook
Lighting Designer – Jane Lalljee
Sound Designer – Matthew Jones
Stage Manager – Lauren Dennis
Assistant Director – Alex Parry
Photographer – Aenne Pallasca

http://www.otherroomtheatre.com/en/whats-on/seasons/insomnia/a-sunny-disposition/

Project Review, Making It! by Helen Joy

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Parama 2 Making it – LIVE!

A review of the programme of scripting workshops leading up to and including, the production: by a participant.

A small group of women of a certain age gather together in the curious spare rooms and spaces of the Wales Millennium Centre every Tuesday afternoon for 9 weeks.

March 15th

We introduce ourselves cautiously to our facilitators, Valmai Jones and Catrin Edwards; and to each other. Why are we here? Personal growth and development, honing skills and learning new ones, changing paths, making connections. A mixed bag of skills too–clowning, illustrating, writing, performing, acting – and a fair few years of life experience to boot. We watch Catrin’s film, Voices From the Factory Floor, with extra voices from the WMC breast cancer charity fashion show below. A heady mixture of women’s words on a Tuesday afternoon.

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Responding to the characters in the film seems easier to some than others. Some slip into roles easily; others struggle a little; I have no idea how to pretend and can only be me. I am astonished at the ease with which our group brings life and animation and speech to these women we have only glimpsed, sometimes second or even third hand. Real stories slip out so naturally hidden in the make-believe.

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Now, Val employs a little trick each week. Relaxation exercises for the body and the brain with closed eyes. Her mellifluous Welsh lilt calms our nervous spirits and revives our inner creativity. Staring intensely at paper mandalas to free up our right brains – mind over myth – becomes part of our shared experiences, part of bonding the group and comforts changes with consistency. This is neat.
We play a kind of Consequences – throw our titles into a hat, pick one, write some lines, pass it on… we read them out – remarkably adept little stories, tight, funny, sad, clever but mostly text, not so much dialogue.

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As the weeks roll on, we learned to examine characters and how to bring them to life through words and play. We had homework: write up your character – give her life. Give her words to say. And playlets form with monologues, dialogues, complex scenarios. Characters cry, laugh, shout and dance. Some of us stay with the themes of the film; some use the Consequences storylines; others choose something new. Somehow, perhaps not surprisingly, we all talk about the influential women n our lives.

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I struggle with reading out my words, my dialogue. And the first time it matters, I can’t do it. I am ten years old and I will be humiliated. I hand my script to Val. She is so kind and talks me through ideas and scenarios and builds my confidence.

The call goes out – posters are ready, the time and date is set – we will be performing at 3pm on the 9th May in the Preseli Rooms at the WMC. Tell your friends and families.

I write a script over an evening. I have been mulling over the idea for a few weeks now without realising. I cannot face reading it. I wonder how the others are managing.

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May 8th

Rehearsals. It is a beautiful, hot sunny day outside and we are all inside, fretting over scripts, tripping over stage hands and working with professional actors. This is getting very real. We are called to the stage, Val is acting and Catrin is directing. We are multi-tasking at a superhuman level.
I cannot open my eyes when they start to read my play. Gradually, I uncurl and watch and listen and begin to edit and critique and love it. Not love my work – but love the process. I discover acting is a joy – to be someone else for someone else is a privilege. I try so hard to do it as well as I can. Everyone else seems so much better at this but inside, I guess, we all feel the nervous.

May 9th, 3pm

Somehow, out of all the chaos, a slick series of plays is presented to a small but hugely appreciative audience. All credit to Catrin and Val for their inspiration and facilitation. All credit to the actors and stage hands for adding that professional edge.
And to us? Well. We pulled it off.

The audience, mostly made up of women from Voices from the Factory Floor, has enjoyed our efforts very much. The plays remind them of conversations had with their own mothers, fathers, daughters and friends. One said that we hadn’t needed scripts to read – that we could have just chatted amongst ourselves on stage – and there I see the compliment, our work was natural, candid observation with each of us adding our own personalities and quirks to tell tales. Not perfect but gentle, the work of women who have been there.

I am not alone in being relieved yet ecstatic as the event closes but oh so sorry that this series of workshops is not continuing and that we are left to go our own ways with our words.

The project  was supported by Age Cymru’s Gwanwyn Festival which is funded by Welsh Government and Arts Council of Wales, WI in Wales and Women’s Archive of Wales

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http://gwanwyn.org.uk

http://gwanwyn.org.uk/events/making-it-free-drama-scripting-workshop-for-older-women/

http://gwanwyn.org.uk/events/parama2-presents-making-it/

Why you dont need to be a tweed wearing old boy to review Theatre by Gemma Treharne-Foose

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Gemma responds to Danielle Tarento’s comments about online criticism

https://www.thestage.co.uk/news/2016/danielle-tarento-unpaid-bloggers-often-lack-intellectual-background-to-write-theatre-reviews/

Theatre is not about how much you know, who you know or what else you’ve seen. Your reaction to theatre as an art form, as entertainment is deeply personal and unique. For many of us…you know, the other 55m of us who live outside London; the closest we get to watching theatre is on an annual trip to the Christmas Panto (ah, those precious memories of Park and Dare in Treorchy are still alive and well!).

Danielle Tarento thinks that anyone without ‘an intellectual or historical background’ shouldn’t have the honour of reviewing theatre. This is a shockingly elitist and classist viewpoint. If marginalised and under-represented groups and communities didn’t feel excluded and ‘un-entitled’ enough to enjoy theatre and possibly feel inspired to write about it before, Tarento takes us back to the ‘good old days’. Those days when theatre could only be written about by a privileged, privately educated few…and you’d have to buy the broadsheets of course (old chap) to read about it.

Are full-time critics even relevant any more? Surely critics are facing the same fate of the old journo hack typing away at ‘his’ typewriter. A dying breed in the traditional sense. As I’m sure many journalism graduates will attest to – ‘journalists’ are two-a-penny now and anyone with something to say can publish, blog, become an interest sensation or develop an on-line following. Does this represent a threat to the written word, the demise of polished prose or the end of intellectual debate? Far from it. Journalism and the meteoric rise and reach of social media platforms has resulted in the diversification and democratisation of knowledge. It has opened up opportunities to engage with others, to share and to debate, even to participate in art, theatre and film remotely. It has become a lifeline for the isolated and the hard-to-reach, those who lack the funds to catch a cab to the West End on a Saturday night and get paid (handsomely) to do so. ‘Un-cultured amateurs’ will happily spend their last £12 on a cheap seat at a show and beg a family member to drive them 35 miles to get there. They’ll scrimp and save for those chances to just be in the audience and share in the magic. What is there to be gained in creating divisions and driving wedges between audiences and full-time critics, anyway? We are all part of the conversation and we all have something equal to say – and that is to be celebrated.

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Gemma at Disney’s Mickey Mouse show at the Wales Millennium Centre

Tarento may be right that ‘two-a-penny’ community/amateur critics don’t have the full knowledge of the art-form, but it is precisely this reason that makes these reviews worth reading. Amateur critics are not out to impress people with their fantastic knowledge or their rich CV of experience, they are responding to theatre in a pure, untainted way. They are only what they feel. Theatre directors and practitioners take their cues from audience response as well as critics…and some take no cues from critics at all. Amateur critics represent the audience, while critics represent…well, something else entirely! They are paid to watch theatre and produce an entertaining article they should be out of their nit-picking. London-based theatre critics are viewing theatre from a narrow prism of opportunity and life chances. Most of us out here in the real word are the true theatre champions, the enthusiasts, the geeks, the am-dram community. We love theatre because of what it brings us on a personal level – warmth, inclusion, memories, escapism, a deeply moving experience that we want to re-live over and over again because we love it, not because we are paid to write about it. The days of the tweed-wearing, pipe-smoking, hoity-toity critics peering over their horn-rimmed spectacles are over…and they know it. As for you, Tarento I’ll see you not in court….but in the theatre (darling!).

All of the contributors for Get the Chance are volunteers. They attend activity and review in their own free time. They are all part of the Spice Time Credit network and receive one Time Credit for every hour of volunteering.

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Review Origins – Animikii Theatre by Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

In this darkened room at the bottom of the Southbank Centre, an intimate setting with a small audience feels like a secret space for a spiritual group.  4 poles lit up, one with a hooded robe draped on it and boxes that remind me of some form of religious set, there’s a serious feel to the atmosphere, cleverly set by this staging and lighting that we are made to feel anxious for the performance to commence.

A physical theatre piece, the biblical story of Abel and Cain is the premise for this beautiful piece of work. For those unknown to the story, as I was myself, these two brothers are the direct descendants of Adam and Eve. Eventually, Cain murders his brother Abel which is unclear in the bible as to why. Many have understood it as it was through jealousy and envy in God’s attention to Abel and not Cain. Unfamiliar to this story, a piece made of physicality and sounds and no speech, Animikii Theatre did a fantastic job in telling the story.

We are introduced to these shirtless characters, who play with one another using the space to give the initial build-up of the brotherly connection. Using laughter, sounds and imitation of actions through avant garde physical metaphors, the audience giggle along with the almost caveman-like attitudes and relationship. This is all set in the concept of Cain’s memory – switching from fun memory and obvious timeline of events, to Cain’s switch into turmoil at this reminiscence.

The movement and choreography of the piece brings us into mystical interpretation of what leads to Cain’s mental destruction. A wonderful dreamlike state, Abel’s loveable and fun character turns into a devil like character in a red robe, who tricks Cain into false sense of securities. It’s unclear who this character is until we return to ‘reality’. The performers do well to switch from positive to negative, to evil to innocent and while we know the final out come from the initial physical summary at the beginning, it is still a shock.

The lighting in this dark room is versatile, and while we should base physical theatre pieces of the movement, the contouring of the body and interpretation, the lighting plan highlights the men’s bodies in these states to render us in awe at their physical abilities.

Origins creates the right atmosphere and does well to use physicality and sound to bring this ancient story to life.  We are pulled into the biblical story without a feeling that we are being forced religion upon us.  We relate to the relationships and actions which is in your face but not negatively.