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Review: too pretty to punch, edalia day, vault festival by hannah goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Edalia Day has brought a very unique and very interesting production to the forefront at this year’s Vaults.

Beginning slow and slightly awkward, Day seems nervous and uneasy in this plain white room. Soon we are to realise, this is very much a clever theatrical technique to their story and very much the beginning of something special.

Too Pretty To Punch brings Day’s autobiography to the stage. Identifying as trans, Day transforms the stage into their life story, the trials and tribulations and turmoil in accepting who they are and seeking acceptance in society. It then continues into a widen view of the issues trans people face and eventually brings in verbatim videos to others facing the daily obstacles.

It would be easily and still powerful to have used these videos to support Day’s points, but they go the step further – animation is projected onto screens, one an ordinary square screen, another slightly misshapen and another as a moveable canvas. These are used to flick between images and animations as they move across the stage, along with physical theatre by Day, making the action come to real life in our eyes.

Some of the performance feels like we are getting to know a new friend – Day addresses us and talks to us like a new friend being made, but then some poignant moments being transferred into visual elements adds a unique and clever nature to this production and hits the points home.

Supported at times with kitsch music that reminds me of Golem by 1925, this makes the production feel a little special and like nothing on the theatre scene right now.

Too Pretty To Punch is not only a really important production to see but is also one of the most unique and fascinating pieces of theatre I have seen in a long time.

Review: Animals, Conscious/Unconscious, Vault Festival By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

What can I say that drew me to this production? Ultimately that the show image is of two men in the nude hiding their gentlemans and looking like they are loving life.

Animals is the story of two cousins, a long way from home, trying to make a life in London. They enjoy drugs, music and cheese. They enter moments of absurd hallucinations, finding the meaning to life but ultimately gaining a new love for their friendship.

Animals is an interesting production; mainly consisting of a duo doubling up on characters, there’s an element of The Inbetweeners, with rude jokes, silly humour and really unique moments of comedy.

It took me some time to get into the rhythm of the production and understand its niche concept, but equally there were moments of comical genius and once I understood the approach, it became more enjoyable.

The two performers play very good parts; similar yet very different, there was a naturalism to their performances, even as hallucinated characters, and the chemistry between them was relaxed, bouncing off one another with ease.

I am not sure where this production can and should go, but it felt much as if there needed a bit of development and perhaps a moral direction to the narrative.

Animals is comical, enjoyable and unique. While I wouldn’t say that this is a must see production at the moment, I would say that it is however a good laugh and an easy production when you’re not in the mood for anything too heavy.

Review: LIFE: The Gameshow, Dave Bibby, Vault Festival By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Take audience participation, the hilarious parts of life and throw in two comedians and you get a whole hour of a great night out.

Dave Bibby, in his new show, takes his usual love of getting the audience involved and on stage and transports us through elements of life, competing to be the better sex.

Games range from releasing blown up balloons, representing our first poo as babies, to scooting along our bums in our first car, to losing our virginities with slinkies. The inventiveness and creativity of the games and their representation is unique and clever, leaving us laughing firstly at the intelligent creations but also gearing us up for how the ordinary human completes such a task.

Bibby is totally honest with us, finding elements hilarious, turning any “mistakes” (as this is a show in progress) into a hilarious addition, and picking up or moving along the action with ease and confidence. We feel safe and well within his hands but happy to make fools of ourselves and join together to cheer on strangers.

Life: The Gameshow is exactly what we need in these uncertain times; a moment to relax, have fun, be pleasantly surprised but also to join together for common enjoyment.

Fabulous Animal Live Performance – A Review by Eva Marloes

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Fabulous Animal is a composite artistic project, which includes photos and videos of professional dancer Zosia Jo and of workshops’ participants and Zosia Jo’s live performance at Cardiff Made. It is an exploration of the body in its fleshy and animalesque dimension. The performance begins with Zosia Jo feeling her body, her teeth, her arms, licking her arm, comparing the hair in her armpits with the hair on her head. She stretches her muscles and shakes her body. She dresses and undresses.

The performance starts with playfulness and warmth. Zosia Jo is friendly and puts us at ease. Zosia Jo has a beautiful physicality and control over her body. Every move looks natural, with no tension, and easy. As her body moves slowly and softly, it becomes seductive. It is seductive in the literal sense of the word, in bringing us closer. She embodies an eroticism without a mask.

In the very small space of Cardiff Made, Zosia Jo projects a sense of wider nature. She moves like the waves of the sea, like the movement of our lungs as we breath. What is striking of the performance is her ability to give a sense of being in nature and part of nature. Zosia Jo is successful in stripping us of our everyday masks and let us see that underneath our clothes we are animals. In nature, the spectators would have been able to sense more their own body and their relationship with rocks, sands, trees, or water.

The texts beside the photos give a thoroughly research context linking this exploration of the body and nature to feminism. However, it is too abstract for the performance, while it is probably more powerful in the contexts of the workshops Zosia Jo did in Egypt. The exploration of the body outside of societal constructs of beauty, strength, and skill can resonate with men as well as women. In a disembodied society, we can all benefit from experiencing our bodies differently. At the performance, we remain spectators; yet as we watch Zosia Jo, we can imagine her as an animal. Like a butterfly she spreads her wings and she is nature. She is a fabulous animal.

You can watch the video online at the following address: https://www.zosiajo.com/

Review: Message In A Bottle, Peacock Theatre, By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I am going to be honest with you dear readers, I was rather dubious about Message In A Bottle.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Sting or The Police, but the fact this was another dance production by the wonderful Katie Prince of Zoonation fame (of which I am a fan) I was really intrigued with how the two could combine.

A really poignant story, Message In A Bottle focuses on a family torn apart from war and disaster, facing a life of a refugee and starting life again. A story that has often hit our newspaper headlines and breaking news articles on TV.

Zoonation has been known for its comedy – taking existing stories and giving them a comical yet urban feel to them. This production from Prince is something so different and dare I say it, my favourite to date from this choreographer and director.

Somehow the music from Sting fits every scene so well, without much change to the music, the world this family exist in feels almost alien and somehow the electronics of his songs, and the earthly beats of others just fit so well to the story and the characters.

The dancing, of course, is flawless and awe inspiring as Prince’s work always is. It is great to see her branch out even more with choreography – previous work lending to the fact it is urban, a hip hop version of a story; this production has these moments, but there are also beautiful contemporary moments, really showing the skills and versatility of each dancer.

And a review cannot be written without mentioning the set – a combination of multimedia usage with projections, a cubed stage where the background is ever changing, costumes that just fit effortlessly with the colour schemes and the lighting effects that are those I haven’t seen before in a show but also manage to include us the audience – an absolute triumph.

Message In A Bottle is an absolute masterpiece. It is everything from a dance show and more, and somehow, if you weren’t a fan of Sting or The Police before, you will now have them on repeat.

Complete perfection.

Review: I Think We Are Alone, Frantic Assembly, Theatre Royal Stratford East, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

I had been a long time fan of Frantic Assembly.

Growing up, I studied them intently, seeing majority of their shows whenever I could, fan girling over them each time. When hearing about I Think We Are Alone, and that the equally inspiring and admired by me since I was a kid, actress/director/creative extraordinaire Kathy Burke was involved, I literally needed to see this production.

Perfection as always, the stage is beautifully set – simplistic yet interesting and comprising of moving blocks of glass, the stage is open for all possibilities.

I Think We Are Alone looks at the intertwining stories of five people. It’s all about human feelings, real love, between family and friends and partners. About loss. And about how fragile life is.

The play is funny, it’s witty and it’s well written. But I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed. If I had come to the production, without a name such as Frantic Assembly to it, it would be brilliant. Perfection, well executed, with fantastic acting, brilliant direction and a stand alone wonderful play. But there was very little physicality, boundaries pushed and that special Frantic Assembly essence that I have grown up loving and inspired by.

They add a little bit, a lift here and there, using the glass squares as climbing frames, but this could have fit in any play and been just as good a direction. I felt that I was always waiting for a crescendo or for Frantic to really throw themselves, splashing their trademark across the stage and into our hearts.

I Think We Are Alone is wonderfully written, fantastically acted out and as it’s own production, heartwarming and heartbreaking – I just wished that there was more of Frantic Assembly in the final product.

A scene from I Think We Are Alone by Sally Abbott @ Theatre Royal Plymouth. A Frantic Assembly and Theatre Royal Plymouth production. Directed by Kathy Burke and Scott Graham.\r(Opening 05-02-20)\r©Tristram Kenton 02/20\r(3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com\r\r\r\r\r\r\r\r

Review Carmen, WNO by Barbara Michaels.

CARMEN Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Opera: Georges Bizet

Libretto: Henri Melham and Ludovic Haley

Director: Jo Davies

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Opera aficionados are fortunate to have seen Jo Davies new production of Carmen for WNO when it was first staged here in the Donald Gordon theatre last year.  Now there is another chance to see this production again, with different artistes in the main roles. 

Davies’ take on the popular opera retains all the drama of the original, despite being transferred from Spain to 1970s Brazil., the girls from the cigarette factory being clad in boiler suits and machine gun toting soldiers in khaki guarding the garrison. Some excellent performances. Including that of young Welsh soprano Elin Pritchard, are a major feature but what this production – emphasising the power of women in tune with the ‘woke’ attitudes and mores of today’s world – lacks is colour.  Although we are treated to a fore screen of garish oranges and reds, pretty well everything else is monotone until almost the end. Drab grey army uniforms and American-style bucket helmets versus the traditional colourful gear of the Spanish soldiers in Bizet’s original make it hard to see the raison d’etre for the sexual chemistry and passion which lead to the downfall of the free spirit that is Carmen and the soldier Don José, whose love and jealousy erupt to cause the tragic finale.

Making her UK and WNO debut, Julia Mintzer plays Carmen as callous and calculating, using her wiles to ensnare anything in trousers.  A prostitute with a heart she ain’t, but Mintzer’s portrayal does not prevent some stunning performances in her singing of the wonderful Habanera and in her duets with Carmen’s soldier lover Don José, sung with skill and empathy by Peter Auty, one of Britain’s leading tenors.  

Auty’s performance, both in his duets with Mintzer and with Pritchard, as the naïve country girl Micaela whose innocence is no match for Carmen’s wiles, is outstandingly good.  The same can be said for Pritchard, a heart-breaking and totally believable Micaëla.  Pritchard’s pure soprano soars into the realms of absolute joy.

The third side of the triangle is the bullfighter Escamillo, sung by Italian baritone Giorgio Caoduro.  Caoduro has performed leading roles with major opera companies, including singing Dandini in Cenerentola with WNO. Caoduro’s baritone, andstage presence are great for the role, with the caveat that a tad more swagger wouldn’t come amiss.

As Carmen’s friend Mercedes, who does her best to stop Carmen in her tracks, young artiste 
Angela Simkin, who has also sung the role at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, is a great fit and a young singer to watch, as is Korean singer Haigeee Lee as Frasquita, another friend.  Some superb dancing is choreographed to include sultry and sexy Argentinian tango steps, a cape-swirling Paso Doble, a mock-up of a bullfight – and more.  Ole!

As for the setting: inspired layering replicating a tenement block allows for interaction beyond and above what is happening on stage – on the whole an overall benefit, but at times irritating, as well as detracting attention from the main onstage action.

Under the baton of the young and immensely popular conductor Harry Ogg, Bizet’s superb music is done full justice from the stirring overture with its hint of tragedy to come right until the curtain comes down.

Run:  Saturday 29 February, 2020 then touring.

Review: Omelette, Long Distance Theatre, Vault Festival, By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

What do you get when you cross a budding relationship with climate change? You get Omelette.

Written by Anna Spearpoint, Omelette sees the meeting of Mo and Mia, as they embark on not only fixing the planet but on their developing relationship. The pair start by attending protests and quickly begin to make more and more changes to their lifestyles, together, to continue the good, all the while falling in love and falling out of love. Over a small period of time, the constraints of their lifestyle and the fast pace that their relationship has developed, all becomes sour until they realise how much an impact only one small change can do.

Set in the round, the actor’s begin quite far apart, slowly closing the distance and contact as their relationship blossoms, to eventually inhabiting the circular sheet in front of them. Representing the World (and possibly also an omelette) this circle is where it all happens – the dead centre of this play. For them, this is the centre of their World.

There are no curtains, very clever and quick scenes changes, making this seem a long period of time until we realise it is only a matter of days, weeks, months. The chemistry between the two performers is electric; it is both adorable and awkward, a period in new love that we can all relate to. They are almost an oxymoron – effortlessly and perfectly awkward.

At the beginning, the conversation is quick in pace and wit, and it is a wonder where they have time to get a breath but we realise this is a clever technique; reflecting their relationship stages, they become quieter, more silent and slower when they become angrier, less fond of one another and less in love.

Absolutely chocked full of comedy, Spearpoint’s play cleverly makes us think about climate change all the while making tears of laughter stream down our faces, all culminating in the realisation that all the drastic changes they have made haven’t made the World brand new but only made them miserable; when suddenly they figure out that even a small change is big in the long run, the whole narrative feels ironic and in itself is comical.

Omelette not only makes a political point but is full of fun, comedy, great writing and just as great acting. A real masterpiece.

Review: Cara Vita: A Clown Concerto, Vault Festival By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Clown meets Circus meets Classical Music.

Felicity Hesed has happily and triumphantly summed up this performance in her title. Full of comedy, music, Cara Vita is a great piece of fun for any evening.

Going through the trials and tribulations of a woman’s life, we meet Hesed on her wedding night all the way through family, breaking up and finding herself as a woman and a person again. The story is told with plenty of audience interaction, comical clown moments and up close and personal circus skills, flying high above us with a beautiful live played soundtrack.

Much of the telling of this tale is quite abstract; using sock puppets at one point to describe a break up; using other pieces of clothing to show the growth of children and the changes that come with this, to suddenly becoming invisible to rekindle the love for ones self when she then becomes visible to others on stage once again. The approach is very niche but not unwelcome, but it did seem to fall flat to some who one would assume came for a traditional clowning experience or traditional circus.

The pace of the production was quite similar; slow and steady, with pauses which eventually speeding up near the end for a climax. But it felt that little burst of energy could have kept us intrigued and engaged a little longer.

Cara Vita: A Clown Concerto is bundles of fun, comedy and a lovely narrative, celebrating women. A quicken of pace could have made it that little bit more special.

Review: Ask Me Anything, The Paper Birds, Vault Festival By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Take a hint of the 90’s. A dash of the noughties. And add the questions we all asked as young people. And you get The Paper Birds, Ask Me Anything.

Based upon verbatim questions and the performers younger selves, Ask Me Anything is a performance about what it is like to grow up and how hard life can be.

With a casual outlook to the performance, we are greeted by three women each showcasing what their childhood bedrooms looked like. We are given trust to join them on a personal level, with plenty of audience interaction and almost like a chin wag with a couple of mates, just with a hint of the theatrics. Taking questions from young people of today, they try to tackle questions many generations have asked: What is it like to have sex? Will I ever know what I want to do with my life? And then harder ones, that as three white women, they out-rightly outsourced to others better qualified to answer such as sexuality, race and mental health. The latter I felt was a great push in the right direction of theatre, ensuring that the majority of this country do not answer everything and instead tap into minorities, and bring them and the problems they can face to the forefront. Giving them the platform that they so rightly should have.

We feel safe and at ease, lulled into security until things get hard. I did feel that this could have been brought on sooner, feeling comfortable in a relative amount of time. It then felt a little long until we are hit with trauma. But when the trauma comes, it is heartbreaking and in your face; verbatim videos screening in a cannon on several screens and dramatic silence in its finale. Lulling us to then break the atmosphere, making a real point about mental health and hardships is a brilliant technique that The Paper Birds used well.

My favourite part of the production was that they were not just theatrical performers, but a 3 piece girl rock group. Interluding the action, brand new music written about and for the show are played, filling the room with an essence of girl power and for rock lovers like me, new favourites. I would happily see these women play a gig on its own if I could.

Ask Me Anything is poignant, comical and a musical masterpiece. A theatrical therapy for young people these days and a comfort for those still struggling with life.