Theatre: Conversations at a Burial

[Synopsis]
Three middle-aged siblings come together at their father’s house for the wake of their father’s funeral. They are joined by an ex-girlfriend of one brother (Alex) but she is in fact in love with the other brother. All three siblings are unmarried and are joined by their family friend and his new wife.

The conversations that follow are various snapshots of their lives, their loves and affairs, their relationship with their father and the mistakes they have made.

All three siblings are single and the death of their father forces them to contemplate how they came to the point in their life that they have reached.  And they decide to take action to change it as they spend the evening all trapped together in the house following a storm and a broken down car.

This was a brilliant amateur production at West Bridgford theatre; even with limited props and scenery, the realism of the scene and the authenticity of their emotions was really clear. The performance of the sister was particularly effective.

An effective, if slightly predictable, play about family, loss and love which has been performed on stages for years.

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Theatre: Noises Off

I saw this at Nottingham Playhouse a couple of months ago now and completely forgot to write about it, even though I thought it was brilliant.

It promised to make you laugh hysterically and I couldn’t resist a challenge like that. But it did exactly as promised!

[Synopsis]
It opens to nn amateur and farsical theatre group on their final dress rehearsal on the night before their opening night. They are forgetting their lines and cues and the exasperated director is on the verge of giving up hope.

The play they are performing within the play is a farce within itself. A play of mishaps, false identities and secret affairs all going on within one house whose owners appear conveniently (or inconveniently) from abroad to find that the tax office are after them and there are strangers in their house. The comedy is the type of trousers-fall-down, running from one room to another sort of humour which is even more effective in the second act.

The second act opens with the same theatre group performing their play to an audience but this time the set is reversed, so we see what is happening behind the scenes but still hear what is going on at the front (back) of the stage too.

The actors’ ability to remember their lines for the play going on at the ‘front’ that we saw in the first half, and the drama unfolding backstage, is incredible. As the alcoholic attempts to sneak his booze on stage, a love triangle materialises that causes a huge argument and one if the actors keeps fainting due to blood, the hilarious ridiculousness of the play really does have you doubled over with laughter.

Noises Off is a classic comedy that is a must-see for anyone who gets the chance!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – RSC

Throughout 2016, the Royal Shakespeare Company is putting on its ‘play for the nation’ of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They are taking the performance all over the country and collaborating with local amateur drama groups to put on the show.

In Nottingham the Lovelace Theatre Group collaborated with the RSC for a once in a lifetime show and it really was a spellbinding performance.

Similar to my recent trip to see Richard II, this performance used modern dress but with the original script. The scenery and props were phenomenal, using simple yet effective columns of fabric to create the forest trees and a grand piano which was central to the play not only for the beautiful and atmospheric music throughout, but also as a prop for the Fairy Queen to sleep in. The use of a large set of stairs and different levels made the feeling of movement through the forest even more visual.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream has always been my favourite Shakespeare play and the RSC magical and ethereal performance didn’t disappoint. The music from the small on-stage band gave me shivers and the comical scene during which Demitrius and Lysander fight over Helena had me crying with laughter. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the image of Lysander (played by Jack Holden) sliding across the stage on his stomach in a bid to woe Helena.

Lysander was a stand out performance of comedy and unawareness. The male competition between him and Demitrius is comical and mocked by the Fairy King, Oberon, and michevious sprite, Puck.

Puck, played by Lucy Ellinson, was by far my stand out performance of the night and absolutely captivating. She embodied everything a michevious, invisible, troublemaking fairy sprite should be. Her movement around the stage and engagement with not only the characters but also the audience – breaking the 4th wall and doing it very well – was exactly the kind of performance that makes you believe the trouble and mischief Puck has caused on stage is real and you’re invested in it. Her fairy-like features but androgynous dress perfectly portrayed Puck as the pivotal but unassuming character. the performance was literally spellbinding and hilarious, I forgot Puck was even played by an actor as Ellinson just seemed to become him so brilliantly.

My third and final favourite performance was the theatre troupe played by the Nottingham’s Lovelace Theatre Group and specifically the character of Bottom (Becky Morris). Her over-the-top and self-aggrandising character was hilarious and so engaging, believing everyone thinks she is as talented and comical as she does. Morris and the rest of Lovelace perfectly performed the farcical theatre troupe and the bungled attempt to put on a (ridiculous and pun-filled) play for the Duke. Their farcical and overtly ridiculous play at the end perfectly complements the main story of the fairies in the forest and subtlety of Puck, but all adds to the surreal aspect and the ridiculousness of everything that occurs in the play.

I’ve never enjoyed a Shakespeare play as much as I enjoyed this performance, it was competent captivating and engaging and clearly the RSC actors are incredible performers. The Lovelace Theatre group were incredible too and blended seamlessly into the cast for a performance I’m going to remember for a very long time!