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.

Advertisements

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!

Richard II in the House of Commons

Last weekend I was lucky enough to have won two of only 100 available tickets to see a special performance of Shakespeare’s Richard II in the House of Commons.

And lucky is definitely the word.

image

For those who don’t know, Saturday 23rd April marked 400 years of Shakespeare. Events all over the country, in indie bookstores, in arts centres and on the streets of the capital itself, all marked a celebration of William Shakespeare.

Seeing Richard II in Parliament was not just a performance of Shakespeare, but an experience.

From the moment we walked through security into Westminster, through the unusually quiet halls, we were part of the experience and the atmosphere.

The performance itself was brilliant, the production successfully maintains the original script and language of Shakespeare whilst supplanting it into a world of 21st Century politics using BBC breaking news headlines and smart technology.

You never lost the precarious feeling of the balance of power constantly shifting, and the unravelling of the characters and their diminishing political power was something you could only dream of witnessing in the real world of Westminster!

The cast of this production not only portrayed the characters but also their intricacies and the intricate power that Shakespeare’s play was exposing and unravelling.

A brilliant way to celebrate Shakespeare and a brilliant showcase of talent that I hope will transfer just as well to its run at the Arcola Theatre. Because the magic of this performance was that props and scenery were not as necessary when we were already sitting in and experiencing the setting of the original play.

I hope, and I’m sure, the performance at the Arcola Theatre will continue to do the play as much justice as the spectacular Westminster did.

Theatre and Open Mic Nights

So recently I’ve been very cultured and tried to make a real effort to see more of what my home city of Nottingham has to offer in terms of the arts.

I’ve always loved going to the theatre and even more so since I’ve started my full-time job as it’s something really enjoyable to look forward to during the week. I’ve seen some bigger productions recently at the Theatre Royal, such as the classic Mousetrap ‘whodunit’ play, I’ve enjoyed some of the local and travelling theatre groups at the very intimate Lace Market Theatre – only 100 audience seats. Last week I went to Nottingham Playhouse to see their current play, Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, which was fantastic and the set was possibly the simplest but most effective and impressive that I’ve seen at the Playhouse. Although that said, I saw The Mist in the Mirror there too and loved the set for that too.

A couple of weekends ago I also went to the Nottingham Contemporary for an open mic style night for International Women’s Day, called Phenomenal Women. It was in the Contemporary’s cafe/bar which I’d never been to before but the vibe in there was awesome and £3 for a gin and tonic wasn’t too bad either. The whole event was a great showcase of local Nottingham and Midlands talent and it was super intersectional too with lots of amazing women from different races and nationalities with incredible talents. Stand out performance was definitely Lia White from Nottingham, only 16 but with the most incredible voice.

Have you come across any local arts or theatre that’s really stood out?

Helena x

Review: The Mist in the Mirror

The Mist in the Mirror seems to have cropped up in conversations with people several times recently so I thought, why not write a blog post reviewing my trip to Nottingham Playhouse to see it?

I think I made the mistake of going into the theatre with cinematic expectations. Being written by the same author as The Woman in Black I had classic horror movie expectation of dark suspense scenes and jumpy thrills. The Mist in the Mirror was not that.

It made attempts to make the audience jump and build suspense, which to an extend worked with the narrator retelling a story handed to him from an unknown origin. But in the same way that the fear of horror movies diminishes when you watch it with friends, so did the  attempts at thrills and suspense when you’re watching it in a theatre full of people.

The staging and use of the set was, admittedly, fantastic. With a small cast the use of obstacles on stage to create movement or passage of time was fantastic. This combined with the lighting created brilliant illusions of movement and progression in the story and the cast really utilised their props and staging to maximum effect.

Overall it was definitely an interesting first time experience of horror/thriller in theatre for me but considering my love of horror I think I’ll stick to the movies for the real thrills.

image

My review: The Two Worlds of Charlie F

The job of actors and actresses is to empathise to the highest level in order to identify with, and in turn, convey their character as realistically as possible. However, it’s not often that the fictional character being played is a non-fictional representation of the actor’s own experience. For Canadian, Cassidy Little(Charlie F), and the rest of the cast, this illusion of realism is not an illusion at all. Little relives his own experience on stage every night as he depicts a wounded ex-serviceman who has lost his right leg while on active service in Afghanistan. Little was a Royal Marine who lost his leg in a bomb-blast serving in Afghanistan in 2011.

In The Two Worlds of Charlie F. The actors and actresses all depict their own injuries as their characters, ranging from double and single amputees to spinal cord injury, to permanent brain damage to PTSD.

The play is a precedent for all military-themed theatre as this is the first time a theatre company has been allowed access to wounded military personnel. The Ministry of Defence has, in the past, been concerned about how physically and mentally disabled service men and women may be depicted or exploited by the world of performing arts. I must admit, I was apprehensive about whether a play could do justice to such personal and painfully life-changing experiences without simply exploiting the stories to create a dramatisation for aesthetic effect.

Instead, what evolved before me as I watched was an incredibly powerful and poignant story, so private and personal to those who had experienced it that I felt as if I was privileged in being admitted into a world of feelings which I could not even begin to comprehend.

However, it wasn’t as if the audience were intruding on the experiences of those who have been wounded fighting for their country. The play’s identifiable humanity is clear and deliberate. The humour; the colloquialisms; the unfiltered emotions and personal representations of life on the front line all serve to provide the public with an insight into the lives of military personnel from a previously unseen perspective. And perspective is the all-important element. The play is performed on a stage like any other play, acknowledging it’s loose fictionality. But the realism of the actors’ disabilities and personal emotions and experiences are things which cannot just be ‘acted’. Their reality provides a public perspective which allows the exploration of the consequences, the life after being wounded in service; beyond that which we see depicted in the media.
The theatre company originally started as a recovery project for wounded, injured and sick (WIS) soldiers from all over the Commonwealth who had been medically discharged from service. It was delivered thanks to a partnership between the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust, the Royal British Legion and the Defence Recovery Capability. The success of the project and the lifted embargo on the use of wounded servicemen and women in theatre performances is the element which renders this play so profound and emotionally loaded.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

 

Yet, this is not a play which feels sorry for itself. The story is not one of self-pity or internalisation of trauma. The play follows not only the loss and psychological impact, but also the acceptance, rehabilitation and recovery process of those injured in service and their families. As lead character, Charlie F, describes it: “it’s the same process they teach you in basic training: Adapt and overcome.”
As the daughter of an ex-Royal Marine who also sustained an injury during service, the play felt terrifyingly close to home with possibilities that I had never considered nor wanted to consider. But the portrayal of the journey that young servicemen and women endure after injury was one filled with hope and humanity; as the success of the Charlie F recovery project demonstrates. This isn’t just a play for our benefit and insight, but also for all the servicemen and women involved, it is part of their own process of recovery. In an interview with Nottingham Evening Post, Cassidy Little describes the impact the theatre company has had on his recovery: “All of them are great friends of mine. I don’t know what I would have done without them. They have given me a purpose again.”The actors were all rewarded with a standing ovation at the end of their performance. One of the few times that it can be said that a standing ovation was given for more than just their performance on the stage.For more information visit: http://www.charlie-f.com/