If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You @ The Vaults

Written by John O’Donovan, Directed by Thomas Martin, Starring Josh Williams and Alan Mahon

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Photo Credit Keith Dixon

“Isn’t it good here?’

‘If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You,’ John O’Donovan’s 2016 play performed at the Vaults, is about two young men, trapped on a rooftop and surrounded by police. They’ve just stolen some money, some drugs, and they’re in love. Despite the police, a strange peace is found on the rooftop. It becomes an oasis of stillness. From this fixed point, the two men may lean back and observe the chaos that surrounds them. Through the stories and memories they share, we come to see the small Irish city they live in through their eyes. We learn about impulsive violence that ends with someone in hospital. We learn about cruel, draconian punishments.We learn about bitter feuds and gas station thefts and fraudulent relationships and, underneath it all, constant fear. These two young men never feel safe in this town.

John O’Donovan’s script artfully fills in the world around the rooftop, and Thomas Martin’s direction creates a sense of vertigo on the slanted rooftop. Josh Williams and Alan Mahon both put forward touching performances as Casey and Mikey.

Moving, sad, and full of bleak humour, If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You is a beautiful piece, skilfully put together by all involved.

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The Vault Festival

The Sound and the Fury, RCSSD @ The Pleasance

21 Feb – 24 Feb, 2018

by William Faulkner
Directed by Sasha Milavic Davies


 

The opening of the Sound and the Fury at Pleasance Theatre set the mood. Benny (Rhys Anderson) paints a lilting Mississippi-accented picture of the breezy hot plantations of 1900’s Mississippi. The actors walked on one by one, already creating an energy with which the entire play would buzz right to the end. 

We follow through the eyes of the three brothers of the Common family, as we watch them teeter and then fall down the brink of decay. From the off, it was clear that this was a creative team that had found a goldmine of current references; the struggle of race was clear, as was the struggle for power between men and women. It’s very much a story of our times. Unfortunately, I was invited to the closing night of the play – but I would heartily recommend that you read the book as well, so that you get the same messages I got.

The story of The Sound and the Fury is narrated by three different brothers: First Benjy, the simple brother, looked after by Dalsey, the housekeeper and her family, then Quentin, a Harvard student with the weight of his decaying family wealth and his love for his sister, finally by Jason, the embezzling, greedy oldest brother. The story jumps between time frames following the decline of the family through scandal after scandal. The cast brilliantly steer us through the narrative, so this is never jarring (although the first few times it was a little confusing!)

Rhys Anderson was a brilliant narrator – captivating, with great subtlety in creating his first character, Benjy, who is intellectually disabled. His complete transformation into Dalton Ames and then Herbert was so complete, that there was no doubt auto who he was playing at any one time. His sister and some-time carer Caddy was played by Emily Windham, who captured the 7 year old Caddy with delightful innocence that we hold onto throughout her ruination.

Marshall Nyanhete, who played Benjy’s carers Luster and Versh, gave a strong and solid performance which, alongside that of Angelina Chudi (playing his mother Frony), gave voice to the next generation of African American’s who wanted more than the life of a second-class citizen. They managed this with humour, asking many a person, including the heads of the family, for money to go to a music show.

Daniela Cristo Mantilla played the vivacious Miss Quentin with fire and verve, tormenting Jason, brought to life by Steve Salt. Salt brought a huge amount of energy to his characters, including a dynamic and animalistic portrayal of Jason, the embezzling brother. James Broadly created a great contrast to this in the calm and assured Quentin, played with a quiet strength. Grace Melhuish created a fantastic character in Mother, a southern belle far past her time. Her portrayal created a depth to the chaos of the family, helped along by the suburb performance from Dennis Sofian, who played Father. He also created some fantastic moments accompanying the action on his violin.

The stand out performances came from Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo (playing Matriarchal housekeeper Dalsey), and Bolaji Alakija (who played Roskus and TP). Both performers gave mature and resonant performances. They brought the play’s most powerful, human moments – a simple tut, the bandaging of a husband’s hand, all creating the feeling that Faulkner wrote into the novel; that “they endured.”

I should comment that the staging and lighting was excellent. The warm haze of the Mississippi plantains could be felt from the beginning. As the family fell further and further into disrepute, the staging and lighting became more and more random and off-quilter, upsetting the view for us in the audience and creating a sense of unease and dread. The use of music was fantastic, if at some points superfluous, again, building the world for us to see.

This was a story that is upsettingly poignant for our times. The performance was slick and compelling. I just wish I’d been invited earlier in the run to encourage people to see it.

Instead, here is their Twitter: @ActingCDT. This is a group with huge talent. Follow them and go see them next time.

 

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Interview with Owen Calvert-Lyons, Artistic Director at the Ovalhouse Theatre

 

Owen Calvert-Lyons, Head of Theatre and Artist Development at Ovalhouse (credit Ludovic Des Cognets) 11.jpg

 

Can you tell us about your role as artistic director, and what kind of work that entails? 

I’m the head of theatre, so I program all of the art and artists in the building. We’re a commissioning house, so we commission new works, we commission nine full new productions a year, and we also ‘seed commission’ somewhere between another nine and twelve. So part of my role is about creating new pieces of theatre, working with artists and identifying artists who have new stories to tell, creating co-productions, almost all of our productions are made as co-productions with another organisation, so I also help build all those relationships and find the right partners for every project.

We also bring some work in that already exists, so there’s a programming role about finding work that I think suitable for our audiences. Ovalhouse acts as a conduit between London and the regions so there’s a huge amount of great work that is made in London and never reaches beyond the M25, so we’re very keen to ensure that lots of the work we present goes out and reaches the rest of the country. The converse is also true, lots of amazing work made all across England and the United Kingdom doesn’t make it into London, so we also want to ensure that those voices from the rest of the country are heard in London.

And then there’s an artist development role. We have five associate artists, we have an artist training program, and I look after that to make sure our artists have access to the training that they want, and more importantly that they’re a part of a community of artists. As freelancers, as most artists are, it can be very isolating and it can feel like you work alone, rather than feeling that actually you work in a big industry and that London is full of freelancers, so finding ways for them to connect and work together and feel that they’re part of a bigger team is really important, and cultivate that sense that everybody’s on the same side. There can be a really damaging divide that suggests that artists and venues are separate and somehow in competition, rather than actually, we’re all working together, and most of us are, to an extent, paid by the same employer, in that Arts Council England is one of the biggest funders of the arts. They’re our core funder and for lots of our work they’re the core funder as well. So although we’re all working in very different setups, we’re absolutely working for the same goal.

 

To delve a bit deeper into that programming role, what’s your first step when it comes time to program a new season? 

I guess the starting point is the kind of ethos of our theatre which is about radicalism, politics, and experimentation. All the work we present will adhere to one or all of those facets. We’ll be looking for new voices, we’re very much about supporting artists outside of the mainstream, so sometimes we’re looking at supporting an artist whose voice has never been heard before or sometimes we’re looking to support an artist because we think they’ve got something really important and powerful to say and sometimes those two things coalesce and we’re doing the same thing. Quite often those people who haven’t been listened to before have really powerful things to say, but the reason that an artist is outside of the mainstream doesn’t have to be the reason that they’re making their work, those two things can be separate. A new voice in theatre who wants to say something we’ve heard before is fine, and equally an established artist might want to say something really radical, and we support that too.

 

I imagine people who are outside of the mainstream, even if they’re dealing with a topic that’s been covered before, will often have a new perspective on that topic.

Absolutely, and that is really what diversity for us is all about, that’s the creative case for diversity: that those voices that aren’t heard might have a very different perspective on the same ideas we’ve seen explored before.

 

You mentioned before you find it important to create a community of artists. Something you do here at the Ovalhouse that seems to work towards that goal is the First Bites program. Could you tell us about that program, and why you use that structure rather than a traditional scratch? 

For us it’s a program that is working really well at the moment, so it’s something that we want to continue to back. In terms of how it operates, it’s fairly structured, in that we offer one week of rehearsal time, one week in the theatre for technical and performance time, and we anticipate that ending in three nights of public performance  in which an unfinished work is presented to the public for five pounds.

I think one reason it’s successful is that we provide the artists with £500 cash, so there’s a real crucial difference there in terms of putting some actual cash in the hands of artists. Lots of venues, ourselves included, are resource rich and cash poor, and therefore artists can quite often put together a package of support, but what’s missing is the cash match, and then they go to Arts Council and they get turned down because they don’t have that crucial cash match. With £500, that artist can probably get about ten times that in terms of support from a funder like Arts Council. So maybe they’re now looking at getting £5000 pounds to support their research and development, and suddenly they’ve got quite an attractive proposition, they’ve got enough money to pay collaborators for a relatively short period of time, to test some idea.

I think the other reason it’s successful is that it uses a model that’s used a lot outside of theatre, that idea of properly rigorously testing something before it goes to the stage of being made. Scratch is very early-stages and very light-touch, whereas this aims to present something much more developed, something that isn’t finished, but is a good way there, so that everybody, us as producers, the artists themselves, and the audience, can all look at it and say “should we spend money on making this into a full show?” And so for us it really helps to decide where to put our full commissions, things that come out of the back of a really good First Bite, we already know the audience like it, the audience are interested and have questions to ask, we know that we like it, as producers, and think it’s a quality work, that artists feel that the questions in it that are really difficult questions can be ironed out here. It’s still got to go into rehearsal to finish it but the really meaty bits, the really problematic bits can be addressed in a fairly low-risk scenario. So we find it really advantageous for that, fifty percent of our First Bites go on to full commission.

And there’s another facet to it that’s about clarity. I think if you are an artist at the beginning of their career, or you feel like you don’t yet have that kind of experience or support behind you to know which venues to talk to and what support to ask for and how you can get it, there’s something about the clarity of First Bites that make it much easier for a new artist to come and say “I’d like one of those, I can read there that I get £500, a week of rehearsal, a week of performance, that’s what I want. Whereas I think in theatre we can be quite bad about being very vague about things, and artists sometimes, if they know the system and they know those venues, they understand what to ask for, you know how to navigate it. But if you’re a new artist, that is really hard to navigate, and I think this program and its openness allows new artists to come to us, and for us to form new relationships in a low-risk way. That means we’re more able to fulfil that goal of having new voices reaching our audiences.

 

Are there any common threads in the pieces chosen for this season at the Ovalhouse you’d like to highlight? 

We don’t thematically program, so we don’t set out with a theme in mind, but there often are emergent themes, there are things that we become interested in or where we see a few shows that we think might sit neatly together or might be speaking to one another, which is often really interesting. In this season one of the things that unites a large proportion of the season is that 75 percent of this season’s programming is female-led, and that is something we’re always interested in. The other thread that’s emerged in this season is about gig theatre and music, Medea Electronica feels like you’re in the middle of a gig and has a live electronica band as a part of it, Derailed by Little Soldier is also set up as a gig, it’s got a live band. And after that we’ve got Whatever Happened to Vandal Raptor which is all about punk music. So there’s a definite thread about live music, and I think part of that is our aim to always be playing with the audience experience, in Medea Electronica there are moments where it really feels like you’re in a gig, in Derailed there’s even a moment where one of the audience members is invited up to play one of the instruments as part of the performance, which really kind of turns that idea around.

 

You’re directing a piece right now, Random Selfies, can you tell us a little bit about what that’s about? 

We’ve been working on that for about year, and it’s part of a three year research project into child loneliness. Which is something we’re really interested in at the moment. In recent years the focus on loneliness has really been around older people, and the assumption is you get lonely when you’re elderly and alone, and the funding has gone to support that. Very little funding has gone to support other parts of the population, even though the problem is much more widespread than people realize. Where it’s having a really disastrous effect is on our children, and really there’s been very little focus on the way in which children can feel lonely, in a way that is not necessarily connected to personal circumstances like living in a rural area, or not having siblings, or not having a loving mum or dad.

 

What’s so interesting about Random Selfies is that it takes place in a flat in London, which raises the contradiction of being lonely in one of the most populous cities in the world. 

Absolutely, and that fascinated us. It’s written by Mike Kenny, who grew up as an only child in inner-city Leeds, and often felt very lonely as a child in a big city. We’ve worked with local children in and around Kennington, and we’ve gone into schools and we’ve talked to nine, ten and eleven years olds about their experience of loneliness, and that research process has been extraordinary. That’s all happened over the last year. Off the back of that time spent with those children and lots of art therapy workshops Mike went away and wrote the play. We’re going to present it here in March and April and then it goes to the Polka as part of their Techtopia festival, and then it will do a UK tour in the Autumn. One of the challenges we set ourselves was to make it a one-woman show. The other thing we play with is, we’ve got a designer, Rachana Jadhav, and she’s creating an animated set. She’s an illustrator, she draws very beautiful pictures, and that will allow the walls of Loretta’s bedroom to come to life and be a part of that story. So the set becomes the other characters, the set has the ability to take all the things that are going on in Loretta’s mind and present them out to us.

 

You were appointed here in 2016, and the Ovalhouse has been going through a period of transition in that time. How have things been changing since you got here? 

Well you’re right that Ovalhouse is undergoing enormous change, and that began before my appointment. I would say that change really began in 2015 with the appointment of Stella Kanu, our executive producer. What she set about doing was the beginning of really a five year program of continual change, leading up to the opening of a new building in 2020. One of the things Stella talked about when I arrived was about how uncomfortable change is, and that one of the ways we manage change is we kind of say “oh, it’s okay feeling uncomfortable, because in x amount of time that will change and I’ll feel okay.” But actually five years of change is quite a lot of time, it might be the entire duration of your time at Ovalhouse. So some of it has been about how we manage change, how we learn to be okay with change, how we learn to be okay feeling uncomfortable, and how we make that okay for one another as well. One of those stages was me coming in and changing the whole of the program, which came into effect in January 2017. I brought in quite a lot of change there, a bigger program, a different approach to the work we’d produce. Not long after that we brought into the new participation team, and the next stage is we’re about to bring in a new communication team and a new finance team. So by the end we’ll have almost a completely new team, with some people who’ve been there throughout. Then the next period of change will be the closure of this building, and there’s likely to be a period between the closure of this building and the opening of the new building, and then ultimately all of this is leading to the opening of the new building, but then that will take at least a good year to get used to that new space and all that that brings.

I think one of the other big areas of change is this idea of working off-site. One thing we’ve been really keen on is making work outside of these four walls, which makes us work in a different way, and means that when we move into our new building we won’t see it as an ivory tower. It’ll be a tool at our disposal, but we’ll know that actually there are some things that you can create outside that you can’t create inside. We made a piece in a chapel last summer, this summer we’re likely to make another piece offsite, and once this building closes we’ll make significantly more work off-site.

 

Outside of Ovalhouse shows, is there a piece of art you’ve experienced recently that’s inspired you?

I saw Tim Cowbury’s The Claim at Shoreditch Town Hall and Benin City’s Last Night in an underground bar in Hackney – both were excellent!

 

Check out what’s on this season at the Ovalhouse

Dust, Milly Thomas @ Soho Theatre

Tuesday 20th February – Saturday 17th March

Written and performed by Milly Thomas.Directed by Sara Joyce.

Dust - Milly Thomas (courtesy of The Other Richard)_3_preview

I have no words.

I left the show with no words.

My chest was heaving and my body was spasming.

Dust is ground breaking.

A life changing show.

Milly Thomas, has previously written A First World ProblemClick Bait and Brutal Cessation all performed at the Theatre503. Dust was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe 2017 winning the Stage Edinburgh Award and now transferring to the Soho Theatre.

A play about Alice, a young woman who has just committed suicide and now has to watch her family and friends in the aftermath of the event. Passing from memories that she is forced to relive then to Alice’s current discoveries of her family and friend’s life after her death.

Milly Thomas is highly skilled in flicking from sharp witted and truthful humour to pure darkness and heartbreak. The excellent contrast of light and darkness in this play makes a beautiful roller-coaster for the audience to ride on. Milly Thomas has balanced  it effortlessly.

Thomas has guts and courage as the pieces writer/performer. She speaks in brutal honesty and says the things we think in our heads and wish we could say out loud. Although personal, she made this a universal experience for the audience with her honest remarks and quips which is what made this show so utterly moving.

What is so impressive about this performance is, although it’s a one woman show with a minimalistic set by Anna Reid (comprising of three mirrors and a morgue table), it does not feel like it. Milly Thomas  brings the presence of other characters and different settings with her. She entirely transformed herself and the space with such ease.

This play will, and has, opened up a debate and conversation about mental health issues and suicide which I hope will continue.

And I hope this play continues onto more and greater spaces.

This is a show that EVERYONE needs to see.

A show that moves you to the very core, Milly Thomas has exposed the inner workings of mental health sufferers and found humour in the darkness.

Dust needs to be broadcast round the world.

If there was one show, you made sure you go and see this year, this would be it!

Dust - Milly Thomas (courtesy of The Other Richard)_2_preview

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INTERVIEW with Bunker Theatre director Joshua Mctaggart!

For my readers who aren’t aware of your work, who are you?

I’m Joshua Mctaggart, I’m the artistic director of the Bunker theatre, which is an off-west end venue in London Bridge. The space used to be an abandoned car park when we first got the lease, it was very much in disarray. And then in 2016 we transformed it into a 110 seater studio theatre space with a small bar. We celebrated our first birthday last October, so just over a year now.

This season we’re launching a new season and new bar, which is exciting!

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Joshua Mctaggart – Photo by Simon Paris


One of the articles I read on you described you as the accidental artistic director, how did that happen?

I founded the Bunker with Joel Fisher (the current executive producer at the Bunker). He and I met in 2015 through the springboard program at the Young Vic, and we realized we had similar beliefs about how off-West End theatre should be run in a way that empowers artists. As so often happens in the arts, we sat around having coffee, talking about things we didn’t like about the industry and things we wanted to change. I was always very open about my dream of running a venue one day, with the aim of bringing collaborators together and forming artistic connections in a space.  I think there’s something really exciting about the spaces where audiences and performers meet and where people gather, and something really important about cultural and community spaces. Joel and I had similar beliefs about how we could go about creating a space like that.

Then, about two years ago, Joel and I met with a landlord to discuss this abandoned underground car park that he was using as an ad-hoc rehearsal space. It had no health and safety sign-off, no ramp, no wheelchair access. A Southwark tcouncillor told me it was a car-crash waiting to happen, which I took as a challenge! So, I spent the next 6-8 months overseeing a building site, and we eventually got the licensing and the legals and the sign off, announced in August, and opened with a full season of work in August 2016. We launched with Skin a Cat, which I thought was a very clear statement of intent for the Bunker about what we’re interested in artistically: work from points of view that we don’t always hear from, work that challenges social taboo and gender identity, feminist stories. I think it was a real calling card for us.

Since then we’ve had some huge shows, like La Ronde, which is the first play in several years to be nominated for the Best Off-West End category of the What’s On Stage awards.

Electra - Megan Leigh Mason, Lydia Larson and Samuel Martin (Credit - Lidia Crisafulli)

Electra (27 Feb – 24 Mar) – Photo by Lidia Crisafulli


You’ve talked previously about wanting Off-West End theatre to be produced differently. What precisely did you mean by that?

Well there’s two levels, there’s the creative level and the financial level. On a creative level, it was about the event of seeing the play. All too often, when people go to a play they show up five minutes before, they see the play, and they go straight home. But I’m fascinated by spaces, and so I thought it was critical for people to really inhabit that environment. Because of the nature of the Bunker, we keep the bar open until the end of the night, and we keep the doors open so that people can go back inside. I think it’s really exciting to be able to be right next to a set and be able to have those post-show conversations.

On the financial level, I’m mostly concerned with finding models of producing off-West End theatre that ensures everyone is compensated fairly, while remaining financially viable.


“Beautiful things start, and beautiful things end, but beautiful things will start again. 
I’ve found that as long as you can hold on to that,
you can get through”


What is important to you in deciding what creators you want to work with?

I’m constantly impressed by the way every creative I interact with functions in their everyday life. The challenges of being freelance and of balancing work, play and creation are enormous, and I’m always very impressed by the work people are making and the strides people are taking to be heard. I think what’s really important is that there’s a story that really needs to be told, and a passion for that story. I think it’s much more important that a story have a fire behind it than that it be ‘marketable.’ So, I seek out artists that are passionate about the stories they’re telling, and that share a passion for storytelling. Sometimes you can tell, there are some people that seem to radiate with that passion.

Electra - Dario Coates (Credit - Lidia Crisafulli)

Electra (27 Feb – 24 Mar) – Photo by Lidia Crisafulli

Electra is the next show to go up at the Bunker. Greek tragedy can be quite difficult to pull off, what gave you faith in this particular production?

When someone sits down with you and says ‘I want to take the story of Electra and make it a punk rock performance with actor-musicians. Here’s this really poetic script we’ve been working on.’ It’s impossible to say no, really. Every time you embark on producing a show there’s an element of risk, and what really emboldened me with Electra was the creators behind it, both on the writing and musical side and on the producing side.

Also, they’re a Bristol-based company (DumbWise Theatre), and I think as a London venue it’s important that we don’t get stuck in the rut of only producing work from London-based companies. It’s critical that we develop those artistic relationships and nurture those connections with artists from other cities.

 

After Electra, you’ll be putting on Devil with the Blue Dress. What excites you about American work?

I’m excited about American practitioners, to be precise. What fascinates me about America, and why I think it’s still important for us to look at it as a country, is that America is an experiment: how free can people be while still having a structure of government in place. That’s the question that America poses, and that question leads to really fascinating culture and really fascinating politics. The UK is so very different from America, and so I think that cultural exchange is very important.

I also think it’s fascinating how this particular piece has evolved as the world shifts around it. The play was written before the 2016 election, and at that time it was very much intended to be about where the first female president came from. Then the election happened, and the play became about how Hillary Clinton lost. Now, in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the many reports of sexual misconduct in Hollywood and beyond, it’s become about abuses of power by men, and the way we as a society react to those abuses.

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Devil with the Blue Dress (29 Mar – 28 Apr)


What is your message to creators who want to work at the Bunker?

I’m amazed by how many people come and ask me to have a cup of coffee with them who don’t know about the work we do. From a purely practical perspective, if you’re going to sit down and speak with the artistic director of a venue, it would help to have a clear understanding of the ethos of that venue. I’m generally very open to talking to people, but I would say my advice is “know why you want to be at the Bunker.” why should your story be at the bunker? Who is the audience? Where is the passion for that story? And if it comes back to storytelling and a passion for telling that story, then that’s exciting. Don’t come and tell me the story you think I want you to tell, tell me the story that you want to tell. I think that applies both to the Bunker and the industry at large.

 

Finally, is there a piece of work that changed your worldview, personally?

There are two paintings, one in the National Gallery and one in the Tate Britain, both by Turner. One is called the Rise of Carthage and one is called the Fall of Carthage. They’re two epic, beautiful paintings, one about the arrival of Dido in Carthage and the other about the expulsion from Carthage. One time, I went to the National Gallery and looked at the Rise, then walked across the river and looked at the Fall, and then I walked back and looked at the Rise again; and that reminded me that beautiful things start, and beautiful things end, but beautiful things will start again. I’ve found that as long as you can hold on to that, you can get through, whether that applies to art, relationships, or life itself.

 

 


Massive thanks to Joshua and Tilly for their time and patience, and to @samwellswriting for all his help!

Interview with Thomas Martin, Director of If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You @ The Vaults

Director: Thomas Martin on If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You by John O’Donovan.

14th February- 25th February

The Vaults

To book tickets – click here


What originally attracted you to work on If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You?

The characters and the place. John O’Donovan has written two charming, complex young men, each of them speaking in strikingly differentiated language – it’s proof of the writing that I could imagine vividly not only what each of them was thinking when I first read it, but also where each of them was from. Mikey and Casey’s Ennis, though you sense it’s not the easiest of places to live, especially for young gay men, still feels so full of life that you want to stay there even after the play is done.

 

What’s it like re-staging the piece now, at the vault festival? 

We’ve already restaged it for its four week tour of Ireland, where it’s played at Project Arts Centre in Dublin, Glor in Ennis, and the Mick Lally Theatre in Galway. These spaces are dramatically different in size and configuration, so we’ve always had to be quite quick on our feet in terms of staging the show! VAULT is end-on, so audiences will be getting the more widescreen version of this play.

 

The show has been praised for the chemistry between the two leads, did you do any particular work in rehearsal to help establish that rapport?

Luckily, Josh and Alan get on like a house on fire outside of rehearsals, so we had no trouble developing that connection in the room, but this time round we were lucky enough to work with movement director Sue Mythen. She helped the actors access not only a more realistic physical relationship to the roof, but also a deeper physical relationship with each other, which reads wonderfully on stage. Improvisations on the characters’ historical interactions were also really helpful.

 

The play deals with a lot of complex and difficult issues: homophobia, domestic abuse, poverty — how do you deal with bringing such weighty issues to the stage?

You take them seriously, and really make use of them. The play doesn’t discuss these things, nor would I say it’s about them, but they are the facts about the characters, and any good actor will use those as fuel for their performance. The difference in experience between two people is always potent – there’s a tiny shift in the play when Casey asks Mikey (who is unemployed, lives on the dole, deals a bit to get by) if he’s ever been kicked out of a flat by his landlord. Casey has, and that shift in status was a great discovery that we only made by taking the difficult circumstances of the characters seriously.

 

What element of the show are you most excited for audiences to see?

The ending! Wow, the ending! This is a sneaky way of making sure nobody walks out, but it’s also a really good ending.

 

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

I think people are always surprised by how much they think of the characters afterwards. Loads of audience members have remarked on wanting to know what happens to them next, and I think it’s testament to the writing that Mikey and Casey feel real enough to have that sort of effect.

Any advice for aspiring theatre professionals?

If you don’t need to be doing it, if it’s not the thing that makes you happiest in the world, probably don’t do it.

 

Aside from ‘If We Got Some More Cocaine…’ what’s a book/production/piece of art/film you think more people should see? 

Simon Longman’s play Gundog has just opened at the Royal Court, and it’s a magnificent bit of work.

 


If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You by John O’Donovan.

14th February- 25th February

The Vaults

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Be Prepared, Ian Bonar/Rob Watt @ The Vaults

7 – 11 February, 2018

Written & Performed by Ian Bonar
Directed by Rob Watt

 

Be Prepared - Edinburgh Fringe 2016 (Photo by The Other Richard) 6

Photos courtesy of The Other Richard

 

A heart-breaking but hilarious play about one man struggling to remember while another finds himself unable to forget.

Be Prepared is a return of Ian Bonar’s first play, first shown at the Edinburgh Fringe 2016. An alumnus from the acclaimed Royal Court Writers group, Be Prepared is very well written and you can appreciate the language and the text as an audience member.

An equally talented performer, Bonar is engaging and sensitive on stage and  takes the audience on a whirlwind emotional journey. The performance is gripping through a majority of the piece, only suffering from an occasional hiccup in pacing. Despite this, Be Prepared keeps the audience on their toes with some very funny and unexpected surprises throughout the play.

The concept of ‘one wrong digit can change a person’s life forever’ could have been clearer in the piece; however I would recommend this show for its brilliant script, storytelling, and a hilarious and engaging performance from Ian Bonar. It’s definitely a show not to be missed at the Vault Theatre Festival.

 

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Think of England, AIAWTC @ The Vaults

Wednesday 7th – Sunday 11th, 2018

by Madeline Gould
Directed by Tilly Branson

Leila Sykes and Matthew Biddulph in Think of England, credit of Ali Wright

Photography by Ali Wright

 

Based on a real-life WW2 scandal, audiences become part of a crowd sheltering from the Blitz and meet a pair of women who set up a tea dance to raise moral. When some Canadian pilots join the fun, they threaten to uncover some dangerous secrets.

This show is brilliant. It’s delightful and charming, and oh boy it is fun! A powerful and moving drama, with playful characters and joyful air, it entertains and scandalises.

The cast are just wonderful. Special mentions to the boisterous and irreverent Madeline Gould (Vera), who welcomes you into the world of the show with a roguish smile and a sly wink, and to the utterly lovable and lovelorn Stefan Menaul as Cpl. Frank Lamb – whom you spent most of the show trying not to run up and cuddle.

Leila Sykes gives a subtle and heartfelt Bette across from the slime-ball that is Pip Brignall’s Lt. Tom Gagnon, who makes a wonderful and cynical antagonist, vying with Matthew Biddulph’s charismatic Lt. Bill Dunne to be top dog.

They’re deeply empathetic characters, perfectly portrayed and wittily written. A big congrats to the cast, they really bring this show alive.

Leila Sykes and Madeline Gould in Think of England, credit of Ali Wright (2)
It really is superbly playful, and hearing bombs drop and giggling together at the repartee and love triangles, I began to feel an odd sense of community with my fellow patrons, as we all smiled sheepishly at each other in an impromptu jive lesson and take part in the raffle where you stand the chance of winning the luxurious prize of two fresh eggs.

This is all wonderfully balanced with the well-acted and fiery drama that unfolds before you.

The Vaults is a perfect venue. Though the acoustics occasionally aren’t kind and some of the pacing could be tighter, the cavernous and dripping hall sucks you into the world of the play before spiting you out the other side touched and grinning from ear to ear.

 

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The Moor, Rive Productions @ The Old Red Lion Theatre

6th February-3rd March 2018

by Catherine Lucie
Directed by Blythe Stewart

The Moor, Old Red Lion Theatre - Jill McAusland (courtesy of The Other Richard)_2_preview

I have a soft spot for pub theatre.

To compete with the elements, the space, the noise of the pub and the traffic and outside world. Fringe shows put together by people who are passionate about creating and putting together things with limited time or funding.

It always makes me feel like the girl who visited the Edinburgh Fringe at 15 years old and thought; ‘Phwoar! This is bloody exciting’

How then, have Rive Production’s ‘The Moor’ managed to expand and evolve the dimensions of the Old Red Lion Theatre to a vast space of land?

This did not at one moment feel like ‘pub theatre’.

It felt epic.

I walked into the space pre show and took a breath. Cliched but true.

I was utterly impressed and surprised at Holly Pigott’s innovative design. She managed to transform a small space into the world of the Moor. It felt reminiscent of Johannes Schütz’s epic and deteriorating design for Benedict Andrew’s Three Sister’s at the Young Vic in 2012.

Rubble swept the back of the stage, a very minimalist house setting and rotating muted Moor designed backdrops that hung from the ceiling (eventually moved by the actors when passing to alter the space).

The Moor, Old Red Lion Theatre - Oliver Britten and Jill McAusland (courtesy of The Other Richard)_2_preview

It really brought us to the Moor and engaged us with the changes and shifts in space, world and time.

Bronagh, a young woman isolated in a vaste expanse of land; The Moor.

Feeling increasingly claustrophobic, incited by her surroundings, relationship, child and life, then becomes involved in an investigation with the police which starts to invade her own life and mind.

This was a fight for her own sanity.

Jill McAusland’s Bronagh was perfection. We as the audience felt like an extension of her mind. She spoke to us as if to herself. Childlike, innocent and silently tortured by her own life.

Being in the same space as her boyfriend, Graeme (Oliver Britten) for the first time, I saw a woman who kissed her partner for her own salvation. There was a tango going on between them; who would win? Her mind or his brutish and simplistic nature. Her desperation was palpable.

The Moor, Old Red Lion Theatre - Jill McAusland and Oliver Britten (courtesy of The Other Richard)_2_preview

Another element of the design which worked so well, was the faceless, weighted anonymous baby of Bronagh and Graeme’s. It added a whole other element to her world and mind slowly falling apart, as although I believed entirely the baby was real (thanks to Bronagh’s great connection with it) it’s facelessness brought me further into her psyche.

Jonny Magnanti’s Pat (the police officer working with Bronagh) was paternal, grounded and real. This wasn’t a ‘police officer’; this was a man with his own world going on whose own past intertwined with Bronagh’s.

The Moor, Old Red Lion Theatre - Jill McAusland and Jonny Magnanti (courtesy of The Other Richard)_preview

This show’s great juxtaposition of a woman living in a vast countryside space, yet feeling so utterly isolated was truly resonating. This was a testament to the excellence of Catherine Lucie’s writing, beautifully crafted into a truly breathing and living world by Blythe Stewart’s direction.

I am drawn back to my interview with Blythe Stewart, and how great theatre makes you question your own life and your own world views. What is real and unreal?

This show was entirely ambitious and managed to achieve every one of it’s ambitions.

I see a great future for this play.

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Her Not Him, Lughnacy Productions @ Theatre503

30th January – 3rd February, 2018

Written by Joanne Fitzgerald
Directed by Amy Lawrence

Her Not Him Extras - Ali Wright-42

Photography by Ali Wright

 

‘My preference is for non-arseholes, but they are quite hard to find’

Jemima’s answer to Bea when asked about her sexuality and what made me frantically scribble it away and press into my memory as something that makes this show entirely stand out.

It’s not often, in my experience, to see a show based on LBTQ relationships where sexuality became something that did not signify the characters but just was. It existed. People loved and lost each other.

I feel like I want to pin that quote on a badge on my coat at all times.

I’m going to directly quote the summary from Theatre503’s website as I feel my words won’t eloquently put across the plot of the play or give too much away.

Bea, an older woman, comes out late in life. She nabs herself a young lover, Ellie, who has aspirations of starting a family and putting them both on a path to domestic bliss. Then Bea meets Jemima, who catches her eye and steals her away from Ellie. It all falls apart when Bea finally meets James, the boy beneath Jemima’s make-up, wigs and glamour, who doesn’t excite her quite as much.

What I really loved about this production was the embracing of simplicity.

The design was simple yet stunning; two moving distressed (in a fashionable way) metal walls on wheels and two chairs and a table.

These were choreographed into a seamless movement and dance inspired transition between each scene. They made a beauty of scene changes by not ignoring it but embracing it and it added a physical story and enhancement of the plot without adding extra clunky exposition dialogue. We understood the changes of character and their relationships further from this beautiful movement.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable production. A very grounded, mature and feline like Bea (Orla Sanders) who struggles to open up to those close to her starts the play with Ellie (Leah Kirby), who is a rather in your face, energetic extrovert next to Bea’s calm, still nature. Opposites attract or from what I saw last night; ultimately repel.

 

This is all chucked up in the air when Bea meet’s Jemima (John James), a gorgeous, outspoken transvestite. From the moment, Jemima walked on stage, she brought on a different youthful, truthful energy, that made me drawn to watching her and her interactions with Bea.

Another exquisite moment from Jemima, was the unveiling and undressing of her by Bea, which I thought was utterly sublime. She became so childlike, innocent and tender. It really showed the intimacy and shyness of that first sexual encounter with a new partner.

I feel slightly mean for coming so early in the run as I felt that the actors and their intimacy and connection between each other took the first two scenes to warm up and I would be interested to see if this alters later in the run.

Bea’s fight to open up to those around her was the arc that ran through this piece and ultimately ended it.

For my taste, I had an issue with the ending of this play. It all wrapped up rather neatly and sweetly with no grudges held and I guess the thing I would take from that is that friendship and genuine human connection is more important than sexual or romantic relationships in the end. But I would be intrigued to see, how this could have ended differently or possibly more honestly.

What I most enjoyed about this play and what I would take from it, is that it showed the awkwardness, genuineness, closing and opening and beauty of dating irregardless of gender and sexuality. A play that made you laugh but also made you reflect on your own relationships and interactions.

The next time someone questions you about your sexuality or preferences, just answer;

 

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