Bluebird @ The Space  

24 July – 4 August, 2018

by Simon Stephens
Directed by Adam Hemming
Presented by Space Productions

BLUEBIRD 5 edit

I ventured to The Space in East London on a warm Wednesday evening to watch Bluebird by Olivier award-winning playwright Simon Stephens, and I have no regrets. Upon entering the square black box theatre I was surprised by the dynamic staging of a raised platform shaped as a cross with seating in each corner. As I sat listening to ‘All Saints’ singing ‘Never ever have I ever felt so low…’ (on hindsight, a perfect choice) nothing could prepare me for the stories I was about to be told (and how brilliantly they were told!).

We followed the working day of taxi driver Jimmy Macneill, played by the incredibly talented John Kearne, as he drives a diverse range of people down the streets of London. Within the scene’s each ‘fare’ (the person getting the taxi) opens up to Jimmy, sharing secrets, experiences and opinions. This text-based show could have been a lengthy nightmare. However, it was successfully put together by the director Adam Hemming who obviously had an eye for detail, which is incredibly important in such an intimate space. Each scene was given the space to breathe yet kept its pace, and the text was certainly the focus (as it should be with Simon Stephen’s words!). The naturalistic style was on point, especially the driving by John Kearne, and it allowed us to be completely immersed in the characters and their stories.

Subtle, yet effective transitions lead our eyes to different points of the stage and were an essential break between the emotional storytelling. Similarly the props and set were minimal and always relevant. It is important for the space to not be overcrowded when the focus is on the actors, especially when you have a cast like this one! I was blown away by the talent on stage; one of the first ‘fares’ in Jimmy’s taxi was Robert Greenwood, played by the captivating Mike Duran who delivered his monologue with such honesty and emotion that I could not hold help but hang off his every word. Similarly, Anna Dolan, who played the role of Jimmy’s wife Clare Macneill, was a force to be reckoned with. She is the type of actress I could watch perform every night for a year and still be amazed.

Space productions drove me to reflect on my own life, and consider the hopes and regrets people live with each day. An incredible piece of writing matched with an incredible cast… you would be crazy not to go see it!

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I am of Ireland @ The Old Red Lion Theatre

5 -30 June, 2018

by Seamus Finnegan
Directed by Ken McClymont

Shenagh Govan and Euan Macnaughton in I AM OF IRELAND, credit of Michael Robinson

As I enter The Red Lions Pub Theatre on a busy Friday evening ready to watch the exciting new play ‘I AM OF IRELAND’ by Seamus Finnegan, I realise I have little knowledge of the history of the Troubles in Ireland. But, I’m telling you now, I was certainly about to be told.

The dimly lit black box theatre was creatively designed with rope, chairs, paintings and wooden crosses all hanging (as though frozen in the middle of an earthquake) against two walls; a busy backdrop to the large wooden square outlining the stage. Music was playing, not particularly emotional, just light hearted and (of course) Irish related. The show began with the patriotic song Ireland’s Call sung acapella as the cast filtered into the space one by one, dressed (some of them comically) as well known Irish stereotypes. All singing with equal enthusiasm. The atmosphere created was one of unity and pride, you couldn’t help but smile and wish you knew the words to sing along.

The beginning certainly transported us to Ireland and gave us an insight into the contemporary issues (and well, the play carried on to give us a lot more than just an insight). Not long into Act 1 I began to feel overwhelmed with information, as though I was sitting through the last revision session before an exam and trying to cram in as much as possible. About racism, the Troubles, faith and religion (both Protestantism and Catholicism), the IRA, the loyalists and the ex-patriots (and everything in between it seemed). These were obviously topics which Finnegan has a rooted passion for (and rightly so), however the ambitious dream to address them all equally and theatrically; all of these character’s each with a story to tell, involved in all of these topics, and giving us all of this information at once… it was just overbearing, and instead of keeping us in this Irish bubble it gradually alienated the audience.

Although the context was jam packed, Finnegan’s writing is exceptional in bringing out the understated truthful emotion of the characters. It was the perfect cast; all of them effortlessly changing between roles and displaying each character with integrity, humour and understanding. The likeable Euan Macnaughton, with his honest blue eyes and rich Irish tone told many a story through (lengthy, yet well executed) monologues. Shenagh Goven was a force to be reckoned with, her powerful voice and strong demeanour (and not to mention her brilliant comic timing). Every time she entered she brought the stage alive.

Sean Stewart, Shenagh Govan and Angus Castle-Doughty in I AM OF IRELAND, credit of Michael Robinson

‘I AM OF IRELAND’ was full of short snappy scene’s which were cleverly directed by the capable Ken McClymont. The overload of information is forgivable due to the believable cast and enjoyable, relevant soundtrack. I certainly left that warm little pub with an education, and grateful I witnessed such talent.

 

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Review by Lauren Russell

The Nature of Forgetting, Theatre Re @ Shoreditch Town Hall

Review by Lauren Russell

24 – 28 April, 2018

by Theatre Re
Conceived & directed by Guillaume Pigé

The Nature of Forgetting, credit Danilo Moroni 2

Photography by Danilo Moroni

Tonight, at Shoreditch Town Hall, I watched one of the most tremendously moving pieces of theatre I have ever seen. ‘Theatre Re’ has hit the nail on the head with this physically astounding show ‘The nature of forgetting’.

A likeable, agile, committed cast of 4 performers, one of which conceived and directed this phenomenon; Guillaume Pigé, took the stage by storm and filled the space with contagious energy. They explored the raw essence of what it is to be human by delving into the mind of 55 year old Tom who has dementia. His memories vividly played out before us, from his mother prepping him for school, to his first kiss, his first love, his first loss.

Due to the play being utterly captivating throughout it is difficult to pin point the highlights as the energy never once dropped. However I particularly like the use of the bicycle, which comes when Tom remembers riding to school, and the way he and Isabelle (whom was played by the amiable Louise Wilcox), as school children, innocently play with one another. Their pure enjoyment on stage was certainly mirrored by the audience.

It has to be said, ‘The Nature of Forgetting’ had one of the greatest live soundtracks I have heard accompany such talented performers, composed by Alex Judd it was satisfyingly brilliant, and without such music the piece would not hold the same weight. Complicité was achieved through the perfectly organic connections from actors to the choreography to props to music to lighting. The complex mime sequences throughout were clear enough to understand regarding the storyline, yet were also wonderfully open to an individuals emotional interpretation (So glad there was no spoon-feeding malarkey).

Ultimately, this is not to be missed. I could have watched this show a thousand times over and still noticed something new. The whole audience was inspired; the young were motivated to create the greatest of memories, the old were reminded of their fondest moments. An incredible achievement to create something so physically intricate yet simply beautiful. ‘Theatre Re’ are certainly worth watching, and ‘The Nature of Forgetting’ is absolutely unforgettable.

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