REVIEW! GEORGE @ Camden People’s Theatre

Presented by Contingency Theatre
Camden People’s Theatre
Part of Sprint Festival
12 March

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GEORGE is happy at home, in his village, but when an opportunity comes up to meet the wealthy and powerful J in the big city, how can he refuse? He doesn’t want to get left behind, does he?

This creepy and kinetic piece is about losing ourselves to the rat race – not the most original sentiment, but still relevant, and presented in such an original and exciting way. Contingency Theatre have, in their first full-length show, combined scathing social satire and original choreography to make a show like no other I’ve ever seen.

Barbara Blanka is exceptional as GEORGE – active, engaging and emotional through his struggle with how to fit in and retain a sense of self. Max Percy and Igor Smith, along with no costume changes and almost no props, become a range of people and places, pushing or pulling GEORGE into his new role. They are, by turns, vulnerable, intimidating, jocular or inane. There is scripted dialogue, but more interesting is the physical theatre, which is stunning and well executed.

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The live music and lighting design support the performances, bringing the audience into GEORGE’s increasingly claustrophobic world.

This show is about being a young person in a time that might not be now, but may as well be. We’re in a precarious place, economically and environmentally, and we’re in a constant state of panic. GEORGE brings this to life in a fun and funny way. Contingency Theatre is going to be one to watch out for – because if their first show is this strong, I look forward to their future developments.

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Previous review: Church of the Sturdy Virgin @ Vault

Elephant and Castle, Tom Adams and Lillian Henley @ Camden People’s Theatre

9th – 20th October 2018

Presented by Tom Adams and Lillian Henley

Elephant and Castle is a haunting, experimental piece of gig-theatre presented by husband and wife Tom Adams and Lillian Henley exploring the science and romantic impact of Adam’s parasomnia – sleep talking/walking.

A mattress propped up at the back of the stage begins to shake before creeping forward towards the audience – we hear a recording of someone whimpering, crying out layered with sounds of electrocution. It’s unsettling, to say the least. But then the mattress flips down and Henley and Adams bounce onto the bed in match-clash paisley pyjamas, find us with their eyes, and begin to sing their story, regaling us with when they first met and their later struggles with Adam’s parasomnia.

Henley’s hauntingly beautiful voice heightens the domestic tragedy of the songs, indicative of the show’s off-beat, quirky humour. This is a show that is not afraid to sit in its authored awkwardness. Elephant and Castle is equally generous and odd – cocooned by a Lynchian atmosphere. Recordings made over 3 years sample the strangeness of Adam’s night time ramblings, and are played in the darkness between transitions.

Henley plays her own long-sufferance to the cheek of Adam’s parasomnia – luminous, still, her voice transcendent, both eerie and beautiful. Adam’s mischief offers an appealing counterpoint, and they have a distinct chemistry that makes the spirit of this work unique. It delves into some darker territory, questioning what parasomnia can reveal, the threat it offers, never losing its idiosyncratic charm.

I especially enjoyed the use of a hand-held projector, projecting what looked like go-pro sleepwalk footage onto the back of the again upturned bed. It was immersive, lulling me into the logic of a dream-like state. The show’s composition and design converged in a fully realised atmosphere. As I sat, trying to grasp at shapes in the figurative footage, slipping out of definition, I happily gave myself over to its flow.

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A Fortunate Man, New Perspective @ Camden People’s Theatre

Written and directed by Michael Pinchbeck

Thursday 14th June- Saturday 16th June- Camden People’s Theatre

Friday 22nd June- The Pound Arts Centre

Sunday 24th June- Blackfriars Theatre and Arts Centre, Boston, Lincolnshire

Wednesday 1st August- Sunday 26th August- Summerhall, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

An intellectual look into a Country Doctor’s life

A Fortunate Man Matthew Brown credit Julian Hughes

New Perspectives Theatre Company have developed this play based on the book ‘A Fortunate Man’ by John Berger. The play follows the story of the day-to-day life of a country doctor, John Sassell. John Berger and Swiss photographer Jean Mohr created this book which is still widely read by medical professionals. Sadly, the doctor John Sassell killed himself after the book was published. The play also explores the doctor’s personal life and his mental heath.

The storyline of this play is interesting and the script is very good, some lines are direct quotes from John Berger’s book, and the quotes are very touching. However, it did feel like the audience were given a lot of information at once which made it hard to connect. The information was delivered through a microphone and read as if we were attending a conference. This style was clever but I feel the play would be more engaging if there had been more action on stage.

Both actors Matthew Brown and Hayley Doherty are strong and have a fantastic and energetic relationship on stage together. The performers and storyline make it easy for the audience to empathise with the doctor and also to feel involved in the community in which he lived in.

The set was quite plain and simple which worked nicely and fitted the piece. There are projections of both the life of Sassell but also of the NHS today. These pictures were interesting but the current ones of the NHS didn’t have much effect on the audience.

A very interesting play and an important story to be told.

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