REVIEW! BIRTH @ Pleasance Courtyard , Edinburgh Fringe

Conceived & Directed by Guillaume Pigé
Devised by The Company
Performed at Edinburgh Fringe until 25th August

In the busy queue amongst the Edinburgh Fringe goers the excitement for Theatre Re’s BIRTH was high, and rightly so! As this was one of the most beautiful pieces of theatre I have ever seen.

Theatre Re, known for their international success Nature of Forgetting (which I was lucky enough to see last year), has not let the bar drop with this new production BIRTH. Guillaume Pigé has directed another wonderfully human and tremendously moving performance, this time exploring the sensitive subject of child loss and foundations of family.

BIRTH

The black box theatre was minimalist; with a dimly lit dining table centre stage. As soon as the performance started the mesmerising music, composed and performed live by Alex Judd, gently guided us into the world of physical storytelling and I was completely immersed within seconds.

Ultimately, it was the continual flow of the performance which I found most impressive – the energy never dropped. Not even during transitions, which can sometimes be a productions biggest flaw, however Theatre Re found an aesthetically creative and efficient way to slip into the next scene; by flowing a giant sheet over the whole stage as characters appeared and disappeared almost like a beautiful magic trick.

BIRTH 2

The story follows three generations of women in one family; non-chronologically showing each of their lives and how their experiences intertwine with each other. One of the highlights of the piece being when Emily, played by the extremely talented Eygló Belafonte, gives birth. Instead of the generic panting and pushing, Theatre Re have found an amusing and artistic way of portraying this with a detailed dance between the husband and wife, and ending with a marathon sprint with cheers of encouragement from the whole family, this may sound simple but it was so unbelievably effective.

Throughout the performance I heavily reflected on my childhood, my family, and my sisters, and was certainly not the only one with tears in my eyes. It is safe to say that Pigé has created such a memorable and dynamic piece of work, which should be performed all over the world. The company have an astounding ability to devise such original and heart felt moments, I congratulate them on their much deserved success.

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REVIEW! Hotel Paradiso, Lost in Translation Circus @ Jacksons Lane Theatre

Devised by Massimiliano Rossetti and Annabel Carberry
20th – 24th Feb 2019

Relative newcomer to London that I am, I had never been to Highgate in North London before this evening. I didn’t expect, on exiting the tube station, to enter such a beautifully leafy, quiet, almost quaint community! The Jacksons Lane Art Centre is located in a former Methodist church, built in the Gothic style, and the decor inside mixes cosy charm with old church pews. On settling down in the theatre to watch the show (and I think I was about the only adult without a small child in tow), I began to suspect that this was going to be old-style family fun circus, matching its venue. I was right: Hotel Paradiso was exactly the mix of acrobatics, slapstick clowning, pantomime, and melodrama which has been entertaining families for centuries. The plot – about the ragtag staff of a once noble hotel, banding together to fight the evil Banker – was absolutely paint-by-numbers, often made very little sense (as acknowledged by its narrator), and mainly existed as a framing device around the various circus acts.

Hotel Paradiso Lost in Translation Circus photo Trevor Fuller-80 sml.jpg

These acts included a fair amount of tightly choreographed group acrobatics, as well as aerial performance, juggling, balancing, and hula hoop work. Three of the six performers tended to be the ones doing most of the show’s acts, with the other three seeming underutilised in supporting roles. One performer in particular seemed to be having a rough night, with a fair few fumbles and trips, though these were carried well in-character with an oafish “oops” and goofy grin.

Although the three male performers in Hotel Paradiso did bear the responsibility for all the acrobatic base work, it was really the women who carried this show. Natasha Rushbrooke as chambermaid Talia was elfinly lovely in all her acts, and I found myself especially on tenterhooks watching her twist her limbs into impossible positions as she balanced on a precarious stack of chairs. Her character had virtually no lines, and existed as very little beyond a wide-eyed, beautiful, coquettish young girl, but she played this role with as much sweetness and humour as possible. The character of her mother – the Madame of the hotel – was played by Annabel Carberry, a company director at Lost in Translation. Carberry’s hula hooping skit (featuring more hoops than is compatible with drinking a glass of wine) was definitely the main highlight of the show, combining finely-tuned acrobatic skill with excellent comedy. Some light googling on my way home on the tube revealed that this routine is a staple of Carberry’s, usually performed as a solo act called “A Glass of Red”. It had been lifted wholesale, inserted into Hotel Paradiso, and tweaked slightly to be more or less plot-adjacent…  and I loved it!

However, other than in these two women’s acts, the rest of the show did have a tendency to drag and feel repetitive. I am the least flexible and coordinated person I know, so it feels a bit rich to judge these performers, but I’ve seen a lot of excellent circus in the past year and this company couldn’t really compete. That said, this show wasn’t really for the circus connoisseur – it was for the children in the crowd, who I often observed at the edge of their seat, gaze transfixed, mouth agape, sometimes letting slip loud gasps or exclamations of “she’s going to fall!!” Anything that can keep the enraptured attention of an audience full of four-year-olds must have some spark of magic to it, and so on consideration, I think Hotel Paradiso can best be described as an excellent alternative to the cinema or local playground for anyone with small children.

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Previous review: A Wake in Progress, Fine Mess Theatre @ Vault Festival Cage

REVIEW! Romeo and Juliet: Mad Blood Stirring by China Plate @ Albany Theatre

Written by William Shakespeare and Nick Waller
Directed by Paul Warwick and Ben Walden
Presented by China Plate Theatre and Contender Charlie
Touring the UK 1st Feb – 23rd March 2019

With immersive staging, modern language and a lot of flash, this Romeo and Juliet is well targeted to primary school children. It’s a great introduction to the narrative at exactly the age when students are starting to study it.

The Friar (Nathan Medina). Photo credit: The Other Richard

 

China Plate’s production of the classic text places the Friar center stage, as a narrator and Greek chorus, explaining to the audience the tragedy as it unfolds. While the dialogue remains Shakespeare’s original, it’s been streamlined to just the key plot points and characters – Mercutio and Benvolio have been rolled together, Juliet’s parents reduced to hectoring projections, and the Friar has the Prince’s lines. All this has been done to make the play accessible to children from the age of nine – and they made up most of the audience.

The immersive staging puts all the action on a cracked street, and the use of concealed knives as weapons makes the modern relevance of the story particularly clear.

The sound and lighting design use the space extremely well, with a few live original pieces performed by our Juliet. The cast are largely competent, with the Friar and Tybalt as standout stars, bringing deeply felt emotion and complexity to their roles.

This is a good production for children to experience both a classic Shakespearean tragedy and theatre for the first time.

Tickets

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Previous review: Welcome to the UK by PSYCHEdelight @ The Bunker

REVIEW! Seussical the Musical, Immersion Theatre @ Southwark Playhouse

Directed by James Tobias
Choreography by Chris Wittaker
Musical direction by James Doughty
Music & Book by Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics & Book by Lynn Ahrens
Co-conceived by Eric Idle
22 November – 29 December 2018

This stage adaptation of Dr Seuss’ work brings to life a host of loveable character with a smile, whilst lightly touching on some serious issues.

Scott Paige and the cast of Seussical The Musical, Southwark Playhouse - courtesy of Adam Trigg

Marc Pickering does a wonderful job as the Cat in the Hat (and a host of other kooky characters), leading a cast of kaleidoscopically colourful creatures. The cast of 12 burst with an energy that is barely contained by the stage, and frequently spills out into the audience.

The musical elements are particularly impressive, even if they do take a little from the more classic Seussical rhyme schemes. Harmonies are struck with casual ease, although at times lyrics were lost under the band. Nonetheless, I found my toes tapping along, and the title song has been playfully plaguing me ever since.

The cast of Seussical The Musical, Southwark Playhouse - courtesy of Adam Trigg_2

Amongst all the fun, there are serious themes that, I was surprised to find, seem to be even more relevant to the adult modern landscape than to the Jungle of Nool. In a mere 70 minutes, issues of judgement, otherness, bullying, unrequited love and even body image are dealt with and – get this – resolved with childish simplicity. I left wishing that everyone on Twitter had to affirm that “a person’s a person no matter how small” before being able to type. As a family show, it’s not only delightful entertainment but also, perhaps, an opportunity to open conversations about acceptance and self-belief.

Amongst a talented cast, special mentions must go to Scott Paige (Horton) and Amy Perry (Gertrude) for bringing sincerity to their roles and a bit of depth to the production. Where at times the whole-cast numbers were overwhelming,

Scott Paige and Amy Perry (Seussical The Musical, Southwark Playhouse) - courtesy of Adam Trigg

My main criticism of this family-friendly fun-fest is that it lacks it lacks some of the genuinely creative imagination that make Dr Seuss’ works so brilliant. Despite being about imagination, it played too close to imitation for me to be inspired by it. Perhaps a risk or two would give it a little more to remember it by for those of us who grew up on the original.

Putting that aside, this is a lovely holiday-period experience. Grab the closest child to you if you need an excuse, or head down with anyone who needs reminding that even Sour Kangaroos can be nice.

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Tickets

Just William’s Luck, Shedload Theatre @ Underbelly, Edinburgh Fringe

4th – 27th August 2018

Iron Belly, UnderBelly, Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Devised by Jonathan Massey, Matthew Barnes and company.
Cast: Jonathan Massey, Davey Lias, Thomas Gutteridge, Greg Arundell and Louise Waller.

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Hot on the back of a tour that travelled to regional theatres in the UK and Poland then London, Shedload Theatre company have arrived at the Edinburgh Fringe.

And the Fringe doesn’t know what’s hit it!

Have you ever rewatched an episode of The Simpsons as an adult and are hit with how brilliantly written and performed the show is? That as a kid you got it on one level and as an adult, you understand it on a whole new level.

That is what Shedload Theatre’s production of Just William’s Luck perfectly executes.

This show could quite easily be a family friendly kids show that you might take your 3-year-old niece along to and endure.

But it is rather bloody marvellous and rip-roaringly hilarious for absolutely anybody and everybody.

Based on an original Richmal Crompton book and incorporating elements of the text into the show, it is essentially a play within a play. The ‘outlaw’s (a group of children led by William), put on a play of an adventure that happened to them all when questing as ‘Gnight’s of the Round Table’ trying to right ‘rongs’. The outlaw’s use whatever they find around them in their den to tell the story.

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Crafting together a horse, the famous actress Gloria Gay, using odds and sods to become the defining adults in William’s life and so much more.

Just William’s Luck is one of the most inventive pieces of storytelling I have ever seen.

Using buckets of physical theatre, puppetry and singing, this story is executed brilliantly.

To be honest, there is nothing I can fault about this production. I can not think of a single human being who would not enjoy this show.

The cast are buckets full of energy, vibrancy and a jolly good sense of humour which makes them all fantastic and engaging storytellers.

They are flexible and any small mistakes that happen in the show become utterly perfect and enjoyable as you can see how clearly they all have each other’s back.

I loved this show! Plain and simple, I utterly loved it!

If you are at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer and want to have a jolly good hour of your life, then go and see this show!

My wish as a reviewer is that this show will continue afterwards and continue to do amazing things.