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Review of Disney's High School Musical by NMTC Youth Society at the Cripps Hall Theatre, Northampton

As a regular theatre-goer, and indeed reviewer, I have learnt over the years that not all theatre is really for everybody. It's pretty obvious a statement really, but with reviewers, unlike regular theatregoers, you end up by default attending shows you might not dream of going to see as a normal customer. Maybe High School Musical is one pretty close to the top of the list I would only see on "official reviewing duty", as it's not really for a 40-year odd person. However, beyond that, the Northampton Musical Theatre Company Youth Society has come up with a really pretty impressive production of Disney's classic teen musical.

This is a very dramatic departure from the inaugural production of the Youth Theatre in 2018, Les Misérables (much more my thing), however, perhaps unsurprisingly it is better suited to the performers here. Their enthusiasm is even more evident to that previous production. Here, unlike the horrors of revolution-torn France, they can have fu…
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Review of Flash Festival 2019: The Nubian Sky at Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton

The Nubian Sky starring Shemelia Lewis was one of only two solo performances at this year's Flash Festival, and this exploration of what it is like to be a black woman now generally was a success, but in need of just a little more tightening up, and indeed exploration.

There are some strong moments here, from a youngster watching a quite remarkable cartoon from 1941 (Scrub Me Mama With A Boogie Beat), onto a schoolgirl in trouble for her hairstyle being distracting, and then the most bizarre TV show centring around whether a domestically abused housewife should get justice or not, we of course say yes, the show says no. It's a surreal and quite stunning collection of observations which are tough viewing of course.

Unfortunately, The Nubian Sky doesn't really take anything anywhere, there is, no exploration, it's just generally a basic collection of anecdotes of shocking occurrences, with no depth given.

Despite this, and most vitally though, Lewis is an excellent perfo…

Review of Flash Festival 2019: Rise by Workbench Theatre Company at Castle Hill URC

We are welcomed to the first meeting of Rise Northampton, as the audience gathers, soon to become the members of that first meet of environmental group Rise, at least one of the cast, to the eagle-eyed, is mingling with the paying audience before taking their seats.

The first scene represents us as the audience of that first meeting, with planted cast interacting with group leader Emma (Franky Harris), offering sage comments at times, others not. Whizzing forward to the next meet, and we are no longer group audience, the stranglers of the cast, the six, form all that come to the next meeting. I know this problem well.

Rise is sharp, clever, fun and informative, laying us the environmental issues in a way that doesn't preach, and perhaps does more than many things before to put the issue to the front of your mind. It really is that clever.

It helps that all of the characters are great, all very individual, and even while there is a conflict between them, they all are very well-meani…

Review of Flash Festival 2019: A Splice Of Life by Ripple Ensemble at Castle Hill URC

Ripple Ensemble's A Splice of Life opens very traditionally and innocently, a couple coming together, moving in, setting out on their life adventure. It's all very cosy, and of course, we know this isn't destined to continue like this. Our couple Kate and Mark are struggling to have children, so much so they end up on rounds of IVF. With this failing to work before the money runs out, a rather intriguing proposition is put to them via a medical trial into genetics.

This results in Kate and Mark building a baby, years later to become the grown-up Sophie. Added to the family is adopted Luke, and the slightly less nimble Kate with creaking bones, and the now greyed Mark now appear to have the perfect family. Sophie is heading towards the Olympics, and Luke has followed the artistic nature of Kate. All is well until a chance discovery changes events dramatically.

A Splice of Life's brilliant theatre, always intriguing, with never a dull moment. Kit Wiles and Ryan Greendale…

Review of Flash Festival 2019: The Way by Cosmos Theatre Company at Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton

Solo pieces at Flash have quite a checkered history, one of the very best Flash shows I have seen was a solo one, however, many of the worst also were. They have the balance of either a performer getting everything right, for both the audience and themselves or as sometimes happens, a single person running wild with limited reasoning and it ending in a crash. The Way from Louise Akroyd and her Cosmos Theatre Company gets, fortunately, everything pretty much right.

We meet her character Vicky strewn across her bed, after a very heavy night. Her makeup still on, mostly in the right place. After a distraught and comical search for her phone, she discovers news from her mother that her childhood friend has cancer. A rift has been between them for years, but is now the time right to seal it?

The Way is simple in every way, but that is how it works so well. This is about whether you deal with something that probably wasn't anything in the first place to rebuild bridges before it is too …

Review of Flash Festival 2019: The Cost Of Freedom by Grapevine Theatre Company at Castle Hill URC

Grapevine Theatre Company's rather spectacular opening to their production The Cost Of Freedom rather sets the scene for potentially one of the best Flash Festival productions ever. A stirring piece of physical theatre, high in risk at times, and performed under a sustained period of strobe lighting.

What is happening during this sequence is that the white man (a harrowingly performed, uncredited appearance) is pursuing the six characters of the play, in an attempt to capture them to make slaves of them. We are in 1853, in America, a time when slavery is still dominant. A barbaric and cruel time and The Cost of Freedom tells its story in a harrowing, but an immensely watchable way.

The Cost Of Freedom contains perhaps the actor with the greatest stage presence of this year group, that of Michael Gukas, here as Noah, the effective leader of the group, he is at his best. The perfect demonstration of raising your voice, without raising your voice. The best actors can say the power of…

Review of Flash Festival 2019: Making Their Mark by Face To Face Theatre Company at Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton

Making their Mark is created and performed by Hannah Bacon and Amy Jane Baker, otherwise here known as Face To Face Theatre Company. The "making their mark" reference in the title, here isn't about a woman becoming more relevant to society specifically, but here with the case of Baker's character, the need to bring a baby into the world. The feel that this is what a woman's role might be for some, and with her character, the inability to do so. It's a surprising approach to a female-led show, and fascinating mostly in its creation.

At only thirty minutes, it isn't particularly long, but in that time, Baker exudes great emotion from the audience, while Bacon, as a collection of other characters, helps to move the story. Both perform the piece excellently, with Bacon as a rather overplayed (in a good way) Made in Chelsea like work colleague, and onto a rather clinical doctor, and also as the slightly annoying, has it all (in the child sense), sister. They ar…