Skip to main content

Review of National Theatre Connections - Day One at Royal & Derngate, Northampton

I really enjoyed the Connections shows at Royal & Derngate during 2014 therefore it had been one of my most anticipated weeks for 2015. Even better than 2014 also was the fact that I was going to have the opportunity to see nine of the ten plays included (poor old Follow, Follow, the unwanted child). On my first day I was to see the first three of them and they were a glorious mix of the good, the bad and the hilarious (performed in that order).

*

The good was "Hospital Food" written by Eugene O'Hare and performed by Northampton High School. This was a powerful tale of a group of youngsters in a cancer unit and their Fight Club inspired "Retreat". This place allowed them to speak freely and was in the tradition a place where whats said in the Retreat stays in the Retreat. It was their place away from parents, doctors, nurses and, well all adults really. The main story revolved around the planned escape of Gus (Fiona Percival) from the hospital to go seek alternative medicine with her mother.

The material was tough and gritty and superbly performed by the all female cast in both female and male roles. Percival as Gus and Jasmine Smellie as her best friend Josh was stunning, with the hospital corridor scene the highlight of the play. The only disappointment from this scene came from the very distracting flickering lights. It was difficult at first to work out what this was representing, but I think I got it at the end with the increase at the breakdown at the end. However the main problem came from the fact these were operated from within the intimate Underground space, leaving the sound of the flicking switch ringing in the audiences ears.

However this was just a small disappointment, as "Hospital Food" was a quality tough play for youngsters to perform and the High School cast were not a disappointment. A great start to the week.

*

A bit of a backward step came with the bad (maybe a word too severe) of "The Edelweiss Pirates". A worthy tale telling the story of an actual youth movement group and events it was involved with during the 1930s. I would hazard a guess that this particular play was selected due to its timing as much as its quality with many Second World War anniversaries going on at present. Written by Ayub Khan Din and performed by Stopsley High School, it was a perfectly serviceable play, just a little bit dull and stale. There were also more than a few issues with the production and performances which didn't help matters.

I was more than happy to see it, however I am afraid that it isn't a play I would seek out again as I feel the play is more at fault than the performances in this case. A matter of the right play at the right time, but bluntly nothing more.

*

Having had a bit of a dip, it was down to the delightfully titled "The Crazy Sexy Cool Girls' Fan Club" to complete the day on a high. This it most certainly did, as this was by far the best and more importantly, most fun play of the three (let's have more fun plays!). Written by Sarah Solemani (more familiar perhaps to many for her comedy performances in Him & Her and The Wrong Mans) it was at times a rather surreal tale of a group of four and a would be fifth member of a girls club. Seemingly only gathered together to occasionally be bitchy to each other, sing in a screechy manner and swoon over a highly generic boy band.

This was a brilliant comic play with added sinister moments and performed by a wonderfully enthusiastic cast from Bloxham School. I would name them all, or at least a few if only I had a cast list for the production. However in the absence of such a list, I must mention whomever the young lady who played Lou was and the young man who played Shaz, you were just great. However having said that, you were all great as this was very much a team performance. An excellent way to complete day one of my 2015 R&D Connections week.


Performances reviewed: Tuesday 29th April, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

The National Theatre Connections continue at Royal & Derngate until Sunday 3rd May, 2015. For details go here: http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whatson/2015-2016/Royal/Connections15

For further details about the National Theatre Connections visit their website at: http://connections.nationaltheatre.org.uk/

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of This Evil Thing at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

This Evil Thing written and performed by Michael Mears isn't my first encounter with a play about conscientious objectors, however, it absolutely is the most detailed in its explanation of the subject. A clear and absolute labour of love from Michael Mears, and an obviously very personal thing for him, it leaves the audience pretty much in its grip for the whole of its 80 minutes.

Almost uniquely, our performer Michael Mears is in the theatre stalls upon entry, observing the arrival of the audience and indeed exchanging conversation at times. It's fascinating to see a performer not only there, but seemingly so relaxed pre-show and as he bounds on the stage at show start, this little nugget proves intriguing in itself.

Michael Mears is a captivating presence on stage, as previously experienced on the same stage in A Tale Of Two Cities and The Herbal Bed, therefore it comes as little surprise that he has a confident ability to make a one-man show work, and so well. With the use …

Review of Balm in Gilead, University of Northampton BA Acting (Creative Acting) at Maidwell Hall, Northampton

Watching the production of Balm in Gilead sees my entering the fifth year of following the University of Northampton acting students, and what theatre they have provided over the years!

Balm in Gilead is no less intriguing than anything that has gone before, written in 1965 by Lanford Wilson, you might think this would be a dated item for the young students to be performing, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Set in a cafe (transposed to England from its original American setting), it sees the lives of addicts, homeless and sex workers converge into a mixture of good but mostly bad moments.
My first time in the Maidwell Hall saw an encounter with a brilliantly realised community full of the world of the cafe and the surrounding homes, cardboard boxes and dishevelled beds. As we enter the characters of this world begin living alongside us, addressing us, begging us for money, pushing shopping trolleys around offering off the cuff exchanges with the audience and confronti…

Review of Bombshell by Contact Light Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Warning: This review contains spoilers

Whether it is an overwhelming success or mostly a failure, I have over the years grown a huge affinity for fresh new work on the stage. The need to regurgitate and rework old pieces continuously may well get easy bums on seats, but at the end of the night, it has no doubt pleased a few but it hasn't really made any future impact on theatre of the future. Presenting a new play and new work, however, who knows what it might have seeded in the years to come?

Therefore as I watched Bombshell, not only a new play, but also the first offering from a new theatre company, I was thrilled that first of all, it leaned much more towards the success line, and also that over half filling the theatre, it had also put quite a few of the bums on seats as well.

Curiously I have recently read Festen by David Eldridge, and while Bombshell goes much its own way, I felt early on, I (and perhaps others in the audience), felt I had a distinct advantage over some of …