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Review of Flash Festival: Headcase Theatre Company - Under The Hat at the Looking Glass Theatre

I had already felt I knew quite a bit about Under The Hat by Headcase. They had via Twitter been the most active in teasing about their mysterious play in the lead up to performance. It was all about what was under the hat and it wasn't a rabbit. I don't think I still know what was under the hat after watching the show. I do however know that a hat is not a mug.

Based on case studies from 'The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat' by Oliver Sacks, Under The Hat explores the effects of different neurological disorders. They do this in an extremely clever and entertaining way, perhaps teaching the audience more through a lighthearted way than laying the subject matter on thickly. We therefore see a character who has no perception of things to their left who misses that moment of love from another character because of it. We have a character who is unable to stand upright and his doctors have to catch him from an endless spiral. Then there is Jimmy who is unable to live past the year of 1945. Finally we have most devastating of all the young woman who as we progress through time loses more and more of her ability to move.

Each of these characters are played by a different member of the four strong group consisting of Kate Fenwick, Michael Whelbourne, Steve Banks and Nikki Murray. These also in turn get a personal monologue after passing through the picture frame and breaking the fourth wall. This frame is stunningly used throughout the piece with them arriving at the start of the play and leaving through it as well to end the play. I particularly liked the movement of slow into the frame and quick once through it. A neat touch which worked perfectly. The monologues themselves are all excellent with Steve's the most powerful in content, while Michael's lack of one, the most funny. They all however are wonderful in their very different styles.

There is also wonderful activity of the stages and playing with the audience, especially the 50 shades granny handing out "stale" popcorn and sitting on the lap of an innocent audience member. One of a number of occasions where the audience feels part of the play.

I also thought that the use of music was superb throughout particularly through the first Oliver Sacks scene (Scissor Sisters I believe) and the final breakthrough scene of music coupled with excellent lighting made it a stunning scene. However no scene was as stunning as that moment featuring Nikki trying to break from the picture frame. Staggering, powerful and wonderfully played. A magic and at turns truly sad moment.

Heavily worked on and prepared is obvious from every moment of this superb play, and I think for the first time this week a group this large had truly given each of the performers a fair share of the material to perform. Unbelievably excellent.



The Flash Festival 2015 is all over! It ran between 18th-23rd May, 2015 at four venues across the town. Details can be found at http://ftfevents.wix.com/flashtheatre2015, while tickets cannot now be booked via the Royal & Derngate. Details at: http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whatson/2015-2016/Other/FlashFestival15

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