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The Flash Festival Review 2015 held at the Looking Glass Theatre, Shoe Museum, NN Cafe & NN Contemporary, Northampton

The 2014 Flash Festival had been a wonder of many things including the diversity of ideas in the plays, the standard of the young actors and also the very first discovery of the Looking Glass Theatre. It was therefore a certainty that I would be back for more come 2015 and this time I would see all of the shows, somehow, with a bit of planning.

This year there were a total of sixteen shows featuring thirty-nine student stars. There was also an increased diversity of ideas for the shows with children's shows, storytelling tales and six solo shows. We still had the large groups including two busy ones with five members. There was indeed huge variety.

The event itself organised by Evoke Events was a huge success, although I think it was a heavy learning curve by those involved, everything generally went smoothly. The Looking Glass was always the hub of events complete with balloons, however the other shows at the three locations did feel a little cut-off. The NN Contempory the least successful, with certain access issues and not the best viewing for members of the audience. I was familiar with NN Cafe from the Feast Storytelling and this once again was a lovely venue and perhaps would have been the better choice for the Black Females show which was trapped on its own in NN Contemporary. Either that or the surprising location of the shoe museum. Having been in the museum a few times over the years, it was quite a surprise to discover this little wonder beneath.

I had made my opinion clear before the festival that the removal of the five show festival ticket that added value the previous year was a disappointment and whether the festival made a loss the previous year or not, you could not use the major supporters (I don't put myself yet in that category, but you know who I mean) as cash cows to try to save it. The new route ticket offered at least something and I was able to use this on the Saturday. Unfortunately it was quite clear during the low attendance of the first show on the route that this frankly hadn't worked. Definitely a failed experiment. I will however credit Evoke Events with attempting to gain as much media interest as possible locally, including radio appearances. However the bulk of attendees were once again fellow students and families, so it doesn't sadly seem to have helped get them bums on seats. This truly is a shame as there was some exceptional work on view during the week. So the event itself, certainly a success, but definitely still work needed to crack it for 2016 and get those reluctant public to the festival.

As mentioned the shows themselves were of generally excellent quality, with just the one causing distress and sadness in equal measure. The work ethic of the students really did show with the rehearsal, preparation and research of a very high standard.

So it comes time for my own humble awards ceremony:

Best Technology Use

There were no shows that came up with the best of 2014 on the technology use level, but this year there was more subtlety to its use. Shows from Sidetrack and Headcase had some excellent lighting for many of its scenes. However while not as showy and overwhelming in its effect, my award for the subtle and clever use of tech goes to:
Stand Out Theatre's The Presenter.

Best Physical Theatre

There were as always many magical physical moments during the week, eLLite's opening was planned to the tee, while Sidetrack's opening was full of high energy. However it was to be between Headcase and Whiplash for me and for the clowning and for those magical intimate dances it has to go to:
Whiplash Theatre's Do Gentlemen Prefer Blondes?

Best Set

There were many interesting sets this year from the wonderfully used boxy Allure through to the promising but ultimately chaotic Blockhead. I loved the subtle and simple Garlick Clove's coat stands and "table" and the simple Theoria set with its sand pit. I also loved the mess that was Stand Out. This was a challenge to come to a decision, however with its starkness and grimness, I have to give this one to:
One 'N' Half's Snuff Me

Best Individual Scene

There were many magic individual moments within all the shows which would deserve a mention. Headcase's scene of the battle to escape from the picture frame was quite amazing, while the deaf speech in One 'N' Half finished with devastating impact. The second Harry Styles scene of Allure was also one of the most gut wrenching moments.
The lighthearted scenes of quality included the perfectly timed hospital journey of Duality and the simply brilliant Fly Me To The Moon scene in Whiplash.
However from the moment I first saw it on the very first evening, I felt that there was one scene that would be hard to beat. Just with a coat stand and a coat the most perfect scene of the week came from:
Garlick Clove's I Forget What I've Forgotten

Best Play (Solo)

I felt the need to split the best play category this year with six solos to choose from. All were entertaining, but I have my top three and these are:

Joint third place for bringing the wonder of storytelling to Flash are Styles Theatre's The Little Prince and Little Bird's The Paper Bag Princess
Second place for the most gritty of performance is Stand Out Theatre's The Presenter
First place for just the most incredible emotional impact is Garlick Clove's I Forget What I've Forgotten

Best Play (Group)

The group category includes any one that features more than a solo performer, and these varied from two to five.

Third place for many a magic scene is Whiplash Theatre's Do Gentlemen Prefer Blondes?
Second place for three wonderful performers delivering quality material is Allure Theatre's The Elephant In The Room
First place though for performances and material of such a high standard goes to Headcase Theatre's Under The Hat

Best Play (All)

Combining all the shows together for an overall top three is a tough ask, but I am asking myself so here it is.

Third place for a theatre experience like no other in the week goes to Stand Out Theatre's The Presenter
Second place for many magical scenes combined together goes to Headcase Theatre's Under The Hat
First place for the one play of the week that I truly wanted to see again and fortunately managed to and found even more powerful on the second viewing is Garlick Clove's I Forget What I've Forgotten

Best Female Performances

There were many excellent performance during the week from the ladies of the group, but needs must I have whittled it down to three. I already feel bad about it.

Third place such a fine collection of accents and stunningly passioned delivery is eLLite's Lydia Rose Blagg
Second place for a nuanced performance of subtlety in predominantly a one character role goes to Theoria Theatre's Antonia Underwood
First place for delivering everything expected and hoped of from her solo show is Garlick Clove's Catherine Garlick

Best Male Performers

Coming out of the final university shows, I felt this category had a nailed on winner, somehow I have put that particular gentlemen in second place. I didn't really see the first place performance coming at the start of the week, but I am fine with surprises.

Third place was for me the most challenging to choose, I had my top two nailed on after the shows. This one though could have been so many people, I felt like dumping it altogether. However after much stress I finally bit the bullet and awarded it to Headcase Theatre's Michael Whelbourne
Second place is as I have said unexpected as from Macbeth and Clockwork, I saw no challenger. However while brilliant, somehow I don't offer the top spot to One 'N' Half's Sam Billy Behan
First place and flying in from left field with the shear guts to do something truly different and brave is Stand Out Theatre's Ryan Manning

Finally congratulations to the Evoke team of Sian Kenworthy, Leah Karaolis, Lottie Phillips, Georgina Linney, Rita Calado and Vanessa Lai

So a wonderful week of entertainment from some wonderful stars. I personally send my humble best wishes to each and every one of the students in their future adventures and hope that they are able to do everything they truly want to in the future.

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