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Showing posts from March, 2018

Review of UoN Fringe: All To Myself by The Mages Guild at The Platform, Northampton

The Mages Guild, consisting of solo performer Rhiannon Flambard, presents in All To Myself, perhaps the most curious of offerings in 2018 UoN Fringe event.

Based on Jonathan Coulton's concept album Solid State (it's really rather cool, so check it out), All To Myself is set in a world where an apocalypse, of the robot revolution kind, has left our character cooped up in a bunker, tin-hatted and awaiting the return of the mysterious Kurzweil.

It's extremely quirky, as perhaps befits its performer, who from previous shows, clearly has a quirky, individual personality, making this an apparently very personal construction, but without getting bogged down in any issues too much.

It's also at times extremely funny, with neat jokes about dead angels, and a great "plot twist" moment, that the audience relished. It's also extremely natural in delivery from Flambard, lines in this script are simply thrown away often, in a way you might barely hear them like someon…

Review of UoN Fringe: PROJECT 25 by Unorthodox Theatre Collaborations at The Platform, Northampton

This production from Unorthodox Theatre Collaborations is a curious one to review, as I didn't see all of it. PROJECT 25 you see is an immersive, interactive play, where we the audience become very much part of the emerging story.

We are introduced, after being name-checked and tagged, to The Platform, a pharmaceutical company that has come up with the perfect drug that could save the health care system. Or so they say.

The play launches with a smart little-choreographed routine from the cast (and some extra actors), which culminates in company staff member Amy Brown (Jemma Bentley) being sacked and expelled from the building. As Bentley is a cast member, we, of course, know that her return will happen, but in what form?

After this neat and impactful opening, we are led into another room and presented with a glossy and technically impressive launch from the company team Pandora Pearson (Bobbie-Lee Scott) and James Van Laren (Daniel Peace). Following this, we are subjected to a sc…

Review of UoN Fringe: Wonder (W?nder) by Lamplight Theatre at The Platform, Northampton

I have to say as an unreligious person, I approached W?nder with a certain amount of trepidation. Performed by Naomi Hollands, an evangelist in training, as well as an actor, it comes from her theatre company Lamplight, which has in its description that it aims "to give the student population a chance to explore Christianity through the use of theatre".

It was though slightly less of a concern, in reality, this show is presented at a nicely balanced level, which explores more what we find ourselves in life as things of "wonder". We are asked to write down on a piece of paper at the start of the show, where we see the wonder in life. It's an idea that is briefly used later in the show, as Hollands reads out three random ones from the bowl. However, it gets you thinking before the show proper begins.

Hollands takes us through several characters including a young child and an older, more officious and organised person, before finally falling into a very personal …

Review of UoN Fringe: Only The Introverted by Set It Straight Theatre at The Platform, Northampton

In the Balm In Gilead, Bethany Williams, the solo performer in Set It Straight Theatre's Only The Introverted, was a quiet force to be reckoned with, creating a delightfully gentle character within an often cruel and violent world. In Only The Introverted, she explores a world, that I personally am very familiar with, as if anyone ever wished to diagnose me, I think I would be declared an introvert.

This whole play from its opening of the emergence out of her shell and to its end is actually just sweetly created. The bursting forth of a million little beeps from a phone is an understandable thing in all of us now, and the response that this introvert character has to this is equally understandable.

Even the daily grind of life, travel to, and travel home, from the eyes of someone who may need to live in this world, but doesn't really wish to, is lovingly created. The arrival of then perhaps the crowning glory in Shelly the tortoise is only going to enforce the loving that an …

Review of UoN Fringe: Thug by Ekdikesis Theatre at The Platform, Northampton

Thug from Ekdikesis Theatre and it's solo performer Rhianne Brown brings an uncompromising and challenging piece of theatre to the stage. Based on the Angie Thomas book The Hate U Give, it explores the treatment of black people in society, most especially the constant suggestion that they are the main culprits of crime.

This is a tough watch for someone like me, and not because of any form of guilt. Without boasting, but perhaps somehow needing to state, I have never in my life had any racist, gender or any such opinion, therefore to listen to thirty minutes of the issues of being black and those problems around it, and the white privilege issue is a challenge. It makes you uncomfortable, and sure that is the point.

For a theatre piece to generate a paragraph above is wonderful though, in so many respects, Thug challenges everyone in the room, and let us hope that it lies on the thoughts of just one person who has perpetrated any hate in any way.

Brown is a tour-de-force in this s…

Review of UoN Fringe: Lawmen by Flux Theatre at The Platform, Northampton

Way back in April 2014, No Way Out was the first production that I saw from local amateur group Masque Theatre, it was a version of Jean-Paul Sartre's Huis Clos (No Exit), and four years later, the University of Northampton group Flux Theatre provide another version, presented in a far more claustrophobic style and modernised considerably.

Seated in a circle, barely more than five metres in diameter, the three actors. Amber Jade Harrison, James Grayson and Ross Bayliss perform an adaptation of Huis Clos, titled Lawmen. This becomes perhaps one of the closest proximity productions that I have ever seen, and likely to, so much so, that often the actors are even seated in adjacent seats. to the audience.

We, the audience, are not there, of course, it may be close contact, but these three characters are in their own world. These three have been thrown into this Sartre inspired world of lies, and deception. Who are the truthful ones, who is the controlling menace? We do not know of co…

Review of UoN Fringe: RHEA by Venus Theatre at The Platform, Northampton

It is just over four years since I first saw a performance by the University of Northampton BA Actors (Animal Farm), and next month I shall be attending my fifth Flash Festival, where the BA Actors do their dissertation pieces ahead of graduation. However, this is my first Fringe (and the first one to be held in fact), and this is formed of a separate branch group, following what is known as the BA Acting & Creative Practice course. The slight difference of this course lies in the creative aspect, where there is more emphasis on the "creation" of theatre, as opposed to just being a performer on stage or screen.

However to the outsider, like myself, and any that have attended the Flash Festival before, there is very little difference to what you get to see on this new Fringe event. Performances are slightly shorter on average than Flash, at thirty to forty minutes. However, very much like Flash, they are created by theatre groups set up by either solo performers or a num…

Review of The Pirates Of Penzance performed by the Northampton Gilbert & Sullivan Group at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

I did a little research unusually before seeing this version of The Pirates of Penzance from the Northampton Gilbert & Sullivan Group, and one thing I found was the over eight-minute Overture. Would we be presented with the full deal at the start of this production, I wondered? As it turned out, yes we were, thankfully I am not afraid of the dark. I did try to imagine though what the audience of Shrek, on next door this week, would have thought, being faced with this. How times have changed.
The Pirates of Penzance is if you have ever seen a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta before, more of the same. They don't really vary, I have learnt from my previous three viewings, the scenery changes, but it all remains the whimsical story of abject silliness. This time featuring pirates, in Penzance, and the many daughters of a modern Major General.
Pirates is perhaps the most well known of Gilbert & Sullivan's works, and on the evidence of this, by far the most accessible for a n…

Review of Shrek the Musical at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

When Shrek the Musical rolls into town, it arrives in seven great big lorries, and this actually says a little as to where the strength of this production, now well into its UK tour, lies. This show looks spectacular in every way, it might be the best looking and the biggest tour show you will have ever seen. However, at times, this spectacle feels a little superficial, as you feel more thought could have been put into the original writing.

Shrek the Musical mostly follows the story of the original 2001 computer-animated film, which sees ogre Shrek's swamp overrun by fairytale folk, which results in him confronting the evil Lord Farquaad, which then results in him going to rescue Princess Fiona, as you do.

What feels missing though in this musical (book by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori), compared with the film, is the clever balance for children and adults alike. This nearly always feels targeted more at adults, there is a lack of humour that feels just right fo…

Review of A Bunch Of Amateurs at Stantonbury Theatre, Milton Keynes

I first saw the film of A Bunch of Amateurs a couple of years ago back when I was purely a watcher of amateurs productions, rather than my now, slightly more involved persona. Therefore watching this production by Etc Theatre of this curious tale of country folk, adapted for the stage by two of the original writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, and their amateur dramatics world, offers a little more intrigue than that film first did. It also helped that I was seated with a bevy of knowing amateur dramatics folks as well.

Stratford Players are in trouble, their venue is under threat from developers, so, in a last-ditch attempt to save their group, they send appeals out to the big names of the acting world to help generate lifesaving interest. Answering their appeal is the also in trouble, Hollywood actor Jefferson Steel (Bart Gamber). His flagging career sees him accept the opportunity to perform King Lear, in the home of the Bard itself, Stratford. Sadly it turns out to be a barn theat…

Review of Glorious! from White Cobra Productions at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

I don't mind admitting that I am a huge fan of the work of White Cobra Productions, they have the ability to draw together the best of what the local amateur world has to offer and package it together in a professional way, they also have a knack for picking plays of quality, rarely performed or brand new material that makes them a breath of fresh air. Well mostly. I don't mind also admitting once again here, that their last show, Hi-de-Hi, felt a terrible misstep on their part, taking a show which was either so enrooted in the minds of some of its audience to single performers of the past, or a bamboozled collection of dated material to others, just didn't really work despite the talent and obvious effort of its cast. So, what of Glorious!, is this a, ahem, glorious return to form?
Short answer, incredibly so, long answer, below.
Glorious! (subtitled The Worst Singer in the World) tells the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, an American socialite, active in the early …

Review of Shadowlands by Moulton Players at Moulton Theatre, Northampton

It has to be said that the world of Narnia, as created by C. S. Lewis, generally passed me by when I was young. My childhood reading generally came more from the more crazy side like Roald Dahl, therefore I have neither read, or I believe, ever seen any interpretation of Narnia. Not to say that my knowledge doesn't reach to the famous wardrobe, which in its way, has a curious, but fulfilling existence, in William Nicholson's Shadowlands as well.

Shadowlands deals with the relationship between C. S. Lewis and American writer Jo Gresham (Davidman), from burgeoning, to love and then her sudden illness. It's a lovely endearing and gentle tale, which in this production from Moulton Players, is mostly successful, albeit it occasionally clunky, especially in its very long first act.

As C. S. Lewis, Alex Page-Bailey gives a confident performance in a very large role. It has to be said, it doesn't start well, as the play opens with a long, and ponderous lecture to the audience,…

Review of Hamlet by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I am personally all about making Shakespeare accessible, I take the Emma Rice line, that many were not keen on, that after a few hundred years, it's perhaps worthy of mixing it up a bit to make it more meaningful to a modern audience. I have a feeling the man himself would have no qualms about seeing his classic Hamlet transposed into a garish multi-coloured world, set in a much more hip place.
The Denmark that we see here and that is still referenced, is now very much an African country, and not just because of the heavy black actor casting, this is all about a style and a carnival feeling to many of the scenes. Music is provided by tribal-like drums, and characters stalk the scenes carrying handguns and rifles, bringing a modern feeling to the conflict as well. This is certainly not the "rotten state of Denmark" that most Shakespeare aficionados are familiar with.
Characters are changed drastically as we have more cocksure, swaggering, modern feeling to the individual…