Skip to main content

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.
Freya Mawhinney

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 number of actors joining together. Either way, once again, you get a mixture of reworkings of established pieces, personal pieces, dramatic staged pieces, or the often found pieces, those based around challenging subject matter.

My first of the seven shows on this year's Fringe was Rhea by Venus Theatre, formed of Freya Mawhinney, Kalyn Callan, Tiana Thompson and Charlie-Dawn Sadler. Rhea's theme deals with fertility, and a very clinical scientific establishment that proudly boasts that it has "a fertility treatment for all".

Charlie-Dawn Sadler
Rhea is a mixture of quality, where it is strong, it is extremely so. It opens with a stylish section depicting the creation of the application videos of the four characters, including the haunted and at times mostly silent Grace, played in a controlled manner by Tiana Thompson. This scene begins before the show, with all the characters preening away, playing with selfie sticks and their cameras, as they prepare to make their best impact. It's cleverly staged with characters disjointed location wise and angled against one another, and the impactful sudden start is also excellent.

In fact, much of the movement structure is the strongest part of the performance, character switching is clean and clever, with patients becoming staff in a neat scene of swift on-stage costume changes, and pregnancy is dealt with on stage as well and unobtrusively. This and the character development are indeed the best elements, while the piece itself does get a little bogged down halfway through, with the scenes feeling less interesting at times, and certainly lacking in pace.
Kalyn Callan

What is never a disappointment though is in the performances, each of the four actors creates variable characters in both their patient role and staff roles, switching between them with those simple costume changes. While all performances are excellent, for me though there is an especially exceptional one from Mawhinney, her awkward and always late Josie is a winning character, lighting up every scene and she is brilliant at all times, in this and her patient role.

Tiana Thompson
There are some nice tech touches and ideas within Rhea, the promotional video is nicely produced, and the pregnancy confirmation with the tablets and a flick of a finger is a neat idea.

For me, Rhea is a piece always stronger in its visual appeal, and it doesn't always gain enough drama from its themes of the ethics of the role the company has. Well performed, but occasionally lightweight in its material.

Performance reviewed: Friday 23rd March 2018 at The Platform, Northampton.

The UoN Fringe ran between Friday 23rd and Monday 26th March 2018.

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Education, Education, Education at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

This touring show from The Wardrobe Ensemble arrives at Northampton (a co-production location) with a substantial amount of success, proudly displaying on the programmes back cover ten review ratings featuring 43 stars from a possible 50. However not wishing to be swayed by such incredible past form, I settled in the Royal to attempt to form my own opinion of the situation blinkered as much as possible from the stars shining bright.

Education, Education, Education (henceforth known as Education. Phew!) is set on the day after the day before of Tony Blair and his New Labour sweeping to power in May 1997. We are in a "normal" comprehensive school as a new day, and a new hope dawns for the teachers and pupils alike. Flushed with this hope and a Eurovision win, things clearly will only get better. Or will they?

Education ticks a number of theatres loves for me early on, with superb use of music, sharp scene changes and best of all a quite brilliant series of movement pieces thro…

Review of The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde at Hackleton Village Hall, Hackleton

In pursuit of even more theatre, I ventured out to Hackleton to experience theatre company Group Eight for the first time, and their version of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (adapted here by Noah Smith).

The first observation, and not from a production point, is how neat this adaptation of the story is by Noah Smith. It keeps the mysterious world of Dr Jekyll and his experimental attempts of unlocking his dark side but also fleshes out the world around him. We have two incorporated narrators, Shelly and Stoker (no prizes for guessing where those names came from, and simply Maid and Butler in the original Smith version), who give us locations and inner thoughts as well as scene changing. They are very much the unnamed narrator of the original embodied. Also while we have the standard "Three Musketeers" of Lanyon, Utterson, and Jekyll himself, the character of Enfield is fleshed out far beyond the original, and with his new lady, Helen …

Review of Les Misérables: School Edition (NMTC Youth Society) at the Cripps Hall Theatre, Northampton

From my four years or so of watching theatre in Northampton, there is one thing beyond the huge professional shows that I see touring, that I always enjoy so much more (despite the occasional dodginess of the quality), and that is youth theatre. For me in my heart, it adds something special, here we have the often maligned young of today, getting out there and doing something truly fulfilling. Here though, with the debut of the newly formed Youth Society, spinning off from the adult Northampton Musical Theatre Company, we have something also which goes beyond enthusiasm of the young to create a really special piece of theatre.

Les Misérables is in the top three of musicals for me, I love its huge numbers, I connect to its story, and it has some extremely strong characters, for me, it just works. Therefore, you could say that I would have an immediate bias towards this show, however, I do feel protective of it as well, so, it needs to be done right. However, I have nothing to worry abo…