Theatre Review – Jane Eyre at the Bristol Old Vic

Last week I went to see the fantastic Jane Eyre at the Bristol Old Vic. I have never read the book, didn’t even know the storyline, so it was with some trepidation I headed into town to see it.

I went with two good friends and the Bearded One himself, who isn’t much of a theatre goer, but as it was my birthday he decided to join us. He was so glad he did. I have never been so moved by a theatre performance in all of years of attending shows.

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The Spirit of Love

*** WARNING – This piece includes some nude photographs ***

Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to In Between Time’s latest production at the Arnolfini. ‘Spirit’ was performed and created by Florentina Holzinger and Vincent Riebeek and moved me so many ways at once. Described as ‘an ode to spiritual life’ it was thought provoking, adventurous and at times absolutely hilarious.

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What is a beautiful body?

Last night I visited the Arnolfini for the first time.  Which is pretty terrible for a drama student who has lived in Bristol her entire life.  I went thanks to a last minute email from one of my university lecturers offering complimentary tickets, and I’m very glad I did.  I will openly admit my tastes in theatre are what most people would consider fairly mainstream and also quite narrow, which I have only realised once I started university.  However, this performance really opened my eyes to some of the other ways theatre can be performed.

In Between Time is described as a ‘baroque inspired performance’ concerned with the politics of the flesh.  I went into the production knowing very little about it except it was about dance and there was some nudity involved.  I don’t know what I was expecting but it certainly was not what I witnessed.

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Review – Ghost the musical at the Bristol Hippodrome

To some Ghost will always be Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore doing the sexiest pottery you have ever seen while the Righteous Brothers plays softly behind. This is so for me, but when it was announced the new musical would be touring I was intrigued and keen to see it, if only to see what sort of adaptation had been made.

 In some respects it was without a doubt the most spectacular thing I have ever seen on stage, and several times my mind was blown attempting to grasp how effects were done. Sam walked through the door – yes straight through it, on stage, right in front of you. Objects flew in slow motion and were moved with no one near to touch them. Whatever magic was done was done perfectly seamlessly and left everyone frozen in amazement.

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Review – Rouse Ye Women at the Bristol Bierkeller

Original musicals can be tricky to write and more difficult to write well. Especially if the topic is something more unusual – for example, the women of the Black Country striking over their harsh working environment and low wages. Yet this is what AND THEN WE DANCED chose as their subject matter. And I’m glad to say they did it extremely well.

Their music is harsh, brittle, tender and soulful all at once. Constant leaps between the cacophonous drumming and angelic singing keeps you on edge throughout and makes the piece move at an incredible pace. At fifty minutes I found I was left wanting more. The use of tools as instruments worked well and they coaxed the music out of the chains, bins and work tops with ease. Yasmin Frampton’s singing was a particular highlight, her high, sweet tone rising above the ensemble’s soulful harmonies, her haunting melody a beacon of hope to the others on stage.

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One downside of the percussive music is the loss of some lyrics. The opening song was performed with the desperation and frustration of women trapped in their work. However, the volume of drumming drowned out the voices meaning the first song was almost lost to the audience. However, the actors’ conviction in their performance more than made up for this.

Despite being a very small performance space the actors worked well within it and the choreography was executed with great passion. Sadly the lighting failed to cover parts of the piece and actors were often sat in patches of darkness, especially towards the front of the stage where, unfortunately, there are long sections of performance. Some cues also seemed to lag, again leaving actors in darkness while they sang.

All in all this was an interesting and emotional performance which the performers and production team should be proud to be involved in. The music and singing combine with the actors natural talent to tell the stories of these strong women with charm and passion. A thoroughly enjoyable production.

Rouse Ye Women is showing at the Bristol Bierkeller until July 25th.

Review – 33 at the Bristol Old Vic

When you go to the theatre to watch a show about 33 men encased in a mine shaft underground for 52 days you expect a sombre affair with deep messages about the meaning of life and how relationships fair under pressure. While the Wardrobe Ensemble does confront this it is with a far from sombre voice. There are moments of lightness, even humour, in the hour long performance which takes you underground, overground and through the minds of some of the most tortured men you can imagine. They are trapped with little knowledge of what is happening on the outside world and with almost no contact with their loved ones.

The actors conveyed a variety of characters convincingly, each person they became having a unique voice. Their minimalist costumes, with a patterned scarf or baseball hat symbolising a new character, was simple and effective, if a little clumsily changed at times. The actors remained on stage almost constantly throughout, most of the times blending in perfectly. Unfortunately at times their removing or putting on of overalls took the attention away from the main action. The appearance of Elvis, played with obvious delight by Edith Woolley, was unexpected and yet perfectly acceptable. James Newton’s mentally cracked Edison was as confused as the audience but his desperation was palpable throughout their reckless and at times terrifying scramble across the stage. More than one audience member jumped in their seat with each perfectly choreographed punch and chair throw. I don’t recall ever seeing a fight scene so well performed and with such trust and confidence.

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Tom Brennan’s direction shines particularly brightly during the numerous movement sections. From news reporters to ‘the masses’ watching reports on television at home, the gestures are wonderfully choreographed and performed with gusto. There is little synchronicity between the actors, but their frantic and passionate moves show that this is not the intention.

The ensemble worked well with the large amount of sound and camera equipment on stage. Showing the movement through the mine shafts on the projector was inventive and useful for the audience, with the added humour of James Newton’s running man on stage (which much be seen to be truly appreciated). On a personal note I feel the production would have been much cleaner without the added distraction of the tech desk on stage. Though it was well out of the lights and the technician was subtle my eyes strayed more than once to the distant corner when much more interesting stuff was happening right in front of me.

Live music was a great addition to the show, and performed beautifully by various members of the cast. The spanish guitar gave a great sense of place, and with the two saxophones combined to really fill the space with mood and atmosphere.

All in all 33 was a fascinating piece of theatre which tackled its subject matter with tact and sensitivity. The audience was a mixed bag but all seemed to thoroughly enjoy the evening. Though the show was completely not what I was expecting I took pleasure in trying to understand a (as the cast explained at the beginning) translation of a version of events that has already been passed on many times. I wish the company every success and urge you to catch this show, if not in Bristol then in Edinburgh next month.

33 is showing at the Bristol Old Vic until July 13th and will also be at the Edinburgh Fringe in The Aviary, Zoo Venues from 2-17 August