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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Is Theatre Still Theatre When it Can’t Be Performed?

***** WARNING – This post contains quotes of a violent and disturbing nature *****

In particular I’m talking about Sarah Kane and her ‘in-yer-face’ approach to theatre.  I have recieved my reading list for a few modules next year, and top of the Contemporary British and American module is Sarah Kane’s Blasted.  The only experience I have ever had of Kane’s writing is a brief attempt at reading 4.48 Psychosis.  And it was very brief.  I opened it on a page that I can’t even quote.  Have a look for yourselves.

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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

Projects

My aim this summer was to make sure I keep up my writing and not get back to uni in September and realise I hadn’t written a word for three months.  Thankfully I am managing to do this.  However, I am doing this in my usual style of taking on a million projects at the same time.  So here I shall share them with you.

Camp NaNoWriMoNaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an event that happens every November where you aim to write a 50,000 word novel in 31 days.  It’s very intense, incredibly hard work but ultimately so rewarding.  There is a huge amount of support from other participants and the people who run the event.  They also run two ‘camps’, one in April and one in July.  I just missed taking part last November so am happily taking part this month and hoping to finish my first novel!

Full length play – I have also started writing my first full length play.  I have written several short plays which I really enjoyed and have had some good feedback from people.  I thought I would challenge myself a little further by extending my word count.  I didn’t realise how much harder it would be and am currently sat at the end of act one wondering how to proceed.

Short play – I also started a short play which is very different from my usual style.  I am a very naturalistic writer normally but this is much more absurd, physical piece.  I’m surprising myself with how the piece is coming along.  I have never been a fan of writers like Beckett, despite my best efforts to appreciate their work, but this piece is turning out much like Krapp’s Last Tape.  I’m intrigued to see how it ends.

For 30 days I will… – My second blog is challenging me every day to be creative and write something new.  My current challenge is to write a poem every day which started our pretty easy.  However, writing a poem alongside everything else is proving more difficult than I thought it would be.

So juggling everything together is proving to be harder than I thought but I know that when the end of the summer comes around I’ll be so happy with all I’ve achieved.

Writing under pressure

So I have know for some time now that I work best under pressure.  My best essays are written in the few days before the deadline, often well into the early hours of the morning.  And it turns out, this is true not only of my university work, but of my writing projects as well.

For some time I have been toying with the idea of a certain play looking at a young girl in therapy dealing with the abuse dealt to her by her father.  I have written the odd scene here and there but nothing much.  Until yesterday.  When one of my lecturers emailed around about Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Award for new drama.  The deadline is Saturday.  As in, tomorrow.  So what do I do?  I sit down yesterday and decide ok, two days is plenty of time to write a full length play.  And I start it.

It is going very well.  Except for forays such as this where I take a break to write something else.  But I have every faith in myself that I can get the whole thing written by the deadline.  Not that I’m counting down the hours or anything (just over 30, in case you were wondering) but I’m happy with my speed.  And I’m resigned to an all nighter tonight to make sure it’s done.

For now, I give you a very small scene from the play.  A short story the main character has written.

Once upon a time there was a little sparrow. And the sparrow was happy flying from branch to branch – carefully, because he was only a little sparrow – and playing in the sunshine. Because sparrows don’t have any worries. They can play all day long. They don’t have to store food for the winter or worry about migrating. They just sing in the hedges and fly through the trees.

But one day a hawk came along. She was bigger than the sparrow and immediately was mean to him. She made the sparrow find her food, and make her a big nest so she could be comfortable. The sparrow didn’t have any way to argue because the hawk was so much bigger than him and he was scared.

So the sparrow spent his days hunting for the hawk, bringing her all the food he caught. She never left anything for him, so he became weak and hungry. He found it hard to fly, and couldn’t play in the trees any more. But the hawk still made him do all the work. If he didn’t work fast enough she would peck him until he bled, then send him away.

The sparrow became sad. He didn’t like living in the trees any more. He wanted to fly away and live with the other sparrows. But the hawk had hurt him so much he couldn’t fly any more. All he could do was run along the ground, far below all the other sparrows.

One day, a pigeon arrived. He swooped down to bottom of the tree where the sparrow was crying. The pigeon asked, “why are you crying little sparrow?” The sparrow looked up through his tears and shook his head. He was too scared of the hawk to tell anyone about him. The pigeon asked again, “why are you crying? Little sparrows should be happy because they don’t have any worries in the world.”

The little sparrow began to cry harder. And he told the pigeon all about the hawk. And the pigeon listened very quietly, never asking any questions, until the sparrow had finished talking. Then the pigeon puffed out his pigeon chest and stood up tall. “You come with me little sparrow,” the pigeon said, “and I’m going to take you away from this horrid hawk.”

So together they flew away, very slowly because the sparrow was hurting from all the pecks the hawk had given him, and they went to another tree. And this tree was full of other sparrows who had been picked on, and they helped the little sparrow grow strong again until he was happy to fly through the trees again and play in the branches.

And no one ever saw the hawk again.