Archive for August 3rd, 2011

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The Echo: a new play at Camden Fringe

Wednesday, 3 August, 2011

Confronting the past

There’s an odd texture to this play, which concerns itself with the ghosts of our past and what they might say to us if they were present today.

The idea itself is both appealing and intriguing. If we confronted the person we fell in love with years ago, how would we explain what has happened since? If we met the person whose death influenced everything we have done since then, how could we explain why we have done what we have?

The perfomances too, are often oddly affecting. Esme (Annalie Wilson) returns as a vampish 28-year old, having died in old age, in part, it would seem to seduce her younger ex-colleague. Rich (George Weightman) confronts his best friend who died ten years earlier and whose death is the reason that he is now a friendless and almost hopeless 26-year old. Helen (Jeanette Rourke) confronts the man she fell in love with thirty-odd years ago.

Sometimes though, we are shown too much, as in the final scene where Helen, who has been comforting Dan (Alexander Nash) needs to be comforted herself. It does give the drama a roundness on which to finish, but by then the audience should have got the point.

Sometimes, too, the dialogue seems a little clumpy, as in the scene where Helen and her soon to be divorced husband have a row about what they have made (or haven’t made) of their lives. The direction (by Adam Marchan) sometimes rubs in a point a little too much – to have the ghosts on stage throughout is perhaps a little unnecessary and adds to imbalances between the characters in the story. That of two of the couples intertwine, while the others do not.

A lighter touch and less emphasis on ‘drama’ may be needed here.

So, there are some imbalances and oddities in the construction, but the overall architecture is enough to send us on our way with some questions about our own behaviour and experience, and with the memory of some very competent performances.

Cast: Kimberley Bliss – Stacey; Pete Maxey – Tom; Alexander Nash – Dan; Jeanette Rourke – Helen; George Weightman – Rich; Annalie Wilson – Esme

Director – Andrew Marchan; Writer/producer – Grace Night; Assistant Director – Nicole SC Ingemann

reviewed 2 August 2011

(c) Michael Spring 2011

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Helen Keen: Robot Woman of the Future

Wednesday, 3 August, 2011

Science fun at the Etcetera Theatre

Science nut and comedy person: Helen Keen

Helen Keen’s show is about science and its predictions.: the fact that we have no hoverboards or teleportation, but we do have the internet and hand-held computers. A self-confessed science nut (and stamp collector), she is bubbly and charmingly self-effacing. Her delivery is all her own, but it has something of Boris Johnson and Sir Patrick Moore about it, a kind of breathless innocent enthusiasm, which makes her act more endearing and underscores the gentle humour about the failure of futurists and scientific prediction.

Audience participation is encouraged and a full dialogue develops when (having already sung “Happy Birthday” to the word ‘robot’ – apparently 90 years old) we are invited to guess whether projected pictures of individual women represent ‘futurists’ or ‘felons’ – a game that is much funnier than it sounds.

Helen Keen is also from the north of England, so the intrusion of face flannels and the concept of ‘a good wash’ as a result of a need to cool down seems entirely appropriate.

Props include a tin-foil covered table, on which stands the Acer laptop which in turn projects the various images, and Helen Keen’s trademark cardboard rocket, with its magic panel – a screen where ‘Miriam’ projects shadow shapes. It is all rather charmingly British somehow, even down to the righteous indignation that it was the French who put a cat into space, something which is only de-fused by the depiction of poor Felix on the stamps of the Republic of Niger. The artist clearly having a bad day when undertaking this particular creation.

The ‘robot woman of the future’ turns out to be a sex toy called Roxxxy, who looks more like a septuagenarian corpse in drag than something from the Valley of the Dolls. It is the final nail in the coffin of the undiscovered byways of science, and we all go home feeling we have learnt a little and had a very good time as well.

Writer/performer: Helen Keen

Reviewed Tuesday 2nd August 2011

(c) Michael Spring 2011

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