Archive for August 26th, 2010


London Theatre Writing Award Showcase

Thursday, 26 August, 2010

Finalists’ Showcase

London Festival Fringe – New Diorama Theatre – 23 August – 19:30 (2:30)

The London Playwrights’ Collective, in association with Scene Pool, offered a truly spectacular evening at the showcase for the finalists in the London Theatre Writing Award.  Rather than productions, the evening featured directed readings of the top three finalists, which was delightfully minimalist, focusing all attention on the text as read.  Unfortunately, the Fringe Report was unable to make the first reading of the evening, Aurora by Louise Monaghan, but did attend the final two, Drawing the Curtains by Benedict Fogarty and Snap.Catch.Slam by Emma Jowett.

In Drawing the Curtains, Benedict Fogarty investigated the impact of the events leading to Fiona Pilkington’s murder of her disabled daughter and subsequent suicide, on the son she left behind.  Told through the eyes of Tony (Paul Thomas), the story unfolded in a stream of conscious manner, jumping between memories.  Tony oscillated between tortured saint and petulant teen in his reactions and care for his disabled sister, Vickie (read with superb warmth and intelligence by Poppy Meadows), resenting the disability’s complete control over their lives.  Paul Thomas’ reading incorporated these warring emotions admirably well, and the eternal frustration and regret at the end of the play was palpable.  Unfortunately, the play faltered in its portrayal of the mother, who’s lines were almost entirely expository and read in monotone by Hazel Bawden.  The mother became a one-dimensional plot device for Tony’s development, rather than a victim and the perpetrator of the horrendous act.  On the whole, the script presented a decently crafted melodrama but took little risk with language or format and it was difficult to see how this play would benefit from staging, possibly better suited for radio.

Emma Jowett’s Snap.Catch.Slam, a series of three short plays, also based its subjects in true events, but to a much more innovative end.  Snap delved into the moment a teacher snaps into violence, when faced with an uncontrollable student.  Catch, on the other hand, examined the disruption caused by the decision to save a life, catching a baby from a burning window.  Finally, Slam revolved around the impact on a woman’s life from a moment of domestic violence.  The readers in each play were outstanding, and deserve to be lauded in much more detail than possible here, as does Antonio Ferraro’s direction.  Emma Jowett’s command of language, however, was the true star of the evening.  The plays commenced with a short and staccato dictionary definition of the title, neatly encapsulating the theme and subject in a moment.  Each play also sprang to life through clever employment of all five senses; Miss Taylor’s high heels clicking against the classroom floor and the slow spread of red blood in Snap, the scorching mug of coffee and acrid smell of the fire in Catch, and the familiar sounds of a child countered with the appearance of an abusive ex-husband in Slam.  Each play felt complete, and each character displayed a distinct personality and rhythm of speech, yet similar language and imagery coursed through all.

Cast Credits: (Drawing the Curtains) Jean Apps – The Grandmother/Dot Cosgrove/Mrs Gaygan, Hazel Bawden – The Mother/Patricia Terry, Poppy Meadows – Vickie Simpson, Paul Thomas – Tony Simpson, Peter Wilkinson – Tony’s Friend/Stevie Gaygan/A Police Officer, Clive Woodward – Mr. Gaygan/SEN Teacher/Mr Guest/The Father/Mr. Simpson.   (Snap) Olivia Chappell – Miss Taylor.   (Catch) Rob Carter – Stu, Verity Hewlett – Mother, Paul Thomas – Aron.  (Slam) Carol Been – Karen, Verity Hewlett – Natalie & Lucy.

Company Credits: (Drawing the Curtains) Writer – Benedict Fogarty, Director – Lavinia Hollands, (Snap. Catch. Slam) Writer – Emma Jowett, Director – Antonio Ferrara.  For the Theatre Writing Showcase:  Compère – Ola Animashawun, Judges –  Ola Animashawun, Skye Crawford, Ria Perry. For the London Playwrights’ Collective:  Managing Director – Maude Laflamme, Readers – Brian Astbury, Darren Batten, Henry Bell, Trudi Boatwright, David Bottomley, Daniel Brennan, Ben Ellis, Steve Harper, Kerry Irvine, Sharon Kanolik, Tanith Lindon, Jennifer Lunn, Alix Thorpe, Jeremy Woodhouse.

(c) Molly Doyle 2010

Reviewed Monday, 23 August 2010


Racing Demon

Thursday, 26 August, 2010

Tight production beautifully played

Edinburgh 2010 – the Spaces at Surgeon’s Hall – 23rd – 28th August ( 14.15)

Four priests grapple with faith

David Hare’s ‘Racing Demon’ is exceedingly well played by the young cast of the Shrewsbury School Drama Group. Each of the performers is a talented individual giving their all to an integrated, balanced, well directed ensemble. Their delivery of intellectually interesting dialogues and monologues is lively and emotionally engaged, keeping the audience enthralled and listening.

Playing David Hare’s interesting exposure of the doubts at the centre of the Church of England in the twentieth century, they create intensity and humour with a deftness rarely seen in professional companies. The play is set at the point when women are about to be ordained into the priesthood, though a late reference to the War in Afghanistan attempts to make it more contemporary and could confuse anyone in the audience hooked on the time line. The point being made, however, is that the Church of England’s unwillingness to back recent wars has made its relationship with political life difficult and this is as true now as it was in the 1980s. The stresses within the Church created by modern life, ethics and sexual openness are embodied in the dilemmas of the individual characters .

An inner city Church of England team ministry, responsible for “God’s Work” in South London, are at the centre of Hare’s study. Their leader, Rev. Lionel Espy, portrayed with compassionate power by Eoin Bentick, opens the play. He is begging God to make himself known, to respond, to prove He exists. Lionel is a sad man, in despair, working day and night to fulfill his role as a parish priest, with no sense of personal Spirituality. He is a “people pleaser” who does not have the spiritual or intellectual strength required to counter the evangelical energy and enthusiasm of his new curate, Rev. Tony Ferris, to whom Nick Constantine gives a stunning charisma. His physical intensity and vocal command keep this character on the edge between inspiration and mad fundamentalism which makes his conviction entirely believable.

He wants the Bible put at the centre of the Church’s work once more and Jesus Christ’s miraculousness to be spoken aloud, not hidden beneath layers of social worker solutions to what he sees as dynamic spiritual problems. This is very much at odds with the rest of the team’s laid back style and anathema to Lionel who regards evangelism as invasive and inappropriate to modern ministry. Lionel is also at odds with his Bishop who wants him to smile while saying Mass and to respect his “middle class” parishioners need for the rituals of the High Church, rather than regard them as anachronistic baubles better suited to palaces than the back streets of London’s poor.

Rev. Harry Henderson and  Rev. Donald ‘Streaky’ Bacon, the other two members of the team, beautifully played by Joe Allan and Dan Bradshaw are not able enough to save Lionel’s world from collapsing around him and imploding from within.. Their two excellent performances show an acute understanding of the problems besetting their very different characters. Joe Allan plays  Harry’s loving repression with great understanding and Dan Bradshaw plays Streaky’s happiness from within with ease. The comic, compassionate and serious notes are well hit by all four actors in the Parish Team as the tragedies of their joint situation unfold.

They are wonderfully supported to do this by equally elegant performances from all the other cast members. Hebe Dickins gives Frances Parnell, Tony Ferris’s former lover; the crisp clarity which might be expected of a woman used to dealing with the higher echelons of the clergy since birth. She is a passionate woman with skillful ways who keeps her ear to the ground. Through her we see how stuck each of the others is in their inability to deal with “reality”.

The urbane Bishop, Rt.Rev.Charlie Allen, artfully played by Tom Elliott, is plotting to unseat Lionel Espy despite Freddie Ellery‘s refined Rt.Rev Gilbert Heffernen, Bishop of Kingston having made a promise to back him up should his tenure ever be challenged. Tom Elliott builds his performance to a fine explosion of bitter anger while Freddie Ellery allows the ineffectual Gilbert to vacillate with guilty charm, guarding his own back at all times..

Camilla Aylwin creates both pathos and humour as Stella Marr, the fulcrum of the plot around which all the issues of modern ministry come into focus for Rev.Tony Ferris as he challenges Lionel’s authority and style.  Alex Priestly truthfully portrays Heather Espy, wife to the doomed career cleric, a sad, broken, lonely woman long ignored by her busy husband. Her long service to the Church, looking after their children and meeting all her husband’s physical needs is entirely ignored. She withdraws into herself and her garden. She eventually, in the background, cracks under the pressure. Her alienated husband notices this only as an inconvenience, really only ever caring about himself and his well argued opinions.

Jack Flowers gives Ewan Gilmour, Rev. Harry Henderson’s secret lover great integrity and modern cool. Rob Cross, as the seedy journalist Tommy Adair is suitably oily and threatening. Their scenes together work well and Ewan’s quiet relationship with Harry gives the play another layer of depth.

Racing Demon demonstrates David Hare’s deep understanding failings in people and institutions. Peter Fanning and Eoin Bentick have directed this play with unerring deftness of touch. The set is simple and the projections which paint the sense of place are an elegant solution to the challenge of staging the splendour of a Bishop’s Palace Garden, the High Altar of a High Church, the Rectory and various London residences. The people portrayed live, in varying degrees of well heeled comfort and splendour, replete with tea and cake, dinners described with gusto and time to debate their relationship with the invading world around them. For one it is full of people needing to be heard as their misery flows around him, for another it is an empty Church which he needs to fill by offering people inner salvation and Jesus. Hard working priests whose beliefs are deeply challenged battle with church authorities painted as being more interested in their power than in Love and ever the lack of core agreement surfaces creating both laughter and pain.

It is a huge image of Jesus on the cross which appears most often on the screens, as the individual priests seek God’s guidance or reassurance, towering over all and holding everyone on the stage, on the white square of carpet which defines the limits of their world. These portrayals are of humans caught in a state of flux, coming to new conclusions about their lives as “The Inevitable Moment” demands. The ideas are huge and ever present for those engaged with embodying the Divine in our deeply secular society. These young people engage the ideas with vigour. If you can, see the show.

Cast: CLERGYJoe Allan – Rev. Harry Henderson, Eoin Bentick – Rev. Lionel Espy, Dan Bradshaw – Rev.Donald ” Streaky”Bacon, Nick Constantine – Rev.Tony Ferris, Fred Elleray – Rt.Rev.Gilbert Heffernon Bishop of Kingston, Tom Elliott – Rt. Rev. Charlie Allen, LAITYSam Ansloos – Waiters, Camilla Aylwin – Stella Marr, Rob Cross–Tommy Adair & waiters, Hebe Dickins–Frances Parnell, Jack Flowers — Ewan Gilmour, Alex Priestley — Heather Espy

The Company – Directors- Eoin Bentick&Peter Fanning, Lighting Designer —Al Wagner, Projections – James Mainwaring, Sound Designer — Ali Webb, Deputy Stage Manager — Alex Davies, Make-up — Laura Whittle, Costumes — Jane Fanning, Front of House —Toby Percival, Technical Dirctor — Andy Hinton, Tour Manager – Tony Percival, Playwright — David Hare

( c )Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2010

reviewed Tuesday 24th August


Still Spilling the Beans: Letters from East Ham Vicarage 1953-1956

Thursday, 26 August, 2010

Edinburgh 2010 – The Vault – 17-30 August – 11.30 (0.55)

Still Spilling the Beans is the third and last edition to a one woman trilogy.  Following in the footsteps of the first two shows – Spilling the Beans and Spilling More Beans – the piece makes its first appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

When Lisa Wright – writer and performer – moved from London to Connecticut as a teacher in 1953 her mother Margot wrote letters to her every day for 3 years.  It is from these letters which the show finds its life.  Fifty years on, and Lisa Wright has sifted through the hundreds of letters and pieced them together to create a dramatized reading of these rare glimpses from the past – a performance which aims to paint a quintessential picture of parish life in the East End of London back in the nineteen fifties.

The play is performed within the tiny space of The Vault theatre. On the stage was a cluttered kitchen table filled with bits of paper and two chairs just behind it.  Off to the left, an oddly placed music stand with a large fake potted plant at its base – a peculiar combination of set perhaps.  But before you could question it any further, a charming fairytale themed music began to play and out walked the tender, glowing face of a woman you could only wish was your Nan.

What ensued was fifty five minutes of a rambling story which never looked as if it were leading anywhere but which you couldn’t bring yourself to stop or interrupt for fear of appearing impolite.  Lisa Wright is clearly not a woman to be rushed as she calmly sauntered between the table and music stand – telling stories of train juries, vicars and suitable names to give a fish.  She would go into scrupulous detail of the angle of one’s hat or the fabric of a friend’s coat.

The pace of the show did add a lovely focus to several of the moments however. The understated composure in which she spoke proved impressively successful in the delivery of her jokes.  There was also a touching sincerity behind the story of how she took care of her mother as she slipped away.

It is understandable that the show may very well appeal to a small number of theatre goers above a certain age and with a particular background or upbringing.  Unfortunately for the undeniable majority of average audience members the show might come across as a vague, rather slow experience.  Nothing much happens during the hour long performance.  Nothing changes from start to finish.  No great discoveries are realized other than the occasional, unsurprising passing of a distant relative or neighbor.  You are left at the end of it with no authentic, emotional connection with any of the characters or even the show as a whole.

It might be a heartwarming experience for some – but for most, it will just be another long Sunday afternoon at your Nan’s.

Cast Credits:Lisa Wright.

Company Credits: Writer – Lisa Wright. Director – uncredited. Lighting Designer – uncredited. Sound Designer – uncredited. Technical Operator – uncredited. Company – Margot Rupert and Lisa Productions.

(c) Carl Livesay 2010

reviewed Friday 21 August 2010


Pistol & Jack’s Sunday Service

Thursday, 26 August, 2010

London – Soho Theatre Bar – 22 Aug 10 – 19:30 (2:30)

The usually spacious, yet anonymous, Soho Theatre Bar was dressed to the nines Sunday evening, ready to host a raucous evening of cabaret, burlesque, comedy and general silliness.  Blue sparkles hung from the walls, as the various coloured lights danced off every surface.  Intrigued members of the public pressed their faces against the glass to catch a glimpse of the action.

Slightly past the starting time, the hosts presented themselves on stage.  Pistol, a sassy American, looked as if she lept from reels of a 1960s film, with carefully coiffed hair and a fabulously fringed frock.  She joked with at audience with ease, playing her role of lost pop princess adeptly.  Jack, a rough and tumble sexed-up rocker in blue shimmering trousers and a Bowie-esque lightening-streaked face, balanced Pistol’s energy well, providing a Cockney everyman to her diva.  Together, Pistol & Jack wove the audience through the evening interspersing the guest acts with songs and banter.  Some banter fell flat from repetition and began to feel more like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf than a comedy act.  Pistol & Jack’s musical mashups, however, revealed sublime talent, humour and intelligence.  Effortlessly meandering through Alicia Keyes, David Bowie, Journey and Beyoncé (at the same time, no less!) Jack’s soulful rock voice and decent guitar skills matched well with Pistol’s brassily gorgeous belting, and surprisingly badass rapping.  They were delightful chaperones for the evening.

Instructed by Pistol & Jack to expand our age horizons with regards to burlesque,  The Slap and Tickle Girls were the first guest act to perform.   The first two thirds of the act blended comedy and burlesque well, as Ellie Amour, Miss Kitty Kat and Miss Delish masqueraded as old ladies grooving to tunes old and new.  When the grey hair and frumpy house dresses came off, however, the act lost its enthusiasm and became a bland group of scantily clad dancers.  Sadly, their second appearance followed the same pattern.

The evening bounced back with a vengeance with the appearance of Spam and Beans, quizmasters extraordinaire.  Their banter and chemistry sparkled as much as their costumes as the pair goaded the audience into participating in a highly bizarre quiz which featured questions like, ‘Is Alan Titmarsch a troll?’  The highlight by far was the ‘Sexy Face’ competition, where members of the audience used tape to malign their faces into bizarre shapes, then parading them for a beauty competition.

At the end, the Ouse Valley Singles Club graced the stage, offering a marvellous finale to the evening.  With Andrew Barron on ukulele and Sarah Turner on tea chest bass, the Club entertained with a number of humorous songs in a quirky updated skiffle style, including ‘’Jude Law’s Wingman” and “My Redundant Ovaries.”  So many comedy songs depend heavily upon the lyrics with little attention to the music, yet the musical talent of the duo shone through as the melodic brilliance of the songs matched the lyrical.

Cast Credits:  Beaux – DJs, Pistol & Jack – as themselves (hosts), Spam and Beans – as themselves, The Ouse Valley Singles Club (Andrew Barron and Sarah Turner), The Slap and Tickle Girls (Elle Amour, Miss Kitty Kat and Miss Delish).

Company Credits: Production – Kevin Millband, Sound – Colin Goodwin, Bar Staff – Emmalene, Paolo and Kimberley

(c) Molly Doyle 2010


The Kevin Gillette Interview – Ruby Jerins

Thursday, 26 August, 2010

Ruby Jerins (c) Alana Jerins 2010

Ruby Jerins is a very busy actress – between film engagements (“Shutter Island” and “Remember Me,” to name two recent works), a recurring role on television’s “Nurse Jackie”, ballet, and school, she barely has time to just be Ruby.  But she was able to carve out some time to talk with Fringe Report’s Kevin Gillette via Skype, and a portrait of a charming, talented and energetic young girl emerged:

Fringe Report – Ruby, I know you’re very busy, so I just want to thank you for taking a few minutes to talk with me.  First, how did you get started in acting?  You’ve been doing this a very long time.

Ruby Jerins – My mother acted, so when I was young, I sort of did what she did; I went with her.  At first I did modelling, when I was a baby, and then I went on my first audition and I booked a commercial, and so that’s how it got started.

FR – How old were you when you did your first commercial?  Because you’re only 11 now, correct?

RJ – I think I was 4 years old.  And Yes, I’m 11 now.

FR – And in addition to your mother being an actress, your dad is an artist, too – what sort of work does he do?

RJ – Yeah, my dad is an artist.  He’s known for his big charcoal drawings, but he also paints in oils and does some pastel work.

FR – What were your first roles, aside from the commercial – say, in film and television?

RJ – Aside from the commercial, I did “Six Degrees” – it’s a TV show – that was sort of my first big role.  Before that I had commercials and smaller parts in movies, some of which my mom were in.

FR – You do a lot of kinds of roles – for example, you’ve done some dark comedy with “Nurse Jackie,” and you do some dramatic stuff, such as the first time I ever saw you, which was in “Zoe’s Day.”  How do you get into character?  I mean, you’re this sweet little kid – how do you do this sort of thing?

RJ – When I audition, or when I prepare for a part, my mom works with me, and we sometimes write some notes about the character; like if it’s a period piece, we might research the time period.  And I think about people that I know that remind me of the character.  And I also listen to music that also reminds me of the character.  When I’m doing more emotional parts, I’ll think about someone I’m familiar with.  Usually I get to know the people I’m working with, so it’s easier to be comfortable with them, but if I need to, I can imagine that they’re somebody else and that helps me feel what I need to feel.

FR – Can you tell me a little bit about the training you’ve had?

RJ – I have never actually been in an acting class – some of my friends have – it would be cool, but I had never really thought about it before.  My mom helps me with everything, so she’s kind of a built-in acting coach.  I dance at Ballet Academy East – I take ballet 5 times a week, and I’ve been taking that for a long time.  At the ballet place I go to we have modern dance and pointe once a week, and I’ve taken tap dancing at the 92nd St. Y for a few years.  But I got too busy to continue.

FR – You have a very busy schedule – is it hard balancing acting, dance, school, friends, etc.?

RJ – I do a lot of things, that’s true – my school gives a lot of homework, and I usually get home around 8:30, and I tend to go to bed kind of late getting all of that done.  With my friends, well, during the weekends sometimes I’m able to see them, but during the week I usually never see any of my friends, except in school and at dance class.

FR – Are there any actors or actresses you’d like to work with, or any roles you’d like to do?  With luck, you have a long career ahead of you, so here’s a chance to dream a little bit.  What do you think?

RJ – I have to think about this one … I’m not sure if I have any dream *parts* at the moment.  All of the genres are fun; comedy I haven’t done as much.  I mainly do drama and stuff like that, emotional things, which is fun, but once in a while I like doing comedy.  I really just take it as it comes; I’m not really particular.  I mean, every single person that I’ve worked with has been really great.  There’s not one person that I’ve ever thought, “Oh, I wish I didn’t have to work with that person.” I just saw “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and really liked Johnny’s [Depp] and Leo’s [DiCaprio] work in that, especially.  I also recently saw “Bedtime Stories” and laughed out loud at Adam Sandler and Russell Brand.

FR – Ruby, again, I know you have homework to do, so I’ll let you go, but thank you again for taking time to talk with me.  It’s such a pleasure to meet you, and I know you have many great things ahead of you.  Don’t forget us little people!

RJ – <laughs>  You’re welcome – it was nice to meet you, too.

(c) Kevin Gillette 20 July 2010