Archive for March, 2011

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Waterproof, by Teresa Burns

Saturday, 5 March, 2011

Some gentle wonders, very good stagecraft

Waterproof is a one-woman show played with a lot of charm by Eva Sampson, as a wide-eyed innocent, fascinated by water, devastated by the loss of her job at Luton’s (fictional, we hope) Waterworld, and upset by the loss of a boyfriend she never had. At its best – and its best was really very good indeed – it had an elegant, self-deprecating humour that was reflective, insightful and delivered with a real awareness that entertainment was the goal. The extensive range of props on the stage were brought to play in ways that met the needs of the subject matter head on.

Early on, Laura admits us to her fantasy, a red-headed girl who finds a compelling vision of herself as a princess in a fairytale world under the sea, using a big book and a few cut out figures to make her point, and it all works beautifully.

The magic doesn’t end there; there are many other moments of revelation (about the nature of Laura’s character mostly) and the way she uses props is often reminiscent of a Jacques Tati character. Madeleine Scott Cree should also be given a mention here, because this is a busy show for lights and sound and the chief technician from the Archway Theatre in Horley hit every cue on the night.

Its not all good news though. The storyline is thin throughout (why is she still in the abandoned Waterworld building?) And though Eva Sampson puts a lot of effort into making her character big enough to fill the stage, the idea of a ‘love at first sight’ attraction to one of the visitors to the acquarium in its final days isn’t really enough to sustain more than a pale imitation of a Bridget Jones scenario, even if – in this case – girl doesn’t get boy. Something extra is needed to pull this into a different category if it  really is to be powerfully, or just wittily, different.

There is though, a piece of lovely fantasy once more towards the end of the ninety minutes of so of the performance, and the way that the wheelbarrow becomes, with the aid of a couple of torches and some balloons, a ship of dreams is a simple but wonderfully effective piece of showmanship.

In the end, this production is full of heart and nicely mounted, but charming and engaging are the adjectives most appropriately used about the performance, while the subject matter remains just a little bit tired.

Eva Sampson – Laura

Writer – Teresa Burns; Lighting and sound – Madelaine Scott Cree; Production – How it ended productions

reviewed Friday, 4 March 2011, at the Courtyard Theatre Studio

(c) michael spring 2011

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Fen, by Caryl Churchill

Friday, 4 March, 2011

Playing now, at the Finborough Theatre

Featureless, abundant, windswept - the landscape of drama

Fen is a 90 minute drama, first performed in 1983, the first play in a three-month season of plays by women writers at the award-winning Finborough Theatre.

The play is a snapshot of rural life in that slightly strange area of Norfolk south of Kings Lynn, and north of Ely where landmarks are rare and the dark, rich earth – reclaimed from sea and swamp – is extraordinarily productive. But the drama attempts much more than just a snapshot. It links the continually changing and often personally painful circumstances of the area – from the draining of the fens to the problems of making agriculture economically viable in the 20th century – to the world of the 1980’s and to the tragedy of one particular woman, a mother who deserts her children for a lover, and yet finds that she cannot live without them.

All of the actors here are called upon to play multiple – and often very different – roles, moving from, in one instance, Japanese businessman to grandmother for example. It has to be said that in most cases, these are extremely successful. In a few instances though, a character doesn’t have quite enough to sustain it, and there is an element of trickery for trickery’s sake. Nevertheless, there are a lot of strong perfomances. Nicola Harrison for example, moves smoothly from a boy scaring birds to a supremely vindictive step-mother to a born-again Christian in a seamless manner. The same is true for others with less dramatic shifts of character to cope with.

The play is made up from a number of short illustrative scenes – some concerned with agriculture and the particular circumstances of the area, others with individuals and the circumstances that surround their lives, given the limited possibilities that have been open in this peculiar part of the world. The whole thing revolves around the passionate Val (Katherine Burford) whose story is at the heart of the elements of the plot.

Designer James Button has given director Ria Parry an imaginative set to work with and the pace is nicely sustained throughout. Whether the strength of the passion at the heart of the drama is enough to keep the other elements of the plot in perspective is something that will be a personal judgement. Sometimes, there seemed to be slight imbalances between scenes based on what was obviously painstaking research and the need to keep a focus on the central proposition, but this is a very watchable play, albeit with moments that are acutely painful. And what cannot be denied is the overwhelming authenticity of both the voices and their stories, springing from the soil as readily as the abundant crops that have only sporadically sustained them.

Cast: Alex Beckett – Wilson, Frank, Mr Tewson, Geoffrey; Katharine Burford – Val, Ghost; Elicia Daly – Mrs Hasset, Becky, Alice, Ivy; Nicola Harrison – Boy, Angela, Deb, Mrs Finch; Wendy Nottingham – Shirley, Shona, Miss Cade, Margaret; Rosie Thompson – Japanese businessman, Nell, May, Mavis

Director – Ria Parry; Designer – James Button; Lighting – David W Kidd; Sound/composer – Dave Price; Assistant Director – Laura Keefe

reviewed Thursday 3 March

(c) michael spring 2011

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Off Cut Festival welcomes new writers

Thursday, 3 March, 2011

On 1st March, In Company Theatre launched its Off Cut 2011 and is accepting short play submissions from new and undiscovered playwrights.

Following the successes of previous years, In Company Theatre will be moving the festival to the renowned Riverside Studios in Hammersmith this coming autumn.

Writers may submit plays of no more than 15 minutes in length. There are no restrictions on style, topic or genre.

Closing date for submissions is 1st June, after which, 28 plays will be selected to show in rep at the Riverside Studios over the first two weeks of the festival. During this time, the audience will be voting for their favourite plays. The top eight plays will run for the whole of the third week, with the audience still voting for the ultimate winner.

This winner will have a full play produced by In Company at The Riverside Studios.

There will also be a panel of industry professionals – headed by the National Theatre’s Writer-in-Residence, Moira Buffini – on the final night. They will award further prizes for writing, directing and acting. Past panel members include Patricia Hodge, directors Nigel Douglas and Psyche Stott, writers Josephine Melville, Tena Stivicic, and literary agents Lisa Babalis and Anna Brewer.

For more information on how to apply please visit www.theoffcutfestival.com

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Hoopla Season, at the Miller London Bridge

Wednesday, 2 March, 2011

It’s Hoopla time – Improv and Stand up – at the Miller, London Bridge. The following is the same for all the shows.

Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm – 10pm with interval. £5 on the door. At The Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London, SE1 3SS.

Individual shows:

Tuesday 22nd March 2011
Improv. The Simple Show with improvised scenes and sketches, followed by Fingers On Buzzards the improvised comedy meets pub quiz meets game show.

Tuesday 5th April 2011
Improv. Murder mystery themed improv show with The Faux Pas, followed by an improvised musical from Music Box.

Tuesday 12th/13th April 2011
Description: Stand Up For The First Time. 15 people do stand up for the first time ever.

Date: Tuesday 19th April 2011
Improv. TV inspired improv show from Do Not Adjust Your Stage followed by an improvised musical from Music Box.

Tuesday 26th April 2011.
Improv with The Maydays, award winning improvised comedy troupe from Brighton

Wednesday 27th April 2011.
Avant garde improvised comedy from Friendly Fire’s collective of musicians, dancers, actors

More at: http://www.HooplaImpro.com

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