Vertigo: Kindling Project – Nightlight Theatre

Friday, 26 August, 2011

A successful partnership

Edinburgh ’11,  Bedlam Theatre– – 7th -13th  Aug at 15.25

“ What do you need to start a fire?” asks Nightlight Theatre. “You need Kindling.”

Night Light Theatre helped co-create The First Kindling Project Ever!  They describe it as “a tiny project” which they have supported in improvised development.  It is called ’Vertigo’, though in the course of the show Philippa Hogg’s character declares that she thinks this is not the right word to describe the feeling she is trying to reach, to reclaim from her childhood. She and Tom Penn are associate members of Nightlight Theatre. They tell us at the start of the play each will perform their ‘one man show’ at the same time, in the same space under the same title, because they have been double-booked into the space.

Philippa Hogg begins the piece taking notes. She is wandering in the audience in the front rows, down stage left, as they  take their seats. Tom Penn asks people close to his side of the stage what they most fear. He begins creating lyrics from the answers he receives, singing as he plays guitar. She has a chair strapped to her back. Since the piece is improvised and devised, it has set pieces, which are the stories from childhood and adolescence and apparently improvised links between the two “one man show “ performers in the present. How much is fully improvisation, how much written and how much blocked and busked is not clear, which is a compliment to the performers, who are both very skilled and watchable.

The theatrical conceit is that they have not met until the technical rehearsal, having just discovered they will need to share the stage, if each is to be able do their show in the only time slot available. It has been an administrative error, as far as they know. They do not behave as if they do not see one another but as if they are resigned to sharing the stage and negotiating space as they go. Tom Penn’s character is apologetic and laid back in nature. Phillipa Hogg’s is more of a startled rabbit caught in the headlights, who then rushes around a bit, taking charge of how the stage will be divided, or shared. There is a piano on stage. There is a bike.  We are introduced to the chair. She is called Alice.

As she introduces Alice to us, Philippa unstraps her and puts her centre stage. Alice is used to stand on, so that Philippa can see more. When she is no longer needed to assist in this way she is strapped to Philippa’s back and carried everywhere, like a rucksack. Having a chair as a constant travelling companion actually begins to seem like a reasonable idea once explained and demonstrated by this extremely likeable, lively young woman. She also defines stage space as her granny’s garden in a very winning manner with great mime accuracy and a wonderful child-like presence. She also plays the piano well and has fine comic timing.

Her character is searching for the ultimate high, right now, experienced as a childhood memory, while in at her granny’s garden. She’s a kind of adrenalin junkie.

His character is illustrating, in stories, why it is he does not trust anyone. He is playing a slightly paranoid depressive with an air of resignation.

Each is taking a turn with our attention on their own stories while listening to one another and gradually they integrate the two streams. As part of this unfolding of personal stories he rides the bike, asking Philippa to be his dad holding on while he learns. One of the things he learns is even his daddy cannot be trusted! She asks him to help with Alice and their personalities begin to engage more amd more with one another until they finish the show, on Alice, together. They are now fully in the present, creating a joyful sense of having moved on, through their obssesions and failures as individuals to a greater understanding of life, assisted by one another.

They asked for written feedback from the audience at the end of the forty minute romp, saying it was still a piece in development and they would like to know what had or had not worked. I found Tom Penn successful in painting a picture of his gentle boy and of growing into a helpful talented man very sensitively played, with a fine comic edge and an interesting voice. Phillipa Hogg is a twinkling star. They worked beautifully together throughout, giving each other space to shine and supporting one another to confidently play through many emotional fields to acheive a frisson of delight in the final scene. I trust they received the feedback they needed to take further steps to tighten the areas in which they are still growing towards a fully fledged two-hander moving even further into the zones of present delight.

Cast Credits: ( alpha order ) Philippa Hogg– The Woman/Girl, Tom Penn– The Man/Boy

Company Credits: Writer/devisers  –Philippa Hogg & Tom Penn,  Artistic Director – Rich Rusk  Technician – Simon Perkins

© Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2011

reviewed Wednesday 10August 11


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