Archive for the ‘Camden Fringe 2010’ Category

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Deirdre and Me at Brockley Jack

Wednesday, 5 January, 2011

Rachael Halliwell is obsessed by a TV heroine in Deirdre and Me

Language Laid Bare Productions presents Deirdre & Me, written and performed by Rachael Halliwell, at the Brockley Jack Theatre, a venue in south London, from 2 to 5 Feb 2011

Deirdre and Me is directed by Louisa FitzGerald.

Fringe Report Uncut reviewed this show about a Coronation Street obsessive, when it was performed as part of last year’s Camden Fringe. Read our review here.

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Waiting for Wonderland

Friday, 27 August, 2010

Camden Fringe – Etcetera Theatre, 20th August 2010 6pm (45 mins)

Left to Right: Callum Patrick Hughes (Chris), David Mowbray (Nick)

On one of the warmer August evenings of the Camden fringe, the small tightly packed Etcetera Theatre became the setting for ”Waiting for Wonderland”. The title of this new, original two-handed play, written by Rose Bruford graduate Richard J Loftus, cut across the wide range of social groups represented in the full capacity house.

The show in a black box setting opened with a pre-set of the two characters on two metal chairs. Callum Patrick Hughes as Chris and David Mowbray as Nick, portrayed two twenty-something gay men.

The characters were dressed in everyday wear; jeans, t-shirts and simple shirts, neither dull or flamboyant and not catering to the sterotype. The fast paced show started with a slight first night technical stutter, but was soon speeding along the information highways. The sound level was good, as was the delivery, making the content clear and audible. A simple lighting rig, used to add a time dimension to the scenes, gave a warm glow to the stage enabling subtle nuances to be seen.

The action alternated between “Twitter” tweets with @Nick replying to @Chris’ postings, with a speed of excution only rivalled by the fibres used to transmit tweets; and the “Narration” (in this case the characters thoughts), which served to enlighten the language and hidden meanings with a good degree of subtle comedy, which often caused a flurry of laughter in response.

Director Hayley Richards, assisted by Disa Stefans, also Rose Bruford graduates, used a minimalist approach. A simple staging device of moving the proximiny of the chairs, positioning them according to the action and psychology behind the mood, kept this two handed show on its toes.

The strength of this show was that the script had been directed to allow interpretation, through expression and body language by the two very capable young undergraduate actors; They both gave believable performances, steering their throughts to highlight a mirad of emotions and at times evoke memories. The tension created in moments of the play was almost audible and served to communicate the online relationship.

Whilst this method of modern communication can be challenging for many, “Waiting for Wonderland” showed simply how it has embeded itself into our society to such an extent that flirting takes place just as if the object of your desires is there with you. It seemed to appeal to all, regardless of age and social type, giving an insight to this modern communication and one of its uses. The only fault was a rather ambigious and seemingly quick ending, which caused puzzlement to some, but maybe that’s what the writer intended –to make us wait for an answer?

A play for all generations and genders, a most enjoyable watch.

Cast: Callum Patrick Hughes as Chris; David Mowbray as Nick

Crew: Director – Hayley Richards; Assistant Director – Disa Stefans; Writer: Richard J Loftus (@rjloftus)

(c) Katherine-Lucy Bates 2010

Friday 20th August 2010

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Deirdre and Me, by Rachael Halliwell

Tuesday, 24 August, 2010

Street Life

Camden Fringe, Etcetera Theatre, 23 August, 7.30 (45 mins)

Deirdre's number one fan speaks out

This one-actor play was written by Rachael Halliwell who also plays the lead role of Susan, a lady of a certain age with a fascination for a TV star. It should charm and amuse anyone whose knowledge of Coronation Street stretches back a fair way, since the Deirdre of the title is of course the Deirdre of Corrie, whose career in the soap stretches back almost to the time when dinosaurs ruled the earth, or so it seems.

Susan, the character whose life is here explored, was born in 1974, the same week that Deirdre appeared on the cover of the Radio Times (or was it the TV Times?); whatever, you can see what I mean. And while Deirdre has spent the last thirty or forty years like a pinball, ricocheting from one crisis to another in her TV drama, Susan has been slipping quietly from fan to obsessive to worse.

The catalysts along that path have been the deaths of her parents. (Her father, of cancer when she was eleven. Her mother dies much more suddenly and recently). Her quiet friendlessness (working on the reception desk at a factory, where she is sporadically teased) is balanced by the proxy life she lives through the televised soap opera and its characters, and in particular, Deirdre.

So, it’s a drama of surface and sub-text as her explanations to us become more and more pointed and as the reality of the situation spirals gently at first, and then much more alarmingly out of control, and as our understanding of what is going on gets further and further from her comprehension. Susan is touchingly played by her creator Rachael Halliwell.

The set isn’t complex – a couple of chairs and a table, a candle burning as though in devotion to some odd sect – but there is clutter all around, copies of photos and postcards and TV magazines, and it is to this clutter that Susan obsessively returns in the brief intervals between her speeches.

The play is carefully directed by Louisa Fitzgerald and both she and Rachael Halliwell make the most of the many moments of comedy throughout the piece – both in terms of the script (‘She wore some lovely belt-skirt outfits’) and the props. (At one point, Susan dons some impressively huge glasses, which were, for so many years, Deirdre’s trademark in her TV role).

This is Rachael Halliwell’s first play as a writer and it is an assured debut.

Anyone who wants to be reminded of Deirdre’s chequered history over the many years of her TV performances will enjoy this play, and perhaps be warned in no uncertain terms about the dangers that might arise were enthusiams ever to slip into obsession.

Cast: Susan – Rachael Halliwell

Crew: Rachael Halliwell – Writer; Louisa Fitzgerald – Director; Company – Round Pebble Theatre (Producer – Eugenia Caruso).

Reviewed 23 August

(c) Michael Spring

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I Would that Your Dark Eyes Were Upon Me

Wednesday, 18 August, 2010

Ruthless, engaging, stylish

The Lion and Unicorn, 16 – 18 August, 9.30 (20 min)

Elina Akhmetova in an amazing piece of theatre

This physical theatre piece is set amongst some chairs in the simplest space possible. And yet in terms of impact, it is eerily – and wonderfully – effective. This could be the show of Camden Fringe this year. It was a privilege to witness such a committed performance.

The fact that it begins in total silence says something about intent. The fact that the first two characters to enter glide across the stage as though melded together says more. But is this intimidation or attraction? It seems to be both, and also part of a power struggle between the two, which has as one marker point in its development a place where the man is seized by the woman and carried away, upside down.

Gradually, a third character joins the man and the woman. The development of their elliptical relationship, to the point where she literally joins the two, to become a new kind of being, is the subject of the second part of this short but intense experience.

The silence is broken sometimes by brief snatches of song, by a heartbeat soundtrack and eventually and quite shockingly by voices.

But the effect of the piece of a whole is dramatic in every sense. The dancers flow into positions which never seem to be forced, and they demonstrate amazing capabilities – as when the man makes the woman fly – and if that implies that this is some kind of circus, it’s not – it’s compelling physical theatre.

The other members of the company are Kyoungee An and Hadleigh Harrison.

Apparently, this was a very late addition to the Camden Fringe programme (it just made it to the Camden Fringe website) and the organisers were worried about fitting a show as short as this one into the schedule. As it is, tickets were just a fiver (as opposed to the standard £7.50 price), but this was one of those shows where you just couldn’t equate the impact to the time spent delivering it. The whole thing was probably frighteningly energetic for the performers. Probably, beyond 20 minutes their ability to keep up the pace would have gone into sharp decline.

But the overall impression is one of style and impact; this could be the most intense twenty minutes you’ll ever spend in a theatre.

Performers: Elina Akhmetova, Kyounghee An, Hadleigh Harrison. Choreography – Elina Akhmetova; Lighting – Mikkel Svak

reviewed 17 August

(c) Michael Spring

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The Sharp Sisters

Wednesday, 18 August, 2010

A Museum of Curious Revelations

Etcetera Theatre, 16th-18th August 2010 (1 hour)

The Sharp Sisters

The Sharp Sisters are Alice Parsloe and Lesley Cook. They are joined by Romy Tennant and together, they present us with many curious characters.

The evening begins with the unveiling (literally) of the lady, who (for reasons which are to become obvious) would never allow her betrothed to kiss anything more than her hand. She’s followed by Rippling Rhona, who, despite her small stature, can rip books apart. (Just be sure not to make her angry!)

So far, it’s all amusing, but fairly standard stuff, and since the only props on the stage are a couple of curtains strung across dress racks and some additional clothes, you wonder how the evening is going to move on. But then, very suddenly and quite stylishly too, we’re behind the scenes, and all is not well in the Museum.

Threatened by political correctness, will the Museum survive? Will the new and slightly more raunchy acts secure the future of the freak show under another name? Can Rippling Rhona get to university? And will the lady with the cleaning fetish manage to impose order on her world?

These – and others – are the stories that gradually unravel throughout this fast-paced show with its myriad of costume changes, some dance, a very funny flash of neo-puppetry and some clever tricks of stagecraft. The players have a lot of presence throughout and have to cope with the fact that often just a change of hat and accent marks one character out from another, but that too is done with panache. Each character manages to appear as fairly sharply delineated, which itself is a testimony to the collective performers.

This is a production which has clearly been worked over for some time. It is played with a lot of energy and, despite the small space and the limited time available for costume changes, it is very slick indeed.

As for the comedy, it more often consists of gentle smile stuff, rather than things to laugh out loud at, but its impossible not to feel some genuine affection for these characters and the players who bring them to life.

http://shambolic.weebly.com/

Cast: Lesley Cook – Ethel Sharp/Rhona/Deirdre; Alice Parsloe – Sybil Sharp/Domestic Goddess/Tessa/ Protestor; Romy Tennant – Wilma/Bernie/Bloody Mary

Crew: Artistic consultants – Clare Lindsay and Sarah Marks; Lighting – Heather Rose; Sound – Jayne Allen; Stage Manager – Kate Reaney

reviewed 17 August

(c) Michael Spring 2010

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The Fantastic Reality of Frederick Goodge

Wednesday, 11 August, 2010

Inside the eye of your mind

London – Etcetera Theatre – 5 – 11 August 2010 – 21.00 (1:10)

This is a one-man play or show (depending on your point of view), written and performed by Gerry Howell.

Gerry Howell is Frederick Goodge

Frederick Goodge is the character that Gerry Howell inhabits rather than performs, an ordinary man, although one with extraordinary dreams, and an extraordinary perspective on ‘reality’, whatever that might be.

Into his character’s ‘reality’, a lot of other people thrust themselves, sometimes as references, sometimes appearing on the stage to be ‘played’ in turn by Frederick Goodge in a mad imitation of drama.

It is in Orpington swimming baths that Frederick Goodge fleetingly gets to meet the girl of his dreams, but the course of true love does not run smoothly for him, as he becomes caught up in a fiction of his own making, as well as Croydon, home of Peter Sarstedt, whom he is determined to visit.

Let’s be fair. Frederick Goodge’s singing voice may not be up to much, but his search for the writer of sixties hit “Where do you go to, my lovely?” does lead him to trumpeter Penelope (whose name means ‘weaving’ or something) and to a jazz festival in Juan les Pins (which – eerily? – was mentioned in the Sarstedt song).

The twists and turns of this extraordinary story are too convoluted to describe here, even if I could remember precisely how Frederick becomes an employment agent or why he feels he has to break in to a very tall building (reminiscent of a vegetable) to rescue the lover of his fictional heroine from suicide.

It is, quite simply, that kind of show, performed with relish by Gerry Howell, whose inspiration comes miscellaneously from Albert Camus, TS Eliot and other literary greats. This show apparently, began as a novel. Now, it is a very entertaining hour of performance comedy.

Performer: Gerry Howell

Reviewed 10 August 2010

(c) Michael Spring

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Siren, by Peter Briffa

Wednesday, 11 August, 2010

Sex in the city

London – Etcetera Theatre – 10 -13  August 2010 – 19:30 (1:00)

This is a tale told backwards, and so it begins – rather than ends – in something darker than tears.

The plot is a simple one, of a young and beautiful prostitute (Paula Gilbert) and her long term client (Glenn Speers), and the development (or undoing) of their relationship. The plot, running backwards, does take a little time to grasp, and while it is quite momentous in its scope, the brief exchanges of conversation are really what matters. There’s nothing too insightful about these exchanges, but in their entirety they do have a peculiar resonance that stays with you long after the cast have taken their bows.

Paula Gilbert is the siren

Now that could just be down to prurient curiosity. The oldest profession, by its very nature has something mysterious about it. (How, for example, does it begin, especially for those who are quite clearly not ‘slags working Kings Cross’?)

This, and all those other questions you’ve always wanted to ask of prostitutes and their clients, are explored in Peter Briffa’s multi-scened drama.

The set is simple – bed, chair, window, a few other bits and pieces – but it’s stylishly done, and the lighting too, with the single spot highlighting the Venetian blind gave a point of focus where too often in small theatre spaces (where sets have to be changed quickly) this is overlooked.

We’re never really sure about anyone’s identity. The girl could be Trixie or Jennifer or Katherine; the man, John or Terry. What becomes clear is that the man’s son could be dating this girl (someone like him probably is) and while the publicity leaflet’s description of this drama – ‘searing’ – isn’t quite right, it does have a poignancy that stems from the ordinariness of the people concerned and which does take us a lot further than the frisson felt by the average Guardian reader picking up a copy of the News of the World on a Sunday.

Paula Gilbert looks every inch the part of the thousand-quid hooker. Glenn Speers was perhaps a little more hesitant, especially in those early scenes when the boundary between love and violence comes ever closer. But director Paul Blinkhorn moves everything on at a pretty good pace, in spite of the clothes that necessarily have to come on and off with some frequency.

In terms of the plotline, I thought Peter Briffa let the man off the hook a little towards the end, but nevertheless, the resonance remains.

Cast Credits: Girl – Paula Gilbert; Man – Glenn Speers

Company Credits: Writer – Peter Briffa. Director – Paul Blinkhorn. Sound and lighting – uncredited. Set design – Aaron J Dootson.

Reviewed 10 August 2010

(c) Michael Spring

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Macabret

Monday, 9 August, 2010

Clowns deliver creepy cabaret

London – The Lion and Unicorn Theatre – 4 – 5 August 10 – 18:30 (1:00)

Clowns At Work’s second outing together does what it says on the tin.  Only it’s written in clown: this is macabre cabaret.  Three clowns in far more than three guises entertain with a variety of morbidly and spookily themed skits.

Cabaret clowns, it would appear, are gloriously aware and unaware of stagecraft.  As cabaret performers, they all perform willingly to a soundtrack which encompasses the thrillingly chilling, the suitably dramatic (Beethoven’s 5th) and sometimes the delightfully inappropriate (Elvis’s Love Me Tender).  But the clown in them can still be surprised or frightened by music and sound effects as well.  A prop will be stylishly caught in the wings then comically dropped a moment later.  And one clown clearly hasn’t read the horror brief at first.

A member of the undead (Marc Frost) writing a suicide letter to his mother is a wonderful conceit.  While his amusing attempts at the act itself could do with more polish, Alica Da Cunha’s inanely grinning helmeted aide to undead euthanasia is a sight to behold.  Her later turn as a clown pursued by death, whilst simultaneously performing death pursuing a clown is also very funny.

Marc Frost has a great stage presence as Dracula, but is at his best as a cross dressing story-telling clown with a macabre appetite for babies.  Watching him feed is fantastic; he should indulge us more.  Daniela Bitzi is a charming yet sinister clown.  Her Germanic witch’s cookery class is highly entertaining and her turn as a boxer, wooing ladies to less savoury ends, is a clownish triumph of mime, performed to a wonderfully comic choice of musical accompaniment.  All three performers move well, however there is mime which could do with more clarity.  Some sketches drift in search of an ending, and the Frankensteins do not deserve such lengthy stage time in their present form.

Adding horror to cabaret and vice versa brings humour to both.  The laughs are there, though more could found and some moments edited to avoid excess.  The show is restricted a little by the constraints of the space (these clowns could do with wings).  Despite the theme, there’s little in the way of frights, but Macabret can be very funny and the spectacular climax is both gruesome and haunting…

Cast Credits: (alpha order):  Daniela Bitzi,  Alice Da Cunha,  Marc Frost

Company Credits:  Devised by the Company.  Stage Manager – Elizabeth Scales.  Company – Clowns at Work.  Website – www.clownsatwork.com

(c) Ben Neale

Reviewed Thursday, 05 August 2010 / The Lion and Unicorn Theatre, London UK

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Death of the Unicorn

Friday, 6 August, 2010

Wet Concrete's Death of the Unicorn

Verdict: Creative voyage through imagination

London – Etcetera Theatre – 5 – 7 August 10 – 13:30 (1:00)

Edinburgh 10 – theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall, Venue 53 – 6-28 August 09 – Times vary (1:00)

Death of the Unicorn is a fantastic exploration of imagination throughout life.  Wet Concrete Theatre stylishly navigate imagination’s origins, the glory of creative freedom during childhood, growing up’s painful practicality and the frustrations of inspiration and identity in early adulthood.

At the outset, the stage is littered with creative possibilities: the eye catches cloths, musical instruments, storybooks and at least three bodies lie tangled centre stage.  Pads of paper and large colourful crayons await potential artists as they take their seats beyond the proscenium arch.  To one side, a blindfolded woman (Morag Sims) sits in a black shawl jangling a pot of paintbrushes.  She removes her blindfold and shawl to reveal faded patchwork dungarees and narrates in rich symbolic language as the pile of bodies rises to reveal her baby self (Stephanie Roberts), clad in similar patchwork, only bright and colourful.

Lydia Hourihan, Mimi Findlay and Paul Burgess are a visual treat as the perpetually shifting chorus.  Wearing a scrap bag of shades rather than colours, with black and white makeup smeared here and there, they are the sea one moment, a circus the next, providing literal backdrops, metaphorical states and sound effects, both realistic and atmospheric.  The company’s physicality is impressive and inspiring.  Both lead and narrator are supported and subsumed into movement by the chorus and there is an ingenious variety of performance delivery.

First sensory experiences are delivered with youthful colour and expressive physicality; childhood dreaming with shadow puppetry.  As our lead ages, the chorus provide voices – fleeting presences – and later characters as required.  In an early adult kitchen scene Lydia Hourihan and Mimi Findlay create work surfaces with their bodies and sound effects with their voices as Stephanie Roberts and Paul Burgess (in an amazing turn as our narrator’s literally minded partner) mime preparing food whilst delivering a moving argument scene.

As the title suggests, the unicorn is sadly mortal.  Early childhood dreaming is lost to the mediocrity and practicality of bourgeoning adulthood.  Deconstruction and analytical thought is given a scornful treatment by Stephanie Roberts’ script:  literally all adult guidance and intervention is depicted as restrictive, critical and unimaginative.  University, told with suitable verve and indulgence in drugs and self-analysis, offers more distractions, but education continues to restrict both thought and expectation.

The narrator, who spoke and played nostalgically with her childhood self, is frustrated with herself as a student and at points in her life story is angry and even refuses to participate.  Morag Sims delivers an admirably detailed performance but is most compelling when not narrating – such as watching the kitchen scene close to tears.  Her narration is engaging, but a self-satisfied tone creeps in, almost lecturing the audience at points.

Stephanie Roberts is a wonderfully expressive child, petulant teenager and arrogant student; her physicality shifting appropriately throughout.  Thomas Martin’s score is effective if sparingly used – chilling at top and tail and a wonderful addition to the incredible depiction of a magic mushroom trip.

Just as the narrator’s tone can sometimes seem inappropriate, the language tips at being over-flowery.  But the diction has been deliberately chosen and, along with the choreography, structured with care.  Death of the Unicorn is an inventive celebration of imagination, a damnation of any who attempt to contain it, and the company rise to meet their own high standards.

Cast Credits: (alpha order):  Paul Burgess,  Mimi Findlay,  Lydia Hourihan,  Stephanie Roberts,  Morag Sims

Company Credits:  Devised by the Company.  Writer / Director – Stephanie Roberts.  Composer – Thomas Martin.  Lighting Designer – Paul Burgess.  Stage Manager – Luke Harris.  Stage Manager –  Joe Capes.  Company – Wet Concrete Theatre. Website – www.wetconcetetheatre.com

(c) Ben Neale

Reviewed Thursday, 05 August 2010 / Etcetera Theatre, London UK

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It Is Rocket Science

Thursday, 5 August, 2010

Verdict: Onward to Mars

London – Etcetera Theatre – 3 August 2010 – 21.00 (1:00)

Helen Keen with some of her props

Helen Keen is an engaging character, a self-deprecating thirty-something who lives in a converted garage in Ruislip, she’s not quite living the 21st Century, city bachelorette lifestyle that she might have imagined for herself. Nothing too dramatically different there perhaps, but her show, called It Is Rocket Science allows her to talk – very entertainingly – about herself and her background, as well as about her fascination with space and space exploration.

It has to be done with a certain style of course, and this tour of the universe takes place with a number of charming, but not too polished props that allow her to demonstrate the quirkiness of this area of scientific endeavour.

Perhaps every area of science has its weirdnesses, but the fact that America finally put a man on the moon owing largely to an uneasy collaboration between a Nazi and a satanist is just one of the facts that Helen Keen brings into the open.

There are a lot of other such coincidences and accidents of fate along the way.

For this show to succeed, it needs some audience participation and Helen Keen certainly got a lot of it (perhaps a little too much?), the audience fully engaging with a need for someone to adopt the character of Patrick Moore (and to read nuggets of wisdom from one of his books on space), as well as to take on new characters and nationalities for their part in this light-hearted evening.

One of the key props is a tinfoil-covered rocket shape, which includes a screen through which Miriam (no second name given) projects some simple but wonderful shadow-shapes in the best tradition of children’s television or perhaps the booth at the village fete. It is all very charming and gently funny.

There’s also a lot about the pioneers who first envisaged, then calculated, then made a reality of space travel. She brings their stories to life in a fusion of stand-up comedy and light-hearted descriptions of the characters and accidents that surround man’s attempt to break free from the planet.

Cast Credits: Performer – Helen Keen; Shadow puppets – Miriam

Reviewed 3 August 2010

(c) Michael Spring