Monthly Archives: July 2016
The 24 Hour Play
Twenty years ago, in New York of course, the 24 Hour Play was born. Write it overnight, give it to an energy-bubbling bunch of actors, perform it the next night. Twenty years later, Edinburgh-based Asylon Theatre took up the challenge, with five sterling mini-troupes filling in the gaps. Who would win first place in the pan-Olympian Games – judged by industry experts – & get to develop their play further… only two hours of riveting, unpusillanimous theatre will tell. Asylon’s artistic director and project producer Marta Mari, was MC for the evening, & you could really feel her love for the project trampolining from the introductions.
The five plays were short, snappy, tri-acted affairs; we had the Orson-Wellsian ‘Community’ which rejected a superfluous ‘knobber’ from their ranks, we had the Female top-brass in the war against men battling with the idea of castrating their prisoners, we had the young lass & older mother-figure debating do with a wounded assassin, & we had the clown who had misread a poem & turned up at a suffragette meeting by mistake. That same poem, by the way, had been given to each of these playlet’s authors the previous nigght, the product of the Polish poetess, Wislawa Szymborska.
Some people flee some other people.
In some country under a sun
and some clouds.
They abandon something like all they’ve got,
sown fields, some chickens, dogs,
mirrors in which fire now preens.
Their shoulders bear pitchers and bundles.
The emptier they get, the heavier they grow.
What happens quietly: someone’s dropping from exhaustion.
What happens loudly: someone’s bread is ripped away,
someone tries to shake a limp child back to life.
Always another wrong road ahead of them,
always another wrong bridge
across another oddly reddish river.
Around them, some gunshots, now nearer, now farther away,
above them a plane sort of circles.
Some invisibility would come in handy,
some grayish stoniness,
or, better yet, some nonexistence
for a shorter or a longer while.
Something else will happen, only where and what.
Someone will come at them, only when and who,
in how many shapes, with what intentions.
If he has a choice,
maybe he won’t be the enemy
and will let them live some sort of life.
The winning piece of theater, as if they were a modern-day Aeschylus or Euripides victorious at the Festival of Dionysis, was Pieces of Colour by Lisa Villamil. When they came out, the three characters seemed to be talking as if they were on their own – talking over each other as three separate entities – but each shared a suffering, that of an absence of identity amidst the world. We were presented with the Invisible Girl (Katrina Bryan), an outcast & misunderstood visionary (Philip Kingscott,) & the tortured ‘beast,’ an angry, world-hating & equally misunderstood, child-estranged mother (Isidora Bouziouri). As eventually came their interactions, there sprung a primeval community – well, apart from the ‘beast’ who we will perhaps see more of the when the play is further developed. Only time will tell.
Reviewer : Emilia Smarts
Photography : Sally Lewis
Competition : The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil
Dundee Rep Theatre are launching a nation-wide photographic Instagram competition in advance of the autumn tour of their hugely successful production ofThe Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil.Two winners – one chosen from each age category – will receive four tickets to see the show at a venue of their choice (subject to availability), as well as having their photographs displayed at all five venues. They will also each receive a year’s subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, including Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.
Ten of the best photos will be displayed at Dundee Rep Theatre as part of The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil exhibition which opens on the 12th August – just in time for the start of the game shooting season!
Joe Douglas, Associate Artistic Director of Dundee Rep Theatre and director of the production says: “The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil touches on so many stories, themes and issues across Scotland – from crofting communities to riggers in the North Sea. I’m looking forward to being inspired by some creative photographs from this beautiful country of ours.”
To enter the competition all you have to do is take a digital photo and upload it to Instagram using the hashtag #cheviotphoto. The subject of the photo can be up to you but the image should reflect Scotland’s historical and/or current political and economic story. Thematic examples include images of, derelict landscapes, land ownership, Scotland’s resources, The Clearances or Scottish cultural identity.
The competition will be divided into two categories (12-16 year’s old and 16+) with one winner selected from each category. The competition will end at Midnight, 25thof July and be judged by Joe Douglas, Associate Artistic Director of Dundee Rep Theatre and Director of The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil and Nicola Young, photographer and Communications Director at Belgrade theatre.
The Cheviot the Stag and the Black, Black Oil was written by renowned British playwright, director and political theorist John McGrath, who often took up the cause of Scottish independence in his plays.
Carlisle College of the Arts Theatre
Thursday 30th of July 2016
The End of Year Showcase
What do you want from student theatre? I would say youthful exuberance, playfulness, energy, a developing confidence, skill and artistry; but also that the art has ideas as well as giving pleasure. Well, this production certainly provides all of these and in the words of the poet, John Dryden, “There is such a variety of game springing up before me, that I am distracted in my choice, and know not what to follow.” So, in that spirit, and as space doesn’t allow a comprehensive commentary, I’ll comment on parts of the show that sprang up before me.
The show begins with a dance routine, The Lion King, and the dance troupe led by the impressively energetic Whitney Bell certainly sets the energy bar high as a pride of lions prowl around the stage to The Lion King theme tune; the opening dance successfully fulfils its function: to encourage the audience to participate and prepare them for the games to come.
Following on we have a monologue from Finlay Eagleson playing what is now a stock comic character of British culture─the old-fashioned school master in a mortar board and cape: in my imagination, ranging through from the comics of my youth (The Dandy with Winker Watson and Mr Creep), the Ealing comedies, to popular music, The Smiths Headmaster Ritual springing to mind, with “Sir doing the military two-step/ down the nape of my neck.”.
One for the audience this as in this performance, a warm up for the evening show, there are many in the audience who work in the college ─ mind you, the gentleman sitting next to me whispers in my ear, “Takes me back to 1974 when I worked in…”. So still fresh in the mind for some. The sketch is essentially a roll call of names, reflecting the title of the piece, and for those old enough it certainly stimulates memories of the days, not so long ago, when the teacher with or without a mortar board would spend an eternity reading out the register pausing for sarcastic commentary on behaviour, attitude and work: occasionally enhanced by flying chalk or a board rubber for those deviant enough not to respond with a timely “Here sir!”.
The comedy here though comes from timing, gesture and from the emphasis and repetition of certain words: in this case the word “tweak” and its variations, as in one of the milder punishments of the past, the tweaking of the ear; Eagleson savours the word as if he is about to eat it, reminding me of the way Rowan Atkinson savours and elongates words for comic effect; I am also impressed with the way Eagleson had the confidence to pause for emphasis and use facial gestures to suggest the inner emotional strain caused by taking a register; a success and very funny, exemplified by the audience laughter. We also see the influence of Atkinson and his comtempories developed and made explicit in a later sketch, entitled Blackadder.
Another sketch that sprang up at me was Magic Mitchell; an old-fashioned variety show magic trick of the pick-a-card variety involving audience participation. I’ve no idea how he did the trick, but the whole thing was a lot of fun, enhanced by a member of the audience with an infectious laugh; Mitchell is another performer with a great face for theatre and he certainly was able to engage the audience in his act. I particularly liked the Tommy Cooper allusion when turning to ask the audience member with the pack of cards: “You didn’t shuffle the cards did you?” looking genuinely nervous; perhaps he was, who knows, the trick worked.
The second half of the show begins with a shift to a darker mood. The sketches exploring themes ranging from the sinister effects of developing technologies to the effects of an all-encompassing mass media, through interpretative and thought-provoking dance in Technology Takeover with the dancers moving surreptitiously in the gloom behind a flickering screen displaying well known mediums/logos and the message Weapons of Distraction prominent on the screen; the performance is brief but exemplified another theme of the show which is developed through references in dance to The Wizard of Oz and a solo Ben Taylor singing Music of the Night through the gloaming : the theme revealed in the conclusion to The Wizard of Oz when the wizard is revealed to be an old man pulling levers: the reality behind the deceptive curtain. Here I’d like to give a mention to Taylor’s performance, not always note perfect, but certainly a moving rendition of the song, and like many of the other performers, Taylor has an expressive face that does communicate with the audience.
I’d also like to mention the Shakespearean swopping of gender roles that worked to great effect in some of the sketches. In particular in Shakers a satire on stereotypical male behaviour where the male roles were taken by females, in this case Whitney Bell and Rebecca Stringer disconcertingly admiring the cleavage of the bar maid played by Beth Bradshaw (insert your own sexist clichés here, you’ll know them all). The switching of roles defamiliarized the situation making it more effective, but as usual: the drink provoking the desire, but taking away the performance.
As mentioned earlier, another very funny sketch was entitled Blackadder with impressive performances from Rob Joseph, Finlay Eagleson and Shane Mitchell. The sketch I presume is taken from the show, so guaranteeing effective comic dialogue; what I liked here is Rob Joseph’s Stephen Fryesque turn as a legless (literally on both counts) pirate captain, delivering his lines with perfect timing but also having the confidence to adlib effectively with the other performers but also with the audience: calling out “Bless you!” when an audience member sneezes. I also liked the clever update of the script to reflect the EU referendum: Finlay’s character hilariously unable to pronounce Calais properly, and having to be corrected by the legless pirate. They were also clearly enjoying themselves.
The show delivers on everything you would want to see in student theatre; perhaps in the second half the occasional sketch became a little didactic in terms of the themes of prejudice/equality and diversity, forgetting to show not tell; but then again modern education always demands that you’re ready for inspection: “Here sir!” But taken overall there is no serious disruption to the enjoyment of the production, all involved should be commended for their efforts, and I left the theatre with a line from one of the Blood Brothers sketches in my head: “Nothing’s sad, ‘til it’s over”, again reminding me of recent events.
Reviewer: Paul Rivers