Monthly Archives: December 2021
Hear. Speak. See
Back on my laptop at my desk with a south facing view of a Glasgow street I scrolled in and around this year’s online theatre festival Scenesaver. I came across ‘Hear, Speak, See’ by the West Midland production company ‘Expial Atrocious’ made up of three female dynamic actors and writers; Nic Lewton, Ez Holland and Faye Bingham. The show had been performed previously at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Met by a black screen we heard voices from the radio and the sound of breathing. A mysterious character had been invited to a dinner party in seeming innocence but we were given a clue when the invite ended with ‘…you don’t want to disappointment.’ To which the dinner party scene was revealed.
In its strangeness we were in a first person stance because the fourth member of the party was the view from the camera. All in white the other three were at the other side of the table, looking like ghosts or zombies but were in fact mostly human.
They conversed with speed and action moving very quickly from topic to topic as it took their fancy. They seemed fast friends who knew each other very well welcoming us (or the camera) to the party dedicated to the camera.
Dinner was served in the form of tomato soup for starter, salad for main course with a final fate full cake for desert. So went on the conversation that was bubbling together in their expressions of table manners and synchronisation. It was like lots of snippets of real life chat and conversation. But as one left the room to fetch the starter the other two spoke openly behind her back, which was like a betrayal. When she came back with four bowls presenting each there was a silence of awkwardness as they ate.
She pulled a seat alongside the camera to covey her feeling that came out with the tenderness of genuine fear of something. She knew the other two were plotting against her and as her adrenalin
rose her voice did the same and in a panic she told the camera to escape the coming situation.
It was a weird world created by the camera, with weird behaviour but it began to lead to something, tragic. Our detectors were flexed when one of the three in white mentioned that something had happened and that that very moment would bring justice to something.
In its own downfall the plot fit into segments that all led to a specific moment. There was a threesome of taunting and fire fuelled rejections as things became more and more upset. They
landed in chaos on more than one occasion and when the story was revealed it turned the page with a hellish view.
The camera blurred and sound was muffled but she/he never spoke. If it was psychedelic there would have been a guidance warning. It was a view of a view and perhaps a vision. They spent the
consumption of the main meal in silence we watched as they ate their food and emptied their plates, I sniggered a lot.
This story coped well with its arising and experimental offering of a dinner party that was with a crown of weirdness on a darker level. Cleverly abstract, metaphorically unsound with placed and
hidden artefacts, conversations that ran like a ballet and then like a dance. Somehow making total sense of its dream like quality or should I say night mare. With more to offer its bones were ripe and it’s sentiments clear as a celebration and tragedy of a calamitous portrayal.
In a change of direction I scrolled through the horror plays listed in this year’s Scenesaver online festival. Being a few weeks into the experience I recall that it has been easy to view their productions at the click of a button. I stopped at the title ‘Alice’s shadow’. The Thornhill Theatre Space presented Alice as a damsel in distress.
For a short 12 minute play written by Chloe Gorman who has successfully made a transition into theatre she boldly established her production company ‘Moth Sanctuary Productions’. The ‘Whispers in the dark’ has the dark side of things to express. Chloe and her friend and actor Andrew Bate sat together for a short interview about their roots and aspirations; it was Andrew who was to read her short tale about shadows.
The writing straight away had the effect of fear put in by Andrew as he revelled in the occasion. It cleverly climbed in our minds as a thing of terror. Alice lay in bed with her partner Gabriel (who had a big role in consoling her.) She suffered hallucinations that were quite severe and during this night she saw a shadow at her window that appeared to be moving.
We could do nothing to aid her as she distressed over the dark encounter. Both Chloe and Andrew find that the potential in this genre of writing are huge and varied. We sampled her work and found the descriptive juices leading somewhere with extenuated rolling of the tongue reaching something of a poetic in style framing the words with passion.
The shadow was Horror brought to life. In its terrifying presence poor Alice lay so still questioning in her mind for what was real in what was happening to her. Just as we felt that the story placed us in its very heart. The description of the shadow was ever changing. It was black with tendrils; making impossible movements up the sheer wall to the ceiling. Alice must have wondered about her own sanity.
For minutes we were taken deep into its plunging darkness but for Alice the episode at last abated, in cold sweat all around she found herself left peaceful on her bed. She turned to Gabriel seeking solace from her terrified state.
He turned round but it was not him that she saw his eyes were wrong. There was timing in this short performance that was exquisitely enunciated by Andrew. He broadcast the psychologically disturbing horror with a focus that wouldn’t let you go.
From this writer/actor relationship the story backed their feelings that horror can step up as a valid form of literature. Its appeal was filled with a richness that glowed as we imagined the words dripping from her pen letting out her whims of daemons and ghosts.
Cleverly leaving the story with the question remaining whither it was real or not for Alice, Gabriel or perhaps most importantly us the audience.
Alice’s shadow grew in the room in a swirling, dark and murky yet resplendently well dressed and tastefully presented show. They had my interests sparked and inspired with a story to creep into my subconscious in a way that seemed to have its own will. And its message’s can be understood in many ways but who would make the right one.
Confessions: The Hour
Still on the dark side of things Natascha Graham’s horror play had its roots in the real world. Called ‘Confessions: The Hours’ Natascha’s character loomed in the ‘Whispers in the dark’ productions for the Scenesaver online festival. To unfold was a tale of woe and sorrow. Most personally performed the act was about what men feel (or rather don’t feel) about women and how they respond to them in kind.
She wrote this as a sufferer of male domination. Lesbianism has not been made easy in this world. The act was of sorrow that bravely brought about some kind of control by Natascha. As she sat in her chair in her slender body language we could see that her state was wobbled and her eyes were full of horror fighting back the tears.
She took to the task she had set herself of bringing a voice to the widespread suffering she knew of for women at the hands and verbal comments and attitudes of men. By simply breathing deeply, in and out, she confessed her heart to us with torrid examples of things that have happened to her (what else could she do?).
She scowled as she told the story of a young woman who had a male stalker following her around. It gained momentum as a story went into the focus of how terrifying these encounters could be. It was her misfortune to see it as a symbol for all men.
All of a sudden the coin dropped when he turned up at her house. She would invite him in opening her door. She did this with a mind that something had to be done. By this time men to her only meant trouble, the kind that is best avoided. The revealed crime story ended as she solved her problem in her own way.
After this exciting story of fiction she was again a woman in a world of pain, of unfairness without the spark of even a fight. But her story was well executed and in its heights reached with a touch of crime to portray the problem as perhaps something absurd but unchanging in a world of unbalanced perpetration.
All components came together well for this online performance where six actors, all of whom knew each other well, had come together to perform and outperform each other in what became a comedic jostle for creative control. It was immediately obvious that they all knew Shakespeare well. The Northern Comedy theatre had produced a take on Shakespeare and acting that hit the nail on the head as it came together as a kind of workshop.
Using every kind of tool including the use of Zoom as it was meant to be, the split screen message was most of all about fun. They showed off their medieval costumes of flaring hats, plumy shirts, hair tied in plates, lace necklaces and so on. But they were all dressed for different plays. This came to light as they recognised the different passages that each read out.
We are performing ‘King Lear’ one incensed that’s what we decided on at our meeting! These words set the tone for a very great and lively, and very comedic debate that only led to an unorganised chaos that had Shakespeare being quoted as whips from the tongue as if it were as easy as breathing.
The show put Shakespeare into every kind of examination and developed every nuance of theatrical trickery and went ahead with such a speed of dialogue that flew by and really entertained with good gusto.
In all they covered six plays from Hamlet to Romeo and Juliet, all their plays have had the most serious of attention in the theatrical world but ever was humour present. The take of these six was to open his plays as they opened in the time, to free Shakespeare up and bring them to the attention of hopefully as many people as possible.
They set about with joy not drudgery, with great respect and were held together as a serious and incredulous making of their own play about bringing them together. After debate they came to the devious conclusion that they would all read from their different plays yet they would put them together as responses. They decided that actually no one would really even notice when king Lear would speak and the witch from Macbeth would respond.
This was definitely an overflowing celebration of commanding control of a confetti of worlds and wonders of Shakespeare’s plays. Relevant and daring, putting the works into so many facets, coming up with such a great plethora of insights, wisdom and knowledge, all done in a 40 min skit.
Forgotten Voices singled out the story of a South African couple Eva Moorhead Kadillie and her husband Clements Kadalie who in the early Twentieth Century played a huge part in the then political upheavals of the Country regarding the high racial sectarianism between so called ‘White’ or ‘Black’. The natives had long suffered under this ruler ship and long found themselves without right of law for anything.
In this play the actions and interactions of the couple Eva and Clements were performed by the vivacious portrayal by Shareesa Valentine in a wonderful performance. The compact writing by David Moorhead for this one woman play took us through the trouble’s, and where enacted only as lots of stories.
With so many things afoot for Eva she spoke with a well navigated truth about what it is like to have a forgotten voice in a place where it’s all you have. The tides were high as the play went through its passing stages ‘‘I must tell you my entire story, I really must’, as she spoke those words both strength and desperation imperilled her. With great importance the momentum swung into moments such as her surprising encounters where on her boat set to leave Africa for England she was mistaken for white and the doors of a rich life opened.
Her grandmother whom she had never met lived in England Eva aboard a vessel. In her heart (that was put into words) she heard her inner voice exclaim to her passion that she would in fact remain and give aid to her Country.
In the hands of this tactful story: the storm that rallied her really blew her around. Though she always went back to herself, her strength and her wonderful character of will! through the gripping drama; in a true story. Shareesa’s face had expressions for every tale in her 100 life times hold on the world.
There was a solid naturally well contained in the writing. Really bringing the enormous struggle for simple rights there were dates, losses, victories on the side of the new formed ICU who put a big shark on the table. Eva would be filled with glee during her victories as she held her great hope to the sky
Her hundred lives of adventure were lived to her own great capacities, making the act an enormous challenge. Her married life gave them three children for example, but she decided on the spot to give one up thinking of his future acceptance in racist society and on she lost not long after giving birth.
Shareesa’s performance of Eva was to rival the plots that gave this life the simplest of things: the right to land, to safety and to be allowed to thrive, Eva and her husband so touchingly breathed life into a huge box of great uncertainty. She knew well to listen to her heart; she suffered terribly with badly screaming voices for her head to complain about but her victorious attitude was enough to set so many free, if only for a while. ‘We must fight on’! Was the deliberation she yelled!