Author Archives: yodamo

An Interview with StoneCrabs

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StoneCrabs herald from Brazil & are bringing a cutting piece of interactive LGBT theatre to Britain this summer. The Mumble had a chat with the company’s Franko Figueiredo & Inês Sampaio…


Hello Franko, so first thing’s first, where are you both from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Franko: I’m from Brazilian mixed heritage and Inês is from Portugal of Angolan Heritage. I now live on the Isle of Wight and Inês lives in Nottingham.

Ines Sampaio

Inês

Hello Inês, so can you tell us about your theatrical training?
Inês: I started engaging with theatre back in Portugal in 2009 when I joined theatre O Bando for weekly workshops. It was a sort of Young people’s company led by extremely knowledgeable theatre practitioners who had been developing their own school and approach to theatre that was extremely stimulating and challenging. This got me excited to learn more, and so I attended East15 (2012-2015) and completed my degree with a 1:1 in BA(hons)World Performance. The best way to describe such content rich course is to tell you that I had the pleasure to join an around the world trip in 3 years, with the privilege to experience a taste of the culture, art, approach to theatre, rituals and essence of all four corners. This course not only trained me in acting and multi-media but also in various styles of dance and music forms/instruments from all over the world including; Butoh, storytelling, African dance, Bharatanatyam, storytelling and masked performance and mask making. As well as traditional theatre performance, I have also received training in directing, scriptwriting, research, devising and production skills. The range of disciplines acquired enables me to create and apply myself confidently to new visceral work.

When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
Franko: Since my childhood, I’d say. Though the passion was more about storytelling, being with other children gathering around a bench in the town’s square, at dusk, hearing locals tell stories, and re-telling those stories at home.

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Inês: Passion, wit, engagement and a lot of hard work. Good theatre ultimately entertains. I am a big supporter of theatre as a platform to educate, inspire and provoke, but nonetheless is has to entertain. There is a formula that makes theatre good, and I am learning more about it, just as I read “Strategies for play building” by Will Weigler, which gives you five main ingredients for a successful theatre show. I love theatre that celebrates multi art forms and embraces world theatre techniques, when appropriate.

In a world where you can get entertainment ‘on demand’, what makes theatre special?
Franko: There is a special connection in theatre, the collective energy that we exchange, the reminder that we are not alone. The shared risk and the immediacy of it is unlike anything else, it can make it for a very special, charged experience.

What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage / the curtain goes up?
Inês: I love the romantic idea of curtains going up! I breathe in through my nose and push my right hand forward, as I exhale on various sounds like “s” or “sh” or humming I bring my left arm forward and the right arm back. This helps me keeping my vocal cords active without being too loud, helps me calm my nerves with the breathing and keeps me distracted as I focus on the arms (right arm represents my belly as it expands forward and my left arm the sound coming out). I also jump and say “You got this, this is gonna be good, this is gonna be great, it will be what it wants to be and I trust.”

You’ve got three famous writers from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Franko: Probably Octavia E. Butler, James Baldwin and Yukio Mishima. I’d serve smoked salmon pancakes for starters, Brazilian moqueca with manioc flour, rice & beans, and dessert would be apple pie and ice cream. I’d go straight into my overdraft and serve plenty of wine

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Can you tell us about StoneCrabs & your role?
Franko: StoneCrabs is a small BAME, LGBTQ Theatre Company which I co-founded back in 2002 with Tereza Araujo and John Heyd, when we were ‘post-dramatic’ political theatre. Later in 2006 Kwong Loke joined us and we share the role of Artistic Directors. As we welcome new members to the company, the work changes and we start developing our theatrical language further; we are particularly interested in intercultural political theatre and right now experimenting using ‘gaming’ techniques and interactive play strategies when creating new theatre work. We also deliver lots of community and educational projects. Like most small companies, I have a chameleon role of producer, writer, director, facilitator, fundraiser, you name it. We are a small registered charity and I am helped by a wonderful board of trustees, my colleagues and company associates, who are all freelancers like myself, meaning we oscillate from getting paid on a project basis to being volunteers.

What is the theatre scene like in Brazil?
Inês: For the new government art has become less of a priority and artists are being fed with passion (literally, no money) and the Arts and Culture Ministry is now extinct. I have just finished a tour of an opera show for families which was part of SESC festival, an absolutely incredible programme and an honour to have been part of, and off course, I have experienced some of the most exquisite classical music shows, but very little theatre. All theatre I watched was kind of underground, off the radar, done with very little resources. And I met far too many talented people who explained that the funds for theatre were so scarce that they were no long fighting for the cause, which has really sadden me. Poverty in Brazil is not like the poverty here, thus I am afraid their priorities lay elsewhere and theatre is left, sadly, for the few, who can afford it.

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Inês: My perfect Sunday afternoon will have direct sunlight onto my skin, a fresh diet coke with plenty of ice and lemon, the cold Atlantic sea on my feet and family and friends around. But if we are talking about an english Sunday I would have to say that a nice trip to the park, a good (on budget) meal with friends, a trip to the theatre with some boardgames afterwards seems like a pretty good day! (and there I am, over booking myself!).

You are currently touring a new play around Britain, can you tell us about it?
Franko: The Trial is a interactive play about identity, equality and justice. The audience is transported to rural Brazil and is invited to play Jury to a case brought to trial by Tieta. Tieta is a young man who was shunned from their small town for being queer, years later Tieta returns as a trans-woman and set the challenge to the townsfolk (the audience) to find her justice. As the Trial progresses and the Jury learn the facts, circumstances and evidence and must reach a final verdict to the case brought to court. I wrote The Trial as an attempt to bring to light some of the issues the LGBTQ+ community is going through in Brazil, Inês and Almiro also brought in authorship to the text, and what we ended up with is a post-dramatic interactive show that uses rakugo (Japanese storytelling form), dance, live music and audience interaction.

How have you found working with your Brazilian colleagues, Franko & Almiro?
Inês: Franko is an absolute inspiration for me. Ever since we worked together at East15 when StoneCrabs came to direct my showcase I was in awe with their craft. Franko is an incredibly supportive director who encourages my creative input and this for me is very important. I trust them as a director and feel very grateful to have the honour of working with them. The true source of my nerves when performing The Trail is not that I may make a fool of myself, but that I may not make justice to Franko’s work. Almiro is a very kind artist with an excellence in dramaturgy that is beyond compare. Always very attentive and caring, bring a light and inspiration to our working space.

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Franko

How much of this play is fed by your own experience?
Franko: The rural setting is definitely from my growing up and there are moments of the Trial that borrows from a personal universe, for instance being an immigrant, having left Brazil at the end of a military regime that created a very oppressive society. Like the character of Tieta, I was very conscious, from a young age, that I was different, that I didn’t conform. When I came out as gay (the word queer was not in use yet), there was no tolerance. When I was given the opportunity to leave Brazil I didn’t hesitate. Arriving in London to the tune of Bronski Beat’s song ‘smalltown boy’ playing in some of the LGBTQ bars was both welcoming and challenging, in different ways. I went back to Brazil last year, soon after the new president took power and I probably experienced more hatred now than I did all those years ago, this has also influenced the play.

Does Tieta encapsulate the main themes of the play?
Inês: Tieta is a complex character; although she goes through a lot of changes, her journey is full of ups and downs. She represents a fight for equality and human rights, and in that sense I believe she is the most suitable person to do so, and The Trial is a call for arms from Tieta.

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How did the start of your tour go in Nottingham?
Inês: We had an amazing response, the audiences were with me, and with the show, all the way through. They were fully responsive and incredibly provoked. Their final verdict was mind blowing, I can’t tell you more without spoilers. I feel very grateful. We couldn’t have had a better start to the tour.

Do you think the Brazilian mesh of poverty vs wealth & greed, social exclusion vs fight for equality will resonate with the British in 2019?
Franko: Perhaps, Britain feels so divided right now, there is the element of populism and far right thinking that seems to be dominating the stages. I was recently in Liverpool, and we just played The Trial in Nottingham. I couldn’t help observe the amount of homeless people on the streets, years of austerity has left us morally bankrupt and it is really scary. There’s seems to be a huge lack of education and respect, people just seem to think that it is okay to shout abuse at one another, it’s ugly. I’m very interested in the verdict the audiences will deliver with in the performances The Trial? Will we still base our choices/votes in ingrained patriarchal ethics and ideas?

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Brighton, what would you say?
Inês: This is an incredibly fun interactive show that will make you experience the whole spectrum of emotions. If you love music, you need to watch it. If you like stand up comedy, you need to see it! If you enjoy story telling, this show is for you! If you are interested in the concepts of equality, identity and justice, than come and watch this show! Witty, SO ENTERTAINING, unexpected.


The Trial

The Warren: The Blockhouse

May 28-30 (20:00)

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www.stonecrabs.co.uk

 

Be My Baby

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Leeds Playhouse
May 18 – June 1, 2019

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Be My Baby is a subtly gripping history lesson about an underexposed and somewhat shameful aspect of our collective past. Set in a home for unwed mothers it centers on the lives of a small group of young women from very different backgrounds who never the less find themselves in the same predicament: being single and pregnant at a time ( the early 1960’s) when to be so was tantamount to social suicide.

At the very heart of the play is Mary (Simona Bitmate), a young woman from a comfortable middle class background whose disapproving mother (played brilliantly by Jo Mousley – all brittle anxiety and superiority) is conflicted about leaving her in such a place.However under the firm hand of Matron, the head of austere St Saviours Mary begins to find her feet. She befriends the other girls, sassy, hardbitten Queenie ( Crystal Condie ), giddy, naive Dolores ( Tessa Parr )and serious, self-contained Norma ( Anna Gray) as they bond over their mutual incarceration and their shared love of soulful pop.

All have their individual fantasies of boyfriends, jobs and escape which they begin to reveal to each other, all in different levels of denial about their situation. The play started slowly creating a sense of time and place before gradually drawing the characters out (none of whom are entirely what they seem). I found the dialogue with its flashes of humour and underplayed emotion very naturalistic. The script relied as much on what was not said as what was. There was a sense that things were hinted at and suggested which made the gradual revelations both believable and all the more affecting. The potential heaviness of the subject matter too was handled in such a way that it seemed to gradually seep into the play almost imperceptibly until the quietly devastating final act.

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At first we are encouraged to view matron as being a negative figure, the girls jailer a prudish and stern disciplinarian but such is the depth of the play that Matron is shown to have great empathy for the girls. There is a tenderness and care beneath her stiff exterior. Even during a deeply uncomfortable scene in which she forces Mary to understand how the world outside might view her we don’t doubt that this is done for the best intentions. Susan Twist’s performance as Matron is a masterclass in restraint, with tenderness and deep feeling glimpsed beneath her character’s stiff exterior.

In fact the script encourages the audience to empathise with all the differing perspectives of the characters to the extent that we can see how everyone is equally struggling with social rules they had no say in making. For though this is a play about women men still act as a shadowy presence off stage, their actions pushing the events of the story as much as the women on it. In this way the play shows how all the women are contained and restrained by the expectations and desires of the men around them. Even the sassy Queenie appears to ultimately accept that to imagine another way is nothing but a pipe dream.

The play has something to say about class too as it looks at the different expectations the girls and others have of them. The interplay between Queenie and Mary, showing how the former’s inverted snobbery stops her from seeing they are both equally trapped. The actors all have good material to work with and all manage to create fully realised nuanced performances. No-one here is a cliché or cypher yet through them the show explores issues as varied as back-street abortions, rape and forced adoption. I found the relationship between Queenie, the tough cynic with dreams of pop stardom and Mary, the naive girl from the genteel background with the steely resolve particularly finely drawn. It felt like we were watching the growth, blossoming and wilting of a friendship before our very eyes.Although both the script and performances are uniformly excellent some of the credit for making the play a success must go to the overall design, sound and lighting.

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The costumes of the characters were cleverly used in a symbolic way. . The pastel pinks,purples and blues of the parental figures denoting a faded authority, the grey pinafores of the girls seeming to suggest a desire to turn back them back into little girls, whilst also implying the dull uniformity of the prison yard. The overall use of a limited palette in terms of costume and set allowed the performances themselves the space to breathe which they needed. The set which could – given the time period of the play – have been used in a more hackneyed way was used to convey a sense of sterility, it’s minimalist grey cabinets, shelves and boxes evoking more the furnishing department of a high street department store than the swinging 60’sof lore.

The only element which did place us in a particular time-frame was the play’s imaginative use of music. Between each scene change we hear and see the girls sing along to 60’s pop which wittily expressed their situation. Towards the beginning when a moment of romantic pop segued and merged with a hymn and later as the music overlapped a wistful monologue this was handled in such a masterful way as to really hit me in the gut. The lighting, subdued throughout was particularly effective during the spotlit birthing scene. This created a real sense of wonder as the actress performed in a kind of flowing, slow-moving mime the act of her baby bulge becoming a living, breathing child.

I found the play to be unexpectedly moving as I found myself drawn into the lives of these young women journeying with them through their excitements, fears, frustrations and disappointments. It was all the more emotionally rich for being performed by all with such obvious care and empathy. Ultimately it was a fitting tribute to the lives of all those young women whose unknown story it now told so well.

Ian Pepper

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Jocky Wilson Said

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Tron Theatre, Glasgow
May 13 – 18, 2019

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A desert scene stretched out from the back of the stage, with colourful backdrops and green fresh cacti. A solitary scene for the one-hander to come. It’s 1979 and Jocky Wilson was 184 miles from his destination, Las Vegas, but missed his connection and was forced to hitch hike his way there. But would the wait prove too much for him? Darts player Jocky Wilson (convincingly played by Grant O’Rourke) turned professional in the late 70’s and went on to win World Pro Darts Championship in 1982 and again in ’89. He always was the gallous character from Fife that was captured in this play written by Jane Livingstone and Jonathon Cairney. Jocky Wilson Said was first performed at Oran Mor in 2017.

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Clothed in his professional darts garb – he was on his way to play an exhibition match – Jocky’s emotions fluctuated from elation to despair as he waited for a ride that at times didn’t look like it would even come. At one point he screamed angrily as a possible hitch passed him by. He started talking to a cactus and in the conversation reflected on his life and the journey which had taken him thus far. It was as if the stage was peopled with characters from his imagination as he recalled the huge, all- encompassing part that darts had played in his life, becoming a way out for him, but more than that giving him something at which he excelled. He told the cactus of his great triumph and how winning the championship was both a victory for himself and a victory over people he encountered who perhaps didn’t believe in him as much as he would have liked.

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Jocky Wilson Said was very much a tale of the underdog made good, going through the elements of his life one by one like the pile of rocks he was sitting on. We saw the real man behind the image, got a feel for what made him tick. Not least because of a wonderful performance by Grant O’Rourke, who seemed to completely inhabit Jocky’s persona, from his accent and mannerisms to the very spirit of the man himself. And at the moment when a vehicle finally stopped for him, he gathered his things and as a goodbye from him to us he lifted an imaginary championship cup and he proudly and defiantly raised his hands to the sky. With that, the lights went out and he was gone.

Jockey Wilson’s character shone through this play, his courage, his determination; and in no small part, his humour. It set the stage alight as though it was big production with a big cast. But these were things it didn’t need. Altogether a skilful and accomplished piece of drama.

Daniel Donnolly

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Toy Plastic Chicken

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Oran Mor Glasgow
May 6 – 11, 2019

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At the Oran Mor, this week’s set had an air of readiness about it, somehow clinical. Sure enough, when the lights were on it, a passport control point immerged. Ross (David James Kirkwood) and Emma (Anne Russell Martin) appeared as passport officers in full uniform. Ross seems happy in his work, while Emma is full of inner rage about her profession. The play, written by Uma Nada-Rajah, is set at Edinburgh airport and is a black comedy based on a true story.

Enter Rachel (Neshla Caplan), who seems like a victim from the moment she comes on stage and is put through her paces by the two officers. The set changes cunningly to depict the various sections of the airport kiosk, as the examination progresses. In one powerful scene, the hapless Rachel has been told to strip behind a screen, while the silent and furious Emma stands by. It is an extremely uncomfortable moment. Ross, the jokey male officer, provides an element of comedy. But his jokes have somehow an undercurrent of violence about them, highlighting another uncomfortable aspect of the action.

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The eponymous plastic chicken is set on the table from the beginning as it is the only item left after Rachel has divested herself all metal and electronics. When the alarms go off, the toy chicken is deemed to be a bomb and uproar ensues. Protocol must be followed and Emma becomes more and more robotic in the discharge of her duties, though Ross can be relied upon for complaining to. Indeed Ross even professes his love for Emma, but she simply replies ‘…not today…’ The situation deteriorates drastically, and Rachel reacts badly, becoming distressed. As she has to turn her attention to the woman’s care, an increasingly conflicted Emma curses repeatedly “..f**k..” as she expressed her hatred of her life as a passport control officer.

The play ended as it began with a deliberately standoffish Emma and the ever-joking Ross directing a distraught traveler through Edinburgh passport control – a down to earth delving into the paranoia of modern life and the art of sticky situations, I found the dialogue dynamic and emotionally true. Yet another example of the high art of drama to be expected at the Oran Mor venue, well worth a watch.

Daniel Donnolly

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Interview: Nathalie Morris

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Auckland Theatre Company are in the process of unveiling a fantastic young actress 


Hello Nathalie, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Hello! I’m from Canberra, Australia, and I’ve just moved to Auckland this year.

When did you first realise you were, well, theatrical?
I’ve wanted to perform since I was 11 and I saw a stage production of High School Musical. The ensemble looked like they were having so much fun as a team, and I wanted to have that too. When I started taking theatre classes and tackling scripts, I got way more interested in characters and the forces that drive them to act in the ways they do. I love putting myself in other people’s circumstances and using them to express
myself in ways that I wouldn’t get to in my own life.

Last year you graduated from the Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School, how was your time there?
It was so cool. Toi Whakaari is a place where you are constantly experimenting. There’s no end goal to the training. You are just continuously exposed to new techniques and styles of performance and given lots of opportunities to test them out. You are pushed to take more risk, have more pleasure, and go further into the unknown, but you are never pushed to be a certain kind of actor. The school celebrates creativity and has a great subversive sense of humour. It’s also incredibly challenging to put your struggle in front of other students and teachers for three years, but I’m grateful that those challenges took place within those walls.

Can you tell us about,’ I Never Thought I’d Have to Explain it All?’ & its tenure in Wellington?
I Never Thought I’d Have to Explain it All is a show I made about a high profile disappearance case in Australia – one that I was briefly involved with as a kid. As I researched deeper into the case, I got really affected by how it was reported on and spread through the entertainment industry. So the show buries the story of the case in many of these entertainment mediums, like talk show, film, documentary, stand-up comedy, podcast etc. As we give the audience more truths about the case, we also involve them more in the thrill of these forms. It’s very funny and wicked and compelling. I started writing the show with Andrew Eddey in our final year of drama school, and we presented the first draft at Toi Whakaari’s annual Festival of Work in Development. It started out as a solo show, but it grew to include more performers, designers, and managers by the time we presented a second draft at The NZ Fringe Festival in March this year. We learned an incredible amount about the work throughout this second season, so hopefully we will mount another development of the show in Auckland or Australia in the next couple of years.

What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage / the curtain goes up?
Sometimes I do a ‘dick-ass dance’, which is a very important technique I learned at drama school. Basically you just dance your heart out, off the beat and leading from your hips. Other times I just stand toward the audience and feel love and gratitude right before going on. If I’m about to enter with someone else, I’ll try to make a joke with them or whisper something titillating in their ear.

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Reading a great play out loud with friends, or watching a great film with a big cup of coffee, or body surfing at the beach with my dad.

You are playing the young Queen Elizabeth in Peter Morgan’s ‘The Audience,’ how did you get the role?
I auditioned for the role in December. I was in Australia at the time, but my grandma said “oh, you’ve got to go get seen” so I flew over for the day. And then there was a recall audition in January.

Can you tell us a little something about the play?
It’s a theorised glimpse into the private audiences that Queen Elizabeth II has had with the British Prime Ministers each week throughout her reign. It’s also a beautiful and comical portrait of the woman, and a compelling insight into how those PMs stayed sane in power.

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Nathalie as HRH

How are you finding Her Highness’s accent?
It’s very fun. It’s one of my favourite parts about this project. When she was young her voice was very distinct. There are all sorts of words that I catch her saying in broadcasts and interviews that don’t quite follow any rules, and I like the challenge of trying to capture them all.

How is Director Colin McColl handling both yourself individually & then the cast as a whole?
Colin has worked with many of the actors in the cast for many years, and I’ve witnessed a very strong and easeful working relationship, with lots of mutual respect and responsibility. The actors don’t wait to be told what to do by Colin, nor are they lead through any specific process. They do their research and jump straight onto the floor with lots of offers and confidence. This is my first professional theatre show since graduating drama school, so it’s really great to witness that.

What emotive responses do you expect from the audience?
I think The Audience will be very funny and moving, especially for people who have grown up listening to Queen Elizabeth II’s broadcasts and following the politics of all of the British Prime Ministers who appear in the show.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets, what would you say?
Come watch a wonderful actress, Theresa Healey, navigate the role of Queen Elizabeth II – over 60 years of her life! – with dexterity, humour, and sensitivity. And an ensemble of daredevil character actors take on all of the wacky traits of the British PMs. A majestic set and a pandora’s box of wigs and costumes – it’s going to be fun!

What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
I’m heading back to Canberra when The Audience closes to start rehearsals for The Street Theatre’s production of A Doll’s House Part 2 by Lucas Hnath. The play is set 15 years after the end of Ibsen’s classic, and I’ll be playing Emmy, Nora’s grown-up daughter.


THE AUDIENCE

ASB Waterfront
May 8-23

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The Mistress Contract

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Tron Theatre, Glasgow
May 1 – 11, 2019

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I felt solemn as I entered the tiny venue at the Tron Theatre Glasgow, expecting a serious play. The set was absolutely gorgeous – bigger than the seating area and plastered with props and dividers. It was a very plush living room with luxurious couch and a second level a red drape covering the half of it. All depicting the home of a wealthy man. As the lights brightened, yet more was revealed where the stage seemed to double in size.
The night’s play, inspired by the memoir ‘The Mistress Contract’ by ‘She and He’, was written by Abi Morgan and premiered at the Royal Court Theatre London in 2014, the same year it was written. Now enjoying its Scottish premier, the current production is directed by Glaswegian playwright and director Eve Nicole. Taking the role of HE is the uniquitous Cal MacAninch fresh from TV shows and theatre work around the country and SHE is played by actress Lorraine McIntosh, of Deacon Blue fame.

The Mistress Contract gets straight down to business with the two characters in conversation about their different perspectives on their sexual encounters with each other. Encounters which we learn arise from the contract that they signed thirty years before which lays out the deal in which she would favour him with sexual services in exchange for a home and a decent share of his formidable riches. But, she recalls, there was a period in what she refers to as their thirty year experiment where he couldn’t afford his side of the bargain, but she nonetheless allows him to owe it to her.

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She produces a Dictaphone and recalls that when they signed the mutual contract in 1981, there was an idea that they would record this experiment to perhaps make it into some kind of a book. Today she is someone who is passionate about her books, her life, her house and garden. As they talked, music played and they undressed and sat together on the couch, still debating sexuality, gender equality, whether there was a difference between their perspective sexualities. Finding, 30 years on, that the difference was often profound.

They fought, they kissed, they relaxed they loved. As you watched, you felt that the crux of their relationship was a self-revealing, tangible and passionate love. The fact that it had endured for three decades seems to prove that the contract was a powerful one and signed by both in honesty and good faith. Never to marry, and only to love each other became exclusive as the years passed; they despair, they make up, they perform in love together. They were serious and enlightened, with kids and life to contend with but ultimately they come together as a real life couple who triumphed, and remained faithful to the contract they both signed thirty years ago, which is more than you can say for many marriages!

Daniel Donnolly

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The Origins of Ivor Punch

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
April 29 – May 4, 2019

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A blue-toned set depicting the Isle of Mull – or some similar remote island – greeted us as we took our seats. In the middle stood the grim looking Henrietta Bird clock tower. As the stage darkened we could just make out the movement of the three actors, all playing double roles; Andrew Tait, as Sergeant Ivor Punch and his ancestor Duncan, a postman, Tom McGovern as Ivor’s friend Randy and -no less – the great Charles Darwin; and Eva Traynor playing the famous Victorian explorer Isabella Bird and her sister Henrietta. This play, written by Colin MacIntyre, is quite a complicated piece, based on the author’s own prize-winning book, ‘The letters of Ivan Punch’, and touches upon ideas of identity and mythology, history and love – a tall order in the space of a mere hour!

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The action began with Randy and Ivor Punch sitting together in a car singing a song about angels. The purpose of their journey was humorously to steal a Christmas tree with Ivor ironically dressed in his full Police uniform on his way to commit a crime. But an angel, in the form of a woman in a white dress, Eva Traynor’s Isabella, who stated she was somehow there to help him. He was intrigued when she called him Duncan, a character Ivan was unaware of.

The words ‘God is love’ appeared graffitied on the side of a cliff and were introduced to the plot in a dramatic scene at the clifftop, a proverbial cliff hanger. Then bright lights shone dramatically upon the scene to invite us into another aspect of the story. This time, Andrew Tait appeared as Duncan, postman and jack of all trades, a man of few words, beyond a few well-worn stories. Henrietta falls for him, but you wondered if it was him or something he knew of that she wanted?

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Through interactions between the various modern and historical characters, the story delved more and more into exploring the identity of Ivor and the factors which made up who he was. We had costume changes and found Charles Darwin, resplendent in top hat, waistcoat and pocket watch.  Lofty ideas were analysed and Ivor revealed that he had put Darwin’s book ‘The Origins of…’ to the test with the ‘Bible’ and found that naturally the Bible was chosen every time. In the midst of all these weighty discourses, light relief was provided by Randy, with his down to earth, not to say rude, language.

The passion between Duncan and Henrietta was also explored, particularly in the dialogues between the two sisters. Ivan and Randy came to realise the identity of the name on the clock tower and in the final scene we found Henrietta offering support to Ivan as she professed her faith in his capability for love in all of life.

The way this story was built up, using a great many facets that all somehow mysteriously melded and joined together was much like the complex original book by Darwin himself. The play bounced along sometimes lightly, sometimes heavily, for the hour and after proposing many questions, somehow in the end had them all answered.

Daniel Donnolly

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Turn of the Screw

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Perth Concert Hall
Tues 16 – Sat 20 Apr

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A young inexperienced governess with a fertile imagination fuelled by gothic horror potboilers; two precocious children, altogether too knowing, in her care; a rambling, isolated country house witness to a history of cruelty; preternatural occurrences and eerie noises in the night. Henry James’ 1898 horror novella is the archetypal haunting story. Or, at least that’s one reading. It could equally be the account of the young governess’s incipient ‘female hysteria’. The novella maintains the ambiguous nature of the events at the house and James leaves the reader to make up their own mind over the causes of the horror. It’s a satisfying read.

Mercury Theatre Colchester and Wolverhampton Grand Theatre’s production of Turn of the Screw, adapted by Tim Luscombe, whilst replete with enough terror, puts the cause of all the haunting malarky on the governess, played by Janet Dibley with maniacal poise. Confirmation bias from the homely but astonishingly dim-witted housekeeper Mrs Grose (Maggie McCarthy) propels the governess ever onwards in her attempt to save the children, Miles and Flora, from what she thinks is supernatural attack from the spectral visitations of the previous governess Miss Jessel and the diabolical ghost of Peter Quint, the former upstairs-man, who had, and seemingly still maintains, a corrupting influence on young Miles.

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Luscombe’s treatment turns the action into a taught psychodrama, that pulls out many of the threads in James’ story, such as the suppressed sexuality of the tale, hinted at in the relationship between the governess and young Miles, and the nature of Quint’s corrupting influence on the boy. It’s unfortunate therefore that the dramatic energy begins to disappear in the second half, as it becomes apparent that the cause of all the disturbance really is the governess’s psychotic break. With the loss of ambiguity of the cause of the haunting, whether psychological or supernatural, much of the tension of the story is also lost. It’s a different terror, altogether human, that is portrayed in the closing scene. This is an intelligent production that delivers some shocking moments in an entertaining evening that occasionally misses a chance to terrify.

Review: Mark Mackenzie
Photography: Tom Grace

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The Mack

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
April 15-20, 2019

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It was with a slight degree of apprehension that I settled down to watch Rob Drummond’s new one-act play at the Oran Mor today. “The Mack” is all about a hero of mine, Charles Rennie Mackintosh who died 90 years ago. His famous approach to life and art had some in his period smiling and others not. The stage was set in Mackintosh style, complete with three chairs in that distinctive ladder-back design.

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Mackintosh himself took centre stage; James Mcanerney resplendent in the artist’s signature large cravat; it was like seeing the man himself brought to life. The two other characters came in the guise of an expert, a well-dressed Janet Coulson; and John Michie as a fireman in full uniform. The three don’t address each other, but talk to the audience directly and between them the story unfolds into the well-meant debate as to whether or not to once again save the internationally renowned Glasgow School of Art building that unbelievably caught fire for a second time. Included were all the various opinions and points of view we have all had about it, presented in an almost court-like discussion as to its importance or no.

Each character reveals insights into their individual points of view; vivid feeling of loss and appreciation of the work of a Master; rhetoric about the life and style of Mackintosh himself; the artist recalling his life in his letters to Margaret, his wife and long term partner. Somehow it seemed as if the artist himself was looking down in amusement at his work and what has famously happened to it, in reality some of his work has been salvaged from skips and suchlike. Each sometimes stands to make their point with dramatic force. There is real poignancy when the fireman reminds us of the dangers his firefighters faced when they fought a fire for the sole object of saving a building and some artefacts, questioning if it was worth risking their lives.

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The three actors stood as the lights went down, without having come to a conclusion as to whether the Art School building should or should not be rebuilt. This three-point perspective offered compelling reasons for and against but they also found themselves unable to come to a definitive result. Having struck a balance in each debate, in the end it is left to us to decide. It could be done – there is enough of the design detailed on computer to make it exactly as was all those years ago. Whether it would be the same building raises the question of what art is anyway – the design or the building?

If you want my answer, I would wish it rebuilt. It’s intended beauty from the architect is as important to me as it ever was. But you can make up your own mind…

Daniel Donnolly

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An Interview with Mangled Yarn

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Edward Ferrow as Dr. Frankenstein


Neil Jennings & Chris Smart are at the heart of Mangled Yarn & their ebbulient take on the ultimate horror story


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Neil Jennings

Hello Chris and Neil, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Chris: I’m originally from Lichfield, in Staffordshire. It’s near Birmingham, but I’ve lived all over, including Italy and Denmark. I’m currently house hunting in Welwyn Garden City, in Hertfordshire.
Neil: I’m an Essex lad who grew up in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. I now live in North London.

You are quite the creative polymaths, can you tell us about your fields of operation?
Neil: I trained as an actor at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. I’m also a self taught multi-musician. My main instrument is Ukulele; but I can actually play it well! I’m also a keen illustrator, song writer and playwright.
Chris: I also trained as an actor, at The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. I’m a multi musician too – Banjo, Accordion, Guitar, Mandolin. I write songs, sketches and plays and I also direct.

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Chris Smart

When did you first develop a passion for the arts?
Chris: of course I could say I fell in love with Shakespeare and classic literature at a young age and that was it, (of course I do love those things the requisite amount!) but I was brought up watching John Hughes movies and laughing at people like John Candy and Steve Martin. I think I always held out hope that I would get to do that. In the end I managed to combine the two.
Neil: As a kid I sort of popped in and out of the arts. Sometimes I was very keen, other times it didn’t really bother me. It was at University (I studied Drama at Aberystwyth) where I truly found that this was the career for me.

Can you tell us about The Pantaloons?
Chris: We met six years ago at an audition for the company. It was an unusual audition in that it was just really fun and everyone seemed as lovely as they were talented. We both got the job and haven’t looked back. The company creates hilarious and accessible theatre from Shakespearean and classic texts. Using all kinds of influences and styles to put their own incredible spin on a well known piece. Music is used heavily too and has also challenged us both to learn new styles and instruments . If drama school taught us the foundations of Acting, The Pantaloons taught us how to be comedians. We will always love continuing to work with “The Loons”!

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In a world where you can get entertainment ‘on demand’, what makes theatre special?
Neil: For me it’s the thrill of how are you going to stage something. CGI in films and television makes everything possible, but on the stage, there’s a real magic needed to create the same effects. I love, not only working out how to do a particular thing, but also watching how others achieve it. You can really learn from each other.
Chris: firstly I think because it is not “on demand” there is always a sense of occasion and excitement with theatre, you have to get off your arse and go somewhere to watch a bunch of real life human beings tell you a story. No matter how amazing the box set is, you can’t replicate that on your sofa at home. Secondly we both love, and work within a style that is immediate; it embraces and works with the here and now to create a truly unique experience. Bringing the audience into the action means that every night is different; it comes with different risks, different failures and different successes, all of which combine to make something truly special.

You’re washed up on a desert island with an all-in-one solar powered DVD/TV combo & three films, what would they be?
Chris: The Big Lebowski is a must, Uncle Buck because it’s John Hughes and John Candy but not tied into a season like thanksgiving or Christmas. Finally The Royal Tenenbaums, I love Gene Hackman in that movie.
Neil: It depends. Can the Back to the Future trilogy be on one disc? If not, then it’s those! If they count as 1, then I’ll throw in Labyrinth and Ghostbusters (the original).

Where, when, why & with whom was Mangled Yarn created?
Chris: At a Birthday house party last Summer. I think it was Neil’s birthday. We were a little drunk…
Neil: …very!
Chris: … and we were spitballing ideas for inappropriate text to style combo’s. Classic horrors as Pantomimes really got us laughing.
Neil: We joked about Frankenstein as a Pantomime for ages.
Chris: But the next day I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I knew it would be a really interesting project and I was convinced we could make it work.
Neil: We thought for a bit about just doing a normal Pantomime with the characters of Frankenstein and the monster in it, but that’s not an original idea – it’s been done quite a lot.
Chris: often by amateur theatre companies.
Neil: So we then talked about trying to do a faithful telling of the whole story, but with a Pantomime trying to burst out the whole way through.
Chris: That’s really when we became Mangled Yarn. It’s a mangled quote from All’s Well That Ends Well. “The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together”.

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What is the Mangled Yarn ethos?
Chris: We want to take incredible professional theatre to everyone, that’s for everyone. We are particularly focussed on bringing our work to those people that, for whatever reason, don’t usually have access to live theatre.
Neil: We are passionate about taking source material seen as “difficult” or “inaccessible” and innovating with it, creating productions that are first and foremost enjoyable and entertaining, but also remain faithful to the spirit of the original text.

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You’re performing at this year’s Brighton Fringe, what are you bringing to the table?
Chris: We’re passionate about comedy. We love to laugh and think it’s one of the most important things for an audience to do. If we can also give them the facts at the same time, we’re laughing… still.

Can you tell us about the musical side of Frankenstein?
Neil: Our cast are 5 actor musicians. We have both live and recorded music, and we’re going down a disco route. So we’ve written half a dozen disco parodies that tell the story!

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Rhianna Compton will be playing The Monster

What lead you to the unlikely pairing of Frankenstein and a Pantomime?
Neil: A simple response would be that we found the idea funny. Is it possible to tell such a dark and harrowing story faithfully, yet in the style of a family friendly comedy? We knew it would be a challenge, especially dealing with the subject of life and death. I think we’ve managed to do a great job with that. The finale of our show is a perfect example.
Chris: People often see classic literature as “stuffy” or “difficult”. We wanted to find a way to challenge those preconceptions and help an audience find the joy of the source material. We thought Pantomime was the perfect tool.

What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage / the curtain goes up?
Chris: I don’t really have any particular rituals, sorry to be boring! I used to always brush my teeth just before beginners but that’s about it.
Neil: It depends on the show and the company. I’ve done shows where we’ve got into an almost superstitious routine of actions and words. I don’t really have a “thing” that I always do, though.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell Frankenstein to somebody in the streets of Brighton…
Neil: It’s Frankenstein as a Pantomime. If that doesn’t do it, I’m not sure what will!

What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
Chris: We’re hoping to send Frankenstein out for a small UK tour this Halloween. We have a few venues pencilled in, including The Place, Bedford and the Old Library Theatre, Mansfield. We’re also going to begin work on our next project that we’re very excited about. We don’t want to say too much about it yet, but it’s very ambitious. What we can tell you is it WON’T be a pantomime.


Frankenstein the Pantomime

The Warren: The Blockhouse

May 24-26 (20:00)

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