Category Archives: England

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe


West Yorkshire Playhouse
7 December 2017 – 27 January 2018

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: five-stars  Performance: five-stars


This play is a dramatisation of the much loved children’s book by C S Lewis. Portraying such a well-known and involved work was bound to be an ambitious project, and it did not disappoint. At 2 hours 45 minutes long, it had the potential to lose the attention of its audience, but the length was unnoticed due to the enthralling nature of the spectacle. It is aimed at ages seven and above, which seemed about right. The audience was involved in the show at times, and the young members in particular appeared to enjoy this. This participation was helped by the choice of theatre in the round.

Because of the fantastical nature of the story and the restrictions that come with a theatre production, a compromise needed to be made regarding the grandeur of the special effects, staging and costumes. This balance between having enough of these and relying on the imagination of the audience was perfect. The set was sparse but key props were used and handled faultlessly by the actors – for example, white sheets representing snow, the wardrobe door, the method by which the Turkish delight appeared.

The costumes were brilliant and rang true to the book, particularly those of the beavers and Mr Tumnus. The White Witch’s costume was spectacular and actress Carla Mendonca masterfully portrayed the notoriously frightful character. Puppetry was also used to represent some of the creatures – such as the professor’s cat, the mice and, at times, Aslan. The puppets were handled beautifully and were very effective; the mice in particular.

 

Throughout the performance, movement and lighting was used to create the atmosphere. There were lanterns across the whole ceiling of the auditorium, and these went on and off and changed colours at significant times, proving to be simple yet effective and involving. The movement used to simulate the initial train ride went on a bit too long and became forced, but this was outweighed by the excellency of the other simulations – such as walking through the rooms of the vast house, travelling through the wardrobe and through the coats, riding in the sleigh, flying on Aslan. Last but not least, the cast should be commended; there was not a weak link. Cora Kirk (Lucy) and Ira Mandela Siobhan (wolf Maugrim) stood out tremendously.

All in all, this is a fantastic piece of theatre. There are themes and lines that are still relevant to life today – for example, the quote “trees have ears and eyes” resonates with today’s concerns about security cameras, the prying of big social media companies and the general threat to privacy. Everyone should see it.

Reviewers : Georgie Blanshard and Lucy Clark

five-stars

Zoetrope

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Venue: West Yorkshire Playhouse
Run: 2 – 4 November 2017

Script: five-stars Stagecraft: five-stars  Performance: five-stars


An extraordinary, deeply important piece of theatre, performed by the Youth Theatre, following the stories of seven young people’s struggles and experiences of mental health issues and illnesses. The performance was just over an hour long with no interval and it was thoroughly captivating from start to finish. The set, staging and the use of colours of the characters’ clothing were brilliant. Each of the seven participants of the group counselling sessions wore different coloured clothes and accessories. This was symbolic, especially as the play developed, each colour representing a different psychiatric illness, which, as well as being visually stimulating, helped the audience to understand and engage with the specific topics addressed (food, self-harm, drug abuse, teenage parenting).

The performance from the actors, despite their young age, was faultless; the utmost professionalism was observed, they worked well together and each took on their character splendidly. Characters ranged from doctors, teenagers, nurses to parents, and these were treated appropriately in regards to every aspect: the script, language and performance. Movement, music and light were used to create the atmosphere and emotion. Seamless and subtle changes meant there was no need for actual set changes and the audience was never left behind. The whole stage was used to its advantage and to create the desired emotion, for example the fast turning of the roundabout and the loud and overlapping voices to create the character’s feeling of desperation, anxiety and panic.

The research and tremendous amount of thought that went into making this piece of theatre genuine was evident. Each mental health problem was dealt with sensitively and compassionately, and the different perspectives of such illnesses were portrayed. This included the value of Mindfulness, views on meditation, and the contrasting views of self-harm between parents and health professionals. Through this play, the audience was able to glimpse the struggles and processes which people with mental ill health deal with in order to get help and support: the waiting lists, the various assessment questionnaires and scales (which were explained through a comedic skit, reminiscent of Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach), the misinterpretation (“chill out.. don’t take life so seriously”), the disjointedness of children’s and adult’s services (“not a transition but a bloody great full stop”).

The end of the play (involving a culmination of character Lily’s story, and the following being said: “freaks are those who can cope and can get back up” was poignant and upsetting, not least because it was unsurprising. It was thought-provoking, at times uncomfortable to watch, and sadly all too familiar, which, as Director Gemma Woffinden herself said when speaking generally, is exactly what “makes for a good piece of theatre”. Though, arguably, I would change her word “good” for “outstanding”.

Reviewers : Georgie Blanshard and Lucy Clark

 

The Tin Drum

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West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
17/10/17 to 28/10/17

Script:  four-stars.png Stagecraft: five-stars  Performance: five-stars


Gunter Grass’ Noble prize winning novel’ “The Tin Drum” has already been adapted into an award winning film and here highly regarded theatre company Knee-high create their own version of the magic realist fable. Will it too be award winning and ground breaking? The show certainly opened impressively with the subtle orange glow of street lights on a small square illuminating couples slow dancing to eerie music like the ghosts Blackpool Tower ballroom. The authentically grubby and dilapidated tenements of the set lead us to believe we are in some unspecified time and place in the past which could be anywhere from Weimar Berlin to the Post War Eastern Block. Yet what we soon find out is that where we really are is in the realm of folk tale or myth. For though it may have stitched within it elements of bawdy comedy, Baroque opera and dark satire at the root of the play lies a fascination with the same archetypal characters and themes one might find in a folk or fairy tale .

The coming of age story of a cursed child, Oscar it also explores war and conflict, both the metaphorical war between the sexes and generations but also the actual violence of conflict itself and the prejudice and fear which allows it to happen. Though the play begins on a disturbing and unsettling note and tackles serious subject matter early on it soon shifts its position to something more akin to broad musical comedy. With its chase scenes, dance moves and musical numbers I found the first act often funny, at times delightful but overall rather overwhelming, a sugar rush of hyperactivity which left me rather frazzled though pleasingly so.

download.jpgThe second act marked a distinct contrast with the first though as the tone shifted from the giddy to the gloomy. Whereas the first act was a wild and sometimes exhausting ride with only the occasional intimation of the violence to come the second act darkened the tone considerably. The characters lost some of their clownish jollity and instead we gained a greater sense of their struggles. This was particularly true of Oscar as the grim reality of his curse dawned on both him and the audience and a genuine sadness and sympathy for the creepy little chap bubbled up unexpectedly as if from nowhere. This was partly achieved through fixing the story more definitively in a recognisable time and place which helped make the events more relatable. For with its references to a Nazi- like group called “The Order” and scenes depicting concentration camps and public executions we were clearly in WW2 Western Europe.

It was also though due to the fine performances of the cast for though all the actors were adept at bringing elements of mime, dance and clowning to emphasise their characters they also managed to invest their archetypal characters with a sense of inner life. Particularly strong performances came from the well meaning yet dim cuckold Albrect who was lent a kind of desperate and pathetic pathos or the charismatic Granny Brodski and her palpable sense of lusty vigour. Special mention must of course be given to the puppet performers who were a key element of what made the show so magical whether it was the boorish geezer Devil, Baby Kurt or Granny Brodski’s surprisingly lifelike goose.

The most impressive performance of all was from the hero himself, Oscar. Played in the main by a deliciously creepy puppet – a little wooden boy whose face appeared permanently ruffled in a scowl he stalked the proceedings with a sense of ambiguous purpose. Was he hero or villain? Was he to be pitied or feared? It was not always clear. And this perhaps was key to the often unsettling quality of the play.

The second act was con vied with just as much sense of imagination as the first half yet its effect was markedly different creating an atmosphere which was at times oppressive and disturbing. Much of this strength came not from the performances themselves – good though they were – but from the lighting, music and set design. This was superb throughout and created a rich sense of foreboding through powerful imagery and imaginative use of music and sound which constantly adapted to the action in a seamless and perfectly synchronised way. Many of the main characters got their own musical theme such as Albrecht’s lumpen bass tones or Maria’s jaunty melody yet the music itself was a wonderful character in its own right. With inventive use of synths, drones and electronic drums it took in elements of disco, funk, musical hall and dark ambience to create a sound which could turn from the comic to the sinister in a moments notice.

The lighting as well as the music and set was also key to much of the strong atmosphere of the show. Whether it was recreating the throbbing magenta hues of the womb, the flickering fires of an arson attack or the violent white light of an exploded bomb the lighting throughout created a rich vibrancy towards the proceedings particularly towards the plays conclusion. The play ended on a tone which was as mysterious and ambivalent as it began which left me in a rather bewitched state.

Though as in any good folk tale there were clearly morals here if you cared to look for them too such as matriarch Granny Brodski’s assertion that “We are all different, we are all the same” and though I could see that this could be a story about all wars, about all conflicts I remained somewhat confounded as to what it had all been about. There had been so many fantastic, vivid scenes such as Grandpa Jo’s madcap escape from the law or Oscar banging his tin drum making the soldiers dance to a dark techno pulse. Indeed the show went beyond any expectations I had in its perfect blending of acting, puppetry and music. At times I’d found it funny, unsettling, exhausting (the sensory overload of the first act particularly) and enchanting. Yet I still left not knowing really what it had all been about but perhaps that after all was not really the point. For what it certainly was was a fabulous piece of theatre whose powerful images resonated in my mind long after the curtain came down like a half remembered dream or – more likely – a nightmare.

Reviewer : Ian Pepper

five-stars

An Interview with Gemma Woffinden


Next month sees Rebecca Manley’s Zoetrope hit the West Yorkshire Playhouse. The Mumble managed catch a few words with the director…


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When did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
I loved theatre from a young age, seeing shows with my Dad, making shows with my sister and performing in school plays. I loved telling stories, playing different characters and being part of a creative process with school friends.

These days you are the director of West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Youth Theatre. What is the talent like in Leeds & what outlets do you provide for them?
The Youth Theatre works with young people aged 5-19. All the young people attending weekly sessions have a passion for theatre and we create opportunities to engage them with the shows made in the theatre on stage and behind the scenes. I am constantly inspired by young people’s energy, their ideas and it’s exciting to see the world from their perspective. We have a range of different performance opportunities as well as young people being cast in professional show, for example Romeo and Juliet directed by Amy Leach.

What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Well, I love a good story. I like to see plays that make me think, plays that I can relate to the subject matter of, and also plays that invite me to sees someone’s experiences from a new perspective. I like being challenged by stories that can be uncomfortable to consider and will provoke a good debate for the journey home from the theatre.

What does Gemma Woffinden like to do when she’s not being theatrical?
I actually love going to see as many plays as possible. Across the country there is so much to see. I also enjoy going out for dinner with friend and seeing live music.

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You will be bringing Zoetrope to the West Yorkshire Playhouse in early November, can you tell us about the play?
It’s a brilliant new play written by Rebecca Manley and it’s been so exciting to direct. It tells the story of 7 very different young people attending a counselling group. It’s about mental health, relationships and the process people have to go through to get the help they need. It’s very funny and very sad.

To help inform the script and the young people acting in the show you worked with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services on the project. How did you find the experience?
It has helped meeting a range of mental health professionals and young services users. We have shared scenes from the play and been able to talk to people first-hand about real life experiences and they have helped us to shape the characters stories in the play. It’s just been great for the young people to meet each other and learn about life from a different perspective.

How are you finding working with Rebecca Manley?
Rebecca has lots of experience working with people from a range of backgrounds and her playwriting brings those peoples stories to life. She is committed to creating characters that reflect the experiences of real people. Rebecca and I have spent lots of time talking about the things we are passionate about and I believe she is a playwright who genuinely cares about people and their struggles. She is a very funny lady and it’s a pleasure to work with her on Zoetrope. As a director I feel I can talk opening to her about the creative process of bring a new play to the stage.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?
Come and see the show! I promise it will entertain you and make you think. The characters are brilliant, the story is gripping and most of all the actors are very talented.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?
I hope audiences will feel they have seen a high quality piece of theatre that made them think. I hope audiences will come away considering the challenges the character faced and relate them to their own lives whether a direct connection or having an understanding of how to support a friend. Society is starting to talk more about mental wellbeing, and this play will open up the discussion even more. We have a few schools booked in to see the show. I really hope the play can also be explored in schools, it’s a great resource for many reasons. During rehearsals I have run a few workshops and I’m ready to do more! Let’s get talking and remember its ok to not be ok!

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Gemma Woffinden?
Well, lots more exciting projects with young people. We are already working on a play called BLANK by Alice Birch which is part of the National Theatre Connections Festival 2018. This play looks at the lives of young people who parents are in prison and I am keen to link up with local charities to see how we might work together during rehearsals. The Youth Theatre works with young people aged 5-19s and we have nearly 200 young people attending sessions each week at The Playhouse , I have a production idea up my sleeve that could invite all our young people for a show on the Quarry stage. Watch this space!

Stickman

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King George’s Hall
Blackburn
7th October

Script:  four-stars.png Stagecraft: three-stars.png Performance: four-stars.png


Stickman is a live show aimed at children and adults alike. It tells the story of Stickman trying to get back to his family’s house-tree, using just three performers to take on the many roles.  Julia Donaldson’s books are popular in our household and my five-year-old is able to recite many of them by heart, so I took him along for his expert opinion. Taking our seats at the splendid King George’s Hall in Blackburn, the show soon bounds straight into the action and the enthusiasm of the actors is immediately apparent. There was an immediate drawback, I thought, for the set was basic & lacks visual stimulation for the kids, when a rare change of scenery does little to keep the attention of the young, and those little ones around me quickly got restless. Things did pick up though, & the show became faster paced, & as it started to utilise the audience the children quickly came to life; jumping and screaming to get involved, they giggled and cheered and willed Stickman on through his journey.

In terms of technical merit, there is clearly a talented team at work here; director Sally Cookson has taken her small team into consideration and showcased their abilities with expertise. Euan Wilson, who studied Actor Musicianship at Rose Bruford, brings Stickman to life with his energetic performance.  The cast use instruments, accents and a few props to set the various scenes which work well with music composed by Benji Bower.

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There is no doubt that what we saw was art, delivered impressively by talented individuals, but in places the performance was a little too sophisticated for the younger audience who have perhaps been spoilt with the instant gratification of some children’s shows. My son visits the theatre often and summed the show up in three words, ‘it was great!’  I’ll take that from a harsh critic. The Mumble recently interviewed Wilson and I am pleased to be able to quote him and say he was absolutely right.  We did ‘take away the wonderful story of adventure’ and the songs were indeed ‘stuck in our head’!

Reviewer : Aimee Hewitt
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Stickman is currently touring the UK

October

10 – 11 OCT NOTTINGHAM Theatre Royal 0115 989 5555 BOOK NOW
13 – 15 OCT WINCHESTER Theatre Royal 01962 840 4405 BOOK NOW
16 OCT LEAMINGTON SPA Royal Spa Centre 01926 334418 BOOK NOW
18 – 19 OCT LOWESTOFT Marina Theatre 01502 533200 BOOK NOW
21 – 22 OCT LONDON artsdepot 020 8369 5454 BOOK NOW
23 – 24 OCT PORTSMOUTH New Theatre Royal 023 9264 9000 BOOK NOW
26 – 27 OCT BURY ST EDMUNDS Theatre Royal 01284 769505 BOOK NOW
28 – 29 OCT SOUTHEND Palace Theatre 01702 351135 BOOK NOW

NOVEMBER 2017
1 – 2 NOV BOURNEMOUTH Pavilion Theatre 0844 576 3000 BOOK NOW
4 – 5 NOV BRISTOL Old Vic 0117 987 7877 BOOK NOW
6 – 7 NOV MALVERN Forum Theatre 01684 892277 BOOK NOW
8 NOV TEWKESBURY Roses Theatre 01684 295074 BOOK NOW
12 – 14 NOV NORTHAMPTON Royal & Derngate 01604 624811 BOOK NOW
17 – 18 NOV SOUTHPORT The Atkinson 01704 533 333 BOOK NOW
19 NOV NORTHALLERTON The Forum 01609 776230 BOOK NOW

DECEMBER 2017-JANUARY 2018
18 – 24 DEC MILTON KEYNES The Stables 01908 280800 BOOK NOW
26 DEC – 12 JAN BIRMINGHAM Town Hall

(The fall of ) The Master Builder

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West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
30th Sept–21st October

Script: three-stars.png Stagecraft: three-stars.png Performance: four-stars.png


(The Fall of) The Master Builder, a new modernised take on the play by Ibsen is a brave if flawed attempt to bring into the light a subject more often left in the darkness. Ibsen was famed for his tackling of taboo subjects and the psychological intensity of his plays was controversial (and even sometimes banned) in his day but how would a modern adaptation of his work fare? Would it seem a hackneyed vision from a more conservative age? Or would the coruscating insight of his story still feel strikingly relevant even now?

The play opens on the dregs of a party celebrating architect, Halvard Solnes upcoming acceptance of the ‘Master Builder’ award. The set brilliantly creates a doll’s house style box for the actors to perform in albeit one which looks more like a 1970’s office than a Victorian drawing room. There is also great use of music from the beginning which is used sparingly and with deft subtly creating a sense of foggy memories and burgeoning violence.

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As the play begins the audience is thrown straight into the action halfway through a conversation – a technique which though intended to create a sense of immediacy merely feels confusing. We see assistant, Knut Brovik and his trainee architect son, Ragnar bickering about their boss before the master builder himself appears. Halvard enters swaying and staggering, a jaunty and charismatic drunk trying to instil some much needed sense of camaraderie amongst his colleagues. But his mood of triumphalism is soured by an undercurrent of tension. For at the very moment of his greatest triumph Halvard is beginning to feel his sense of privilege slipping away; the women don’t want him any more, he’s making more mistakes and he’s running out of new ideas. Thrown into this heady cocktail of middle aged doubt is cocky student, Hilde with her unhealthy obsession with him, scheming and ambitious trainee, Ragnar and his neglected wife, Aline. Is it possible that Halvard will clasp defeat from the jaws of victory or will he find some way beyond these entanglements?

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The play is something of a character study in which the central character, Halvard is gradually revealed to us as his mask of gregarious charm and cheek slips into something far more desperate and troubled. It’s a play about power, control and the personal cost of desire. It’s a tall order for any actor to create such a character and resist the compulsion to showboat but Reece Dinsdale as Halvard gives an excellent charismatic performance creating a compelling portrayal of a ruthless charmer which subtly flashes with hints of the inner anguish and despair of a man who recognises the wickedness of his behaviour (“I’m a terrible human being in some ways but I try…”) but though fleetingly filled with remorse lacks the will to actually stop doing it.

Though Halvard is very much the centre of the play the other actors bring nuanced performances from what at times could end up as bit part characterisations. Susan Cookson as Aline gives her character a winning mix of strength and vulnerability. Katherine Rose Morley manages to create some depth from a character which could have been a mere archetype. David Hounslow as Dr Herval captures the righteous hypocrisy of his incorrigible reprobate of a character very well just as Emma Naomi manages to create empathy for her spirited portrayal of the feisty, loving Kaja. But sadly the other actors fair less well as Michael Peavoy gives a charmless one note performance of belligerent ambition as Ragnar and Robert Pickavance wrings no pathos from his flat performance as Knut.

One aspect which is handled well by all the actors is their investment in the physicality of their performances as they lend all the characters a slightly different physical presence from the stiffness of Knut, and the sprightly Halvard to the elegant Kaja. The way the perspective is changed from that of Halvard to the other minor characters towards the end of the play has a powerful immediacy to it through the use of first person monologues which feels like a brave yet successful risk. This chorus of conflicting voices and perspectives forces the audience to see things afresh and challenges our attitudes to all the characters.

The creeping claustrophobia of the final act is conveyed wonderfully through the stagecraft as the very environment seems to crowd in upon Halvard and we see emanations of what is to come with flashes of harsh and angry white light. However the build up towards Halverd’s retribution at times feels slightly overwrought and ends in monster movie theatrics which do much to jeopardise the subtlety of some of the actors previous work. The actual ending if stopped a scene earlier would have felt marvellously brutal – like a slap in the face but instead we unfortunately have a final scene which though visually striking in its starkness patronises the audience somewhat by spelling out the ‘message’ of what we have just witnessed.

This queasy mix between the understated and the lurid is a real fault of the script as although the dialogue is at times witty and there is often a naturalism to it which flows very well some of the plot twists and turns lack finesse and give the play at times an uneven tone as it shifts from farce to melodrama to tragedy. Sometimes this is handled well and the shift is subtle yet at others it feels jarring. There are also unfortunately some aspects to the adaptation of Ibsen’s original work which feel misjudged. There are countless references to “churches” and “trolls” which have real symbolic force but which are clearly derived from Ibsen’s original play and are very much of the 19th century Norway of its origins. Combined with references to modern shopping centers and Prince Charles this leave the play’s sense of time and place muddled. I feel it would have been better to have either given up any attempt to set the play in modern times or lose these references entirely for the play to be more effective. Overall I enjoyed the play and although at times its message felt a little heavy-handed the talents of the cast brought a sense of reality to what in other hands could have been a rather contrived piece.

Reviewer : Ian Pepper

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An Interview with Euan Wilson

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Hello Euan, you are currently touring with ‘Stick Man,’ can you tell us about the play?
Stick Man is a fantastic story about Stick Man trying to find his way home and everyone he meets on the way. It’s a brilliant adventure that sees him meet numerous exciting characters and travel to equally exciting places.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?
I think the audience will take away the wonderful story of adventure – as well as having the songs stuck in your head!

What was your initial response to the Stick Man script?
I absolutely loved how bursting with fun and energy the script is – it’s never slow and has bundles of excitement around every corner. The script works brilliantly for only three performers onstage and I can’t wait to start performing it around the country.

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Have you found it hard bringing a character to life from the book?
So far, I’m actually finding it really easy! The multiple characters I play are really different but all full of life and energy and a joy to play. As well as that my character plays a lot of music on stage and the music is brilliant and really fun to play.

Did you always want to be an actor? How did you get to where you are today?
After deciding that being an astronaut wasn’t for me, I always wanted to do something creative. I loved music from a very early age and then got involved with drama at my school and the local amateur theatre company which I absolutely loved. From there I joined the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain and after leaving sixth form studied Actor Musicianship at Rose Bruford.

What was your favourite book growing up?
I loved reading when I was growing up. I absolutely adored the adventure and excitement in Harry Potter and the Young Bond series, which is one of the main reasons I love Stick Man.

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What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?
You absolutely don’t want to miss this show. There’s more fun, music and puppetry than you can shake a stick at.

Any advice for budding actors?
Go and see as much theatre as you can! Find out where you can get the cheapest tickets from and go see whatever you can. It really is a learn by watching kind of art and the more you see the more you’ll realise what kinds of theatre you love. I would also strongly suggest auditioning for the National Youth Theatre, it’s a great introduction into the world of acting and you’ll have the time of your life!


You can catch Euan & Stick Man as they tour the UK,

from September 2017 to January 2018.

SEPTEMBER 2017
22 – 23 SEP GLASGOW King’s Theatre 0844 871 7648 BOOK NOW
24 – 25 SEP DUNFERMLINE Alhambra Theatre 01383 740384 BOOK NOW
26 – 27 SEP FALKIRK FTH Theatre 01324 506850 BOOK NOW
30 SEP – 1 OCT SALFORD QUAYS The Lowry 0843 208 6010 BOOK NOW

OCTOBER 2017
2 – 3 OCT NEWCASTLE Tyne Theatre & Opera House 0844 249 1000 BOOK NOW
6 – 7 OCT BLACKBURN King George’s Hall 0844 847 1664 BOOK NOW
8 – 9 OCT MIDDLESBROUGH Theatre 01642 81 51 81 BOOK NOW
10 – 11 OCT NOTTINGHAM Theatre Royal 0115 989 5555 BOOK NOW
13 – 15 OCT WINCHESTER Theatre Royal 01962 840 4405 BOOK NOW
16 OCT LEAMINGTON SPA Royal Spa Centre 01926 334418 BOOK NOW
18 – 19 OCT LOWESTOFT Marina Theatre 01502 533200 BOOK NOW
21 – 22 OCT LONDON artsdepot 020 8369 5454 BOOK NOW
23 – 24 OCT PORTSMOUTH New Theatre Royal 023 9264 9000 BOOK NOW
26 – 27 OCT BURY ST EDMUNDS Theatre Royal 01284 769505 BOOK NOW
28 – 29 OCT SOUTHEND Palace Theatre 01702 351135 BOOK NOW

NOVEMBER 2017
1 – 2 NOV BOURNEMOUTH Pavilion Theatre 0844 576 3000 BOOK NOW
4 – 5 NOV BRISTOL Old Vic 0117 987 7877 BOOK NOW
6 – 7 NOV MALVERN Forum Theatre 01684 892277 BOOK NOW
8 NOV TEWKESBURY Roses Theatre 01684 295074 BOOK NOW
12 – 14 NOV NORTHAMPTON Royal & Derngate 01604 624811 BOOK NOW
17 – 18 NOV SOUTHPORT The Atkinson 01704 533 333 BOOK NOW
19 NOV NORTHALLERTON The Forum 01609 776230 BOOK NOW

DECEMBER 2017-JANUARY 2018
18 – 24 DEC MILTON KEYNES The Stables 01908 280800 BOOK NOW
26 DEC – 12 JAN BIRMINGHAM Town Hall

An Interview with Katie Bonna

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Hello Katie, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I live in London, but I am Midlands through and through and I am currently travelling around the UK with my show All The Things I lied About. We hit Glasgow this week, we’ll be at the Iron on 22nd and 23rd September. I’m bloomin’ thrilled.

When did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
I was pretty certain I’d be going into it when I played Supergirl with my sister aged four. I took it so seriously I ended up with a nosebleed from face-planting into our bedroom wall. I was so convinced I could fly.

As an actress, what are the secrets to a good performance?
Before every show I have to do two things. The first is to remind myself that I have never said anything I’m about to say before and the second is to mainline Beyonce. Freedom and Formation are my two favourite songs right now.

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You’ve been washed up on a desert island with a solar-powered DVD player & three films. Which would they be?
Harold & Maude for sure, I love that film. I’m not really a film person, though. I try to be because it feels more cultured but I generally prefer TV. I’d take all of Girls and the complete Alan Partridge as well as Harold & Maude.

What does Katie Bonna like to do when she’s not being theatrical?
I love London. Walking round it, visiting obscure little places, eating all the delicious food! I read a lot, I generally have three books on the go at any one time. I’m reading a glorious book set in NYC in the 70s right now, a sort of sprawling, Dickenson, multi-story wonderland by Garth Risk Hallberg. And I’m a massive yoga-addict. I practice every day and have to find a local yoga studio if I travel with my work.

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You are just commencing a national tour of ALL THE THINGS I LIED ABOUT. Can you tell us about the play?
It’s part TED talk, part brutal, personal confession. It’s a comic exploration of how the little lies we tell every day have led us to a world of Trump and Brexit.

You have both written & are starring in the play. What does it feel like to be so immersed in a piece of theatre?
It’s a lot more intense than acting in someone else’s project. I used to get stressed about doing acting jobs, but they feel like a walk in park after performing my own work! I do enjoy it, though, and the sense of satisfaction when you really connect to an audience is incomparable.

You performed the play at Paines Plough Roundabout & Edinburgh’s Summerhall last year. What have you tweaked in the interim, either stagecraftwise or writingwise?
I’ve changed a lot actually. The heart of the show is exactly the same but I think it’s more well-rounded and crafted now in terms of the script. In terms of staging, we’ve had to move it from in-the-round to end-on. That’s been a big shift, but I think we’ve made it work well.

What emotive responses do you expect from your audience?
I don’t expect anything. Some people have a strong emotional response, especially if they have had similar experiences in their life or can relate to the subject matter in other ways, but I don’t expect anything from the audience per se. Everyone reacts differently, don’t they? That’s the beauty of it for me.

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Katie Bonna?
I have just received funding to develop my new show, which is as yet untitled! I’m working with Live Theatre Newcastle to make it. It’s a three-hander about gender-conditioning, self-censorship in women and the complexities of 21st century feminism. It’s inspired by the classical Greek chorus and my love of Marilyn Monroe. It will be a lot of fun. The rest of the year will be spent on that and drafting a novel that I’m writing for young adults. I’m super excited about both of those things!


All The Things I Lied About is now on tour:

September:

16/09/17 HighTide Festival, Aldeburgh

20/09/17 Norwich Arts Centre

22/09/17 & 23/09/17 Tron Theatre, Glasgow

25/09/17 Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

27/09/17 The Stahl Theatre, Oundle

28/09/17 North Wall, Oxford

29/09/17 Dixon Studio, Southend

30/09/17 Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

October:

02/10/1707/10/17 Bike Shed, Exeter

12/10/17 The Riverfront, Newport

13/10/17 & 14/10/17 The Edge, Manchester

16/10/17 The Shelley Theatre, Bournemouth

17/10/17 & 18/10/17 Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

Queen of Chapeltown

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West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
13 – 15 September 2017

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: five-stars Performance: four-stars.png

A wonderful play, telling the story of how the Chapeltown Carnival came about, and of the first Carnival Queen. At an hour long with no interval, it was the perfect way to portray this informative, important, local piece of history. Throughout, there was lots of comedy; some aimed at the locals (derogatory, yet fond, comments about Chapeltown and comparing it with Roundhay) and some bittersweet quips (“I didn’t know I was Black until I came here”), all performed with faultless comedic timing.

The ‘less is more’ approach of this piece of theatre was arguably its best asset (as Walt Whitman says: “simplicity is the glory of expression”). A sparse set, the use of the whole stage, the radio snippets, the dance and the perfect balance of simple dialogue and periods of silence, made for a thoroughly engaging performance. The actors worked well together and dance was used to evoke the situation and time. This was done beautifully by all the actors, especially the hairdressers’ Mexican wave in one of the scenes, and in the club where actress Elexi Walker used body language to show her character being initially cold and uncertain to the new dancing but thawing and enjoying herself – no speech was used.

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One of the main themes was the racism of the time period and this was portrayed very effectively through radio announcements (a ploy which gave immediacy and credibility to the racist words) and the use of music (such as Nina Simone), as well as the titular character Beverly’s thwarted attempt at scoring a job as a hairdresser. Contrasted to this deep-rooted racism, was the unison of the mothers of black character Beverly and white character Hilary’s quotes that “if you aren’t allowed to cut the hair you should wash it.”

Scenes flowed seamlessly and subtle techniques were used, for example varying the numbers of actors on stage, dialogue and silence, music. One of the most poignant scenes was where character Beverly is shown crying to a Nina Simone record; a counterpoint to the raucous dancing of the previous club scene.

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First-night nerves showed at times; a certain lack of finesse in the actors’ performance and some of the dialogue was hard to hear, drowned at times by the audience’s laughter when the actors hadn’t paused to wait. The end scene depicts character Beverly as the Queen of Chapeltown. The bright colours of her clothes were in stark contrast to the muted colours of Beverly’s previous outfit (such as the white coat and even her pastel blue party dress), and it was remarked upon by character Hilary realising that previously she lived in black and white and the Carnival was the first time that she saw colour. The audience was left with one thought: “Being a Carnival Queen is about honouring your ancestors”.

Reviewer : Georgie Blanshard

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