How to Survive a Post-Truth Apocalypse, Battersea Arts Centre

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by guest critic Amy Toledano

Francesca Beard delves into the complex subject of truth and looks at how it could be perceived in a post-apocalyptic world. Using spoken word (which Beard is clearly a pro at) as well as song and multimedia imagery, the audience takes a journey with their Shaman and guide Francesca who hopes to lead them to the real meaning of truth.

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Not I, Battersea Arts Centre

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by Laura Kressly

Surrounded by darkness, The lower part of Jess Thom’s face is lit by a black hoodie with built-in lights. ‘Cats – biscuit – hedgehog’ frequently punctuate her rapid-fire, stream-of-conscious speech.

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Notorious, Barbican Centre

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by guest critic Nastazja Somers

It wasn’t by accident that I ended up seeing The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein’s new work The Notorious at The Barbican Centre. Give me feminism, plenty of liquids and general messiness on stage and I’m there, screaming my head off, like when Lucy McCormick performed her Triple Threat two years ago at Edinburgh Fringe.

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Jane Doe and The Shape of the Pain, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Though the fringe is still often gloriously lo-tech, more shows and venues are embracing and exploring the role technology can play in live performance. New Zealand-based Zanetti Productions’ Jane Doe and China Plate’s The Shape of the Pain are powerful, challenging productions that use tech in different ways from each other, but it is essential to both and enhances the productions’ impact.

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Hamlet, Harold Pinter Theatre

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Hamlet may or may not be Shakespeare’s magnum opus, but the Dane is unquestionably one of the greatest roles in the English language. Theatre’s pop star Robert Icke, what with his reputation for hot takes on the classics, no doubt found the play’s allure irresistible. This Hamlet, freshly transferred to the West End from the Almeida, is a slick, beast of a production surpassing three hours. Undeniably contemporary, it does its best to smash the restrictions of the proscenium arch with a celebrity cast and achingly cool, Scandi/corporate design. His casting of Andrew Scott in the title role and subsequent character choices makes this a Hamlet for cool young people on the hunt for profundity, depth of meaning and instagrammable aesthetics.

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Thought to Flesh, VAULT Festival

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The ice bucket challenge did a lot to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease. But how many people who froze their tits off because their mates dared them to actually learnt anything about the condition? Probably not many, so other means of educating about the condition are needed. Supported by the Wellcome Trust, Thought to Flesh creators Nathalie Czarnecki and Gareth Mitchell worked with doctors and researchers to develop a work that shares the human side of MND in an episodic montage following a young woman’s life with MND.

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The People Show 124: Fallout, Toynbee Studios

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Making devised work for the past 50 years, People Show are nothing less than prolific. Their multidisciplinary works are numbered as part of the title; the company’s works now number 132. To celebrate their anniversary, the company’s taken over Toynbee Studios for three days, filling the venue with performances, films and an exhibition celebrating their half a century of work.

People Show 124: Fallout, first performed in 2013, is resurrected here. The piece deconstructs speeches by public figures and adds light, sound and film; the overall effect is one of provocative absurdity – isolated soundbites lose all meaning, even in a world that’s said to be falling apart. This short piece drives its point home quickly and efficiently and stimulates the senses, but with its message emphasising meaninglessness, it soon becomes repetitive.

Everything in the room is white, even the padded floor is powdered with talc to add an additional layer of frost. Pillows attached to the walls evoke a soothing dreamscape. But soon, pulsing colours disturb the peace as the cast of four fiercely deliver snippets of text. The lights are often so bright they are uncomfortable, even though the colours are childlike and fun. The juxtaposition is clever and sharp, and the switch from austere to saturated is an effective one.

The actors’ tone ranges from gentle to antagonistic, with a decidedly post-apocalyptic bent to the text. Projections of sweeping desert landscapes back up the promises of nuclear fallout, though the dreamy atmosphere from the beginning still lingers – what is real, and what is the product of our subconscious? The disconnect from reality diminishes any potential meaning, making the outcome decidedly absurd, even though the intention seems to want to carry more weight.

This colourful world enhanced with gorgeous projections, bright lights and music is integrated  with the text, though there is a lack of development in the core idea of the piece. If real life is has no purpose and we’re better off in a dream because the world is hellbent on destroying us, that’s fine – but a performance telling us that is not an easy thing to execute and in this case, not done fully effectively.

People Show 124: Fallout is now closed.

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