The Moor, Old Red Lion Theatre

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by an anonymous guest critic

Lucie’s play The Moor uncovers the nightmarish reality of Bronagh (Jill Mcausland), a new Mother stuck in a state of abysmal claustrophobia from the landscape which she is in constant fear of and an abusive relationship with her partner Graeme (Oliver Britten).

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For a Black Girl, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Ava Davies

Nicole is tired of not seeing herself onstage. Nicole is tired of people telling her that racism and sexism don’t exist. Nicole is angry and she is ready to do something about that.

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Custody, Ovalhouse

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By guest critic Alistair Wilkinson

HOPE: A feeling of expectation and desire for something to happen.

How do we cope when we don’t get what we want? How do we beat a system that is set up to make you fail? Custody asks just these questions, as we are taken on a two-year journey of a family’s struggle for justice for their loved one, twenty-nine year old Brian, who died whilst in police custody. Through this eighty-minute narrative, we see four different individuals cope/hope, whilst their questions are left unanswered.

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Generation Zero, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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A nameless couple meet online, fall in love and build a life together. Their lives are comfortably boring, with day jobs, road trips to the beach, holidays in a Yorkshire cottage and lazy weekends snuggling in bed, listening to records. They are almost identical to any contemporary middle class, suburban couple, but something’s not quite right.

Their world is just a bit off. They run out of gas, but they can’t go to the shop to top up their gas meter – they aren’t allowed to exceed their monthly allocation. There’s talk of restrictions on travel in order to cut pollution levels. He’s ambivalent about the environment, but she’s a political activist who devotes more and more of her time to a local group campaigning for change. He wants to spend more time with her, but she’s always out in the evenings, planning actions with the group, so he takes action of his own.

Becky Owen-Fisher’s debut play Generation Zero looks at the battle over the environment through the lens of a young couple in a poetic, episodic script that unsettles through it’s familiarity and the complacency with which (most? some?) people approach political issues. The story doesn’t viciously attack climate change, but takes a gentle, sinister approach that gets into your bones. Owen-Fisher has a good instinct for dialogue and imagery-laden narration that easily flows in and out of naturalism, adding just enough variation in style to keep the audience lightly unsettled.

Director Tom Fox attacks the script with lightening fast transitions; these could be slowed a bit for the sake of keeping up with the actions and the to-ing and fro-ing through time. Without sound and lighting signifiers, they would be totally unclear. Some important moments are also rushed, particularly towards the end, causing the gravitas they should have to be glossed over.More stylised physicality would also be welcome to coordinate with the stylistic changes in text.

The two actors are excellent; Jordan Turk and Francesca Dolan have a gorgeous chemistry that’s lovely to watch, made more romantic by dream-like lighting. The sheets and pillows covering strip lighting on the stage’s edge creates a lovely ethereal effect, destroyed by their reveal at a pivotal moment that also reveals the truth of their relationship’s dynamic – a great choice.

Perhaps some adjustments could be made to the script to transform it into more of a propaganda piece and place a stronger emphasis on the environmental collapse that is merely hinted at, but to do so would cause the piece to lose its delicacy. This is a promising play from an emerging writer with an important message that deserves to be heard.

Generation Zero runs through 29th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

A Nation’s Theatre: Wail and The Beanfield, Battersea Arts Centre

For two months, theatre makers from across the country are coming to London to celebrate the state of British theatre. One of the A Nation’s Theatre venues is Battersea Arts Centre, currently hosting the double bill of Little Bulb’s Wail and Breach Theatre’s The Beanfield. Wail is an exuberant cabaret about whales and human expression; The Beanfield uses multimedia to examine the impact of police violence on peaceful people and the need to fit in. Though different from each other in content and tone, both Little Bulb and Breach play with performance conventions to create innovative new structures that are at the forefront of theatre performance.

WAIL_Little Bulb Theatre

There’s a lot of science in Wail, and a lot of musical instruments. Actor-musicians Clare Beresford and Dominic Conway, performing as themselves, also have boundless enthusiasm and impressive music repertoires. With material ranging from folk to metal, they share their enthusiasm for whales through songs alternating with monologues of scientific facts. Their charisma and cheer keeps these sections engaging, particularly with the addition of audience interaction. Though the overall energy is light and positive, Beresford’s melancholy for never actually seeing a whale in the flesh provides a bit of contrast to the Male Whale Choir, a hilarious whole-audience exploration of whale songs that males use when on the pull in the coastal waters of Madagascar.

There isn’t as much material on the promised exploration of why humans wail, but a song about why they sing songs is a tender, poignant homage to feeling fragile. This fun, frivolous show is light on the gravitas that a bit more time on this topic could bring, but Wail is still a wonderful, joyful piece as is. The symphonic final number is a fantastic climax wrapping up an excellent contribution to A Nation’s Theatre.

The Beanfield_014_please credit Richard Davenport

The Beanfield by Warwick University’s Breach Theatre wowed audiences at Edinburgh last summer, and understandably so. Drawing on the historic clash between new age travelers heading to Stonehenge and police fresh from the miners’ strikes, they add the framing device of a uni reenactment group researching the event in order to recreate it, and a counter narrative of a group of students going to Solstice. It’s a sophisticated script with plenty of absurdity to lighten the bleak depiction of police violence against unarmed civilians, but still serves as a potent reminder that this happens today in the UK and abroad. Part documentary, interview footage with witnesses on both sides is broadcast liberally; even though the inclusion of police is sympathetic, The Beanfield firmly supports the travelers. Rightly so – pregnant women and children were among the 600 or so attacked with truncheons and projectiles by 1000-odd police.

There is no explicit link between the Beanfield story and that of the contemporary, skeptical students at Solstice, but the inclusion of the latter provides some necessary humour. It’s not a needed subplot though, and detracts from the power behind the political statement of the Beanfield standoff. The script is a great collage of experiences past and present, the sweet naivety of students juxtaposing the atrocities that happened at thirty years previously. The Beanfield, a bit less polished than Wail, is still an excellent piece of theatre with some important thoughts on police brutality.

With multimedia at its forefront, The Beanfield captures the rapid-fire sensory bombardment of present day youth and the desire to instigate change as well as fit in with our peers. Wail, mostly analogue and much less angry, implies the importance of conservation and sympathy for all creatures, human and not. Both shows excellently address concerns of people in this country and experiment with performance, fitting contributions to A Nation’s Theatre.

Wail runs until 23 April, The Beanfield until 21 April then touring.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.