The Marriage of Kim K, Arcola Theatre

http://www.islingtongazette.co.uk/polopoly_fs/1.5113070.1500466866!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_630/image.jpg

by guest critic Maeve Campbell

In 2011 Osama Bin Laden was killed, Pope John Paul II was beautified, and Kate and Wills tied the knot. Nearly as many people watched another televised wedding that year  as a new reality-TV religion swept the globe. This is where The Marriage of Kim K, a new opera penned by Leoe Mercer and Steven Hyde, begins.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Worlds, VAULT Festival

rsz_cuqpbbhxyaavfql

by guest critic Willa O’Brian

Housed in the studio space at the Vault Festival, which exudes graffiti-chic and pulls hip, supportive and discerning audiences, Bruised Sky productions presents Worlds, written and directed by Martin Murphy. Worlds opens with a nondescript pop song of the ilk that seems intended to tug on one’s heartstrings. The kind you hear over a montage of the hero of the rom-com sadly perusing photos of his ex-girlfriend when he has an epiphany about how to win her back. Needless to say, not an auspicious start, but we discover that one of the characters, Bas is a Dublin-boy living in London making a killing at being a musician, “mostly pop, really if I’m being honest with myself.” In a world where the number of downloads rather than emotional authenticity are the barometer to success, the track overlaying the opening is a rather fitting choice.

Continue reading

Narcissistic Nativity, Fucking Little Elf Bitch, Rosemary Branch

rsz_nativity-website

After 20 years running the Rosemary Branch, Cecilia Darker and Cleo Sylvestre moved on to pastures new in June this year. Unattended Items, a company with a focus on interactive theatre and design-led work, took over and have been busy programming work that has similar practices to their own.

Their Christmas bill of adults-only shows is no different. Urban Foxes Collective’s Narcissistic Nativity is a feminist, live art piece fighting against the patriarchy; Mammalian’s Fucking Little Elf Bitch is a one-woman show on the perils of working in a grotto. Both break down the fourth wall and use non-linear structures, and both need some tweaking for the sake of clarity, but this pair effectively balance current issues and laughs.

Continue reading

Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight, Ovalhouse

rsz_kissing_the_shotgun_goodnight_credit_the_other_richard

Along with tickets, we are handed earplugs. Considering Christopher Brett Bailey’s first work This Is How We Die, I’m not surprised. A brilliant, relentless barrage of contemporary American myth followed by an encore of noise and light, Bailey isn’t known for doing things by halves, or even singular wholes. The slight, constantly startled-looking Canadian with gravity defying hair attacks performance making with the energy of a supernova. Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight has the same verve, but is otherwise a rather different beast. Whilst This Is How We Die was dominated by language, Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight has very few words – but the earplugs are definitely needed. This anthemic music and light show fills the room with sound, colour and vibration but is the difficult second album to This Is How We Die. Much more of a gig than a piece of theatre, it lacks the satisfaction of characters and narrative, even a hint of one. Bailey’s mind blowing poetry teases with a few tiny fragments, but otherwise leaves us desperately gagging for more of his words.

Though given earplugs, there is the choice of whether or not to use them. Notices state that the sound level is consistently over 100 decibels and that, “if you wear plugs the whole time you might compromise enjoyment of the show. and if you don’t wear them at all you will take home whistling ear canals”. Being one of those people sensitive to loud noises who constantly asks my other half to turn down the telly, I want to play it safe but I don’t want to miss out. So I opt for one plug in, with the other ready. This choice no doubt effects the experience – if I leave them out the whole time and feel discomfort, would I like the show less? Or would I like it more because it’s not actually ‘that’ loud? I use the plugs in response to the volume level – sometimes I have both in, sometimes none. It’s an interesting premise to consider that the experience and quality of the show hinges on these earplugs, adding an additional level of individual, subjective response.

Bailey’s voice, slow and unseen, repeats, “this is a hell dream” in a brief textual introduction. Violinist Alicia Jane Turner uses loop pedals to sculpt a cinematic score reminiscent of mid-90s rock anthems. Her work is wonderfully angry, sweeping and alive. George Percy and Bailey are both on guitar, forming a silhouetted triptych with Bailey soon in the middle – amongst the monolithic speakers and flight cases forming a brutalist, urban landscape, he cuts the figure of a scrappy dystopian overlord. It suits him. If this is what hell is like, it’s fucking glorious.

Behind each performer is a wooden panel of about a metre square made of deconstructed pianos and their strings. These are visually impressive structures in and of themselves; their music evokes the violence and community of tribalism. Combined with excellent sound-responsive lighting (that malfunctioned to the point that the show needing to be stopped briefly), the overall effect is one of epic, soul shaking community.

The title paired with the music evokes the American paradox of a friendly but violent people who love their guns as much as their families. The music’s scale captures the expanse and variation of the North American landscape, and the few words he shares on the experience of waking up from a nightmare to find the world unchanged darkly foreshadow Trump’s America. Whether or not this is an intentional message, it is certainly a powerful one.

Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight is certainly wide open to interpretation and shows Bailey’s ambition and range as a performer of work designed to push the senses to their extremes. His textual dexterity is certainly missed (particularly by the coked up, flailing pair of young women sat next to me commenting on how disappointing this work is compared to his first) and comparatively this piece is somewhat disappointing, but it absolutely has its merits as a visceral, “fuck you/I love you” performance piece.

Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight tours nationally through November.

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.

Torch, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

https://i0.wp.com/www.underbellyedinburgh.co.uk/images/uploads/Torch_updated_for_web.jpg

We’re in a club toilet. Not a nice one, either  – there’s no loo roll, lipstick and graffiti pepper the cubicle walls and door. Jess Mabel Jones is an unnamed woman out with a friend, but after a lot of vodka and some coke, she feels self-conscious, past it and wants to hide. Reflecting on the life choices that brought her to this newly-single moment of remorse, she chronicles past lovers, committed relationships, eating disorders, panic attacks, and youthful exploits. Whilst longing for her youthful, perkier self with thinner legs and a tighter arse, she manages to celebrate the woman she has grown up to be in all of her flawed glory. Jones is an absolute firecracker of a performer who slams herself around a robust script baring lived female experience in all its rawness.

Phoebe-Éclair Powell’s text is an extended monologue of fragmented experiences and memories punctuated with pop songs. It doesn’t shy away from visceral topics, though the transitions from text to music are abrupt with little lead-in. The character she paints alternates between vulnerable and endearing, and ferociously bold. She is an everywoman with experiences that most women can relate to on some level and reminds us that despite going through moments of absolute despair and self-loathing, women are incredible.

It’s not just about girl power, though. The character’s anecdotes are funny, moving and compelling stories that are accessible to any human that has grown up, had sex, been in a relationship or felt they don’t meet society’s expectations. She is haunted by the woman she hasn’t become and simultaneously unapologetic about her.

Director Jessica Edwards incorporates plenty of movement, though some seems gratuitous it prevents the performance from becoming static. Amelia Jane Hankin’s set is both industrial, messy and glittery, an outward expression of the character’s spirit.

Jones’ performance is what makes this production worth seeing. She has a stunning voice, emotional vulnerability, and electric charisma. The songs she covers become the millennial generation’s torch songs as she delivers them with a power and depth. She rallies the audience to her side despite behaviour that could be viewed disapprovingly by more conservative audience members because her commitment and connection to the script is as truthful as it possibly can be. Torch is not one to miss.

Torch runs through 28th 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.

You Tweet My Face Space, Theatre N16

rsz_you_tweet_my_face_space_c_boots_&_cats_productions_9

David and Charlotte’s ten-year relationship is on the rocks. He’s struggling with an addiction that’s pushing her out of his busy life, but David’s social media and internet habits aren’t allowing him to give Charlotte the attention she deserves. When an indiscretion on a night out is immediately published and Charlotte leaves him, David vows to quit cold turkey. It’s not so easy though. As the personified apps crash his peace and quiet, this romcom takes a surreal, satirical turn. With bitingly funny moments, good comic timing and some good performances, this surprising one-act is a great giggle for those of us enslaved by technology.

Tom Hartwell is the bookish, quiet David who’s frustration becomes real and relatable. He’s wonderfully foiled by characters such as Hotmail (suave, aloof Hadley Smith), self-obsessed Instagram (girl next door Ellie Goffe with a heart of gold) and Facebook (subtly vicious Evan Rees). Tinder (Kate Okello), Farmville (the wonderfully dour Katie Dalzell) and a couple of others join in to try to persuade David to stay in the internet realm, and some glorious clashes ensue with plenty of digital pop culture in-jokes. Pacing is excellent, as is the energy and ensemble work of the cast.

Hartwell is also the playwright; he has good intuition for the relationship story arc that frames and justifies the chaos, though the moral is a rather obvious one and not particularly profound. His dialogue is punchy and fun, regularly inducing laughs. (It would be interesting to see what his serious material is like.) Director Anne Stoffels has her hands full with a large cast in a small space, but usually manages to keep the action moving without messiness.

For a social media comedy, You Tweet My Face Space is well crafted and even though some of the performances are weaker than others, it reminds us to take a break from our online worlds and interact with people face-to-face more often. It’s a fun, frivolous piece with some excellent moments and a bit of post-holiday season fun.

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.