Bechdel Testing Life, The Bunker

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Women don’t always talk about men.
Women don’t always talk about men.
Women don’t always talk about men.

It bears repeating because it’s often forgotten, ignored or not believed. Popular culture is particularly deaf to the sentiment, and theatre still likes to rely on this inaccurate gender trope. Whilst this has been slowly changing for some time, particularly on the fringe, it’s still a problem.

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Monorogue: Elf Off, Old Red Lion Theatre

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The Salon:Collective’s Monorogue is back again, this time with a Christmas edition. The monologue showcase is now in Santa’s workshop, where perky elf Gingersparkles is interviewing human candidates for a vacancy in the Lapland workshop. Seven lacklustre individuals who can’t otherwise find seasonal employment are created and performed by Salon:Collective actors in this spunky, lighthearted show where the audience gets to vote for the best performer/character. Distinctive characters and good performances are the trademark of this regular event, and the framework around the monologues makes for more palatable viewing.

The set is a simple construction of heaps of brightly wrapped presents, Christmas decorations and toys. It’s easy, cheap and hugely effective in the intimate blackbox theatre. Though perhaps unintended, it is also a lovely juxtaposition to some of the more down-at-heel characters.

The performances are generally good, though some of the characters tend towards stereotypical and miss opportunities for nuance. The standouts are Lucy Gallagher and Louise Devlin’s intense Scottish tomboy Mae, and Angela Harvey’s struggling mum of five Hayley. Rachel Stoneley’s confused but sweet stripper, Jade, is a great way to wrap up the candidates. Laurie Stevens is the adorable Gingersparkles, but she surprises with a ferocious climax that wraps up the evening well.

The scripts have a strong lean towards comedy, which suits the time of year, but some of them lack depth and choose to mock personality traits rather than empathise. Whilst there is nothing overtly offensive and the stereotypes created are identifiable and relatable, there is room for more variation.

Monorogue proves again that they offer an entertaining event that allows actors and playwrights to showcase their talents without taking the more common, in your face approach to self-marketing usually found in showcases. The theme sets the actor/writers a challenge and gives the audiences a needed framing device, and the performances are usually good.

Monorogue: Elf Off is now closed.

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Rhesus, everything theatre

“Trinity Buoy Wharf was new to me as a venue, but certainly worth the trip. It is far from a conventional performance space…There is no obvious stage or audience space…Excellent lighting design by Pablo Fernandez-Baz gives this stark, damp basement with challenging sight lines a polished, professional feel. The set by Zahra Mansouri is minimal, but suits the space well and the audience sit amongst it, included in the world of the play…

“…There is absolutely no actor-audience boundary initially, but this changes when the play properly starts. From then on, there is no contact from the performers…

“The text is spoken well and all of the actors seem comfortable with heightened language. The cast is predominately female…Whether or not it was intentional, due to the cast being very young (late teens to early twenties, I’d guess) it carried a disturbing reminder that many who fought in our past wars were young and child soldiers are a very real tragedy in many places around the world today…

“The most notable features in this production are the regular movement sequences between the scenes. Some are abstract, some capture the brutality of battle and killing. All of them are impeccably choreographed and directed by Ailin Conant of Theatre-Temoin

“The performances in this ensemble piece were good, but as is often the case with very young performers, few stood out. No one was particularly weak but neither was anyone outstanding…

“The venue is certainly worth experiencing in this well-designed production of a rarely performed play. Though a showcase, it is certainly not a difficult one to sit through.”

Read the entire review on everything theatre here.