The ‘It’s Not Fair’ is a stark and unsettling examination of one of the greatest humanitarian issues of our time, as performed by Michael and Rebecca Peacock. The pair use music, clowning and puppetry to tell four very different stories of human trafficking. They go from old-fashioned Punch and Judy-esque joking (“Before tonight, I hadn’t spoken to my wife in years – I couldn’t get a word in edgeways”) to suddenly embodying the roles of slaves and the criminals who trick, imprison, sell and use them for menial labour and the sex industry.
There is a real intimacy in the performance, and this is not lost even in the spacious Buxton Methodist Church. The frequent costume changes and technical requirements of the performance were clearly demanding, but the pair never let the intensity drop, and there is always something interesting to look at and think about onstage. The puppetry of a boy in an Indian labour camp was brilliant and sensitive, and the use of screens to gradually hem characters in was subtle and clever.
They carry an important message about the often neglected realities of slavery today
It was hugely informative; I was particularly surprised both by the forced labour camps in India, which are essentially modern concentration camps, and the existence of slavery in England, especially London. The ages of many girls forced to work in brothels in places like the Philippines is also thoroughly disturbing. Despite the obviously grim subject matter, there is ultimately an uplifting message as the duo explain what is being done to combat the issue internationally and how to make a difference yourself. It certainly had the right effect on me, as I left feeling moved and inspired to explore the matter further.
Acting Alone is an ambitious and provoking project undertaken by Ava Hunt. Indeed, it is both a work of theatre and a project in challenging its audiences to not view the conflict between Israel and Palestine as beyond help and not our problem. Inspired by her own work in the West Bank, Hunt takes on a number of roles (and accents), fluidly transitioning from herself to a Palestinian soldier to an Israeli soldier from Birmingham to a knowledgeable Australian. It is sometimes funny, often moving, and engaging throughout. She initially asks whether she is qualified to talk about her subject, but by channelling the many voices that she has come across she is able to create not so much a story as a stark tapestry of the situation.
The show is not just confined to events in the West Bank, however. Hunt tells anecdotes from her life which create a more personal feel, and lights a match when telling apocryphal tales which expose our own loss of morals and standards when dealing with foreign issues. One of the most poignant moments was her comparison of heroes, one a nurse saving Jewish children in the Holocaust, another an outraged young writer and activist crushed when trying to stop an Israeli bulldozer. She argued that there was a commonality in their heroism, and wished that Israeli children could be shown a play where a character says ‘we are all made of carbon’, which would help them view Palestinian children as the same. The audience is used for minor interactions, she passes round schoolchildren’s drawings and has members create a rectangle with string in which she stands. The mechanics of theatre are used for her to ask whether we should be a sedate audience or stand up and become performers for what we believe is right, regardless of the cost. Whilst the show won’t start a revolution, it is the kind of thing that can help shape our moral and social fabric to approach the West Bank with hope.
Well, it was for one night only, so I’m afraid you have missed one of the best shows of the Fringe. Innovative, exciting, daring, intelligent and beautiful are all words that come to mind when I think about how to describe it. It was hugely original and inventive; the play went between operatic performances of Schubert’s work, scenes from his life and interactive games with the audience as if we were also in the tavern. The scene where two aspects of Schubert’s consciousness converse about love, death and music was very bold and clever. Indeed, the entire script was clever, as we took a hectic journey through the hectic mind of a genius; there was not the order that Schubert’s father would have wanted, but our minds, like Schubert’s, were constantly turned from the harsh realities of life to sumptuous music to bawdy games. The transitions from music to scenes of Schubert’s life, although sudden, were wonderfully conceived and confidently performed. The play was a delight, full of varied roles and ideas about music and art, love, genius, death and oppression.
The performers were four outrageously talented individuals. All excellent actors, taking on both comedic and more sensitive aspects to each role, their performances were elevated to the sublime with their musical ability. All had stunning voices as they performed extracts from Schubert’s Lieder, and they all went through a variety of instruments, playing the piano, harp and French horn. The ability to go from performing the beautiful music with incredible craft to performing a range of characters and emotions was superb. It was a real privilege to watch such talented performers who clearly have bright futures in the music and theatre industry. What else can I say? Only that if you didn’t see it, I’m sorry – this was a truly flawless production.
Jules Vernes epic yarn about a Victorian adventurer setting out to circumnavigate the world in 80 days has long been a favourite of readers, and indeed of Fringe audiences, who have seen a number of adaptations in recent years. This production, however is something a bit special, a fizzing cauldron of invention, energy, humour and fun from the members of Oxford University Drama Society. With just a simple (but ingenious) set and a host of everyday props that can be employed in numerous clever ways, Jules Verne’s story is brought to life in a completely fresh, albeit occasionally joyfully idiosyncratic and anachronistic way.
The cast of eight, playing a huge number of characters work impeccably as a team. Amongst them, as the hero, Phileas Fogg, Peter Sayer is all buttoned-up precision, a man out to prove his scientific point, rather than to win his massive gamble. As Fix, the detective in pursuit of him, Luke Rollason has a nicely understated comedy, breaking the fourth wall with a gentle touch. In a number of smaller roles as well as providing dextrous guitar accompaniment, Madeleine Walker brings energy and sparkle. But the star of the show (apart from the elephant!) is Ellie Wade as Fogg’s manservant, Passepartout, a role played with a brio, with such bright-eyed joie de vivre (as well as with such an outrageous accent) by this talented actor. It’s a standout performance that reminded me of the young Miranda Richardson in Blackadder, throwing everything at the audience, without ever tipping it over.
Director Helena Jackson and her cast have breathed life into this classic tale in an entirely modern way. Catch it while you can.
Butterfly are back for another year with their always popular Shakespeare underground. For this year’s Fringe they bring “As You Like It” to Poole’s Cavern, turning the cave into the Forest of Arden Festival, following Rosalind and Celia on their quest for love. This modern day interpretation of the text really brings out the humour in one of Shakespeare’s best loved plays. The script has been pared down to just the main plot of Rosalind and Orlando’s love story, while pursued by Phoebe and Silvius, to make the performance an hour long. This was probably a very good decision – the cave is really cold. On that note, bring a coat, and flat shoes.
The actors have a fantastic energy through the show, dashing through the cavern, improvising little lines and quirks which makes each performance special. They use the cave to their full advantage, perhaps a challenging performance space, but they take it in their stride, climbing up rocks, and mud banks (which is a little nerve wracking at times).
Music is used throughout the show to create the festival atmosphere, all of the actors either playing instruments, or singing and dancing – which the audience is very much invited to join in. Music is used to begin and end performances, and for a couple of scene changes, and it turns out the dancing makes for an excellent way to stay warm underground. The music works wonderfully with the cave acoustics, although due to the echo occasionally a few spoken words are lost, when spoken a little too fast or too loud.
None the less, the plot is very easy to follow, even without having to understand the nuances of Shakespeare’s language. The characterisation is strong through the play, and the actors go out of their way to be as bold and brash with each personality as they can.
Butterfly has created a very fun, flirty play, suitable for all ages. An understanding of Shakespeare is not necessary (something warm, however, very much is). This is a beautiful piece of theatre, in a fantastic setting. The play travels through the cave, with each scene in a different chamber. Butterfly are always a Fringe Favourite, and for good reason.
The Ash Girl is a dark retelling of the classic fairytale Cinderella, told with a backdrop of a world shrouded in monstrosity –literally. We see Ash Girl (Ashie), played by Robyn Edgar, struggle through the torment of her step sisters, the pressure of growing up that all three girls receive from her step-mother, and the constant persuasion of Sadness attempting to end her life. A spark of hope comes in the form of the fairy whose survival relies on Ashie believing in herself, who sends her to the ball where she falls for the foreign Prince. But that isn’t the end of it...
Initially, I was apprehensive about this play being a condensed version given that it is typically two hours long. However, I did also have high expectations as REC Youth Theatre Company are Fringe regulars whose performances are often well received. Given this, I was impressed by most of it but disappointed by facets.
The smaller cast of nine did an incredible job with such a challenging script. Timberlake Wertenbaker does not shy away from strong characters and they accomplished this however, at times the actors seem to be drowning under the pressure of delivering a Wertenbaker text.
This does not apply to everyone. Ellie Burke was not the lead character, but she was the one that consistently commanded the stage. The air in which she presented her characters was controlled and mesmerising, and for a teenager to assert herself as not one, but two strong characters is an incredible achievement, particularly when professionalism was definitely lacking from certain cast members. Robyn Edgar also deserves individual praise. Her beautiful portrayal of Ash Girl creates an empathetic audience thanks to her wonderfully realistic characterisation of a downtrodden girl looking for a glimmer of hope. Another standout was James Chetwood. His stupendous articulation and energy every time he came onto the stage was incredible, even when he barely spoke as Boymouse; and the scenes with him and Burke as Amir and Zehra respectively were electrifying.
In spite of the individual mentions, the company shone as an ensemble, working well together to create an entertaining production. Diction was lost in places and the all important ‘no backs to the audience’ rule was forgotten at times, but these are minor in the grand scheme of what is an impressive show.
Director, Kitty Randle has created an incredible production. How the cast have managed to utilise the multi-rolling, the minimalist costuming, and set restrictions is a credit to her. Whilst it isn’t the best production at the Fringe, it is definitely not one to miss.
United Reform Church Wednesday 22 July 2015
An evening round at number 59 is both appealing and repellent. Richard and Isabelle have invited us, the new neighbours, round to theirs to welcome us to the neighbourhood and proceed to regale us with songs about the other residents in the street. ‘It’s what we do, write songs about what we think they get up to!’
Appealing because it feeds into each of our ‘need to know’ all the gossip about those we live amongst. Repellent because the songs are not always kind and what will their song about us be?
As we walk down the street we get a glimpse and insight ‘behind the blinds’ and also into the dynamic of the relationship of Richard and Isabelle. The singing and playing of this talented duo bring to life this cast of curiosities. I was genuinely moved, as I think Isabelle was, at the memory box song; cringing at the cloying relationship between Kevin and his mother Mary and amazed at the goings on at number 51!!!
This was good fun with lots of interaction with the audience. Humour, pathos and down right bitchiness coupled with clever lyrics and great performances made this an enjoyable hour spent in the lounge of our new neighbours.
Well done, thoroughly enjoyed.
After studying this at school I was familiar with the story and really looking forward to seeing this performed live. Probably the best known of Alan Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’ series, this is a monologue.
For those unfamiliar with the story, it features an elderly lady named Doris who has had a fall at home. She recounts stories of her life, which are both funny and sad. The venue, although small, seems appropriate for the story, as it allows the audience to feel part of Doris’ situation. The simple but clever use of lighting reflects the passage of time in which Doris recounts her memories. Again, although the set was simple it represented the starkness of Doris’ story.
Deborah Kelly’s performance was extremely impressive and captivating. She managed to deliver the comedic style whilst also conveying the repressed emotion of the monologue. Throughout, she drew the audience into Doris’ life, making it a thought-provoking experience. What was even more impressive was that Deborah Kelly carried the whole 35 minute performance on her own without fault.
This was the first of four performances and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough if you are looking for a well written and fantastically performed story. It is on again on the 17th, 18th and 25th July, 7.30pm at the United Reformed Church green room.