#Tweetingit – A story about the memories of an old blind man told through physical theatre, mime, sound and a live score – it’s going to be a tearjerker!
A play presented entirely through physical theatre, mime, sound, illusion and a live score may not be to everybody’s taste, and if I hadn’t already been converted to this style of show by Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Translunar Paradise, I would have my reservations. I was, however, converted to the idea of wordless drama by this show and so am looking forward to Theatre Re’s Blind Man’s Song.
Inspired by interviews with blind and visually impaired people, a Blind Man’s Song is a tale about one man’s rage against his world of darkness. Composer Alex Judd promises to create a live soundscape; onstage noises being amplified through a microphone to reflect the sensitive hearing of someone who is visually impaired coupled with a live violin and keyboard to combine a rich harmonic score portraying the emotional journey of the characters.
I am already certain that this story of love courage, courage and hope told through the eyes of an old man recalling times gone by, with nothing but the music, physical theatre and my own imagination to fill in the gaps where words would otherwise be, is going to turn me into an emotional wreck; I am looking forward to it.
Review date – 28th April
Running from 27th April – 15th May and then on tour until 28th July
#Tweetingit – 5 friends, one locked room. The prize for escaping, a bottle of aphrodisiac wine – what could go wrong?
Escape rooms are a big thing at the moment, I’ve seen them in myriad different themes: Nuclear holocaust, Zombie survival, Fallout-esq communist invasion, but the main thrust remains the same, get some friends, lock yourself in a room, solve some clues by the time the clock runs out and win….or don’t….and lose. Lady Chastity’s offers a new slant on this well-worn formula. Proudly announcing itself as “Crystal Maze on Crystal Meth” (which I initially thought was a heart breaking headline about Richard O’Brien) up to five people are offered the chance to hunt for the last bottle of Lady Chastity’s famous aphrodisiac wine, by locking themselves in a room and solving clues.
You might be asking yourself “how is this any different from any other escape room, and further more can’t I get the same experience with a cheap bottle of plonk and my bedroom wardrobe?” And the answer seems to be in the set dressing; the main escape room theme stay the same but Lady Chastity’s might offer you a genuinely unique storyline to go with it. After all we’ve all seen a million dystopian films, survived numerous nuclear winters, fought off hordes of zombies and battled the red peril into submission, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say not many of us have invited up to four close friends to go on a timed Easter egg hunt for a potent aphrodisiac (I know some of you will have, but I’m not here to judge).
Let’s go through the potential reservations you might have: puzzles are by their very nature frustrating, and nothing ruins your fun like frustration. As a person with a notoriously short fuse (I still hold that Red Faction is the best video game ever because you could circumvent the puzzles by blowing holes in the wall with a rocket launcher and when trying to open a jar, I have been known to smash it while angrily doing the “knock the lid on the work surface” trick) I wonder if Lady Chastity’s will be able to hit that fine line between puzzling and utterly irritating. Or perhaps you’re ambivalent about having a host in the room with you – on the one hand they could be a marvellous companion who buoys you up and gives you helpful clues, or they could become a significant distraction as you try to solve the riddles – perhaps that’s the whole point? On a personal note I’m also a little concerned about how drinking a generous amount of supposedly aphrodisiac wine, coupled with the thrill of winning, will change my relationship with the four friends I invited…
I guess once again the proof will be in the pudding (if we can find the pudding before the clock runs out) I myself am thoroughly looking forward to it and have started training by hiding bottles of wine around my flat and then giving it the mandatory fifteen minutes before someone of my age forgets everything they’ve done for the last four hours. It may not be making me a better escape artist but it does make cleaning the flat more rewarding.
Review date – 12 March at People’s Park Tavern
Running from now until 31st December
Venues – South London – The Four Thieves, East London – People’s Park Tavern, Brighton – Black Lion Pub
#Tweetingit – A 1920s immersive evening? Will I get out alive or end up a ganster’s moll? I’ll don my flapper dress & head to The Tick Tack Club to find out
The Roaring Twenties were cool, there’s no two ways about it. It was the decade that brought us the flapper, art deco, dance clubs and the Jazz Boom. And, if we wanted to take a peep into the seedier underbelly of New York or London, the rise of Al Capone and men sewing razor blades into the peaks of their hats. The Tick Tack Club lets you step back in time and have a taste of all these things. Situated under a bridge in an undisclosed location (like a hipster troll) the club is split over two levels; the upper level promises the visitor a night of Great Gatsby-esqe partying with a decadent five course menu based off the food of Georges Auguste Escoffier. Guests are encouraged to sample the cocktails, listen to the live jazz and dance the night away with the rest of the “fine young things”. If your tastes run a little darker then downstairs is the place you will want to be. Entering through yet another hidden door you descend into the murky gambling den of the Elephant Boys gang where you’ll join some more nefarious types in a singsong round the Old Joanna, traditional pie and mash and maybe even make some ill-advised bets on the ponies.
The night is rounded off by some potentially interesting characters, you might have your fortune told by the prophetess Esme, and if you’re really lucky you might even be “stood up” as a full member of the gang. Personally, spending the night in a Peaky Blinders inspired secret dance club sounds like the best thing that South London can offer, but I do have a few concerns. Will American style art deco fine dining mesh with old school cockney knees up? Once you’re thoroughly involved with one level of the TickTack Club, will there be any impetus to go and experience the other parts? As with all immersive experiences, will my enjoyment depend on the level of commitment from the people around me? And most importantly will I come home short a few fingers due to an unfortunate hat based incident? Of course, the only way to find out is to attend and you’d be a fool to let any lingering concerns put you off because one things for certain, the TickTack Club has the potential to be cool – cool as a Cillian Murphy smile.
4* – Kate Tempest is an incredible poet and writer. A poignant look at our relationship with alcohol and wasted opportunities
“A play by the UK’s most exciting performance poet and rapper.” This may not sound like everyone’s’ cup of tea, however, having seen Wasted at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, all I can say is – WOW. Debuting as a playwright, Kate Tempest has written an extremely poignant, thought-provoking and moving piece about the difficulties of growing up.
On the 10th anniversary of their friend’s death, the story surrounds three protagonists; Charlotte, Ted and Danny who are dragging themselves kicking and screaming out of their teenage years into ‘the real world’. They are battling with the dramas of normal, boring life – feeling suffocated in the cosiness of their relationships, disillusioned with their ordinary jobs and wasting their lives getting wasted following missed opportunities.
Seemingly aimed very much at teenagers and university students; the majority of the tour dates are at Student Unions, this isn’t just about student life – in fact, it is even more relevant to those no longer in the depths of youth. Every part of life has its struggles and Wasted is written in such a way that it is applicable to those much older and younger than the characters on stage.
At 26 the characters still want to have fun but realise that if they get too drunk on a Saturday then their Sunday is wasted, they can’t clean the house or go to Ikea to pick curtains and then they’re back to the monotony of work the next day. It is also hinted at that this doesn’t change later on, there’s other responsibilities; kids, grandchildren, elderly parents – without saying it and making an exhaustive list of woes throughout life, Kate Tempest has hit on all of this while making it relevant to the entire audience
This isn’t all doom, gloom and misery though. There are some genuinely funny and touching moments which ensures that the audience don’t just sit feeling desolate. The nice things of being in your late 20s are alluded to and even the characters seem to realise by the end that it isn’t the end of the world that they aren’t rock stars, extremely wealthy or unable to change the world.
Not content with just writing a great script, Tempest and her team have created a feast for the senses. To compliment her words, technology is used to enhance every part of the play. Emotional monologues are heightened by close ups of the actors faces on a large screen – expressing the feelings which perhaps are suppressed on stage, the screen also creates much of the set throughout the play – a park or rave. The lighting by Angela Anson is simple but extremely affective, while Tom Gibbons’ and Kwake’s music is moving and continues to add to the endless levels of intensity within this show.
Poetry is scary for a lot of people but Tempest’s clever use of language to create this urban style of verse makes it all so easy. The language is very strong in places but in no way does this feel gratuitous. Kate Tempest is a true craftswoman – carving out stunning verses which can be understood by anyone and moulding a wonderful story to compliment the poetry with transitions between the two not feeling in any way unnatural. This can also be very much tributed to the incredibly talented cast, Cary Crankson, Alice Haig and Bradley Taylor, who work with the verse and pros with ease, finishing one another’s sentences and taking on the lines very naturally. Nothing feels forced, no words are used just because they fit. Everything which is written and said is there for a reason, it is sincere, beautiful and honest. This is an innovative, modern and completely unmissable play ranking high above the rest. You will not feel that your evening has been wasted – book a ticket for this play.
4* This will take you back to your childhood – whatever age you are now. I defy anyone not to have a smile on their face during this show.
The Sherman Brothers are two of the most famous songwriters in film history. I doubt there is a person alive who can’t at least hum a song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or who doesn’t think about “A Spoonful of Sugar” whenever they’re cleaning. But what may be unknown is that the Sherman family have been writing songs for three generations and during “A Spoonful of Sherman” the audience are taken on a wonderful trip down memory lane and treated to an amazing cornucopia of some of the best of the Sherman family’s talents.
A Spoonful of Sherman features top West End singers, Stuart Matthew Price , Greg Castiglioni, Charlotte Wakefield and Emma Williams alongside Robert’s son Robbie – who is himself a writer of musicals. Robbie narrates the evening with a clear sense of pride. If you have a renewed interest in the Shermans following the recent Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson film, Saving Mr Banks about the making of Mary Poppins, A Spoonful of Sherman and the wonderful family stories about them really rounds off the tale perfectly. The heartwarming stories about his family, from Al Sherman, his grandfather, to his uncle and father Richard and Robert Sherman and on to his own life, really give a personal touch to the evening. Projections of family photos and memories of their lives give extra feeling and emotion to the songs as well as a wider understanding of how the songs and lyrics came about. It brings a new meaning to many of the lyrics when you understand their backgrounds and this makes the evening that little bit more special for the audience.
The most important part – the singing – is also rather beautiful. The quartet aren’t “just” singers but musical stars themselves. This brings a bit of vigor to these timeless classics as they interact with one another and really perform them, bringing the characters to life for just a moment. All of the company are fantastic singers and there isn’t a moment that is not enjoyable. However, the star of the show is the incredible Emma Williams; the original stage Truly Scrumptious. She has the most beautiful voice, she captivates the audience and adapts her voice wonderfully for the various styles of songs. Having spoken to Robbie Sherman after the show and having Williams in the company is rather special for him. His father was big fan of hers and so Robbie believes this would have made him particularly happy – especially when she sings the shunned from the stage musical “Lovely Lonely Man” – one of Robert Sherman’s favourites.
There is something for everyone in this chronological skip through the Sherman songbook. Firstly are Al Sherman’s songs, some of which may be lesser known by the younger audience members but are still quite lovely. There will still be a few which most people will recognise including Lets Get Together from The Parent Trap. Next up are all the favourites from The Sherman Brothers themselves including a medleys from Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book. Don’t worry, all your toe tapping favourites are in there and you can even have a bit of a sing along. Finally are the compositions of Robert Sherman, some of which are from his musical Bumblescratch. Songs from three generations provides the perfect completion of the story of the Sherman family.
It was interesting listening to the songs out of the context of the musicals and also listening to them properly as an adult. The lyrics are quire stunning and the expertise and immense talent of The Sherman Brothers shines through. Their songs are powerful and emotive – they’re not all about sickly sweet Disney themes, these songs really are beautifully crafted. One particularly emotional moment was when Robbie Sherman took to the piano to play River Song from Tom Sawyer, written for him by his father.
I am not going to pretend that you will enjoy this if you are not a fan of Disney musicals or of the Sherman Brothers. You will not be turned around from disliking that sweet style that they produce. However, if you love a bit of nostalgia, enjoy flying a kite, singing with orangutans, feeding the birds or wondered what the wonderful thing about Tiggers is, you will have a Truly Scrumptious evening at A Spoonful of Sherman. Leaving the theatre with a spring in my step, I don’t expect my sugar rush from this evening to be over for sometime.
5* Beyond stunning – there are no other words for this show.
The audience leave the theatre in silence. The women wipe away the mascara and try to blot their red eyes while the men puff out their chests and try to pretend that it didn’t effect them. It is absolutely astounding that a production with no words and done purely with physical theatre and mime, can have the sort of affect on you that Translunar Paradise has managed to have on an entire audience. Ad Infinitum’s fantastic production takes you through the life, death, enduring memories and fervid love of a couple, tackling the loss of loved ones, of youth and of the person you once were.
The synopsis in the program of this play does not do it justice. Portraying the lives of a couple who have been together through good times and bad, the story confronts the subject of what it is like to go through bereavement at an old age; losing the person in your life you have loved most, the person you have been through everything with and whom you have rituals and habits with. Left alone following the death of his wife, the elderly man has to learn how to cope. With the help of his wife (not really a ghost but a more of a presence) he learns to let go of her and work out how he will function without her. In turn this allows her to leave as well; her mind at rest that he is going to survive.
There are only two performers who play the couple in both their early and later years. The use of some extraordinary masks, which despite being unmoving, had endless emotion coming through them, and the impressive physicality of the actors – minute shakes in their hands, slight unease on their feet and then the complete opposite for their younger roles, means the audience are completely sucked into the story.
The sound was incredible and it was all done with nothing but an accordion and the musician’s voice. The accordion served as a way to push the story along; it was a clock, the wind, breathing as well as producing resplendent melodies and beautiful wordless vocals. Each song had a theme which led the audience to understand what era the characters were in and whether we should expect a happy or sad moment.
Mention physical theatre and people roll their eyes. Trust me: there should be no eye rolling her. A mixture of interpretive movement, physical theatre and mime allows the audience to see this couple of dancing through their lives together from their first meeting to their final moments. This production is brilliant because it explains the simple things which affect people when their partner dies in a way that words cannot. For 60 years he has got out 2 cups from the cupboard and poured for both himself and his wife. Now she is gone, what does he do with the other cup? This is a feeling which is indescribable so they don’t try to. Words would not work here. Yes the significant moments are seen; their first meeting, a heart breaking loss, her getting her first job, him going to war, but this isn’t about the big things. Instead it is the day-to-day stuff which one must continue on with despite having lost their loved ones.
Despite being extremely sad it is also heart-warming. There are some achingly funny moments tinged with sorrow – as she steals her cup from the table to stop him from continuing with his rituals, much to his shock. The relationship between the characters , their playfulness and their understanding of one another after a lifetime together, is still evident despite the grief they are both feeling having lost one another.
The Marlowe Studio have really never let their audiences down with the quality of productions they have hosted. Having seen four shows there, I have been blown away each and every time by the effect the shows have had on both me and the rest of the audience. The close proximity to the stage and the ability to bring the audience into the performance by way of clever sounds, lighting and sometimes even smells, ensures a very different theatrical experience to that in a larger auditorium and Translunar Paradise is just the next level of brilliance brought to this theatre.
Just mentioning his lone tea cup after the show brought tears back to my eyes. An unbearable image so perfectly portrayed. This show was highly praised when it was at the Edinburgh Festival and it is quite understandable why. Yes the narrative is a tad predictable but it really does not matter. Yes it is sad, but the tears are worth it. Go to see this show – if for nothing else but to realise physical theatre really can be a beautiful and powerful art form if done as well as Ad Infinitum have.
5* An emotive, stunning piece created and performed by an extremely talented writer and cast. Dialogue-less mask work at its best.
A fully masked play with no dialogue about dementia? Well that sounds like a harrowing night out – but I promise, this is a play which is more than worth the tears.
If you ever ranked types of theatre with mime firmly at the bottom, Finding Joy will change your mind completely. I was certainly one of those people who would never have considered going to see a mime/mask performance but in the last few months, I have seen two fabulous productions, including this one, and I wont look back.
Finding joy is the touching tale of 83 year old Joy. She’s suffering from dementia but it’s happening pretty slowly. At times, she is as playful and alert as she has ever been and then those moments hit where she is confused, lost, out in a road on her own with no idea how she got there or who she is.
Her unlikely savior is her rebellious, drug taking grandson who realises that he can help her and becomes, not only her carer but also her friend. The love between the two main characters is portrayed beautifully.
In lucid moments, she is a bit of a trickster, playing practical jokes on her grandson and daughter for her own amusement. These moments are made even more poignant when a few minutes later she is putting a card in the fridge or rubbing toothpaste on her hands before bed.
Told with no words, just a beautiful soundtrack echoing different periods of Joy’s life, the magic of this production is the incredible story telling through mime alone. The unmoving masks, created by Russell Dean, somehow have expressions; you see them smile, sigh, look sad or look confused.
Vamos are masters at what they do this production emphasises that they have managed to secure their place as one of the best full mask companies around. They certainly know how to pack a punch, never shying away from the difficult or sentimental moment but balancing them brilliantly with touching and tragically funny moments. When Joy is sat with her grandson and his friends watching football and decides the cushion is a hat – they all join her – why not?
Some people may not appreciate some of the stereotypes – the uncaring nurse in the hospital or loud music playing, drug taking youths but when using mime and masks, it is difficult to remove such stereotypes or add in subtleties without losing the meaning.
Clever writing and talented actors have managed to create a show which will make you laugh while tears pour down your face; seamlessly going between the two extremes is not an easy feat to achieve.
It got to the end and I was surprised it was over so soon. So many shows leave you pleased that it is finally the end; not Finding Joy. Content in that world, watching the story unfold, it was sad to see it end – although I was running out of tears to cry.
This is no longer running at the Marlowe but is on tour around the country until June 12th 2014