Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Cosmic Scallies, Royal Exchange

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Cosmic Scallies by Jackie Hagan

Royal Exchange, Manchester [07.10.17]

A concrete-esque set up of three benches and an arch way. The labels ’44 Feltons’, ‘Birch Green’, ‘Skelmersdale’ – Dent’s address. A pair of fake uggs and a cardie. A woman (Dent) emerges from behind the the arch way wearing odd socks, tie-dye leggings and layered tops with a mug of what could be tea, coffee or a beverage of multiple of descriptions. Shaun opens the door. And here we have our Cosmic Scallies.

Cosmic Scallies is as much about being disabled and being working class, as it is about the depths of friendship and how are experiences inform who we become but are not the entirety of who we are. These complex and important themes are accompanied by banter about posh pubs and their shit names, the adjectival alliterative names we affectionately give those from our ends and an ode to the best snacks you can get from the corner shop for less than a quid.

We are taken on a journey with Dent and Shaun. A journey that begins with Dent calling up a handy man to remove her late mother’s belongs from her house only for her long estranged school mate Shaun to turn up at the door. The two reminisce on old times, take the piss out of each other, argue over the severity of Dent’s disability and remember why they drifted away from each other in the first place. As the two attempt to pick up Dent’s medication and she is faced with the usual obstacle course posed to the chronically ill (if you follow me on social media, you’ll have experienced my rants about unsigned prescriptions and unavailable meds), Dent is faced with a decision of continually insisting she can do everything for herself or allowing Shaun to take the prescription and resolve the situation for her. In her reluctance and Shaun’s help focused insistence, we journey back in time to their school years. We hear of Shaun’s neglect-fueled childhood and loneliness in primary school and Dent’s experience of bullying in high school, often fueled by Shaun.

But what moved me most about this was the final scene between Dent and Shaun. Dent is in severe pain and her electric has gone. Shaun takes her final tenner to buy them a couple of treats and, returns with some Space Radars, Kit Kats, Freddos and some multicoloured fairy lights – batteries thrown in. And watching the two of them sitting, draped in these lights with their snacks, reflecting on life reminded me of what really matters. The last time I had a rough patch PTSD wise, one of my friends sat in my bed with me and at stupid o’clock suggested that we sit and meditate together. I think he did a good job. I struggled. But it’s the thought that counts and the thought here is that friendship and mattering to each other transcends being popular, having a few bob and feeling okay. Mattering is personal and it’s special. And that uniqueness and truth is something that this friendship and this play truly embody.

What Jackie has successfully achieved is a story crafted with honesty and bluntness. This is a play that turns theatre on its overly middle class head and redefines what makes a story worth telling. Cosmic Scallies is very real. It is a reflection of a life that many people live and if this shocks audiences, they’ve clearly not come up from their slumbers for quite some time. I imagine this play will be described as gritty and hard-hitting because as soon as anything differs from Hamlet or Jane Eyre, all adjectival hell breaks loose. But, what I am going to conclude with is that this play is genuine. A genuine piece of theatre about people who do matter and whose stories deserve the same recognition as those that are more palatable and/or Instagram friendly.

Verdict: Cosmic Scallies really is a special offering among the mounds of mediocre theatre that gets chucked at us daily. It is the hidden gem at a car boot that makes your Sunday afternoon. But, most importantly, it is truly relateable for the skint, the disabled, the struggling and the hopeful. An important play that almost got a tear out of me – theatre tapping into my feelings at its best.

 

 

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Review: The Believers Are But Brothers, HOME

The Believers Are But Brothers - photo by Jack Offord

The Believers Are But Brothers by Javaad Alipoor

HOME, Manchester [10.10.17]

Two men. Gaming. Interneting. The Internet.

Javaad Alipoor’s The Believers Are But Brothers is an exploration of the deepest darkest corners of the internet, breeding grounds of extremism and men lost to their obsessions to make somewhere in this world ‘great again’. Part performative lecture, part storytelling and part audience participation, this piece attempts to immerse us in a world that is only a handful of clicks away on Google.

On the most part, this immersion is successful. We are escorted on a journey alongside three young men, none of whom lead particularly exciting lives. It is with these men that we go from their mundane daily lives and things that bother them into a toxic realm of online forums that treat comments and videos of slaughter and rape as mere lunch time banter. Chuck in a handful of extremist magazines and we’re already well on our way to a side of the internet that no one really wants to see. Or rather a side of the internet, that some choose to see because it speaks to them and it gives them a voice in a world that they feel tramples on them. Even if they fail to realise that the world tramples on plenty of people other than them.

Prior to this show beginning, audience members were asked to join a Whatsapp group and during the show, we would be sent messages ranging from memes of Lionel Richie to slightly more sinister messages arranging meeting places for extremists. Now, I imagine that these messages and experiencing this part of show, immerse an audience in this subject matter on a much deeper and unsettling level… that’s if you actually receive any messages. I was surprised that for a show that was so tech filled, there was no support offered to audiences beforehand (I had told a member of staff that I was not receiving messages) but also the lack of tech equipment available. I am not suggesting that devices should be provided to all audience members as such, however there is an assumption made that audience members have the equipment and/or knowledge to access this part of the show. This in itself is a reflection of who this show can be for and I question a show that has such a significant message but can only be partially experienced by its audience. Not all phones have the capacity for Whatsapp and not everyone has or can afford a smartphone. How do these audience members fully experience this show? Or is this only for the majority? Something for the masses. A modern day technological old boys’ club…And it’s all very well to suggest sharing with the stranger next to you but no one really appreciates a random peering at their phone when anything might pop up. After all, you’ll need your data switched on…

Despite this accessibility issue, I do feel that Javaad has created an important piece of theatre. His performance is compelling and he possesses a knack for storytelling that successfully entices audiences and makes us believe that we are truly in this dystopian digital world. He successfully highlights the prevalence and silent creeping of the internet into our daily lives and, uncovers the unsettling notion that one might be able to change society’s DNA through the power of the internet.

Verdict: an important show tackling interesting subject matter with an interesting concept for audience immersion – though this needs a little more thinking

 

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Review: Kissing The Shotgun Goodnight, Contact

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Image: Noelson Dace

Kissing The Shotgun Goodnight by Christopher Brett Bailey

Contact, Manchester [04.10.17]

‘This is a hell dream… This is a hell dream… This is a hell dream’ 

…it sure is.

Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight is a piece of music theatre blended with spoken word poetry. As an ex poet, I thought this would be right up my alley. I should have known that things would not bode well when encouraged by four people to put ear plugs in because this was going to get loud. Now is probably a good time to say that noise was most certainly not the problem.

This piece begins with three overhead lights glaring at the audience. We can see the outline and shadows of a multitude of amps in the darkness on stage. Spoken word emerges into the space. This is an unconventional approach to sharing spoken word but I’m not entirely sold on having the words and nothing else. If this were a radio piece, sure, yeah, but in the theatre, it just wasn’t doing it for me.

I was hopeful though as a women with a violin walked out on stage. The lights dimmed and settled on her. The control and passion she played with was compelling and began to draw me in. However, this connection was quickly lost due to the barrage of noise that followed. As an ex SLT student, I’m really not a fan of referring to sound as noise but in this case, I will make an exception. There is a point at which sounds are so loud that they pulsate through you and it gives you as je ne sais quoi kind of feeling. However, surpassing that perfect point leads to a loss of meaning and feeling like you have the worst headache (and not in an artistic, i’m reflecting kind of way). What follows is a multilayered sandwich of noise and ominous spoken word that feels rather artificial.

Sitting through this reminded of a brief stint I had working in a factory near Byker. I was packing Dove for Men Christmas gift sets, all day, non-stop with a scratched Atomic Kitten album playing in the background. Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight is not as bad as this Atomic Kitten album, however I came out of this performance feeling the same way I did after my first (and only) day of working in the factory: tired, uninspired and switched off.

Verdict: Dull.

 

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Review: People, Places and Things, HOME

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People, Places and Things by Duncan MacMillan

HOME, Manchester [27.09.17]

We’re looking at a big, white, lidless, front-less box with a crepe paper-esque back wall. The walls have a tiled effect and a padded air about them. This isn’t the best way to debunk the cliches that surround rehab and psych treatment units but still lets hope what follows is somewhat of an improvement.

Our piece begins with a barrage of sound that can only be likened to being in the middle of an augmented reality of a wild, 90s version of laser tag. We are then dropped into a replica of Chekov’s The Seagull. We are here only briefly until Nina has a nose bleed and time splinters and changes.

People, Places and Things is an exploration of a woman’s drug and alcohol addictions and, her journey through rehab. Though Emma is quite the comedian, there is clearly something very dark and unsettling bothering her. We first encounter Emma as Emma in a reception area. She is on the phone quite frantic giving instructions to the person on the other end about things they need to do in her house. She spends a lot of time calling this person a cunt. It turns out to be her mother. Very affectionate.

But of course, this heart warming moment is disrupted by a half dressed man with ‘the end’ written across his chest, charging into the reception, shouting and ready to fight a nurse with a chair. To shut him up, they give him an injection and plonk him in a wheelchair. Yes, all the mental health stereotypes alive and kicking. Just what we need more of…

Emma is a compulsive liar. She lies about her name. She lies about her life. She’s an actor and so there’s an argument that she lies for a living. Emma has a lot of blackouts and one suicide attempt under her belt. She also has the sense of humour that only forms when you’re sick of tired of being asked whether you have plans to harm yourself and how you’re feeling today. Sarcasm is her vice – it’s almost as important for her functioning as the drugs are – potentially more.

Emma never finishes anything. Violin lessons, diets etc she just doesn’t follow through. And this is the quality of Emma that is most relatable – addict or not, mental illness or not – we’ve all got a back log of things that we never managed to finish or didn’t have the motivation to follow through with. And it is this universal quality, that can make Emma’s story accessible even if you’ve never experienced addiction and mental ill health.

We watch her journey through rehab: rubbing people up the wrong way, falling off the wagon, hating everything group based, denying needing help and eventually embracing the support of her group and practitioner. But most importantly, we see her realise that it’s not about ‘being fixed’, it’s about being okay with ourselves and addressing things that have impacted who we are and how we function. None of us our broken. Some of us just need a little extra help to realign ourselves with our surroundings and work through things that have affected us.

Lisa Dwyer Hogg gives an incredible performance as Emma. She animates and embodies Duncan Macmillan’s words with skill and control. The character of Emma is well formed and developed however, the same cannot be said for some of the other characters in this piece. Many of the rehab participants felt quite hollow, as did the character of Foster at times. It was disappointing that all of the people of colour within this production played some of the seemingly less developed characters.

Verdict: Some strong performances and important themes but too many cliches and stereotypes.

 

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Review: Gutted, HOME

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Gutted by Liz Richardson and Tara Robinson

HOME, Manchester [20.07.17]

Three toilets. One lid up. One lid down. One lid-less. The sort of breakfast bar that you’d found in the Studio Christmas catalogue. A cake stand filled with at least nine delights. Some flowers. Some ‘Thank You’ cards. Red Sauce. Brown Sauce. Lots and lots and lots of Activia Yoghurt.

Gutted invites us to listen to Liz’s true story of her experience of ulcerative colitis. It is a comic and honest exploration of a medical condition that has a drastic impact on quality of life, but is yet to become a condition that the general public have a good awareness of. Liz takes us on a journey through her hospital trips and treatments and, her feelings surrounding what happened to her at different points in the process. Her exploration of shame, pain and dignity is highly moving and prompts the audience to empathise (rather than sympathise) with her experiences.

What truly made this show unique was its ability to share a serious topic with humour, but also its method of raising an audience’s knowledge of a medical condition, without giving off the vibe of a boring science lesson. Liz draws her digestive system on to her torso and marks out the changes that the surgery she is asked to undergo makes to this system. The process itself is described via voice over as Liz draws. This reminded me of a number of things: the bits of A Level Biology that were actually interesting, my time working on hospital wards as a trainee SLT and my sheer love of diagrams. This was a very informative element of the piece which did not feel out of place nor did it feel as though we were sitting in a lecture. I always like to leave a show knowing that I’ve learnt something and it’s refreshing to leave with a heightened knowledge of something concrete rather than leaving solely with abstract ideas and feelings. That being said, Gutted gave me lots to think about in terms of how we as individuals perceive the experiences of others and how we navigate feelings surrounding shame and stigma.

Liz is incredibly gifted at drawing laughs from the audience, as she is at making them comfortable. This stretches as far as her inviting audience members onto the stage to read aloud notes in her thank you cards, in exchange for a fairy cake or a bottle of beer. Despite usually not being a fan of audience interaction, I felt that this was well executed and it almost (we’re not quite there yet) tempted me to volunteer myself. That alone, is an achievement!

Arguably the most hilarious element of this show is the input of Liz’s stoma to the conversation. It is both an interesting and clever concept to give the stoma a voice within Liz’s experience, especially when it certainly knows how to crack a joke about its day job, “it’s not an easy job, gotta deal with whatever shit gets thrown at you”. Giving a not-so-inanimate part of the body an opinion, welcomes us to understand Liz’s situation from a multitude of perspectives. This is also built upon by the myriad of characters we encounter who were part of Liz’s journey. We meet everyone from a ‘softly spoken nurse in crocs’ to one of her slightly dippy colleagues, ‘Matt’. Initially, I found it a little difficult to follow the character changes (Liz performs every single character). However, the display board behind her included the names of all characters and highlighted individual names as she performed them, this was a really useful tool and certainly aided the accessibility of this performance.

Verdict: Gutted is a hilarious, honest and important piece of theatre that raises awareness of a health condition that conversation is far too silent on.

 

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Review: The Marriage of Kim K, 53two

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The Marriage of Kim K by Leoe & Hyde

53two, Manchester [15.07.17]

I promise this is not a Kardashian car crash (not sure whether that will encourage or dissuade you from reading), quite the opposite actually, it’s pure genius.

I’ll be the first to stand up and be counted for having an issue with the Kardashians and this opera hasn’t changed that. It has however used Kim as a trope to tell a compelling story of three unusually intertwined relationships: Amelia and Stephen (they’re not famous yet or are they), The Count and Countess (from Beaumarchais’ The Marriage of Figaro) and of course, Kim Kardashian and her 72 day husband, Kris Humphries.

Our welcome party begins when we join Amelia loafing out on the sofa after a long day to eat and watch TV – relatable much. The music that escorts is a charming classical arrangement with undertones of the best Hilary Duff megamix you could possibly get your hands on. This of course sets the scene for Kim’s entrance. Yasemin Mireille gives a truly on point performance as Kim, to the point where every time she comes on stage I roll my eyes the same way I do when someone mentions the real Kim in any capacity. She has the mannerisms down to a T and this shows itself perfectly in her makeup tutorial demo. Her interactions with Kris (played by James Edge) are hilarious and almost had me wondering whether the real Kim and Kris were ever capable of being this entertaining. Having said that, Kris appears to be the sort of sex hungry pig that you’d bump into in Flares and spend the night avoiding and, James delivers this unfortunate vision with continued high energy and skill.

On to the Count and Countess (played by Emily Burnett and Nathan Bellis) and my, my these two have some pipes on them. The singing is really quite exceptional and both actors deliver a passionate and at points humorous story of the breakdown of their relationship. This sandwiched alongside flashes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, with Amelia and Stephen as the filling and you’ve got yourself a slightly odd but captivating dose of TV focused weekday evenings dropped onto the 53two stage.

What’s truly enjoyable about The Marriage of Kim K is that it makes opera accessible and offers us a trio of love stories that we are able to relate to one if not all of them in some sort of way. The cross referencing of The Marriage of Figaro with Kim and Kris’ 72 day wedded bliss is just brilliant. I came out of this wanting to further analyse parallels between these post joining of hands dramas. The juxtaposition of the worlds in which these relationships reside gives us an opportunity to reflect on our compulsion as people to try to mend things and our methods of deciding when to let things alone.

Amelia and Stephen (played by Amelia Gabriel and Stephen Hyde) are in fact a real life couple and their relationship was weaved into the redevelopment of this show. Everything about this is ridiculously cute and whilst I’m not big on cute, I’ve watched a Kim K inspired opera so my life views have been changed in a temporary form of forever. Both Amelia and Stephen give honest and engaging performances that really pull us into their world and make us root for them to sort out their differences. Whilst I cannnot understand Amelia’s obsession with Kim, I temporarily had a similar one with Peter Andre (well, watching his show My Life) and I guess on those grounds myself and Amelia are rather alike. Mozart on the other hand, well I guess I can compare Stephen’s obsession to my ex watching the same three Steven Seagal films over and over.. The contrast between the couple’s Kim K vs Mozart obsessions are hilarious. Arguing over the TV is such a regular part of daily life that we forget how much of a controlling device a remote actually is. Yes, this was certainly a very relatable format which was a great way to ease opera virgins like myself into the genre.

Verdict: The Marriage of Kim K sounds torturous but is in fact a brilliant way to spend a Saturday afternoon at the theatre. I encourage all Kim K fans and phobes alike to go and see this pleasantly surprising and wonderfully entertaining show. Nice work, Leoe & Hyde.

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Review: 10000 Gestures, MIF @ Mayfield

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Image: Tristram Kenton

10000 Gestures by Boris Charmatz

Mayfield, Manchester International Festival [14.07.17]

We’re invited into the eerily empty Mayfield depot. The sense of abandonment is very real as we await some sort of action beyond the brightening and dimming of the light strips eagerly positioned on thirteen pillars. One woman bursts into eye line and what follows is a bizarre but honest physical analysis of the human condition and its ever-evolving state.

Set in an evocative space, the orgy of compulsive movement that unfolds from the myriad of bodies is nothing short of mesmerising. Reactive and challenging, we are watching bodies being bodies. Each movement is nuanced and present and occurs within the uneven sandwiching of frantic action and unnerving stillness. This is much more than a spectacle in that it challenges us to decide whether we want to give meaning to each movement. And what’s more important is that we are free to react to that how ever we please – there isn’t a concrete or correct answer in this thoroughly peculiar pursuit.

Heavily rhythmic and rife with precision juxtaposed with indecision, 10000 Gestures isn’t meant to give us specific bits of information at specific points in time. Its purpose lies in proposing 10000 opportunities to its audience and welcoming us to choose, though not always freely, what we would like to devour and digest. But in placing us in uncomfortable and uncertain situations with little freedom over what occurs, Boris Charmatz has successfully replicated a typical state within our existence, in a unique yet unsettling environment. It’s probably not the average person’s cup of tea to have a bunch of half naked shouting people climbing on top of them, touching them or requesting that they perform specific actions, but this is an experience that doesn’t even have tea on its radar. At points, you are wondering ‘what the fuck’ is happening and why and, everything about that reaction is okay. This was never going to be a comfortable experience and I imagine that people who hoped for one probably wanted their money back. It was however the most original and absurd thing that I have seen in years and for that I wholeheartedly commend it.

The 10000 gestures offered to us are a display of punctuation for the human existence, that takes us on a journey of lust, elation, desire, insanity and pain. This was Fantasia for adults on a stagnated treadmill heading for a euphoric revolution. The aim here was not to lead us to a destination but give us an abundance of tools to reflect on what’s what and where’s where, without getting overly existential about it. A multitude of scenarios without a frame to stop and start in allowed space for a slightly disheveled audience to compose themselves among the chaos that was occurring both on and off ‘stage’.

Verdict: 10000 Gestures is a captivating, raw and challenging display of bodies being pushed to the brink of their abilities and existence being measured, dissected and reassembled before our eyes. It is exposing, both literally (a few knobs and bums are flashed about) and metaphorically of the fragility and vulnerability of our existence. But most importantly it welcomes us to reflect on our resilience and in that there is healing. Nice one, Boris!

 

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Review: Available Light, Palace Theatre

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Image: JJ Tiziou

Available Light by Lucinda Childs, Frank Gehry and John Adams;

performed by The Lucinda Childs Company

Palace Theatre, Manchester; part of Manchester International Festival [07.07.17]

Edging forward. Black. Red. White. Two quartets and a trio. This is what silence sounds like.

A repeated phrase occurs constantly. Duets, trios and quartets of dancers complete the phrase in cycles. Changing direction is juxtaposed against moments of static. There’s a techno xylophone vibe in the air and we watch the phrase repeated again and again. Different groupings moving completely in sync, commencing the sequence at different times. And then it elapses.

This is more like a pause than a fermented stop. It’s like the moment that you spend waiting for a lift to start moving or for a programme to buffer on I-player. This moment is minuscule in the grand scheme of things and usually a pocket of time that we would miss or flit away. Yet baring witness to stillness is something we rarely have the opportunity to subject ourselves to. We don’t get to hover in time and watch movements in their infancy transpire from fine to gross: it is not a privilege that comes with modern life. Pace moves much faster than we do and we’re left in a cycle of aspiration and failure to keep up. Each time we observe the same eloquent phrase, it is not merely to display technique. It is to bring us into consciousness and ask us to question all the moments in our lives that may well be mundane, linear and robotic.

Following suit is compulsive. We cannot help but respond to the storm in a teacup that reflects going through the motions. Moving together in unison brings power but standing still surrounded by organised, regimented chaos demands a certain sort of composure. But that is a state that is not easily acquired when perched on a pedestal that is somewhat out of sync with its surroundings.

There’s an urgency, an increased systole-diastole dynamic in sound. It’s almost irrelevant whether you are stopping or starting because what if state you’re in your experience is shared. It’s part of a greater movement.

Available Light is as much about stagnated progress as it is about transitioning forward, and stillness. Red lights give bodies a golden statuesque complexion, whilst white lights soften the heat to a pale bronze. A wake up call to reality. We come into this space along. Exist both together and separately. Then leave alone.

Verdict: This was a very unique piece of dance and for that it should be commended. Possibly not one for anyone with very wayward attention, though I have the attention span of a flea and was with this all the way. Original, thrilling and conscious.

 

 

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Review: Table Manners, Hat Fair

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Table Manners by Avant Garde Dance

Hat Fair, Winchester [01.07.17]

*Review produced as part of Hat Fair Young Critics

A couple are sitting in a restaurant. We are aware that something needs to be said and that there is both a reluctance and awkwardness about this unspoken segment. A waiter is a third wheel, ever so keen to lose the tricycle scenario and form a bicycle with the woman in pink. We have a triangle upon us. Drinks are poured aplenty. Polite table politics soon become disembodied into questioning and exploring relationship dynamics and cultural shifts. Manners aren’t always in need of minding.

Table Manners is an energised, honest and compelling piece of dance that encourages us to reflect on the habitual behaviours that surround food and mealtimes and, how such behaviours can be reflected within our wider world relationships and our feelings towards ourselves. This is a work of dance-theatre that transcends the boundaries of the audience being mere observers and invites us into a space that is constantly transforming and changing its rules of etiquette. From Brexit banter to self-service checkout debuts, this is a world in which what happens physically and what is said can both complement and defy each other simultaneously.

What is quite captivating about Tony Adigun’s choreography is the importance of moments in their many shapes and the silent discussion that they introduce and manipulate through movement and occasional break off interactions with audience members. It is not often that dance theatre welcomes audiences to partake in the world and still be exposed to the same level of powerful dance performance almost in their lap. Performers Duwane Taylor, Julie Minaai and Sasha Shadid are attentive to audience participants and invite them to live in the world in a shared, intimate environment.

Dance theatre provides a platform to open dialogue and make reference to societal situations that are avoided, sidelined or misunderstood. Through movement, music and pockets of language, Table Manners invites us to acknowledge the harsh reality of colonialism and how it is still able to rampantly white wash experiences. We see Julie eating Chinese take away with a piece of East Asian music playing in the background. This is soon drowned out by the blaring of Rule Britannia overhead. This was a striking and powerful moment that truly laid bare the reality of how even eating a meal has become a specimen for British modification. This moment was visually striking and poignant and reminded me of Seeta Patel’s brilliant dance piece, Not Today’s Yesterday.

Speaking of captivating moments, watching Duwane and Sasha frantically nestle clementines in the folds and cuppings that Julie creates with her body is rather beautiful. Given that citrus fruits symbolise good fortune for a new year within Chinese culture, it is interesting that Julie’s two love rivals wish to inundate her with an overflowing gifting of clementines, which by the end of her ordeal she no longer wants. Sometimes we’re placed into situations where we are given a lot and expected to want and be grateful for what we have been presented with but, this removes a sense of freedom and agency around what happens to us. This is a moment that allows us to reflect on choice focused moments in our lives. It is quite unlike anything I have seen in dance theatre before and for that reason, it will certainly hold a place in my memory for ways to welcome an emotional response in an unconventional and unique manner.

Verdict: Table Manners is a welcome party to a platter of behaviour patterns surrounding food and human relationships. The strength of cultural reference points juxtaposed against the pastel costume palette allows for us to focus on the multiple narratives at play whilst appreciating the visual synergy of complimentary colours and off the chain physicality. Avant Garde Dance are a company I look forward to seeing much more of.

 

 

 

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Review: Mr Lucky’s Party, Hat Fair

 

avanti-1000x500Mr Lucky’s Party by Avanti

Hat Fair, Winchester [30.06.17]

*Review produced as part of Hat Fair Young Critics

 

There is a set up that resembles a café. Think Allo Allo but, on a patch of grass. I’m five minutes late due to getting a little lost on the way from the last show I watched to this location. There’s a man looking as though the world is about to end (and so last moments may as well be spent being irritated about it) standing at the counter. Weaving in and out of the audience, we have an elderly man draped in a sodden Inspector Gadget style raincoat. He wears a glum look and is carrying an umbrella that is truly making it rain about him. As he passes me, I to experience the downpour that is following him with more cling on strength than a shadow. I’m not drenched but rather wet – note to self: don’t be late to a performance, you will end up covered in water.

This elderly man is Mr Lucky and it’s his birthday. There are no balloons in sight but hey, at least he’s in the café and out of the rain. But of course, he heads to a parasolled table and the rain starts again. Yep, it’s his lucky day that’s for sure. He proceeds to attempt to have tea with a woman who is unimpressed by his water attraction skills. She didn’t ask him to make it rain and so, she’s not about to fake amusement. SPOILER: But, like all charming, comedic shorts. Mr Lucky gets the gyal in the end (yay).

Avanti have successfully crafted a comedic short that in part harks back to the days of Laurel & Hardy, yes remains within the remit of the modern world via Great British Bake Off undertones. This is not just a piece of theatre about bad luck and hope saving the day. Avanti have offered us an insight into aging and the loneliness that this can impose on us. It’s also about finding and feeling love in the most unexpected settings and being okay with that happening. Mr Lucky bears a wonderful resemblance to Mr Ben but with the potential to be an extra in Carry On Cabby. He wants a change and on his birthday he’s going to do something about it. I’m sure many of us have written too many bucket lists that have often been triggered by fears around aging and not having achieved enough or used our time wisely. Mr Lucky encourages us to act in the now and throw caution to the wind because there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have a go at reaching for what you truly desire.

The cast delivered a strong comedic performance with intention and nuances within their subtle physicality and each of them can lip synch like an absolute trooper.

… in to each life some rain must fall, but too much has fallen in mine…

Verdict: Happy birthday Mr Lucky and thank you for inviting me to your ‘getting your shit together/there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious’ party.

 

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