Tag Archives: winchester

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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Review: Amami!, Hat Fair

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Amami! by Mc Fois

Hat Fair, Winchester [30.06.17]

*Review produced as part of Hat Fair Young Critics

There’s a man standing in a suit was fashioned out of the most garish pair of curtains you could possibly find (Maria eat your heart out girl, those play clothes ain’t got nothing on this). He decides he’s thirsty and tries to silently negotiate with the girl sitting next to me to have some of her water. She declines his pleas and offers of monopoly-esque money and eventually he takes the hint. Possibly having taken the hump (it’s not even Wednesday), he encourages an audience member to pretend to be a bull and he is the matador. What follows of course is a rather amusing display.

After a few more audience pursuits, the show really begins. Mc Fois delivers an incredible display of acuity and bodily articulation whilst bringing three hats to life. The scene has humour and pace that gives Mc Fois the ability to mesmerise the audience with ease… and no hats dropped. This spectacle is only heightened by a partial striptease to a cover of Sex Bomb that sounds oddly similar to the Monster Mash and, Mc Fois emerging from behind a chest dressed as a ballerina. A lucky audience member is then invited to dance with and propose to our blushing dancer and for a moment, it’s like we’re in a real time, extra hairy version of Disney’s Fantasia.

Mc Fois also offers us an exceptionally skillful performance with a diabolo. The sequence is delivered with incredible control and a unique artistry that weaves it into the larger narrative at play. We get a little more stripping later to the glory that is You Can Leave Your Hat On and a broken hearted goodbye to Unchained Melody. And no Gareth Gates in sight!

Verdict: Amami! is an amusing and clever piece of physical theatre that allows an audience to reflect on what desire really means. It also has the best soundtrack that I’ve heard in a piece of theatre for quite some time. Mc Fois is definitely worth seeing this weekend.

 

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Review: How I Hacked My Way Into Space, Hat Fair

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How I Hacked My Way Into Space by Unlimited Theatre

Hat Fair, Winchester [30.06.17]

*Review produced as part of Hat Fair Young Critics

We are sitting outside the Space Shed. And for a moment, I feel like I’m about to experience a live, space-themed version of Nina and the Neurones (which would be a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon). There’s some serious build up, almost a good twelve minutes worth but, part of that of course is due to a late start. Visually not much is happening but, there’s lots of space jargon being chucked about by an unknown voice. Lift off is taking some time but, we’re getting there. Some smoke shoots out of the bottom of the shed and then the music kicks in, something similar to a high speed version of the Octonauts theme tune. And finally, a spaceman arrives in time for lift off. A cross between Fireman Sam and Flash Gordon, Jon Spooner welcomes us into the Space Shed.

We’re inside and well it’s like being in a low-tech, not time travelling, tiny tardis. Jon opens his story enigmatically, telling us about his school years, fears and dreams and, telling us just how much he wants to go to space. We’re about to here how Jon hacked his way into space. And what happens when someone’s about to bend your ear? They do the quintessentially British thing of putting on the kettle… followed by spritzing some water over a few plants. From here on in, Jon will be referred to as Big Jon and his miniature plastic sidekick, Little Jon.

What ensues is a lot of toing and froing between conversations between Big Jon and Little Jon (welcome to their cafe space shed) and Big Jon on the phone to numerous people ranging from Tim Peake to the European Space Agency to his wife. The phone calls are a plenty and whilst the idea behind these interactions is clear, they take too much of this piece of theatre outside of the theatrical world that it is residing in. This level of external activity causes said world to develop cracks and this weakens the overall experience. I wonder if it may have been more engaging for Jon to have performed the conversations – with him playing both participants. He did this at one point to illustrate a conversation that he and Tim had had. A little more of this to replace the phone’s starring role could have made this piece much more exciting and humorous. Given those conversations legs would have also given this piece more immediacy and allowed it to move with an exciting pace. The distancing in this piece made it feel quite long on top of the fact that it was already running 20 minutes over time.

Verdict: How I Hacked My Way Into Space is a show with great potential and is highly educational. However, this rocket didn’t quite make it off the ground unfortunately.

 

 

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