REVIEW | The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage | Bridge Theatre | NT Live

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Reviews, Technology, Theatre

I can’t believe it was 18 years ago that I saw Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials from the National Theatre with incredible puppets provided by Blind Summit. I can still remember it vividly. I was gripped from start to finish and sat for 15 minutes after the show weeping in the stalls with my friend… until an old lady came and jabbed us with her stick… which I think was her way of gently encouraging us to leave.

Anyway… It’s safe to say I had immensely high hopes for this show!

And, wow, I was not disappointed!

by Manuel HarlanA prequel to the Northern Lights saga, La Belle Sauvage is the first in The Book of Dust trilogy, and shows Lyra’s start in life told through the eyes of Malcolm Polstead, portrayed wonderfully and seemingly effortlessly by Samuel Creasy.

As the Magisterium rises, so does the water level and Malcolm, along with his childhood enemy Alice, are forced to set off on an adventure protecting Lyra and the prophecy that comes with her.

Though relatively simply staged this production was brought to life with exquisite puppetry and seamlessly intertwined AV.

Barnaby Dixon’s puppetry makes its stage debut with incredibly delicate daemons (or animals whose souls and beings are interwoven with their humans, for those of you who haven’t read the books) are beautifully made in all white, lit from the inside and adding new dynamics to the stage.by Manuel Harlan

The video and animation from Luke Halls bring the stage to life with illustrations inspired by the book taking you on a journey from realistic locations to magical realms naturally and organically.

Strangely apt for the moment with undercurrents of extremist political rising, it is incredibly dark and powerful with the right amount of comic quips throughout, provided by writer Bryony Lavery, to lighten the mood and make this show an enchanting reimagining of Philip Pullman’s enthralling novel.

In these dark times we live in I encourage everyone to get lost in this fantasy universe in this production of pure brilliance.

 

The Arts Business Top Tips

  • I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before but it certainly bears repeating. Get creative with existing Children’s books. They already have a pre-existing fanbase and often authors are more than willing to work alongside theatre companies or creative businesses to help bring their work to life on a new level. And if not you can always take books from the canon, traditional classics, that are out of copyright and available to reinterpret to your heart’s content.
  • Utilising projection is a simple way of creating settings without having to design and build an enormous amount of scenery. Don’t get me wrong, the projection in this show is far from simple. You’d need a pretty solid team of animators and technicians to work wizardry like that created for La Belle Sauvage. But you can still achieve a similar aesthetic with a lower budget and think of the benefits. You’re spending a similar amount of money as you would upfront for set design and construction but when it comes to touring your show you have saved colossal amounts of space, time and therefore budget!
  • In case you hadn’t realised by now… I frigging LOVE PUPPETS! In my opinion, they make a great addition to literally any project ever! But it’s the puppets seen in La Belle Sauvage which are so exquisitely engineered which really take this production to the next level! Most of these puppets are created to be incredibly lifelike in their movements but, in most cases, are controlled with only one hand. This means they can be manipulated by the actor (from a budget perspective negating the cost of additional puppeteers) in a way that benefits their overall performance and characterisation. Beautiful and Brilliant!

REVIEW: Saving Britney | Fake Escape | The Old Joint Stock, Birmingham

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Entertainment, Reviews, Theatre

For those of us who grew up in the nineties and noughties, it is nigh-on impossible that Britney Spears hasn’t been on your radar at some point or another. And in recent times Britney has come back to the forefront of our minds with the rise in the #FreeBritney movement.

Well, Fake Escape have really capitalised on this with their latest venture Saving Britney, a one-woman show following teen Jean through the tribulations of puberty with the legend that is Britney Spears by her side every step of the way

Jean is portrayed fearlessly by Shereen Roushbaini, who gives an accurate depiction of celebrity obsession integrating with a teenager navigating mental health problems and learning about sexuality, with a childlike naivety.

David Shopland, director and writer of Saving Britney, seamlessly intertwines this fictional biopic with Britney’s own story, told by an American journalist, and dance sequences where the audience can reminisce nostalgically about their youth spent singing along to Britney with a hairbrush in hand, drinking blue WKD.

This show is a must-see for anyone who loves Britney Spears or simply misses the simple days where we were listening to Walkmans, eating Kellogs Ricilcles and playing Snake on our Nokia 3210s.

Saving Britney is touring the UK until the end of March so head over to the Saving Britney Website to see if it’s coming to a venue near you.

 

The Arts Business Top Tips

  • It’s always a good idea to look to Current Affairs and in this case Celebrity News for what’s big when coming up with new ideas for your next project. The #FreeBritney has been at the forefront of showbiz affairs, as well as trending over socials on and off since it launched in 2008. From the topic choice alone Fake Escape has a great chance at organically boosting their SEO and utilising popular hashtags which will directly find the right target audience… which leads me to my next point…
  • Knowing your Target Audience: This show has pretty much nailed this criterion. Not only are those who were teenagers when Britney was bringing out music (which, whether they’re in denial or not is basically every nineties and noughties kid) but it also means their parents who were forced to listen to the tunes of Spears blasting out a cheap boom box from their child’s bedroom. And this Target Audience was reflected in the crowd at The Old Joint Stock.

PRESS RELEASE: Runt of the Litter presents Little Things You Learn

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Press Release, Theatre
Tuesday 28th September at 7pm
Wednesday 29th September at 7pm
Tickets: £6.50 | Concessions: £4.50
Running Time: 45 minutes

Audience warnings: Single bad word, flashing lights.

When four strangers that were once siblings are reunited by an unfortunate event, they are plunged into a fantastical world. A place where their memories are a reality and their childhood is revived. A safe space to explore what happened all that time ago. Little Things YouLearn uses children’s imagination as a vessel to explore attachment in its many forms.

This whimsical world is a visual feast of colour and makeshift storytelling. Little Things You Learn is a reverse coming of age tale stooped in nostalgia, full of bittersweet accounts that will make you both laugh and cry.

REVIEW: Mommy’s Dead and They Buried Her in Moscow | Nervous Theatre

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Reviews, Theatre

Aug 6-30 | On Demand | C Arts | Get Tickets | Learn More about the company

Three siblings are desperately questioning whether or not there is more to life as they navigate love and death, wondering if there truly would be more to their existence if they could move back to their vibrant hometown of Moscow or ‘What if we’re just three miserable people who would be miserable anywhere…?’

Told in an empty theatre and filmed in a single shot this show does an amazing job to replicate the feel of seeing something live on a stage without actually being there, more so than anything else I’ve seen this pandemic.

This talented group of actors and musicians have a knack for modern storytelling finding an original and exciting way to reimagine Chekhov’s Three Sisters for a young audience whilst still maintaining the cynical witticism of the text.

Integrating music and focusing on the siblings with no other cast is a clever way to maintain the core values of the script, looking at the family relationships and asking if there are really helping or hindering each other.

Remarkably complicated direction comes across as simple and effortless thanks to the brilliant cast and beautiful design.

An electrifying company who I hope will attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in real life soon! I will be queuing up for tickets!

The Arts Business Top Tips:

  • Reimagining old pieces for a new generation (especially canonical works like Chekhov) is a great way to attract the attention of the press or a traditional repertory audience, especially when it’s done this well. Once this crowd is attracted, others will follow! It’s although worth mention how tricky it is to make Chekhov this accessible. I remember reading his back catalogue at uni and it can be pretty dry, to say the least. I’ve never felt more connected and come out with a clearer understanding of his work than I have watching this production, so well done Nervous Theatre! An exciting new company that I will be sure to keep a close eye on!

REVIEW: Hear. Speak. See. | Expial Atrocious

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Reviews, Theatre

Aug 16-30 | On Demand | Fringe Player | Get Tickets

 

Is this the dinner party from hell… or is it limbo? Is that your conscience talking to you or is it so bizarre that, in a strange twist of fate, it might just be real.

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland meets Stephen Berkoff’s Metamorphosis in this newly devised production from Midlands-based company Expial Atrocious.

Half delirium, half horror movie and filmed through a fish-eye lens from the point of view of you, the guest, you’re immediately immersed into this twisted tale.

Faye, Ez and Nic give carefully examine how to characterise the concepts of Hear, Speak and See no evil through different dynamics and distinctive, individualised performances whilst serving this doomed driver their last super.

A truly original show executed to the freakiest and most fantastic standard.

 

The Arts Business Top Tips:

  • This play experiments with cutting edge technology. I imagine it has been designed to work in a virtual reality headset. When cutting off senses so the tea party is all you can see and the creepy dialogue and eerie effects are all you can hear the action can only be enhanced. The perceived glitches to different areas of the room would add to the paranormal feel of the piece.
  • Another added bonus is the fact it can be directly streamed to headsets in your home and create the same if not a better experience than if you were actually on location. This has a huge budget impact as once it has been filmed the costs can be kept relatively low for online, on-demand streaming.

REVIEW: Fairytale 20/20 | body portal theatre

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Reviews, Theatre

Aug 16-30 | On Demand | Greenside @ GreenScreen | Get Tickets

This beautifully made short piece examines exactly what it means to live ‘Happily Ever After’.

Choreographer, Sara Lessmann, and actor, SheenRu Yong, are looking to produce their Fairytale show for a performing arts festival, but quickly realise, coming from the world of theatre, they have no idea how to make a film.

Considering this they have successfully managed to make a documentary meets storytelling extravaganza packed full with stunning content and superbly put together.

Interweaving their process into every step of this film body portal theatre takes us through external workshopping their ideas to creating a series of tales reflecting both what they’ve learnt and their own opinions on the meaning of ‘Happily Ever After’.

They use innovative mask work, flowing costume and simple choreography to tell these modern folk stories with the gorgeous settings of Hawaii as a backdrop, you can’t help but feel positive after watching this! They may not have known how to make a film but they have most certainly nailed it.

The Arts Business Top Tips:

  • If you don’t know how, just give it a go. Sure you can sit around discussing it until you’re blue in the face but that’s not actually going to create any work (unless you put it in the documentary-like body portal theatre have). We live in a golden age of technology and online education so if in doubt Google what to do or check out a YouTube video. Then get your work out there! And you might just make yourselves a little gem of performance art, a new entity in itself, carving out your own path and developing your own techniques for your own work, like Fairytale 20/20.

REVIEW: It Kind of Looks Like a Doughnut | Holly Boyden with Curve Theatre and Pleasance

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Reviews, Theatre

Aug 6-30 | On Demand | Pleasance Online | Get Tickets

Two ‘sort of’ friends from the East Midlands navigate the confusing and sometimes scary world of sexual health clinics and sexual preferences as one embarks on childbirth and the other is diagnosed with advanced HPV.

The show closely follows the story of Eva and Jo as they struggle through life with the additional appearance of an intermediary character who is part narrator, part multirole player and part Greek Chorus explaining and commenting on the action as it unfolds.

This excellent new writing from Holly Boyden has been distinctly designed for the stage using tables and choreography to transition from scene to scene allowing the audience’s imagination to fill in the gaps.

It’s no wonder this piece of theatre won the 2021 National Partnership Award with Curve Theatre. As a Midlander, it is easy to see why a Leicestershire Theatre would want to back this. As a semi-autobiographical writing it is immensely informative at times and mightily moving at others.

As a recent graduate, this is Holly’s first visit to the Edinburgh Fringe (albeit virtually) and I suspect not her last. A strong start is bound to have an exciting future.

The Arts Business Top Tips:

  • Keep your sets simple! This show (I’m pretty sure I’m right in saying) is designed with Lack Tables from IKEA, which is a stroke of genius! Not only do they cost next to nothing, they flatpack down making this show crazy easy to tour and are cunningly adaptable to create almost any location needed for the play. They can also be quickly modified to account for any shape or size venue this performance may enter. And they are available from any IKEA in the world, so if you lose or break them they are very easy to quickly replace.
  • Having the two main characters supported by just one other cast member who multirole plays all other needed characters and narrates the story is very shrewd. Not only does this keep cast costs low but also creates a somewhat mystical element to the storytelling that would otherwise be lost.

REVIEW: Femme Ta Bouche | A Drunken Sailor

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Reviews, Theatre

Aug 16-21 | 7.35pm | theSpaceUK@Triplex | Learn More

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the stage, the fabulous, the feminine and the fantastically inspiring Femme Ta Bouche.

Now, SHUT YOUR MOUTH and listen up!

Femme Ta Bouche is from the southern states of America. A new kind of performer who is wowing the world with her gender-bending cabaret act. And for what may be her last performance, at least for now, she intends to break into a Christian, Gay Conversion Camp, on film, and expose their secrets.

Although it got off to a bit of a slow start (I felt the first scene could have been about half the length) after twenty minutes I was completely engrossed in the story. An intelligently written metaphor reflecting the beauty and fragility of love splendidly ties together the beginning and end and keeps you hooked throughout.

The scenes were interspersed with backstory told through simple and skillfully edited projected film enabling us to understand the finer details of the action.

An important premise and informative show well performed. With a bit more workshopping I think this could be refined into a prolific theatre show.

 

The Arts Business Top Tips:

  • It’s hard to believe that these horrendous atrocities still take place, especially in the Western World. I think theatre can find a place of importance in education to ensure as many people as possible know about these camps. Hopefully, awareness will bring change.

REVIEW: Triple Bypass: Three Ten-Minute Plays About Living for Death and Dying for Life | Hardly Working Promotions LLC in conjunction with Aberdeen Community Theatre

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Reviews, Theatre

Aug 6-30 | On Demand | Online@theSpaceUK | Get Tickets

Enjoy three plays in one with this smorgasbord of new writing from Deena Ronayne. This year it’s online and being virtually cast to 14 festivals worldwide but next year the intention is to return to the fringe with a cast of locally sourced Scottish actors.

The selection opens with Seeking Dignity a desperately dark narrative between a mysterious man who is seeking death and the girl next door who wants to drag him through the pain of life for as long as possible. When you’re already dying is that punishment enough for the mistakes of life?

We conclude with Tango-ed Web paralleling human existence with the natural life cycle of insects, exploring what is the meaning of life and we can ever really dodge fate and avoid our true destinies.

These pieces sandwich my personal favourite Close to Black where two very different women meet outside a nightclub. Elements of this show reflect Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, as two women (who we assume are Amy Winehouse and Karen Carpenter) have a conversation wondering what awaits them in the afterlife.

There’s some great writing here and all these short stories have enough substance to be explored as long-form plays. Take Close to Black, for example, I can see this with additional characters like Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe or Britney Murphy all discussing problems they’ve had through life and how these are overcome with death.

A dark yet strangely optimistic series giving you countless reasons to live!

The Arts Business Top Tips:

  • If you’re experimenting with writing styles and ideas this is a great way to showcase your scripts and workshop your ideas. By bringing scripts alive with a cast and crew you may discover more than you ever could have working alone. This way you can establish which concepts you want to focus on.
  • It also allows any potential collaborators out there to see a wider array of what you’re capable of! These scripts are written in three very different styles showing the breadth of Deena Ronayne’s writing styles.

REVIEW: Disrobed – The Virtual Event | Troy Matthew Peterson Productions and The Southern Californian Naturist Association

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Reviews, Theatre

Aug 6-30 | On Demand | Fringe Player | Get Tickets

We’ve all suffered through countless Zoom calls over the past few years but I doubt as many would be been as awkward or eye-opening as this one.

It’s time for Eric to meet the family as his fiancé Skye wishes to formally announce their engagement but little does he know he will see a lot more than he bargained for as Skye has overlooked the fact that her family are naturists.

Eric, played by Troy Peterson, has skilled comic timing displaying natural expertise in his delivery which carries the show from start to finish, alongside its clever and incredibly relatable formatting reflecting the way we have all experienced social events over the last 18 months.

The intention of the show is for the audience to come away feeling like we wanna give naturism a go but the second half of this script needs a little more retargeting in favour of the central character. As a majority of the viewers will relate with Eric more so than the others some of the content, like drawing constant attention to his slight stomach, can come across as a personal attack in which the family seem to be bullying, more than encouraging, but with a little tweaking here and there this could easily go the other way.

A light-hearted and easy-going watch so if you’re looking for an escape into a few laughs then give this show a go.

The Arts Business Top Tips:

  • The marketing of this show is excellent, from their modern and original show branding, their hilarious and informative social media content and their additional behind the scenes content including interviews and outtakes. If you’re looking for advice on how to max out your social engagement then Disrobed is the perfect example of this!
  • It’s a collaboration between Troy Matthew Peterson Productions and The Southern Californian Naturist Association. This means double the overall coverage for your show: double the social media , double the funding, double the existing audience, double the cause, you see where I’m going with this. This is a perfect collaboration for a project like this one and something to considered when creating your own work.