In the Absence of Silence by The Chickenshed (online performance)

Chickenshed’s latest online release during the second lockdown period is the emotive drama ‘In the Absence of Silence’. The cast of five discuss their experiences of living at the hands of their abusers. The drama has been written and directed by survivors of domestic abuse which was created as part of Chickenshed’s outreach project called Survivors. 

Characteristics in the way in which an abuser manipulates and controls their victim are explored through the conversations, while the five ladies enjoy some respite and a day on the beach. Throughout the entire performance, Lizzie’s (Louise Perry) perpetrator is constantly bombarding her with text messages which become increasingly verbally abusive and finish by degrading her, calling her a host of derogatory names.

Shirley (Elsie Lyons) has an air surrounding her of almost being untouchable. The abhorrent behaviour that she was subjected to over the years by her husband has created a hard exterior. Allowing you to believe that she had been unaffected. One of the common traits found in a survivor after suffering years of abuse.

I found the scene in which the perpetrators use the court’s system to continue their control and abuse to be somewhat farcical. However, I felt it was done in this style to break up the intensity of the subject matter. Although for me I am still in two minds about it and I am unsure whether I felt it was in keeping with the rest of the performance.

One word of advice never question why a victim of domestic abuse didn’t leave their abuser. Leaving an abuser isn’t straightforward and for a vast amount of victims, this isn’t the end of the abuse as their perpetrators become desperate to hold onto the control they have held over their victim. Trying absolutely anything they can to retain it.

If you have ever wondered how abuse begins and then continues worsen then watching productions like this gives a comprehensive understanding and insight. Exploring the gas lighting effects, how easily the emotional and physical outbursts can be started and the level in which a victim blames themselves for what is going on.

Due to the subject matter, strong language and themes of violence that run throughout the performance. This is not suitable for anyone under the age of fifteen.

In the Absence of Silence was co-produced with Creu Cymru and developed with the Domestic Abuse Services in South Gwynedd.

Cast

Lauren …  Jojo Morrall

Lizzie … Louise Perry

Kell … Holly Skinner

Shirley … Elsie Lyons

Sandra … Charlotte Bull

https://www.chickenshed.org.uk/Event/absence-of-silence-youtube-premiere

The Man by Beige Company Productions.

Patrick Mcpherson’s 60- minute solo performance in The Man came to the stage at the Lion and Unicorn in Kentish Town after the Theatre’s reopened after the first national lockdown in 2020. Due to many restrictions, this production was an excellent candidate for live Theatre as social distancing could be maintained throughout.

Opening the performance with a collection of songs which represent an image of what a “man” is deemed to be through the eyes of the media and into wider society. He has to be strong, hero, good man who doesn’t cry to live and dominate in a Man’s World.

McPherson conducts an interview-style dialogue where one of the twenty-four candidates (theatre audience) will be chosen to take on the role of the next “man”. Through comedy, charm and fast-paced dialogue, the audience is treated to a thought-provoking insight into the challenges that face men in today’s society. Showing a “strong exterior no interior” is one of the mantra’s used in the application process.

With a brief reference to male suicide rate statistics, the audience is under no illusion that the pro-masculine language which McPherson uses satirises and dissects the image of masculinity rather than supporting the idea.

I especially liked the main character being named Guy. After all who else could you ask to go in search for “the man” but a Real Guy?

Director James Lane has created a modern outlook on how an outdated masculine opinion on men is still deeply rooted in the C21st. Combined with McPherson’s strong performance the pair highlight the importance of understanding that men are all individuals too and should be accepted for who they choose to be without preconceived ideals and stereotypical behaviours forced upon them by society and media.

Review taken from an archived copy by the company. Not available on general release.

http://www.beigecompanyproductions.com

http://www.thelionandunicorntheatre.com

Close your eyes, I’m filming by Douglas Murdoch.

The Greedy Pig Theatre company’s latest production “Close your Eyes, I’m Filming ” follows an up and coming Vlogger. All relationships have their up and downs. Yet for Daisy (Sam Cattee) and Nathan’s (Matt Rawlings) their relationship is put to the test as every detail of theirs is documented daily for Daisy’s Vlog.

The hour-long filmed production is set on a Vloggers platform throughout the entire performance. Each day starting with the soundtrack “Daisy’s Jingle” written by James Millichap. It begins quite slowly and it wasn’t particularly clear what the storyline was going to be about at first. However, the storyline develops into an intriguing and sinister plot.

As strange events start to take place in their home, for example the photo frame that appears to have fallen upside-down, watch it to see what I mean. Daisy begins to feel that there is another force sharing the couple’s home. With that in mind, they install a CCTV camera in the corner of their bedroom in an attempt to capture the obscure events.

These incidents become clear as they discover Nathan’s nocturnal condition, sleepwalking. Things become fraught as the Vlog ratings soar and Nathan doesn’t feel comfortable and decides that he no longer wants to be the main topic of her daily discussions. Without him is Daisy interesting enough to hold the attention of her audience?

Real life couple actors Sam and Matt give a brilliant performance as the young couple in love. Their chemistry and body language is excellent and during these difficult times it has allowed this productions to be made.

The pressure for Daisy and Nathan though begins to build up and what becomes of their future is left in the mind of the viewers to decide.

Please use the link below to watch this film and check out other work created by the company. If you would be in a position to donate any money to them it would be very much appreciated.

https://www.greedypigtheatrecompany.com/closeyoureyesimfilming

https://www.greedypigtheatrecompany.com/

Globaleyes by Chickenshed.

First performed in 2013 Globaleyes is the latest production by Chickenshed to be released onto their YouTube channel during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Globaleyes uses dance theatre to highlight and tell the of abuse seen through the rise of globalisation and greed while it is systematically destroying the world’s natural beauty as more areas are redeveloped or built. How much value is actually put on “stuff” always at the cost of what we are surrounded by and can choose to access for free, for example heath lands, parks and nature reserves.



Watching a strong, powerful storyline such as Globaleyes challenges the audience to question their own way of life and how much are they consumed by greed or consumerism. Perhaps taking away with your ideas and thoughts about how to change parts of your own life to be more in tune with the world around you.

Although this particular production was never filmed for public release and isn’t a particularly high-resolution copy. The energy and passion from the entire cast is as ever superb. The message of greed and consumeism is delivered by the cast in clear and concise performance.

One thing that has always impressed me about the Chickenshed Theatre productions is the incredible work that goes into the choreography, each cast member knows exactly what to do and when. With such a large cast in each production, it must be a huge task to undertake each time.

I urge anyone who has never seen one of their productions to take a look on their YouTube channel and see for yourself how talented this Theatre company are. As they live up to The Chickenshed motto of “Theatre Changing Lives”.

https://www.chickenshed.org.uk/Event/globaleyes-youtube-premiere

The Boss of it All starring Josie Lawrence

Soho Theatre on a Friday night would have usually been thriving with Theatre goers and tourists milling about outside. Instead, I watched their latest online production broadcast via the zoom platform The Boss of it All starring the extremely talented comedian and actress Josie Lawrence from the comfort of my own home. While the actors were in the comfort of theirs.

The Boss of it All has been based on the 2006 film of the same title by Lars Von Trier. Writer/director Jack McNamara’s clever play ridicules those who believe they are in charge while failing miserably and manipulating others in an attempt to cover up their own failings and inability to manage anything.

The zoom production watches Josie Lawrence as the actress Kristina who has been hired to pretend to be the new boss of a group of managers. She bumbles her way through the appraisals where we see each of them attempting to make it up as they go along. It was lost on me what any of them would actually be capable of managing.

Ross Armstrong as the questionable manager Ravn turns out to have been masquerading as one of the team for years to avoid being in charge. He appears at times to be incompetent yet the way in which he has set up Lawrence’s character to oversee the unwelcome measures he is imposing are cold and calculated firmly placing himself in charge. Definitely not someone anyone would trust and you can’t help but question what he has actually done in all this time while working for the company.

It took me a while to be accepted into the production which left me wondering if this was part of the performance. During the streaming, at times the screen went blank which I guessed was all part and parcel of the atmospheric setup. Instead of being frustrated by the technology failure it just added to my enjoyment. Art imitating life sprang to mind.

The convenience of online Theatre has a lot of plus sides to it yet in all honesty as a reviewer I miss the adrenaline rush of watching live Theatre. However, this particular production has been brilliantly directed and works perfectly in the popular zoom meeting format. Allowing the audience to suspend their disbelief in order to imagine that all the managers were located around the globe. Aimlessly appearing to be managing absolutely nothing at all.


Sadly this online show has an extremely short window and I am hoping they make it available to watch after the run is over. As each night the show hosts a new guest appearance, Friday’s performance was the cabaret artist Le Gateau Chocolat. As it stars the queen of improv Josie Lawrence I can not imagine that each night will follow exactly the same script.

For more information on this production and other things being shown at the Soho Theatre check out the link below.

https://sohotheatre.com/shows/the-boss-of-it-all/#:~:text=What%20could%20possibly%20go%20wrong,of%20acclaimed%20actors%20and%20comedians.

Until the Ad Break by Maverick Charles Productions.

Adapted from an original comedy play 21 Minutes by Maverick Charles Productions. The company have released the popular fan-favourite scene back to be part of the Online@TheSpace programme which is running until the 30th of August 2020.

With the end of the world insight, this is set to be their final production. Set during the scheduled add break the members of the team decide to let their barriers down. Declarations and honesty are in abundance as the presenters stop following the radio stations protocol and etiquette, thus allowing the thoughts in their heads the freedom to be released onto the unsuspecting wider audience.

It’s not always easy to follow at times which left me feeling that I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, as the dialogue was hastily delivered sometimes. However, I felt this direction might echo the chaos and anxiety which could easily be evoked should society actually be confronted with the prospect that the world was about to end.

Francine “bassoon of woodwind genitals” is just one of the humorous one-liners that can be heard during the performance. Just listen out though as there is a lot of comedy delivered throughout the performance, although some of it can be rather subtle.

Overall this is one of a selection of the online Fringe productions that is worth taking the time to watch.

https://www.thespaceuk.com/

After The Turn:The Mystery of Bly Manor by Nine Knocks Theatre.

Edinburgh Fringe venue The Space has created a range of online productions that are available between 8th-30th August 2020 during the time in which the Festival would have been taking place. With lockdown taking its toll on the entire Arts and Theatre industry many productions have created online performances.

One of the productions available is After the Turn: The Mystery of Bly Manor which has been written and directed by George Cooper and Ellie Hardwick the writing duo have set their piece five years on from Henry James’s novella The Turn of the Screw.

The television-style documentary production uses interviews from friends and family to piece together the events leading up to the mysterious tragedy surrounding Theodora (Eilidh Gibson). The main focus in presenting the evidence takes the form of video diary entries which she had left behind. These are sensitively presented by her dear friend Marcus Bryson (Brian Weldich).

Theodora Hill was hired as the governess for the two Bly children Miles and Flora while in residence at Bly Manor. The excitement and enthusiasm in accepting her new role are short-lived as a stranger appears unsettling her and causing immense anxiety. The dark and eerie mystery surrounding Bly Manor soon begins to unfold before her.

The gripping short ghost story created by James in 1898 has been captured in this modernised version. The cast brilliantly succeeded in creating the horror and dread first bought to life through the original novella.

It’s extremely tempting with a production of this calibre to write an in-depth review explaining everything that they have achieved. However, I don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the chilling performances. Therefore, I would strongly urge you to take the time to watch it while it’s available online.

As creatives have begun to produce work during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is one of the exceptional examples available until August 30th. Nine Knocks Theatre company have shown the wealth of talented actors in their company along with their ability to create a powerful and atmospheric performance without actually being on the same stage.

Four Stars.

https://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/event/1559266-the-turn-of-the-screw/

Online@TheSpaceUK.com

Stranded by Marcia Kelson.

Stranded by Marcia Kelson began on August 15th which is the second production I have watched by Kelson as part of Online@The SpaceUK fringe. The first one “The Plague Thing” was part of the first group of productions released on August 8th. Which I would highly recommend watching.

After nine months of travelling abroad without so much as a “hello” Mum (Lesley Ann Jones) finally has a phone call from her daughter Sarah (Caroline Salter). The video call sees Mum at the kitchen table while talking to her Daughter who is sunning herself in Peru.

Following a brief geography lesson from Sarah explaining where and why the country’s she has travelled to, Mum becomes exasperated with her. Sarah’s irresponsible behaviour about taking a “scenic tour of South America” while the world is in the middle of a pandemic is brushed off and Mum realises that the catch-up phone call is actually just a request for money.

However, Mum has a life-changing revelation of her own and Sarah doesn’t find her parents to be in quite the same situation that they were before she first left. The humour scattered in this nine-minute production is recognisable to many parents with older children who seem to forget that they are now responsible for themselves.

Stranded is available until 30th August at Online@The SpaceUK which is part of the Edinburgh Fringe online catalogue of productions available in the absence of the 2020 Festival. Links to this production and The Space are available below.

https://online.thespaceuk.com/watch-shows/theatre

No Logo by Andy Mosley.

After the disappointing cancellation of the 2020 Edinburgh Fringe, where No Logo had been due to be performing at Underbelly Wee Coo throughout August. The company has released this short preview piece. Staring First Fringe winner Moj Taylor this short preview piece written by Andy Mosley allows the audience a taster into what they can expect in the full performance.

The backstage area of a theatre can be a lonely place once the lights from the stage are switched off. During the transition between the character returning into the actor there begins a time of reflection as Christopher begins to remove Lady Christina’s makeup and he returns to reality.

Upon looking in the mirror the father that once abandoned Christopher is starting to look back at him. As the removal of the stage makes up begins he engages in conversation with his absent father in an honest and unfiltered dialogue exploring the feelings left behind after bringing shame to the family for the Crime of being “gay.” However, as the conversation unfolds we discover who really had bought shame on the family?

Dealing with our demons thrust upon as children they can leave deep marked scars that were never our predetermined values or ideals yet those told to us until we eventually believe them. The battle between nature and nurture often rumbles beneath the surface in all families. Leaving a trail of unsaid conversations, confusion and hurt behind.

Director Bethany Blake creates an extremely atmospheric setting in which Taylor delivers a moving and heartfelt performance. Personally, I am really looking forward to seeing the completed production.

Please check out No Logo using the online link below and judge for yourself. Subject to COVID-19 rules being changed it’s also scheduled to appear at Brighton Fringe in October 2020. For more information follow the  No Logo productions link underneath.

https://www.nologoproductions.com/makeupmovie.html

https://www.nologoproductions.com/

The Space: Selection of Theatre Productions.

One of the Edinburgh Fringe venues The Space has set up an online catalogue of performances running from the 8th-30th of August when the annual festival should have been running.

There’s such a wide variety of shows available on their site that I have put together an overview of four short productions that I have seen and enjoyed. Each lasts no longer than around 15 minutes but each one has a lot of depth and has been superbly written and performed through the challenges we all face during the lockdown.

Audrey (Batty Hatsers) begins lockdown with determination and fight. As her neighbour’s arguments become more volatile and a combination of depression and crippling arthritis take over her life declines rapidly. Definitely one worth adding to your watch list.

Detachment is a Blue Gooseberry Theatre group production. Toby (Malcolm Jeffries) and V (Gemma Wray) are a married couple separated through lockdown due to Toby working in the hospital ICU unit and V being heavily pregnant. The couple’s video conversations take a turn for the worse as Toby reacted to a situation completely out of his normal character. This has been based on actual events. An extremely well scripted and performed ten-minute piece.

The Van by Raised Voices focuses around the social hub of a food van who are still out feeding the homeless community in Edinburgh during the lockdown. It’s a candid and truthful approach with open conversations about addiction and “scoring a hit”. Looking at coronavirus through the eyes of the men in this production it uses a mixture of humour and honesty about how the situation affects their accommodation, collecting prescriptions and the lack of social interaction. A real eye-opener and undoubtedly, one to watch.

The Plague Thing by Marcia Keison. Set in a nursing home Carol Hudson’s performance views COVID-19 through the eyes of a lady in the later stages of dementia. The humour added throughout the short piece is brilliantly written. The sensitivity in the writing allows the viewer to be empathetic while laughing along with her. After all” what do you mean there are no flights!” I would highly recommend watching this one.

The productions I have chosen for this review cover a cross-section of society and how the UK lockdown has affected them. There will be someone that we can relate to in one or more of the performances. The struggle in the toilet paper shortage or the long queue at the chemist. However, coronavirus hasn’t left us yet and there are many that are still in isolation who require our understanding and help.

A link to each of these productions is available at the bottom with a link to the full programme showing until 30th August at The Space online. I hope you find something that you enjoy and can help support the Edinburgh Fringe this year online.

https://online.thespaceuk.com/

Lockdown Drag-Out https://youtu.be/jmF6RdPR1w8

Detachment https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=N0MitO3qiBU&feature=youtu.be

The Van https://youtu.be/pNcYlRwux5s

The Plague Thing https://youtu.be/vvAutg87PyU