Voices From Home by Broken Silence Theatre.

Warned at the beginning that these recorded pieces are for over 18’s only. After listening to them I can fully understand why. These five recorded shorts contain adult themes of death, sexual violence and assault. With graphic descriptions and honest accounts of the events experienced by each of the cast members be prepared for some uncomfortable listening at times.

Woo Woo by Sarah Milton we hear as Michelle hears about the death of her long-standing friend and ex-lover Tom. Told from a recent nostalgic perspective we learn about her feelings on losing her virginity with Tom and she never regretted it. Although I am not convinced this isn’t for the benefit of the audience and she is trying to convince herself. I thought the use of grim reaper in the game of Simms that Michelle is playing at the time when she learns about Tom’s was very poignant.

Vinegar Chips by Grace Merry describes a disappointing and extremely risky date that takes place in Worthing. After a few messages on “Tinder”, the couple who know very little about each other and some of these reasons why soon become dangerously apparent. The explicit description of the couple’s sexual encounter under the pier turned my stomach over as the description of the smells experienced left an unpleasant “odour” behind.

As an avid Radio 4 extra listener, these short plays are something I would happily tune in and listen to. They aren’t easy listening but they are engaging and cutting edge. Focusing on the “seedier” side of human nature isn’t an easy subject to write about. These five new up and coming writers are in tune with the world we are living in and have shown that they are not afraid to tackle them head-on.

I didn’t want to write a brief synopsis about each of the recorded pieces. Instead by keeping the details brief, it will hopefully encourage listeners to visit Broken Voices at the Brighton Fringe and listen to these stories for themselves.

Four Stars

https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/voices-from-home-154190/

The writers

Sarah Milton https://www.theupcoming.co.uk/author/sarah-milton/

Madeleine Accalua https://www.madeleineaccalia.co.uk/

Georgie Bailey

Grace Merry

Lucy Dobree.

Blackbox Theatre presents Blithe Spirit.

This is the second production from Blackbox Theatre that I have had the privilege of being invited to review. Yet again they haven’t failed to deliver an extremely accomplished production.

Amidst the current covid restrictions Blackbox Theatre has set their adaptation of Blithe Spirit outside in the garden of the Condomine’s country house. It’s a gamble with the weather though and last night the rain was not on our side “good old British weather”.

With a strong cast of six Blackbox have delivered a strong adaptation of this Noel Coward classic. From erratic new housekeeper Edith (Scarlett Briant), the sceptic Doctor Bradman (David McCulloch) to the hosts Mr and Mrs Condomine (Peter McCrohon and Anna Mallard). Each character was exactly what you expect to see in this classic play.

Francesca McCrohon in the role of Madame Arcati the eccentric tongue in cheek underrated medium bought a touch of elegance to the production. Her beautiful black velvet evening attire with a long purple velvet coat is stunning.

The star in my opinion of Blithe Spirit has to be the ghost of Elvira. Amelia Sweetland looked incredibly wraithlike in a full-length silver evening dress, wild hair and the chosen style of make-up bought the dead to life.

I am not sure who organised the costumes and make up for this production or whether the cast selected their own. Each one of them was dressed in the desired period and looked fantastic ” quintessentially English”.

With all the challenges that have stopped our Theatre companies from working “normally ” since March 2020. Director Chris Hawley’s latest production has thought outside the box and successfully bought it outside. Listening to the audience around me they were all very pleased to be back watching live theatre again and we’re extremely complimentary about the production.

Please try and catch them while they are out on tour. Use the link below to check out the upcoming dates.

Five Stars

WHAT’S ON

Photo Credits – Spice Art

The Great Gatsby.

The Wardrobe Ensemble and The Wardrobe Theatre’s co-production has been adapted from the American novel by F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby and is now playing as part of the online Brighton Fringe.

Tamsin Hurtado Clarke and Jesse Meadows bring to life the classic story of the flamboyant self-made millionaire Jay Gatsby and his friend Nick Carraway in this two person’s performance. The rich depth of the storyline is bought to life by their brilliant performances.

Without the aid of a big-budget set, lavish costumes or a large cast which are familiar with previous adaptations of The Great Gatsby, the audience can focus primarily on the storyline without other characters distracting them. In my opinion, I prefer this style of adaptation as a smaller accomplished cast can bring far more depth and life into a story.

Nick Carraway a young Batchelor is invited to a Long Island party hosted by the flamboyant self-made million, Jay Gatsby. The two strikes up an unlikely friendship, the two descend into an honest, intriguing and heartfelt trip down memory lane

Running for just under 1 hour and 40 minutes Clarke and Meadows’s performance was flawless. Both actors rose to this challenging lengthy in-depth depth script brilliantly and I can imagine it was incredibly demanding for them at times.

Director Tom Brennan overall has adopted a fresh approach to The Great Gatsby and without using grand props and period costumes allows the novel to be removed from its 1920’s setting and allows a new audience to appreciate the text in an impartial setting. This particular direction works extremely well front perspective, as I don’t necessarily want to always watch a production that is firmly placed in an historical context.

For performance details or to check out the companies involved please use the links below.

Four Stars

Photo credit to Jack Offord

The Wardrobe Theatre

https://www.thewardrobeensemble.com/

https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/the-great-gatsby-153733/

Doody by Aaron and Caitlin.

Aaron Hickland’s solo performance in Doody delves into the mind of a self-entitled, privileged, toxic male with a dangerous distorted high opinion of how others see him in the outside world.

The performance starts with Niall Care pretending that he is in front of an audience of fans as he delivers his acceptance speech for being a “star” descending into the story of where his path to stardom began.

His Mum filmed him throughout his childhood praising him for every slightest thing. As he explains he might have been only playing with his transformers. She told him time and again he would be a famous star one day.

Cast to perform as Danny in the school production of Grease he describes one of his co-stars, Jenny, as “Cosmetically Challenged” and explains how he was doing her a favour when he started sleeping with her regularly. Of course, she was grateful for his attention!

Care’s blatant misogynistic behaviour spirals deeper out of control as the years pass and he faces one personal rejection after another. You only need to look at the picture gallery behind to understand how it has affected him. On the surface, though his attitude remains assertive and vain.

Doody isn’t comfortable to watch and it could easily be triggering to some audience members. Cares character evokes an array of emotions ranging from disgust, uncomfortable to a small amount of pity.

Writer and director Caitlin Magnall-Kerans have brilliantly captured the disturbing mindset of a vain, obnoxious, self-entitled male chauvinist who is well versed in victim-blaming.

The subject matter is extremely uncomfortable at times however it is written with such accuracy that I thoroughly recommend taking half an hour out and watching it. Please use the link below for further information.

Four Stars.

https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/doody-153168/

Hematoma directed by Grace Millie.

Written and performed by Keiran Dee Hematoma is an extremely clever and entertaining one-man performance. After a year in lockdown Dee attempts to take the audience on a world trip with his Hematoma while explaining how it feels to live with “having a part of your brain fixture missing”.

In a desperate attempt to fix the “gap” and find a way to escape the gap he takes himself off to find new adventures from his failed bungee jumping attempt, dancing scenes from a Hong Kong nightclub and the nocturnal events in the shared hostel rooms in Australia.

Dee’s performance is outstanding with a faultless range of emotions, moods and dance moves. He effortlessly adapts throughout the scenes in the performance. When I watch a one-man show whose only prop is a stool along with his immense charisma which held the audience’s attention throughout the 70-minute adrenalin-fueled performance.

The combination of humour, grief and hilarious storytelling makes Hematoma one of the must-see Fringe theatre productions to put on your watch list. Hopefully, Dee will take this fantastic play into more Theatres for future audiences to appreciate.

If you’re one of the lucky audiences the resident fly might make a guest appearance and join Kieran on stage. Dee’s ability to incorporate the random fly appearing around the stage was brilliantly bought into the travel scene. His capacity to create an additional character at such short notice was the sign of an extremely creative actor.

Hematoma is running from 8th-12th June 2021. Please use the link below to catch one of the remaining performances.

Five Stars

http://www.thelionandunicorntheatre.com

Twitter @moon_loaf

#HEMATOMA

Alyssa Memoirs of a Queen!

The Vaudeville is playing host to the amazingly talented, gorgeous, larger than life Drag Queen Star Alyssa Edwards. The short run is from 7th-13th June 2021.

American born Alyssa Edwards has been a drag queen for 16-years, the first 6 of which were spent shut away hiding from the world and practicing her skills. Taking the audience through the life story leading up to where we are today is told in a charismatic, humorous, and open performance. We are entertained with stories about failing at sport while at school and trying to “fit in” baseball was a massive fail and after numerous arguments with the ball hitting Justin, it was decided enough was enough. Granny made the life changing suggestion that Ballet school was a better option.

The relationship Alyssa/Justin has with Granny is one told with warmth and affection. The non-judgemental anecdotes are explained through childhood stories. From listening to the tales, it was clear how much of a positive influence Granny has been throughout the years. Nowadays Granny is Alyssa’s biggest fan.

The famous “tongue clicking” is a trademark that Alyssa is well known for in her act, and it makes a couple of appearances, mainly at the start. If it had been overdone it would have spoilt the atmosphere of the show.

Alyssa’s accompanied throughout the performance by four talented dancers (Luke Vella, Alex Brown, Austin Farrell, and Billy Savage), the line dancing routine was especially entertaining.  Along with a lady called Miss Pam the stage manager who was supposedly monitoring the show to make sure it ran on time. However, when it was mentioned about Alyssa following a script the response is extremely funny as the response is “I don’t read the script, I am the script” there is a fantastic air of confidence surrounding the entire show and the professionalism is outstanding.

Ru Pauls Drag Race launched Alyssa’s international career and many stories and anecdotes are shared throughout the two-hour performance. Personally, many of these passed me by as I have not seen the programme. The interaction and response from the audience confirmed to me how popular and well-liked Alyssa is.  It has now inspired me to make a point of watching some.

We were treated to an amazing selection of outfits throughout the evening. I especially liked the short black and white outfit worn at the beginning of act two, sadly there is not a press shot of this one available to share with you. Alyssa has the most amazing legs which she displayed over the balcony of the upper box to tease her audience below and it certainly worked by the cheers received.

With a West End performance of this calibre more exceptionally talented Drag Queens need to bring their costumes, sequins, large hair, fabulous make up and glorious array of colours to the larger stage. With the size of the audience there tonight it would confirm to me that there is a market for this genre of entertainment appearing in the larger theatres.

Choreographer Justin Johnson also known by the stage name Alyssa Edwards is the perfect choice to choreograph this fabulous performance. As a trained choreographer teacher nobody would know the strengths and abilities that Alyssa possesses more than the Drag Queen herself. With director Spencer Noll’s expertise and eye for detail this is an absolute must see show.

Whether you are a lifelong fan, recent fan or a first timer, such as myself I would highly recommend buying tickets and treat yourself to a fantastic evening of entertainment. Please use the link below to book tickets or find out more about this show and upcoming productions at Nimax Theatre’s.

Four Stars

Photo credit Pamela Raith

https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/shows/alyssa-memoirs-of-a-queen/

The Tragedy of Dorian Gray by Blue Devil.

Based on the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, The Tragedy of Dorian Gray filmed almost exclusively in black and white explores the personal side of the famous character Wilde created. Surrounded by drugs, alcohol, sex and tragedy the two-hour tale explores the dangers shrouding the gross vanity of the Grays persona.

The characters are introduced to the audience at an art gallery event for the artist Basil Hallward (Christopher Sherwood). Sherwood’s performance as the eccentric moody artist is captured through various camera angles and enhanced by the choice of filming in black and white. He explains that his art has previously been called “perverted ” by various critics.

Upon asking Dorian Gray (Maximus Polling) to sit for him and paint his portrait. We are being informed that this is not going to be a “normal ” portrait by the descriptions overheard at the gallery about Hallward’s previous paintings. In this particular adaptation, we are left only with our imagination as to how this portrait looked and how it changes over the years.

Sybil Vane (Tara Clark) becomes one in a long line of the tragic victims caught up in Gray’s distorted reality, along with anyone else who has the misfortune of meeting him. Her personal life has fallen apart, her children are estranged from her due to drug and alcohol abuse and as she becomes further entwined into Grays twisted life her death sadly becomes almost inevitable.

Maximus Polling is perfectly cast visually in the role of Dorian Gray the vain, egotistical soulless being who drains the life from all those around him to feed his ego. As pictured above you can see his moody good looks and strong presence. Which on screen breathe a new life and dimension into the dangerously charismatic Gray.

Anyone familiar with the famous novel knows how the tragic story ends. The ending in my opinion isn’t the important part of this story it’s the twisted tale of the character’s demise which creates the attraction of Wilde’s novel to me.

Writer and director Ross Dinwiddy’s vision to create a black and white adaptation of Dorian Gray added a twist to the gothic tale. Moving away from the rich luxury often associated with Wilde this version offers a deeper depth into the dark soul traded to the devil for eternal youth.

Four Stars

Please check out the links below for tickets and/or to find out more about Blue Devil Theatre.

ONLINE 28th May – 27th June at The Living Record

Tickets: £9.00 from https://thelivingrecord.com/events/the-tragedy-of-dorian-gray-online/feed

http://www.bluedeviltheatre.co.uk/

Take Off Your Cornflakes.

The White Bears latest production Take Off Your Cornflakes had its first of two press nights this evening (4th June) to which it saw Mark Lockyer leave the stage to rapturous applause. After performing to sellout audiences across Ireland in 2019 the production is currently making its UK premiere.

London bus driver Tom (Mark Lockyer) begins his journey of early-onset dementia in an upbeat, comedic manner keen to reassure his wife Trish that he isn’t going to be beaten by this. However, at the young age of 53, this cruel disease slowly ebbs away at his memory during the 60-minute performance.

Fulfilling the two roles alongside one another was outstanding. Trish’s character was depicted by a slight rise in Lockyer’s tone of voice and subtle feminine mannerisms which allowed the audience to follow whose monologue was centre stage at any one time. We follow the couple’s up and downs in a compassionate and heartfelt performance as this cruel condition takes over and destroys their world.

The abstract patchwork stage setting is a touch of genius in my opinion. Each of these patches has been stitched together off centre (as seen in the photo above) characterizing fragments of how Tom’s memories return to him in sections during his clearer moments. Piecing together the life he once lived which is decreasing fast.

As Lockyer delivers an outstanding performance as husband and wife Tom and Trish. We understand how dementia is affecting their life and relationship through the couple’s correspondence to their long-standing friends who have moved to Australia. The couple explaining separately how their lives are changing beyond recognition.

Take off Your Cornflakes was originally set on the buses in Dublin by writers Rose Henderson and Pat Nolan when it was first performed at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2017. Lockyer’s idea to adapt and place Tom on the iconic big red London buses brings this incredible play to a new audience.

Director Michael Kingsbury has brought to stage a compassionate love story. From his eye for detail in the fantastic patchwork staging to the dual roles played by Lockyer all come together to take the audience on an emotional and educational journey into the heartbreaking world of dementia, through the eyes of the patient and the loved ones left alone to watch helplessly as the symptoms of dementia take hold and destroy their daily lives.

Productions and performances such as these remind me why I passionately support the Fringe Theatres. Please use the link below for further information and to book tickets.

Five Stars.

https://www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk/#!

Gilbert and Sullivan’s Improbable New Musical.

Coily Dart Theatre present a brand new production for the Brighton Fringe 2021. This fully audio production tells the little known story of Helen Carte and the important contribution she made to the Doily Carte Legacy.

The recorded audio production was created during the lockdown, in Winter 2020. All members of the cast were recorded from separate venues. For an audio performance, it isn’t noticeable, unlike the online zoom performances where continuity can be harder to maintain.

The Operetta is an interesting upbeat journey explaining the important role Helen brought to the famous company. She introduced the practice of copywriting to ensure the D’Oyly Carte name collected the royalties they deserved for each performance. The worse culprits for reproducing their work without paying was America. To overcome this problem Helen organised for both opening nights to take place simultaneously. Back in late 1800,s that was an incredible achievement that Helen managed to accomplish.

This production worked incredibly well in audio format. The detail in the scripted dialogue took centre stage, which had it been filmed using zoom the attention to the text detail might have become lost. Scenes such as Helen’s trip to America could have proved tricky to recreate under the restrictions in place at the time.

Overall this production is delightful and informative. I have learned just how important Helen Carte was to the D’Oyly Carte corporation and its lasting legacy. I am not giving away all storyline and would recommend to anyone who has a spare hour (just over) to tune in using the link below.

Four Stars

https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/gilbert-and-sullivans-improbable-new-musical-and-helen-153738/

Charlotte Bronte Snares the Suitor

Charlotte (Sarah Archer) and Anne Bronte (Emma Hopkins) are the last of the six Bronte siblings left alive. Anne’s health is deteriorating fast as the cough that took away Emily and Bramwell has now set in for her. Tabby (Julia Munrow) the long standing housekeeper at the Bronte household and Charlotte’s perspective suitor Arthur Nicholls (Stu Jackson) make up the cast of four in this production.

Sibling rivalry, snobbery, dark family secrets which should never be spoken about and a potential suitor. Doesn’t this sound like the plotline from one of the Bronte sister’s novel? Well, in fact, it is the theme of the conversation taking place between the two remaining sisters’ life as they discuss in a frank and honest manner life up to this point for the Bronte family. We only have the history books left to know whether these facts are accurate or not.

Writer and director Joan Greening places Charlotte Bronte at the head of the family and the central character in this production. Charlotte’s air of superiority and snobbery surrounding her own novels and social standing are repeated and she is often reiterating to Anne where her lower-class position lies within their family.

I was extremely impressed with the décor of the house in which the scenes were filmed. They were designed to look as authentic as possible. Considering this production was filmed during lockdown with limited resources they have done very well.

Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights battle for pole position in this production. Anne’s brave suggestion that Emily’s novel was the most popular of the two is vehemently denied by Charlotte, who believes Jane Eyre is the only book worthy of reading. 

Personally, Wuthering Heights will always be my favourite novel out of the two.

Check out the link below to find out more about this company or watch it at Brighton Fringe online.

Four Stars

Charlotte Brontë Snares the Suitor | Brighton Fringe
Charlotte Brontë Snares the Suitor | Brighton FringeA comedy that tells the story of Charlotte Brontë’s romance with Arthur Bell Nicholls. Charlotte has refused Art…