Review: Hysteria

“Get out of my head”, cries an elderly Austrian therapist to the handful of guests that plague his study. He quickly exchanges the word “head” for “house”, but in an imaginative production centred around Sigmund Freud, this little ‘slip’ is not accidental; rather, spoken in a piece designed to turn the great thinker’s analysis right round onto his own mind, this line has an air of finality that confirms Hysteria is more than a realist interpretation of the original psychoanalyst’s dying days. Continue reading “Review: Hysteria”

iPads, Squashed Tomatoes and Justin Timberlake… just another day in Edinburgh

… it turns out Lyn Gardner’s recommendations are really worth something. My last day in Edinburgh was spent participating in Alma Mater and viewing I Hope My Heart Goes First. What a wonderful way to end my time at the Fringe. Continue reading “iPads, Squashed Tomatoes and Justin Timberlake… just another day in Edinburgh”

Corruption, manipulation and death… just another day in Edinburgh

With a busy day ahead of us, Mr Morgan and I decided to warm ourselves up with a thirty-minute production by south Wales based Bandwagon Theatre Company at Greenside. A Rotten Little Story ★★★ exposes the corruption of the British Government as they acquired Diego Garcia for the US by coercing the island’s original inhabitant into moving away: ‘Didn’t they offer you the trip of a lifetime? Well that’s how long it lasts.’ Continue reading “Corruption, manipulation and death… just another day in Edinburgh”

Titus Andronicus | Theatre Review

Space, 269 Westferry Road, London

16/12/10

★★★☆☆

To the tune of scrambled radio interference, the players force their way into the hall, surrounding the audience and drawing us into their dysfunctional community. This static noise is an appropriate choice for a narrative all about communication gone tragically wrong, and provides a perfect background for the introduction of our eponymous protagonist, a likable yet flawed individual who is destined for a world of waking nightmares.

Re-enacted in a former church, there is an undeniable poetry to the location of this play. As we look up to where the Presbyterian vicar once stood, the historic voice of Titus Andronicus joins the unwitting chorus of transient patriarchal power. With a frail anger that fills the hall yet comes across rhetorically impotent, Maloney’s delicate portrayal lets this renowned ‘noble Roman’ becomes a weak, attention-craving joker. This is no criticism. Rather, Maloney has captured a beautiful degree of balance: although Titus’s voice is heard by many in the public realm, he is simultaneously shown to be deeply human with intensely private emotions.

Countering this, the company move away from humanising portrayals as they turn to the sensitive and disturbing topic of rape. Here, Action to the Word add suggestions and symbols of their own creation to Shakespeare’s figurative moments in order to sculpt a tasteful representation. Their inclusion of a shopping trolley to move victim Lavinia is key, giving us an appropriate image of the commodification of woman. The production also highlights the playwright’s fitting metaphor when, as Titus’s daughter becomes a woman who cannot speak, but only bleed, we witness a disturbing and memorable portrayal of the emotional impact of rape. Throughout, the work is dripping with allusion, preventing us from lingering long on the acts themselves. Rather, we are encouraged to plot how these acts contribute to the tale’s unfolding narrative and primitive emotional themes.

And with a play that uses rape as an accessory to dark themes of desire and power, performers will inevitably have to face the challenge of withstanding feminist readings. Disturbingly, the women of this piece function largely as props for the men to play with as they negotiate their grasps on power and love. Ignored, abused and butchered, Lavinia is a key victim of male sexual and criminal desire. But her bad luck doesn’t stop there as she becomes muse for Shakespeare’s verbal extravagances, communicated through the figure of Marcus. In this adaptation, Thomas Christian captures this mood by leisurely observing Lavinia in her bloody and naked state. As Lavinia’s character is exploited both inside the narrative and through the mechanics of the script, one supposes that we’re never meant to fall for this helpless woman.

This is a play full of flaws, but these ornament the work’s characters with an unquestionable power. From the characters’ weaknesses emerge rich and emotive senses of humanity, despite their grotesque patterns of revenge. This is certainly not Shakespeare’s most accessible play but, with an adaptation as thought-provoking as this, it’s certainly the most rewarding.

(originally published on remotegoat.co.uk)

George’s Marvellous Medicine | Theatre Review

“Ghastly Grandma Raises the Roof”
by Amelia Forsbrook for remotegoat on 17/12/10

In many ways, I envy my younger sister. Living in Worcestershire, she goes on regular trips to the Malvern Hills. Our dad cooks for her every night and she still gets to see her best friend five days a week. Perhaps these are questionable arguments for coveting someone else’s lifestyle, but there is another reason far more substantial which I’m sure every adult Roald Dahl fan will understand: At eight years old, she is yet to fully immerse herself in the wickedly humorous world of this Wales-born writer for the first time.

Now, sitting in a theatre where 90% of the audience were my sister’s age or younger, this pang of jealousy came back leaving a putrid taste which I thought nothing could cure. That is, until the arrival of George, played splendidly by Clark Devlin, who brought with him a lively antidote of colourful vitality.

With Devlin’s energy, a delightful farmhouse doll’s house set and a whole host of quirky animal props, the piece made the transition from story book to theatre in a way that children’s stories often fail to do. The directors here have remembered that all the best children’s books are powered by the imagination and have let this fantastical quality seep through into the stage adaptation. Consequently, characters skilfully evaporated from the pages of the book become animated; what was once colourful ink and witty wordplay becomes energy-filled acting.

Another clever device occurs when we witness that, like us, George is mad on storybooks. He pulls out his copy of Billy the Boy Wizard at every opportunity and fantasizes about acting out his own wizardry. So, while George may introduce us to a rose-tinted portrayal of a happy, energetic grandma who spontaneously produces twenty-pound notes, he is evidently being more than wishful. Similarly, when he concocts his magical formula it is clear it is all in his dreams, his imaginary technique motivated by his book and his ‘ingredients’ inspired by the liquids and tablets he spots while completing his banal chores.

This is a delicious world of ‘If Only’s, where the brave George conjures forth the consequences of acting out your dreams, encouraging us to speculate on how the world could be a better place while keeping us rooted in reality. Like grandmother after drinking the medicine, we too are stretched so that our heads can be in the clouds while our feet rest very firmly on the ground.

Although not perfect for that age group who are more concerned about ‘seeing the strings’ than the development of a tale, this work is a delightful story packed full of the kind of wisdom that only exists until your parents inform you that nail polish, chicken feed and toilet cleaner will never be Delia’s recommended ingredients. With this delightfully witty adaptation, and Matilda selling more tickets in Stratford than Harry Wormwood sold dodgy second-hand cars, this winter is certainly shaping to be a Roald Dahl takeover. I’m just holding out for Twits: The Opera.