Show of the Month: Bryony Kimming’s and Tim Grayburn ‘Fake it ’til you Make it’

Bry and Tim

Bryony Kimming’s show’s are always topical. I don’t mean Greece or Syria topical – but that she chooses issues that effect almost every person, but are rarely spoken about in the mainstream media. The last two show’s of her’s I have been to,  at least half the audience has left the theatre weeping hopeful tears. Her shows are always personal to her, but through her truth, it becomes personal to many.

She doesn’t need extravagant sets, or costume to make her shows spectacular. She does it by being herself, and telling stories of real people, and real issues, and that quality is what makes ‘Fake it ’til you Make it’ such a joy – or perhaps, strange hopeful sadness would be more appropriate.

Bryony, and her Fiance Tim stand together or stage, dancing in their underwear and singing a song with bags on their heads. Anyone who has seen a Bryony Kimming’s show before is unsurprised. The set, as I mentioned before, is minimal, only 2 microphone stand’s to start with.

It is Tim’s story that they are telling. It doesn’t have a happy ending, but it doesn’t have a sad one. In fact, it doesn’t really have an ending at all, because Tim is still on this journey, and to give it one would take away from the fact that depression often is a life-long recurring illness. It will have many endings, and many beginnings.

Tim works in advertising normally, and has taken a year off work to make this show. He has very little stage craft. He is a slightly awkward dancer, and doesn’t like looking at the audience. But. It is his story, and frankly, his inexperience and obvious nervous energy only make him more endearing. Although told through silly dance’s and song’s the truth in the words being said is never lost. It is a love story, and the love shown between the two on stage stops the show from falling into the realms of “depressing show about depression” and instead makes it hopeful, makes it real, and most importantly make’s it relatable.

The show wasn’t made to be a great night out at the theatre after all. It was made to raise awareness of male-depression, and try to break down some of those everlasting taboo’s of mental health being a women’s sickness, and any man who has it as being less “manly.”

Whether or not it achieve’s this I cannot really say, never having bought into the taboo myself, I do not know if this show will change opinion. But what it does do, and what it will carry on doing is telling people; man, woman, child, and everyone else; that it is ok to be depressed. It does not make you weaker. It is ok to ask for help. It does not make you failure. It is ok to have relapses. It does not mean it will last forever.

With one in three people experiencing mental health problems (and those are only the one’s they count!) I think those messages need to be shouted from the rooftops, because if even 1 person goes to the doctor after seeing this show, it could save their life.

Fake It Till You Make It is on at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.If you aren’t heading that way, keep checking back HERE for tour dates.

 

 

Show of the Month: Golem

 

Golem

Disclaimer: this is a bit of a tease, as this show was only on for a limited run in London and has now closed! However, tour dates can be found here! (they are in Paris next week if anyone fancies the trip – I’ll come!)

For a theatre company founded by an animator, you would expect 1927’s animation to be pretty well sorted. Their acting, dramaturgy, storytelling, and other theatrical devices maybe less so. This however, is not at all the case with this spectacular all-rounder of a show.

Based on the myth of Golem – a clay man who comes to life to obey his master’s every command – we see Robert and his family’s life disintegrate as Golem begins to control them. Golem becomes a must have product on the market, and influence’s all it’s master’s choices through tactical manipulation and product placement. By the end of the tale, we see Golem: Version Three, being inserted straight into people’s brains. His original purpose – of helping with physical tasks being lost – and he becomes a tool used by the corporations to control the human’s every thought.

The story is an exploration of human kind, and our obsession with machines. The need and desire to have the latest technology, as we believe it will better our lives, and the dominance of corporations and the control we don’t realise they have.

We are guided through the story by the animation: the backdrop forever moving, we see the characters running through town whilst the actor run’s on the spot. Outfit’s and furniture change in a flash, and bugs run off pictures as if it’s all happening in our own living room.

The animation is impressive, without a doubt. It takes a lot of work to create any animation that’s 90 minutes long, especially anything decent. The story is amusing, and thought-provoking – if occasionally a little predictable, and repetitive. What make’s the show spectacular however is the acting, and the precision with which all of their movements are timed to the live music, AND the animation. Despite their slight ridiculousness, we relate to Robert, Anna, Grandma easily. We warm to them, as they are portrayed with such an endearing simplicity, and they are so wholly believable as people.

The music is catchy, and funny, and overall the show works. There are so many layers to the production, all individually brilliant, but when they come together they transform the theatre, and transport us into another land. A land where Golem rules the show, and the simplicity of eating breakfast, knitting, working, or rehearsing with a punk rock band in your basement all get lost to the corporations. Scarily relevant at a time where Google has begun controlling our taxi rides – our location’s to an extent. What is the next step? And where will it end?

Show of the Month: Everyman

Everyman at The National Theatre

 This week, I booked a seat for a preview for the hotly anticipated Everyman at the National Theatre. I took my £15 Travelex seat in the back row and watched with anticipation as a cleaner swept the stage for a good half an hour before the auditorium closed.image Everyman was written in the late 15th Century, a morality play that has been adapted many times in the last few centuries, and has most recently been re-written for today’s audience by Carol Ann Duffy.

I must say, she has done an incredible job. The script could be compared to Shakespeare the way it combines poetry, humour, and profound metaphor to the perfect balance. It is a masterpiece of writing, and I feel confident in saying so, as I was backed up by the queue of people waiting in the National’s bookshop after the play to pick up a copy of the text – only to be disappointed as it is not available until the previews end.

My favourite line is still clear in my mind three days later – and no I didn’t write it down:

‘My mother used to watch the news, then the weather, and I have watched the weather become the news’ 

It is spoken whilst money is being blown into the audience, and around the theatre, by a giant fan, as journalists struggle to stay standing in the background. Everyman (the protagonist) lies at the front desperate to find something, or someone to help him defend himself at the doors of heaven, as death looms behind him.

The play itself was great at times, the message was strong and clear – never subtle, but it doesn’t need to be. At the end of the day, it is timeless, as relevant to today’s world as any other. And I suppose if it wasn’t, the National wouldn’t be programming it. The message is – in essence – that ‘everyman’ is selfish, and puts his wants and desires above good-deeds. The play asks whether it is only through death that we appreciate life – and tells us that regret is often the most prominent emotion of all at that time.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (of 12 years a Slave fame) gives an impressive performance as Everyman. The party-boy lad side of his personality is believable, his regret and fear sometimes a little less so. But we aren’t supposed to sympathise, we are supposed to recognise the flaws in the character so we can address them in ourselves.

The images throughout are strong, and demonstrative in a Brechtian way.  After a slightly long and tedious opening party scene, we quickly learn to realise that it is the images that are important. This play isn’t about a story, character or individual performance. The play is just a message, and it is an important one. It isn’t subtle because it shouldn’t be, there isn’t time to be subtle. Seeing a personification of Good Deeds lying, sick and dying,  on a bed of rubbish, is something that will stay with me for while.

We are all responsible for this world, and each other. Be kind, be generous, share your love with those who need it, and those who love you. Do what you can, whenever you can. And if you aren’t sure why – go and see Everyman!

Everyman will be at The Olivier Theatre from 29th April

Show of the Month: Gecko ‘Missing’ – a review.

A new feature on my Blog. Show of the Month!  Kind of does what it say’s on the tin to be honest. A review of my absolute must-see dance or theatre in London that month.

For March, it is the turn of Gecko (again) to steal the show (pun intended), with their triumphant physical theatre show Missing. 

There is something about the way Gecko use text that excites me. With all dancers (mostly) speaking their own languages, we are left to take in smorgasbord of words, sounds, movement and technology to decipher the story. We see the non-linear narrative through the eyes of a women – ‘Lily’. It is a story about love. Love between Lily and her new husband, Lily and her mother, Lily’s parents, and really it’s just about love the whole world over.

Gecko Missing Flyer

I could sit here and describe the performance, detailing the most impressive scenes, and a summarizing the characters, but the details are not what is important, or impressive about the show. It is the way it is told.

The performer’s commitment to the movement, and to their characters – there is a passion that shines through from them and brings the world to life. They are assisted by the impressive staging, particularly the large screens behind which we see photographs and film come to life, and the conveyor belts used expertly as a choreographic tool.

The story itself could be anyone’s – but that’s what makes such a seemingly niche piece of theatre so accessible. It’s a show about life, essentially…or maybe love…or both, or maybe they are one in the same? These are just a few of the questions running around my mind after the show.

Gecko Missing Programme and Flyer

This was the third time I’ve seen Missing (creep alert, I know) and it has yet to disappoint me. In fact, it somehow manages to get better every time. I enjoyed every second that I was engrossing myself into the multi-mediatized (not really a word) masterpiece of Missing. I don’t want to say it’s the best show I’ve seen. But there is a reason I keep going back. If I’m honest, I would go again in a second (extra creep-alert).

Missing is at the Battersea Art’s Centre until the 21st March. Book Tickets HERE. 

Man and Superman Review

Cross George Bernard Shaw, a killer cast, and the National Theatre’s props and staging budget and what do you get? A pretty epic night out at the Theatre (and I mean epic in both the sense that it’s good and that it’s heading towards four hours long…). Last night I had the privilege of being in the audience for the first preview of Man and Superman at the National Theatre, and to cut to the chase – it was great!

Ralph Fiennes plays the lead — Jack Tanner, a Bachelor fleeing from his own heart, to please his mind and warped morals. He led us through a complex, witty narrative – a love story of sorts – that grapples with philosophy, and the meaning of life and happiness. The naturalism is broken with a dream sequence set in hell, with Lucifer and Don Juan (Tanner’s great ancestor) meeting to discuss what it is women and men really want.

After the interval, we met Anna and Don Juan in Hell – or John Tanner’s dream. The excitement which the scene began with – after Lucifer’s prop cart was thrown across the stage by a rogue trap door mechanism – was quickly lost to monologues that, while sparking relatively interesting philosophical debate, were actually very long and, I felt, quite boring.

At times I found myself alienated by out-of-date philosophies. It’s hard to connect with Indira Varma’s Anna when she agrees with Don Juan’s outdated proposal that women only use men to have babies, and only want to have babies in general. Perhaps in 1903 this was a more understandable opinion but its 2015 and I was left feeling that authenticity of the text could’ve been sacrificed to better  represent modern values.

Despite being the main attraction, Ralph Fiennes doesn’t steal the show in the way you would expect. It is Tim McMullan who plays both Lucifer and the romantic brigand Mendoza on the mountains who quickens the pace, and pulls us back in when concentration is waning. He rescue’s the dream sequence, with humour and presence, and actually makes it one of the funniest bits in the show.

In both acting, and staging terms this show is a mighty force. When a prop receives its own round of applause you know you’ve done something right. However, despite hardly being able to fault any individual acts of the play, it was simply just too long. We are a culture of kiss me quick entertainment with waning attention-spans,and asking people to squeeze into uncomfortable seats, and try and concentrate for a full 1hr 45mins each half is just too much. We all left a little weary, and that is not the reaction a piece of theatre like this deserves.

Man and Superman is at The National Theatre from 25/02/2015

Theatre tickets on a budget!

Over the last few weeks I was lucky enough to score tickets to both Frantic Assembly’s Othello, and Gecko’s Institute.  I have never been more theatre-excited as I have been in the run up to January. For the total £35 ticket price paid for two shows I wanted to share my tricks for finding affordable tickets in the ever over-priced, ever west-end-dominated theatre‘s of London.

Ticket, tickets everywhere!

I splashed out a whole £20 note on Gecko, and for three tickets this does add up! Being a long-standing fan, I would’ve liked to get the best seats in the house, but as I have been to that theatre before I knew it was relatively small, and would still get a great view two rows from the back. I was a bit cheeky with these tickets, as I bought them as my mum and sisters Christmas presents – in a gift for you, but really for me kind of way – so I also had a nice excuse! It was more than worth the money as I was, once again, completely amazed by what I saw at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre from Gecko.

Frantic Assembly’s tickets were cheaper at £15. Believing I would find Frantic’s work as impressive as the rest of the twitter-sphere seems to – I couldn’t wait to trek the hour over to the Lyric Hammersmith, and indulge myself. I was disappointed, as I feel may only be inevitable after being exposed to what must be a thousand 140 character rave-reviews from school groups. Not the best £15 ever spent, but I still enjoyed the show, and I was lucky enough to have the cost covered by work this time (perk of an art’s salary).  It’s always a good idea to consider travelling out of Zone 1. Theatres like the Lyric, the Hampstead Theatre, and Greenwich often have great touring shows for a fraction of the price they are in the West End.

Gecko

If you are under 25, you are in luck! The National Theatre’s Entry Pass, gets you in to top shows for a fiver, but you will be sat at the back row of the Olivier where sometimes those tiny binoculars would be useful! The Young and Old Vic’s both have schemes for under 25’s where tickets start from £10, even after they transfer to the west end! So don’t be put off if you missed a show the first time round!

Over 25’s fear not, as the National also hold its annual Travelex Season (normally end of summer to Autumn time) where tickets start from £12. Often, trips to fringe theatres (Southwark Playhouse is always a good one to try) or festivals (Institute was performed as part of the London International Mime Festival) will get you tickets at a fraction of the price, and you often get to see something new, interesting and refreshing – that’s no guarantee of its quality though!

My ticket collection

 

Often restricted view seats are significantly cheaper, and whilst sometimes it’s fine,  be wary. Being stuck behind a pillar, and trying to not to bang heads with the people sat either side as you peer round to catch a glimpse of the top corner of the stage does not make a great environment for taking in a show.

When you consider the £150 top tier seats for shows like the Lion King or Book of Mormon, there are tickets out there that are basically pennies in comparison. In my opinion, watching new shows is one of the most important things to do when you work in the arts industry. It gives me inspiration, knowledge, keeps my ideas relevant, and reminds me why I went into the industry in the first place. So I try not to let the cost put me off.