Sunday, 26 April 2015

Motionhouse: Broken, Stanley & Audley Burton Theatre, Leeds (On behalf of The Public Reviews)

This review was originally written for the The Public Reviews and the review can be accessed here.

Accessed from The Public Reviews

Kevin Finnan has put together an exciting, energetic and imaginative dance piece.  Motionhouse, established in 1988, is reputed for their innovation particularly its staging combined with theatre and dance.  They are known to choose themes for their productions which provoke thoughts, beliefs and perceptions.
Broken is no exception. This piece explores the relationship between humans and the earth, from scientific and daily perspectives.  Before the performance starts, one senses something is building. Earthly sounds emanate and tense visuals from the stage’s screen lead to the scientific retelling of the Big Bang.
The breathtaking intricate dancing from the six dancers keeps one attentive throughout the piece with their extraordinary strength and agility from their gymnastic and acrobatic feats.  These physical elements synchronises with the on screen digital imagery and visual projections accompanied by the ever changing tempo in the music and soundscapes.   With the aid of poles on the stage, the dancers align themselves perfectly and smoothly to the digital imagery which represents the evolved and created earth movements.  The dancers’ entries on and off stage through the screen’s slits are seamless and it is feels like watching a 3D film.  It is certainly an incredible choreographic feat.
Broken addresses ‘dust to dust’ and ‘dark to light’ metaphorically as well as physically which is interpreted beautifully from the dancers, illustrating aerial sequences relating to the earth above and below.  Emotions emerge from the unsettled, if not broken, relationships between human and nature. There is a contrast of civilisations from ancient ancestors’ caves to modern apartments; however the emotions including fears and hopes do not change from the forces of nature, such as earthquakes and natural disasters.
Broken is certainly a must see production, especially for its creative relationship between dance and digital imagery.  It meets the need for a seismic performance, and addresses the world where the earth’s energy continues to move and shift.
On UK Tour until: 2nd June 2015

Plastic Figurines

Ella Carmen Greenhill's new play is currently touring around the country including a visit to Square Chapel of Arts in Halifax.  It is about Rose and Mikey (played by Remmie Miller and Jamie Samuel), sister and brother, who has a strong sibling bond between each other.  

Remmie Miller and Jamie Samuel
(Photo credit: Box of Tricks Theatre and accessed

Life isn't the same for both of them since their mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness, Not only Rose has to come to terms with the loss of their mother but also caring for his brother who is autistic.  Mikey is passionate about his hobbies but find change hard to deal. He may remember accurately a lot of factual information but struggles socially,  His anxiety levels are high particularly when he is keen to catch the 1213 train.  

Set in a hospital setting, Plastic Figurines explores autism and the relationship between sister and brother and how they see life very differently from one another.  This often brings up conflicts of opinions.  It begins with Mikey turning 18 and Rose then revisits the past through narration and reflections with the aid of the letter written by their mother.

A lot of emotions and understanding are shared.  A moving play, under the direction of Adam Quayle, with seriousness and humour which is in similar vein to the playwright's own life.  Box of Tricks Theatre company has put together well a play that explores siblings' understanding of autistic behaviour and ensures crucial awareness continues to be raised.

A recommended play which continues to tour within the North West of England then onto Yorkshire, the Midlands and North Wales.

Monday, 20 April 2015

In My Father's House

In My Father's House
Photo credit: York Theatre Royal

A visit was paid to Fairfax House in York...not just to admire Noel Terry's interior decorative arts and furniture but going back in time and reliving the complex lives of Lord Fairfax and his daughter, Lady Anne. York Theatre Royal Theatre Youth Theatre production of Danusia Iwasko's In My Father's House was presented by Project K and directed by Paula Clark. The production brought the characters that lived and worked in the house back to life. from the welcoming butler, who stepped in a a narrator, to witnessing Anne's troubled life.  A tour of the house was included as some of the scenes were performed in different rooms; from the kitchen downstairs to the main drawing room upstairs where one imagines visitors for the Fairfax family were welcomed and received on arrival.

This 40 minute play certainly gives an insight into Lord Fairfax and Lady Anne (played by Ellie Bygrave).  It seems it wasn't all well in the household despite the wealth and beautiful Georgian House.  It is a good opportunity to appreciate Fairfax House contextually with its relationship with York's Georgian High Society.  A wonderful production performed by a group of young talented performers!

More information about Fairfax House and York Theatre Royal can be founded by clicking on the links.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

To Kill A Mockingbird, West Yorkshire Playhouse, 28th March 2015

Image accessed from West Yorkshire Playhouse

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre award winning production is currently touring round the UK including a stop at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.  Adapted by Christopher Sergel, the cast mingles with the audience at the beginning of the play and introduces Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird.  The incredible John Bausor's staging is where the performers mark on stage with chalk the town's locations and movements for each scene.  This is an ingenious way to inform the audience what is happening aided by reading aloud at periods Pulitzer Prize winner classic.

The story, set in America's Deep South in the 1930s, is told by Scout (played by Jemima Bennett), a six year old girl.  The audience is invited to see the child's interpretation and exploration of the world around her including the adults behaviours in the community and its complexities and injustices in an ever changing world.  Atticus Finch, played by Daniel Betts, believe in the humanity and justice, defends Tom Robinson (played by Zackay Momoh), a black worker who is wrongly accused of raping a white woman.

Accompanied with Phil King's music, the story is revealed all in the community itself during the first act. In the second act the focus is switched to the courtroom where the children, from their own eyes, witness the injustices of Tom Robinson's trail from the  'coloured' gallery.  No doubt the children would see how complex the adult world really is and nothing is neither black nor white.  Nick Smurthewaite writes in the house programme that the children 'struggle with the knowledge that their community embraces racism while claiming to be decent and law-abiding'

Lee wrote this book in the 1960s during the time of radical social changes with regards to race equality. One can especially think of the Scottsboro Brothers where nine black men were wrongly accused of raping two women and how such injustices triggered these changes.  The changes would offer courage and hope though uncertainty at the time. One imagines that To Kill A Mockingbird works in similar unison to achieving human rights for dignity and respect.

An excellent production with the wonderful direction by Timothy Sheader, where parts of the performance is read aloud from a number of editions of the classic, offers the audience to appreciate the story and its themes in a collective way.  A shared perspective indeed!

The Diary of Anne Frank, Leeds Children's Theatre - 28th March 2015

In Memory of Anne Frank
June 1929 to March 1945

Leeds Children Theatre presents this poignant production of Anne Frank's memoirs.  Written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and adapted by Wendy Kesselman, Anne Frank, played by Maddy Miller, gives an introduction of her uneventful but happy childhood in Germany. Only for the Nazi party to come into power which enforced Anne and her family, being Jewish, flee to neighbouring Holland.  Holland soon became a victim of the Third Reich and the family had no choice but to go into hiding.

Photo Credit:  Leeds Children's Theatre

The play takes place in the top floor of the office building's annex.  To ensure 'safekeeping' they had to stick to a strict curfew with making a minimum of noise during the day.  It is at night time the audience gets an insight into Anne Frank and her family and friends living in such extraordinary circumstances.

Anne's sunshine and optimistic personality is observed and so is her transition from childhood to womanhood.  She colourfully and enthusiastically records (and shares) her thoughts during that time.  Key characters such as the Frank and Van Daan families narrate thoughts at different stages during the hiding indicating the days ahead are getting harder more dangerous. More Jews join the families' hideaway including a dentist.

A slip and betrayal leads to consequences one fears to imagine and certainly happens unexpectedly! Only for Otto Frank, played by Christopher Balmforth, to confirm the dreaded truth.  The memory he has is Anne's diary.  Appropriately there is no curtain call at the end of the play; it offers the audience the opportunity to reflect the poignancy of the production based on a true story and the diary noting the events prior to the fate that changed the families lives forever.

An excellent production which is directed honestly and sensitively by Manda Lister and Michael Lockwood.  The performers ensure the spirit of Anne Frank and company will live on.  The audience present had the opportunity to view an exhibition of Anne Frank's life.  Further information about Anne Frank's life can be accessed via The Anne Frank Trust website.

Leeds Children's Theatre has been producing drama aimed at children since 1935. Further information can be found via its website.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Good to have at least a Little Hairspray!

I saw a professional production of Hairspray a couple of years ago in Leeds on a UK Tour.  My friend and I were especially excited seeing York Stage Musicals's amateur production at York's Grand Opera House.  

Maya Tether as Tracy
Photo Credit: yorkstagemusicals

Based on John Water's film, Hairspray is set in Baltimore during the early 1960s where race segregation was still then a fact of life and unsurprisingly at the time segregated dance shows took pace.  Tracy, played by Maya Tether, has plans to make everyday 'Negro Day'.  However she is challenged by the manipulative and scheming Velma Von Tussle, played by Toni Feetenby, and her concerned and petty daughter, Amber Von Tussle, played by Robyn McIntrye.  They both are determined for Tracy not to contest for the coveted pageant crown.

 The Company
Photo Credit: yorkstagemusicals

Hairspray is known for its popular songs composed by Mark Sharman and written by Scott Whitman and Shaiman.  There is the positive opening from Tracy's Good Morning Baltimore; the optimistic Welcome to the 60s; the romantic Without Love; and the poignant, soulful and moving I know Where I've Been.  The highlight certainly was the ensemble singing You Can't Stop The Beat which always draw the audience to tap their feet and dance away.

The Company
Photo Credit: yorkstagemusicals

The colours are larger than life, symbolising the musical's personality, which is reflected in the incredible costumes and the detailed intricate staging beautifully done by Scenic Projects. Nick Duncan's lighting blended in nicely on stage and the disco's ball 'glitter' reflects the party feel and atmosphere of a dance contest.

The Company
Photo Credit: yorkstagemusicals

Andy Stone as Wilbur Turnblad 
and Joe Wawrzyniak as Edna Turnblad
Photo Credit: yorkstagemusicals

The outstanding performance must be from Joe Wawrzyniak as Edna Turnblad.  This excellent portrayal of larger than life warm hearted character wasn't unnoticed.  All the cast are outstanding and a job well done! This feel good show brings out a number of themes for reflection such as race and women equality and the 1960s, the decade that brought big social changes as shown in the innuendos.  Anyway it's always good to have at least a little hairspray!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Mist in the Mirror at Doncaster's CAST, Friday 27th March 2015

Photo Credit: Oldham Coliseum Theatre

Ian Kershaw's adaptation of Susan Hill's The Mist in the Mirror is about Sir James Monmouth, played by Paul Warriner, who is pursuing an explorer.  The play is produced jointly by Oldham Coliseum Theatre and imitating the dog who is renowned for their innovative hi-tech visual stage projections.

This World Premiere is Hill's second full length ghost story after the popular Women in Black, which is currently running at the Fortune Theatre in London's West End and iscurrently touring around the country.  The production switches between the narration of a ghost story and the actual actions itself. The stage is dark, smoky, atmospheric which builds up the intrigue and suspense at the very beginning of play till the very end.  Accompanied by sound scapes, echoes and heart beating rhythms it suggests both that something isn't right.  It certainly gives grounds for one to be scared or excessively curious to what is about to happen.

The Mist in the Mirror travels between London, North York Moors, Scotland and other places. There is clever and innovative use of how the scenes are interpreted with its clever visual projections.  The projections compliments the sounds and music, not only it aids the scenes and characters, it creates one's figment of imagination about intrigue, fear and suspense throughout.

Mr James Monmouth, who pursues his quest, dwells into the dark past of the past ancestors, legends and heirlooms in old historic buildings and graveyards and is greet by the vividness from past connections in mystical environment.  The music unsettles Monmouth in which causing anxiety and fear and imagination mixing with possible reality. Expecting the unexpected, particularly with the audience member, is a key thing.

This production will always be associated with the incredible staging by Barney George and the stunning visual projections and lighting by imitating the dog where these attributes create the dark and eerie feel for telling a perfect ghost story by an excellent cast. 

The Mist in the Mirror is touring up to May 2015 and further information can be found via the Oldham Coliseum Theatre website.