Friday, 31 October 2014

A Farewell To Arms, CAST - Wednesday 29th October 2014

Image Credit: imitating the dog/The Dukes, Lancaster

This hi-tech production of Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms brings the classic live on stage.  imitating the dog, reputed for their technological experiences, is co-producing this production with The Dukes and currently on tour.  Starring Jude Monk McGowan (as Frederic Henry) and Laura Atherton (as Catherine Barkley), the story is about an American ambulance driver, serving in the Italian army, falling in love with a British nurse during the First World War.

Imaginative and exciting use of visuals and projections of the book's texts are used to tell this powerful love story and capturing the deep and intimate love between Frederic and Catherine.  Simon Wainwright's projections enhance the lovers' intensive, redemptive and powerful relationship with close up snapshots shown on the screens during some of the scenes.  These all link with the light and soundscapes reflecting the mood, courtesy of Andrew Crofts and Steven Jackson.

For full appreciation of the novel's narrative, surtitles are shown stage during the Italian and French dialogues.  Laura Hopkins's staging resembles a ruined building which reminds one contextually of the conflict and warfare of the First World War and the suffering from the devastated consequences, which Frederic and Catherine were not immuned to.  The narrative is given the chorus, members of the cast, who focuses on the two protagonists and loosley draws to their fates and the story's eventual conclusion.

The productive spirit of the drama, adapted by Pete Brooks and Andrew Quick, fits appropriately in Michel de Certeau's thought:

"Reading makes the text habitable like a rented apartment.  It transforms another person's property into a space borrowed for a moment by transient"

Cameras are cleverly used to shoot each chapter for 'forensic evidence' of the lovers' journey so that future readers can know what actually happens between Frederic and Catherine.  Like Hemingway, this adaptation encourages the audience (as the readers) to 'read', draw their own conclusions and be sensually enlightened to interpret in their own minds the story.

The cast uses this opportunity to capitalise on this powerful and moving story leaving cues how everyone can relate emotionally.  A moving production with the most amazing hi tech adaptation seen on stage.  Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms is being brought to life as a 'reading' one stage which as the 'book'.  Certainly a must see and please check out further details including tour dates about imitating the dog by clicking on the link.

Source:  A Farewell To Arms Programme

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Kite Runner, York Theatre Royal, Monday 27th October 2014

 The Kite Runner
(Image taken from

Percussion music, played by Hanif Khan, welcomes the audience to their seats and their senses are invited for a fusion of history and culture which is unfamiliar to them.  The drums set the mood for The Kite Runner.

Khaled Hosseini’s best selling novel has been adapted on stage by Matthew Spangler.  The European Premiere is currently touring round the country starring Casualty's star, Ben Turner, as Amir.  The story is about two childhood friends, Amir and Hassan (played by Andrei Costin) who share a passion for kite flying, a popular hobby among the Afghans.  Only for their innocence to be shattered by a trigger of events which results in warfare.  The story begins in the 1970s where the country was relatively stable and peaceful until the overthrown of King Zahir Shah.  From that point forward things in Afghanistan aren't the same with the clashes of political and religious ideologies within, still seen today.

The unstable circumstances test both Amir and Hassan's friendship, loyalties and principles which result in both boys going their separate ways.  Amir chronically narrates this story throughout from beginning, when he was a child growing up in Kabul, to his new life in the United States since his father, Baba (played by Emilia Doorgasingh) sought political asylum in 1981.  Amir shares his life story; highlighting a lot of themes involving the friendship with Hassan, the relationship of his father, the peace and stability of Afghanistan in the 1970s before the country became a Republic, emigrating to the US, his love for Soraya (played by Lisa Zahra) and so on.  These stories within a story raises thoughts of class, economics, politics, religion and cultures.  Afghanistan's unique culture and its strategic location in Central Asia affects one and all as much today as Amir.

There is an authorial presence in the production.  The story is parallel to Hosseini's life and he believes 'writing from life'.  He certainly wants the one and all to see Afghanistan differently and from an Afghan perspective and not how the country is perceived synonymously.  Most importantly the story takes Amir on a journey of guilt and forgiveness which he experienced difficulties dealing and facing in order to find peace.

An excellent cast is supported by unique staging with its lighting, projection and sounds - courtesy of Barney George, Charles Barfour, William Simpson and Drew Baumotil who enhances the story's themes and moods, with references to Amir's past and present habitats. 

The Kite Runner is packed with complexity, emotions and an invitation to explore Afghanistan's complex history and unique cultures.  Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse originally produced The Kite Runner and is under the direction of Giles Croft.

A moving production which moves one from the very beginning...The Kite Runner is on at York Theatre Royal until Saturday 1st November 2014 and will be at the West Yorkshire Playhouse from the 3rd November 2014.

Personal note:  Unfortunately we had to miss the final few minutes of this incredible production because of the travel constraints.  Please note the play is approximately two hours 45 minutes long.  The right length for the nature of the story with its packed and complex contents.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Grounded, West Yorkshire Playhouse, 23rd October 2014 (For The Public Reviews)

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

 Photo Credit: Igor Dmitry

A surreal and anticipated atmosphere awaits the audience with the playing of eclectic range of rock music and the character, The Pilot, unemotionally waits in a screened in box to tell her story.  George Brant’s Grounded, an award winning one-woman play, is about a woman’s high flying career as a fighter pilot.  Her career path changes when she became a mother; she no longer flies planes from the flight deck, but instead flies remote control drones over the Middle East in Las Vegas.

Performed by Lucy Ellinson, it seems The Pilot certainly feels more at ease in the sky than on the ground with her insistence of wearing her pilot uniform and her single mindedness to continue succeeding secularly.  Her struggles are discreetly analysed from her long shifts flying remote controlled drones and juggles this with her family life.  Her infallibility throughout the play sticks strongly until it is too late for her to realise what really matters to her such as family and ultimately her freedom.

Nothing is said or done delicately; incorporating the use of strong language and heavy handedness to the tasks she determinedly sets out to do.  One however can identify The Pilot’s vulnerability in the play’s latter stages concerning her family even if she dismissed help from Air Force counselling as suggested by her husband.

Oliver Townsend’s staging with its screened box metaphorically gives one an appreciation how distant and restrictive The Pilot is, physically and emotionally.  The lighting resembles no softness; instead there is this atmospheric necessity of urgency, intensity and drama as reflected in the use of colours.  Both Mark Howland’s lighting and Tom Gibbons’ sound simultaneously dramatises the character’s story and extra sounds grips the play with changed circumstances.

Gate Theatre’s Grounded, receiving its UK premiere, explores a woman’s role in society especially when one combines a secular career and raising a family.  There are broader issues from the play to consider, such as warfare and terrorism which are very much relevant today.  Lucy Ellinson’s animated, passionate and articulated story telling in this enjoyable play encourages one to think provokingly.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

England, Arise! - Huddersfield's Lawrence Batley Theatre, 25th October 2014

Image Credit: Bent Architect

It is always refreshing to see a play which is set at a similar time as the First World War but tells an alternative one, one which the powers to be then didn't want one to hear!  England, Arise! is no exception.  Written by Mick Martin and directed by Jude Wright of Bent Architect, this 90 minute play premiered at Huddersfield's Lawrence Batley Theatre in October 2014.

The five cast play is inspired by Cyril Pearce's Comrades in Conscience and drawn from Jill Widdington's Rebel Girls which is about the Northern Women's Suffrage movement. England, Arise! tells a story about Arthur Gardiner and Percy Ellis, socialists, who refused to fight during the First World War.  Their inspiring and brave stance led to being unpopular with the Government and the suppressed press not to be sympathetic with them.  Their beliefs were deemed as unpatriotic and the ostracism from the community and general public whose ignorance was stemmed because of propaganda and biased war news reporting.

Arthur and Percy endured persecution for their convictions with the tortuous prison sentences and military's brutality.  The powers to be then were confident that both men would conform and support the war by taking up arms however they were wrong as both conscientious objectors where support and inspired by a community who were opposed to the war.  These including fellow socialists, conscientious objectors, trade unionists, religious groups and women involved with the Suffrage movement as well.  It is down to those who yearned for revolutionary change politically and socially.

The play offers and insight into Arthur (played by Chris Lindon) and Percy (played by James Britton) lives as radical socialists before and during the war and shares their inspirations, revolutionised visions and collective hopes for the future.  The play is told with such heartfelt conviction and optimism despite what the characters are going through.  It is simply down to their belief in changing the Status Quo then and visualising how unpopular the war really is which proved so - indirectly expressed by members of the public and a number of artists including Siegfried Sassoon, a poet who served who made a similar stance via his Declaration of War.  Songs, under the musical direction of Jamie Lockhart and Lee Smith, are sung by the cast strengthening their desire for the change.

England, Arise! is another avenue that testifies against the mass support shown in historic sources and a need to share this story and similar ones far and wide.  With simple sets including the list of the Socialist's 10 Commandments as a backdrop, the strong cast, two members playing multiple roles, is led by Chris Lindon.  The local humour and reflections are well received by the audience and this enhances Huddersfield being the town of war resistance by those who were against the war.  These brave but optimistic young people made their stance just as similarly to those who feels the war will change the world for the better.  This is happening still today in movements whether politically, socially or culturally across the World.

This play is currently on UK Tour and further information can be found via Bent Architect website by clicking on the link.

Peter Read's Dylan Thomas's Final Journey - Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, 24th October 2014


Peter Read brings Dylan Thomas's Final Journey, his one man show, to Halifax's Square Chapel Centre for the Arts for just one evening and shares with the audience the Welsh poet's final journey.  Read, a Welsh writer, performs as Dylan Thomas from his struggles as a writer in London up to his three trips to America for his poetry reading and talks.  This coincides the poet's centenary year of his birth.

A thorough insight to the troubled poet is given in the show.  Good use of props and acting highlights Thomas's issues with alcohol from the consumption of whisky to standing up on a make shift platform to recite poems to an American audience.  Read makes references to some of Thomas's popular works such as Under Milk Wood which offers an insight to life and characters in a Welsh village.  Thomas is also renowned for some of poems such as Do not go gentle into that good night and And death shall have no dominion.

His poetic richness including rhythmic use of works and metaphoric imagery is acknowledge by Read when he makes references to some Thomas's key works with papers laid out on the table which he reads.  An interesting and insightful evening by Read whose Welsh heritage adds richness in resurrecting the poet for 60 minute show.