Posts Tagged ‘Burton Taylor Studio’

08/09/11

I don’t normally review shows that I see at my place of work due to previously stepping on a few toes with an ill-timed review, but as this show has now, sadly, left our studio for greener pastures, I simply could not contain myself any longer. I must tell you about this show.

The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer has won critical praise around the world, most recently in Edinburgh when it was a complete sell-out. Try as I might, I couldn’t get tickets for it – I am reliably informed that one intrepid theatre-goer even attempted bribery in an attempt to get in to see the last show, to no avail. And it is fresh from this success that Alvin Sputnik arrived in the Burton Taylor Studio. 

One-man storyteller Tim Watts tells the tale of a post-apocalyptic world. Nature’s “Menopausal rage” has melted the ice caps, and only a few humans remain on earth, living atop skyscrapers to escape the rising ocean. Alvin Sputnik lives a quiet life with his wife, Elena, until she passes away in his arms. Alvin, with nothing left to lose and nothing to live for, decides to dive to the bottom of the ocean to search for her soul.

Watt’s has created theatrical magic here. Alvin is a triumph in puppetry – ingeniously portrayed by a white glove and a ball of foam. Watt’s breathes life into his creation (well…his hand.) in such a way that you just fall in love with Alvin. He is sweet, loving, kind and very very funny. Watt’s has also cleverly combined the live action scenes and puppetry with animation, music and film using a large circular screen with which he interacts throughout as Alvin explores the deep. The effect is completely original, and left the audience gasping in delight at times.

There is a child-like wonder to everything Watt’s has created; he is energetic, playful and charming, but also restrained when necessary. Nothing is overdone here, instead Watts allows the beautiful story to tell itself in a deceptively simple way. And that is the joy of this show – the story is funny, and heart-warming, but is also full of loss and grief, creating lots of lump-in-throat moments and some all-out heart-breakers. (I am particularly reminded of the sad and joyful cry of “I love you!” towards the end of the show.)

This show is worth every single word of praise it has already received; this is a show that kids will enjoy, but adults will probably enjoy more. To quote my boyfriend, who emerged from this show just as excited as I was, it’s almost impossibly sweet.  Wonderful, beautiful, heart-warming and tear jerking, Alvin is a story about quiet heroism and enduring love: is there anything more you could want from a trip to the theatre?

  What's on: Paper Birds Theatre's Company's Others

Using the company’s trademark mix of verbatim, movement and storytelling, Others is a piece about women, and the ill-informed assumptions we make about those around us.

Paper Birds tell the story of three women, filtering their tales through movement, comedy and pathos. The principle is that the company write to women all over the world in order to better understand their life. The questions range from the mundane (what TV do you enjoy?), through to deeper questions about the women’s life and history. The result is a poetic, often moving insight into these three women’s lives. Paper Birds deconstruct the stories and voices of these women, revealing secrets, self-portraits,

The Iranian theatre-maker speaks with eloquence of pride in her culture, and the company use her letter to highlight how little we really know about the women of Iran. This is the highlight of the show – the language is beautiful and the movement sequence, as the girls spill out their various inaccurate perceptions of Iranian culture, walks the line between comedy and pathos with ease. The prisoner speaks eagerly about her life, though the more she speaks, the more heartbreaking her story becomes. And then there is the celebrity. Our celebrity never speaks – she is noticeable in her lack of response to the company’s letters, and it is this that the company use to tell her story.

The movement and use of poetic language in this piece is captivating, and there is a subtlety to the piece that is quite refreshing. I enjoyed the way it engaged the audience, and encouraged them to make their own minds up about these women. I should explain that I saw this piece based solely on my regard for the company – I watched In a Thousand Pieces with tears rolling down my cheeks, and hoped for a similar experience in Others.

Unfortunately, Others did not impress me quite as much as their previous offering, and I was left feeling as though the piece lacked coherence. There seemed to be an attempt at deeper themes of perception, but this was not explored enough to be fully understood by an audience. The assertion that the Iranian theatre-maker was not their ‘Other’ suggests there was an attempt to find their equivalent in another woman, but this is an idea that is brushed away as quickly as it arrives. It feels a little like a wasted opportunity, as the theme we are left with, that we should cast judgement on those around us just because of their circumstances, is a somewhat muddy one considering the amount of themes and ideas that have been thrown at us.

Though the production is flawed,, I still enjoyed its gentle nature – and loved the way this company really seems to have carved out a signature style for themselves. Their fluidity as a group is intriguing, and I would like to see another of their pieces, as I really think this company has something relevant to say.