Posts Tagged ‘C Venues’

 Shakespeare For Breakfast

 Shakespeare for Breakfast

Shakespeare For Breakfast has become a staple of my Fringe experience; putting aside the free coffee and croissant you get with your ticket, the show is really just a great way to wake yourself up if you’re feeling a bit show-fatigued. This year’s production is Macbeth, but filtered through some High School movie clichés, and, as always, it’s fast-paced, funny and rather well written.

At Castle High School, Duncan is head boy and favourite of the overbearing and glory-hunting PE teacher, Mr Macduff. Meanwhile Macbeth (Joseph Morpurgo) is visited by three Goths, one of whom is hilariously portrayed a glove puppet, who predict his rise to be head of Cawdor House and ultimately head boy. When his ambitious cheerleader girlfriend, Beth, (Felicity Russell) hears of this, she schemes to embarrass Duncan and install Macbeth as head boy.

This year’s production is much better than it has been in previous years, and i really enjoyed previous years!  The writing is slick and treads that line between traditional and more topical jokes really well – the acting is also well above the normal standard. Tomas Wolstenholme is just outstanding as Mr Macduff, and his comic timing worthy of a much much larger audience. The rest of the cast are great too, though perhaps outshone slightly by Wolstenholme’s performance.

This is essentially a Fringe panto. There is audience participation, jokes about the tiny cast, a musical number, and a few blue jokes thrown in for good measure. It’s probably not going to win awards, it may not be innovative and life changing, but it’s incredibly good fun, and will set you in good stead for a day of Fringe fun. Highly recommended. 

Little Matter

 The River People: Little Matter

I feel this review needs some explanation. When I stepped into the tiny theatre set around a beautiful wagon, I first registered the delightful folk music filling the space, then I inhaled and my heart sank. The River People had, I suppose in an attempt to engage all senses, filled the air with inscense. Unfortunately for me, I am violently allergic to inscence and air fresheners, so was immediately dreading the following hour. I understand that not everyone had this problem, but I was immediately put off. I noticed quite a lot of other people coughing too – and spotted one mother subtly trying to give her son his inhaler in the middle of the show. Perhaps a sign or something similar outside the tent would help to warn people?

Anyway, I was understandably a little distracted during the performance as my arms broke out in hives and my eyes started streaming, but I struggled on as, despite my whinging, I really am a big fan of The River People.

Tucked away in a car park off Chambers Street, The River People present their usual blend of puppetry, music and storytelling, telling the story of a young man who feels he has not reached his full potential, wrapping this tale in magic and myth.

There are echoes of their previous production Lilly Through The Dark here as The River People once again examine the light and dark in all of us. However, where Lilly was driven by a fantastic story, Little Matter lacks this. The music, atmosphere and tehcnical skill are all there, but the story is not. The narrative is muddled and often appeared incomplete. What started as a tale of a man who did not live up to his potential became a confusing and convoluted trip into the subconscious; encountering potential children and dark characters along the way. And then, seemingly from nowhere, the whole thing was blamed upon an absent parent. I really wanted to like this, The River People are one of my favourite companies at the moment and they have bags of potential, but this one just doesn’t match up to the very high bar they have previously set.

Saying that there were some lovely moments of storytelling and puppetry, most notable the ogre of a boss with glowing green eyes. The music was also beautifully executed, and the design was great (though the lighting a little low for intricate puppetry). All four actors were brilliant actor/musicians, and there is something incredibly endearing about seeing such talented people appear so humble.

I am confident that with some polishing this show could be just as great as their previous productions. I wonder if the wagon signals a swing towards rural touring, because The River People would no doubt bring a lot of joy to smaller communities. 

Street Dreams

 Street Dreams

It appears I am on something of a puppetry binge this Festival. Street Dreams was the only time flyering actually worked on me, as it was handed to me while I was queueing for Swamp Juice, and as I had a gap I thought I’d give it a go. This is puppetry at its simple and glorious best.

The story is a simple one. A little hobo tries desperately to read his book in peace, but is distracted by his rubbish dump companions. Because of this, he decides to emigrate to the grassy land he spotted just a short umbrella ride away. When there, he realises that home really is where the heart is, and travels back to be with his old friends.

A silent and simple puppet show, Little Cauliflower use bits of scrap and things from the rubbish bin to create a rich and engaging world. The birds are made from carrier bags, his rubbish dump friends a rubber glove and old banana skins. It’s lovely to see the young company breathe life into these ordinary objects.

The main puppet, that of the hobo, could perhaps be a little more expressive – his movements weren’t immediately clear, and took some guesswork to figure out his intent, but you were willing to make that effort, as the company had instilled in this little puppet a warm and child-like personality.

I am unaware of Little Cauliflower’s work until now, but this show shows some promise. The music and puppetry is delicate, if not totally accomplished, and the story is really quite touching.  It’s a very sweet play, and I’m sure this would be particularly great for children, though may not have the universal appeal I have seen in other puppet shows.

And The Birds Fell From the Sky

 

Sitting in a darkened and dirty waiting room, watching a broken TV relaying newsreels of a freak occurrence in America, I wondered what I had let myself in for. I had no idea what Birds Fell was when I bough the ticket, but, like most things at the Fringe, a friend had recommended it, so I had to give it a go.

Performed every 15 minutes for only 2 people, its worth seeing this piece if only for the technological innovation involved. The show takes place on some video goggles, while you and your companion are drawn, both physically and mentally into this world taking place before your eyes.

The smells and sensations around you completely match up with what you are experiencing visually – a clown spits alcohol over you and you feel it hit your skin, smelling the pungent alcohol smell in your nostrils. Objects are placed in your hands, and you are seated in a car and taken on a wild ride.

The difficulty with this show is the story itself. If there was a story, I was so disoriented by the style that I found it impossible to follow, and even if I were completely nonplussed by the goggles, it would still have been incredibly difficult to understand. As a piece of art it was certainly interesting. The car full of clowns was a powerful image, but they overcomplicated the story for the audience who are new to this style.

Those niggles aside, this is a nicely innovative show that stays with you for some time. I particularly enjoyed all the small touches that made the show that bit more special: a phone number you can call afterwards, a keepsake that unravels to become a tarot reading, and a parish newsletter in the waiting room. This appears to be the start of something new. It covers ground that Alma Mater tackles a little more delicately, but the intent is the same. This is the next level of immersive theatre – first person theatre, if you will.

Yesterday I got my programme for Edinburgh Fringe.

Edinburgh is quite simply my favourite time in the entire theatrical calendar – a time when the little companies that normally work throughout the country, touring alone or fleetingly visiting cities, all converge within the space of one tiny street. The Royal Mile is a piece of theatre in itself, with companies vying for your attention by any means necessary – there is performance art, offers of free food, free drink, anything to get you to see their show. What is normally a little sub-culture, where everyone knows everyone, suddenly becomes a massive international event, and everyone wants to join our club!

My first trip to the Fringe was in 2008. During that time I worked at C Venues, working anything from 9 to 16 hour days for barely any pay. I worked night shifts, wired up emergency lighting for an entire 5 storey building despite having no experience whatsoever, I painted, mopped, chopped, sawed, stapled, gaffa’d, tied, swept and wept for 3 weeks, and that was before the fringe even began. But when the fringe begins it’s all worthwhile. It was the post-graduation impetus I needed to make sure I stayed in theatre. It’s the main reason I’m so passionate about innovative theatre, and it introduced me to some of the best companies working in theatre today.

 Receiving the Fringe programme is incredibly exciting; partly just to allow you to plan the visit you’ve been looking forward to all year, but also to give you an idea of where the industry is at this year. What companies have chosen to make the perilous journey up north? Because it certainly is perilous. It is considered a success at the fringe if you break even – and it’s a rare company indeed that goes up there making a huge profit, despite spending thousands on venue hire, living costs and accommodation.

There is an art to reading the Fringe Programme, and it’s very much a ‘How do you eat yours’ dilemma. Obviously, like any sane individual, I jump straight to the theatre section. I then pore over each page, reading the company names first to see if anyone exciting is up. Once the favourite companies have been noted, I’ll go through to find some hidden gems from lesser-known companies – it’s all about the blurb in this part. And then I’ll go through children’s/musical/comedy sections and do the same thing.

 So with that in mind, it’s time to celebrate the wonderful world of theatre, and highlight some of my Fringe Picks meticulously selected from my first few sweeps of the brochure.

 Clockheart Boy -Dumbshow Theatre

Saw this when it was up in 2008 and fell in love with it. Heartbreakingly beautiful – magical, joyous, everything you could want for a fringe piece. Miss it at your peril.

Little Matter – The River People

These are one of my favourite companies working today, and this looks to continue the success of ‘Lilly Through the Dark’ – keeping their home at Bedlam, The River People have their own wagon for this. that’s good enough for me!

 Audience – Ontroerend Goed

After the disturbing, beautiful and slightly baffling ‘Internal’, I’m interested in anything this company has to offer. From the sounds of it, this will, once again, put the audience at the heart of the show.

The Boy James – Belt Up Theatre

Darlings of the Fringe scene, Belt Up, appear to have listened to criticism and scaled down for this fringe. Taking only three actors with them, their season is a muted affair (for them, anyway!) with only three shows in C Soco. I haven’t seen The Boy James yet, so will be favouring that over their two new shows, Outland and Twenty to Nine, which I am certain will arrive in London at some point.

I, Malvolio – Tim Crouch

Having been introduced to Tim with his production of ‘My Arm’, I am continually fascinated by his process and writing choices. Going by past experience, this seems to be about as normal as he gets, so I’m intrigued to see what he does with the character of Malvolio.

What Remains – Grid Iron Theatre

You may have read earlier in this blog, that ‘Decky Does a Bronco’ was one of my highlights of 2010 – and it solely for this reason that I’m going to see ‘What Remains’. They’re a great company, and some of the nicest I’ve worked with when they toured to Oxford last year.

Oedipus – Stephen Berkoff

Something tells me this is going to be the hot ticket this year. You get where this is going, Oedipus seen through the ungouged eyes of Berkoff – what isn’t there to like?

The Wright Brothers – Oxford Playhouse

 Okay, I admit it; I’m a company girl. The people that pay me a lot of money every month are taking their show up this year. Having seen the preview of this already, I’m really interested in how it’s changed, and how a Fringe audience receives it. If the previews were anything to go by, I think this may be an unexpected hit

 Assorted Forest Fringe

At the time of writing, the Forest Fringe programme has not yet been released, but rest assured, I have blocked off many hours to fill with whatever they have to offer. Action Hero are a particular draw for me, but I trust the Forest to provide something interesting no matter what.

 

Notable Absences

Little Bulb Theatre- Though I have been assured by them that they will be appearing BAC Summer Hall at some point – so keep an eye on their schedule!

Dancing Brick – hot on the heels of Thomas Eccleshare’s recent award, it would have been lovely to see them at the Fringe again. One can only assume they’re continuing their international success elsewhere!

Pappys Fun Club – genuinely upset about their absence, and can only hope they’ll be back next year.

 

And that should do it for now. There are many many many more shows I’ll be seeing this year, but that’s just a little taster of what I’m certain will be a spectacular programme. Hope you will all be visiting the ‘Burgh this year – see you up there!