The Tempest – Edinburgh Fringe Review

C Theatre

C Venue South Garden

22/08/17

 

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Miranda, The Tempest, 1916 by John William Waterhouse 

 

I’m no purist when it comes to Shakespeare; adaptation and reinvention are part of what has kept the bard alive for the last few centuries. C Theatre’s production of The Tempest alters many aspects of the play, swapping the genders of certain characters, presenting an unconventional Caliban, and condensing the production into less than 90 minutes.

Some of these changes were very successful, with Prospera and Ariel commanding the stage and delivering strong performances, and the same actor who played Miranda doubling as an entertaining Trinculo. However, other changes did not sit as well with the production, leaving questions as to the reasoning behind the director’s decisions. One such change was the portrayal of Caliban as more of a petulant teen than a bitter and angry subject of Prospera’s rule. Singing his anger as he strums an electric guitar takes away much of the credibility of the character; when he, Trinculo and Stephano plot to murder and usurp Prospera as she sleeps, it does not feel like a plausible threat to Prospera’s life. Similarly, though some comedic additions to the productions were effective, there were numerous others that detracted from the power of the story. The sight of Miranda and Ferdinand grappling with enormous novelty chess pieces does not exactly evoke the romantic ending of Shakespeare’s script. The ending   was also weakened by the changes made to Gonzalo’s character which rendered him a shallow and uncertain character whose relationship to Prospera is not portrayed with any definition.

However, there were some strong points to the production worth mentioning, including the imaginative design and staging which made full use of the garden it was staged in. With Ariel and her spirits flitting amongst the audience, it is hard not to get caught up in the magical world of Shakespeare’s final play.

Though visually charming, C Theatre’s production of The Tempest unfortunately sacrifices the strength of  some of Shakespeare’s original script in favour of contemporary references and easy laughs.

The Giant Jam Sandwich – Edinburgh Fringe Review

The Giant Jam Sandwich

Pleasance Courtyard

22/08/17

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Based on the classic children’s book of the same name, written by Janet Burroway and illustrated by John Vernon Lord, The Giant Jam Sandwich is the hilarious and madcap story of the town of Itching Down and how its residents tackle an invasion by four million bees.  Written and directed by Jack McNamara, with music by James Atherton, this production is a high quality, entertaining piece of musical theatre for young audiences.

Appealing to an age group of 3-7 year olds, the production takes many opportunities to educate as well as entertain, involving the audience in a song about how bread is made, talking about pollination, and delivering lessons about teamwork. However, there is never the sense that the production is playing down to its audience, or sacrificing any technical or artistic quality in favour of dispensing information. From the opening scenes, in which the narrator lays out the setting in storybook style as the characters mime, The Giant Jam Sandwich establishes itself as a well-crafted, sharp production that proves entertaining and delightful for children and adults alike.

The three performers, Sarah Ratheram, Christopher Finn and Paul Critoph, all deliver strong performances, with no qualms about playing directly to, and engaging with their young audience. Finn is a particularly versatile performer, and switches between numerous entertaining characters with ease and spot-on comic timing.  Between the performers’ abilities and the clever direction, which maintained the storytelling style of the picture book while still allowing the piece to blossom into a musical, this is a strong and engaging piece of family theatre. With a direct approach that ensures the children in the audience are on a level with the performers, and a well rounded balance of classic comedy, contemporary references, music, and storytelling, The Giant Jam Sandwich is a perfect introduction to theatre for young audiences.

The Giant Jam Sandwich runs at the Pleasance Courtyard until 28th August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The Vagina Dialogues – Review

(Preview Performance)

Theatre N16, Balham

28/07/17

 

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Image by Celine Sophie FP

 

The Vagina Dialogues, a title more than a little reminiscent of Eve Ensler’s oft-performed 1996 work The Vagina Monologues. However, as soon as the audience enters the auditorium, in which the cast is standing in a circle humming a low, insistent tune, this piece written and performed by The Völvas, asserts itself as a fresh and urgent piece of feminist theatre for 2017.

With each section of the piece written and performed by members of the company based on their own personal experiences or interests, The Vagina Dialogues is an engaging exploration and celebration of diversity and intersectional feminism. From the light hearted segments, such as the breasty ballet (my phrase) at the opening of the piece and an hilarious and all-too-relatable song  about drunken-flirting written and performed by Jazmin Qunta, to the more serious pieces about sexual assault, racial identity, and bodily autonomy, this show  addresses an impressive range of current feminist issues. Nancy Ofori Geywu provides side-splitting comedy with a serious message in her piece about an internet-troll, Tosh, who suggests that a woman would be more beautiful if she lightened her skin. She also appears with MJ Ashton in an entertaining, recurrent exploration of the female orgasm, which the audience soon becomes invested in, as though waiting for a winning World-Cup goal. Alongside these comic pieces, some particularly note-worthy sections bring the audience to breath-held silences, as Qunta discusses a woman’s choice to have an abortion (a particularly hard-hitting piece to watch from an Irish perspective), and Ashton and Sarah Jeanpierre perform a beautiful, bittersweet movement piece.

These artists bring a contagious unadulterated anger, pride, determination and passion to the stage, reminding me of bell hooks’ words, “I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.”  The Vagina Dialogues is an honest, empowering piece of theatre in which the creators lay themselves bare in front of the audience, and in doing so lay bare the enormous issues still faced by women in our society, and that’s something.

The Vagina Dialogues runs at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival from 17th-27th August.