LEO

[For WeLoveBrighton.com]

Globe-trotting Y2D Productions’ LEO has finally landed on our side of the pond. This multi-award winning show has triggered many a gasp from audiences across New York, Moscow and the Edinburgh Fringe… and it isn’t hard to see why. This one man, one-of-a-kind physical theatre piece not only defies theatrical convention, but it also challenges our sense of gravity and reality through the clever interplay of superlative acrobatic performance and high tech video projection.

LEO_Credit_AndyPhillipson_2

From the get-set-go of curtain up, we are introduced to LEO and his topsy-turvy world. Trapped in a single room, he begins to realise that gravity isn’t what it once was. To his dismay, his hat gets stuck to the wall, his legs repel the floor and everything becomes a lot more… bendy and bizarre. Flummoxed by his tie’s stubbornness to lie horizontally, LEO discovers that he is suddenly able to do weird and wonderful things with his body, and with the room itself. He becomes a modern-day Spiderman (minus the outfit), navigating walls and making sense of the space whilst floating, for the most part upside-down, inside-out and back-to-front, across surfaces and ceilings within his personal, gravity-defining cube. As he tries to understand the limits and loopholes of this new realm of reality, LEO slowly starts figuring out what’s possible and what isn’t – no wait, everything’s possible. The more LEO experiments with his world, the more he starts to have fun with it. As do we!

Aside from mind-melting and brain-bending illusions, what else can you expect? Well, LEO’s magical-musical suitcase will certainly shake things up – the various tunes that emit out of the luggage inspire LEO to play around with his new-found weightlessness. We get the very best of where dance meets physical theatre. It is very, very cool. Even though the techniques used are elegantly simple and easily identifiable, you’ll probably find yourself wondering how on earth he can do those things with his body. He defies the laws of nature!

There is a team of three LEO’s – and tonight’s LEO, aka an “acro-dance-clown-music-graphic hybrid”, is one hell of a talented performer. Not only can he dance, walk on walls and mould his body into any necessary position, but he can also play the harmonica… oh and he’s an incredible artist too. I don’t know anybody else who can draw such a convincing cat, especially while hanging upside-down. Also, his drawings come alive. And that’s in the literal sense. Think I’m kidding? I’m not.

Saying that, the show could do with picking up pace and shaving off perhaps fifteen minutes or so. There are times when the choreography goes on for too long, triggering evident restlessness within the aisles of the auditorium. For the most part, we laugh along at the ridiculousness and wonder of LEO’s situation, but this engagement dips as certain elements are overly drawn out. It is a case of over-egging the pudding, I’m afraid, and it is because of this that some of the magic is lost. The show could be condensed into a much shorter timeframe without losing its overall essence, which would help the audience maintain a high level of awe throughout. It’s a shame because LEO deserves better. However, I do not deny that this show achieves a breath-taking level of ‘extraordinary’ and, all in all, this is a spellbinding, gasp-evoking, dazzler of a show.

Advertisements

The Secret to Being Weightless: An Interview with LEO’s Creative Producer, Gregg Park

[For WeLoveBrighton.com]

From the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to New York, Moscow and Hong Kong, the multi-award winning show, LEO, arrives on our humble shores in April. For those intrigued about defying gravity, get booking – because this one man, one-of-a-kind physical theatre piece not only defies theatrical convention, but it also challenges our sense of gravity and reality through the clever interplay of superlative acrobatic performance and high tech video projection. Universally appealing to adults and children alike, this is the funny, intriguing and moving journey of a seemingly ordinary man whose world becomes physically unhinged.

LEO_Credit_HeikoKalmbach_11

Having caught a sneak peek, thanks to the preview video, I was uber-keen to speak to Y2D Productions Inc. Creative Producer, Gregg Park, to find out more. Y2D Productions Inc. is a Montréal-based Production Company, whose principal focus is to create and tour original, innovative and entertaining shows for the international performing arts market. Parks has toured the world as an onstage performer and gradually became fascinated with production and its extraordinary possibilities. And, from the praise LEO has received, this breath-taking level of ‘extraordinary’ has resulted in a mind-bending, spellbinding, gasp-evoking, dazzler of a show. I caught up with Gregg to see if I could get any trade secrets out of him…

Without spoiling the surprise, can you tell us a bit about the show?

GP: First and foremost, the audience will be surprised. The techniques that the show uses are very simple but they are totally unexpected. They can expect to laugh as there are many funny sections in the show and many audiences also find the show surprisingly touching. The show presents the story of a character, LEO, who finds himself in what is, at first, a pretty impossible situation but slowly, as the situation evolves and as LEO continues to try to figure out what is going on, the audience tends to relate emotionally to LEO more and more.
—-

What inspired you to take on gravity and where did the idea for this show come from?

The story of LEO is that we find this character, trapped in a single room. First he discovers that the gravity has changed and as he tries to understand, the more he figures it out, the more he starts to have fun with it. It is through all of this exploration and discovery that the different elements of the show come into play.The idea to try playing with a camera turned on its side came from the original performer Tobias Wegner and it was first incorporated into the production myLIFE that played in Berlin for a year. As a result of the evolution of the ideas during the year, it was decided to experiment further with the ideas that had developed, to see if it was possible to create a longer work. The result of that work is LEO.
—-

Were there any bumps in the road? Or any surprises along the way?

There were many bumps in the road. We tried huge sets with furniture built onto the sides of walls and a trampoline. We had at one moment the entire set covered in green screen fabric held in place by electromagnets. But at each step the show wanted to stay simple. Each time we had a really complicated idea, it didn’t really work that well, but each time we found a simple solution it worked better.
—-

Tell us about the training; how long did it take to become weightless?!

The training to be weightless is both more and less than one would expect. Maintaining the positions and the movements that are required for over an hour place significant demands on the body. To date, all of the performers who have performed LEO have had a circus artist background. While the show does not incorporate very many acrobatics specifically the training itself is important in allowing the performer to keep track of his orientation in space and to maintain the positions needed for over an hour.
—-

What would you suggest to those who want to train and work in physical theatre? What’s the best way of developing such unique performance skills? 

The best way to go for anyone wanting to do physical theatre is to take all types of physical training. Dance classes, martial arts, acrobatics, ball room dancing, resistance training….. anything and everything physical will help. The point is not to ever underestimate the benefit to be gained by exposure to a different training/movement style or form.
—-

You’ve toured the world with this show – tell us, who was the toughest crowd to please? 

So far I think the toughest audience was in Moscow. They have a very deep theatrical history and they are used to seeing a lot of theatre. Also, their natural reactions are quite different than western audiences. They were, frequently, much quieter during the show but their reactions at the end were really, really satisfying. In fact LEO went back to Moscow twice last year.
—-

Have you performed in Brighton before? If so, what do you think of Brighton? If not, what have you heard about our beloved city?

No this will be both the show’s and the team’s first time in Brighton. We are really looking forward to it. Brighton has such a long history we are hoping that we can leave a little mark of our own.
—-

Ok, come on then, tell us – “HOW DO YOU DO IT?!” 

Well, we don’t like to talk too much about the techniques used in the show because even though we hide nothing and it is very clear to the audience from the very first seconds what we are doing and how we are doing it, we like to maintain a bit of mystery about it before audiences come into the theatre so as to maintain their curiosity. However, I would say that there isn’t just one thing in the show that is surprising – there are many. In fact many audiences and critics have noted that just as you are about to ask the question what can possibly come next, something else, completely unexpected happens.
—-

www.facebook.com/theleoshow

 

LAUGHTERMARKET at The Old Market

[For WeLoveBrighton.com]

This year’s LAUGHTERMARKET kicks off with a warm and fuzzy welcome from Sam Stone – the brains behind Brighton’s annual comedy event, and the balls behind curtain up. There’s a lot of pressure on the MC to open the show with a bang and, although it does take a while to get going, Stone’s witty banter soon makes up for a jerky take-off, and in a matter of minutes we warm to her high-pitched, nervous giggles and endearing charm.

Laughtermarket

The first act of the night is Mock-of-the-Week-ette, Zoe Lyons, who you may also recognise from Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow. I’ll talk as straight as she does – Lyons is, quite simply, hilarious. Her commentary on recent events in the news is both impressively observed and very, very funny. We get everything from David Silvester’s warped take on the recent floods, to the ban on women drivers in Saudi, to the Nigella / Saatchi split… these political / pop-culture hot topics are delivered with many classic and cracking lines, and we can’t help butsnort along in laughter (puns intended). There are ample gags about the Brighton / Hove divide: the seagulls in Hove prefer Tiramisu, don’t you know? Lyons’s sharp sense of humour hits the button and the auditorium bellows with belly laughs throughout the entire set.

After a brief interlude, Rue Barratt (Stone’s friend and co-host) takes to the stage. Barratt’s response isn’t as enthusiastic as he perhaps expects – it may have made more sense to stick to one compère for the night for consistency’s sake. Saying that, we do get a guided tour around the Sussex coast and Barratt successfully andamusingly personalises Hove (the well-behaved child), Brighton (the unruly child), Hastings (Brighton’s junkie twin brother)! Barratt holds the fort and keeps the energy levels cranked up to an appropriate LAUGHTERMARKET level.

Joe Wells boldly strides on stage and his set drop-kicks into a few UKIP quips, which would have been funnier if it hadn’t already been covered by Lyons (perhaps a slight programming oversight?). Thank goodness everyone in Brighton is a liberal leftie – I’m not sure how his act would go down otherwise! We all know that comedy and politics work hand-in-hand but there’s always the danger that we’ve heard it before… and, yep, some of it we have, sorry Joe. Saying that, Wells offers a new way of looking at Marxism – we learn that the need to laminate scissors may result in a conflict of interests between capitalist and labourer (who’da thought? – WORKERS UNITE!). Overall,Well’s is on form and has us in stitches.

Next up; James McDonnell, who describes himself as a Kurt Cobain lookalike, who’s addicted to beans instead of heroin… and as soon as he struts on stage with a guitar and a recording device (for his absent mum’s benefit), we know we’re going to like him. We get a song about a sexual deviant with a short attention span, a brief musical medley about the stock market, and a death-metaller’s take on a lullaby… which made us all LOL in our seats (and perhaps go a little bit deaf). McDonnell’s act is a breath of fresh air and he works the audience with ease.

Headlining the evening is Holly Walsh; a delightful bouncy bundle of energy! Walsh is an extremely natural and confident comic. She demands attention and, despite what she says about being invisible, she has buckets of stage presence. Walsh directs the audience with grace and the effortless crowd interaction means she can show off her quick-witted impro skills. She’s naturally funny and it becomes apparent that we’re in safe hands. Walsh covers everything from those awkward family questions (‘when are you having kids?) and relationships pitfalls (including farting), to bum sex, show business and strip clubs.

Overall, The Old Market’s LAUGHTERMARKET does what it says on the flyer – lots of laughter in a Market; an Old one. I’ll certainly be heading back next year.

Beats – The Old Market, Brighton

(For the Public Review)

It’s a big night for Johnno McCreadie. The rave beckons. As does a concoction of intoxicants.

When the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act sought to illegalise raves in the 1990s, many a young aspiring raver found a loophole. The Act outlawed any “public gatherings around amplified music characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats” (yes, seriously)… so, naturally, these party animals did their utmost to simply find the tracks that were… well… a bit all over the place. No repetitive beats, no police beats – well, that’s what they thought anyway.

Image

Beats is a coming-of-age story about a fifteen year old boy who is slowly but surely becoming disillusioned with the world. Primarily, we follow the tale of Johnno and his mates, but we’re also allowed a glimpse at his tormented mother, as well as various other characters whose paths cross with Johnno’s.

Writer and performer, Kieran Hurley, offers a captivating performance. Despite narrating the boy’s story in the third person, and sitting on a chair for most of the action, Hurley demands attention. A backdrop of trance-evoking video projections can’t even lure away one’s eyes from this guy. He has a striking stage presence and his energy levels are through the roof. In addition, Hurley’s writing talent manages to capture the transition from innocence into tainted adolescence – as well as every sordid and ecstatic aspect of the rave scene. The actor’s startlingly good grip on accents and impressive characterisation ensures that all the character changes, which are essential to the piece, are perfectly clear. Subsequently, one can follow the twists and turns of the story with ease.

Throughout the performance, a DJ mixes music live on stage, and the tracks are – in a word – “banging”. The beats seem to seep into the souls of those sitting and bopping in the aisles. Former and current ravers will be transported back in time to those all-nighters of glow-sticks and fluffy boots. Ah, those were the days.

The combination of music and video projections, by artist Jamie Wardrop, make the show what it is – essentially a brilliantly visceral experience. It can be a bit too intense and you may find yourself exhaling in a bid to tame your heartbeat, but the relentless beats, the hallucinogenic projections and the gritty content all fit together to create the perfect atmosphere, which allows the imagination into the world of Johnno, his pals, and the underworld. This unique blend of immersive storytelling is indisputably mesmerizing.

Hurley’s writing is cleverly understated and moving. However, the subject matter may not be easy to follow or connect with if you’re not familiar with the rave scene or if you don’t “dig” techno, but – for those who are at least a little familiar – Beatspromises to be an entrancing piece of theatre. The story, although well-written, is a little predicable but this doesn’t really matter because this show is more about the experience.

By the end of the 75 minutes, one does crave the rave.

Terry Alderton: Season 4

(For the Public Review)

WARNING: contains strong language.

Image

Terry Alderton. Where to begin? The man is a hurricane. Condensing this comedian into a bite-sized chunk is as impossible as the realisation that one believed in the monkey war that was waging on stage. Ergo, not impossible. One has and one did.

The act opens with a little ditty and as Terry demands audience participation at the end of each verse (“She flew out of the window! What’s her name?!”), it soon transpires that this isn’t going to be a standard night out. Especially when the song ends with a torrent of profanities. (“What’s her name?! NO! F*CKING JUNE!!”). The audience may very well be in the hands of the mentally unhinged, but the sweet cascade of giggles softens the outbursts and Terry becomes strangely endearing.

For those new to Mr Alderton’s charms, it is terrifyingly easy to keep up with his bombardment of vocalised mind melts. Unfinished sentences ricochet all around while his microphone pounds away on various heads (that’s literally for those in the front row). A giant tennis ball (aka football – he left the giant tennis ball at a previous gig) looms disturbingly in the distance while the voices in Terry’s head battle it out. And there’s the odd somersault to boot.

Terry is the master of accents and characterisation. The act includes a sample of dialects from every corner of the globe, multiple sound effects, and every stereotype going – plus their extended family, the next-doors and the second cousins of the next-doors-but-one. The “don’t mess with me” wide boy, the campest gay in the village, the Devil, Eastender-Ricky’s protégé and Lee Evans all make an appearance.

Terry covers everything from dead squirrels to GILFs (like MILFs but with grandmothers) to monkeys with muskets between sporadic outbursts of song and barking fits. Yes, he barks. There’s also a drum and bass rave in his right kneecap.

Watching Terry is a bit like being repeatedly run over by a bus. A party bus.

Regardless of background, residency, race, orientation – at some point, Terry will say something that strikes a chord. Or chisels away at a nerve depending on one’s disposition. For instance, Essex is full of people who look like they’re broken and Norfolk is where all the backward people live. For Brightonians, there’s a quip about Dyke Road. And the scratch and sniff gag is as uncomfortable as it sounds.

It is surprisingly odd to find oneself falling in love with Terry’s feet, even though they’re gangster-esque by nature and revel in profanity. Judging by the audience response, the ‘shoulder stand/trainers take over’ is one of the highlights of the night, particularly when the right foot has a go at the left for doing “f*ck all” in the car.

In addition, Alderton shares many a story, including the time he found multiple sex toys (or “a f*cking warren”) in his wife’s closet and smothered Tobasco on them out of sheer belligerence. Then he re-enacts a recent finance-focused argument and his wife is represented by Terry’s left arm… naturally. Mr Alderton even treats the audience to the ending of the stage adaptation of Shawshank Redemption.

Song, dance, belly laughs, barking, Morgan Freeman…What more could one want in a comedy night?!