For a warped and wickedly funny slice of life, head to Komedia to see this corker of a comedy. Throughout the hour, the trio offer a laugh a minute – and that’s in the literal sense since each witty sketches lasts no longer. Broken up by a chuckle and a bell, the three meander from one hopeless real life scenario to another with grace and pace. The comics should be praised for their exemplary timing and characterisation; you get everything from the League-of-Gentleman-esque librarian and the mummy’s boy murderer, to the c*nt of a seven year old and birthday-for-one Mary. The descriptions hopefully speak for themselves so, needless to say, there’s pure comedy gold a’plenty; chuckles, belly laughs, cackles, wry smiles… and even some snorting and whinnies in the mix.
This short one act play has been loosely inspired by the murder of Theo Van Gogh. Working alongside the writer and women’s rights activist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Van Gogh directed the short film Submission, which portrayed violence against women in Islamic societies. Both Hirsi Ali and Van Gogh, as champions of free speech, sought to publically cinematise and raise awareness of the brutal crimes that had been inflicted on women in the name of religion. The short film triggered offence and outcry from the Dutch Muslim community and on the 2nd November 2004, Islamic extremist Mohammed Bouyero murdered Theo Van Gogh on the sunlit streets of Amsterdam. A letter addressed to Hirsi Ali was affixed to Van Gogh’s corpse with a knife, warning that she would be next.
ALINA, thirty-two. A short, stumpy woman with mousy brown hair and a friendly face.
VINCENT, thirty-five. Tall, dark and handsome.
This one act play is set in an upstairs flat in Ruritania on a cold and stormy night in November 2014.
– = interruption
O.S. = off stage
[ALINA is nervously pacing up and down a living room in a dark and dirty upstairs flat. Mould lines the window frames, and wallpaper is peeling off the walls from which empty picture and photo frames hang askew. Having checked her watch for the second time, ALINA wearily lowers herself onto a small two-seater sofa and flicks through the manuscript lying on the table. There’s a knock at the door. ALINA takes a deep breath, stands, and makes her way towards the door. She opens it and VINCENT stands before her.]
ALINA: Hello. Come in.
[ALINA moves aside to let VINCENT through. He walks in and awkwardly navigates the space. ALINA closes the door behind them, but not before checking the corridor outside.]
ALINA: Yeah, none of the lights work so it’s a bit… well, anyway. Please, take a seat.
[ALINA gestures towards the two-seater sofa. VINCENT doesn’t follow his cue.]
ALINA: Sorry, I should take your coat –
VINCENT: No, it’s ok, really. I’ll just keep it on.
ALINA: Yeah, sure –I know it’s nippy in here, sorry. Can I get you a drink or anything?
VINCENT: No, I think I’m ok.
[The two stand in awkward silence.]
VINCENT: Can I just check that we’re alone?
VINCENT: And we’re not likely to be interrupted at any point?
ALINA: No. I live alone.
VINCENT: And does anyone know I’m here? Have you spoken to anyone about –
ALINA: No, nobody.
ALINA: I haven’t done this before.
VINCENT: Neither have I.
ALINA: I’m nervous.
VINCENT: Me too.
ALINA: We’ve both got a lot at stake.
ALINA: I should say thank you for… well, for coming here, for agreeing to talk to me.
VINCENT: You didn’t leave me with much choice.
ALINA: Well, I knew it would get attention. I just didn’t know what kind. [Pause] Look, please sit down.
[ALINA indicates the small sofa and VINCENT takes a seat. ALINA, aware of the lack of space, crouches on the floor beside him.] Do you know what? I’m gonna make us a drink. [ALINA gets up again] It’s too formal, this, and I don’t really do formal so… drink?
VINCENT: Water would be good.
ALINA: Water. Sure. Coming up.
[ALINA leaves VINCENT alone as she heads to the kitchen. VINCENT quickly flicks a page or two through the manuscript.]
ALINA O.S.: Biscuit?
VINCENT: Er no. No, thank you.
[VINCENT stops flicking. ALINA returns with two glasses of water.]
ALINA: Here you go.
VINCENT: Thanks. [Looking around] Nice place.
ALINA: Ha! I mean thank you for saying something nice but it’s clearly a hole.
[ALINA crouches down on the floor again.]
VINCENT: Well, it’s got a certain –
ALINA: Don’t say charm.
ALINA: I’m not really the domestic type.
[VINCENT takes a sip of water]
VINCENT: So, Alina, tell me about yourself.
ALINA: What do you wanna know?
VINCENT: Well, I guess we could start with what you do?
ALINA: You know what I do.
VINCENT: Aside from –
ALINA: I’m a nurse.
VINCENT: A nurse?
ALINA: By day, yes.
VINCENT: And by night, I’m guessing you’re a – ?
ALINA: I’m attempting to be, yeah. [Pause] Sod this, I’m getting the wine.
[ALINA stands and heads back to the kitchen]
ALINA O.S.: I’ve got Malbec or… Malbec?
VINCENT: I’m ok, really.
ALINA O.S.: No, no, I insist. If we’re gonna do this, we might as well do it in style.
VINCENT: Ever been to Argentina?
ALINA O.S.: Random!
ALINA O.S.: Ah yes, of course. A man who knows his wine, I’m impressed. No, I haven’t but I’d love to someday. Have you?
[ALINA returns with two large glasses of red wine. VINCENT looks apprehensive.]
ALINA: Don’t worry, I rinsed them.
[ALINA returns to her crouching stance on the floor.]
VINCENT: Why did you decide to trust me?
ALINA: I had to trust someone.
VINCENT: So I’m the only one who knows about all of this?
ALINA: Yes. And I’d like to keep it that way for now.
VINCENT: That suits me just fine.
ALINA: You hear about what’s happened to the others and… well… it takes balls to trust anyone these days. You’re the first and only person I’ve talked to.
VINCENT: Why me?
ALINA: I’ve heard things about you, Vincent. Good things.
VINCENT: Nice to know. Who from?
ALINA: People talk.
VINCENT: They do, do they?
ALINA: Yeah. Well, when they think it’s safe to. And I’ve read stuff. Figured if I had to –
VINCENT: What have you read?
ALINA: Everything you’ve ever published. I know the language of the underworld, you see.
VINCENT: You do?
VINCENT: Elaborate for me.
ALINA: Oh come on, you know what I mean. We don’t have to play games here. [Takes a sip of wine] And I figured if I had to trust anyone, it might as well be you. So yeah, I do trust you. Well, I’m trusting you. Not sure if there’s a difference.
VINCENT: I’m risking a lot too, you know.
ALINA: I know. [Pause] What is it about this then? What’s making you take the risk?
VINCENT: I can sense your passion.
ALINA: That’s enough?
VINCENT: No, passion is never enough. But you have a lot of important things to say and I want to help you say them.
ALINA: You do?
VINCENT: I do.
ALINA: And I do, yeah. Very important things to say.
VINCENT: And you say them well.
ALINA: Thank you.
VINCENT: We need to start talking. People need to know.
VINCENT: No one has pushed back against them before and unless they’re challenged, they’ll win. That’s why I want to help you, why I’m putting my neck on the line.
ALINA: It’s not for me, it’s for them.
VINCENT: Of course.
ALINA: I want this to change or to at least start changing the way things are.
VINCENT: Well, I think you’ve got the potential to do just that.
ALINA: You do?
VINCENT: Change is possible at the edges.
ALINA: The truth’s trouble, eh?
VINCENT: The truth’s our weapon.
ALINA: And the book is an axe to break the frozen sea within us.
VINCENT: One you prepared earlier?
ALINA: Oh that’s Kafka’s. I pinched it.
VINCENT: How did you get your hands on him?
ALINA: These mitts get everywhere.
VINCENT: Seriously though?
ALINA: If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.
ALINA: Probably shouldn’t joke about that. [Pause] Forgot to mention I’m a lightweight.
VINCENT: I like it.
VINCENT: ‘An axe to break the frozen sea…’
ALINA: Yeah, me too. The sea’s powerful, as is the human spirit.
VINCENT: Cheers to that.
[VINCENT and ALINA clink glasses]
VINCENT: [Looks at manuscript] That’s it, right?
VINCENT: Has anyone else got a copy?
ALINA: No, just you.
VINCENT: Is there an e-copy?
ALINA: I don’t trust computers, no. And we all know about the cloud.
VINCENT: Yes, probably best hand-written. And yours is just about legible.
ALINA: You say the sweetest things.
ALINA: Bless you.
VINCENT: I didn’t… it’s –
ALINA: Ha, I know. Sorry, I’m making fun. You said it all wrong.
VINCENT: Well, it’s a bitch of a title.
ALINA: There’s not an English equivalent.
VINCENT: What does it mean?
ALINA: A feeling of being wronged, not by a person, but by a society.
ALINA: I thought so.
VINCENT: And how do I say it?
ALINA: Ok so, let’s take it syllable by syllable… “fur”, like the coat made of animals. You go.
ALINA: Very good. Next; “ron”, like the name, Ron. Do both.
VINCENT: “fur ron”
ALINA: Yeah, like fur on a coat. The next bit you have to say fast; “hellick”. The ‘g’ is like an ‘h’. You?
ALINA: Kinda. But with a throaty, guttural sound. hhh-hhh-hhh –
ALINA: “hellick”, yeah. Try again.
ALINA: Then the “heit” bit, “heit”, the ‘d’ sounds like a ‘t’ so “heit”.
ALINA: All together?
ALINA: One more time. Verongelijktheid.
ALINA: Ok, maybe we’ll change the title.
VINCENT: So these stories are real then?
ALINA: Pretty much. I edited and dramatized where necessary but they’re all true.
VINCENT: Where did you – ?
ALINA: The hospital. They come in on a daily basis.
VINCENT: And you’ve got evidence of this?
[There’s a sound in the distance.]
ALINA: [Quietly] Hold on.
[ALINA gets up and checks the peephole on the front door. She then heads towards the window and pulls the curtains aside to check the street down below.]
VINCENT: [Quietly] Alina?
ALINA: It’s nothing, sorry, I thought… [returning to her crouching position on the floor] Anyway, where were we?
VINCENT: Evidence? Have you got – ?
ALINA: Yeah. I’ve kept hard copies of all the interview transcripts and I’ve got the recordings. All on tape.
VINCENT: How did you manage to interview them?
ALINA: Again, the hospital. Who would suspect a nurse?
VINCENT: Where are they? The tapes?
ALINA: Safely hidden.
VINCENT: So you have proof?
ALINA: Yes, Vincent. I can prove it all. Every claim.
VINCENT: Are there any others?
ALINA: There are always others.
VINCENT: Are you writing them all up?
ALINA: Every single one.
VINCENT: Can I have a look?
ALINA: Yes, of course.
[ALINA gets up and walks over to her bag. She retrieves a case file.]
VINCENT: Is that all of them?
ALINA: No, just the last few years.
[ALINA hands VINCENT the case file.]
VINCENT: I asked you to bring everything.
ALINA: I know but I figured it was safer to go through it in stages. You know what it’s like out there.
ALINA: I didn’t want to risk it all in case they’re watching.
VINCENT: Yes, you’re completely right, Alina. I’m sorry.
[VINCENT starts flicking through the case file. ALINA takes a seat next to him on the small sofa.]
VINCENT: The last few years, you say?
ALINA: [Nodding] You really think we need to include more cases?
VINCENT: I think we need to include as many of them as possible. Perhaps we can even work on a handful of volumes and get them printed and distributed in one go, so we don’t get our throats slit before we get the chance to publish them all. That’s why I asked for everything.
ALINA: Well, we can always meet again, can’t we?
VINCENT: ‘Course we can. Is it ok if I take this with me?
ALINA: No. Sorry but I like to keep everything together.
VINCENT: In the safe place, right?
ALINA: Yeah. I call it my anarchist library.
ALINA: It’s not supposed to be cute.
VINCENT: So all the others are – ?
ALINA: Yeah, the rest of them are –
VINCENT: In your “anarchist library”?
VINCENT: And you’re sure they’re safe?
ALINA: As safe as they can be.
VINCENT: Do your friends know about this? Your family?
ALINA: I haven’t got any.
VINCENT: No family?
ALINA: No nothing. My parents died when I was quite young and I move around too often to keep any friends I make along the way.
ALINA: No. But it’s alright, I’m a tough cookie.
[VINCENT downs the rest of his wine]
VINCENT: I take it that it’s not an actual library?
ALINA: No, it’s a van.
VINCENT: A van?
ALINA: Yeah, my motor home.
VINCENT: What about – ?
ALINA: I don’t live here.
VINCENT: Then where the hell are we?
ALINA: Well, technically, I do live here. For the next forty-eight hours anyway.
VINCENT: You’ve lost me?
ALINA: I rented it out especially. In your honour.
VINCENT: Seriously? You rented out a flat for this?
ALINA: Yeah, well, you know. We live in a soulless society. You can’t trust anyone. I figured that in case we were being watched, they wouldn’t be able to find us or set my house on fire or anything like that.
VINCENT: You thought of everything, huh?
ALINA: I’ll take that as a compliment.
[VINCENT returns to the file]
VINCENT: “Francisca Van Alst…”
ALINA: The women have to be kept anonymous. I promised them that.
VINCENT: Yes, of course. [Begins to read the notes on Francisca Van Alst] “They think we do not talk, but we do…” Clearly.
ALINA: I haven’t finished writing that one up yet.
VINCENT: How many?
ALINA: Hundreds. Maybe more.
VINCENT: What about the hospital?
ALINA: What about it?
VINCENT: Do they know? The management, I mean?
ALINA: Probably, yeah, but they’d never do anything about it.
VINCENT: Why’s that?
ALINA: They don’t want to ruffle any feathers, I guess.
VINCENT: They won’t say anything?
ALINA: I doubt it. They’re a peculiar kind of evil those management types.
VINCENT: And your patients?
ALINA: Current ones, you mean?
ALINA: Well, I’m encouraging them to speak up but fear’s a pretty powerful deterrent.
VINCENT: But there’s a chance they’ll stand up for themselves and say something?
ALINA O.S.: There’s always a chance.
VINCENT: Give us a top up, will you?
[ALINA gets up, picks up the empty glasses and goes to the kitchen.]
VINCENT: So… tell me more about this van of yours?
[VINCENT quietly withdraws a handgun from his coat pocket]
ALINA O.S.: Well, it’s beige. Pretty dull, I know, but at least you can’t see the dirt on it. And it’s got really old school curtains, a cute little shower, and a single bed… I know, I’m thirty-two and I sleep on a single bed, tragic, huh?
[VINCENT nonchalantly attaches a silencer]
VINCENT: Where’s it parked?
ALINA O.S.: Right now it’s in The Hague but I’ll move it tomorrow. Not tonight – I’m too squiffy.
VINCENT: The Hague, hm? Nice. A friend of mine grew up near there.
ALINA O.S.: Oh really?
[ALINA returns carrying two full glasses of red wine. VINCENT shoots her… a double tap…and she drops to the floor, dead. VINCENT calmly packs the case file into his bag and, avoiding the spillage of wine and blood, makes a phone call]
VINCENT: [On the phone] It’s me. Send someone to The Hague – tell them to look out for a beige motor home and call me when it’s found, ok? [Pause] Have we dealt with Vincent Evers yet? [Pause] Good. The usual protocol with 43 Van Goghstraat, please. Oh and as for OVLG Hospital – burn it to the ground. [Pause] No, no evacuation necessary.
For those of you who have not yet encountered the bizarre world of immersive theatre, a visit to Shunt’s latest production of The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face should offer a good introduction to this experimental and downright weird realm of dramatic art. Set on a jetty overlooking the Thames and the Emirates Cable Cars (may as well catch a ride while you’re at it, it’s only £3.50 and you’ll observe some spectacular views of the city), Shunt will take you on a journey like no other. You might not climb out of your face – but you’ll certainly feel like you’re off your face.
Before you enter the yellow room where a woman with a vibrating and seemingly dislocated jaw will inform you that you’ve gone the wrong way about fifty times, you’ll be asked / encouraged / forced to take your shoes off… so prepare accordingly and get the Scholl out the night before. You’ll carry your shoe box with you as you enter another box – a box of rave. A masked man will unleash your inner goblin and before you know it, you’ll be waving your box in the air, wishing you’d packed the glow sticks. There are a mix of winners and losers in this room. It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts, so be prepared to lose, but, at some stage, glory will descent upon thee. And when it does, you’ll be escorted into a silent sauna via a forest. Sand will exfoliate your soles and toes as you peer behind trees, expecting to be set upon by all sorts of wild beasts. Someone will lose their bottle as they’re collecting their bottles… don’t expect to make friends, he’s a lonesome bush baby, and you’re there simply to take a lift elsewhere. That’s a literal lift. But one that doesn’t move. Nevertheless, the doors will open and you’ll bear witness to a blindfolded audience member (poor cow) being stroked by a woman with the most intense stare known to man. ‘I want to look at you’, she’ll sweetly sing into your ear as she moves onto her next victim. The waiflike creature will look into your eyes and, as the intensity increases, a piece of your soul will slither out – they’re slippery things, souls. If you’re not “chosen”, congratulations, you’ll get to make it out into the fresh air, where a bearded man in a blonde wig and a white dress will serenade you whilst standing on a cargo container overlooking a pool of dead babies. Oh and then he’ll get naked. But if you’re selected, you’ll become accustomed to the dark, and lose your friends while you’re at it.
Yes, it’s as trippy as it sounds.
Ok so, for a tenner, you may as well go along and spend half hour inside an acid junkie’s deluded mind. I mean, why not? If you like things that make sense, perhaps this isn’t for you (there’s no boy for starters; plenty of faces though). And if you’re one easily offended by the sight of dead babies, deformities and penises that waft in motion to the wind… either man up and get over it or stay at home. Or stick to Shunt’s bar.
As someone who has seen a fair amount of experimental, immersive, site-specific performance art, I can’t help feel a little disappointed. The space is incredible – a dramatist’s wet dream – but they didn’t do it justice in my book. There was room for a lot more “play” and they could have done so much more. It’s almost as though they’ve been a bit lazy about it; forsaking creativity by relying too heavily on the atmosphere of the venue. There’s certainly a vision (the sight of the dead babies will probably stay with me for some time, aka EVER), but it’s executed in a rather half-hearted way.
Saying that, you should go along anyway – it’s a cheap night out and it definitely offers something “different”. Plus the bar alone is well worth a visit regardless of whether you’re a theatre buff…
You can sip your glass of vino (£3.50 small, £7 large) as you wave “ahoy” to the pirate ships sailing by. Bar, boats and balminess. What better way to spend a summer’s evening?
No pics allowed… so catch the video here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
[Reviewed for WeLoveBrighton.com]
Madam Renards & TS Theatre present ‘To Sleep’ at The Marlborough Theatre, Brighton. Two strangers slowly and subtly bond during a night in A&E. She’s a brash and cocky seventeen year old girl. He’s a worn out middle-aged man. Both are bleeding from the wrists. Both have failed their attempts at a final goodbye. Although at theirlowest points in life, an unexpected and unusual friendship blossoms between the pair, as they both look for a way out of the world. Covering one night in the lives of two star-crossed suicidals, ‘To Sleep’ is a new play by Matt Fox, which explores how people deal with the most difficult human situations and how relationships can develop between different people no matter how appalling their shared experiences might be.
Let’s start with the negatives and get them out the way. Firstly, the acting in the first twenty of the sixty minutesis a little bit wooden. At times, lines are just said without much thought or connection to the text. However, I believe there are two fair and just reasons for this:
During the first crucial minutes of the play, an audience member became unwell and collapsed in front of the stage. This may have momentarily thrown the cast off track (and fair dos)… but, to their credit, the actors handled the event with the utmost professionalism and were back on form within minutes of the incident.
The writing in that first scene isn’t particularly actor-friendly…
…By which I mean; it must have been quite difficult for the actors to breathe truth into the scenario, as striking up conversation in an A&E waiting room is probably a seldom occurrence and one that’s tricky to fathom; plus it’shard to believe that failed-suicidals would feel particularly chatty on the night of their demise. That’s not to say that it can’t be done, but I think Fox’s script lacks a certain degree of subtlety at the very beginning of the play.
As a previous NHS employee, I’m pretty sure suicide-wannabes wouldn’t be left to their own devices immediately after having their wrists stitched back together. They’d probably be under observation or something. Whereas, these two lost lambs seem to be having a chin-wag in the reception area… (unless they’re in a ward in which case the staging isn’t clear), but not a regular ‘have you been waiting long?’ conversation… no, this particular chat is about Stanley knife versus kitchen knife. It is for this reason that the writing in the first scene just doesn’t work as well as it could. I know it’s a piece of theatre and that imagination is required but the opening doesn’t flow or feel particularly natural (which I believe is the playwright’s intention). It is, therefore, a challenge on the audience’s part to suspend disbelief and engage with the characters.
In addition, some of the direction is a bit clumsy. There’s a moment when Hayley (Ellie Lawrence) “sees” the burns on Martin’s (Peter Hynds) back and comments accordingly – but Martin’s back is nowhere near her line of vision.
Saying that, after the first scene, things pick up. Suddenly Hynds and Lawrence come into their own and thechemistry between the pair develops. There are some genuinely poignant and moving moments and we can sense a real connection between the characters, despite the unlikeness of their friendship – which makes it even more beautiful to witness.
Despite dealing with the rather depressing theme of suicide, the tragedy is laced with dark comedy and there are some cracking lines in there that are well delivered. Fox boldly deals with the practicalities of ending a lifeand there are some gems in the script that prompt many a wry smile and guilty giggle, including:
‘Suicide is more acceptable than f*cking a minor’
‘You’re thirty-nine years old, no wonder you want to kill yourself, you’re nearly forty!’
‘Dear Unfortunate Corpse Finder…’
‘I don’t want to be found with a c*nt-full of jiz anyway’ (yes, that is an actual line).
Despite missing the mark somewhat, this hour long play is bound to get you thinking about life, about relationships and about the absurdity of our fragility.
(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.
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.