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Tag Archive | "April De Angelis"

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Review: Gastronauts, Royal Court Theatre

Posted on 29 November 2013 by Lisa Carroll

Gastronauts Royal Court

Rarely is theatre such a treat for all the senses, making Gastronauts a unique (and rather delicious) show. Entering the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, exquisitely transformed by Lizzie Clachan’s futuristic design, audiences are invited take a journey to a place where food becomes about much more than mere sustenance.

The show couldn’t be more perfectly timed in the lead-up to Christmas, with the seasonal influx of high profile adverts from supermarkets and chains, all of which encourage indulgence and reckless consumption. In Gastronauts, the ensemble, or rather the ‘crew’ manning this food-odyssey, (Andy Clark, Imogen Doel, Alasdair Mcrae, Nathaniel Martello-White and Justine Mitchell) take us on a theatrical tour of the many issues surrounding our everyday comestibles, encouraging audiences to think twice about what it is they’re putting in their mouths – throughout the show and long after they’ve left the theatre.

The play is full of wonderful moments, such as everyone sharing in a nostalgia-laced cup of lentil soup, evoking one character’s warm family memories. This is then cleverly undercut by a searing scene in which sentimental marketing tactics are mocked, and a comparison is even drawn between obese people and terrorists. This haphazard-seeming structure juxtaposes the pure joy which can be found in food with the moral implications of how corporations make, package and sell it to us, meaning that there is never a dull moment nor any lack of pertinence in this bold and exciting new play.

Gastronauts plays with the idea of the theatre being a place where people will willingly believe in what is not real, going further to suggest that, on a wider scale, responsibility-shirking corporations are, too, feeding us lies. Moreover, the play hints that, by swallowing them, we are entirely complicit in perpetuating the very problems which these giants profit from. Indeed while we watch fresh dough being kneaded, as the ensemble discusses how processed bread is engineered in factories, one performer nonetheless declares that she likes the taste of it regardless. Often there is nothing worse than seeing a play that is simply telling you what is right and wrong. However in Gastronauts, the creators (April de Angelis, Nessah Muthy and Wils Wilson) have instead skilfully underlined the hypocrisy which we have all found ourselves guilty of, with well-drawn and gently probing exchanges which are as entertaining as they are worrying, suggesting we all co-inhabit a moral grey area.

It is hard to resist becoming immersed in the bizarre and compelling world of Gastronauts, with its rich tastes and bold characters, perfectly complemented by Alasdair Macrae’s rousing musical score. From hilarious songs about Sainsbury’s, to deeply touching moments where characters find comfort in cake, it feels as though the play leaves no stone unturned in examining our human need to eat to live – and all the complexities we as a society have generated around such a basic instinct. Certainly, the after-taste that Gastronauts leaves is bittersweet: the fun and frivolity of joining the ensemble on their hilarious and action-packed journey undermined by the pressing concerns the play asks us to consider, making for worthwhile watching.

Gastronauts is playing at the Royal Court until 21 December. For more information and tickets, see the Royal Court Theatre website.

Lisa Carroll

Lisa Carroll

Lisa Carroll graduated from University College Dublin in 2012 with a B.A International in English. She is also a playwright, script reader and director. @lisa_carroll46

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Review: Jumpy

Posted on 29 August 2012 by Amelia Forsbrook

Fuelled by perpetual waves of exasperation, likable comic actor Tamsin Greig (Black BooksGreen Wing) sets the mumsiness to full throttle in this exploration of middle-aged anxiety and middle-class failing.

Greig’s Hilary may have put her days of active protest behind her as she stepped away from Greenham Common, but her participation in communal campaigns left its mark and her feminist spirit still lives on as she angrily confronts her 50s. Unfortunately, while the statement protests of the 80s gave a certain cohesion to gender-related arguments, the third wave of feminism has fragmented the cause, recognising the diversity of women and enabling them to disagree. Pushed back into the personal sphere, Hilary is left to tackle a number of more ambiguous feminist issues, with nothing but her own inarticulate moral code to guide her.

With lipstick feminism leaving an ugly smear across the women’s rights movement, and in the absence of a united battle, April de Angelis turns to the family unit throughout this light-hearted narrative of modern-day feminism. Anxious about her own unemployability and weakened sexual appeal, Hilary focuses her feminist eye on her teenaged daughter. Sixteen years old and dressed in a skin-tight dress and stilettos, Tilly becomes the model of the modern woman, and through her the production gently explores how female identity is built on male desire. Differences between the genders are then further interrogated through a conversation with the parents of Tilly’s boyfriend, an interaction that is brilliantly flavoured with a sharp dose of maternal spite, direct from Amanda Root.

Bel Powley is excellent as Tilly, never letting her mother feel comfortable as she swings from thoughtless defiance to trusting vulnerability. At times though, Tilly seems more like a hologram of a mother’s anxiety, than a woman in her own right. She dresses to seduce and swears to shock. Abandoning the well spoken accents of her parents in favour of slang and lazy pronunciation, the character of Tilly simplifies the issues that modern-day feminists are attempting to bring to light. The sexualisation of young women is positioned as a threat to high GCSE results and, in discussions surrounding a young woman who channels a touch of the Pollard, little is said about the subtlety of ingrained gendered expectations.

The real intelligence behind Jumpy becomes apparent when April de Angelis urges us to focus on Hilary, a woman who is absorbed in her own gendered problems yet oblivious to the parallels between her own and her daughter’s situation. Throughout, the crisp script attacks a society where a 50 year old woman is afraid to reveal a flesh-coloured swimsuit, while her best friend Frances, played with a catty and shameless flair by the inspirational and bold Doon Mackichan, feels determined to try out her new burlesque routine. Here, Angelis has presented the sort of debilitating moral cloudiness that naturally results in our fierce feminist donning the costume of a pre-liberation woman in an attempt to ironically capture her own sexuality. Angelis tells us that modern feminism is a complicated and paradoxical thing: as Tamsin Greig gyrates on a West End stage wearing a maid’s uniform and fishnets, this is crystal clear.

Jumpy is playing at Duke of York’s Theatre until 3rd November. For more information and tickets, see the Royal Court Theatre. Photo by Robert Workman.

Amelia Forsbrook

Formerly one of the Wales Arts International critics, Amelia moved to London in early 2012 with two big aims: to continue working as an arts writer, and to discover whether it's ever possible to pull off both telephones and flying in theatre. With particular interests in regional arts, South Asian performance and twentieth century European theatre, Amelia writes for a number of other publications, as well as being an Off West End Assessor.

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Review: Jumpy

Posted on 26 October 2011 by Jack Thomas

The Royal Court has recently welcomed its production of Jerusalem back to the West End after continual successes wherever it is homed, but how nice to see that The Royal Court has another winner on its hands.

Jumpy, written by April De Angelis, is a humorous play of two acts following the life of a 50-something lady called Hilary (Tamsin Greig) as she reaches breaking point with an unruly sixteen year old daughter and a marriage which is a little stale. Her work situation is more than unstable as recent cuts suggest her job is on the line, and her habit of the odd glass of wine seems the perfect solution to a stressful day and a stressful home.

The key to this play is that it is real, it is a wonderfully observed slice of real life, which in turn makes some of the simplest remarks very amusing. Tamsin Greig, as the mother struggling to keep the family unit going, enters the stage having had a day which resulted in her having a panic attack on the train and quickly establishing that a mid-life crisis is imminent. Greig plays the role with a genuine empathy along with her fantastic comic wit and perfect delivery – you warm very quickly to this character who has next to no time off stage. Paired with Ewan Stewart, as husband Mark, the pair present a glimpse of what is happening in households across the country.

The guilty pleasure of the piece, and also an opportunity to spice up the storyline a little, comes from the delight that is Doon Mackichan, taking on the role of Hilary’s best friend; she deals with life at 50 in a very different way to her friend. Single and without children, with a commitment to keep herself in shape, she very much continues to surprise… including a hilarious burlesque routine for a full five minutes of stage time that only Mackichan could commit to without corpsing on stage. The moment she marched on to the stage and joined Greig you can quickly appreciate that the pair will have you in stitches.

This fine cast of established actors are supported by a wonderful group of young talent. Bel Powley plays a vile caricature of a parent’s worst nightmare in a performance that undoubtedly goes along the biggest journey in the piece. Michael Marcus as the young student and James Musgrave as the strikingly handsome boyfriend all add to the reality of a piece we can all relate to in some way.

Jumpy, a title which is explained in the last few moments is a wonderful piece of real theatre. Taking you on a journey through a household’s period in time, you cannot help but laugh out loud as you relate to the people who play out before you. Set against a spectacular design by Lizzie Clachan, Jumpy is a wonderful piece that provides you with two and a half hours of entertainment.

Jumpy is playing at the Royal Court Theatre until 19th November. For more information and tickets see the Royal Court Theatre website. Don’t forget that all tickets on Mondays are £10.

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