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Tag Archive | "Cottesloe Theatre"

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Review: NT Connections Festival: Victim Sidekick Boyfriend Me

Posted on 25 June 2012 by Veronica Aloess

The programme describes Victim Sidekick Boyfriend Me as “a chilling psychological drama”. I wouldn’t go that far, but am impressed by the complex way in which writer Hilary Bell approaches the psychology of teenage relationships, so that this isn’t a play dumbed down for teenagers but written to challenge them.

Victim Sidekick Boyfriend Me doesn’t concentrate on the facts, but on the blame. Initially this makes the play a little hard to follow: a Girl (Amy Weaver) has committed some sort of crime and her Sidekick (played by the ensemble of Marine Academy) has had to serve a prison sentence as a result, but the Victim’s (Jenna Blenkinsop) Boyfriend (James Martin) lets the Girl off. Suspicious circumstances. And whilst I understand that Bell never mentions the gravity of the crime committed –  only that the Victim is dead for some reason – because this play is about coming to terms with the responsibility of your actions, I still feel I’m missing something to make me want to commit fully to the play.

Sidekick is played by 16 members of the Marine Academy – a year 12 performing arts group from Plymouth. They echo a Greek chorus as their interactions provide commentary on the action or offer us information. Interestingly, they are almost always sat/stood on the white blocks which encircle the boundaries of the stage in Jenna Blenkinsop and Symone White’s set, and which trap the Girl. These blocks are the stepping stones on which the Girl jumps as she dodges blame and places it on to the Sidekick. But as the play progresses, and the Girl is invited to fill the Victim’s place, her movements become increasingly isolated. These production elements, such as the set and lighting, have been designed by members of the company, and exemplify the thought and understanding which they have injected into this show.

What is best about this production however, is the enthusiasm of the company. There is a brilliant sense of freedom about the scenes the chorus have as a youth group and which contrast with the imprisoning guilt which progressively envelops the Girl. Altogether, this company have no inhibitions and relish their time on the stage; the scenes which include song and dance also showcase the wide array of talent that is this group’s strong point. They are especially physically strong, which feeds back into their ability to function like a chorus. They’re obviously a tight unit, able to synchronise their delivery and tone.

By way of constructive commentary, however, the group is let down by an incomprehensible lack of confidence when delivering lines alone. Weaver has shadowy tonality and stage presence as the Girl, and Blenkinsop is obviously extremely flexible with all her roles, never lacking in conviction and energy. But otherwise, the cast need to project their individual lines more, and not be afraid to continue if someone speaks over them by mistake, rather than trail off. This is a talented, likeable group, and it’s easy to learn to enjoy your moment in the spotlight.

Victim Sidekick Boyfriend Me is an eye-opening play for teenagers – but perhaps only teenagers. Bell takes the audience on a journey which morphs the concept of forgiveness, but essentially this is just a lesson to learn for teenagers which bridges the gap into adulthood. All the same, Marine Academy has been well-rehearsed by Director Matt Taylor, and the cast should be proud of what they’ve achieved in this production.

Victim Sidekick Boyfriend Me played at the National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre on 23 June as a part of the NT Connections Festival 2012.

Veronica Aloess

Veronica Aloess

Veronica Aloess is an aspiring arts journalist and playwright, who trained at Arts Educational School London and is currently studying towards a BA in English with Creative Writing at Brunel University. She is co-founder of Don't Make Me Angry Productions which is dedicated to original writing and innovative performance.

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Middle America: Will Adamsdale on Detroit at the National Theatre

Posted on 23 April 2012 by Sarah Williams

In May, Will Adamsdale will tread the boards at the National for the first time in the UK-premiere of Lisa D’Amour’s hard-hitting comic drama, Detroit. As a performer, Adamsdale is in fact best known for devising his own shows, from his recent performance in The Summer House at the Gate Theatre to Jackson’s Way, his Perrier Award-winning one-man show created in 2004 and revived for a hectic 26-venue tour last year. So how does it feel now to be performing in a play penned by another hand?

“I thought that it might be less work, but it’s actually not,” Adamsdale confesses. When we meet on a weekday lunchtime ten days into rehearsal the actor is already feeling consumed by the play. It’s an intense experience, he says, but after a break of seven or eight years, “it’s refreshing to revisit this kind of work”. Whereas in creating his own shows, the majority of energy goes into “what I would loosely call ‘writing’: devising, messing about, trying things out [here] the spotlight is on thinking about performance down to the commas”. He describes Austin Pendleton (who directed the original Steppenwolf production in Chicago and returns here with an all-new cast) as like “a birdwatcher, or a poker player”. Watching shrewdly, perceptively, Pendleton zones in on details and understands (as an experienced actor himself) the process of rehearsal inside-out.  “An enthusiast, funny and mischievous, he never shows boredom”, and he has an obvious fondness for actors that Adamsdale wonders whether all directors share.

In fact, it was Pendleton who suggested that Adamsdale (who originally auditioned for the more conservative Ben) try his hand at Kenny, a former addict living on the fringes of society with his wife Sharon. Detroit peers at the backyard interaction between these two very different American couples and D’Amour cites her inspiration as being “those first-ring suburbs in which the building materials themselves are falling apart, where maybe a quarter of houses are empty”. In such a setting, Ben and Mary struggle to maintain the appearance of upward mobility, while for Kenny and Sharon the uncertainty of the economic climate is itself an opening. “They’re opportunists”, Adamsdale says, “thrill-seekers going from one thing to another”. But such risk-taking and opportunism also means that the couple get up to some fairly squalid activity.

So how does a British actor, educated at Eton and the Oxford School of Drama, approach a character from such a vastly contrasting background? “Maybe there are some places where we meet,” Adamsdale explains, “but it’s quite interesting to play someone so far removed; someone you feel uncomfortable being around but who can also be quite charming.” It’s also a process of discovery: “I occasionally snap into what feels like an interesting vein of something – some latent ‘trailer trash’ somewhere in my entirely white, middle-class body,” he says, laughing. But Adamsdale is also able to call upon deeper foundations for building his character, having spent time in the states (in Washington DC) between the ages of five and eight. Later experiences travelling across America, sometimes while touring shows, as well as a long-held interest in American literature and music have meant that the play’s subject, ‘middle America’, is one that Adamsdale feels both comfortable with and eager to take on: “I couldn’t play a working class Glaswegian living in a tenement because I have no experience of that,” he says, whereas Detroit “was a real Godsend – completely the sort of milieu that I love.”

The genre of the play was also very appealing to Adamsdale. Reminiscing amusedly about early trips to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with friends in which “we weren’t happy with a production unless there were at least two rapes and a murder,” it’s clear why the actor was drawn to a play described in a New York Times review as “scary-funny”. The same review credits the play as evoking powerfully “that fractious, frightened American moment,” something achieved to a great extent by the play’s comedic tone, as Adamsdale explains. “Comedy is the best approach for something serious. It’s easier to go from light to dark than dark to light.”

Without setting out intent on a career in comic theatre, it was when Adamsdale starting making his own work that he discovered both the power and satisfaction of comedy: “it’s the only way of knowing for certain that the audience have had a good time”.  Often finding myself chuckling during our interview, I needn’t refer twice to his Perrier Comedy Award to believe the authenticity of that audience enjoyment.

But what does this American play have to say to UK audiences? Can it address a frightened British moment? Adamsdale believes that perhaps the play’s key draw is in the superficial normality of its characters and setting: “In the UK we tend to romanticise the underside of American life, so that aspects of it that would be commonplace for a US audience are weirdly seductive to British viewers.” That’s something that the production might draw on, but that it may also need to a certain extent to overcome, Adamsdale continues. He thinks British audiences at times tend towards a glamourised view of America as being unshakeably cool, when in fact, as Detroit powerfully demonstrates, today’s Americans are “as ridden with insecurity as we are”. And “the older we get”, the actor in his mid-thirties adds, “the more easily spooked we are” by such subjects, suggesting that A Younger Theatre readers are likely to relish the dark undertones of the play.

So what’s next for an actor who seems to have kept himself exhaustingly busy over the last year? “Hopefully a good rest. I’m getting married in September.” But he also reveals that a couple of creative projects are in the pipeline: one currently in development at the Royal Court Theatre, and another in collaboration with a band with which he performs, the quirkily named London Snorkelling Team. That’s assuming, of course, that Adamsdale finds the time he thought he’d have at his disposal whilst rehearsing for Detroit: “I thought I’ll be free in the evenings, and I’ll probably be working on something else, but in fact it’s just as much work [as devising a show] or more.

Detroit opens at the National’s Cottelsoe Theatre on 15 May, and runs until 14 July. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Image credit: Will Adamsdale by Catherine Ashmore

Sarah Williams

Sarah Williams

Sarah has an MA in theatre from RADA and King's College London and has written for publications including A Younger Theatre and The Guardian.

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Study storytelling at the National Theatre this April

Posted on 25 March 2012 by A Younger Theatre

The National Theatre is offering an exclusive opportunity for Entry Pass members aged 16 to 25 to participate in a storytelling course inspired by the production of Inua Ellams’ Black T-Shirt Collection, playing at the Cottesloe Theatre in April.

Storytelling and Black T-Shirt Collection

Monday 16 April, 5.30pm – 9.30pm
Tuesday 17 April, 5.30pm – 9pm
Wednesday 18 April, 5.30pm – 9pm

This course gives you the chance to develop your storytelling skills in response to the production Black T-Shirt Collection. Once you have seen the play, you will work with a professional storyteller over three evenings to create your own short story. The course will culminate with a Q&A with Inua Ellams, writer and performer of Black T-Shirt Collection, and a sharing of your stories.

To book, you must be an Entry Pass member (you can sign up instantly and for free here: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/65721/registration-and-login/entry-pass-sign-up.html).

Cost: £25 (includes a ticket to see Black T-Shirt Collection on 16th April, 7.30pm)

Please note you must be available for all three sessions.

BOOK NOW here: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/69714/learning-events/ep-storytelling-and-black-tshirt-collection.html

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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Tickets: Nice work if you can get ‘em!

Posted on 21 September 2011 by Edward Franklin

It is implicit in the name ‘National Theatre’ that the content of the organisation’s seasons will reflect the variety, character and idiosyncrasy of the people and performers of the UK. In this much, Artistic Director Nicholas Hytner surely succeeds, with the current season including a great breadth of work: from a new play by Mike Leigh to Shakespeare starring Lenny Henry, via a one-man show from performer du jour Daniel Kitson, and not forgetting the continuing hit run of the National’s War Horse in the West End. There is also, however, a suggestion that a theatre explicitly billing itself as ‘national’ will, by its nature, provide equal theatre-going opportunity to everyone who may take an interest – after all, the National does receive a great deal of public money each year – more than £18m for 2011/12.

This is not, unfortunately, a suggestion which materialises in reality either at the National, or indeed at other subsidised theatres such as the notoriously tricky-to-book Donmar Warehouse. I, and other members of the public hoping earlier this week to get their hands on tickets to John Hodge’s Collaborators at the NT’s Cottesloe auditorium this autumn, were disappointed to discover – on the evening before general booking was due to open – a message on the production’s webpage announcing all scheduled performances have by this point sold out.

But who to? If booking hadn’t opened, where in the world can the tickets have gone? The answer lies in the National Theatre’s  ‘Ladder of Membership’– a financial support scheme whereby an annual donation is rewarded with various perks ranging from advanced ticket bookings to dinner with the Artistic Director himself. The lowest rung of the ladder, Advance Membership, costs £15 a year and grants donors access to priority booking – not, as the box office have confirmed, a limited priority allocation – but priority booking which allows tickets to high-demand events such as Collaborators to sell out before the public get a look in. The situation when Mike Leigh’s new play Grief went on sale this summer was yet more alienating. An on-sale date even earlier than that for Advance Members was put in place for those pledging upwards of £65 a year, Priority Members, who promptly snapped up every ticket of the original booking period – leaving their less generous ladder-partners with a serious lack of bang for their buck.

Despite this frustration, it is worth mentioning that I have no fundamental problem with the nature of such support schemes – indeed, the NT website cogently outlines that to carry out its highly-acclaimed work both in and outside the theatre, funding from private sources is necessary to fill a 9% funding gap left after income and public subsidy. The Donmar is under still more pressure, with private donations responsible for covering 40% of necessary annual income – but it seems fair to expect that no-one will be excluded from attending a production on the basis of whether or not they donate.

The crucial issue – particularly in small theatres such as the 300-seat Cottesloe and the 250-seat Donmar – is one of ticket allocation. Where currently, many priority booking periods place no cap on the number of seats that can be sold before general booking opens, it would seem sensible to reserve an allocation of tickets from across the price spectrum to be released at a specified time, for each and every one of us to have a go at getting. If members of the public could enter into a booking period expecting a scramble, aware of the possibility of disappointment but at least with a chance of grabbing a ticket, the resentment amongst some theatregoers may be less intense.

For me, and my longing for a ticket to Collaborators, the battle may be over but the war is by no means lost. The box office has confirmed that further dates will be announced in due course, and the record shows that second booking periods tend to be far less frantic than their predecessors. Failing that, there is then the prospect of day seats, returns, competitions, and – if all else fails – eBay. For the ardent theatregoer, no obstacle or imposition can get in the way of that electric – if ever-more exclusive – thrill.

Collaborators will be playing at the National Theatre from October 25th 2011 – January 21st 2012. For more information, visit the National Theatre’s website.

Image by Geoff Wilson / WWF-UK

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