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Review: Summer Day’s Dream

Posted on 14 September 2013 by Kirsty Emmerson

Summer Day's Dream

The Finborough Theatre is a wonderfully intimate space that gives no sense of grandeur or expanse upon entering the doors. It lets the drama speak for itself, in this case giving nature its time to unfurl around the audience, opening the doors to the idyllic lives of the Dawlish family, and the disruption that is about to come.

One could be forgiven for assuming – in the first ten minutes – that this piece is one set in the early twentieth century, the farmhouse-come-mansion that this family live in is mentioned to be in the country, and within moments, home-brewed beer and hard-to-find tobacco are settled on the table, bartered over and shared. This is not a pre-war pastoral play, however. We are in the midst of the twentieth century, and the Dawlish family, along with much of the British Isles, has been plunged back into pastoral England, tilling the fields and living off the land after an atom bomb destroyed every industry centre in the country. Here the people are happy, until their simplicity is interrupted by a Russian, an American and an Indian from across the borders, intent on surveying the land, and potentially exploiting the happiness of others for their own gain.

Authored by J. B. Priestley and first performed in 1949, Summer Day’s Dream is eerily forward thinking in its expositions of industry, consumption and politics, and many of the lines in the script are impressed upon a modern audience as though the creatives here want their audience to understand that the state of our world is not a new one, and is not likely to change unless the general population makes an effort to better themselves. Though, therefore, the delivery of the lines sometimes feels out of place with the rest of the play, so heavy handed in comparison to the easy joy of the recitations of Shakespeare included in some scenes, one cannot fault the actors for their portrayal of characters betrayed, romanced and tired.

Each throw themselves into the role, and though I found the exuberance and excitability of youth a little grating in Christopher and Rosalie Dawlish, both Tom Grace and Eleanor Yates brought heart to their roles with performances that showcased their abilities and impressed immensely. Give them desire or disillusionment, cold rage or open fury and they will certainly deliver. From every side, we are met with those who meet the needs of their characters. The restraint and integrity of Patrick Poletti, Helen Keeley and Peter Singh as the intrusive foreigners is well maintained, even as they evolve before our very eyes.

Though the play is a well-constructed and well-timed revival, and inspires questions in the audience of what exactly our place is in global society, and it is certainly immensely enjoyable for its performances and individual nuances, in the current group of topical pieces being performed across London, this is no glittering stand out. It is, however, enjoyable and thought provoking, and running at nearly two and a half hours (including an interval) it is certainly worth its ticket price.

Summer Day’s Dream is playing at the Finborough Theatre on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays until 24 September. For more information and tickets, see the Finborough Theatre website.

Kirsty Emmerson

Kirsty Emmerson

Final year English student, determined to get into theatre by hook or by crook, I spend half of my time reading and the other half trying to write on anything and everything I can get my hands on. Fuelled by tea and whatever new food I’m trying this week, you’ll find me in theatres or bookshops, probably mumbling about Shakespeare or the latest cricket scores.

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Review: I Do

Posted on 02 August 2013 by Samuel Sims

Dante or DieAs a newbie to site-specific productions, I couldn’t help but feel a tad apprehensive walking into Islington’s Hilton Hotel for Dante or Die’s latest piece, I Do. It’s about, you guessed it, a wedding – or rather the events that unfold prior to one. I wasn’t sure whether I would have to take part in the ‘show’ in some form or other (this is my idea of absolute hell) or perhaps be forced to do something unthinkable. But once I’d gotten over the initial hyperventilating, a sense of intrigue took over, especially after being handed a lovely cream boutonniere to wear.

Dante or Die is a very exciting and innovative company indeed. Led by Co-Artistic Directors Daphne Attlas and Terry O-Donovan, it aims to create dance theatre and site-sensitive productions, which are inspired by urban myths, contemporary stories and the magical in the mundane. Boasting an impressive list, including La Fille a la Mode premiering at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2011, Ferrytale which took place on the historical HMS President as part of the Thames Festival 2004 and the eerie Caliper Boy, Dante or Die is a revolutionary company on the brink of something very special.

Showing as part of the Almeida Festival, I Do takes its audience on a journey around the hotel’s third floor, entering various rooms where dramatic and occasionally comedic scenarios are unfolding. Voyeuristic and surreal it certainly is. Split into six groups, we were led by an usher into one room at a time with the order varying between the groups, meaning the ‘storyline’ would affect each differently. We started off in a small, dark cramped space with a very nearly naked gentleman laying half on and half off his bed. The curtains are drawn and his phone is ringing (right next to where I was uncomfortably perched I might add) and eventually he crawls over and retrieves it, listening to the various urgent voicemails that await him, before throwing on some clothes, grabbing a bag and running out into the hall. Immediately after, a vision in white bursts in: the occupier’s bride-to-be with some serious doubts about a wedding she is epically unprepared for. We are led back into the corridor and into another room.

I Do continued much in the same way with us been led to rooms occupied by the best man (who is having a gay love affair with a heterosexual member of the party), the bride and her bridesmaids singing 90s tunes (couldn’t help but have a little dance in my seat) whilst swigging Prosecco from the bottle; the mother of the bride and her estranged ex-husband; a very emotional room with the grandparents. All are cleverly linked with moments occurring in one room that we may have already seen in another, but from another point of view.

Site-specific performances are perhaps always going to feel a little bit awkward, what with being thrust into the action and feeling as though you’re observing something you shouldn’t (but secretly loving). It is just a phenomenal way to present theatre and  credit must go to the actors who had to frequently deal with us being in the way and not once going out of character. The bride’s sister is the absolute highlight with the most elaborate and covert operation ever seen in order to have a cheeky fag without setting off the bedroom’s smoke alarm.

Pieces of theatre such as this one really do make you think and are a very welcome change to the more traditional style that is still ruling the country. More please!

I Do will be going on Tour around the UK this Autumn. For more information and tickets, see the Dante or Die website.

Samuel Sims

Sam is Reviews Co-ordinator for A Younger Theatre as well as a freelance writer and editor who hails from Hull, though he has been in London for roughly 300 years. He enjoys multi-coloured socks, eating sausage rolls and seeing as much theatre as humanly possible.

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All aboard at Sheffield Lyceum this Easter!

Posted on 11 April 2012 by Laura Turner

This Easter week, Sheffield Theatres is taking audiences on an action-packed adventure as Bristol Old Vic’s hit musical Swallows and Amazons sails into the Lyceum Theatre from Tuesday 10 to Saturday 14 April.

A stage adaptation of the much-loved book by Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons tells the story of the school holiday exploits of the Walker and Blackett children and their sailing boats – the Swallow and the Amazon. As the crews set sail for Wildcat Island, they encounter savages, capture dastardly pirates and defeat mortal enemies.

The production has already premiered at the Bristol Old Vic and been resident in the West End before embarking on its new spring 2012 tour of the UK and is the perfect way to remember the long-lost days of endless summer evenings playing with friends and getting lost in an imaginary world.

Directed by Tom Morris, Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic and co-director of the National Theatre’s Tony Award-winning War Horse, and featuring songs by The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon.

Tickets are on sale now, priced from £10.50 – £19.50 and can be bought by calling the Box Office on 0114 249 6000 or online at

Performances nightly at 7.00pm, and 2.00pm matinees on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Jump aboard for Easter adventures!



Laura Turner

Laura Turner

Laura trained as a writer with Hull Truck Theatre, BBC New Talent and the Royal Court Theatre. She has worked extensively with touring theatre company Chapterhouse, where she is currently Writer in Residence. Laura has previously written for BBC EastEnders: E20 and her adaptation of Jane Eyre toured theatres with Hull Truck Theatre Company at the start of 2013. She is now working on an original play for the theatre, as well as projects with Bolton Octagon, Middle Child Theatre and The Ashton Group, Cumbria. She has been long-listed for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwrighting and the Adrienne Benham Award.

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Exit Stage Left: What do you have to compromise on to be an actor?

Posted on 17 March 2012 by Tristan Pate

An actress I’ve recently been working with has been regaling me with some wonderful tales of a lifetime in theatre. Hers is an illustrious career which has provided her with a surfeit of anecdotes ranging from the hilarious to the downright bizarre. Her stories have helped to pass long journeys on tour, and I’ve been entertained, enthralled and at times, amazed.

One of the more poignant insights she has shared has really got me thinking about the nature of our profession as a lifestyle choice. On this very platform Filskit Theatre recently wrote very eloquently about the fading novelty of the artist on the road – forced to adjust to a diet of Boots Meal Deals, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the standard room layout of budget hotel chains and longs for a home-cooked meal in the company of his loved ones.

It’s a way of life I have come to know well and accept as an inescapable part of the actor’s profession. The sad truth my colleague had observed was that in all her years in theatre she had seen a real shift within the creative community. No one was settling down anymore. No one was getting married, having children or getting mortgages – the actor’s way of life had become solitary, even anonymous. Collectively we had compromised for our art and subscribed to the bohemian existence of the wandering minstrel, with no ties to bind us either geographically or emotionally.

Now it must be said that this is not a universal truism. Many of us have strong relationships and family support networks and are able to strike a healthy balance. I’ve also met actors who claim to love the touring lifestyle. It’s a great way to see the world, to learn your craft and to gain a variety of experiences, but I’ve always needed stability. As an actor I am characteristically insecure and I need the love of my family infinitely more than the adulation of an audience. The uncertainty of my future is the cross I have to bear and it will always be difficult for me to promise the security my loved ones deserve.

The real problem is the lack of understanding and support of these needs in the industry. Equity fights for us to receive approved contracts and pension plans, and to stop people selling their services for free in an attempt to stamp out the exploitative elements of the business; in essence, it campaigns for actors to receive the rights of any other working professional. But the self-employed will always live a precarious existence, in which it is impossible to plan more than a month in advance and every opportunity must be seized to prepare for a potential dearth of options in the future.

My associate’s personal experiences as a wife and mother were what really hit home for me. Whether it was the community spirit of actors bringing their children to rehearsals in days gone by (evidently commonplace back then, but hard to comprehend by today’s standards) to babysitting for each other, even popping backstage to feed a baby mid performance, there is no provision for this kind of behaviour in modern theatre and as a result, people simply don’t do it.

The decision to perhaps take a couple of years out to have a baby can be a career-crippling move for an actress still making a name for herself, and with no maternity cover specified in short term contracts it’s often an option which is completely unviable. Relationships between actors on either side of the country in separate touring jobs can easily become strained, not to mention the professional jealousy that can often spring from such partnerships. It’s a sad thought that one can easily enjoy a successful lifetime in the arts and retire having never made any meaningful commitments along the way.

So ours is a vocation riddled with compromise, but a career is only what you make of it. You don’t have to live entirely at the mercy of fate – each decision is yours and yours alone. There are surely more creatives in the world now than there have ever been and the competition is fierce, but there’s an equally large support network out there if you want to engage with it. Whether it’s through online forums such as A Younger Theatre or making friends within the business, there are others everywhere sharing the same woes. For us to be an acting community again, we need to pull together – by offering a sofa to friend in need, helping to publicise a fringe production, even babysitting each other’s kids. In my experience actors are the most incredibly supportive people onstage, and it’s a virtue we must espouse offstage too.

Image credit: Sarah Macmillan.

Tristan Pate

Tristan Pate

Tristan is an actor and musician and graduated from the Birmingham School of Acting in 2010. Since then he has appeared in plays, musicals and physical theatre pieces both touring nationally, and in London. He lives in Oxfordshire with his fiancée and young daughter.

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