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Tag Archive | "Kady Howey Nunn"

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Review: The Shepherd’s Chameleon

Posted on 16 May 2013 by Simon Holton

The Shepherd's ChameleonThe irony of reviewing The Shepherd’s Chameleon, a play written by Eugène Ionesco as a barbed response to his critics, is inescapable. The play is itself an exploration, perhaps a criticism, of a certain type of criticism. This absurdist farce is a bold choice for a debut play by new company Utopia Theatre, performed at the CLF Arts Café (a.k.a the Bussey Building) in Peckham.

The show is described as a “physical rendition” of the play. Director Moji Kareem says she intentionally cast actors from a physical theatre background, and this is evident. The cast deliver larger-than-life performances whilst grappling with a mind-boggling text.

The play begins surreally enough. We enter a space, designed by Kady Howey Nunn, strewn with piles of books, newspapers and manuscripts. The actors are already there, perhaps in keeping with the company’s desire to “engage and communicate directly with the audience”. One sits upstage in a chair facing away from us, looking at an enormous white screen on which dramatic shadows are thrown. Another stands teetering on her tiptoes, oblivious to us, seemingly occupied by visions or inner turmoil. A third sits and looks at us combatively. Two of these performers, Olivia Nicholson and Lucie Chester, along with a third who enters later, Sarah Sharman, play three versions of the same character, Bartholomeus. They work together well with their exaggerated and cartoonish performances. This is a style of acting which, though occasionally grating, suits the absurd nature of the piece perfectly. In opposition to these three roles is the understated performance of Thomas Solberg, playing Ionesco himself. Solberg’s performance is subtle and unassuming, which is just as it should be as he acts as a contrast to the other characters, and also as the ‘real’ character with whom the audience can properly engage. However, the performance was in danger of being underwhelming at times.

The action begins with a movement sequence, well-choreographed by Gerrard Martin, involving the slow tearing of pages from books and silent speaking, as two actors mirror each other. Sitting in their graveyard of information and text, the play begins by drawing attention to one of the central discussions of the work: who creates and curates meaning, and how is it contained? This is a particularly pertinent question in the age we live in, with its abundance of language and communication of such varying levels of value and meaning.

The play’s text is cyclical and repetitive, with three performers representing just one of Ionesco’s critics. They argue with the reluctant Ionesco and amongst themselves, about theatricality, meaning and existence. This multi-layered conversation gradually grows more and more complex and, as an audience member, you do have to keep on your toes. However, the small company wrestles with this difficult text admirably, and presents it with simplicity and clarity. The movement and the physical nature of the performance support and balance the text well, but more could have been done to create a greater impact. Nevertheless, the play is sharp and effective, directed with precision by Kareem.

The Shepherd’s Chameleon is playing at the CLF Art Café/Bussey Building until 25 May. For more information and tickets, see the CLF Art Café website.

Simon Holton

Simon Holton

Since returning to the UK after sojourns in the German-speaking world, Simon has plunged himself headfirst into the world of theatre, as both a creator and consumer. Actor-in-training and self-confessed Germanophile, Simon is pursuing diverse interests in experimental and fringe theatre.

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Review: Daybreak

Posted on 11 June 2012 by Jake Orr

In Notion Theatre Company’s presentation of Bobby Cronin’s musical Daybreak, we follow the challenge of finding your reason for living and finding another person to live it with. Universal themes indeed. Cronin’s Daybreak takes a contemporary view of the world where secrecy about sexuality is up against the existence of Facebook and the desire to be the person who you really are. It’s a complicated musical with shifting scenes that makes the narrative a somewhat jolted experience. Coupled with Notion Theatre Company’s presentation it makes for a wholly disappointing affair.

The story is essentially a simple one: Rebecca (Suzy Bastone) and Dylan (Matt Stevens) are trying to find themselves after some fifteen years of marriage by moving back to the home Dylan grew up in. Surrounded by his childhood memories and with the words of the past echoing in his mind, Dylan finally explores his true sexuality, causing the breakdown of his marriage but ultimately happiness for all. This is overlapped by Dylan’s parents’ story, where Kelly (Kayleigh Louise-Smith) and Jamie (Tom Senior) save each other from jumping off a bridge by finding strength in each other. Through their relationship we see how Jamie’s desires to be a singer-songwriter are squashed to look after Kelly’s unborn child (the real father fled when told). Interlaced throughout are references to Facebook, sexuality, following your dream and issues with your parents – a little overbearing for a four-handed musical.

The faults within Daybreak, which is currently playing at the Tristan Bates Theatre, come in many forms. Cronin’s book is far too involved with itself to develop characters who become likeable, with songs that create more of a episodic narrative than a linear through-line for the piece. Equally, it’s difficult to find Cronin’s musical memorable as songs seemingly merge into each other with little development. Of course it’s not just Cronin’s book that’s to blame; Hayley Cusick’s direction does little to help, lacking in focus, often being distracting and feeling forced from her performers. It isn’t helped by Kady Howey Nunn’s clunky set design offering little to the imagination, although there is some rather dashing wallpaper.

If Daybreak suffers from the book and direction, then sadly it is not saved by the casting either. Whilst the performers each clearly have strong musical backgrounds and have a fine ability to fill the Tristan Bates Theatre with their voices, the lack of musical direction to complement the vocal ranges leaves little subtlety. Louise-Smith’s fine voice is continually forced up against Senior’s booming vocals, and when this is joined during songs such as the title ‘Daybreak’ and ‘You’re Mine’ we’re left deafened. At times there is some forced acting and character portrayal which goes further to alienate the audience from the characters. It seems that we are not to care for their actions, and even during the apparent uplifting finale when they have all found themselves, little emotion is felt. There are however some enjoyable moments when the performers seem more at ease with themselves and don’t force their vocals to fill the space. It is during these tender moments that we can begin to see how Cronin’s book could lend itself to some depth, especially during Cry and Lullaby. It is a real shame that this is short lived as there is talent amongst all of the cast if teased out right, but not when it feels forced and overacted. Strong vocals perhaps, but a lack of direction and clarity leads Daybreak into less of an awakening, and more into a bemused wake up call.

Daybreak is playing at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 30 June. For more information and tickets, see the Tristan Bates Theatre website.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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