Tag Archive | "London Riots"

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Edinburgh Fringe Review: Chalk Farm

Posted on 06 August 2013 by Eleanor Turney

Chalk Farm

Star Rating:
(3/5 stars)

Chalk Farm is half a take on last year’s London riots, and half an examination of a mother-and-son relationship. It does both well but never quite makes either soar, despite being a tender and touching portrait of how the riots affected some of the people of London, and where the anger that lead to them came from. It’s well-acted by Thomas Dennis as Jamie and Julia Taudevin (who also co-writes with Kieran Hurley) as his mother, Maggie, and moments of their relationship are extremely well captured. Jamie is a nice mix of vulnerable little boy (with his Bat Man lunchbox) and angry young man – who gets caught up in the excitement and chaos that both leads up to and is caused by the riots.

Maggie talks about the politicians – Cameron, Miliband – who posture and pose and pretend to understand what her life is like; a life where she will “always be dirt poor no matter how hard I work” because she’s a single mother working in a call centre with no prospect of a better-paid job. Taudevin is especially good when she rips into the politicians’ and media’s demonisation of single mothers, spitting and full of rage. But she doesn’t explode. She keeps it inside, even when a woman on the phone at her job calls the people living on Maggie’s estate “scum”. She keeps it inside for Jamie’s sake, and these moments are the most heartbreaking.

Jamie himself is a sulky but eloquent teenage boy, trying to make sense of the world and his place in it, without sounding “like a dickhead”. Dennis imbues him with a nice amount of vulnerability and swagger. The sheer joy he feels is infectious, the joy he feels when he’s part of a crowd, part of something bigger – part of history, as his friend Junior puts it. It’s easy to empathise with both characters, but the whole piece feels a little slight; it’s a big topic to cover, of course, but it’d be nice if this did more than scratch the surface. These two are a microcosm of a much wider classist society – one that is “broken” in ways David Cameron can’t begin to imagine – and that’s only touched upon very lightly. The ending feels a little rushed, too, and doesn’t ring as true as the rest of the play.

I found the design, of lots of screens fizzing with photos, maps, life, initially intriguing, but the constant barrage of images gets a little bit much. The choreographed movement sequences between scenes, and when mother and son dance around each other in their tiny flat, sit oddly with the naturalistic and honest tone of the rest of the show. It’s an interesting and important piece, but one that could go further with its ideas.

Chalk Farm is at the Underbelly until 25 August. For more information and tickets, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.

Eleanor Turney

Eleanor Turney

Eleanor Turney is the Managing Editor of A Younger Theatre, as well as a freelance journalist, writer and editor. She has written for The Guardian, The Stage, The FT and Ideas Tap, and worked for the Poetry Society and the British Council.

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Review: Streets

Posted on 12 April 2013 by Ed Theakston

The Streets Cockpit Theatre

Streets, the newest production from the youthful Interval Productions, makes the bold claim to be “a new kind of musical”. That sets up a huge amount of expectation in an audience; the show has to offer a fresh perspective as well as offering a new kind of style and aesthetic. That is a lot to ask for. Streets does not disappoint.

With writers Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley, composer Finn Anderson has reworked his Edinburgh Fringe hit into a piece that takes place during the days leading up to, and in the immediate aftermath, of the London riots. Streets examines how environments shape people, how they influence them as they struggle with the same emotions that characters have done throughout history: young couples in love, desperate individuals trying to find a way to fit in, people addicted to power.

The piece is set just after the riots, when some of the central characters have been arrested. Danielle Watson (of This Is England) plays a police officer who interrogates the characters, and through a series of flashbacks they tell their own story. It is a slick device that doesn’t feel clichéd, allowing for a gradual unravelling of a complex plot that could rival a Shakespearian tragedy; backstabbing, lying, sex, drugs, murder, and all entirely recognisable and relatable for the youth of today.

The central character, Robyn (Sian Louise), provides the emotional heart of the piece. Robyn is in love with drug addict Rick (Brandon Henry), but he gradually forces her away and she finds release in the arms of nice boy Jason (Ben Astle). Louise’s performance is beautifully pitched; her relationship with Rick is tempestuous and strained, while the relationship with Jason is tender, loving. Brandon Henry’s progressive descent into severe drug addiction is riveting to watch, particularly in the second half of the play when he loses all he has bit by bit.

James Eyres Kenward gives a stunning, witty performance as Skinner, a kind of narrator figure and the man who seems to run everything and everyone. He is quietly menacing and entirely in control. This blend is truly terrifying. Kamilah Beckles and Ryan-Lee Seager’s choreography is an electrifying combination of contemporary and street dance styles. Jake Leigh stands out from the crowd and in one particular duet it is impossible to take your eyes off him.

Musically, the piece is more backed by the band than it is in a musical. In Streets, external vocalists sing on the behalf of the characters. This is surprisingly effective. Lead vocalists Tori Allen-Martin and Benedict both have remarkable voices. Allen-Martin is a startlingly emotional performer, really nailing the rawness of the lyrics. Finn Anderson’s music is perfect for the piece; at times haunting, at times fierce, it is a powerful score. Juxtaposing the more traditionally ‘musical theatre’, lyrical numbers is beatboxing from Pikey Esquire and rap, written and performed by James Eyres Kenward. Musical Director Kris Rawlinson does well, leading the musicians from the keyboard.

Director Adam ‘Bo’ Boland has created a streamlined, emotionally raw piece of theatre. What could feel disjointed is held together by a strong through-line and Anderson’s captivating score. The ends of both acts are incredibly climactic – a lot happens in a very short space of time, particularly in the conclusion, but this is done with such precision and clarity that the audience never feels lost.

Although some of the acting is a little presentational and there is an over-fondness for shouting, this is exciting musical theatre that deserves to be championed and developed further. Most of all, this is theatre for the younger generation that is fiercely creative and thrillingly fresh. It deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. Get yourself down to see Streets now, you don’t want to miss this.

Streets is playing at the Cockpit Theatre until 21 April. For more information and tickets, see Cockpit Theatre website.

Ed Theakston

Ed Theakston

Ed has worked as an actor, director, lighting designer, and writer for a number of years. He is currently training at East 15 Acting School. He has a keen and diverse interest in theatre and has gained experience working in many different styles, from musical theatre to Stanislavski to devising. This year Ed has started writing reviews regularly for Fourthwall Magazine, and his blog ‘Into Training’ is available to read on the Fourthwall website.

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Filskit Blog: The kids are alright

Posted on 18 July 2012 by Filskit Theatre

Youngsters, teenagers, lend us your ears! We at Filskit are miffed. It appears that young people have been having a bit of a hard time of late. And as young arts professionals (yes, 25 is still young) we are aware of how tough things can be out there. But this does not seem to stop us and we know how much great stuff our generation is a part of, most of which does not get enough coverage.

Last week, Sophie Heawood, a columnist for The Independent, chose to lambast the graduate generation. A mere glance at the numerous reactive comments listed below the article is enough to lower morale: large levels of student debt, the void of employment opportunities and the expectation that you need to work for free for five years before you could ever be cheeky enough to expect to be treated as a professional under the guise of an ‘internship’ – all these hurdles have left a somewhat despondent youth.

At the other end of the scale it’s almost a year since the ‘London riots.’ A year since Foot Locker, Curry’s and any other unsuspecting trendy footwear/electronic outlets were looted in a wave of juvenility – notably branches of Waterstones were left intact! But even through this minor, sarky quip, judgement has been passed. And isn’t that what everyone does? Cast a blanket of opinion over a situation with sweeping generalisations? The press following the riots at the time bombarded us with headlines such as: “British youths are ‘the most unpleasant and violent in the world’”, and the Mirror’s contribution, “Young rioters say they’re proud to steal”. With this kind of bad press, it becomes very easy to paint a damning picture of today’s youths. We are portrayed as either over-educated and complacent or ignorant and violent. This is grossly unfair.

We’re constantly astonished at how frequently work for young people or by young people is somehow deemed to be something lesser. Mozart composed from the age of 5 for God’s sake! So just to prove our point, this week Filskit has been part of the International Youth Arts Festival (IYAF) in Kingston-upon-Thames. That is twenty-four days of workshops, carnivals and performances, made for young people, by young people. We first took part in this event as part of its debut in 2009 and are happy to say it has grown massively with more events, more people and support, enabling it to reach a wider audience. In terms of IYAF a young person is classified as twenty-six or under – or anyone eligible for a Young Persons Railcard. These young people come from diverse backgrounds: from choirs, touring theatre companies and circus acts, all producing a true mix of exciting work. And what is most impressive is that we were surrounded by young people who are creative, driven, and ambitious. In fact there was a distinct absence of moaning, self pitying graduates, or illiterate, anti-social yobs.

The same can be said for U-Dance – a national programme run by Youth Dance England, an organisation that “champions dance for all children and young people […] all performances count.” Isn’t that great? We had the pleasure of catching some of the acts appearing at the Southbank over the weekend – a fantastic platform where there was a tangible buzz of excitement from all the young people performing.

So, perhaps it is about time that newspapers readdressed their attitude to young people, because our experience of young people in the arts is that they are motivated and are producing work that is challenging, entertaining and socially aware. They are not just sitting back and waiting for opportunities to be handed to them, but are shaping their futures themselves and this needs to be supported. There is so much to celebrate and the more we encourage young people to take their futures into their own hands the better. We need more events like IYAF and supportive organisations like U-Dance to show the world what the Creative Youth of today can do.

Filskit Theatre

Filskit Theatre

Filskit Theatre are an all-female ensemble with a passion for micro-projection. The company, Sarah Gee, Katy Costigan and Victoria Dyson, have been making work together since 2008. As graduates of the European Theatre Arts course at Rose Bruford they were brought together by their shared love of projection and cake.

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Britain was broken: writing the riots

Posted on 01 July 2012 by A Younger Theatre

Last summer, Archie W. Maddocks was inspired: inspired by the city he lived in, the things he witnessed and the people he saw. In this special guest blog, he tells us more.

Smoke spiralled out of a charred shell of a car while hoards of hooded figures regrouped around it, flames and bats in hands, ready to go to war with the police, the politicians, the system. Certain streets descended into chaos while others were left unsurprisingly unblemished by the hurricane taking over the country. The youth were to blame. Britain was broken. Right?

To me, the riots represented the same enigma as a well-crafted novel or slowly floating iceberg: those unwilling to acknowledge what lies beneath the surface will only see what is right in front of them. I felt that people would never truly look at the reasons for the riots happening. Being an angry, reactionary species, people would quickly point the finger of blame to those who they felt were at fault. It was always going to be the fault of someone else, someone removed from themselves, someone alien to their world. In reality, the August riots of 2011 were the fault of everyone. But, I felt, no-one was ever going to acknowledge that idea. So I decided to explore it in Mottled Lines.

I wrote Mottled Lines because I felt that people needed to look at the culmination of the summer’s discontent from different viewpoints. The riots were not caused by one group of people. They were not caused by thugs wanting to make a mess. They were caused by a country-wide disenfranchisement. People sought to improve their lives in some way, and what other opportunity would they have? Let’s not forget, there were teachers rioting, office assistants, artists, university students. This was not caused by a singular group of people, this was diverse. People were unified despite their divisions by their similar feelings in the situation; they weren’t happy and they wanted to make some kind of statement. But, again, unless people were willing to look beneath the surface of things, they would only see what was right in front of them.

I can remember reading people blaming other factions of society for why the riots occurred and thinking, “So, what, you didn’t have any impact on the lives of other people?” Whenever a substantial and varied group of people move and react in the same way to something, there has to be more than one source. There couldn’t just have been a sole reason that people got up and took to the streets. The issue was complicated, yet people tried to make it simpler by suggesting that it was the fault of someone else. The ever-elusive ‘other’.

I wanted to take a look at different archetypes in society and try and think about what they thought about the riots. Why they thought that these “incidents” occurred. It led me to the conclusion that everyone has this idea that their word is gospel, while the voices of others are misinformed. Each character in Mottled Lines presents a different viewpoint about why the riots happened. Each character also makes it clear what they think about the other members of society. Looking at it from different angles brought a fuller picture of how the riots may have occurred.

It’s always a good idea to look at things through the eyes of others, to try and see something from another person’s viewpoint, no matter how alien that may seem. Not only does that make you understand them a little bit better, it makes you more aware of yourself and how you may be perceived. This was essential to the thinking behind Mottled Lines; I wanted to explore the real thoughts and opinions of those who don’t usually get heard. Some of the characters in the play are listened to, but none of them are truly heard.

Society would work if people took the time to hear other people. Real talk, how is some rich Bullingdon-boy nob-end going to even try and relate to a road man that has to do x y and z to survive? How is someone in a perfect little bubble going to understand the problems that policemen have to go through on a day-to-day basis? How is anyone going to understand anyone but themselves and the people like themselves unless they hear the others? And how will people ever get heard without communication? This play investigates the idea of communication and suggests that there is a lack of it in our society due to the prevalence of fear.

Mottled lines is fundamentally a play about fear. How fear can run the lives of people and motivate them to do things they would never usually do. And that’s what I think happened with the riots. During the years before that fateful summer, there was a distinctive atmosphere in the air. My friends and I all felt it. Other people must have as well. Whether that was fear or foreboding I can’t say, but there was something out of the ordinary there.

What caught my eye in regards to the riots was that I saw people were united by their divisions. They were united in their fight against something. Or, their fight for something. But they were united. And they were all most definitely fighting. I wanted to capture that essence in the play, and although there characters are juxtaposed against each other, and alienated from one another, they are all essentially united by their division. A division that has been born from fear.

“When there’s a gap left in understanding, that’s when people let the fear breed”. And where else are we left to go if people are afraid of one another? The most common reaction to something we don’t understand or something we fear is to try and kill it, to destroy. If people fear other people in their society, will that not eventually culminate into some kind of event that resembles a riot?

Come and see Mottled Lines and find out what happens when you let the fear breed…

Mottled Lines plays at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, from 10 to 14 July. For tickets and more information, visit the theatre’s website here. You can follow Archie on twitter @AWMDX.

Image credit: Archie W Maddocks

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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