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Tag Archive | "Shakespeare"

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Feature: Incoming Festival preview – Move to Stand

Posted on 14 March 2014 by Emma Struthers

Move to Stand – Collision

Times aren’t getting an easier for aspiring young writers. But if you keep your networks active and immerse yourself in an idea you’re passionate about, then you might just get somewhere – that’s what I take away from meeting Move to Stand theatre company.

Fresh out of rehearsals for the upcoming show Fat Man, a quirky play that tells the story of “Orpheus doing stand-up for the Gods,” Director Martin Bonger tells me about his enthusiasm for INCOMING festival and bringing The Collision Of Things back into the spotlight.

The Brighton-born ensemble, Move To Stand, made its debut with The Collision Of Things, directed by Ben Kidd. The award-winning, razor-sharp script tells the story of a young couple living in London with their lodger, and exploring the possibilities of an unlikely friendship. Through stunning physical theatre, the play explores themes of loneliness, friendship, longing for new life and descending into darkness. The Collision Of Things received rave reviews, and was awarded Best of BE Touring Prize at Birmingham’s highly acclaimed BE Festival.

Move To Stand is a collaborative company, created by Bonger and Kidd, who first met whilst studying at the LeCoq School in Paris. Bonger trained at LeCoq for two years, studying the language of the body, how we express ourselves through means other than language, which later influenced the physical theatre used in The Collision Of Things. Bonger went on to get a degree in English and Theatre at Leeds University. After graduation, he toured with a Shakespearean company in the US and he believes this experience greatly shaped his practice, enabling his love for classical text and more traditional forms of theatre to play a part in his own writing and play-making.

The enthusiastic duo both attended London International School of Performing Arts, in Lister. Bonger told me that he found creating The Collision Of Things an incredibly interesting process, dynamic and ever-changing. He describes it as “a show that deals with stuff that affects us deeply – things you say amongst friends, true, profound, deep and lively things.”

After graduating in 2009, Bonger and Kidd embarked on the journey that led them to The Collision Of Things, and on reflection, Bonger believes he was incredibly lucky during his time at university to work with such talented people on wonderful projects. The pair explored the idea of following one character in pursuit of his unknown father. Along the way he meets two friends, who complete the triangle the piece centers on. They invited Simon Day to run workshops with them, in physical theatre, movement and body control. Sound, lighting technicians and a set designer helped create more layers of the complex, physical three-hander show.

Bonger found the process to be full of surprises, as the script developed in an edgy, conversational way, rather than a methodical, traditional structure. The process involved gems of ideas, and lots of improvising and devising. Bonger enthusiastically describes the process: “We’ve talked about what worked, honed in on it, pulled things apart, grabbing more and more focus.”

Compared to working with published scripts – which involves establishing back story, exploring how characters move, think and feel – devised work reverses the process; everything is new, scenarios change, and then condense. It’s a process of packing up. The trio’s journey with The Collision Of Things grew and changed as both Day and Kidd moved on to work with other projects. With Bonger left at the helm, two new actors came on board and the piece moulded to the new dynamic and chemistry between the actors. It seems the collaborative process for Bonger is the source for his success and inspiration for ideas. Move To Stand has close links with Little Mighty theatre company, whose creative input and support has been invaluable in The Collision Of Things.

Bonger and the Move To Stand team are thrilled to be a part of INCOMING festival. Bonger finds that being part of a pool of writers, directors and actors creates wonderful potential and opportunity for change, sharing ideas and flavours of what theatre creators are making at the moment. “What makes theatre great, what makes a good play, that’s what we love talking about”, Bonger tells me. Audiences can expect The Collision Of Things to bring a contemporary edge in an exciting and unpretentious way. Move To Stand’s work strives to connect with audiences, explore issues about sex, youth and change.

Bonger believes aspiring writers and companies should find an anchor. He advises them to become immersed in an idea that they are passionate about and love, an idea that keeps you talking, debating and exploring. In the earliest stages of devising, Bonger suggests getting in touch with venues, having conversations with other people and getting them excited about the work you are creating. He says, “You have to, it inspires you to go on even when the going gets tough and the pool of ideas starts to run dry. If you feel that you have a strong anchor in the piece you are making then you can do it. Be quick, confident and ask people for help. If you believe in it, so will audiences. Make it happen.”

The Collision Of Things will be performed on Wednesday 21 May as part of the INCOMING festival at New Diorama Theatre, London. For more information and tickets visit the NDT’s website

 

Emma Struthers

Emma Struthers

Emma is a graduate from BA Scriptwriting and Performance at UEA in Norwich, and is currently studying for a Masters in Creative Writing Scriptwriting at UEA. She loves writing and performing and is a keen member of Stuff Of Dreams Theatre Company as a writer and actor, based in Norfolk and Suffolk.

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Review: Hamlet, Les Gémeaux, Paris

Posted on 10 March 2014 by Billy Barrett

Hamlet

David Bobee’s Russian Hamlet is, among other things, a strong argument for age-appropriate casting. While in Britain we like our Princes of Denmark to be ‘accomplished’ actors (read ’30 and above’), this man in black is defiantly juvenile, careering round the stage with adolescent abandon in a pair of skinny jeans and a trendy haircut. It’s a choice that helps some of the play’s questions click into place: why does he procrastinate? Is he mad, or just pretending? Does he have to be so, you know, moody? Ah, yes – he’s a teenager. It might also answer a question more specific to this production: why does he wear a Batman costume?

Bobee says his staging has a ‘cinematographic aesthetic’. I’d go more with graphic novel. Aside from the superhero cape in one scene, the strong monochrome images, scraps of text onstage and stylised violence are pure Gotham City – emphasis on the ‘goth’. The set, also designed by Bobee, is Cheek by Jowl minimalism meets grisly sex dungeon; a sinisterly sanitised space of black tiles and metallic surfaces, wipe-clean in preparation for carnal, bloody and unnatural acts. When the dreadlocked gravedigger starts pulling out the bodies from drawers in the wall, we realise the whole rotten court is held in a morgue.

The production is full of surprises like this – scenes are occasionally divided by a plastic curtain, but Polonius is shot with a cap gun directly into the audience. Ophelia must always drown, but who floods the entire stage? This water remains until the end, rippling and crashing to create glorious images as the cast writhe and leap through it. The visceral force of the visuals is raised by an eclectic soundtrack from droning electro to Coldplay, and the stark aesthetic is occasionally thrown into relief by more traditional elements: a smattering of classical music and an Elizabethan costumed troupe of actors for the play-within-the-play.

There are some perplexing aspects – I never understood why Ophelia and Laertes occasionally speak English together, and the distancing trick of having each character announce themselves by carrying the letters of their name onstage doesn’t come off when we only get the surtitled translation at the end of the scene.

But this is bold stuff for a play that often feels the weight of its canonical seriousness, and in dispensing with subtlety Bobee loses very little of Hamlet‘s depth. The ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy gains concrete urgency as the prince holds a knife to his throat, and his revulsion at the perceived incest of Gertrude and Claudius becomes fairly understandable when he’s practically forced to watch her give him a lap dance.

For such a theatrical, in some ways heavy-handed slant on Shakespeare, this has a real emotional core – a distressing poignancy that’s heightened by Hamlet’s youth amidst the carnage. In fact, as the cast lay themselves down to die after a slow-motion finale, it’s easy to forget we’ve missed out on all of Shakespeare’s language. Perhaps that’s this production’s great strength; the play’s still the thing, but without the pressure of speaking its well-worn lines the company’s free to dance around the text, dragging it down and lifting it up.

Hamlet played at Les Gémeaux in Paris. For more shows at Les Gémeaux see the website.

Billy Barrett

Billy Barrett

Billy currently studies English and Theatre at Warwick University. Between reviewing and reading for his course, Billy writes, directs and acts in theatre. He tries to see everything in London, Warwick and beyond!

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Feature: Celebrating 21 years of Told by an Idiot – “A brilliant combination of excitement and fear”

Posted on 07 March 2014 by Lee Anderson

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During our conversation, Paul Hunter – Co-Artistic Director of Told by an Idiot – says something rather unexpected: “One of our heroes is Miles Davies, because aside from his extraordinary music and creativity, he never settled and he constantly changed things.” Now, on the surface of things, this might seem an unusual comparison to get one’s head around. Upon closer inspection, though, it serves to underline those factors that give this company its unique edge. Since forming in 1993, Told by an Idiot has made its name creating uproarious performances that combine playful storytelling, buffoonery and a pervasive sense of unpredictability. Jazz music’s emphasis on improvised rhythms and a ‘moment-by-moment’ reinvention are fitting expressions for this company’s restless creativity. “We work very hard at trying to be spontaneous, because I think that kind of spontaneity and ‘liveness’ is what theatre does better than anything else.”

Over the course of their 21 years creating work, the company has explored a divergent range of ideas and topics. It has adapted films and novels, tackled Shakespeare, revived classics and devised entirely original work. This wide-ranging imaginative palette has given the company a reputation for being more than a little bit unpredictable. In today’s cash-strapped climate, caution has become the better part of valour for many companies and venues. Do these restraints mean that Told by an Idiot’s desire to reinvent itself with each new production has become more difficult? “We were very conscious of not wanting to repeat ourselves. For us, there was a big danger in that. When you have a success, people want the same thing. But we can’t do that. I know in some ways that makes it harder for venues to sell us, because they can’t do it off the back of the previous show. But I think at the heart of what we do remains the notion of this very playful, rather anarchic, often poetic spirit.”

The idea behind Told by an Idiot began when Paul Hunter and Hayley Carmichael (Co-Artistic Director) were completing their acting training at Middlesex Polytechnic in 1986. Under the tutelage of an influential teacher, John Wright, Hunter and Carmichael began to envisage the possibility of creating original work from scratch. “One of the earliest things he challenged us with was the notion of making our own work. I think that the best teaching, in terms of theatre work, is a brilliant combination of excitement and fear. When we left, he suggested to us that we should make something together. We got terribly excited. But the irony was that when met up in a café in Camden Town, we couldn’t come up with any ideas!” Their collective imaginations sparked into life when the group discovered Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, the novel that would go on to form the basis of their first production, On the Verge of Exploding (1993). This bold and bravely non-literal adaptation of Garcia’s novel garnered great acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with the production going on to tour Romania and Johannesburg. Looking back over this time, it was clearly a formative turning point for the company. Still, as Hunter explains, the aims at the time felt a lot less momentous to begin with: “I would love to say we had this great mission when we began, but I don’t think we did. I think the bottom line for us in forming a company was being able to say we made something of our own that no one else had ever done before. Regardless of whether people thought it was rubbish or not – it was ours.”

If there is a constant, underlying factor within Told by an Idiot’s work, it stems from its unapologetic celebration of theatre itself. Through a rejection of mimesis, it embraces the trickery and craftiness of performance in all its glory. “One of the strengths of theatre is its very artifice. It’s by acknowledging this artifice that you can find a different sort of truth.” By revelling in artifice, Told by an Idiot has developed a performance style that combines savage comedy with a disquieting undercurrent of the tragic and macabre. This blurring of form is an essential element for its latest piece, Never Try This At Home. Currently playing at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Told by an Idiot’s latest endeavour explores the darker side of children’s television. Set in the fictional world of Saturday morning television show, Shushi, the piece explores the manic world of custard pies and over-the-top presenters which have long been a touchstone in children’s entertainment. “Over the last few years, we’ve been inspired by things that have happened in real life. I remembered that as an eight-year-old, a family friend took me on the TV show, Tiswas. I was in the cage where they threw buckets of water and custard pies at us. We came up with a show that was inspired by that and celebrates that wildness and pushes the anarchy that is in our work.” The surreal and chaotic world of children’s television is an ideal arena for Told by an Idiot to play in. Its work retains a rambunctious and sometimes darkly mischievous quality, and children’s television is the perfect space in which to demonstrate its talents and explore the darker side of all the reckless, pie-throwing fun.

Finally, I end my conversation with Hunter by asking him what lessons he has learned as a theatre maker with Told by an Idiot. I ask him if there are any shards of wisdom he could pass on to the artists and companies starting to create work today? “Choose your critics carefully,” he advises. “You’ll be inundated with people who will have an opinion on what you should do, and it’s very important you listen to a lot of these things. But it’s also important to hold on to what you believe something is about.” He believes passionately in the bonds between creative people and in the importance of forging strong relationships with one another: “At the heart of making something is something else that binds people together. You might not even be able to put your finger on it. But it’s an understanding that goes quite deep.”

For more information on Told by an Idiot, visit its website. Never Try This At Home is at Birmingham Rep until 15 March, then tours to Sheffield Crucible (18-22 Mar) Traverse (26-29 Mar) and Soho Theatre (2-26 April).

 

 

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Review: Hamlet, Milton Court Studio, The Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Posted on 19 February 2014 by Chérie Locatelli

Being one of the top drama schools in the world, why shouldn’t Guildhall attempt to put on one of the best – and one of the hardest to perform –Shakespearean plays, Hamlet? I say attempt, but it was more than that, as this production seemed painless to them. Yes, the third year Guildhall students have done it again – blown us away with a great interpretation of a legend’s play.

With misty air and a bare stage, filled only with hanging black cloaks and wooden chairs, the sparse scenery adds an irony to this chaotic play and gives space for the whirlwind that the audience go through while watching Hamlet. The director Jo McInnes has favourably used gender blind casting, so the show opens with Paige Carter playing Hamlet, undoubtedly adding a unique edge to this archetypal character. However, as the play continues, Hamlet is played by three other actors to represent the protagonist’s unstable and fluctuating state of mind throughout. Each of them adds their own flavour to the role, especially Joe Eyre who portrays Hamlet’s madness in the renowned Queen’s closet scene with such conviction that I could almost feel everybody in the audience tense up. Along with him, Faith Alabi is beyond suited to the beautiful and confusing character of Queen Gertrude.

I have no concerns about these actors suffering many loose ends within their acting career once they leave Guildhall, as once you astound an audience in a Shakespeare play, you probably have not got much else to worry about. The two actors I expect to be taking on big roles in the future are Rosemary Boyle, who played an enchanting and multi-dimensional Ophelia, and Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, who played her father, Polonius. Also exceptional in his role, he constantly makes the audience laugh and gasp.

There was not one point where I questioned this interpretation of Hamlet. Everything about the staging – from the holes in the floor as an eerie metaphorical alternative to a grave, to the guitarists and violinist walking on playing at crucial moments – proved to be interesting choices. One great success of any production is using simplicity, yet making something memorable out of it, which is exactly what the Guildhall students have done with Hamlet.

Without any hesitation, theatre lovers who have yet to see a production at Guildhall should definitely head down there sometime soon, as they are yet to disappoint.

Hamlet is playing at The Milton Court Studio until 22 February. See The Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s website for tickets and more information.

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