Advert
Advert

Tag Archive | "Theatre Royal Haymarket"

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

La Fille à la Mode, the twenty-first century “it girl”

Posted on 02 November 2012 by Veronica Aloess

dANTE or dIE’s site-specific promenade production La Fille à la Mode has made a roundabout trip. It was created at the Theatre Royal Haymarket back in 2010, and since then has travelled to the National Theatre, Rich Mix and a department store in Holland amongst other venues, before returning to the Haymarket for a limited run. Talking to the makers and performers of the shows, it’s compelling to hear how it’s developed in those two years, and is still developing now as the company goes from strength to strength.

“Sometimes the content changes as well, not just how you shape it, and I think that’s a really interesting thing to do with a piece – to keep it in development depending on where we are,” says original company member Rachel Drazek. It’s remarkable that although “the site came first,” says Masterclass Programme Director and dramaturg for the show Blayne George, La Fille à la Mode has transferred so well to different spaces. George believes this is because of “the universal quality of the story and comes out of he history of the women we looked at. It translates a story that’s been going for 300 years already. We’re just putting it into different spaces.”

Talking to George about how the piece came about feels like talking to a walking encyclopedia of theatrical history. “La Fille à la Mode was the very first play that was performed here in 1720. It was an illegal theatre so would have hosted vaudeville, cabaret, street performance… so then we looked at the famous actresses that had played on the stage [and] researched what happened to them through fame, as the woman of the moment, the ‘it girl’, the celebrity.” Watching the show, there’s this juxtaposition of period characters with extremely contemporary themes: “What we wanted was for people to realise how easily they consume women’s images,” co-director of dANTE or dIE Terry O’Donovan tells me. “Celebrity culture is crazy, and looking back over the years at how we see those same images recycled and recycled… women aspire to be that, but what is that and where can it take you after your looks are gone and after you’re not the ‘it girl’ anymore? It’s asking the audience to contemplate this.”

This was something they asked their performers to contemplate too, O’Donovan tells me, “We [the other co-director of dANTE or dIE is Daphna Attias] always devise with our performers. There’s a piece where the audience see the girls look at themselves and – the way they devised it – they had to pick three parts of their bodies that they liked and three parts they didn’t like. They had to do something with each of those parts connecting them to the mirror and then link them together in a sequence so it was about their own bodies.” dANTE or dIE’s style involves “mixing live music and a physical language, with narrative and playing with different spaces.” Promenade theatre is a difficult genre to get right, but this is George’s forte and reason he wanted to work with dANTE or dIE. He explains: “I think we’ve become complacent with late twentieth and early twenty-first century theatre practice because of things like TV, internet, video games, [but] by creating something promenade and site specific, the audience have to interact with the space differently, they have to take a step forward.”

The labyrinth-like path through the Haymarket is the perfect space for reflecting the ideas behind La Fille à la Mode as O’Donovan describes “how women are portrayed in society is a very two dimensional image. So it starts with that idea of frivolity and flirtatiousness, but as you delve further into the building, it grows darker and you see more.” O’Donovan also notes that “every place we perform it, it’s different because it’s about different women. For example, at the V&A it was much more about women’s bodies in art, we started the show next to this beautiful sculpture of a woman – so it’s got different connotations to a theatre. The theatre is about the starlets.” Drazek and I discussed this idea of an actor’s façade. “There’s that moment with performers when you get in your costume again or put on your makeup again. There’s some of that in how I access the ideas of it.” Drazek found whilst researching “it girls” for the role that “there’s this dependence on male attention to give you power and that’s a weird relationship. I think with people like Edie [Sedgwick – an 'it girl' of the sixties], the attention grows and grows and they live this high life, and if that’s taken away there’s nothing left underneath them.”

When the idea for La Fille à la Mode was conceived, Masterclass was looking to give new artists opportunities within the building for Masterclass Festival 10. “The aims of dANTE or dIE perfectly fit with the aims of Masterclass, with them as an emerging company and us as a company that supports emerging artists,” explains George. Looking back on their intentions in 2010 and where dANTE or dIE is now, George is confident that they achieved what they set out to. “The show itself is successful, but it’s also about the by-product I think, about everything that’s come out of it. One can only hope that by giving them the platform to create a piece of work that had legs, they were able to go on and keep developing it. I think because they had the backing, it helped open doors to the National and then they were able to apply to the Arts Council and continue. I think that’s great for a young company to push through and get that type of profile.”

George explains how La Fille à la Mode has been about so much more than the show, and how charities like the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust can support young companies. It is a piece of theatre with big ambitions, but talking to the people involved, I quickly become aware of the teamwork that has gone into realising this. La Fille à la Mode looks like a production that still has a long life ahead of it, and dANTE or dIE even more so.

La Fille à la Mode plays at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 19 November.

Image credit: Ludovic des Cognets

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.

More Posts

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Two Worlds of Charlie F: a theatre recovery project

Posted on 13 August 2012 by Veronica Aloess

The Two Worlds of Charlie F left me in two minds about theatre as we know it. As audience members, we’re usually safely sat behind the fourth wall; but the slogan for this show is “first they lived it, now they’re performing it”. Although the subject matter of the show is far from our everyday experiences, it feels extremely real to watch because it’s performed by a cast featuring armed forces personnel whose personal experiences were adapted for the script by writer Owen Sheers. This project was created by the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass and funded by The Royal British Legion as a theatre recovery project for wounded, injured and sick (WIS) armed services personnel. Following a rapturous response from audiences, The Two Worlds of Charlie F has leapt from two performances at the Theatre Royal Haymarket to a UK tour.

Whilst audiences may find the play extremely emotional, for the actors the focus lay upon the play as a rehabilitation project. Cassidy Little, who plays the title character in The Two Worlds of Charlie F, shares the journey he has undergone as a result of this show.

“It’s not like an isolated situation; it kind of worm wooded its way into my life. Almost a year I’ve been involved in this project now and it’s just kind of spread into all aspects of my life, so in actual fact my whole life has changed as a result of this project. It’s not a case of me taking something away from it and going, you know, ‘I’m glad I learned how to massage small animals’, it’s much more like ‘wow, look at the person I’ve become as a result of the experiences I’ve had.’ ”

Cassidy “went to university and studied a lot of dance and movement – that was my major – but I never did professional theatre. I joined community theatre and stuff like that and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I kind of gave it all up,” so the performance aspect was never going to be an entirely new challenge. But why did Cassidy decide to specifically take part in this project? “I needed a healthy distraction. If you spend all your time focusing on rehabilitation then you’re just going to drive yourself insane. The process of learning how to walk again, learning how to live again, learning how to get into routines again is extremely frustrating. I think there’s no coincidence that when we learn to walk for the first time we don’t remember it. So to have to go through all that again, if you focus specifically on it, you’ll drive yourself insane. You need to find something that you can treat as a distraction. And some people pick video games, some people pick movies, some people pick drinking; there’s all kinds of unhealthy distractions out there. So a healthy distraction – one that you can focus on, that is positive – that’s what this project became. I just thought screw it, I’ll just focus on this and see what happens. So I’ve learnt to walk again without even thinking about it.”

Obviously this is a very personal project for the service personnel involved and through this performance Cassidy came to a point where “anything that would have been emotional a year and a half ago is far less emotional. We’ve spent so much time talking about the experiences that it’s much easier to come to grips with what you’re doing and what happens.” Masterclass’ project has utilised drama as a form of therapy; by coming to terms with their experiences they have found themselves more able to cope with them. “You’re taking amateurs, throwing them onstage, and getting them to tell their own stories, so really it’s as close to reality theatre as you’re gonna get.”

There comes a point in the play when a member of the cast describes how phrases like “I understand” are sometimes said without any real understanding of what these WIS service personnel are going through. Cassidy describes The Two Worlds of Charlie F as “a great educational piece, as fictitious as it is. It has to be stressed how fictitious it is – obviously the experiences aren’t word for word because that would be highly inappropriate, but they’re very close. The show itself is a kind of snapshot of what it’s like to walk in the shoes of Charlie F and the other characters that are in that show, so it gives incredible insight into the frustrations of before, during and after.” As a result, Cassidy believes that this show does bring people closer to understanding experiences like those illustrated in the show. “There isn’t a political motivation behind the show. If anything, it’s about awareness and not necessarily about changing anything.”

But The Two Worlds of Charlie F doesn’t just create awareness; it leaves a powerful impression upon you because Bravo 22 Company is so inspiring. Cassidy was ballsy enough to join the Marines for a bet. After winning a previous wager that he couldn’t quit smoking, he was encouraged to get into shape. “Somebody said it’s better to be a failure than it is to be a quitter, because a quitter means you gave up, whereas a failure means you gave it your best. So I picked the hardest option which was the Royal Marines, and next thing you know I fell in love with it.”

There’s something about Cassidy Little in and out of the show that makes you smile, and I defy anyone to not give the cast of The Two Worlds of Charlie F a standing ovation, because this play goes beyond the theatre. It’s about self-belief, it’s a recovery programme for WIS service personnel, and gives this group of brave men and women a voice. This interview with Cassidy Little was an absolutely inspiring and eye-opening experience for me, and the show even more so.

The Two Worlds of Charlie F was at The Pleasance Grand, Edinburgh until 11 August, and returns to the Theatre Royal Haymarket for two shows on 9 September. For tickets and more information, visit www.bravo22company.com.

The original performance of the show can now be viewed online at www.thespace.org.

Image credit:

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.

More Posts

Comments (2)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Edinburgh Fringe Review: The Two Worlds of Charlie F

Posted on 12 August 2012 by Veronica Aloess

I find this a very difficult play to review. All plays have something which ties them to reality, however far they seem from it. But The Two Worlds of Charlie F is as close to reality theatre as you can possibly get; a story adapted from the real experiences of wounded, injured and sick service personnel by Owen Sheers, but performed by the people that lived through it in Bravo 22 Company.

Although these stories are fictionalised from real life experiences, there is still very little suspension of disbelief for the audience knowing the origins lay in the brave men and women you’re watching. This show follows Charlie F (Cassidy Little) and other characters’ journey from war to rehabilitation, mirroring the cast members’ journey. The Two Worlds of Charlie F is a theatre recovery project created by the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust and funded by the Royal British Legion. It’s an unforgettably eye-opening experience to know that you’re watching so much more than a play.

Bravo 22 Company are extremely talented to have gone from little to no acting experience, to a play of this scale. And every cast member is wholly convincing, and don’t miss a note or a beat. They hold the audience in the palm of their hands, with the ability to make them cry one minute and laugh the next. Sheers’ script is respectful and well balanced; also incorporating dance, song and film into the production. Lily Phillip’s choreography is elegant and moving; there’s a stunning scene where the actresses dance with the men that use wheelchairs, seeming to act as their legs as well as expressing both the intimacy and yet distance between the couples during rehabilitation. Equally, Maurilla Simpson emotionally invests so deeply into her song which opens the show on an honest, liberating tone, which the show retains.

Stephen Rayne’s direction is flawless. The Two Worlds of Charlie F is everything a play should be and more. Although the scenes consider different journeys, the progression makes sense and we always return to Charlie F (Little is a charismatic, confident lead – ideal in his role). Simpson’s story as Simi Yeats about her family and why she joined the army is endearing, and captures the positivity and bravery present in all the characters, making them such a joy to watch.

At times the show is explosive, at times it’s heart breaking and at times it’s light hearted. Jason Carr’s composition is an excellent score to carry the audience through a roller coaster of emotions experienced in this truly moving play. Because it’s such a polished production in every respect there is something filmic about The Two Worlds of Charlie F, which captures its audience. Together Sheers and Rayne exemplify raw storytelling at its best; by creating an inspirational story from a very real place, Bravo 22 Company achieve something they should be proud of, and remind the audience why they should be proud of them. This is theatre which stays with you long after you leave.

***** – 5/5 stars

The Two Worlds of Charlie F played at the Pleasance Courtyard as a part of the Edinburgh Festival. It will return to the Theatre Royal Haymarket on 9 September for two performances.

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.

More Posts

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Review: One Man Two Guvnors

Posted on 21 March 2012 by Eleanor Turney

One Man Two Guvnors, Owain Arthur

I didn’t think the National’s production of One Man Two Guvnors  could be bettered. I am delighted to say I was wrong: the new incarnation at the Haymarket surpasses the comic heights of the original, and provides a truly wonderful evening’s entertainment.

Owain Arthur, stepping into James Corden’s role as the ever-hungry Francis, was always going to have big shoes to fill – and fill them he did. Comparisons with Corden’s brilliant and likeable Francis are inevitable, and, if pushed, I’d say that Arthur just pips Corden to the post. Arthur’s tumbling, ad libbing and comic timing were superb, and he mugs fantastically when things don’t go quite to plan: “this is the glittering lights of London’s West End, not panto!” he cries at one point. He’s right, but the constant wry asides to the audience, the fart jokes and the brilliantly choreographed slapstick all owe a certain something to the antics of a panto. This is slicker than the average panto but it wears its mastery lightly; it never feels too clever or over-rehearsed, rather the comedy often comes from the slight air of unpredictability hovering over proceedings – and flickering across Arthur’s mobile face.

Ben Mansfield is blissfully funny as Stanley, a man so posh as to be almost incomprehensible. He expostulates frequently and nonsensically – “Oh, soggy biscuits!” – and is an absolute master of the double entendre. And the single entendre, come to that. It’s not often one hears talk of ahem, “buggering the dolphin” on a night out… Mansfield’s Stanley does not make boarding school sound like a whole lot of fun. Mansfield has the gift of the ad-lib, reducing Arthur to helpless giggles at least twice, and his nonsensical witterings left me crying with laughter.

Richard Bean’s script is still sharp, although it relies a little too heavily on the talents on the cast to keep the laughs coming, and it barrels along at quite a pace despite coming in at nearly three hours. The music, provided by skiffle band ‘The Craze’ and various cast members, is perfect; it manages to be evocative of the setting (1960s Brighton) while remaining witty and musically interesting. Snazzy purple suits, too. Jodie Prenger, of I’d Do Anything fame, has a lovely voice which she is not given enough chance to use, and enviable curves which she is given slightly too many chances to wriggle. Her singing is rather better than her acting, but she puts in a decent turn as Arthur’s love interest and sassy women’s-libber.

This production feels like more of a team effort than the run at the National; although Arthur is superb, he is matched by the other talents onstage and works with them. Again, Mansfield is particularly brilliant – the two men stand out in a strong cast. This is a blissfully funny evening, and one I cannot recommend highly enough. Go.

One Man Two Guvnors is currently booking at the Haymarket Theatre until 1 September.

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.

More Posts - Website

Comments (0)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here

Join our E-Newsletter

---
Exclusive offers, opportunities and updates from AYT.

---


Supporting: