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Review: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, North Wall Oxford

Posted on 20 December 2013 by Ruth Jackson

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe Creation TheatreThere have been many adaptations of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but Stephen Luke Walker’s evocative and beautiful melodies bring fresh life to this adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s popular children’s classic. Right from the offset, Creation Theatre’s production delightfully captures the audience’s imagination. The opening montage of apprehensive evacuees juxtaposed with the gruelling Second World War battle scene vividly sets the show in its historical context. The rest of the show seamlessly flits between this real world and the land of Narnia, taking the captivated audience with it.

The darker elements of the book are bravely and brilliantly brought out by director Charlotte Conquest: Mr Tumnus (Nathan Lubbock Smith) lulling Lucy to sleep is suitably disturbing and incredibly well-executed, while the statues in the White Witch’s house are befittingly eerie and Gemma Morsley depicts a terrifying witch. Interspersed with the darker moments of the show are some well-received lighter elements, such as Edmund’s (Andy Owens) witty one-liners and the jovial characters of Mr and Mrs Beaver (Michael Diana and Chloe Taylor).

Children are integral to the story and the actors’ portrayals of the Pevensie children are spectacular and utterly believable. The beauty of their performance is in the detail, from the way Lucy (Anna McGarahan) sips her tea with Mr Tumnus to the boys’ bickering and Susan’s (Ellie Kirk) consequent chastisement. The youngest Pevensie child takes centre stage in the story – she is the first to encounter Narnia and shows the largest capacity for faith, not just in ‘unbelievable’ ideas but also in people. McGarahan faultlessly embodies the character of Lucy, demonstrating grace and forgiveness, first towards Mr Tumnus and then to her family, charmingly exemplified by being the first to embrace Edmund after his betrayal. McGarahan’s stunning voice visibly moves the audience on numerous occasions, particularly during ‘To Turn Time Back’, her emotional duet with Susan on Aslan’s deathbed.

The Christ-like figure of Aslan, who willingly lays down his life on the stone table, is powerfully portrayed by Alistair Barron. He magnificently commandeers his lion puppet-head, and his characterisation and formidable voice bring Walker’s remarkable songs to life. The choreography is simple but effective, as is the minimalist use of furniture – the doors of the professor’s house doubling up as trees works surprisingly well and the lamppost does not disappoint! While some of the puppets are, at times, distracting, their use in Mr Tumnus’s house is magical and enchanting. Some of the costumes are reminiscent of a school production, but they add to the child-like nature of the show and further enhance the comedic characters of Mr and Mrs Beaver.

The somewhat Brechtian elements of the play, such as the cast running through the audience and working as stage hands, enables the audience to reflect on the meaning and significance of the story. C.S Lewis himself would likely have approved – his retelling of the Christian story was not just to be enjoyed, but also to point people to a deeper truth.

This spectacular production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is not your average Christmas production, but with its outstanding music and gifted cast, a ticket should be on everyone’s Christmas list this year.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is playing at the North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford until 4 January. For more information and tickets, see the Creation Theatre website.

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Competition: Win Tickets to Truth at Soho Theatre

Posted on 19 July 2012 by A Younger Theatre

Fancy getting your hands on some tickets to Australia’s hottest experimental comedy and art makers Slow Clap’s new show Truth at the Soho Theatre? Of course you do! It’s going to be hilarious, and AYT have teamed up with the company to offer you some tickets, but you need to be in it to win it. Details of the competition are after the show blurb below.

Truth by Slow Clap
at Soho Theatre, 26-28th July

In this follow-up to last year’s smash hit, the heartwarming alternative comedy The Hermitude of Angus, Ecstatic, Slow Clap present another full-throttle mix of storytelling, character comedy and dance.

Truth is a collection of hyperbolic characters, secondhand costumes and professional dance moves all strung together with a true story.

Employing his signature style of dance and character-based narrative comedy, multi-award winning performer Vachel Spirason stars in this new devised production that sits somewhere between yarn-spinning, comedy and theatre.

Highly Commended: John Chataway Innovation Award, Adelaide Fringe 2012
Nominated: Best Comedy (Emerging), Adelaide Fringe 2012
WINNER: Best Comedy, Melbourne Fringe Festival 2010
WINNER: Best Comedy, Auckland Fringe Festival 2011
WINNER: Brisbane Powerhouse Comedy Award 2010

www.sohotheatre.com

Enter the Competition:

To be in for a chance to win tickets to Truth email slowclapproductions@gmail.com with ‘A Younger Theatre Truth Comp’ in the subject along with your name and contact number in the body of the email.

Competition winners will be informed on the 25th July – tickets available for 26th, 27th and 28th.

 

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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Writing for the round: Orange Tree Theatre’s newest writer

Posted on 26 June 2012 by Marése O'Sullivan

23-year-old Archie W. Maddocks’s first professional play, Mottled Lines, is about to take to the stage at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond. After months of writing, casting and rehearsals, he sat down with the play’s director, Henry Bell to talk about the production, his previous writing experience and why the play will take everyone by surprise.

First of all, could you tell us about your writing background and what sparked your passion for words?

Archie Maddocks: Well, I came from a family of actors. I’ve always been very interested in stories. They take you into a completely different world, which I’m fascinated by, and I love to entertain. I guess that’s why I got into writing… I can take over the world! Originally, I wanted to be a wrestler – that didn’t go well, as you can see!

Your play is based on the August 2011 London riots. It’s been described on the Orange Tree Theatre’s website as “the reasons behind the carnage”. So where did your initial idea come from?

AM: It’s about the riots, but it’s fundamentally about fear. The reason behind the riots, in my mind, was a breakdown in communication between different people in society. I think unless they’re cut from the same cloth, [there is a lack of] respect for each other. Each character is an archetypal member of society. All the characters speak the truth, in a sense, but they speak their own version of the truth. They have their own grounding in the play, and their own reasons for being where they are.

At what point after the riots did you decide, “I’ll write a play about this”? Was it a conscious decision?

AM: It wasn’t really. I’m part of the Orange Tree Theatre’s Writers’ Group, which is brilliant. We write response plays to the ones they put on at the Orange Tree. [A particular one that we focused on] was called The Conspirators, about paranoia in society and political awareness. I thought it really resonated at the time, with so much paranoia in this political climate, and I wrote 23 pages as a response play.

Henry Bell: What really impressed me about this play was that Archie gives a voice to completely different parts of society and everyone’s got a point of view. What you get from this play is seeing how there are problems in all corners of society and how those corners don’t really communicate with each other, which is the crux of the play. You can apply that to [both] historical and future situations, I think.

AM: People have a perception of the world only from their standing, so they are never going to perceive it in the same way as someone else.

What was the writing process like?

AM: I think I finished the play at the beginning of October 2011 – pretty quickly. My writing process for each character was different. The Thug was born out of countless frustrations of my friends and I, from people on the street, past experiences and other people that we knew. But for someone like The Wolf, I just watched people on TV’s Question Time, noticing the way that they spoke, the way you could see the thoughts behind their eyes not coming out and they were structuring their words in a very specific way. So [my own words] just poured out, really. The play was born out of music, as well. I’ve got a very eclectic taste: I’ll listen to [anything from] hip-hop to classical. I thought, “What would this character listen to? Would it be this type of music?” A lot of it came from literature too, especially writers who were frustrated with their own society. [Those feelings] lent themselves to the characters.

How did the collaboration with the Orange Tree Theatre come about?

AM: It came about from the Writers’ Group. I joined in August 2011. We get to come and see the theatre’s plays, we [receive] feedback from our response plays and we get a lot of support. That’s fundamental for the theatre.

How do you feel having your first professional production at such a young age?

AM: I’m delighted. It’s amazing. I’m really humbled to see people coming in, speaking the words that I wrote and believing in the piece. It’s very surreal. I didn’t imagine it being like this. I don’t want to say it’s like a dream, but it’s kind of like I’m floating about. I’m very excited for it.

HB: Very well deserved. It’s a great play.

How experienced were you in writing before your involvement with Orange Tree?

AM: During my university years, I did a lot of creative writing. I wrote two novels, which have not been looked back over – it was for National Novel Writing Month – they’re probably pretty bad, but it just got the writing juices flowing. Then, I studied abroad in America. It made me look at things back here in England and want to write about my experiences. Post-university, I thought, “That’s it, I want to be a playwright”. That was always the goal. There was no better time to start building my foundations as a writer.

Could you tell me about how the play itself will be performed at the Orange Tree Theatre?

HB: The actors will talk directly to the audience. There’s going to be a sort of dialogue. We’re the only theatre in the round in London so it’ll work really well.

AM: It completely breaks the fourth wall. I wrote it in mind for the Orange Tree Theatre. The upper and lower levels make the atmosphere much more intense, particularly with a play like this. It gets the audience involved to a point where some of them may be uncomfortable, but that’s what I want. They will be facing these characters and, in a sense, some of them may be facing their fears.

HB: With theatre in the round, the audience themselves add to the experience as they are actively involved in it. The Orange Tree is a 172 seat theatre and you’re never further than about six or seven feet away from the stage.

How much input did Archie have into the actual production itself, in terms of casting and involvement in rehearsals etc.?

AM: I think I’ve been really lucky because Henry has got me completely involved in everything! Obviously he’s the director and he has final say, but I kind of feel like we’re a team. It’s very collaborative, which I’m very thankful for.

HB: I think that’s the best way of working with writers: get them as involved as possible. During the casting process, it is quite useful to have the writer there, particularly with a piece like this, which is very much from Archie’s personal point of view. What’s really interesting about new writing, as a director, is that collaboration with a living writer. That is what’s great about having a Writers’ Group that is in the DNA of the building. Archie understands the theatre, I understand Archie… so far.

AM: I’ve done play readings where the writers have been there and you can see in their eyes if they don’t like something, and you’re just like, “Oh no! What have I done?” I want to be very open-minded and approachable. I want to go on a journey with the actors, the directors and the producers. I don’t want to have an image of where the play is going to go; I want it to take me by surprise.

What are you most nervous and excited about seeing on stage?

AM: I think it’s hard to pick something specific: I’m excited about seeing the whole play, but mostly the audience’s reaction, particularly in Richmond. This is a play that the Orange Tree would not have done before and it’s a bold move.

HB: As with all directors, I’m excited about getting in the rehearsal room and getting into the depths of the text that Archie’s written with some good actors. There’s a real challenge with this play and that’s how we will have the relationship between the performer and the audience. It will be epic with a capital E.

What are your future writing plans?

AM: Well, I mentioned taking over the world earlier, but [right now] I just want to get more plays on. By the time I’m 25, I’d like to have my first series on TV, maybe written a few films and a novel. I’m quite ambitious. Ideally, in the next two years, I want to have on a minimum of another four plays. In the future, I want to do everything. I know that’s quite a lot to ask but I think if I aim high, then I might come close.

Mottled Lines runs from Tuesday 10 July to Saturday 14 July. You can check booking prices and information on the Orange Tree Theatre website.

Image credit: Orange Tree Theatre

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Mind over matter: Crossing boundaries – blurring the line between truth and imagination

Posted on 24 January 2012 by Katey Warran

It is a historical debate whether an actor should draw on his or her own experiences and feelings when trying to create a believable character. It is most notably associated with Stanislavski and the early developments of his system. If one taps into one’s own thoughts and memories to construct a fictional personality, the result can be extremely believable.

It does, furthermore, seem natural to bring into play our true experiences when being creative – it makes a piece more believable, more watchable. However, most people would, I think, accept that distancing oneself from a creative process is perhaps a healthy thing to do. I know that I would find it extremely difficult to use my deepest secrets in their entirety to write, perform, or be creative in some way; there is always an element of having to decorate our truths with imagination and focus on achieving something that is interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking. Nonetheless, there is something about bringing reality into the world of theatre that is extremely captivating.

When sat in the Finborough Theatre last week watching Sometimes I Laugh Like My Sister – a play about Rebecca Peyton’s sister, BBC journalist Kate Peyton, who was murdered in Somalia – I discovered a new kind of theatre constructed from real life events. It was a theatrical experience like no other, darkly comedic and glaringly real, and certainly a piece that uses Rebecca Peyton’s own emotional memories to create something absolutely mesmerising.

Before going to see the production, I knew absolutely nothing about it – sometimes it is nice to go into a show blind, unaware of what you might be getting. I didn’t realise at first that Rebecca Peyton was actually being played by Rebecca Peyton herself – surely someone could not dramatise their own grief? How could someone bear to do such a thing?

The one thing about traumatic experience that I am thankful for is that when I look back on it, I can barely remember what happened. No matter how hard I try, it is mostly a blur. To pour colour, life and energy into a past tragedy would be the most painful of all; the ability to give structure to something that, by its very nature, will always seem unjust and then re-live it over and over is inconceivable to me. Peyton had, however, done just that to her own tragedy, weaving her every thought and reaction into a coherent dialogue and colouring it with dark humour, perfect clarity of expression and deeply considered bodily movements.

In Michael Billington’s article ‘E is for Experiment’ he muses on the paradoxical nature of controversial theatre in our society today – he suggests that it isn’t experimental anymore because “it is often critically praised, subsidised and welcomed into temples of high art like the National”. I know what he means – nothing is really shocking anymore: politics, religion, violence… we’ve heard it all before. Billington then goes on to talk about theatre companies that he believes do have more of a “radical purpose”, such as Cardboard Citizens which creates plays with homeless people – theatre companies that bring theatre into society and tell a true story. I also think we could talk about verbatim theatre here. Docu-plays, such as those from iceandfire, are amazing because they are a platform that can be used to give a voice to people’s real-life experiences – people who ordinarily would never be able to speak out.

So, why is this kind of theatre appealing? Why is it radical? It is because it invites the audience into the performance on a different, and more personal, level whereby we enter into the real lives of the performers in front of us. Something that, if done well, pushes the audience into a new level of experience.  Rebecca Peyton has achieved this, and I hope to see more of it in the future.

Katey Warran

Katey Warran

Katey is Marketing and Communications Officer of A Younger Theatre and is Marketing Officer at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. She does freelance marketing including working for the New Actors Company, loves all things digital and has a passion for Applied and Community Theatre. Katey also has an interest in philosophy, enjoys singing and country music, and is a tea addict.

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