Things I Have Seen

On this page I will post reviews and thoughts of various productions I see.

 Ame Henderson What are we saying Nottingham Contemporary with Dance 4

WHAT WE ARE SAYING \ AME HENDERSON & PUBLIC RECORDINGS

As you entered the space you are given the option to make decisions. the space  is filled with chairs at different angles. Unaware of who are audience and who are performers the piece starts with a sound scape played on small amps scattered around the room. As the piece develops a series of conversations overlap each other, sometimes with words and sometimes with movement. The performers move around the space, slowly finding a togetherness that is the intention of the conversations.

Although at first I felt uncomfortable, unable to see what was going on behind me, I quickly felt comfortable and became excited at the prospect of interaction with the performance. through out the performance I found myself answering the questions they raised in my head. It was in many ways a cathartic experience, which although at times felt very long, left me feeling a sense of togetherness.

Birmingham Opera KHOVANSKYGATE – A NATIONAL ENQUIRY

A scene from Khovanskygate

The overall experience was very exciting, from the outset to the final applause you become very aware of your surroundings, expecting anything to happen at any moment.

As the audience entered the tent a protest and ‘officals’ made you feel anxious, at this point it was hard to tell whether they were part of the performance. this anxiety continued once in side the venue, the vast space scattered with body bags that started to move.  As the piece developed it became quite clear who the actors were although occasionally I was surprised  by action busting to life next to me. It took sometime to become accustomed to what was being sung but the use of modern costumes helped me to understand what was happening.

The design I felt was clear, making it easy to understand the different characters and the overall concept. However I found myself getting bored as the strong images lasted far to long. I found myself desperate for a reveal to change the space dramatically. Instead I found myself becoming irritated by constantly being herded around the space to make room for another scaff-tower.

 

Dr Faustus The Lakeside

Although a challenging play, the cast of students delivered a comical and powerful performance. The use of multi-rolling worked extremely well, using an ensemble of women to represent the minor characters which fitted in with the concept of the design.

The set and costumes gave the feel of a time possible in the future, the lighting creating an intense atmosphere. Although simple tricks the lighting and pyrotechnics added to the magic of the play and left the audience feeling excited. The sound scape that accompanied the visuals on TV screens was a little over bearing at times but helped to intensify the intimidating atmosphere atmosphere.

 

‘Hamlet’ RSC 8th May 2013

The overall design of this production of Hamlet was focused on fencing, the stage was a fencing hall with foils on the wall and fencing lines painted on the floor. the theme was continued through to the costumes also, with all members of the court entering court scenes wearing fencing masks. It was also the costume in which the ghost appeared and Hamlet’s choice of clothing during the scenes when he appeared most melancholy. This concept could be interpreted in many different ways, it is a game of advancement and gain in power, which reflects the themes of power change in ‘Hamlet’. The uses of fencing masks though out the play adds another layer to the metaphor. When the court first appear, all in masks not only does it suggest that they are all part of a group, a club, it also shows them to be putting on a pretense  a false layer to hide the truth? Hamlet is the only character in this scene not to wear a mask, suggesting that maybe he is the only one who is true to himself.  The mask is then used in another way, as a symbol, when it is handed from the ghost of King Hamlet to Hamlet. It he taking on the responsibility of his father?

There are many modern ideas with in the play which the director as well as Jonathan Slinger (Hamlet), highlighted. Hamlet’s madness or rather melancholy was played with a very modern feel, using ironic voices and singing Ken Dodd’s Happiness. Although some felt this to be inappropriate and “sneering” I felt it was an interesting and thought provoking interpretation of such a well know character. His performance made me constantly question weather Hamlet was mad, or completely in control on an intellectual level far greater than that of the other characters and the audience.

Ophelia’s madness was also shown with a modern light, instead of presenting flowers, she cut her had and drew a cross in blood on the heads of the other characters. Self harm is a recent association with depression, but the idea of madness being in the body and the blood connects much more strongly to the time period in which the play was written.

There were a lot of aspects of the play that didn’t quite add up, such as the use of water sprinklers at the very end of the performance. I left with an overall sense of contradictions, another modern idea with is embodied within Hamlet’s character.

 

‘The Kite Runner’ Nottingham Playhouse 1st May 2013

The stage became a storytelling space, allowing room for the fluid narrative to cross landscapes, decades and continents. This was elaborated upon with the use of projection, mime and a live tabla-player sat on the edge of the stage, all helping to create a sense of place and time.

Although the curtain that swooped onto stage in a kite like fashion was an effective movement and a stunning backdrop to the interior scenes, I felt that the projection onto the cloth was distracting and was not used as effectively has it could have been. The other use of projection, on to a carpet that was rolled out by the actors in the first scene, however worked extremely well. It was subtle and successfully created location and time period.

The live music also was effective in creating a sense of place, and added an underlying score that heightened the tension of the drama.

‘Rubbish’ Theatre-Rites Lakeside Arts Theatre 26th Feb 2013

  • Dialogue – too much talking/not enough
  • The abstract text worked better
  • Puppetry was smooth and beautiful
  • Subtle
  • Objects became alive
  • Design shift

Positives

  • Puppetry
  • The magic created
  • Costume
  • Voice of the puppets

Negatives

  • Use/ lack of dialogue. 
  • Mixed messages. They were encouraging the children not to throw things away but the way they took off the puppets after they were finished with them suggested that they were being tossed away.

How was the visual narrative use to tell the story?

  • Through the objects and the relationship between the characters with these objects.
  • Through costume : the three male characters were dressed quite similarly to each other, showing that they were different from the female character. Their costume also gave a visual narrative of their personality.

Different Puppet Styles

  1. Duck – children associated and felt comfortable in accepting the puppetry as it was cartoon like.
  2. Dog – started to become more developed
  3. Old man – much richer character. much more of a sense of character
  4. Glove – making the world. played with scale
  5. Black Bag – design wise it was less complex but the intellectual level was raised as it was asking the audience to think.

Passing On’ Lakeside Arts Theatre 22nd Jan 2013

  • Design was very simple (curtain worked well in creating different spaces)
  • The stylized movement of making the bed was a good metaphor but was executed very badly.
  • I felt there was no need for the small projection at the back of the stage. It was too small and undefined. The rest of the set worked well at giving a sense of location so this was not needed.
  • Puppetry : was not consistent  some moment were presented very well eg. her last breaths.
  • I like that the actors manipulated the puppet rather that extra puppeteers  it gave the old lady a more fragile character, she was so dependent on others even to move.

‘Boris Godunvo’ RSC, Swan Theatre, 14th Jan 2013

Set:

  • No time period
  • Very simplistic because of thrust stage
  • Actors brought on items – became part of the action
  • Light/chandelier flown in

Like the contemporary tone of the language the design is also contemporary – trying to show that history is repeating itself. Today.

‘Cycles of Tyranny’

There is a reference in the text to the pretender wearing borrowed clothes, by putting on someone else’s coat you can become someone else. The coats at the back of the stage became the skins of the characters. They also became symbolic of life and death (battle scene).

Transformation – happened in front of audience.

A basic outfit, supplemented by simple gestures of costume:

  • impressionistic
  • range of influences
  • different time periods.

‘Nosferatu’ RR Warsawa, Barbican Theatre 01 Nov 2012

What did I gain from seeing this production?

  • Very striking images – even though i felt the stage was very unbalanced the imagery was very bold.
  • Subtitles – did they work? Problems with them were that they were too distant from the action so that you couldn’t see both in the same sight line making it difficult to concentrate and keep up. They also didn’t seem to fit with the voices.
  • Because I couldn’t understand what they were trying to convey with the piece I found myself trying to remember the story of Dracula in order to follow what was taking place in front of me.

”The Scarecrow’ Waverley, 18th October 2012

In both design and themes the play for young children offered a dark reflection of life. The play provide a metaphor for the circle of life and didn’t shy away from the truth – life comes to an end. Although there were some inconsistencies in the narrative the play was not depicting reality but was simply displaying the magic of life, how it changes and ultimately that it ends.

I found the design of the production very dark, and was awaiting for colour to burst through the grey and black that dominated the set. the only colour was during ‘spring’ when a floral dress livened up the atmosphere  not only did the colour bring a lease of life on to stage but also the movement that it prompted. The actors danced with the dress bring it to life, creating another character. This I felt was the only visual representation of growth and excitement of life. However even this came with an edge of somber  as the actor brought the face to his face and breathed in the memory of his wife.

The serious themes were balance with some comical moments which kept the children engaged in the performance. These moments were very playful as well as interactive so that the children became participants in the story.

The company used a variety of different story telling techniques, which the children in the audience were much more open to than the adults. Techniques such as multiroleing required the audience to accept what they were seeing, not as reality but a representation  This was something that some of the adult audience found confusing (the scarecrow being played by objects and people for example  The children found this concept much easier to accept. I think this is because they saw beyond the confinement of the stage. They were of an age where their imagination allows them to project what they are seeing physically into another place, maybe a real place they have been or a place of imagination. we all connect our own experiences with what we are experiencing and so for me I could related very easily to the metaphors (growing up in the countryside and being surrounded by seasonal change). However as i watched the play and was involved in the workshop I realised that for some of the children the themes were unfamiliar  so although some of the children were learning through the metaphors, others were learning more literal lessons, simply experiencing the formalities of farming and the seasons.

‘London Road’, National Theatre, 29th August 2012

London Road is a play about words, the real words of those who were overlooked. The economic design allowed their voices, their words to be heard. The musical stays faithful to the ideals of verbatim documentary theatre, by representing speech rhythms through music. Every cough, stutter, repetition and hesitation is incorporated into the song and performed by the actors in a way that remains truthful to the original delivery as well as the original words. This brings a strong sense of reality but also normality to the piece, which is an aim central of the production.

The play presents the community deeply affected by the ripples created by the Ipswich murders. Although the piece reports the terrible tragedies of my home town, the events of December 2006 are shown through the eyes of people I had never considered.  The play follows the community of London road (the street where Steve Wright lived) from the disappearance of the first girl to the inspiring Neighbourhood Watch’s ‘London Road in Bloom’ competition.

The entire performance, from the music and lyrics, to the acting and through to the set and costume, had a feeling of truthful simplicity. The effortless scene changes allowed the actors to actor with a sense of normality – a strange word to describe the shocking events that unravelled in an otherwise peaceful rural town. But the production did not aim to tell the shocking tale of the five prostitutes that the entire country is familiar with; it was a quite statement of community, of people supporting each other, of the recovery after the storm.

The design was very stark, which created the platform upon which the actors were able to bring the representation of real people to life, and gave them the space to express the emotions and opinions of the residents. The simplicity meant that the design did not distract from their words, their stories of how their lives were affected.  A circular revolve centre stage not only brought movement to what was fundamentally a very static performance , it allowed the music to bond together the shared feelings of the not just the residents but the wider community of Ipswich. As it turned it allowed the actors to move across Ipswich, from the town centre at Christmas, the Crown Court, to the houses of London Road. The very subtle movement of the revolve brought a pace to the piece and was utilised by the actors throughout the play. One key moment where the use of the revolve stood out to me was during a song where two teenage girls were describing how as you walked through the streets you looked at every man thinking ‘It could be him’. The revolve turned slowly clockwise with the girls stood still at the edge of it whilst men walked at the same pace from stage right to left around it. This built tension and as the song progressed the pace of music and speed of the revolve increased, creating a horrible feeling in my stomach as I remembered the sickening feeling they described.

The settings of the different locations were portrayed mainly through the use of chairs. The opening of the production set the scene of a village hall, through using orange plastic chairs set out for a meeting. As the play moved on to the residents of London road, sofas of different sizes (but the same colour and similar style) represented the houses. This was another element that shouted normality to me, as the actors treated the sofas as though they were sat in their front room. Even when police tape was cobwebbed around them (showing the entanglement of police and media into their ordinary ever day lives) the actors continued to perform with a sense of normality. Intrusion was again visually represented during a song taken from an interview with prostitutes who had been working on London Road, 3 girls sang as they slowly moved backwards until they were stood in amongst the sofas.

The design helped the director to show the intrusive nature of the media, as well as using it as a reminder for audience of the enormity of the situation. This was shown through many TV screens throughout the second act. At some points TV screens on trolleys were pulled in to the centre of the stage and became part of the homes of the residents. To demonstrate the media interest in the shocking episode grids of screens were flown in and hung above the residents. As they came in to action one by one the screens displayed live footage of the actors playing reporters rather than footage taken from the real news recordings. This allowed the style of the play to be with held as the words remained true but became more shocking as they were repeated with a rhythm that hung in the air.

The final image showed the progression, from a cold bleak feeling of fear to an achievement of restoration as the lights shown down upon over 30 hanging baskets, all feeling of entrapment faded away. Leaving the audience with a shared sense of communal healing, reminding all that this play was not about crime, but about community.

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