When The Corinthia Hotel in London reopened four years ago, they took the very intriguing step of creating Corinthia’s Artist in Residence scheme – a cultural programme that supports emerging talent and the arts. I don’t know many hotels that do such a thing, but it is certainly an inspired decision enabling performing artists to make use of such a beautiful venue and to benefit from the high-end partnerships the hotel has developed; Bowers & Wilkins, Champagne Laurent-Perrier and others.
Emily Hall is this year’s artist in residence. She has created ‘Found & Lost’ an opera installation that takes the audience through the hotel, including its rooms, restaurants, and power plant underbelly. Conceived as a tryst between a hotel developer and a black-mailing lover, we follow these two around as the developer slowly descends into a drunken stupor in which state the lover takes advantage…
We were guided by a chorus of excellent singers, who demonstrated a very good quality of singing with a great range of dynamics for such an usual space. Not only this but clearly the design team had thought long and hard about effective locations in which to sing in order to make the most of the acoustics on offer. Furthermore there was some excellent sound design provided by the clever use of mics and speakers that were carried along with us and at one point by us the audience. Oliver Coates accompanied on cello all around the hotel, sometimes live and sometimes through the speakers.
This was a one-off experience, that you don’t often find in London, and we urge you to get along to witness it. A promenade opera in a beautiful hotel, ending with a glass of champers in the extremely jazzy Bassoon Bar. What more could one want? Well done to Emily Hall for this lovely work and well done to Corinthia Hotel for being so badass in having an artist in residence.
Highlight of the show – the moment we were led through a restaurant and up some stairs complimented by some lovely singing. Also the underbelly scene, very atmospheric with their use of location, flashlights and sound.
The Rosemary Branch is starting to develop a bit of a reputation for putting on a wide selection of great comedy entertainment in the little space above their pub. This time it was the chance of Shook Up Shakespeare, a female Shakespeare comedy duo starring Roseanna Morris and Helen Watkinson.
This show, ‘Shakespeare As You (Might) Like It’ was in fact a 400 year wake for the Bard and was an interpretation of many of his famous scenes for females. With nods to, ‘As You Like It’, ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ these girls took a playful approach to showcasing Will’s works, whilst adding a whole host of fun and games and audience participation to spice things up.
On entrance to the show we were given a sticker entitling us to act as ‘bell master’ giving us control over a bell for use in ‘the battle of skirmish wit’ to prompt gesture changes whilst Olivia and Viola engaged in sparring in Twelfth Night. Funny anyway, but with the audience participation, hilarious.
Helen and Roseanna clearly have a great connection and a shared love for Shakespeare and it came through with every minute of this piece, spreading to the audience, bringing smiles and laughter to all. Among the games, was a round of pass the parcel, which the GingerWig correctly guessed would be a quill, and a game of shake hand, not the most complex of games but certainly a most entertaining one to witness. There was also poem reading from audience members.
Accompanied by a very accomplished piano and violin duo, this was a lovely light glimpse of Shakespeare’s works, portrayed by two extremely talented actresses, showcasing a range of characters, and proving that they can do more than make an audience roar with laughter. A powerful section form Othello brought the audience to the edge of their seats at the end of the show.
Wine stools and much ado about muffin served to the audience as well as party hats and bags, made for a winning combination – a kind of cross between our favourite birthday parties as a child and the works of Shakespeare. Who’d have thought it would be such a wining formula. Thank you, girls, for rekindling our love for the works (poems as well) of good old William Shakespeare.
Highlight of the Show – Being in control of the bell, the songs and dances, and of course the final act.
And a word on the Rosemary Branch: Another exceptional meal, Tagliatelle and Duck were on point, and a banging salad to boot. Hats off to the chef! This pub has the holy combo, great theatre and great food!!!
Little Angel Puppet Theatre have created a puppet version of Roald Dahl’s beloved tale about the ladderless window cleaning team, ‘the giraffe the pelly and me’, and do so with a creativity that pleased many a little one.
This is a tale about small boy, Billy, whose local but abandoned ‘grubber’ (an old term for a sweetshop in Billy’s part of the world) is bought by a giraffe, a pelican and a monkey who use it as a base for their ladderless window cleaning team. With the help of the boy, they manage to secure work for the Duke of Hampshire to clean the 677 windows of his house. They also foil a robbery and manage to get some food into their rumbling bellies.
Created on a budget, Little Angel Theatre have used inventive ways to create the puppets which despite being made out of simple household objects, still attract the reaching hands of wide-eyed childers when the puppets, particularly the giraffe, lean into the audience. However, it did seem odd to see a puppet show whose faces had no movement at all, bar the pelly’s upper jaw although this was not used for speech. Maybe this was just their chosen style.
Of the songs written for the show the title song stood out the most, although herein lies our only criticism. As the performers were clearly puppeteers and voice artists first, some of the singing was slightly lacking, not that that put off any of the children. The monkey was a great character and was voiced really well, although it was the dastardly criminal, the cobra, who stole the show for us with his worm-like movement.
A real winner for children at the Little Angel Theatre, but it needed a bit more to cross over in order to appeal to older viewers, but if you’re a fan of Roald Dahl you’ll still enjoy this.
Highlight of the show – The Cobra’s entrance, worming his way across the stage.
The European premiere of Grey Gardens, a musical based on the cult classic documentary, was brought to London by Southwark Playhouse. The book was written by Doug Wright with music from Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie. Starring Sheila Hancock and Jenna Russell this production was a sure- fire hit for fans of the movie and many more.
Grey Gardens is based on the documentary about mother and daughter, Edith and Edie Bouvier Beale, two New York socialites, relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy, who are no longer wealthy but are still living in their once grand home in complete squalor, along with a number of cats and several raccoons in the attic.
The musical adds a first act which imagines the two women when they were young before they reach old age which is how we met them in the film. In the first act Jenna Russell plays the elder Bouvier with Rachel Anne Rayham playing the younger one. This act imagines what it was like for them when they were 24 and 47 respectively, but it is the second half that is the real heart of this piece.
Aside from ‘Around the World’, the music doesn’t really stand out, instead it is the performance of Jenna Russell that steals the show. She nails the American drawl of the Bouviers’ and brings a real star quality to the show, proving that she is only going from strength to strength in an already impressive career.
We are very glad this show was finally brought to London having premiered off-Broadway ten years ago. Stunning performances brought to life this bleak yet heartwarming story.
Highlight of the show – Jenna Russell’s turn as the young Edie. She made the character her own and stole the show in the process.
As part of a series of three investigations into advancements in mental health treatment, Ridiculusmus have put together their second piece, exploring the current medical investigations into the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through the use of MDMA assisted therapy. Ridiculusmus double team, David Woods and Jon Haynes, wrote, directed and performed Give Me Your Love.
How they planned to do this seemed complex; were they just going to have someone in a shrink’s room taking MDMA and explaining their problems? Certainly not. Instead we meet Zach, back at home in Wales from the war, confined to a cardboard box, unable to leave his room or connect with his family. Having heard of a trial to use MDMA to treat PTSD on CNN, he gets his friend Leuan to get him some Ecstasy.
Give Me Your Love was interestingly staged in a grotty little room. We almost never see the actors’ faces. Zach is permanently in his cardboard box, whilst Leaun is permanently shut out of the room. Zach is unwilling to unlatch the chain on the door to let him in.
What was impressive was the subtlety with which the production revealed the possibilities of this therapy. There was a positive improvement in the mood of Zach under the influence of MDMA, and his ability to communicate and relate to his friend. Simple gestures like the relaxing of his body when lying on the floor in his box and crossing one leg over the other whilst listening to the Beach Boys were enough to show us things were getting better. Furthermore the actual cause of his PTSD is not something that we anticipate and it raises our awareness about the root causes of PTSD.
Throw in the Welsh accent and its light humour and we are given a moving piece of theatre with occasional dark comedy, investigating this particular therapy not to mention the wider argument about the use of illegal drugs in modern society.
Extremely good follow up to ‘The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland’ by Ridiculusmus. We look forward to the final part of their three-pronged investigation. As the title suggests, maybe what these war vets need is just a bit of love. What better way to help them than with a drug that improves personal connections whilst creating a sense of euphoria, generally simulating the feeling of love.
Highlight of the show – The first time Zach hears music. The audience, along with Zach, were instantly calmed. A very tangible, if contrived, sense of something working.
1927 have an amazing array of skills. Formed by animator and illustrator Paul Barritt and writer and performer Suzanne Andrade, they have, since their inception, been making rich works filled with valuable lessons. Golem was no exception.
Set in the not too distant past, or the not too distant future, a girl, Annie, reflects on her brother’s transformation ever since acquiring a Golem – a clay man who will obey everything his master tells him. Over time, however, it is Annie’s brother who starts to obey orders as we see him being transformed along with the people around him and society as a whole.
Clearly this is an allegory about the way in which we have been enslaved by smart phones and technology. Consumerism and commercialism are the bigger forces here, where it seems we can no longer act with free will. Instead, we are being guided by supposedly benevolent forces, although clearly they are not, in buying the latest things and dressing and behaving in certain ways dictated by the larger forces of popular culture aided by technology.
The whole production gleamed darkly with projected animation as a backdrop to the performance. There is therefore endless potential for both setting and special effects with a performance like this. The make up, too, was added to this style and there was a touch of Tim Burton in the heavily shadowed eyes, cheek bones, and necks of the characters.
This was a very interesting piece, discussing a major issue of our times. Frightening to note that the final development we see of Golem is Golem 3.0 a version of Golem that is integrated inside us, inserted directly into our heads, effectively guiding and controlling our every thought and action.
Great work form 1927, and a great excuse to take a trip down to Brighton to the lovely Old Market Theatre. We look forward to coming back!
Highlight of the piece – the singing performance in the bar, with a body that defied physics but was possible through technology…
This week we had a chat with the newest feminist performance group, PUSSY PATRONS, to discuss making a freshly menstruated performance, their debut show ‘CABARET OF C#NT$’ and feminist performance making as a whole. Speaking to the Ginger Wig were Lily, Alex and Meg, students at Queen Mary University where they met along with Catherine, the fourth member of the group, to form PUSSY PATRONS.
Ginger Wig: Very nice to meet you, girls. Thank you for talking to the GingerWig.
PUSSY PATRONS: Thank you for talking to us, GingerWig!
GW: So where did this show come from?
Alex: It’s a performance that we developed in a scratch kind of way through a module we did at university and now we are taking it outside making it bigger making it better and making it more interactive. That’s the idea.
GW: And where did your name came from?
Alex: It came from throwing words around, pussy is something that is used as a derogatory term. We wanted to knock that on its head and present a different stance on the word.
Lily: In its explicitness, we quite like the shock factor of it.
Meg: And we are patrons – for females.
GW: What can we expect from your show? Is it cabaret or is it performance art?
Meg: It’s a combination of the two. There’s a lot of different elements that come together to form our show – image making, painting, we do some images on our bodies, live art, a lot of pop culture references, dance routines, singing, comedy. It is very much a cabaret performance in that it has a lot of stuff going on, it all comes together to create a sort of arc.
Lily: And a lot of glitter and a lot of fun.
GW: Is there anything you don’t do?
Meg: Breakdancing, we haven’t quite nailed that one yet…
Alex: Although never say never, there is still time…
GW: There are a lot of new women-only and feminist theatre groups forming at the moment, but what does it actually mean to be a feminist theatre group? And how do you differ to other groups?
Lily: We are trying to approach it from a different point of view. Some feminist groups are, not necessarily born out of hate, but there is a lot of anger involved due to the taboos and the restrictions. I think we take a more fun approach to it, which gives people more of an opportunity to participate in the fun of being involved in being feminist and the liberation of being a female.
Alex: It is a fantastic time to be emerging because we are surrounded by inspiration and by women doing the same kind of thing. There is this massive community forming and that’s exactly why we want to perform. We can learn from one another because we are all feminists, and are all passionate about similar things but have different approaches. We can grow as a company whilst being surrounded by these companies doing exactly the same thing. It’s such an exciting time.
Meg: I think it’s an interesting time to be a feminist. I think that’s the reason there are so many emerging feminist and women’s theatre groups at the minute. New media and new connections happen so fast now and there is so much discourse on feminism. I think with the images that we are shown every day and the way things are marketed and commercialised nowadays, to even stand up and say I am a woman, I am a feminist, and I am going to perform for you as myself is almost an act of rebellion in itself and I think that is at the centre of our ethos. We are patrons and we want to represent what real women are doing right now.
GW: Are you working with other feminist theatre performers?
Alex: Yes, we have a couple of artists performing alongside us who have inspired us with their work. We’ve got a spoken word artist called Leanne Moden who has won awards. She writes and performs poetry on feminist issues and then we’ve got another company who are similar to us in a lot of ways called Tight Theatre. They are based in Bristol and recently did a performance called ‘Pussy’. They are almost like our performance sisters. We are in touch with a lot of artists with whom we hope to perform.
Lily: We’ve also invited a lot of feminist theatre groups to our performance because as much as we would like them to support us, we would like to support them as well, so we have that connection for the future.
Meg: I think being at a place like QM we come from a place with such a legacy. Our drama course is half-theoretical and half-practical.
Alex: It focuses on performance art and live art as opposed to acting.
GW: It’s a very mysterious line between theatre and performance art?
Meg: It’s definitely a wavy one.
Lily: Before starting I never thought I would learn the things I learnt on my course. It takes you away from the face value of pure acting and it really delves deep into every element that you would never even consider – everything from cleaning your teeth to how you look at a shop window front. It teaches you that life and art are synonymous. Our lens is feminist and that’s the way we look at things our entire life. You embody what you are doing.
Meg: I think that’s what we find so useful in our performance. It’s less about acting and more about doing things, so a lot of our performance is task based, because it is important for us to represent labour on stage – that is something we are really interested in, actually making something tangible on stage, because being a woman is an act, it’s as much a social act as being anything else is, but being a woman is also very physical and messy and I think that’s what we are really interested in portraying through our performance.
Alex: In our course we have been encouraged to make performances about ourselves and through self exploration, which I think makes us different from actors. We are not portraying a character we are portraying ourself, or versions of ourselves. It’s so therapeutic and cathartic to be able to put our real life into something that is such fun.
GW: Does it ever feel a bit scary?
Meg: Weirdly when we started the performance I think everyone just sort of went blurrghh, sort of verbal vomit, like “Oh my God, so many experiences!” because a lot of the time we aren’t given the permission to talk about the sort of stuff that we want to talk about. So I think it just came from us quite naturally.
Alex: I think we are lucky that we are such a tight-knit group who can discuss taboo subjects. We are quite confident women so these topics come naturally to us. We love to shock and we love to be explicit and explore things that haven’t been explored and talk about things that make people cringe and evoke different reactions from our audiences, because that’s exciting.
GW: So what skills do you each bring to the Pussy Patrons?
Meg: I am really good at making diagrams, like tech diagrams.
Alex: Meg’s our practical thinker. She’s got this critical way of seeing everything and that’s exactly what we need. She is very good about thinking about things we don’t consider important until Meg mentions it, like tech and where we are going to source microphones…
Lily: Or if that’s even possible.
Alex: She has all these theories. She is a very methodical thinker, which is really valuable.
Lily: Alex Legge is on it. We wouldn’t have an organised schedule without Alex.
Meg: I think we all share something else as well. We came together quite naturally, without realising it. We love this horrible tacky glittery disgusting performance that just came together.
Alex: It’s definitely not all plain sailing but that’s what we love about it, we don’t always agree, we don’t always have the same ideas. There is a constant debate, that keeps it exciting, and keeps us asking why are we doing this?
Lily: There is often a heated debate in every meeting.
Alex: But I have never know a working relationship like it. Working with these girls, there is nothing like it, its so…
Lily: It’s constant laughs, all the time.
GW: What more needs to be done for women?
Meg: For me, in particular, it’s important to include, different classes of women, women with different experiences and women from different countries, in making feminist performance. I think that’s an incredibly important element of feminism that might be missing at the minute, I think it’s important to create platforms so those women can speak out.
Alex: I’d like to see more discussion among women, it sounds so basic, but sharing feminism, sharing experiences and stories, there shouldn’t be women our age who don’t know what a feminist is. There needs to be a ongoing discussion. My mum and my mum’s mum need to know about feminism.
Lily: Another issue we suffer from, especially in our generation, is girl on girl shaming. There is no need for it, yet there is a lot of it. Just because it seems OK for one girl to do one thing doesn’t mean other girls should act that way.
Alex: Women should be sticking by women and encouraging women, and so should men. It’s such a hard question but so much more needs to be done, we could talk for hours, we have made such progress, but we are no way near equality.
GW: Well, on a lighter note, If you could go and see a cabaret of your dreams, who would you see?
Lily: Lauren Barri Holstein because I love her. She is very cool. She is hilarious, and shocking and scary.
Alex: She does a lot of similar things to what we do. Well no, we do a lot of similar things she does. She uses food and popular culture and celebrity stories and fairytales.
Lily: She’s not afraid.
Alex: She takes the well known and she creates something different with it. It’s all surrounding women and feminism and quite often the vagina.
Lily: She is not afraid of anything, she is just ready.
Alex: Mine would be Split Britches. They use cabaret as a form and I like their work on the theme of desire. They’re massively influential in the feminist world but I like their performance method. I like to watch them perform because they clearly enjoy performing.
Meg: I would say Figs in Wigs, they are a personal favourite of mine. They are such a fun party group. They have the same sort of sense of fun as we do. They have hilarious dance routines dressing up as boyband members and they interrogate issues in the similar way with a lot of fun and parody which I really enjoy.
GW: So you marketed your show as a freshly menstruated performance?
Alex: Yep, fearless! That’s exactly what we want to break down, the fear around that word and it’s working.
GW: Good work. Well, thank you for talking to the Ginger Wig. Good luck with your show.
Pussy Patrons: Thank you very much for speaking to us, it was really lovely to talk to you.
PUSSY PATRONS will be performing their debut show ‘CABARET OF C#NT$’ on Saturday 23rd January at 8pm at Limehouse Town Hall E14 7HA. Expect plenty of Pussy Patron madness as well as their own unique afterparty!
(Lily: We’re having a partyyy!
Meg: We’ll be there till like 4 am… Maybe not quite that late…
It is time to announce our favourite shows of 2015 and the winner of the Ginger Wig & Strolling Man Award of 2015. To be considered for our top ten shows of the year, performances had to meet the criterion of being seen for the first time in the UK in 2015 excluding festival appearances. Furthermore we have excluded shows we saw at the Edinburgh Fringe this year as we have a separate awards for that – http://bit.ly/1ONfuDP. It is also important to note that we only resurrected the Ginger Wig in August last year so we are only counting things from then onwards… and anything that stood out just before…
It is sad to note that we cannot officially include two things that blew our socks off this year; Matthew Bourne’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and James Fritz’s ‘Four Minutes and 12 Seconds’. Both were phenomenal in their own way and both would have been included were it not for our strict criteria, ‘Sleeping Beauty’ opened in 2012, whilst ‘Four Minutes and 12 Seconds’ opened in 2014. So with all that said and done the official Ginger Wig and Strolling Man favourite shows of 2015 are…
10. The White Feather, Ross Clark, Union Theatre
This brand new British musical based on the Great War at the Union Theatre gave us faith in the future of British musical theatre. Brilliant production put together by Andrew Keates and Ross Clark.
An incredible new version of Frank Loesser’s classic Broadway musical. Show-stopping performances from Jamie Parker, Sophie Thompson and Gavin Spokes. And there is still time to catch this one at The Savoy or on tour across the UK.
A harrowing piece recounting a dark story from Rochdale’s recent history. Fantastic performances from Callie Cook and Phaldut Sharma. Catch it in its West End Transfer at Trafalgar studios opening in February.
2. Ubu and the Truth Commission, Handspring Puppet Company, Print Room
Mixing puppetry, animation, song and live action in two languages, William Kentridge’s Ubu painted a very bleak picture of South Africa’s truth and reconciliation Commission.. Dawid Minnaar was brilliant.
And so, finally we come to it: the Ginger Wig and Strolling Man’s show of the year 2015. There have been some great shows and great performances this year, but nothing stands out more than Aeschylus’s Oresteia at the Almeida. Not only was this a brilliant new version of a classic Greek play, but it presented one of the most powerful performances, from its leading lady Lia Williams, that we have ever seen. Robert Icke must be congratulated for the direction and brilliant reworking whilst Angus Wright must be commended for his great portrayal of Agamemnon.
And so now to recognise a few shows, theatres, companies and individuals, separate to narrative and performance, that had a particular impact on us in 2016.
First up – Nicest Theatre Staff – This goes to the Print Room Notting Hill, for their ever helpful, ever happy staff, not to mention their exquisite bar making skills when they double up as bartenders (in the nicest theatre bar in the whole of London). Thanks for all your help and friendliness!
Next up the Technology Award – this goes to fanSHEN Theatre for their production of ‘Invisible Treasure’ at the Ovalhouse, combining interactive audio, visual and sensory technologies they pushed the bar even higher in terms of theatre technology. Keep up the excellent work fanSHEN! Looking forward to your next project!
Now we have the Design Award. This year there is no way that we could look any further than our December trip to The Lorax at the Old Vic. Rob Howell has done an excellent job bringing Dr. Seuss’ charming fable to life, whilst making some lovely additions: Thneed 2.0 Ironing board anyone? We must also mention Gyre and Gimble for their tremendous puppets, for their central role in bringing the Lorax himself to life. We congratulate both Rob and and Gyre and Gimble for the wonderful design of The Lorax.
And now the big one, Theatre of the Year. It would be impossible to look any further than The Almeida for this year’s title of best theatre. Their stunning Greeks Season sent shockwaves through the London theatre scene and for good reason. It will be a long long while before I see a better version of The Oresteia or Bakkhai. I probably never will. There was also their ingenious live readings of The Iliad and the Odyssey. Live streamed video performances with supporting social media made for a lovely experiment in home theatre. We look forward to seeing how you plan to go about raising the bar still further.
Finally, it would be impossible to end our annual awards round up without a final mention for one of the most bizarre, unique and hysterical shows of 2015. And so without further ado, we would like to present our Sheep Award to ‘King Lear with Sheep’. This show, conceived by Missouri Williams and performed by Alasdair Saksena and eight real life bleeting sheep, did exactly what it said on the tin and did it brilliantly. We await with much anticipation the next sheep-based production.
So that’s it, a full roundup. Now we can look forward to everything we are going to see in 2016…
So ‘Hapgood’ at the Hampstead Theatre… We had all heard about its troubled history having been reworked several times by Tom Stoppard. This time it was his latest version being performed in the main space at the theatre in Hampstead.
A very confused opening involving several men with briefcases coming in and out of a swimming pool locker room and throwing towels over doors, set the ball rolling for what was to be a very confusing night of theatre. It is well known that Tom Stoppard likes to explore scientific theories, however, we were left with a number of complex monologues that didn’t really seemed pitched at the right level for your average theatre goer. The rest of it is made up by a complex cold war plot that begs the question why Tom keeps trying to revive it when it is so out of date.
Redeemed by an interesting set, there was a clever use of TVs on the back wall, and a locker room that swung in from the side, but there was little else positive to say about this piece.
Upstairs at the Hampstead has a very mainstream programme, however, it seems they got stuck in the past a bit with this one. If only the programming in their upstairs space was as edgy as it is in their downstairs space…
Dramatic highlight of the show – the confusing, yet striking opening towel and briefcase choreography.