Heading out to Islington again, this was the GingerWig’s first trip to The Hen and Chickens Theatre to see The Hole. The Hole was the second play by English playwright N. F. Simpson. It has been revived by The Theatre of Heaven and Hell, an up and coming theatre company founded by Elena Clements, Darren Ruston and director Michael Ward.
Definitely an absurd piece, The Hole concerns a hole in the ground in which people are working. A tramp waits next to it, peering in and in his own words forms “the nucleus of a queue.” Different people come along and inspect the hole and pass their own judgments on what they think is going on inside. Things take an absurd turn as a scientist, politician and preacher all inspect the hole, and try to convince each other of their theories.
We can’t help but conclude that in 1958, a lot of people were baffled by what happened down manholes. Definitely ripe in 1958 for a piece of absurd theatre; today, however, it doesn’t quite have the same impact.
Regardless of this, the play was well acted by Darren Ruston, as Endo, switching between a couple of characters as he tried to make sense of the hole. The two nattering women, played by Elena Clements and Angela Loucaides were also very effective in eliding absurdity with the mundane as they discussed issues not relating to the hole.
Simply staged and effectively performed by this new theatre company that focuses predominately on theatre of the absurd. Certainly to our taste at the GingerWig. Well done to the Theatre of Heaven and Hell. Good luck with the next production.
Highlight of the piece – outlandish singing moments taking us by surprise.
You can catch ‘The Hole’ at the Hen and Chickens Theatre in Islington until 5th of March. On at 7:30pm.
In 1969 an intrepid National Geographic photographer, Loren McIntyre, ventured deep into the Brazilian rainforest in search of the elusive Mayoruna people. Finding the tribe he gets totally lost and only survives by following them – an indigenous people with a vastly different way of life, belief system and understanding of time. This ‘encounter’ would have a profound impact on him for the rest of his life.
Flash forward over 40 years and master storyteller Simon McBurney and his company Complicite have created a startling piece of audio storytelling. Even though you simply watch Simon tell the story, on a bare stage with the help of some basic props and mics, it feels as though you can actually see the Amazon and all its animals and people in the story. This is thanks to the incredible sound and audio setup combined with his voice coming directly into your head through individual headphones to transport us from the Barbican into the heart of the Amazon.
He weaves parts of his own life into the narrative about Loren McIntyre which, amongst other things, explores time. In advanced societies we count time and order our lives by it, whilst for the peoples of the Amazon, their main purpose is survival in a world where international companies are now destroying the forest. Whether they hunt at day or night is irrelevant as long as they survive. Furthermore there were suggestions of an ‘old language’, a form of telepathic communication. This was all within Loren’s tale, but it was the way Simon created the entire landscape, rocking water bottles to create the sound of a sea boat, floating on the Amazon river, whacking sticks about to create the sound of a tribe building their homes or scrunching a crisp packet to create the sound of a crackling fire that brought everything to life in front of us.
It is very rare in theatre that a really important story is told in such a fantastic way. This is the true essence of great theatre and is exactly what Complicite have created here with The Encounter. A momentous production, questioning all the values that we hold dear, possession, communication, consciousness and time. A mass ritualistic burning of all of their possessions in contrast to the western pursuit of material wealth signified a beginning for the Mayoruna and had huge cultural and spiritual importance. Theirs is a shared consciousness understanding the connection between all living things. For them, there are no barriers between individual minds. Access to the consciousness of the other was a real phenomenon.
Tales of first encounter still occur in our world, although it will not be long before there are none. The saddest thing, as Simon himself explains, is that these first encounters are always to the advantage of the scientist or explorers who gain much in knowledge or understanding, whilst for the indigenous people it is always a moment of extreme loss.
Highlight of the show – Too many to choose from, although the simple act of starting the story with a stick as the plane’s yoke and ending with the same stick as the arrow that gets snapped, brought this story full circle.
You can catch a live streaming of this production on Complicite’s YouTube account on 1st March.
Young playwright Nina Segal has written her first play, and it’s a goodun. Concerned with the age-old worry of parents bringing a child into the world, this piece seems even more potent considering the significantly worse state of our world today.
Set over the course of one evening, a couple narrate the moment they met and when they moved in together and had a baby. We meet them in the dead of the night, trying to get their newborn baby to stop crying. Tracing a huge emotional arc for these characters, this play shows the highs and lows of raising a child and being in a relationship, against a backdrop of everything that is wrong with the world.
At the opening, the characters are literally wrapped up with their possessions and household appliances in cling film, and then steadily build their house around them, eventually building the cot for their new born baby. Whilst in this home building mode of putting up lights and plugging in the fridge the concerns and worries deriving from much larger external issues are communicated through the smaller issues of parenthood. This contrasts beautifully the notions of the ideal home and family with the fear and worries of parenthood in our contemporary world.
The play reaches a dramatic midpoint during which everything seems to fall apart, but the characters eventually bring their lives back to some form of normality at its denouement. Well-acted by the young cast of Adelle Leonce and Alex Waldmann delivering a believable young couple experiencing the ups and downs of life together. There was also extremely good staging and use of props in this production.
Highlight of the show – when everything fell apart in the ‘Bird and the Knife’ section. And of course the demonic flashing head baby.
“Gain skills, grow as a person, become a better you!” These are just some of the things you will hear in the current British armed forces radio recruitment advert. Having seen Pink Mist, hearing an advert like this made me extremely angry. Obviously it’s not going to tell you about the huge potential for loss of feeling, character, body parts and life, that joining the army entails. But to think that people sign up without a second thought about the negative effects just like the protagonist in this play, makes me feel sick. We all know of the potential horrors that exist being a member of the armed forces – potential serious injury and death. But if you survive, there is also the likely possibility of post-traumatic stress disorder affecting your life long after you have done your service.
All of this and more was on display in Owen Sheers’ powerful Pink Mist that transferred from the Bristol Old Vic to the Bush. It is the story of three young Bristolians, one of whom joins the army and persuades the others to do so too. Presented beautifully through poignant narrative poetry, Phil Dunster leads us through the fate of his and his friends’ time in the army. Combined with the exquisite text, a powerful display of perfectly synced movement between the cast added an arresting visual style to this play that was originally commissioned as a radio play for Radio 4.
Phil’s character in the play, Arthur, is lured by everything the radio advert cites – becoming a better person, learning skills with an opportunity to see the world. Being stuck in a dead end job parking cars all day, who can blame a young man for seeing the army as both an escape and as an opportunity. But the tragic reality hits hard when best friend, Taff, has his legs blown of by a land mine in Afghanistan, whilst his other friend, Hads, loses his grasp on life due to PTSD. All three suffer intensely from PTSD in horrendous ways – although Hads is the most affected. The effects of war live on well after being back on civvy street.
There are some plays that everyone should see. Pink Mist is one of them. If everyone thinking of enlisting, on the basis of MOD propaganda, could see ‘Pink Mist’ we would throw away far fewer lives. And if only every world leader could see it too. Beautifully presented with an intensity that will last long in the memory. Fantastic writing and work from everyone involved in this harrowing play.
Highlight of the play – Arthur’s final moments of life, followed by him walking us through his first moments as a dead man. And also the opening speech and movement sequence – “fisherman blowing on their fingerless gloves.”
On Friday evening we caught up with three current students on the MA Music Theatre programme at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama to ask them about their first public production, ‘Love Is Not A Science’. This devised piece is based on the songs of American composer and lyricist, Joshua Rosenblum, and lyricist Joanne Sydney Lessner, who will be having their works performed in the UK for the first time. We spoke to Daniel Julian, Jessica Tripp and Jake James, to find out more…
Ginger Wig: So tell us about the show?
Daniel: The show is about mathematics and love and the relationship between them both.
Jess: It’s about finding the formula for true love…
Jake: It’s a statement about the magic of literature and books and how love isn’t necessarily a science.
GW: Can you tell us a bit about the devising process?
Jess: We workshopped as an ensemble songs by Joshua Rosenblum and Joanne Sydney Lessner and looked at the idea that love is not a science and what that might mean to us as an ensemble. We explored the lyrics of the songs, how they could be incorporated and after a bit of workshopping of scenes we looked at a structure for the piece and how it can all link together with 23 members of the ensemble.
Jake: We also had contributions from a few members of the course who had experience in choreography. They are responsible for three of the dance numbers in the show, creating these magical worlds where things come to life and the unexpected happens.
Jess: The play is set inside a library and we explore different worlds.
Jess: The worlds come to life when a book is opened so, just like any other form of theatre, we’re storytelling.
Jake: Because we are performing in the traverse (audience on two sides), this opens up opportunities to break the fourth wall and be closer to and more intimate with the audience.
Daniel: It is an immersive piece.
GW: Can you tell us about the music?
Jess: I find it very clever. I’m not someone who is particularly mathematically or scientifically inclined, so I think it is incredibly clever how the lyrics really explore the theory of mathematics and physics and science that directly relate to love and emotion.
Daniel: It showcases the creative versatility of Joshua and Joanne because they are able to do any sort of musical form, classical to jazzy or bluesy, to something typically Broadway like ‘Welcome to Hollywood’ and the [Greta] Garbo section.
Jake: The intricacies of the composition for the majority of the numbers also lend themselves to the world in which Helen [Watts] our directer has tried to create this magical and perplexing library where things come to life. The intricacies of these compositions really lend themselves to the complex structure of our show and the complexity of science and mathematics.
GW: What has been your favourite part of creating the show?
Jess: Working as a member of the ensemble, I think we’ve got a really good group and I think all our voices and personalities really complement each other. So getting the opportunity to work with this music that really showcases all of our abilities and working together has been the best thing for me.
Jake: Yes we are such a diverse group of people, no two people look the same, sound the same, nor are the same, so to have an opportunity to perform with such a diverse cast is something I will relish for the rest of my performing career. We have all had an opportunity with this devising process to create characters and to have an input into the direction of the show, so having the responsibility and a free rein to create this world which has been very rewarding.
GW: What can we expect if we come along to the show next week?
Daniel: You can expect to be surprised because of the range of the themes and their integration. You won’t really be able to tell which way the show is going.
Jake: It’s not your typical musical theatre show that you might expect to see in London’s West End. It’s a kind of concept musical or a…
The two students start to overlap.
Daniel: It’s like a song cycle….
Jake: It’s like a song cycle… a concept musical… a book musical…
Daniel: With a sort of frame… a concept musical, yes…
Jake: One not to be missed.
Jess: Not your average day at the library.
All three laugh along with the Ginger Wig.
GW: And are you all enjoying your time at Central?
Daniel: It’s been amazing to see how far we’ve come and it’s so clear how much has changed since we started the course.
Jake: The fact that we’ve still got another major musical project coming up is very exciting because I can feel already, just from the development we have all made in 12 weeks with our skills modules that we are only going to improve further. It’s just amazing.
Jess: This has been a really good opportunity for us to take the training from the last 12 weeks and actually put it into practice.
Daniel: The teaching team is fantastic and that’s been very beneficial.
Jess: We’ve been really lucky with the guest lecturers as each brings very different experiences.
Daniel: They are all very professional.
Jess: And it’s just a fun and sunny place to come to every day.
GW: Well thank you very much for talking to us.
Daniel, Jess and Jake: Thank you, Ginger Wig.
GW: All the best with your show.
‘Love is Not A Science’ will be showing in the Webber Douglas Studio at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama 9th to 11th of February, with performances at 2 and 7pm.
Soothing Sounds for Baby, is one of those rare comedy shows that seems to really stay with you. Thanks to the ridiculous narrative Joseph has created and the journey through his record collection courtesy of an appearance on Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4′s long-running radio programme, this show will live long in our memory.
With some exceptionally well-cut audio clips, half of the show is Joseph’s interview with a rather tetchy Kirsty Young. It was so well done, it left our theatre companion congratulating Kirsty for agreeing to record such material for Joseph. We however were pretty certain they were all sounds taken from her show and edited to excellent comic effect for the interview with Joseph.
Joseph was instantly likeable from the moment he started to lead us into his first track, whilst being slightly put down by Kirsty. Explaining the fateful day he encountered an older women in a record shop, we begin rooting for him on his his comic journey through the tracks. When he suddenly stands up and impersonates the artist from the first record, Joseph Cooper and his album ‘The World of Joseph Cooper, the comedy really hots up.
He impersonates Mr Cooper by instantly getting into a leaf covered jacket, whilst one leaf covers his eye. He pulls an audience member, Will, on stage for a piano lesson. He then gets the audience to sing a simple two bar phrase. We struggled with that, but surprisingly less so with the transposed graph of the predicted UK economy growth and Joseph’s journey from home to the theatre. Will was then asked to play an étude, whilst all but one member of the audience sang a simple phrase, and one unlucky person on the front row was asked to sing an outrageous Latino-like “RANGOOO’ solo. Much hilarity ensued, and Joseph’s comic improvisation was quick to show, when responding to Will – ‘My breakfast-based banter is dry today’ – a perfectly timed comic riposte, showing he can be funny on impulse as well.
This was followed by a frightening re-reading of A. A. Milne as we were all put under a huge duvet, ‘What is the matter with Mary-Jane?… What is the matter with Mary-Jane?… WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH MARY-JANE, SHE HAS THRUSH!’. As the story rolls along we are introduced to more bizarre old vinyls as the tale about Joseph and the older women unfolds and eventually reaches a ridiculous denouement in a forest which we will certainly not be giving away. You will just have to go see him yourself.
Fantastic comedy, weaving great storytelling, hilarious set pieces, audience participation and a spattering of the absurdist old vinyls you will ever hear and see. A performer with real character, who can sing, impersonate, rap and tell a great story! Runner-up in the Edinburgh Fringe Fosters Comedy Award, although maybe he deserved the main accolade… Go see this before it ends, you will not be disappointed.
Highlight of the show – without doubt when Joseph suddenly went all pirate radio MC on us, spitting bars about further bizarre vinyls such as ‘Golf’, ‘Sounds of WW2′ and ‘The Collected Broadcasts of Idi Amin’ to name a few. Wills attempt at the Stanley Clarke method was also a great example of audience involvement.
Catch Joseph Morpurgo: Soothing Sounds For Baby at Soho Theatre before his show closes on the 13th February.