Jekyll & Hyde by The McOnie Company at the Old Vic

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‘Jekyll & Hyde’ is the first piece of dance commissioned by the Old Vic as part of their new dance collaboration with Drew McOnie as an Associate Artist, and it is a spectacle and a half. In a ‘Little Shop of Horrors-esque’ take on the classic tale of Jekyll and Hyde, McOnie creates dance magic with a show that oozes sex and brutality.

Daniel Collins is stunning as Dr Jekyll, here portrayed as an awkward florist who stumbles across his transformative formula in an attempt to create the perfect plant food. As the flowers in the shop blossom, so does the budding romance between Jekyll and Dahlia, danced exquisitely by Rachel Muldoon. However, as Hyde begins to take over Jekyll’s body with increasingly violent transitions, the body count creeps ever higher and Jekyll is slowly lost to his alter ego. It is here that McOnie’s production really begins to fly, the scenes of the show becoming darker and the dance increasing in its intensity as the two men struggle for domination over the body.

Machismo comes off the stage in waves when Hyde appears for the first time, Tim Hodges achieving the perfect combination of arrogance and utter desirability. His previous work in Matthew Bourne’s ‘The Car Man’ is evident here, channelling the brooding nature of that show into McOnie’s choreography, and indeed Bourne’s influence is clear throughout the entire work. As an ex-dancer of New Adventures, and with Bourne as his mentor, McOnie’s style of evocative story telling is so reminiscent of Bourne’s works, namely ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘The Car Man’. However, McOnie is no simple copycat, and his work has its own unique flavour to it. The partnership between Jekyll and Hyde is entirely believable, the pure testosterone that emerges from Hyde’s seductive movements a strong contrast to Jekyll’s adorably nervous attempts to woo his beloved. Rather than mask the transformation scenes McOnie brings them centre stage, utilising strobes and Grant Olding’s pounding score to reinforce the physical violence that Jekyll experiences when Hyde arrives. The two men are illuminated in their battle for dominance, Hyde’s disregard for Jekyll’s life brutally realised as he wreaks havoc amongst Jekyll’s customers.

The two leading men are strongly supported by the McOnie company, each performer truly inhabiting the character and committing to the choreography, be it an intensely physical gym number, a highly charged club scene or a dream sequence where Jekyll is transported through the vapours of his formula. McOnie uses unison sparingly but to great effect. There is a welcome lightness amongst the more intense numbers, seen in an amusing plant competition routine as the dancers demonstrate their own ‘green fingers’ in an attempt to curry Jekyll’s favour. McOnie successfully avoids awkward ‘dance fighting’, instead gifting Tim Hodges with truly brutal choreography when carrying out Hyde’s violent murders. The death of Daisy, Jekyll’s sweet florist assistant, danced with real joy by Alexzandra Sarmiento, is particularly hard to watch. The movement is barely choreographed, McOnie instead allowing the violence of Hyde’s nature to come across as he lifts Daisy off her feet, strangling with minimal cold blooded effort. Hyde is a destructive machine, and there is little to be done to stop him.

Soutra Gilmour’s set for the show is very clever, a revolving piece operated by the dancers that smoothly transitions from bedroom to florists to nightclub. The performers seamlessly move through the set, using its elevated sections to add real depth to the choreography, and it creates the illusion of a far grander building.

Ultimately, the McOnie Company’s ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ is a whopper of a dance piece. Drew McOnie has moved beyond rising star status; he is an established talent in the world of dance and theatre, and at The Ginger Wig we cannot wait to see where his next choreographic challenge takes him.

Highlight of the show – Jekyll’s preparation for his night out with Dahlia, a fantastically choreographed awkward telephone conversation as Daniel Collins becomes increasingly flustered and tangled in the phone cord, before impressively managing to change an entire outfit on stage whilst hilariously hip thrusting to 60’s motown rock. This scene alone would have demonstrated the massive talent this dancer possesses.

WIGS 5/5

La Gíngy Strollér

Brickhead: Yeah Yeah, Yeah? at the Blue Man

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It was a good festival for us for free comedy. And this was no exception. Lecoq/Gaulier-trained clown Brickhead gave us a show of pure madness that left us quoting him for the rest of the night. Entering the space holding up a railed curtain, his entrance was a swarm of ticks, twitches and awkwardness as everything feel apart around him as he tried to set up for his opening. Naturally the whole audience found this hysterical putting us in the perfect mood for his show.

He started with predominately physical comedy and was comfortable getting the audience involved, to the point of leading off and leaving one patron in the bathroom. It seemed odd to us when he then went into a more vocalised form of comedy that ended with the phrase “down the hallway.” However the randomness of this phrase was made even more funny when it was then taken back into his physical comedy.

This was a completely random and brilliant show! Brickhead will dust your house and have you laughing for hours.

Highlight of the piece – the never ending telephone call – Kate is clearly the most annoying person in the entire world…

WIGS 4/5

1 in 3 by Now You Know Theatre at Sweet Waterfront

 

This was a brand new show from Now You Know Theatre about chemotherapy and how it affects those suffering from cancer. Furthermore it highlighted the importance of having a positive attitude as the best approach to life whatever situation you are in.

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Two different people are brought together by their shared chemotherapy treatment. Jeff is a newly diagnosed father of two while Jasmine is a 17-year-old girl, fighting cancer for the third time in her life. Together they form an unlikely friendship going through treatment. Jasmine is the positive force in this relationship, teaching Jeff about the important things in life and how to understand mortality.

Brilliantly written and directed by Anthony Orme, he has created a very touching piece of theatre that moved many in the theatre to tears. Cancer is something not often talked about in theatre. Now You Know have created a better dialogue about cancer and highlighted the importance of a positive outlook on life.There were fantastic performances from David Keogh and Alice Merivale as the two patients whilst Emily-Jane Ashford and Laura Ellis supported them excellently.

This was another great show from Now You Know Theatre and definitely one to see. Catch it and keep up to date with this rising theatre company.

Highlight of the piece – Jasmine’s final message to Jeff. A beautiful, funny and poignant way to end the show.

WIGS 4/5

The Ginger Wig

Switchboard by Produced Moon at Marlborough Theatre

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Our second day at the Brighton Fringe began with another technology-based piece called ‘Switchboard’ by Produced Moon. Having already taken part in two other shows which specifically stated the need for a fully charged phone, we were keen to see how this piece would utilise our mobiles.

We were led by ‘Maintenance’ to Brighton Pavilion and were there given instructions about how we would be contacting the ‘Switchboard’. With the relevant numbers saved we then awaited a call. When it came, we were told to wander off into the pavilion and observe the people and the world around us. We were told we would be joining a special network on the switchboard and would be getting in contact with someone. That someone was Aya, an Egyptian lesbian.

We were asked to respond to her and continue exploring the pavilion. We were also asked to talk about a favourite childhood park we visited and at one point told to demand change for the injustices of the world by shouting CHANGE! Ultimately, this piece was about the ownership of a narrative, as it soon became clear that Aya was in fact a made up person, which an American writer had created from the stories of others.

This was an interesting focus for a piece and certainly the main question raised was something our group had to think long and hard about. However, some of this piece seemed disconnected. Furthermore, we didn’t seem to have too much influence on the interactive element, as it felt like we were all getting the same texts. It raised the question over whether this was the right medium to be telling this story.

Nonetheless this was an inventive attempt at storytelling and with brand new technology trailed it was exciting to be a part of it. Furthermore I don’t think we would have ever explored the beautiful Brighton Pavilions had we not been to this show. A good attempt at a new form of theatre.

Highlight of the piece – speaking to Produced Moon to understand the piece and exploring the pavilion.

WIGS 3/5

The Ginger Wig

Operation Black Antler by Hydrocracker and Blast Theory at Brighton Festival

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What is it like to try an infiltrate a far-right group in the name of public security?  Police forces up and down the country have been doing it for years. The far-right has always been present in the UK reinventing itself over the years. ‘Operation Black Antler’ was a chance for us to experience exactly what it feels like to become a ‘shallow swimmer’ in the murky world of surveillance, in this brilliant immersive piece of theatre.

Meeting on London Road in Brighton we were texted by our ‘contact’ and directed to a grotty flat, to receive tea and a briefing of the group we were to be infiltrating and how exactly we were to go about this. Paired with Irish couple, Declan and Lasy, residents of Brighton for over 10 years, we felt confident that we were going to give this a good go. We were to be ‘COMM’s’ and would receive communication from the HQ throughout the mission.

Our target was Mickey, a former soldier. It was our job to find out why he left the military. The location was a pub round the corner where a a local family were fundraising to get their daughter Rachel into the army. Declan and Lasy knew the pub, so that was covered, but we couldn’t enter as ourselves. Instead we had to come up with full background, different, identities, and most importantly a reason to try and get into this party. The Ginger Wig was now godson to the Murphy’s…

We walked to the pub and after smooth talking the bouncer we were in. We knew Mickey liked football and therefore approached the only guy in the pub in a football shirt. He was not Mickey. Then we encountered Rachel and found out that Mickey knew her dad. We tried to find here dad – “stripy shirt” – but he was nowhere to be found. And then we alighted on a quiet looking chap in a cap. This was Mickey. We then spent the next thirty minutes trying to first get close to him before eventually engaging him in conversation. With three of us undercover and all trying to find out the same thing, Mickey skilfully avoided our probing whilst remaining friendly as his views slowly started to seep out. Naturally we played along with them pretending to be the aggressive far right yoof we had embodied. Declan’s views on Brexit also helped to win Mickey round.

We thought we had lost him, but some last minute questioning finally get the facts out. We had achieved our objective. But now he wanted to introduce us to someone new. We couldn’t say no or our cover would be blown. And so we were led into the back of the pub. Here we really started to feel the heat. Luckily this came across as a steely determination to act and keep those pesky foreigners out of the UK. We almost cracked, and certainly a situation with our mobile that would of blown out entire cover was fortuitously avoided thanks to Mickeys bad eyesight and eventually the three of us got out with more than enough information on the group.

We were met by another contact, although it was not who we thought we would be meeting, so as a group we interrogated him. Once satisfied he was to be trusted, we and the other two teams gave all the information we had on this far right group. But now the main question. From everything we had heard, should we now send a deep swimmer in to infiltrate this group. Were they a threat? Did it require such drastic action? Collectively we decided no, although I can’t pretend I felt confident, that the following weekends activities would remain peaceful. None the less, we left the experience chatting animatedly with Declan and Lasy about our night of deep immersion.

This was a truly remarkable piece of theatre. There was a feeling of tension and excitement throughout this piece, generated by the very real world that we entered. Every element of this piece was meticulously planned, form the people briefing us, to the world we entered in the Rose Hill Tavern to the performance of the characters we met within. Without doubt this was the best ‘theatre game’ we have ever had the chance to be part of.

Highlight of the piece – The whole thing from start to finish was a masterpiece – more of this please!

WIGS 5/5

 

Torn Apart (Dissolution) by BJ McNeill at Distrikt

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Sometimes in life, outside forces affect and guide our life. In ‘Torn Apart (Dissolution)’ we see how a couple’s actions and decisions in 80’s Germany have affected the lives of others. Set over three decades we meet Alina and her lover, a Canadian soldier, who have met in Germany in the 80s, Elliott and Casey a young couple in 90’s London and Holly and Erica, a couple in the present day. Each story spun its own course, whilst the link between the three stories slowly became present.

From the Ginger Wig’s perspective, the middle story of a young south London boy and his Australian girlfriend, facing the prospect of her expiring visa was the most arresting, due to our first hand experience of how such a situation can put a relationship under a microscope. In such a situation all decisions a couple wish to make regarding their future will be clouded by this barrier.

Writer and director BJ McNeill has crafted a moving story, dealing with the fundamental issue of love and how we handle it when outside factors affect our lives. His writing is real and fresh, showing a maturity that defies his age. There were very strong performances from all six actors; Nastazja Somers, Leonard Sillevis, Elliott Rogers, Hannah Kerlin, Sarah Hastings and Monty Leigh who inhabited their parts excellently. The use of their natural accents set this piece in the real world. The fact that they had workshopped the piece during the writing process was present in how grounded the actors were in their characters. There was an element of being caged in this piece which all actors expressed both delicately and ferociously.

This was a very moving play which everyone will be able to relate to. No Offence Theatre are a company on the up, brilliantly led by Nastazja and BJ, a pair that know how to make the right decisions, regarding the shape and life of their work. It was a shame only, that we couldn’t thank the cast for their performances in a curtain call. 

Highlight of the Piece – Seeing a young company, making present, powerful theatre that makes an audience question their values.

WIGS 4/5

The Ginger Wig

The Bookbinder by Trick of the Light at Sweet Dukebox

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It is sad when you go to children’s/family theatre and there are only two kids in the audience. Especially when what you see is a charming, wonder filled fairytale that leaves you in awe. Nonetheless, ‘Trick of the Light’ from New Zealand have created a great show here for all ages.

A bookbinder is looking for a young apprentice to work for him. He starts to tell us about the previous boy who worked for him and so begins his beautifully spun tale. The previous apprentice had been sucked into a book and adventures on a mesmerising journey to try and regain a lost page from a book he unwittingly promised to repair for an old lady in a single day.

Merging beautiful storytelling, shadow puppetry and an ingenious pop up book, Ralph McCubbin Howell does extremely well to lead and narrate this one man show and fills the room with warmth. Never before have we seen such an effective use of a table lamp, a cleverer use of ink or a more outrageous pair of scissors.

Highlight of the Show – The endless surprises, magic and wonder.

WIGS – 4/5

The Ginger Wig

 

LoveHard at Laughing Horse @ The Hobgoblin

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Some times the best things in life are free. In this case it was the entertaining free comedy due of Jacob and Tyler presenting us with a hysterical horror themed romp in deepest darkest Scotland. With a host of over 20 character played between the two chaps, they covered accents all across the British Isles in great style.

A young American family have just moved into their new home in Scotland, having left a dark secret behind in America. The unfriendly locals are less than happy to have another American family move in, but luckily they are moving into a haunted house. But is it really haunted or is this just another case of a militant Scottish community trying to keep yanks out?

The boys entertained us with their slick style, silly accents, and loosely structured play, that was open to the odd improvised gag. The blocked exhaust pipe had us in stitches, whilst the host of unusual pier salesman, had the whole crowd roaring with laughter. They also created some very creepy moments through the use of clever lighting and walkie talkies.

Simple and very effective. Comedy doesn’t need to be harder than this. Great storytelling and great fun. Catch them before they finish!

Highlight of the show – Vendors selling babies to throw at dildos, and selling dildos to throw at babies.

WIGS 4/5

The Ginger Wig

Masquerade by yello brick at the Brighton Festival

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Our first show at the 2016 Brighton Festival and it was a fully immersive one. Meeting on George Street in Hove we were led into the steam powered world of Ebenezer Gibson. Cries of “Steam powered land shark coming through” drew us to the event as we found several steam punk characters readying a crowd of people for a masquerade.

We danced and played games, whilst trying to climb the social ladder of our colony, as rumours and whispers spread of an upcoming revolution. Simultaneously we were sent text messages by our steam powered cellular devices, guiding us on how to dance and take part.

This was a very interesting experiment from ‘yello brick’ combining immersive performance and technology. We only wish there had been more storytelling. None the less we took infinite pleasure form the words of the Marquis in this fun and uplifting start to our first Brighton Festival!

Highlight of the show – Steam punk and street games, a winning combination.

WIGS 3/5

The Ginger Wig

The Quentin Dentin Show Above the Arts Theatre

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Quentin and The Magnets – Photography Mihaela Bodlovic \\ AliceBoreas Photograpy

We were very lucky to go to the space above the Arts Theatre this week. Rumour has it, the Arts Club is set to undergo a huge transformation into a more functioning and successful theatre and dining venue, we imagine somewhat like Soho Theatre. Our ticket was to see ‘The Quentin Dentin Show’, following its run at the Edinburgh Fringe last year. A mix of ‘1984’, a David Bowie album, and your last relationship, this was a bizarre mix of influences, none of which however are out of place in a rock musical.

Set in Nat and Keith’s flat, we are first introduced to The Magnets and the man who is to play Quentin Dentin, drifting around the space in white jumpsuits as we entered. The band sat on the side, similarly attired, with the addition of dark sunglasses.

Nat and Keith’s relationship seems to be at an end. However, it is given one last chance of revival with the arrival of Quentin Dentin through the radio. He bursts into life with a ferocious energy that startles the hapless Keith and Nat. With a seemingly evil superior, Nat and Keith seem to spurn his help, culminating in their rejection of his golden pill. It makes no difference however as the two split up regardless.

The singing required for this style of music is not our favourite. Having been born in the 90’s, that 80s style was somewhat lost on us. Not to take anything away from the band, who were very engaging. The pianist provided backing vocals and kept things together, and was supported by a drummer and a guitarist.

There was definitely something about Quentin, played by Luke Lane. He had an energy and dynamism that was perfectly suited to the show. Sadly, the show didn’t really seem to go anywhere and was weighed down by the sad couple trying to sort out their relationship. The dialogue was weak as was the content of the songs, however the physicality of the piece was very attractive, with great contributions from the two Magnets.

This show had its moments, but it didn’t quite connect with us. It is however, always good to see young actor, musicians and producers, putting things together. How else can one learn?

Highlight of the show – the magnets with their brilliant facial expressions and physicality.

WIGS 3/5

The Ginger Wig