Blind Man’s Song by Theatre Re at The Pleasance Islington

Blind Man's Song, courtesy Richard Davenport 201

Theatre Re present Blind Man’s Song. Photo Credit: Richard Davenport.

Mime, physical theatre and live music was our theatre experience on Sunday afternoon as we plodded down to the Pleasance in Islington to see Theatre Re’s ‘Blind Man’s Song’.

A blind man tries to remember a past love, as two masked characters representing memories move beautifully around the stage revealing the various stages of their relationship. Due to the colour of their costumes, we will refer to these two as Mr Burgundy and Lady Evergreen. We worked out that the blind man was possibly a composer suffering from tinnitus, who, in trying to recall this relationship, was composing songs to bring back the memories.

There were lovely moments of movement and mime in this piece, gracefully tracing the arc of the romance from the first meeting, through first night and beyond. The mime of Guillaume Pigé and Selma Roth was captivating. The simple set of a single moveable bed and piano was perfect in the large space of the Pleasance’s main stage. The atmosphere created by the lighting, smoke effects and costumes was very arresting and we certainly couldn’t take our eyes off it.

At times, however, this piece was let down by the music. Written and performed by Alex Shaw, playing both the violin and the piano whilst using a loop peddle, he did at times create some lovely sounds, but too often, as can be the case when using a loop peddle, the music became repetitive, with only some basic arpeggiations. There were also two sounds used to represent the blind man’s tinnitus. Firstly the repeated sound of him banging his cane around the bed and secondly a loud ringing. We understood their use, however, the volume and duration of these moments was actually quite unpleasant.

The piece did have a very beautiful ending with the blind man finally remembering the face of Lady Evergreen. At this moment the music definitely matched the quality of the other elements creating a fitting finish for this forgotten love. The blind man finally found peace.

Highlight of the piece: Mr Burgundy’s expertly mimed attempts at opening a door.

WIGS 3/5

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Follow Suit by Silent Faces Theatre at Goldsmiths College

Office clowning is a great way to stick it to the grisly idea of being confined to an office all day, stamping, stapling, looking though bits of paper, having board meetings and dealing with office politics. Silent Faces have used exactly this approach in their new physical comedy show which is heading to the Brighton Fringe for 9th May and from 27th – 30th May.

Four office workers slowly descend into madness from their office selves. Their calm faces transform into pure horror as the show jumps to life. The limited office phraseology of ‘right’, ‘so’, ‘well’ and ‘okay’, sums up their collective responses and communication in the office. However, one by one, the lights above their heads are turned off. How will they respond? What will this mean for their status in the office?

The office phrases also give the characters their names. Jen Wakely as ‘So’ was extremely watchable as the head honcho, and her ridiculous shoulder pads were a brilliant and absurd tweak to her otherwise professional appearance. Cordelia Stevenson was very funny as an alternately officious and nervous office stooge. Megan Smyth was very likeable as the alternative one of the group, the only one who questioned the darker things going on this office. And Adam Deane as ‘Okay’ had the classic look of a clown and performed amiably along side the rest of the cast. Were all of them going to conform to the endless monotony of office life?

We had questions about the pacing of some sections and some of the costume choices. Questions concerning these particular issues were raised by the company at the end of the show. This was a company willing to listen to its audience to improve their work – an extremely brave but positive thing to do that can only be beneficial to this young company.

Really good work from Silent Faces Theatre combining clowning, physical theatre and classical music to create a funny piece of theatre on the joys or otherwise of working in an office. Check them out in Brighton if you are going down!

Highlight of the show – the Patrick Bateman-esque character appearing every so often with another package…

3/5 WIGS

Silent Faces will be performing Follow Suit at the Sallis Benney Theatre in Brighton at 19:00 on the 9th May and at the The Warren: Studio 2 at 14:45 between the 27th – 30th.

Tickets Under £15

This week we have a wide range of offerings, including, dance, musical theatre, mime, opera, ballet and theatre all for under £15 in some of the finest venues London has to offer…

Current

Golgota – Bartabas & Andrés Marín – Sadler’s Wells – 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21 March – £12 tickets available.

“Four horses perform live on stage uniting equestrian theatre with art, music and dance.”

Upcoming

The Importance of Being Earnest by Gerald Barry – The Royal Opera at the Barbican – 29 March – 3 April – £10 tickets available.

“This operatic refashioning of Oscar Wilde’s most famous play is wildly inventive, exuberant and anarchic.”

Scenes from 68* Years – Sandpit Arts – Arcola Theatre – 6 – 9 April – £12, 10 – 30 April – £14 Concessions.

“A picnic interrupted by soldiers. Never-ending queues. Sunbathing in the shadow of a tank. How do people manage when every day is the same?”

Coming Soon

The Winter’s Tale – Royal Ballet – Royal Opera House – 12, 13, 16, 18, 20, 21, 27, 28, 30 April, 21 May, 1, 7, 10 June – £5 and £6 tickets available.

“Christopher Wheeldon’s three-act ballet adaptation of Shakespeare’s tale of love, loss and reconciliation with music by Joby Talbot.”

Lucky Stiff – MKEC Productions – Drayton Arms – 26 – 27 April – £7, 28 – 14 May – early bird tickets at £10 and concessions at £12.

“Something funny’s going on…With a mysterious murder, mistaken identities, and a corpse in a wheelchair, Lucky Stiff will leave you dying of laughter.”

Blind Man’s Song – Theatre Re – Pleasance Islington – 27 April – 15 May – £15 (£13 Concessions).

“Inspired by interviews with blind and visually-impaired people, Blind Man’s Song is a tale about one man’s rage against his world of darkness.”

Trygve Wakenshaw: Nautilus at Pleasance Forth

Clowning around is never more entertaining when presented by a gangly, flexy, elastic weirdo in a blazer! His opening gag – a physical representation of the age-old classic, ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ Developed at the perfect tempo until it eventually brought the house down. A series of physical sketches were interspersed by a spanish guitar version of the habanera from Carmen and Trygve caught frozen in a spotlight. There wasn’t really a moment when people weren’t laughing at this former student of the famed Gaulier clown school in France.

We at the Wig have seen none of his previous work, although from speaking to others, this was maybe a slight step down from his other works and maybe at an hour and a half, slightly self-indulgent. He has clearly amassed quite a big fan base, who were slightly off-putting at times, when some people seemed to be laughing only for the sake of laughing. Not to detract from the man himself though. He is an extremely talented clown and definitely one to keep an eye on. This show should maybe be billed as a work in progress, but it’s certainly still worth your money at the Forth in the Pleasance Courtyard!

Highlight of the show – Trygve’s unique take on Aretha Franklin’s ‘A Natural Woman’

4/5 WIGS

Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir

Review by Linny

A wonderfully indulgent large-scale piece of pure theatricality four hours in length brought by Ariane Mnouchkine of Théâtre du Soleil.

The basis of the work is En Magellanie by Jules Verne, posthumously published in 1909 but also extensively rewritten by his son and with a new name, Les Naufragés du ‘Jonathan’, about, amongst other things, the survivors of a shipwreck on the island of Hosta near Cape Horn and their encounters with the indigenous tribe, a charismatic leader and his socialist ideals. This is a grand metaphor for the Théâtre du Soleil itself which has always practiced socialism in the way it is run.

Théâtre du Soleil has collectively created this piece using the vehicle of silent film in its infancy at the start of the 20th century to present seven key scenes from the Verne story.

This is a story about the fulfillment of socialist ideals at a moment in history when new ideas in all fields of endeavour seemed to promise a dazzling century of human achievement.

The production glories in maximising the full mime talents of the cast all of whom take two or three roles. They are the characters in the Verne story which, here, is about the passengers who, seeking a new life or wealth, embark on a ship bound for Australia and only to be shipwrecked off Hosta.  These characters have been cast from the varied and motley individuals who have been casually and randomly invited by the brother and sister film-maker team to become technicians and actors in their groundbreaking project.  The project is run out of an attic space attached to the restaurant, Félix.

Imagine then this ‘theatre’ space about 25 or 30 metres wide and extending almost as far back.  It lies beneath the skeletal roof structure of a hangar (Lowland Hall, one of the show halls at the Royal Highland Ground).  Transform this space with primitive film-making paraphernalia, beautiful painted flats, full-scale props, including bits of a Habsburg palace from the historic scene at Mayerling, a massive ship’s prow scene,  a blizzard-struck snow landscape of Hosta at the very tip of south America, Queen Victoria meeting Charles Darwin, bits of scenery all brought on or dropped down with a pulley-system of ropes all fully visible and you see the full workings of the show, together with off-stage spaces intended as off-stage rooms where other processes relating to the film take place.  Imagine this diverse team of ‘amateurs’, full of excitement and anticipation starting to make a film conceived on a vast scale and you get boundless energy, brilliant mime and slapstick and the sheer comedy of professionals playing amateurs playing acting roles or other roles.  In blizzard scenes, violently flapping coats and swirling snow are all created by primitive wind machines or simply by hand as explorers, bent double, force their way through snow and wind to a remote destination in Patagonia to negotiate a treaty between Chile and Argentina.

The seven scenes introduce the political backdrop to the turn of the century culminating in the scene on Hosta where the charismatic leader exhorts all to accept the egalitarian ideas of socialism and to create a utopia. This is subverted all too quickly by convicts suggesting alternative and quicker routes to power.  The final scene shows the leader abandoning his grand plans to the smaller but not less heroic, goal of rescuing future shipwrecks and protecting the indigenous tribe from bounty hunters.

A truly enjoyable spectacle.

4/5 WIGS

Dr. Brown: Befrdfgth

Review by Looby Loo & Ginger Wig

Where to begin with this guy?  This is like no other comedy show I have ever seen.

Dr. Brown is enigmatic from the word go.  He uses mime, physical jokes and repetition to create an unbelievably funny one-hour show in which he plays a cast of fictional and animal characters…  An encounter between two soldiers turns into a bull fight.  The bull is killed. Dr. Brown gets inside and finds a female bull.  They have a calf… and thus it goes on with one scene morphing into something entirely different. It was like watching someone else’s dream.  The power of mime is not be trifled with, and Dr. Brown brilliantly uses audience participation to realise the full potential of his act. His jokes are incredibly simple but because of the force of his personality they are real crowd pleasers.  On one level, audience participation is always a cheap gag because everyone finds awkward audience members doing things funny. It is, after all, what pantomime thrives on. Dr. Brown is really talented and his show has been nominated for the Foster’s Best Comedy Show 2012. For sheer originality and humour his show probably merited the prize.

Audience wriggling: when he clambered through the audience

Bows: 1 and hugged every audience member

General spot: Dr Brown’s outfit

Venue:  Underbelly is very dank

WIGS 4/5