Review: Grimm Tales for Fragile Times and Broken People

Creation Theatre’s Grimm Tales for Fragile Times and Broken People takes us on a delightfully dark journey through the world of fairytales

“Never underestimate the power of the full moon”

Fresh from winning an ONCOMM Award for their inventive reinvention of Wonderland in Alice – A Virtual Theme Park, Creation Theatre are continuing their exploration of the digital auditorium with their newest production Grimm Tales for Fragile Times and Broken People.

Before starting, we’re encouraged to light a candle and switch off the lights, which might seem a little much at first but actually turns out to be a highly effective method of creating a different, special, theatrical even, atmosphere far removed from the many Zoom meetings that make up so much of working life now. Continue reading “Review: Grimm Tales for Fragile Times and Broken People”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – Sphinx Writers Group

“You told me getting pregnant would kill me”

The Sphinx Theatre Writers Group have been developing new ideas for six months now and the penultimate session of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival allowed us to peep at the fruits of their labour. First up was Jessica Siân’s White Lead directed by Chelsea Walker (the pair reuniting after their incendiary work on Klippies last year). Circling around ideas of artistic legacy, both genetic and physical, with a healthy dose of lesbian angst and same-sex parenting thrown in for good measure, Sian’s writing was undoubtedly elevated by fearsomely committed performances from the glorious Kirsty Bushell and Karen Bryson and definitely left me wanting more.

Bunch by Catriona Kerridge, directed by Holly Race Roughan took an interesting route into the world of its mystery, first up contrasting the nature of public and private grief through the all-too-real loss suffered by two young women and the almost manic behaviour of a professional mourner, relishing the shared emotions released by high profile deaths be it Princess Di or the victims of the Soham murders. Bunch took a little while to get going for me but once it did, delivering a hell of a twist, I was again hungry for a continuation. Sara Huxley, Natasha Rickman and Miranda Bell starred in that one. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – Sphinx Writers Group”

Review: Joan of Arc, New Diorama

“You can’t slaughter what you cannot kill”

In amongst everything else that the Faction do, they’re also steadily working their way through Friedrich Schiller’s plays with the aim of staging the complete canon of his work. I’ve seen them take on Mary StuartFiesco and The Robbers in recent years but their 2015 rep season features Joan of Arc, a free adaptation of The Maid of Orleans which was one of his most frequently performed plays during his lifetime. Its fiercely militaristic tone speaks to its popularity back then but the Faction, playing very much to their strengths in this thrilling and thoughtful version, make a sterling case for its pertinence today.

The play tells its own variation on Joan’s life – one could hardly argue it is historically inaccurate – which repositions La Pucelle as a defiantly active warrior in the Dauphin’s forces as the French Crown struggles against the combined forces of the Duke of Burgundy and Henry VI of England. That she was a peasant girl who received religious visions only added to her allure when her talismanic presence proved decisive in turning the military tide but the natural suspicion of anything different, combined with Joan’s internal dilemmas about the validity of her spirituality, allows the seeds to be sown for her downfall (even if it plays out in an unexpected manner). Continue reading “Review: Joan of Arc, New Diorama”

Review: The Talented Mr Ripley, New Diorama

“Do you like our new refrigerator?”

For an ensemble company that is so focused on, well, the ensemble, The Talented Mr Ripley seems a curious choice for The Faction to include in their 2015 rep season. Patricia Highsmith’s tale of homoerotic obsession, impersonation, murder and swanky new fridges features a tour-de-force performance from Christopher Hughes as Tom Ripley at its heart but in the final analysis, it doesn’t always feel like a show that really plays to the strengths and artistic potential of this group of actors and creatives.

Part of the issue seems to flow from the literalness of Mark Leipacher’s adaptation which runs at nearly three hours with the interval coming at the first hour mark. As you can imagine it thus retains much of the integrity, and detail, of Highsmith’s novel but it also consequently lacks theatricality. So many key story points are endlessly repeated – the day trips where Ripley gets ever closer to the luminous DIckie Greenleaf, the highly symbolic luggage that he carries with him, the various policemen who chase him through Italy – to little cumulative impact. Continue reading “Review: The Talented Mr Ripley, New Diorama”

Review: Romeo and Juliet, New Diorama

“What sadness lengthens Romeo’s hours?”

The Faction return to the New Diorama for their now customary annual repertory season, having seriously shaken up their line-up for the first time – just two core ensemble members remaining along with directors Mark Leipacher and Rachel Valentine Smith. What remains though is an equally serious streak of inventiveness that marks them as one of the more adventurous and exciting theatre companies out there. And it is that sense of innovation that sustains their fresh and spiky Romeo and Juliet which clocks in at a healthy three hours and fifteen minutes.

It may seem like a strange combination – such fidelity to the fullness of the text yet such exploratory theatre-making as led by Valentine Smith – but it provides some lovely moments such as the setting of the Act II prologue to music which is sung beautifully by the full company. Keeping the majority of the company onstage at all times allows for some fascinating, and wordless, extratextual exploration of relationships – the sex and violence of Capulet and Lady Capulet’s tempestuous marriage is compelling to watch and the genuine affection, love even, between the Nurse and Peter makes perfect sense.

Continue reading “Review: Romeo and Juliet, New Diorama”

Review: Reptember – Triple Bill C, New Diorama

“You would like to hear that one wouldn’t you”

A second trip this week to Reptember at the New Diorama saw me take in another of The Faction’s triple bills after a strong start with programme A. For me though, programme C didn’t quite hit the same mark with its collection of solo performances. Whether connected or not, these were all new pieces for me so I wonder if that lack of familiarity played into my mindset. Additionally, it didn’t feel like there was quite as much directorial innovation at play here, previous work from The Faction having raised the bar in terms of expectation.

So with Aeschylus‘ Prometheus in a new version by Will Gore, director Rachel Valentine Smith has Faction AD Mark Leipacher up a stepladder, bound there by the dark deeds and secrets of his past but though it makes for an arresting initial image, the static nature it enforces on the piece leaves it feeling a little flat. Like with Borkmann, adapted by Leipacher from Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman, Alexander Guiney’s self-flagellating banker never managed to capture my imagination as he addresses the empty chairs that represents the family he’s let down. Continue reading “Review: Reptember – Triple Bill C, New Diorama”