Monthly Archives: June 2017

Liverpool Fringe Festival: Hurt and The Man with No Identity – Review

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Liverpool Fringe Festival: Hurt and The Man with No Identity – Review

If you were not in the Casa, Liverpool Friday night between 7 and 10 you missed two wonderful things.  First: the best night of the Liverpool Fringe Festival.  Two: the debut shows of two of the most promising new playwrights Liverpool has right now.

The first show was Hurt by Jemma Buntin.  This groundbreaking play tells a vital daring story of extremism, isolation and radicalisation in today’s uncertain world.

Michael Moran who recently starred as Kevin Moody in ITV’s Little Boy Blue gives a heart wrenching portrayal of John, a 15 year old boy whose loneliness has led him to the world of Islamophobia and Far Right Extremism.

John is alone while the other characters are arranged in pairs, which increases the sense of his isolation.  Lee Morris and Katie Lynn play Isaac and Jenny.  Isaac is John’s best friend and tries to defend John though he doesn’t agree with his views.  Jenny is Isaac’s friend and attacks John and his views.  The three way relationship gives a roundness to the story in a beautifully subtle way.

Zeedane, played by Dimitri Dematteo, who is Muslim has moved to the town with his sister Madeeha, played by Christina Bimpson, and is joining the youth club football team John, Isaac and Jenny are a part of.  John is very upset by this and after an emotional argument leaves the youth club angry and distressed.  This begins a cycle of events that drives John further into the world of extremism and towards the path of anger and violence.  Zeedane and Madeeha’s parents are both dead and John’s father was killed while serving in the armed forces creating a tangible emotional parallel between the characters.

The final pairing are the two adults in the play, John’s mother played by Emily-Louise Lockhart and Eddie played by Louis Cashin-Harris who runs the youth club.  John’s mother is struggling with alcohol addiction making his home life difficult and Eddie tries to keep the peace by removing John from situations rather than offering him the help that he needs.  This leaves him with no mature role model to turn towards.

A loud surreal fast moving Ensemble made up of Joe Massey, Andrew Holliday, Dylan Kealy, Britani Humphries and Kenya Humphries, along with some of the primary cast, make up the last element of an environment in which John is rapidly suffocating.  He is alone in the world and there is nothing anywhere for him.  The Far Right Extremists say they will give him the chance to do his Dad justice and, most importantly, somewhere to belong.

This controversial play is a fast moving, heart wrenching tale of what it is to be young and alone in today’s world, desperate for someone to turn to and something to cling on to.

This show has been performed as part of the Liverpool Fringe Festival.  Some of the performances had some roles performed by an alternative cast.  Michael Moran, Louis Cashin-Harris, Christina Bimpson and Dimitri Damatteo appear in both casts.  The actors were all provided by AllStars Casting and the play was skillfully directed by Sylvie Gatrill.

I managed to catch up with some of the cast and the playwright after the showing.  This is the first stage performance for a lot of the cast including Michael Moran and Dimitri Dematteo.  The cast are all very mature and showed great insight into the issues dealt with in the play and the motivations of the characters.  There was a lot of support for events like the Liverpool Fringe Festival and its ability to promote theatre within the local community and give people within the arts scene the opportunity to network with other local artists.  They feel it is very important to produce and perform controversial theatre as it raises awareness of issues.  Michael Moran said that people are aware of things happening but don’t understand all of the issues involved.  He feels the play will help people to understand hate and presenting the issues as a story paints a full picture of what is happening.  The play was particularly important to Dimitri Dametteo who wanted to play his role after experiencing racial bullying growing up.  He loves the play and feels the message if very important.  He says that doing the play has been an education for the whole cast and changed them all.  Christina Bimpson really appreciated the parallels of parental loss between Madeeha and Zeedane, and John and liked the contrast of Madeeha and Zeedane having religion to turn to whereas John had nothing leading him to turn to extremism.

Speaking to Jemma Buntin, the playwright I learned that this performance was a shortened version of her full play.  She is hoping to find the right venue to perform the full show in and would also be interested in adapting the play for screen and also going into schools with the play as a Theatre in Education with associated workshop activities.  The issues in the play are very important to her and related to her work in Prevent based projects.  She thinks it is important to raise awareness as people talk about the situation behind closed doors but not often enough in public which leads to the isolation that people are feeling.  This stops effective intervention happening quickly enough when radicalisation is taking place.  She is very proud of the whole cast and what they have achieved and has great hope for the future.

Hurt will be reperformed on 29 June at 8:00pm.

IdentityThe second show was the last ever showing of The Man with No Identity by Christopher Woodward which I reviewed after its debut showing in May.  Seeing it again did not lessen its impact and Bob Towers’ masterful portrayal of Edgar J Harris has evolved to become more provocative, more daring and more acerbic than ever.  It is a loss to Liverpool theatre and the world of theatre as a whole that Edgar J Harris will never smile sardonically at his Newton’s cradle again.

Both Christopher Woodward and Jemma Buntin have long exciting careers to look forward to and it has been a privilege to witness the beginning of both.

Copyright, D M Day, 2017

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Zoo Story – Review

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Zoo Story – Review

On Tuesday night I saw Edward Albee’s Zoo Story brought to life by Meerkat Productions as part of the Liverpool Fringe Festival.

A simple set consisting only of a park bench and some grass brought a secluded corner of Central Park into the theatre at the Casa.  Peter and Jerry muse about life, love and loss in what appears to be a friendly conversation but the different levels of the actors, Peter sitting, Jerry standing, subtly showed that Jerry had power in the situation.  The performance became increasingly uncomfortable while Jerry talked about wrestling with a black dog, a common metaphor for depression, and it seemed that Peter had become some form of hostage while Jerry’s stories rapidly became darker and more surreal.  When Jerry sits down next to Peter it seems that the tension is resolving and the sunny Sunday afternoon will end peacefully, but what happens at the zoo will not stay at the zoo.

What begins a simple stroll through the park quickly spirals into a horrifying climax that leaves the audience open mouthed and silent.  Masterfully performed by Stephen O’Toole and David Crosby Zoo Story is the captivating story of life in the urban zoo of the big city, the cages we put ourselves in and what can happen when we break down those bars.

Copyright, D M Day, 2017

Franca Rame/Dario Fo Monologues: Review

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Franca Rame/Dario Fo Monologues: Review

Two actresses, two monologues, two stories, two outcomes, one struggle.

Last night Maggi Green and Mikyla Jane Durkan of Burjesta Theatre, Liverpool performed two very different monologues on the theme of the struggle of women in society.  Grotesque comedies from Italian dramatists Dario Fo and Franca Rame Rise and Shine and A Woman Alone invite you into the personal lives of two women: both obedient to their husbands, both comforting babies and both so tired and sick of everything.

Rise and Shine was skillfully performed by Maggie Green.  A stressed out mother wakes up from one nightmare straight into another one.  Relieved to find her fingers still on her hands, those hands become full as soon as her feet touch the floor.  The baby in one hand, her handbag in another and the key, where is the key?  Squeezing her way around imaginary furniture, with very few props and an invisible baby, keeping up the mime of struggling to search the small cramped house for keys while narrating her life, her husband’s life and talking to baby was done beautifully.  We never see the husband but the change in stance and expression when his dialogue was recited brought to life the domestic struggles this woman is going through.  The clock is ticking, the panic is growing, no-one is coming to help, baby’s filled his nappy, again, and the key is nowhere to be found.  The panic in this claustrophobic house with nothing in the right place was tangible.

The atmosphere grew thicker again during Mikyla Jane Durkan’s accomplished portrayal of A Woman Alone.  The stage now filled with props (this lady’s husband buys her everything) a wife has been locked up in her flat after indulging in an affair with her young Italian teacher.  She is caring for her brother-in-law, who is in a (almost) full body cast in another room with just one hand and that free for groping around and her baby who is crying of often.  Music plays in every room to stop her feeling alone, the phone constantly rings – nuisance calls, checks up from her husband and begging from her young lover – and then the banging on the door starts.  There’s so much noise!  What can you do when all you want is a quiet conversation with the new neighbour?  You need to stay calm.  Very very calm.  Bright welcoming smiles and laughter gave way to wide eyed desperation dissolving into an eerie sense of calm as a woman alone welcomed everyone back into the house and tried to regain control.

Where are the keys?  The men have them.

Burjesta Theatre are a fringe theatre company based at The Casa, Hope Street, Liverpool.  Further information can be found on their Facebook page.

Copyright, D M Day, 2017

Two Thousand Yard Stare: Improv – Review

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Two Thousand Yard Stare: Improv – Review

Improv can be a dangerous thing, especially when the act is relying entirely on audience participation.  But on Monday night two man act Two Thousand Yard Stare along with guest performers Poops and Butt invited the audience to do their worst and provided an hour of completely unscripted dark surreal comedy while managing to avoid their namesake blank stare at nowhere.

The first half an hour was dedicated to the audience suggestion of “barber shop”.  Without a pair of clippers or a razor in sight a creepy barber shop with no escape was created.  The two actors obviously know each other well and know where each other’s minds are going and managed to create characters dealing with similar issues of loneliness and failure in very different ways.

The second half was dedicated to the games of Poops and Butt.  Regular audience participation was integral to this half of the show.  They started with a prison scene, taking it in turns to push the scene forward when on stage audience volunteers shouted switch.  This was followed by a garden scene where a couple preparing for the local fair insulted each other with suggestions from the audience before justifying the insults in increasingly bizarre ways.  They then created “shit” analogies, taking a list of random objects from the audience and substituting “box of chocolates” in “Life is like a box of chocolates” to create meaningful observations on the nature of life.  Finally a divorce scene played out, the estranged husband having to guess what he did to break up the marriage, what his wife wanted and who she was leaving him for.  Loud and proud with memorable lines such as “Yes I am a maggot brain because my brain cells are constantly regenerating and renewing” and “Life is like a giraffe, sooner or later you’re gonna get spots so work it“, the relationship between the actors was natural and close, their in sync nature enhancing their quick wit.

I believe both acts are relatively new and they have definite potential to make a mark on improvised theatre.  They also brought back a lot of fond memories of acting class and acting off the cuff.  My own contribution to the shit analogies: “Life is like the moon, you live it to the full then it disappears“.

Further information can be found on Two Thousand Yard Stare: Improv’s Facebook page.

Copyright, D M Day, 2017

Against all Odds

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Against all Odds

This is a flash fiction based on an exercise in writing group where we wrote stories based on song titles.  I chose a song I actually don’t like very much, just because I think the title transfers over to creating a story well!

Just a word of warning, the story contains content that some people may find distressing.

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Against all Odds

Early menopause. The words had echoed in her head every day since they’d been said. She’d been 32 years old. They’d been trying for a baby for six long unsuccessful years. Early menopause were the words that shattered the last of her splintered spirit. She gave up then. Curled under the blankets naked and shivering she had nothing left in her to produce tears. He couldn’t let it go. There were still options. They could still try. He stroked her hair trying to reach her but she was gone. Robotically she began injecting herself daily. They were still trying. The injections made her sick. Every morning kneeling on the bathroom floor. For years she had longed to be sick every morning. It worked. The doctor’s smile was wide when he told them. It worked. Two months later the same doctor held her hand after the miscarriage. He was so sorry. There are still options. You can still try. She gave up hope. There are still options. We can still try. Her husband’s hand felt strong in hers. Tears were streaming from her tired eyes. The doctor said it was a boy and placed her slick crying baby on her chest. It worked. She was 34 years old. They’d been trying for a baby for eight long years but it worked. It worked.

Copyright D M Day, 2017