Birmingham Fest continues throughout the city, as Taking Chances presented their contribution, The Morning After, at Blue Orange Theatre last night. The versatile and intimate space was ideal for this piece, written by Darren Haywood (also the director/organiser of Birmingham Fest).
Simple staging was used to evoke a 'heavy night before' and we were witnessing the unravelling of the morning after. The opening scene was superb, as Sam (played by Jacob Wright) and Niamh (played by Gabrielle Killick) wake up next to each other with no clue as to what has happened. Killick delivers a hilarious monologue about her weird Belgian dream, featuring Simon Cowell and Mary Berry, leaving the audience in fits of laughter. You are immediately immersed in her character.
Then there’s a twist, there is another woman in the bathroom. Echo has been sleeping in the bath and she seems to be the only person that knows what happened the night before. As the story is unpicked, hilarity ensues as we discover Niamh is a jilted bride, Echo is an escort and Sam is still confused. Kimesha Campbell’s Echo is a joy to watch. She is blunt, feisty and funny. Jacob Wright is a graduate of Birmingham School of Acting and he was excellent as Sam, matched with Gabrielle Killick’s emotionally unstable Niamh, there was so much to enjoy about this show.
The script was witty, with a great use of observational comedy and it is brilliant that Birmingham Fest is providing a platform to not only showcase this fantastic new work, but what a great opportunity for actors as well. This really was a show that kept the audience laughing and I really hope it goes on to be performed elsewhere.
Find Taking Chances on Facebook here.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo and a team of dancers bring a piece of Africa to the heart of Birmingham in this Zulu Ballet.
Apparently, Inala means abundance of Goodwill in Zulu, and that is exactly what sweeps over the audience from the stage.
The stage is empty except for a row of musicians at the back. Looming over everything is the backcloth that evokes the feeling of the wide open sky of Africa, the lighting creating dramatic mood changes for each number.
Inala isn’t a ballet in the traditional sense, while the dances and songs are lyrical there isn’t a story being told.
There is a purpose for each routine, each one has it’s own feel and style which gives you enough information to sit back and enjoy the scene before you. The programme encourages you to decide what it means based on what you think it means.
Each dancer is as important as the next, performing moves which look free and instinctive, born of the beat, yet strong and technically perfect. The duets leave you wide-eyed and the group numbers in awe. This is a style of dance that fits perfectly with the music. It flows but with a beat that taps into something long forgotten.
Even Ladysmith Black Mambazo move, they are rarely still, using repeated motifs to emphasise the songs. Their voices add a further dimension, sometimes haunting, sometimes joyful, always beautiful. They bring drama and also humour.
This is a powerful and striking performance that transports you for a while to a beautiful place. Simply stunning.
This production of Waiting For Garbo by The Company of Legendary Children, is part of the Birmingham Fest, which is now in its third year.
Set in New York in the 1990’s the story is of three teenagers from different backgrounds. They are waiting for Greta Garbo to walk by, but is that the real reason they are there? In a short play (around 40 minutes) there are a number of difficult issues touched upon, mental health problems, homosexuality both open and hidden, bereavement and prostitution.
There is a dark and gritty feel to the story as Artie slowly falls apart as he plans his next move with the aid of copious cigarettes. Freddie tries to help his friend as best he can while the third friend Tony seems to be in his own world.
Antonio Khela plays the on the edge, slightly flamboyant Artie. The portrayal of brash New Yorker falling apart is utterly convincing. The writer of the piece, James Piercy, also stars as Freddie who seems reluctant to confess his real feelings, his torment is tangible. Nicholas Tuck’s Tony is a
sensitive soul who cares deeply for his mum, he has hidden depths. Finally Charlotte (Emma Fall) appears and throws a little light on the situation. Her words of wisdom on life move the play to its conclusion.
A play like this leaves you with more questions than it answers, it is left to you to imagine what happens to the boys and what has gone before. It is good not to have everything handed to you on a plate. This is a strong one act play that leaves you thinking.
The Crescent Theatre has always been a successful platform for encouraging the work of new and upcoming playwrights and companies and it was with great interest that I settled down to discover the journey contained within Nicholas Tuck's The Grandmother.
With the application of repetitive opening Christmas music, we are left in no doubt as to what time of year the play is set and, as the stage lights come up, we see a figure reclining in a tin bath, amidst minimal staging to evoke the alternative setting of what is intended to be a family bathroom.
We are quickly introduced to The Father and The Mother, played by Simon Chinery and Sue Elise. The exchanges between them are witty and fast-paced, made all the more comical by the fact that all Father wants is to finish his bath in peace. The connection between them is excellent and both succeed in drawing us head-first into their family life with skill. They are soon joined by The Son, a role undertaken by Nicholas Tuck himself. The merits and disadvantages of the director and playwright casting themselves in a main role vary greatly but it has to be said that Tuck plays the role quite convincingly, helping the other characters to build up the picture of awfulness that is the eponymous Grandmother.
There then follows a monologue by The Grandmother herself, played by Wanda Raven. Although much care has been taken in terms of costume and there is a nice element of traditional "OAP storytelling" evident in the script, somehow this Grandma does not live up to her previous reputation as the cause of all the irritation from the previous scene and I was left wondering why it was that she was so hated by the rest of her family.
After a quick scene change, we are then shown the family Christmas dinner table (with the addition of a girlfriend character Marie, played with conviction by Emma Doran). But, inexplicably, a year has passed and feelings have suddenly changed between the members of the family. The play then draws to a rather abrupt and unexplained conclusion which leaves the audience somewhat confused and unsure as to how we are supposed to respond.
It is a gigantic feat to create a detailed domestic tragicomedy in the space of half an hour and Nicholas Tuck has made a valiant step in that direction. However, such a story does need an ending and we are sadly not provided with one. This said, there are some excellent exchanges between the characters in the first scene and some brilliant one liners delivered deftly by the cast as the tension builds.
What I like the most about Union Theatre is the variety of productions they take on, they don't play it safe or stick to easier scripts, they challenge their members and with a dedicated creative team everyone appears to embrace the challenges and the final product shines.
This evening the Solihull-based company are performing Shakespeare's pastoral comedy As You Like It.
The show starts very traditionally with music and dancing as the audience are acquainted with the entire cast. Faces glow with enthusiasm and delight, there is a magic in the air this opening night. Warm, attractive costumes flatter the eye, with decadent crushed velvet and exquisite top hats decorated with sheer ribbon and feathers.
The company have the ability to bring Shakespeare's words to life on the stage and though many performers have taken on multiple roles, not one word falls out of place. Scenes flow smoothly, assisted by the talented musicians who form the small band. With music composed, adapted and arranged by John Gough the sounds created are uplifting and full of charm.
The setting of the United Reformed Church has been transformed into a theatre, with a backdrop of dark trees with red leaves that resemble jagged hearts. The production, Directed by Mark Firmstone, makes full use of the venue, using aisles for entrances and exits, bringing the audience closer to the action.
Performers of all ages confidently tread the boards and bring their own personalities to the stage. Marcus Queenborough is wickedly camp and quirky in style, conveying 4 roles throughout. The young James Williams (who plays Dennis) delivers his lines with perfect articulation, and Lucy Williams (Celia) has great stage presence, emitting the most wonderful energy.
Special mention should be given to Sian Heath who plays a terrifying and ruthless Duchess Fredericka. The young and charming Orlando (played by Alex Barber) is well matched by Victoria Ellery-Jones' feisty and determined Rosalind who uses the entirety of her being to express her emotion. Donning male apparel in fear of her safety it is the scenes with Rosalind and Celia that drive the tale of misplaced love, jealousy, deceit and redemption.
For a thoroughly enjoyable evening out do not miss Union Theatre's As You Like It, running until Sat 18 July at Solihull United Reformed Church. Daily performances are at 7:30pm and tickets are available on the door: £10/£9.
I was lucky enough to be able to see Theatre1's performance of Songs For A New World last night at The Gatehouse in Stafford. A cast of eight, accompanied by a sensational four-piece band, skilfully performed this inspiring musical written by Tony-Award-winning Jason Robert Brown. The performance took place in the Gatehouse's black-box (named The Met) studio; a small and intimate space which worked perfectly for this show.
Songs For A New World is a stunning musical compilation of Jason Robert Brown's compositions that all follow different individual stories based around the theme of the show's title. Journeys into motherhood, reconciled and broken relationships, money troubles and dreams of the future are some of the subjects explored through song.
The intricacy of the material was met with great accomplishment from the performers and the band. Each performer showed individual strength and diversity through the differing musical numbers, but, as an ensemble, they were absolutely flawless. Emily Di-Silvestro gave a breath-taking performance of The Flagmaker, which left me mesmerised. She is nothing short of West End quality. Emma Sanders and Becky Lyle tackled the more comedic numbers (Surabaya-Santa and Just One Step) with ease and totally engaged the audience. The male cast, in particular Tom Gosling, delivered the material with conviction and beautiful vocal technique.
Whether singing solo or as an ensemble, this group of young adults are exceptionally good at what they do. They also have great chemistry on stage, which surfaced especially in Gosling's duet with choreographer and performer, Hannah Morris.
I highly commend director David Reynolds on his presentation of this musical. The innovative treatment of the space, combined with the symbolic use of props and projections, created an intriguing visual performance that would hold its integrity if transferred to any black-box studio. Whilst the show was very contemporary in its presentation, the relationship between audience and cast was very humble and could be appreciated by all. The lighting used was complimentary, yet not overbearing and the balance of sound was exceptional.
I will be shouting from the rooftops to tell people about this show and I really hope it generates the audience it deserves. I will most definitely be keeping a close eye on Theatre1's upcoming productions. Tickets are still on sale for Songs For A New World, which runs until Saturday 18 July. Be sure not to miss it.
Tickets available by clicking here.
Based between Sutton and Lichfield, Tudor Musical Comedy Society are well established with 60+ members. This evening they are performing their annual concert, this year's theme is songs from well known musicals and the show is titled very simply: Songs We Like to Sing!
A twist on a classic story is always popular, so it was refreshing to see Year 10 Acting students at BOA take on Sophocles’ Antigone, revitalising it in the form of A Greek Chorus Line. Antigone is only one of a few classic plays to have a female in the leading role and Lucy Foley took this challenge on confidently. With a captivating stage presence, she delivered every line with conviction and passion.
The plot itself is a tragic one, as Antigone strives to bury her deceased brother, who is looked upon as a traitor. The law states that anyone who is seen to mourn a traitor’s death will be punished by death. Upon attempting to bury her brother she is taken before Creon who locks her up in a tomb.
Luke Maltby assuredly took on the role of Creon, handling the maturity of his character well. His son, Haimon, was excellently played by George David, who turns against his father when he learns of Antigone's punishment. David's characterisation was superb, capturing the fiery temper of Haimon, which was matched well with Maltby’s dour exterior. A special mention also to Oliver Ferguson, who sprinkled the intense performance with touches of humour in his chorus role.
The entire chorus delivered engaging performances and it was clear much hard work had been put into this show. For this particular interpretation, the chorus sections were re-written by the company to reflect the young people in the show and this was executed well by the cast and admirably directed by Tom Saunders (Senior Youth Theatre Director at Birmingham Repertory Theatre). Through the help of sound and lighting, the sparse space was used effectively and atmospherically, making for a powerful production.
A Greek Chorus Line plays at The Old Rep Theatre until Thursday 9 July. For more information and to book tickets click here.
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