Tag Archives: Recommendations

Review: The Mai

16 Mar
“It’s not fair they teach us desperation so young, or if they do, they should never mention hope.”
Desperation, dejection, and disappointment seem to be the order of the day in Marina Carr’s 1995 play The Mai about a year in the life of a large Irish family full of brilliant but flawed women. Despite being a long and wordy play, with Carr displaying a flair for lyrical as well as naturalistic language, the plot is not the draw here; rather it is the characters and their inner lives that are so interesting and relatable, and the actors, without exception, skilfully bring them to life.
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Beth Sharrock as Millie (all photos by Michael J Oakes)

“I wanted my life to be so huge and heroic and pure.”
The title role of The Mai is a fantastic and exposing part for actor Beryl Nairn, which she clearly relishes and excels in, squeezing every last inch of emotion from this challenging and changeable character. The Mai’s daughter, Millie is our ‘narrator’ throughout, yet her speeches tend to be more poetic than expositional, which sometimes left the timeline of the story confused. However, Beth Sharrock (who plays Millie) shines in her myriad of metaphorical monologues and handles them sensitively and with genuine emotion, never overplayed. Millie, and her son, stand at the end of a long line of generations of wilful women who seem to have passed unfulfillment down through the ages like a dusty heirloom, and we are left wondering what her fate will be. At the top of this line is old Grandma Fraochlan, who gets all the best one-liners and is expertly played by Elizabeth Elsworth, with sparkling wit and expression. The family relationships are all nicely drawn, from that of The Mai and her husband Robert (Damian Fynes in a fine YSCP debut), to the three sisters The Mai, Connie (Helen Sant) and Beck (Jessica Murray), to the aunts Agnes (Vivienne Clare) and  Julie (an eminently watchable Sophie Buckley).
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Elizabeth Elsworth as Grandma Fraochlan

“I’m not drunk, I’m trapped!”
This sort of play is exposing for an actor and the cast have obviously been sensitively directed by Jan Kirk to bring the best of themselves to their roles, their performances also aided by Helen Taylor and Maggie Smales’ costume design and Natalie Heijm’s make-up. Despite a slow start at the preview performance, the drama soon began to fizz and, particularly in the second half, the rapport between the actors was evident as the quick wit sparked between them and the tension grew to its foreshadowed conclusion.
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Beryl Nairn as The Mai

The Mai is a fantastic example of the talent York has to offer, both on stage and off, with set, costume, sound and lighting all playing their part, and you should take the chance to see this little performed claustrophobic and distinctly Chekhovian play.
16/3/16.
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BLU – Love Arts Festival. Friargate Theatre, York, 4-5th July.

29 Jun

“I thought love was black and white.

But with you it can be red and orange and yellow and green,

and sometimes…

just sometimes…”

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I originally wrote Blu for a Script Yorkshire Script Factor heat earlier this year. The theme was, unsurprisingly, ‘Blue’ and I immediately thought of writing something to do with mental health, “blue” sometimes being used as a euphemism for mental health problems such as Depression. I don’t mention a specific issue in the play, but my own past experiences with Anxiety did have an influence on the writing.

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“It was a Saturday. That Saturday. Meeting you for the first time.”

Blu begins with an awkward meet cute at a party between a man (played by David Phillipps) and a woman (played by Emma Dubruel). They are very different people but they are intrigued by each other and, over two different time frames, we see that actually maybe they are just what each other needs at this particular time in their lives.

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“I think I noticed some kind of, lemon kind of, might be some elderflower crap. Posh bastards, everything’s from Waitrose.”

Coming to watch Blu will take the maximum of 10 minutes of your precious time and for just £5 you can also get in to watch other Love Arts performances at Friargate Theatre. On Saturday 4th July, we are on at 5pm and at 6pm you can watch Are You Taking the Mick by Conquer and, at 7pm Do you Mind? by Beardog. On Sunday 5th July, we are on at 4.30pm and at 6pm you can watch Headaches by Enso. For an extra £5 each you can also see Anonymous Bosh’s The Knot of the Heart and Hedgepig’s The Maids the same weekend!

Love Arts York festival is a festival with the simple aim of using the arts to get people to think about and talk about mental health and wellbeing. www.loveartsyork.co.uk

Blu production updates are posted on twitter, follow @birdonhead for more information.

I will also be entering a play in the Script Factor Final, also at Friargate, later in July. Tickets for both events can be booked at www.ridinglights.org.uk/friargate

Drums in the Night

18 Apr

Again, another months’ long silence!

In my last post in January I mentioned some exciting news for 2015, well that exciting news was/is that I am back in the directing chair for Drums in the Night by Bertolt Brecht, performed by York Settlement Community Players who were also behind The Stepmother that I posted so much about.

A week today we will be getting ready to ‘get in’ at Friargate Theatre, where the play will be performed from 30th April – 2nd May.

In my whistle-stop tour of Brecht on my German course at university, I studied the play – Trommeln in der Nacht in German – and it is great to be able to revisit it now and to bring it to life with talented actors and a committed production team.

The play was written when Brecht was still in his early twenties, before his theories of Epic Theatre and Verfremdung, when he was a jobbing writer just wanting to make money! He chose the topical subject of the end of the First World War and the Spartacist Uprising – an uncertain time in Germany: many Berliners starving; soldiers returning with no homes to return to; an abdicated ruler etc etc- and placed a love-story in amongst this backdrop. All humanity is inside its 18 characters – good and bad, crude and innocent, funny and tragic. I think it’s great and I hope, if you come to see it, that you will too.

Emma Dubruel (Anna) and George Stagnell (Kragler). Credit Michael J Oakes (1)

The Stepmother Blog 2: Props, Posing and Publicity

14 Feb

A quick update by way of photos. See my previous post for some more background to the production of The Stepmother, and the bottom of this post for ways to get more information…

Hunting around the York Theatre Royal costume hire, we found a very sweet case complete with a beautiful little photo of two women. I’ll probably be using this as my cigarette case (Lois is a 20 a day kinda gal), pretending that the two women are my stepdaughters. It’d be lovely to know the story behind the case and who these people were.

This is one of my costumes (without the 1920s hair), found at the West Yorkshire Playhouse costume hire. This will be Lois’ work outfit, as she is a business woman. The dress itself luckily fits very well and I love the feel of it – it’s so silky! I quite like the 1920s style. Most people will think of the ‘flapper’ style dresses, but as Lois is a married woman in her late 20s, something like this is probably more suitable! One of the things I loved about this dress is that the back looks like it is done up by hundreds of buttons which look fantastic, but luckily, and in the spirit of the quick-change, the fastenings are actually clasps which will help when I have to quickly get out of it into another ‘frock’!

Yesterday our director Maggie and some of the cast popped into Radio York to record an interview about the play – here’s Simon who plays Peter Holland and Catherine who plays Mary. Hopefully you’ll be able to listen in on Sunday 2nd March.

York Settlement Community Players present Githa Sowerby’s The Stepmother at York Theatre Royal 5th-15th March

More The Stepmother blogs can be found here

A preview can be read here

More information about the production and information on tickets can be found here

Follow YSCP on twitter and receive updates about the production here

TakeOver and beyond…

18 Jan

2014. Wow. I’m a little bit behind with this blogging business aren’t I?!

TakeOver stuff…

I realise that the last time I blogged was around week two of three of TakeOver festival. The third week came and went in October, during which I ran a Play in a Day session for 10-14 year olds based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was, in the words of one of my wonderful actors, an “absolutely tutley awesome” day!

I am very grateful to have been involved in the whole process on a Senior Management level, and proud of what the whole team achieved. To have such a hands on experience in a professional theatre (York Theatre Royal) for over a year, including the three intensive weeks which we programmed and managed ourselves, was at times exhausting and frustrating, but at others extremely exciting and an invaluable insight into how a theatre works. Beyond that, I met lots of amazing people and saw some brilliant shows, most of which would never have come to York if it wasn’t for us. Some personal highlights include the irreverent Self Service by Milk Presents, Bitch Boxer written and performed by the multi-talented Charlotte Josephine and Titus Andronicus by the all-female Smooth Faced Gentlemen, who basically came on stage and defined why I want to do theatre.

I’m sure I will have more thoughts on TakeOver as the evaluation process still continues, but I felt a little blog post to round things off at this stage would do nicely. Also it’s kind of a way to make up for not being able to attend a discussion day today.

Non TakeOver stuff…

Towards the end of TakeOver I also completed my MA in Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance, which I graduate from next week.

I also assisted for a short while on A Winter’s Tale by Common Ground, adapted and directed by two of my university tutors, which will be touring York and rural Yorkshire in the coming months. I’m looking forward to seeing how it has developed since I last saw it in its exciting early stages a few months ago.

I’ve also got more actively involved in the York Shakespeare Project, performing in their Measure for Measure in November, and becoming a committee member.

November also saw Twice Upon A Time performed in the York Theatre Royal studio by the 16+ Youth Theatre, on which I assistant directed. I love doing Youth Theatre, it never feels like work!

Finally, my first theatrical endeavour of 2014 will be taking the title role in Githa Sowerby’s The Stepmother, to be performed in March at York Theatre Royal which is hugely exciting! More about that in my next post…

TakeOver June Week

28 May

As predicted TakeOver week one was exciting, successful and very very busy – hence how and why the preview and review section of this blog got left by the wayside.. so sorry..

But here’s the exciting news: week 2 of TakeOver 2013 is coming to York Theatre Royal next week! Yes, NEXT WEEK – 4th-8th June.

So, here’s what we’ve got planned…

Running from Thursday until 15th June – The Mercy Seat : Neil LaBute’s play following the aftermath of a national tragedy and how it affects two lovers and their life choices, asking the question, what would you do if you had the chance to start over? A gripping and powerful two-hander drama, I really recommend this!

Tuesday – Out of the Blue: a-capella like you’ve never seen it before. Or maybe you have, seeing as they were on Britain’s Got Talent! If you book your ticket in person or on the phone, ask for a free workshop ticket and the boys will teach you one of their songs and dance routines which you can perform with them in the evening show!

Wednesday- The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs : ever thought of the legality and morality behind Apple? This is a one man show which is bound to be thought provoking and leave you with questions.

Thursday- The Trench : a production filled with live music, puppetry, film and stunning physical performances, The Trench is set in World War One. watch a trailer here.

Friday- Chapel Street and Bitch Boxer : a double bill of stunning new writing, so more drama for your money. Chapel Street and Bitch Boxer have been touring the country and receiving some great reviews. Chapel Street follows Kirsty and Joe during one night in London and Bitch Boxer follows Chloe as she trains as a female boxer – come along and see them both in one night, and for only £8 for students.

Saturday – Enormous Turnip and Comedy Night : Turnip is an inventive and charming retelling of the traditional children’s tale and for the adults, we have another comedy night, featuring not one, not two but five hilarious stand-ups who will have you rolling in the aisles!

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As ever, tweet us on @ytrtakeover13 like us on our facebook page visit the TakeOver website and book tickets at York Theatre Royal.

Hope to see you around next week!

Review: Bouncers bounces back

9 Sep
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Cast from L to R – William Ilkley, Don Gilet, Ian Reddington, Ace Bhatti (photo from http://www.bouncersonstage.com)

John Godber’s Bouncers, which has been frequently produced since its first performance in 1977, has been given a shake-up in this new version for Watershed Productions directed by the esteemed playwright himself. The play is set in and around a nightclub where Judd (William Ilkley), Les (Don Gilet), Lucky Eric (Ian Reddington) and Ralph (Ace Bhatti) work as doormen. The four actors also play a group of girls celebrating their friend’s 21st birthday and a group of rowdy lads out on the pull.

The cast effortlessly switch between their very different roles and seem equally at home in each of them. I particularly enjoyed Bhatti as sexy Susie and he and Reddington have a couple of very funny scenes together highlighting that physical comedy can be just as successful as wordplay. Set and props are minimal but excellent use is made of lighting and sound to create an effective club feel and Lucky Eric’s speeches are most effective when he is placed in a spotlight. These four speeches act as a kind of social commentary breaking up the comedy and reminding the audience that the sort of behaviour these bouncers see every night is very often not funny and can actually be disturbing and demeaning.

Bouncers has been ‘remixed’ before, and Godber has clearly tried his best to make this version as up to date as possible. This was a bit hit and miss. I enjoyed the music choice, for example – the actors first appeared to Rihanna’s Where Have You Been and the group of girls tried and failed to sing along to a Wanted song- but references to ‘records’ and having the girls and guys getting ready for their nights out at a hairdressers and barbers respectively just didn’t sit right. This is a minor complaint, however, of an evening which kept the packed theatre constantly in hysterics.

Bouncers was at York Theatre Royal 5-8 September and is touring until 17th November. For details see www.bouncersonstage.com

Summer project: The York Mystery Plays

2 Jul

Now that my (first) degree is over and I have more time to be doing theatrical stuff I will hopefully be updating my blog more regularly, especially because I hope to study a Masters in Theatre in the coming academic year!

For now, my plug is the York Mystery Plays 2012 (you can follow them on twitter @yorkmystery2012 ). I’m now in rehearsals as a member of the ensemble and it’s looking spectacular, not least because the stage itself is going to be massive but also because there are so many talented people involved. The production is professional but the cast (apart from two) is made up of members of the community… but if I hadn’t had told you that, you wouldn’t have guessed!

It’s on from 2nd August – 27th August and is taking place out of doors in the Museum Gardens. Tickets can be booked through York Theatre Royal.

So if you’re sick of the Olympics already like I am, or just fancy an awesome production of a brilliant story, come along! And I can promise you that you at least will stay dry…

And if you come along when the Carpenters are performing, I can also promise some fantastic faces such as this (taken during the Waggon Mystery Plays 2010…):

Teechers

13 Feb

Hello out there!


I’ve been silent for a while, I know. Who’d have thought final year would actually be a busy time?! Anyway, I have discovered wordpress for my phone which can only end badly..

I’ve not posted for 3 whole months, they sure went fast. I hope you all had a nice Christmas and managed to see some theatre – I was at York Theatre Royal’s infamous panto!

I’ve not seen much theatre recently, mainly because I’ve been busy studying which really means that I’ve been busy directing a play for the very first time! I meant to blog about the audition/rehearsal process and may still do so but we’re quite far on with preparations now and the performance is in just over a week’s time. I’ll also blog reviews and pics.

Anyway here are the details if you would like to come along.

Teechers by John Godber
21st-25th February
Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford

Tickets are an amazing £6. It’s a really funny but also sentimental and nostalgic play and we have a great cast and a fab soundtrack. I will blog more about it soon.

Rehearsal shot

In the meantime, I’m studying Post 1960 German Drama this term and I’ve already written on Peter Weiss and Peter Handke. If you know any exciting post war German playwrights – whether or not they’re called Peter – do let me know if you think they’re worth a read.

Happy New Theatrical Year!

4 Jan

It’s 2011 which means lots of theatre for us to gobble up! I’ll be in Germany until the end of May and I promise I will update you with the shows I’ve seen so far but until then here is a small selection of some of my picks for the coming year and what will be going in my diary…

So first up, my home town theatre, York Theatre Royal who have released a really exciting programme for 2011! From April to November, the main theatre will be transformed in to a magical ‘in the round’ space which it saw this summer for its lavish Wind in the Willows and the equally beautiful Youth Theatre production of Coram Boy. The theatre looks entirely different in this state and opens up a world of possibilities for actors as well as designers. Whilst there are still Proscenium Arch type shows before this period and events in the Studio space, I would recommend seeing at least one of the productions in this configuration.

I’m especially excited about Peter Pan (29th July-3 Sept), adapted by Mike Kenny, who adapted both The Railway Children and Wind in the Willows for the theatre, and which I can almost guarantee will be a truly magical delight for all the family and no doubt also a visual spectacle. Following that, I’m definitely booking a seat for 40 Years On (23rd Sept-15th Oct) purely because it is written by Alan Bennett. Can’t really go wrong there.

Further South, in Oxford at The Oxford Playhouse where I spend a lot of my time and where I was a student rep last year there also seems to be a varied and interesting programme. I’ve got my eye on Aykbourn’s The Life of Riley (7th-12th Feb) and Polly Teale’s Bronte (24th March – 2nd April) although I’m not sure I could get back to see them.

As a Shakespeare geek I’m also looking forward to the new shows on at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, especially because of the recent transformation of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The first ‘new’ production in the space will be good old Macbeth (16th April-6th Oct) which was, incidentally, the first play I ever saw by the RSC in the old Royal Shakespeare. I’m not sure if I will go down for this, purely because I have seen the play so many times, but I’m sure it will be well worth it if I do. Although it’s not Shakespeare, one play I will definitely be seeing there this year is Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss (14th Oct-5th Nov). I’m hoping to do my dissertation on German theatre post Brecht and the opportunity to see one of the set texts in the flesh, albeit not auf Deutsch, will be foolish to miss. A play which is shocking and challenging, I think my challenge will be persuading a virgin of German theatre to come along with me! Other straight Shakespeare offerings include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (29th July-5th Nov) which I have a feeling will have a handy Oxford student coach-trip along with it… (16-25 year olds can also check out the RSC Key scheme which you can find on their website and which I will blog about soon)

Unfortunately I don’t often get the chance to see much theatre in the capital, but a long and lazy summer might lend itself to a few trips! Having followed the ‘Dorothys’ I would quite like to see The Wizard of Oz (from Feb 7th) with my favourite Dorothy, although there are many other musicals I should really catch as well. As for straight plays, I’d really like to see Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch alternate the roles of Frankenstein and his monster in Frankenstein (from Feb 5th) at the Olivier/National Theatre after all I really ought to see something there at some point. The downside, or perhaps the upside?, of this of course is that if you want to see Miller and Cumberbatch play both roles opposite each other you have to go twice! Closing on the 19th Feb is Wilde’s An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville featuring Elliot Cowan who should be seen around more in my opinion! I’m off to educate myself in London theatre happenings now seeing as I clearly do not know enough. Please post your tips here.

Happy Theatre-going!!