The Solid Life of Sugar Water, Pleasance Dome

Solid Life of Sugar Water

The Solid Life of Sugar Water is a story about a couple who meet at the Post Office. It is written by Jack Thorne. Best of all, the chemistry between Phil (Arthur Hughes) and Alice (Genevive Barr) radiates with exuberance. Amit Sharma’s production is a playful and passionate piece of work that is full of pathos. Both actors lend their roles a sound emotional complexity, sidelining any tedious moral response to the social and sexual issues at the heart of this play.

Jack Thorne’s clever writing fires on all cylinders. Is the ultimate goal to root around in the dark side of passion?

The Solid Life of Sugar Water is devastatingly emotional without crossing the line of sentimentality. There is a strong sense of treading the line of ?TOO MUCH INFORMATION?, particularly when the couple describe in detail what makes their juices flow.

The duo’s commitment to storytelling give this intimate performance real magic. Graeae are a mixed ability company concerned with real people in the real world. The themes of sexual identity and candid love and loss separate it from more wholesome, reassuring plays.

This is not a story about disability, but about a relationship that fragments as a result of a trauma.

Lily Arnonld’s set is excellent, a full size bed lining the back of the set and resonated as an extension of the intimacy between the pair. What struck me most was the raucous allure of the characters and the dynamic between them. The real joy comes during the miscommunication (one is deaf and one has a physical disability) between the pair and the unflinching details that are not spared on us, the audience.

It’s probably worth mentioning Thorne is currently working on the Harry Potter play opening at the Palace Theatre next summer.

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887, Edinburgh International Conference Centred

Edinburgh International Festival

887 /Ex Machina

887 is written, designed, directed and performed by Robert Lepage. Lepage is often described as a visionary director and playwright; It would seem he is one of theatre’s best people. Does he occupy that space by accident? Does he hell. Nothing about this performance is left to chance.

This was the first show I had ever seen of his… It’s not perfect but its high points are great enough to compensate for odd sequencing and occasional framing misfires. His examination of memory gleans magical childhood memories, the unconscious mind and the importance of remembering. The inventive set transforms from the childhood address at 887 Murray Avenue in Quebec City, to a taxi and then a diner, and these transitions are infused with finesse and an accomplished cinematic fluency. There is some seriously skilled execution of technology that compliment the remarkable storytelling.

But the personal tale blends life story and critical commentary, while questioning identity. Generally, men have not been able to talk about emotional histories of their relationships with their fathers (or lack of), Lepage breaks open some of these silences. His father had served in the navy and later in life as a taxi driver working all hours to provide for his family. Lepage reconstructs and presents a childhood that seems to summarise an emotional structure in his life- a framework of loss, grief and the quest for greater closeness to his father. What is now needed is for more men to start excavating, in public, the sediment layers of their own history. It is a story of displacement as a way of understanding male life crisis – you get the sense that this part lecture and part autobiographical performance could galvanise a radical disjuncture in helping some men to deepen their conscious critical reflection.

At two hours and fifteen minutes (no interval) the piece loses momentum. That’s a frustration; it is not a performance-destroying problem. It’s a stripping away of the onion-skin layers of memory and the difficulties in this approach lie in the assumption that there is a stable, coherent identity, or a kernel of ‘I’-ness just waiting to be uncovered.

A Doll's House

A Doll’s House

Over a prismatic theme, Lepage determinedly equates memory with autobiography, political history, ego and ritual and achieves a delicate balance between frivolity and spiritual gravity. It’s a spectacular performance. At times witty, while at other times, reflective, thoughtful and quite tragic. Are men born manly? This is a detailed investigation of gendered identity using Lepage’s personal history to explore specific themes of identity and manliness. In doing so he offers some positive challenges to the psychological and social forces active in all of our development. There is lots to be excited about here.

Problems with this review

1. Where are the jokes? There could at least be a GIF.

2. Too bogged down in ‘grand’ theories about masculinity.

3. Some of the punctuation is probably slightly wrong

4. You’re likely to be better off with Matt Trueman’ review for WhatsOnStage or Lyn Gardner in The Guardian, both of which deal with the points above and, undeniably, do so with considerable aptitude.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015 – vlogs

Vlogs

  1.  Day 1 at Edinburgh Festival with journalist Mark Fisher (The Guardian)
  2. With Jake Orr ( A Younger Theatre)

3.  I caught up with Amit Lahav (Gecko Theatre Company) in a bar at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, who’s show Institute is playing The Pleasance.

4.  Edinburgh Fringe Festival Vlog featuring Kirsty Housely, Co-director of The Encounter (Complicite)

5.  Featuring Lyn Gardner

6.  I caught up with Charlie and Louis from Circus company Barely Methodical Troupe who are presenting Bromance at the Circus

7.  Chit chat with Associate Director of Proteus Theatre company at Ed Fringe.

8.  Rather randomly, I bumped into Britain’s Got Talent winner Susan Boyle at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015.

The Encounter, Edinburgh International Conference Centre

The Encounter

The Encounter

A new Complicite show is always a special, unique thing. This one is a gift handed to us by the theatre gods. Simon McBurney’s latest one-man show for Complicite tells the tale of Loren McIntyre (a photojournalist) and is set in an Amazonian land that marries jungle life with the twenty first century to startling effect.

This is a must-see and must-hear two hour show that adds up to landmark theatre. McBurney takes us on a metaphysical roller coaster, one that we can never be certain we are going to get off.

The Encounter

The Encounter

The stage is mostly bare with the exception of water bottles, a table, a hammer and a packet of crisps. This bold production is executed with the world class showmanship that one would come to expect with Complicite. The technology is comprised of state of the art 3D headphones that sets a new benchmark for immersive theatre.

The most striking moment comes when the two disparate parallel tales collide and McBurney trashes the stage. His cap donned, hammer in hand, like a member of Russian punk band The Pussy Riot. It’s an infinitely majestic, inspired, deranged and delicious piece of theatre. It stirred me emotionally. The lessons we learn from one another, finding our place in the world etc.

The skill and confidence with which the team have extended the parameters of their art form are quite amazing. If he retired tomorrow this would be his victory lap.

What about the writing? Well, Mr McBurney recently told Dominic Cavendish (Telegraph) ’10 days to go and no script. It’s absolutely petrifying.’ The fear was evident and justified. He stumbled over lines and unbeknown to the audience was reliant on the autocue at the back of the EICC… This doesn’t take away from the fact that this is visual and audio poetry and a show that will find its feet to truly justified five star reviews.

I’m not going down the traditional star rating route. I’d give ‘The Encounter’ a 9/10. And I’ve had a while to reflect on it so it’s a proper 9/10 rather than the sort of 9/10 I’d give to Gecko’s ‘Institute‘, which is frankly, an 8/10 at best, and even then only on a good day.

It’s an exceptional work that lands at The Barbican in February 2016. If and when you do hear/see it make sure you tell me, because this is a two-way street, you know.

Edinburgh International Conference Centre, until 23 August.

Edinburgh (a prologue)

Three weeks ago Mark Fisher (The Guardian) told me I should go to Edinburgh. I imagine it to be like Winchester with shabbier and more intoxicated people. Thanking you in advance, Fisher!

Mr Fisher

In just 48 hours I will be taking a seat at The Underbelly to watch my first show ‘Bromance’ by BMT (Barely Methodical Troupe) *swoon* at Edinburgh Fringe Festival (The largest arts festival in the world). I will be writing two features, one for The Big Issue and Arts Professional. My schedule currently contains fifteen shows over three days. *air punch*

I’ve never been to Scotland before let alone an enormous festival(!) Here, I should probably offer some ceremonial apologies in advance. As project manager for Young Critics I have been afforded a unique insight into the minds of our countries leading critics and bloggers and hope to put some of the knowledge to good use.

Expect a flurry of blog posts because if there is one thing I’ve learnt it’s that blogs are really important. They put you in touch with your reader. And it helps if the reader is plural.

Do not despair…

I HAVE AN A-LEVEL IN MEDIA STUDIES (B)

A Level in Media Studies (PROOF)

It’s fair to say that one is quite excited about witnessing the transcendent and the downright mediocre. I will be keeping a daily blog about my experiences, appreciation and affections for what’s on display at this. I suppose a de facto account of my time will follow.

Sure, I’ve booked in for some safe bets (The Encounter, Fake it ‘Til You Make It and Institute etc) however, I’m open to unexpected treasures and have left space in my schedule to seek out those hidden gems.

There is more writing about theatre criticism than ever, which is excellent for theatre. Anyway, let the fun proliferate.

*thumbs up emoji*

Young Critics in Southern Daily Echo (05.08.15)

 

Hampshire theatre extends young writer project

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A WINCHESTER theatre is extending its industry-leading project to encourage youngsters to write about performing arts.

Source: Hampshire theatre extends young writer project