Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from May, 2014

Killed - July 17th 1916 at the Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton

Killed tells the story of Billy Dean, a First World War soldier shot for cowardice on July 17th 1916. Originally performed in the eighties, this has been picked up by the Looking Glass Theatre in commemoration of the centenary of the beginning of the war.

Director James Smith has assembled his own quality group of recruits for this production. Particularly Jaz Cox as Billy Dean, who plays him with the sufficient emotion to leave the audience thinking. And thinking is the important part of this play because it gives you no answers. Was Billy a coward or not? Did what happen at the crucial moment amount to cowardice or simply confusion?

For me, I have no answer except for the fact that the shooting of cowards was wrong in any case. A terrible part of history with a tremendous lack of understanding. Some people simply do not have what it takes to go to war and kill people. That does not make them cowards.

However back to the production. Sasha Farmer and Jennifer Styles-Barker are both ex…

Dealer's Choice at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Dealer's Choice by Patrick Marber was first performed in 1995 and as Made In Northampton's latest show, the subject matter is as relevant today as it was then. Maybe more so, just perhaps the development of poker playing having moved from the downstairs or backroom establishment into the more "socially acceptable" online fraternity.


Dealer's Choice has six, all male, very distinct characters and the cast are all exemplary in their individual roles. Be it the glorious wide boy chancer Mugsy (Cary Crankson, who has the best character of the play), or the chef Sweeney (Carl Prekopp, sounding more than a touch like Del Boy) and onto Ash (Ian Burfield, the late addition to the poker table), these are all characters rounded and individual that you have probably met yourself at sometime.
The production is honest to its original time setting, with prices of public conveniences and heavy duty mobile phones the order of the day. Presumably the original script is untouched, b…

The Play That Goes Wrong at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

A Small Mind trod the boards of the Royal last week making his acting debut in front of over five hundred paying customers. Fortunately for them they were not paying to see me, but actually Mischief Theatre's sublime The Play That Goes Wrong.

A Small Mind found himself on stage at the behest of the lovely Nancy Wallinger (Annie), who was having trouble with the set. I used my stunning acting skills, honed over, oh, five seconds, as I was led on the stage, and I goofed it up as much as I could and even improvised with a door. I was most excellent. In my mind.

However, less about my forthcoming Olivier and more about this somewhat excellent comic play. I quite often find it difficult to write reviews without giving the plot away, however with this show, its giving the jokes away that's the problem. The play itself gives the plot away after all, with a clever running joke and the understudy antics.

Anyway suffice to say, The Play That Goes Wrong more than lives up to its name wit…

The Flash Festival Review 2014 held at the Looking Glass Theatre and the Royal & Derngate, Northampton

The experience of seeing eleven productions in the 2014 Flash Festival was a delight and something that I am glad I was able to make time for. The quality of the organisation, the quality of the plays and most importantly the quality of the University Of Northampton's young acting students has been something to behold.

The venues themselves have also been a delight, with the Royal & Derngate Underground space familiar to me having attended previous on a few occasions. However the Looking Glass Theatre came as quite a surprise with my first visit early morning on the first day of the festival. Two very helpful staff (ignorantly never asked your names) with tea, chocolate and more often than not coffee at the ready.

Of the eleven plays that I did manage to see, I can safely say that there was not one that I didn't enjoy. I offer my apologies that I simply was not able to see The Fig Tree, The Homeless Heart, The Weigh In and Don't Look Me In The Eye, but there sadly was j…

Flash Festival: Part Seven - Vallence Road (The Reggie Kray Story) at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

A ninety minute envelope opened up for me on the final night of the Flash Festival and it somehow luckily managed to absorb a seventy minute production of Vallence Road from Rising Persona, a solo company from Steven-James Leonard.

I had been assured by @mudbeast76 that this should be a play I should see, and he was not wrong. I had initially deselected this play at the time for a mixture of time reasons and because the subject matter sounded far from interesting to me. However sometimes it has to be said that even if in theory the material doesn't sound good to you, if it is well done you still find something interesting. Vallence Road was well done, telling the story of criminal Reggie Kray.

At seventy minutes it was the second longest play of the week and for a solo performance this was a heck of an undertaking. Mr Leonard had no trouble undertaking it. This was a real, real, quality production. Well researched and well performed, very much like watching a drama documentary.

Th…

Flash Festival: Part Six - Taciturn at Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton

Taciturn was originally to be my final show of the Flash Festival week, and if it had been, it would have left me feeling happy, sad and tremendously overwhelmed by the whole week.

Black Jack, made up of Danielle Gorman, Oliver Leonard and Matt Thompson was one of the most emotionally powerful productions of the week. Dealing with deafness in a funny, strong, interesting and riveting way, this was a little gem of a production.

Once again it was a more acting production with limited tech on display (although that SA-RAH piece was perfectly timed and elicited quite a reaction). And although some of the tech has been a joy to experience, I have much more enjoyed the nuts and bolts of what I think most of us are here for, and that is the solid performances.

Taciturn had this in spades, with three polished young performers doing just about everything right. Oliver Leonard solid and strong as the speech therapist and the provider of the laughs. While Matt Thompson played his deaf character …

Flash Festival: Part Five - No Longer Mine at Looking Glass Theatre, & Tell Me at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

No Longer Mine was my first solo performance that I was to see at the Flash festival and Lucy House's Sole House production was a very powerful and interesting performance. Subject matter was once again tough, this time mental illness and its effect on family and carers.

In a powerful performance in a very compact corner of the Looking Glass Theatre, Lucy played three distinct characters, two daughters and their mother. The older daughter, the sufferer of the illness.

This was one of the simpler tech plays as this was to be the most purely acted play I had seen to this point with none of the dynamic physical movement heavily at play elsewhere or the glossy video and sound work (no bad thing as it was a nice change to get back to just solid acting performance).

The set was simple and clear, with three distinct areas in use, a table, a sofa and the place where we began, just an area of floor, where Lucy just sits.

Through a collection of just very simple costume changes Lucy portray…

Flash Festival: Part Four - Fallen & The Show Must Go On at the Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton

With Fallen, the Flash Festival continued to have a very tough subject and with rape as the theme, maybe the most uncomfortable to date, especially for a male viewer.

The group of Eleanor Kingsley, Bethany Ryan and Indie Young were the trio of young ladies that formed Daughters Of Eve. A talented trio and one of many just female groups.

We were told at the outset that all material used was from actual testimonies and in one case transcripts from a court case in September 2013. The court case use was one of the most effective parts of the entire performance and showed the tremendous problems with rape cases in the court. Daring to highlight the fact that the defence would use the comment that to find the defendant guilty would need absolute belief of guilt and no less, as this would effect their entire future life. While the suggestion was that for the victim, the event was in the past, no future effect would occur.

The play however through statements and impressive physical movement made…

Flash Festival: Part Three - You & Me at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

Show five for me was yet another tough subject. This play concerned the murky path that relationships could take and came from Monkey Shine, a quartet of George Finney, Annie Jones, David Johns and Nicola Schopp.

The format of this play was similar to Sell By Date, tackling a tough subject in both a serious and comic way. And for the most part it was very effective. For me it did take a little to get going, with a deliberate or problematic(?) technical fault in the opening performance.

So after a sort of half and half start, the play really hit the ground running with the blind date scene between Johns and Schopp. The latter playing the crazed part and this was a very funny, date gone wrong scene. The ending however was the crunch part as the audience was made to judge that all of a sudden this was not funny once the roles were reversed. A very clever piece of work, very well performed.

The physical requirement was, it has to be said very physical. With the four performers repeating well…

Flash Festival: Part Two - Opposed at Royal & Derngate (Underground) & In Her Reflection at the Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton

After having dealt with death in the second Flash Festival show I saw (albeit in a very funny way), I needed some light relief. However there was to be no such luck with Opposed, murder was on the agenda. Coming from ViceVersa, formed of two ladies, Lindsay Davis and Reanne Lawrence. This was a stark, sometimes for myself confusing depiction of the days leading up to and leading away from a murder.

Of the first three shows, this was by far the most heavily choreographed one. Clever side by side timed movement was the order of the day and it was excellently timed throughout.

This is a difficult play to review without giving too much away, suffice to say it revolves around a murder and your understanding at the end whether it could ever be justified. Using the most complicated, and well designed set of my first three shows, it was more of a visual feast than a play for me. Relying heavily on physical movement to tell the tale. This is not to say that the acting is to be ignored, strong …

Flash Festival: Part One - Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover & Sell By Date at the Looking Glass Theatre, Northampton

May 12th 2014 saw the beginning of the Flash Festival presenting the dissertation performances for the Northampton University students and A Small Mind clasped ten tickets for as many as he could muster time for.

*
The first was Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover by Pure Industry (aka Kathryn Alice and Emily-Claire Potter). A clever piece of work using both real life and stark personal material, this little play told us quite clearly that when we look at someone, perhaps we do not see the whole picture.
The staging was simple and clever with books aplenty scattered around and used well throughout, culminating in a well presented final part where their beavering away out of sight becomes clear. During the show there are also some well choreographed scenes, depicting personal distress.

The final scene is also stark and clear with the two performers laying themselves bare with Kathryn Alice visibly suffering for her performance. Powerful and meaningful, with a strong and very true message.


I…