THEATRE REVIEW: Mercury Fur – Hull

It’s been 5 days since I watched Philip Ridley’s Mercury Fur at the Lowgate Centre in Hull and I think my sleeping pattern has only just returned back to normal after the brutal, gut-wrenching production.

Jerome Whittingham (@photomoments)
Jerome Whittingham (@photomoments)

Set in the (scarily) near future, the site-specific play immerses us in a broken and disgusting society, a place which makes you feel ashamed to be part of the human-race. Britain is ruled by gangs, no where is safe; even hospitals and supermarkets. An infestation of hallucinogenic butterflies swarms the country, the population fixate on these new creatures. They become the new craze, however, like any drug, cause devastating side-effects.

“Step over the dead dog and turn right” are the instructions you are given as you enter the building, involving the audience member from the moment they walk in. The toilets are littered with beer bottles, the bar is a dingy side room and the performance room is covered in graffiti, litter and abandoned furniture. The audience are sat centimetres away from the performers and there is a real sense of “we’re all in this together”; leaving you feeling both appalled and helpless at the end of the play.

Jerome Whittingham (@photomoments)
Jerome Whittingham (@photomoments)

The young cast of Mercury fur, directed by the talented Paul Smith, is what made Middle Child’s production outstanding, as well as the cleverly designed set and eerie music and lighting.

The play follows the story of brothers: Elliot (Joshua Mayes Cooper) and Darren (Laurie Jamieson) who are doing all they can to survive in the sadistic world they live in. Their forceful leader Spinx (Edward Cole) calls the shots, organising a very disturbing party for a wealthy city boy (James Stayner) with an unforgivable fantasy he wishes to fulfil.
Cooper and Jamieson deserve a special mention for their electrifying performance, making it a very honest and truthful spectacle.

This is a play like no other I have seen and I would urge everyone to see this production. You will question our society, values, culture and beliefs; is the image which the play portrayed too similar to the image of our society?

*****

Mercury Fur, The Lowgate Centre – 14th-24th October 2015
http://www.middlechildtheatre.co.uk/

East is East (Tour) – Review

East is EastFollowing its successful 3 month stint on the West End as part of Trafalgar Transformed (a season of politically and socially-charged theatre) East is East, directed by Sam Yates, is now touring the UK, with the Grand Opera House York being it’s 3rd stop of the 8 venue tour.

Ayub Khan Din’s semi-bigographical, critically acclaimed East is East, most famously known for the comedy-drama film adaptation, tells the story of Pakistani chip shop owner “George Khan” and his family. The story demonstrates the struggles and clashes between a multi-cultural family growing up in Salford.

Set in the 70’s, head of the household Mr Khan, performed by Simon Nagra, struggles to control his British wife and their children, under his strict, very traditional Pakistani beliefs. George and Ella’s seven children all have clashing views regarding their culture; to which their stern and sometimes abusive father misinterprets as disrespectful to him and his Muslim religion, believing that he is the laughing stock of his community!

Pauline McLynn famously known and loved as Mrs Doyle in sitcom Father Ted plays Mr Khan’s strong and witty wife, who obviously adores her husband but disagrees with his narrow-mindedness and bullying ways. McLynn and on-stage sister Auntie Annie played by Sally Bankes, make a truly hilarious duo and will have you crying with laughter with their sarcastic comments.

Although the Khan’s have seven children, only six are present in the play, Mr Khan announces that Nadir, their eldest son, is dead to him, after running away just before going through with an arranged marriage; oh the shame this brought to Mr Khan! The other six children (5 sons and 1 daughter) mostly mock their father and his ways, yet are truly terrified in his presence.
Adam Karim as Sajid, the youngest son, hides from the drama of their unusual family under his large parka; Karim does a remarkably good job of maintaining his twitch throughout the play and very impressively is able to put on a very truthful and believeable performance beneath his hood.

Although times have now changed, cultures have not and this play not only beautifully portrays the difficulties of growing up in a multi-cultural family but the hardships of family life in general. There are elements in this play which everyone can relate to, thanks to the dynamic, energetic and passionate performance the cast provides the audience with.

Director Sam Yates is definitely one to watch in the theatre world; his interpretation of the play is mind-stimulating and poignant, yet belly-achingly funny. Definitely a production worth seeing.

*****

Remaining tour dates & venues:

  • THEATRE ROYAL, GLASGOW  10 – 15 AUGUST 
  • ALHAMBRA THEATRE, BRADFORD 31 AUGUST – 5 SEPTEMBER 
  • LYCEUM, SHEFFIELD 7 SEPTEMBER – 12 SEPTEMBER 
  • THEATRE ROYAL, BATH 14 SEPTEMBER – 19 SEPTEMBER 
  • PLAYHOUSE, OXFORD 21 SEPTEMBER – 26 SEPTEMBER 

Do you go to the theatre?

As a self-confessed theatre obsessive, I thoroughly enjoy taking a trip to the theatre; whether that be to see a musical, play, dance performance or comedy show. There’s nothing more exciting than taking your seat, the lights dipping and suddenly getting transported to a different time and place… Okay I shall stop sounding like a massive geek now!Do you go to the theatreHowever I don’t get to visit the theatre very often at all and I regularly miss out on seeing shows that I’d love to see. And why’s that? Because it’s too flipping expensive.

My local theatres are the York Theatre Royal and the Grand Opera House, York. The average price to see a professional production at these theatres is around £30-£40, unless you’d rather have a lovely view of the pillar and see only 20% of the stage… The theatres sometimes kindly offer students a 10% discount but this only equates to a few quid, meaning it’s still no more accessible for the student population.

For students a trip to the theatre could be the same price as their weekly food shop and even a theatre enthusiast like me, would have to reluctantly chose to eat.

This brings me to ask the question “do you have to be a member of an exclusive club to enjoy theatre?”
There is a slight risk when booking tickets to see a show/play, especially if it’s not a well-known company or production. The gamble is whether or not you will like it, theatre is obviously subjective, but, of course, some shows will be better than others. For some customers the risk of going to “an unknown” show is too high, as it could turn out to be a waste of money, therefore only those who have lots of disposable income, often older individuals, can afford to take the risk. This means that performances are attracting the same audiences again and again. Is this what theatres want?

If theatres are wanting to reach out to a new audience of “non-theatre goers”, what are they doing to attract these customers? More needs to be done to entice new audiences, instead of putting them off with sky high ticket prices. Theatres expect people to buy tickets to productions, purely based on a promotional poster with a tiny blurb and possibly a review of the West End production. Is this enough? I, personally, think not.

When was the last time you went to the theatre? What was the production and did you enjoy it? What would encourage you to go?

I’m going to indulge myself into a new project and challenge the theatres and theatre companies. If you have any suggestions or any questions you’d like me to ask, drop me a comment below or email me at thoroughlymodernmaisie@gmail.com.

I’m going to endeavour to find out if they are doing anything to make theatre more accessible to all and how they encourage a varied audience? If this is a project you’d like to join me in, please do let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

M x

My acting debut

 

The title of this blog post isn’t 100% accurate, as I have been involved in many shows before. However these shows have been musicals; all singing and dancing. Never in any of my previous shows has the focus been on acting… in fact it was usually the last thought and actually the dialogue, in between the big numbers, was just filler whilst the main dancers got into their next costume!

I know you may be thinking “well you’ve got to act whilst singing and dancing”, but to me, that was totally different, as the lyrics and dance moves often told the majority of the story. But to just purely focus on the acting is much more of a challenge, as everything you do – your speech, movement, facial expressions and body language has to be convincing enough for the audience to understand the play.

Just under three months ago I signed up to the York Theatre Royal’s ‘Adult Theatre Workshops’. A ten week acting course that led to a performance at the end of the workshop. The theme was ‘Love and Death’ and was directed by the super talented and inspirational Michael Lambourne. Michael had asked the public to submit to him micro-plays, lasting no more than 5 minutes, about love and death, the majority of these were duologues. In our first classes we read through these original plays and were asked to pick our favourites. We were then assigned to two of these scripts and paired with a different actor for each, and this is when the fun, yet hard work commenced.

Even though all thirty plays had the same theme, they were all vastly different and challenging in their own way. We were asked to really study both scripts with our partner and pull it to pieces, to enable us to thoroughly understand the piece. Michael allowed us to interpret them for ourselves, however most scripts had a completely different interpretation once we had really thought about the texts. With Michael’s gentle push into the right direction, this was a real eye opener to discover.

My first script, titled Birthday Wishes by R. Thomson, explored how social media impacts on grieving after the death of a young sister and how this affects the other two siblings in their mourning.
Lonely Hearts by T Strasz was my second play which was a speed date with a significant difference. The ‘daters’ were not looking for love, but in fact quite the opposite, death.

Michael Lambourne was an excellent director but not only that he was a brilliant motivator, confidence builder, teacher and also our biggest fan! He wanted us to push ourselves and really take a leap by ensuring that we kept a fast-pace throughout and grabbed the audience’s attention from the very beginning.

We performed “30 Little Plays About Love and Death” at the Friargate Theatre York, for two nights – 30th and 31st March. Due to it being the first time I’ve ever done anything like this, I was quite nervous, therefore only invited my mum and dad to watch; they did so on the first night.
The first performance was a success, even though I was extremely nervous. There was no noticeable mistakes and the audience were very responsive. However I felt like it wasn’t my best performance and I had done it better in rehearsals due to my nerves.
On the second night, we did some acting exercises to prepare us for our final show and I entered the stage much more relaxed and confident. I feel both of my scenes went even better this time around and I left the stage buzzing with excitement, yet with a hint of sadness that it was all over.

It is DEFINITELY something that I want to be part of again and want to continue developing my skills. It has also affirmed my decision to study my theatre degree in October at university!

M x

Review: York Press

Adult Theatre Workshops: York Theatre Royal

Theatre & I

Yesterday I told you that I LOVE theatre, so I thought I’d give you some background as to why I do.

At the age of three I began ballet lessons, which then spiraled into all kinds of dance and eventually musical theatre! So I was exposed to the world of theatre from an early age!
Drama was always my favourite class at school and I would jump at every chance to take part in any after-school theatre classes. One of my most memorable performances was We Will Rock You, in which I played the role Meat Loaf and still to this day thinking about that show gives me such fond memories.

Visiting the theatre to watch performances always gave me a buzz, it is such a wonderful experience. I am left feeling overwhelmed by the performers’ abilities to completely eradicate my own personal life and transport the audience and myself to a different time, place, culture and lifestyle whilst sitting in the very same room I entered as myself. The magic of theatre is breathtaking.

I’m not an expert in the field, well not yet anyways, at the moment it is purely a hobby and passion – for now…
However in October I am embarking on a new, exciting journey… I will be studying a Theatre course at university, which will cover writing, directing and performing. I am ecstatic that I have been given this opportunity and cannot wait for my new adventure.

In this blog I aim to write about any shows that I see, any plays that I am participating in and general theatre topics and news. I hope you enjoy!

M x