REVIEW: Transparent Falsehood: An American Travesty @ Theatre 511

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

Before the show began, a collection of middle eastern, French and South Asian songs played as the small crowd filled up the theatre. there was a cabaret-like set up close to the stage, with small tables and chairs. There was a life-size paper-mache member of the press propped at the back of the audience. I was nervous coming into the show, as theatre is ordinarily my escape from reality, and this shows only promise was to include the antics of the 45th United States President (Ezra Barnes).

The show starts with Donald telling his young son, Baron, a night-time story. It was a classic story, filled with graphic descriptions of ISIS beheadings. The show continues on this path of crude and overwhelming themes, as Donald becomes violent with his youngest child. This show was not quite funny, rather it was overwhelmed by silliness and left me feeling a bit uneasy.

Unlike SNL and The Late Show with Seth Meyers, Transparent Falsehood: An American Travesty pushes aside topical humour and interesting news stories for a darker and more confusing storyline. In reviewing the notes, I took during the show, I am unable to discern a coherent story. The show continues with disturbing images and jokes that diminish any humour or clever observations within the show.

There were several one-liners included in the show, which were meant to be funny but fell flat. Trump, in his imagined HBO special claims that the queen was so excited by his show that “she started menstruating again”. This crude humour adds nothing to the play, and although clearly trying to entertain the audience with a realistic tweet-like line, I am left with a foul taste in my mouth.

I found that ultimate this was a show that believes it is making an intelligent point while only confusing and convoluting reality. It is a strange collection of scenes that develops no singular plot or theme. The vulgarity and harshness of this show did little justice to the possible intelligence hidden beneath some jokes.

2-stars

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Do you HEAR the people sing?

Written by Charlie White

So, I recently went to the theatre and unfortunately…I struggled to pick up the dialogue and therefore missed parts of the story. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the actors didn’t wear mics (as it was a play) and they had extremely strong accents. This then sparked the idea for a blog focusing on the sound/hearing aspect of shows.

I myself am a hearing aid wearer and have had problems with my ears since being a child, so this is quite an important subject to me (especially when it comes to hearing in a theatre) as I’m sure it is to most theatregoers.

The majority of the time, most shows are pretty good at making sure things are at a suitable volume and of course there is the well know lesson of projection and ‘making sure your voice hits the back of the theatre’ (I assume…is this still a thing now?)

However, there are times when maybe the music can be a little overpowering or perhaps the characters might be deep in conversation and you can’t quite catch everything they are saying.

If any of you reading this are familiar with hearing aids or anything along those lines you’ll know most theatres now have what’s called the loop system, which if your hearing aid has it activated you can connect to it and the sound will be sent straight through to your hearing aid (I’m also an Audiologist so fit hearing aids for a living).

 

 

 

Some of the shows I’ve seen recently have varied a lot hearing wise. Firstly, the Ferryman. As much I loved the show and was extremely shocked by the ending (you have to be there), I did have a bit of trouble hearing it all. Yes, this is the play I mentioned at the beginning and I’m afraid I did struggle at times to understand what was being said. Despite this, you do get used to it by the end and I managed to follow the gist of it. My advice if you’re going to watch this is maybe trying to have a little idea of what it is about beforehand and have your concentrating caps on when you see it!

Another show I recently saw was the Cursed Child. I am pleased to say most of the actors in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child spoke very clearly and the sound was pretty good throughout the show! Occasionally if the characters were having an argument or got a bit carried away with emotion certain things might not come across quite so clearly.

Overall, musicals tend to be at an appropriate level in order for us to take in the beautiful scores or talented voices so generally, I’m sure a lot of people will manage fine. For those who do not or those who are interested in knowing a bit more about this side of things, there will be a short section on the sound/hearing quality included in our upcoming reviews. The aim is to hopefully help and guide people who may struggle so they know what to expect when going to see a particular show. So please keep an eye out for that in the future and be sure to hear the people sing!

Review: Soap @ Underbelly Festival, Southbank

Reviewed by Charlie White

CAUTION! Be prepared to get soaked! Enough to wet anyone’s appetite for talent, Soap at the Underbelly Festival is a wonderfully bizarre mixture of skills ranging from acrobatics to opera.

Directed by Markus Pabst and Maximilian Rambaek, the show is a variety of acts all linked together by one simple item…a bathtub! It starts off with 5 rather toned performers starting their day in the bath accompanied by the beautiful operatic voice of Jennifer Lindshield. You may think that circus acts and opera might not mix, but you’d be surprised.  It isn’t opera in the conventional sense, in fact, it’s used rather unconventionally which contributed to the comedy of the piece. I think the contrast added to the show in a very effective way and added a sense of feeling to the performance.

We were then entertained by the comedic stylings of Marie-Andrée Lemaire as she picked a random member of the audience to assist on stage and have a bit of circus-themed fun. There was more comedy in it than I thought there would be which was good because let’s face it, we all need a good laugh now and again. There was also the unique skill of towel spinning which was performed without fault by Vanessa Alvarez. She had impeccable timing and strength spinning towels on both hands and feet. However, towels were not the only thing she juggled, a guitar was also thrown into the mix as she balanced a juggled it rather impressively again with her hands and feet.

 

A large part of the show consisted of beautiful acrobatics from the amazing Lena Ries, Anton Belyakov, Daniel Leo Stern, Mortiz Haase and Adam Endris Yemam. There was a particularly outstanding trio by Daniel, Lena and Vanessa who managed to tell a story just through their elegant and passionate movements. They performed with such feeling and intensity, the emotion could be felt throughout the audience. Another emotional performance was a solo form of Anton which included an impressive acrobatic routine in a bathtub but this time it was filled with water. The addition of the water made it even more visually stunning.  I also have to give a special mention to the trapeze number by Mortiz. He quite literally flew over the audience and had us on the edge of our seats with the more daring tricks he executed.

These slightly more intense moments were juxtaposed with lighthearted sections which gave the show a good balance. For example, Adam amused us with his remarkable juggling skills. He had the audience completely in awe of his juggling, not 3, not 4 but 7 balls! There were also some cleverly conducted comedic tricks among this vast array of incredible acts.

Soap is an original and unique show with innovative and creative acts which are sure to be enjoyed by all, whatever your taste.

5stars

Soap runs at Underbelly Festival until 17 June 2018. For tickets and more information, click here.

REVIEW: SeatPlan

Written by Nathan Deane
Contributions from Charlotte White

A useful tool for UK theatregoers, SeatPlan is a website that takes the average auditorium plan and makes it interactive, allowing users to add photos from the seats and leave reviews of their seats. Users earn rewards from each photo uploaded and can also enter competitions and buy tickets via the website.

Despite a quite confusing interface, the tool is extremely helpful to the average theatregoer, if you’re based in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Manchester or Oxford. Whilst SeatPlan isn’t limited to those 6 areas, it doesn’t go much further than them, leaving people outside of those areas with local touring theatres in the dark of where to sit.

The site only has the major theatres, so you can’t get seating maps for some Off-West End venues such as Southwark Playhouse or Greenwich Theatre, which limits the usage to some theatre-goers.

The rewards are enticing, you earn 40p for each photo you add to the site and the pennies go towards theatre tokens – an exciting reward for any theatre fan. For an extra 40p, make sure you take a photo of your ticket stub!

The new, updated interface makes it hard to find the interactive seat plan, a feature I couldn’t find and had to ask my Facebook friends to help me find it when the update happened. Nevertheless, now I know where it is I can use the tool whenever I want.

The seat reviews are informative, usually accompanied by photos of the view and star ratings of the comfort, view, legroom and the show itself, providing a deep enough insight so that when you book your ticket you’ll know whether the seat is right for you.

The ticket booking system is easy enough, with discounted prices scattered around and easy to use seating charts.

I use the SeatPlan site quite frequently and, although it has a few minor issues, it’s a brilliant tool that anyone who is able to access a London theatre should use, and with the rewards system it’s a great way to fund your theatre-going!

4stars

REVIEW: Randy Writes A Novel @ Theatre Row

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

The purple puppet, Randy Feltface, played hype man, MC and special guest for his comedy show ‘Randy Writes A Novel’. The glitz and glamour of 42nd Street didn’t discourage my countryman from putting himself in the vulnerable situation of performing a comedy show in the Theatre district. Randy warmed up the crowd with some honesty, explaining that if we didn’t like the show we could leave, and he wouldn’t know- not having functioning eyes and all. Randy’s honesty and self-awareness were a clever form of introduction to a different and unusual sort of show.

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Randy banters and makes conversation, as he slowly moves towards the core purpose of the show; to read an excerpt of “Walking to Skye”. Before he can get too far, Randy finds himself falling down a dark hole of Wikipedia research; truly one of the most relatable things about this show. Recounting Hemingway’s epic life, Randy keeps the audience in suspense for a little bit longer. The curiosity of the crowd is kept at bay by Randy (and by extension Heath McIvor)’s engaging storytelling. Randy avoids the possibility of a poor book review by perhaps alienating the audience- he won’t give us what he promised.

Randy continuous on his self-professed “90-minute stream of consciousness”, something I am all too familiar with. He rants about spiritual appropriation, the infallibility of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, and after some heckles, he addresses the pros and cons of singing some Amy Winehouse, acapella style (deciding to give us only a tantalizing few seconds of melody). Randy masters the nuance of time and tension building, and eventual tells some tales of the homeland (Australia).

It’s about an hour and 20 minutes into the show, Randy hasn’t read a line from his book, and I am beginning to suspect I will never learn about Skye, as woeful as that seems. Randy’s masterful procrastination that at times felt slow, ends with some astute observations, most relevantly that my friend and I will leave the Theatre and discuss the nuances of the show, focusing on the different factors that impacted on its quality. Naturally, we did, only to come to the conclusion that as Theatre lovers we are sometimes clichéd and that Randy knows his audience.

Randy moves around behind his desk in a life-like way. It’s easy to forget that there are complicated skills at work whenever Randy makes a gesture. It is truly a testament to the crew and cast of this comedy show that Randy feels to me as fun, charismatic and charming as the next purple man. It didn’t hurt that I’ve missed the easy flow of conversation that occurs whenever I meet a fellow Australian, even if he’s not quite the average Australian bloke.

4stars

Randy writes a Novel is playing at Theatre Row until June 9th. Get tickets here

REVIEW: Great Expectations @ Winchester Festival Theatre

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

A classic Dickens story I am ashamed to have not yet read, Great Expectations tells the story of Pip, a poor young boy who meets an escaped convict and has his life changed, meeting the extravagant Miss Havisham, falling in love with her adopted daughter Estelle, and falling into the lap of luxury when a mysterious benefactor pays for him to live a life of luxury in London.

The novel has been retold in many forms, most recently on screen starring Helena Bonham Carter and on TV in a 3-part mini-series commissioned by the BBC. I’ve never seen any adaptations so going into the Festival Theatre in Winchester, I was completely blind to the story, having only seen the haunting artwork on the posters around the city.

The play was written by Ken Bently, a writer most known for his audio plays. This play was written in a true Dickensian manner that some of the language went straight over the top of my head, nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the humour and drama of the piece.

The direction, by Sophie Boyce Couzens, was original and intimate, making use of the beautiful rustic set by James Turner. The play was scored throughout with accordion and violin music composed by Ollie King, who, as well as playing the instruments, doubles up as a member of the ensemble.

Séan Aydon plays the story’s central character, Pip. Aydon played the role at a variety of ages, from a young child to a well-off adult gentleman. Aydon brought such energy to the role as well as raw emotion and the performance felt genuine and fresh.

Early on in the story, Pip is invited to the home of the elderly and reclusive Miss Havisham, played by the wonderful Nichola McAuliffe. McAuliffe commands the stage as Miss Havisham, the bride-to-be who was abandoned by her fiance on her wedding day. Her performance was haunting and captivating, and at certain points, throughout the second act, I felt my eyes well up at her portrayal of the iconic character.

The ensemble of 7 play a variety of characters and narrators and work as a team to make sure the piece runs smoothly, often playing musical instruments on stage for sound effects. They also sang quite a bit (well, more than I expected) which was a touch I thought was brilliant.

This was a beautifully staged piece of theatre that tells a chilling story and would do Charles Dickens himself proud.

4stars

Great Expectations is touring the UK until June. Tickets and more information can be found here.

REVIEW: Fishbowl @ Kings Head Theatre

Reviewed by Charlotte White

So we go straight in with a conversation about whether George called his neighbour Hatty over for sex or not. George is adamant there is a leak in his ceiling, but Hatty thinks there is something more going on, but is there? Or is it simply just, a leak?

Fishbowl, a play by Jenna Kamal and directed by Alice Wordsworth and Erin Blackmore is a truly simple yet quite brilliant piece of live theatre. Essentially we watch as the only two characters in the play discuss various issues at 4 in the morning.

George is played by Nick Cope who portrayed the awkward but loveable character in such an endearing way and did such a great job of showing us as the audience how everything in life can be affected by so many little things. Felicity Green took the role of Hatty and I felt her performance had such a natural flow about it (much like the play in general). I particularly enjoyed her little cardio work out dance break!

I wasn’t expecting the show to make you think about so many things in life. As the show appeared so much like a casual conversation it made it more relatable and made you reevaluate things in your own life as you were watching it. Lots of quite deep elements of life were discussed. For example, does change only come from conflict? Or can it come from positivity?
I liked the fact that these deeper moments were contrasted by witty one liners and again some great dance moves from Hatty!

Fishbowl is a thought provoking, clever, unique piece of theatre with a natural flow that makes it that much more enjoyable to watch.

REVIEW: Ms. Estrada @ The Flea Theatre

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

The Flea Theatre that houses this production can be found off the beaten path in Tribeca, in a twist of oxymoronic fate this company is creating edgy and thought-provoking shows in the heart of the industrial upper class. This funky company introduced themselves by providing single pieces of paper, rather than a playbill. It was announced before the show began that this was a deliberate decision and that all other information can be found online. Their dedication to conservation is an interesting and thoughtful act towards global sustainability.

The show began with a disclaimer from the writers,The Q Brothers Collective. They astutely noted that they were all male, some gay, some of colour. The sensitive themes explored in Ms Estrada warranted the warning. The cleverly written prose professed profanity, and ultimately set the scene for a production that challenges and entertains.

Another visual that struck me before the show began was the DJ, Marguerite Frarey. Rather than having an orchestra, Ms Estrada had a band of one. Frarey would often shout and boo as the story developed. She was the first character you meet, and she remains a constant throughout. Frarey at times could be compared to an all mighty presence, watching the events of the show unfurl.

Ms Estrada focuses on a young woman’s experience through college. Written with dark humour and a clever sense of self-awareness, Liz Estrada (Malena Pennycook), a new college student, seeks the “power to change the system”. In an attempt to prevent the “Greek Games”, a sexist male competition focused on stereotypical frat games, Estrada convinces her fellow female classmates to withhold sex. With the support of her roommates and mentor (Jenna Krasowski), Estrada shows the Dean (Ben Schrager) how damaging the Greek Games are.

The songs in Ms Estrada are clever and catchy. With a flair for rap, the show slowly moves towards more traditionally female musical genres as the story progresses. “Ring the Bell” is a catchy earworm, as Estrada and the female rebels reprise the song whenever they are confronted. Estrada and her empowered peers rename themselves “Womxn with an X”, and flaunt their feminine power with some complex and intricate choreography. The boys begin losing matches and they complain to the Dean with a song that appears to find inspiration from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Macklemore. The show continues with a compelling blend of rap and pop.

Estrada’s compelling fight against an unrelenting torrent of sexism is remanent of Rob Thomas’ Veronica Mars. Young women are fighting for equality, and the stories focus on the struggle and success of these women. The storytelling and incorporation of Ms Estrada exudes a quirkiness similar to that of the charming Veronica Mars.

This masterful adaptation of the Greek Classic Lysistrata brings modern life to an ancient play. The in-house ensemble of The Flea Theater, The Bats, shine in this complex and captivating show.

4stars

Ms Estrada is playing at The Flea Theater until 28th April. You can buy tickets here

 

The Rockstar Experience: Jesus Christ Superstar Live

Written By Annie Zeleznikow

I had bought special students tickets to a show on at the public theatre. I didn’t know what they were for, it seemed interesting enough and I sure it would be a fun afternoon. But as soon as I got an email in my inbox about Jesus Christ Superstar Live I sent my friend a Facebook message:

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And of course, we decided to go to JCSS.

The first time I saw JCSS my older sister was dressed as a risqué maid, and there were chain-linked fences on stage. Surprising as it seems, the grunge of this university production wasn’t far off from the progressive and powerfully produced show that NBC aired on Easter Sunday.

I was assigned priority standing room. This meant that I was going to be on my feet from 4.30pm until about 10.30pm when the show ended. My friend was celebrating her birthday, so there was no way I was taking anyone else. We had a lot of time to chat and talk about our expectations and how we had been since we last saw each other. We also had lots of time to hype up the show we were about to witness.

It was a long journey from our home on the Upper West Side to the heart of Brooklyn. From a fabulous location in Brooklyn, the audience was transported via bus to Williamsburg. There I was meet with a strange sense of irony, as we elevated Christ in the heart of a large Jewish community. I was somewhat embarrassed to be celebrating Christ on the second day of Passover (which I had celebrated the night before), but my love of Theatre overwhelmingly won out.

The show began with the gorgeous and youthful Brandon Niederauer rocking out on his electric guitar among the scaffolding and fellow musicians. With one minute to go, I waved frantically at Neiderauer, sending forth my best wishes to him and the cast. Ensemble members crouched down in front of us, and we all started chanting in an attempt to prove that we were going to be an amazing audience.

Brandon Niederauer JCSS

The show begins with the ensemble, draped in black and grey clothing, crowding around our Jesus, John Legend. Legend emerges on the stage bathed in light, his gentle features Christ-like in the flood of brightness against the post-apocalyptic backdrop of our Jerusalem. Just as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice would have wanted, the crowd, including me, screamed at the opportunity to reach out and touch Legends’ hand. This sort of response was evoked whenever Legend sang and derived from a primitive need to glorify the star. Legend produced the reaction from the crowd that one would expect for Christ. Legend has received mixed reviews, but in person, all I saw was a Christ-like vocal God. I was only privy to Legends’ smooth and delicious voice, which although sometimes faltered but never failed to impress the hoard of adoring fans that I had become a part of.

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Despite Legend’s larger than life character, Brandon Victor Dixon stole the show and the hearts of the audience as Judas. The Broadway veteran rocked the same trendy dark and slightly sinister-like clothes as the ensemble as he belted out some soulfully moving and powerful numbers. He comfortably reached vocal heights that Legend struggled to project. Dixon let his inner rock star shine, he was clearly moved by the audience that was cheering along any vocal riffs and challenging vocal pieces. Dixon carried the brunt of the story and played a huge narrative role in this revival of Christ’s story.

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Watching the show from the crowd distorted the story significantly, there wasn’t a storyline, rather a collection of intensely emotional songs. Instead of living through the last days of Christ, I found myself jumping up and down at a rock concert that ended with the Star floating away. The tall heads in front of me and the overbearing cheers and screams from my peers meant that the brilliant vocals were often drowned out. Although our adoration moved the cast to perform with greater gusto, the best place for an audience member to be was at home on the couch. Luckily NBC has made Jesus Christ Super Star Live readily available to those who live in the US.

As the announcement comes that there will be a national tour of JCSS, it dawns on me that although this was a delightful piece of artistic creation, the money aspect of this live production, and the widespread viewing of the Easter show, was a very purposeful decision. It will soon be possible for those of you living in the US to soon see Jesus and Judas fighting it out live. Until then please enjoy this fabulous gift NBC has given us.

Watch Jesus Christ Superstar Live Now- https://www.nbc.com/jesus-christ-superstar/video/jesus-christ-superstar-live-in-concert/3689643

Buy Tickets for Jesus Christ Superstar Soon- https://www.ticketmaster.com/Jesus-Christ-Superstar-tickets/artist/843994?list_view=1

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Mirrors @ Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed by Alex Kirk

Written and performed by Siobhan McMillan, Mirrors is a clever and humorous take on the classic Snow White story.

In Snow White, the Evil Queen discovers that there is another maiden in the land who dares to be fairer than she, and begins a hunt to kill her. In Mirrors, the Evil Queen is one of many personalities living inside the head of an enthusiastic yet entirely unoriginal and naive YouTube vlogger called ShyGirl, with a grand total of 30 subscribers.

When she is stood up by her ‘boyfriend’ (who merely uses her for sex and shows no romance at all), she becomes Shivvers – our ‘Evil Queen’ – a much more confident and down to earth character, who guides us through the story when her mirror tells her that she is no longer the most gorgeous woman alive, and begins her pilgrimage to kill her.

McMillan’s writing is clever and endearing, using mystical fairy-tale language to narrate the story, interjected with insults and stereotypes more commonly found in Facebook memes and ‘trash’ humour; the first woman that Shivvers believes is her new enemy is given the name ‘Bitchface’, and later in the play we hear all about another character’s love for chips and hummus (which was served to the audience after the show!). McMillan gives a strong performance throughout the play, in all of her characters, sometimes switching between them on alternating lines. She gives a masterclass in characterisation.

Gabi Maddocks’ direction is brilliant as well, and utilises the space superbly. The Lounge at the Leicester Square Theatre is a highly intimate space, and yet every single corner of the room is used throughout the show, thoroughly gripping your attention. The fairy-tale language in McMillan’s script parallels the fake oh-so-perfect world that YouTube vloggers pretend to have, and Maddocks’ direction heightens this further with some brilliant comedy moments – a personal favourite moment being ‘magical’ bubbles coming from a techie blowing very loudly at the back of the theatre. This is a production that is very self-aware and embraces its innocence and intimacy, and it is this that makes it such an endearing piece of theatre that will have you invested in ShyGirl’s journey.

Snow White parallels aside, I cannot compare this show to anything else. It’s thoroughly unique, totally personal, and I really enjoyed it.

4stars