An interview with… Original Impact about Gone

Tell us a bit about you as a company and this show?

Original Impact formed in 2014 and toured Megan Jenkins’ first play A Working Title in 2016. We spent 2017 focussing on our actor-muso interpretations of classics (Twelfth Night at The Blue Elephant, Man of Mode at Upstairs at The Gatehouse) but, at the start of this year, went back to Megan in the hope of creating something from scratch again. After several R&Ds Gone was eventually formed.

Was there a particular moment of inspiration that spurred you to write this play?

Megan wanted initially wanted to explore storytelling, violence and lying. She had us tell each other stories from day one, made up and remembered, and one of them was about a little girl who walked into a forest and never walked out. It caught our attention immediately and Gone grew around it.

What have you enjoyed the most about this project?

Working with an ensemble who support each other entirely in telling a strong story everyone is passionate about and feels genuinely invested in.

What do you think people will like most about the show?

Not completely knowing how to feel about particular narratives and characters. Nothing in the show is black and white and the text consistently jumps from humour to horror, shock to huge distress. The audience should still be unpicking the plot days later.

The show looks like it has some very intense themes (superstition, loss and violence), what challenges did you come across addressing these?

We had to make sure everything was thoroughly researched. The team spend most of our R&Ds researching and feeding back, to make sure that the human elements of the show were and genuine and understood as possible

Are you hoping to develop the piece? If so, how?

Megan would like to R&D again with the text to streamline and we would like to spend longer on the ensemble work and the music in the show. We hope to put it on again, in it’s final form, in the near future.

Favourite line from the play?

“A woman on the bus looked at me funny so I leant over and whispered, ‘fuck off’ and a bit of blood and spit fell out from the hole where my tooth was. Shat herself.

Three words to describe the play?

Visceral. Intricate. Dark.

Tell us a funny story from rehearsals?

We had a lot of long rehearsal days and one day on a dinner break we were looking through rehearsal photos and decided to have a caption competition within the team all related to the show. People really got creative and we were on the floor laughing.

Anything else people should know before coming to the show?

We love feedback! Especially face to face, do find us in the bar after or send us an email with your thoughts!

Audiences should also be aware the show contains strong language and references to sexual assault.

How to Save a Life, Glass Half Full Theatre, Theatre N16, Catapult Initiative

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How does one critique a play about cancer? Let’s start by acknowledging, that for lack of fancier phrasing, cancer is rubbish. Statistically, 1 in 2 people in the UK will get cancer at some point in their lives (https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-us/cancer-news/press-release/2015-02-04-1-in-2-people-in-the-uk-will-get-cancer) so we cannot shy away from the sheer and utter devestation that it causes. Glass Half Full theatre decided to address this, and make a play about it. Bryony Kimmings made a sell-out show about cancer at the National, so why shouldn’t fringe theatre give it a go too?

The narrative focused on a young woman becoming ill with cervical cancer. A young woman, who didn’t appear too far away from my age, which gave the play a more scarily realistic undertone – making me more aware of the themes. The energy level was consistently super high, which effectively denoted tension but made it quite an exhausting watch at times. It frequently used (a great choice of) music which softened the edges a lot, making it a bit easier to comprehend. I enjoyed that, instead of diving straight into the dark depths of cancer, the narrative left time for you to learn about the characters as humans, rather than just their reaction to the C word. And, rather than sole focus on cancer as an illness and the hardships it brings, the play employed a whole host of brutally honest comedy to the show too, with plentiful millenial humour and fanny related fun. This was well needed, and came at a good ratio to the serious stuff.

As expected, the story did take a turn for the dark. A well played performance was delivered by the protagonist, supported well by the other two actors. The end was left at an open ending, leaving you wondering what the outcome will be. You hope it to be positive, but you cannot make that judgement from the audience. I felt able to respect the enigma it left, and I wonder as to the ethics of presenting a definitive ending. Producer Stephanie Silver tells me she plans to take this show to Edinburgh in 2019, which I would love to see. Before it goes, I would be really interested in seeing a very stripped back version, with the bare minimum of props and jazzy bits on stage – simply to see the bare bones and then building it back up again. But I have upmost faith in this show, and Edinburgh should be ready to host it.

Little Big Girl, Abeille Theatre, Theatre N16, Catapult Initiative

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My first show out of the Camden Fringe brought me back, like way back. When I arrived in London 4 years ago this month, I lived in student halls in Tottenham Hale – spitting distance from Theatre N16. I entered, walking past the KFC where I used to stand in the drive thru line for after hours chicken, across from the Argos I bought my first real adult purchases (an iron and ironing board), and felt suddenly like a person with experiential wisdom, hindsight and understanding, which my 18 year old self really, really could have used as she moved into her uni halls.

Similar to my feelings, Little Big Girl explored what it is to grow up, find a new path and encounter cultural differences. Set with a premise of two art students collaborating on an exchange program, Abeille Theatre used true to life scenarios, embellished with creative license. The company’s intention was to highlight these differences, by using live art and storytelling. The use of real pieces of art to narrate the story and symbolise emotion was lovely – it added another dimension to the show, and insisted upon your curiosity. There was no shortage of colour in the show which made it inviting, and the narrative moved at a nice pace, if not answering some of its initial questions moments too late.

The characters raised several questions for me. Polar opposites in intention, but with a nice contrast of energy levels on stage. It came across as your classic riches versus rags tale, and although both characters had their definite hardships, I did struggle to have sympathy for them at times, especially when the issues were superficial and constructed by the English class system. The differences in issues faced by each character seemed unfair to be pitted against each other; one with an alcoholic father in Malta, the other with what can only be described as too much privilege. It was very hard to give equal measures of sympathy to both and I would suggest perhaps revisiting how much attention is given to each issue, and considering a little redistribution.

Overall, this was a good show; with creative flair and a good intention. I would love to see a development as it grows!  

What I’ve Learnt from the Camden Fringe 2018

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Camden Fringe came this year and swept Two Lasses off our feet. From a dinky little friendly blogging hobby, it has single handedly elevated Two Lasses to another level of theatre blogging significance. For this, we owe an awful lot of thanks and gratuity to Camden Fringe. During the course of the four week festival, Two Lasses had the pleasure of reviewing 24 shows, in 10 different venues, recruiting 1 guest blogger (our darling Allen McGylnn) and publishing 10 show interviews (6 of which are separate to reviews. This means collectively, we have interacted with 30 companies and individual artists (thats 10% of the advertised 300 performances) as part of, and during the Camden Fringe 2018.

Wow.

But to us, theatre is about so much more than just ticking boxes, divvying up statistics and reaching large audience goals. Fringe theatre often celebrates home-grown, grassroots projects and cannonballs them to bigger things, but it must be nurtured and supported by us – the humble fringe theatre-goer. How can we do this even better than we already do though? We reflect on what we have learnt from our experiences. Here are my top 10 (in no particular order);

 

 

  • Never walk out of a show. Unless you’ve been deeply triggered of there’s an uncontrollable emergency. It just looks terribly rude and inconsiderate, especially if there’s only a small audience at that performance. As long as there’s a performer on that stage giving you the performance they intend to, just don’t do it.
  • Women Rock. Not like I didn’t know that already, I’m just emphasising it in context to the Camden Fringe. This point stems from the plentiful, wonderful work produced, written and performed by female-led teams. Go girl power!
  • There’s a big wide world out there; and it’s full of fellow creatives! As graduates of drama school stepping out of our shelter into the real world it was humbling and comforting to see so many other people working to thrive in creative pursuits. There was a lovely sense of community everywhere we went, and that is very precious today.
  • We’re all angry about the same things; there’s been a shed load of political protest everywhere we’ve been, and we’ve loved every ounce of it!
  • Everyone wants each other to share success: even the reviewers! Two Lasses only offer constructive criticism in our reviews, it’s just not fun being grumpy for the sake of being grumpy. If we are to practise what we preach and support everyone we meet, sharing success is what we need.
  • Variety is the spice of life: We’ve seen everything it seems; from sex acts performed on a banana to animated crabs in gay bars – the sheer range of things we’ve seen has surpassed any and all of our expectations.
  • Diversity in the industry still has a long way to go: Yeah, we’ve seen it and we can’t avoid it…
  • Everyone knows everyone: and even those you don’t know are happy and willing to help you out!
  • Pre/Post show drinks get expensive: I learned this very quickly, as my social drinking habits quickly surmounted the entirety of my weekly budget. It very quickly became a “just a glass of tap water please” fringe for me.
  • Last but not least; self care is not only your friend, it’s a necessity. From reviewing 2 shows a day, running across town in 20 minutes to reach your next show, to not getting enough sleep and decent food (hello Sainsburys on-the-go sandwich range), you just need to look the heck after yourself. Fringe is awesome, if you eat, sleep and love your way through it.

 

 

So, there we have it, wrapped up the Camden Fringe until next year. But fear not, there’s plenty more fringe theatre in the pipeline for us. Oh, and we’re heading south, for the upcoming Clapham Fringe.

See you there!

Around the Block, Get Over it Productions and Divergent Theatre Collective, EtcTheatre

Where else could be end Camden Fringe but at the Etctheatre? And how lucky we were to get to witness legends, Around the Block. The way it works is 5, 30-minute monologues shown in pairs over three days. It’s an ingenious way of showcasing work, giving the audience a range of shows in just a few hours. I was there on the Sunday, and here are the shows I saw:

 

Behind You

Written by David Pearson

Directed by Roman Berry

Performed by Reynah Rita Oppal

 

Seemingly about an actress haunted by her panto Captain Hook if you stick with the piece it forms into a poignant reflection on loss and grieving at a young age. The structure of the piece was really satisfying, however the link between Hooks fear of the clock and the inevitability of death felt like it could have been hammered home a little more. In terms of the acting Oppal was engaging and managed to walk the line between comedy and tragedy perfectly.

 

Roundabout Way

Written by Claire Urwin

Directed by Roman Berry

Performed by Mauricia Lewis

 

Roundabout Way was the most gruesome of the four monologues, and perhaps the most unrealistic too, but Lewis’s sweetness and apparent innocence leads you right up the garden path into thinking that she can alter her life and make her relationship with her long-distance boyfriend work, all while being relatable and funny. However the twist in the tale take you by surprise, showcasing the excellent writing- Definitely one to watch on all accounts.

 

Denial

Written by Rob Young

Co-Directed by Paula Benson and Veronica Quillgan

Performed by Veronica Quillgan

 

When people talk about writing quality roles for women, particularly those over the age of 25 I would willingly force them to watch this monologue. Again it seems like you’re heading in one direction and then you take a sharp right down ‘how did we get here’ lane. Quillgan expertly pulls of hurt and betrayed housewife, but is convincing in her dark side too. It’s sexy, controlled and a well-rounded character.

 

Confinement

Written by Alexa Kesselaar

Directed by Roman Berry

Performed by Paula Benson

 

The final show of the afternoon was Confinement, and easily the most relatable. Drinking, not writing and lots of cats. The ending and overall ‘message’ was a little less clear than the other three, but the monologue was probably the funniest of the four, particularly the moment where she took the piss out of people who say ‘yah’ seriously. Benson was convincing and likable- I wish I could know more about her disorder, and this is probably the piece I would most like to see developed into a longer piece.

 

It’s Beautiful, Over There… Stephanie Greenwood, The Gatehouse Theatre, Camden Fringe

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Camden Fringe is coming to an end, and – to be honest – I am exhausted. Two Lasses have been extremely fortunate to review a large amount of high quality theatre over the past 4 weeks, and at this point in the schedule I find myself craving – similar to the food you crave after a period of hardcore festivities – simple and comforting theatre. And I got just that with this show.

A one woman show about death and bereavement, It’s Beautiful, Over There presents a tragic, holistic and personal account of Stephanie Greenwood’s experiences of death and coping with grief. A prop heavy production, the show enjoyed its space, but it did bother me that not every prop on stage was used. But this is pretty much where the critique ends, as I continued to be surprised that I was watching a show about death, but I didn’t feel depressed. Not a term I use lightly (I hasten to add), but the risk always stands when talking about such a heavily loaded topic. Stephanie maturely and sensitively set out her experiences, and elaborated creatively, yet remained concise. No tangents, which I liked.

As the show continues it becomes clearer that this show is drawn from a purpose, and the performers necessity to share these stories. Throughout, there are cuts to an audio clip of a different voice performing poetry. I was worried these were just there to aid in scene transitions, but when they were explained (clearly and simply) you felt a greater connection to the show than ever before. At this point, the themes extend to Mental Health awareness, not to the extent that your focus shifts, but just enough to evoke consideration. It all culminates in a touching and eloquent description of events, feelings and processes surrounding the death of a loved one. You deeply understand the personal nature of the narrative. It is an eloquent and artistic ode to the deceased.

So, should you see this show? Yes. It may come as artistic relief, it may come as a pleasant evenings entertainment. But if theatre for you is being taken on a journey, at the end of which you have an optimistic grin on your lips and a warm tingly sensation in your chest, then this is the show for you.

Into the Deep, Popcorn Productions, Etcetera Theatre, Camden Fringe

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After a small joint hiatus, it was lovely to return to the Etcetera Theatre as a pair. We took our favourite seats (the back row bench, on the left) and prepared for the show to begin.

Into the Deep follows the intergenerational struggles faced by a Cornish family in the face of financial depravity. The show began with a bang – a visually striking movement sequence, paired effectively with flashy lighting and time appropriate music. However, this was busy and chaotic, and did set the tone for the rest of the narrative. Kim urged me to stay with it, and as usual, her patience paid off as the story did become clearer throughout.

The address of intergenerational conflicts was clear, well rounded and well presented. At times it was comic, but it was mostly tense and bleak. As was the majority of the narrative. There were vibes of a Cornish Billy Elliott, but without the positive ending which makes Billy Elliott worth the while. I’m not saying that to be good theatre needs a happy ending  – lots of spectacular shows are tragedies – but the lack of any light relief moments after the first 10 minutes made a lot of the show quite difficult to watch. What made it even harder to witness was the immense quantities of physical and emotional abuse that occurred throughout. Some of these parts made me feel deeply uncomfortable, and I would suggest a little trigger warning at some point before the show.

 

I can commend the angle the piece took; showing a story that is equally relevant as many others shown more frequently in fringe theatre, but not so often seen simply due to its location. And if there was ever a place for it to be shown it probably should be at the Camden Fringe, since London is a melting pot for nationwide cultural diversity – and this story rightfully has its home there as much as a local one. I just think this show took on one sub-plot too many, and didn’t employ comedic relief when it was needed. But, well done for an interesting concept, Popcorn!

 

An interview with… Bashir Productions about The Falconbridge School for Girls.

We caught up with Joy & Mimi from Bashir Productions about their latest show, The Falconbridge School for Girls.

Tell us a bit about you as a company and this show?

Bashir Productions is a registered charity and Theatre Company. We specialise in giving a platform to writers, directors, casting directors, actors and, well, everyone in the industry! The Falconbridge School for girls is a project that we put together last minute and introduced one concept of it being in an all girls School. We had six writers, and each writer had 10 minutes to do what they want- and that’s how the play came together

Your play is quite unique in that it has so many different directors and writers! What have been the challenges and benefits of doing this?

The benefit is that we ended up with a very varied play with all these different voices coming in different stories, different themes all under the same umbrella, being explored in different ways which I find really engaging in a play. It never gets boring because it doesn’t have time to get boring! The challenge, I think, is that it’s quite hard to coordinate everyone because some of the teams worked quite closely with each other and some of them were almost completely separate, and we only found out what they were doing at the dress rehearsal- which but it all works out fine.

What have you enjoyed the most about this project?

Seeing everyone come together, especially at the dress rehearsal, and just enjoy themselves and letting themselves be free. The writers coming in and watching their work being performed, and being happy with that.

I think it’s been such a nice experience. Everyone’s been so supportive of each other, and just being helpful and friendly. It’s really nice seeing the people getting a chance to do their thing and show what they can do. Most of the people are recent graduates, or they haven’t been to drama school and they’re just getting started. It’s nice to see what people can do when they’ve been given the chance.

What do you think people will like most about the show?

The diverse cast, the different stories, how we transition from one place to another, the flow of things, how we end it with a song- and at the beginning of the show all the cast are on stage.

I feel like it’s a show with a lot of energy and passion in it. I know everyone says that about their show, but it’s extra true because people are desperate to show their stuff. You kind of get more of a buzz from that, and I think that really comes through.

You’re tackling some big issues, how have you found tackling such a variety of topics?

I think it isn’t as difficult as it would have been if it was just one story, but because it’s lots of separate small stories they sort of all deal with their own thing, and it kind of worked then because it wasn’t just one writer shaving like all of the stuff into one story. Also because they’re all in the same setting it still feels unified.

Are you hoping to develop the piece? If so, how?

I think they would have to be a lot more changes and making it more as one play rather than short scenes.

Favourite line from the play?

“People call it tequila, I call it freedom.”

Three words to describe the play?

Exciting, teenage and friendship.

Tell us a funny story from rehearsals?

When we were about to go on, I ended up losing my phone so during the show. I was running about, quietly panicked, trying to find it in case it went off. It ended up being in the dressing room!

Anything else people should know before coming to the show?

Wear light clothes, it’s really hot in there! Also, don’t be afraid to laugh!

 

Sleeping Beauty? Wonky Table Theatre Company, Cecil Sharp House, Camden Fringe

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We went to Cecil Sharp House yesterday to review our fellow Central Alumni’s show, Sleeping Beauty. The venue was friendly, and we received a warm welcome. I only wish I had a child to bring with me to this production. The show, framed by an inquisitive young girl (Amy Ann Kemp)  bored of her older sisters stories takes Sleeping Beauty and tweaks it- there’s no Maleficent, and no foreboding curse.

Instead the thing that puts the curse over the Kingdom is two fairies (Sally Fellows and Savithaa Markandu) who get fed up with the Princess’ un-ladylike behaviour -and then things got out of hand. They ended up sending the whole kingdom to sleep! The biggest twist to the story was that the prince (Dennis, Catherine Manwaring) has to be convinced by the fairies to kiss the princess, only for her to wake up and object to him kissing her. As is befitting the play has a happy ending, and a lesson is learned. I personally felt the play would have benefited from having some children in the audience, the imaginative sets and general feel of the show, although appreciated, wasn’t aimed at the young adult audience in attendance. Also, at times there was a little disparity in the energy levels of the characters, making some scenes feel a little out of kilter. However, overall the show was lovely- I really enjoyed the narrative style offered up by the narrator (Amelia Mehra) and the imaginative use of ordinary house hold objects is always exciting to see. I would definitely recommend this timely production if you have kids, and you want to be entertained too!

George Abbott Changes Your Life, Spare the Rod Theatre, 2 Northdown, Camden Fringe

We enter 2 Northdown. We are greeted with a complimentary digestive biscuit. We sit down. We are told our lives are rubbish. The play begins, from a toilet cubicle.

The thing is, before the play even started we were laughing hysterically. George Abbott Changes Your Life, follow up show to George Abbott Makes Love to the Audience took absurdist comedy to another planet. How to describe this is quite a task. Let’s say you are looking for a definition of self deprecating humour; wikipedia should give you a link to the box office for this show. The show knew what it was doing, it knew how it would make you laugh, and I was consistently glad I had used the toilet before the show began, since there were plentiful serious wet-your-pants funny moments. It played inventively with the venue, the space and the plot, and every moment had a point, even though you wouldn’t necessarily see this superficially.

Thematically, George and the boys took several poignant jabs at modern day society, with a heck of a lot of energy and a classy yet trashy – but absolutely hilarious approach. Not only critiquing himself, George Abbott laid into the audience more than once, but not getting his hands dirty, oh no, but making you do the dirty work yourself. More than once. At these points George becomes quite abrasive, but you do quietly respect the brutality he harnesses in the pursuit of the truth. As George Abbott tries to change your life, he comically interrogates his own. Although self indulgent for the actor, it is done in such a ridiculous way you feel quite happy to let him continue. All the laughs came from well crafted moments; timing, words, jokes, lights and the slide show – everything was in its place, at the right time. The boys took the rule book for making theatre, flicked through it and tore it up. Then, it seems, they put it back together and shredded it again. You’ve got to know the rules to break them, and this show could give you a PHD in rule breaking but it being ok.

So, did George Abbott change my life? I mean, he certainly tried to. Perhaps he would have been more successful had he listened to his trusty peers and stuck to the 12 step programme. Perhaps he would have been more successful had he not had to be dressed by said sidekicks on stage. Maybe if he hadn’t lost a body part, nearly died or been abducted by militant Brechtians in the process. But George Abbott made me laugh. Well done, George Abbott.