In the Wake Of, by Faded Ink Productions, at the Bread and Roses as part of Clapham Fringe

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this play. The acting was mostly good, with moments of particularly engaging storytelling; the set was beautifully appropriate; and the writing made the most of every twist and turn possible.
The blurb describes the show as ‘gritty’, and certainly it includes an abundance of plot twists. If the writer put their mind to it, they could probably have written a whole series of a soap opera: we saw and heard about murder, perversion of Justice, cheating, betrayal, domestic abuse, an unplanned pregnancy, secret gay love, and an unexplained cat murder. An hour of theatre crammed with every plot twist possible. This is perhaps inspired by plays like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, in which confession after confession fills the script. Certainly, this new writer writes dialogue very well, but would perhaps do well to simplify the narrative and explore fewer issues in more depth in future plays.
Most of the acting was superb (my Northern theatre-guest mentioned that occasionally the use of t’ and t’other was inconsistent, but as a Southerner, I didn’t notice). A particularly engaging moment was as Razz confessed to killing a cat the previous week. He stared, and barely moved, but used his voice to convey a huge depth of gravitas. Contrasting to the rest of his character who was light and funny, this demonstrates the actor’s skill. Themeatically, following this confession, the dead cat was barely mentioned. Other characters commented how twisted it was, but next to the other confessions, the cat murder paled in comparison.
The same actor also confessed to being abused by his girlfriend. I had hoped this theme would be further explored, as it was introduced excellently, with the character hesitating to tell his friends, fearing they would think him weak and unmanly. It’s certainly something I’ve not seen on stage before, and would be interested to see further.
The other actors were all good. The girlfriend was brilliant, and would be fantastic in on TV: her performance was very subtle.
The backdrop for the performance was a cyclorama plastered with old new paper articles. Many of which were relevant and appropriate and helped contextualise the lower class setting: football news, council blocks on fire, funding cuts, incomplete crosswords. This was particularly clever for a theatre which about an hour after the end was needed for another performance. Despite using minimal and easy to remove set, the stage never looked bare or incomplete.
Even having worked through my thoughts about this play I remain uncertain how I feel about it. Certainly the acting was good, and the writing was interesting, I just wish more time had been given to exploring the issues raised and the effect these issues had on other around them.
Chloe Phillips-Bartlett

Ex-Brats and Broilers, by Sophie Taylor and Jess Dupre at the Bread and Roses Theatre, as part of Clapham Fringe

I did not know what to expect from this show. When the blurb says “two delightful chickens are exploring life as it comes” what can you expect?
Thankfully, I got to bear witness to a truly quirky, funny, and sometimes touching performance which had me totally enthralled throughout.

Two chickens (Gemma and Gail) were trying to win vote from the audience so they could go to the party in the farm house. They told us their life stories of battery farming, and showed us their talents of philosophising, poetry, and yoga (because of course chickens do yoga).
At the end, we voted for our favourite chicken… And then heard as she was prepared and cooked in the farm house, her best chicken friend unable to help from outside. When the final lights went down, the audience collectively ‘aww’d -sad and somewhat guilty that we’d unwillingly sent our favorite chicken to die.
Perhaps unsubtly, this play carries anti-meat-industry messages, but (contrary to the stereo-typical vegetarian) I didn’t feel preached to: this show wonderfully balanced education (chicks grow an egg tooth on their face to help them break through the egg when they hatch!) and brutal depictions of chickens treatment (one chicken was forcefed and overfed by the other) with fantastic humour (mostly terrible chicken puns), and an endearing character nïavity (instead of saying ‘I’m crying’, the chickens would say ‘I have a wet face’).
The two female performers/devisers were totally encapsulating, with an incredible connection with each other which made the story flow completly. Both are evidently highly skilled in physical and facial comedy.
Throughout the show there was a running theme that they would mock theatrical conventions. Most memorably, one chicken suggested showing their stories using “back flash”. They proceeded to explore how to get the ‘back flash’ to work by running backwards, or flashing each other, eventually sighing and saying ‘oooh, it’s just a change of lighting!’. This level of humour was perfectly pitched for the audience, and I particularly enjoyed it.
The only shame I can point out, is that it seemed most of the audience around me knew each other. This is obviously not an issue in itself, I just wish the company had been able to draw a bigger crowd of people like myself who would have loved to see this show.
‘Bratts and Broilers’ was fantastic fun: reminiscent of the animations like ‘Creature Comforts’ and ‘Chicken Run’. An egg-cellent (see, I told you the puns were bad!) performance, which I was very pleased I got to see.
Chloe Phillips-Bartlett

Central Goes South, Part 2 at the Southwark Playhouse

‘On the 30th of September, we checked out  ” Central Goes South” at Southwark Playhouse and we must say that it really did go South ( in the most positive way). ” Central Goes South”, was a one off show celebrating new talent and writing. Twenty playwrights from the Royal Central School Of Speech and Drama’s world acclaimed scriptwriting course teamed up with an array of actors from all walks of life. It was a fiesta of creativity.
Thank You For The Music
Written by Sarah Teale
Directed by Kyril Buhowski
Performed by Phoebe Naughton and Rachael Neary
Thank You For The Music, threw us into the supposed lives of two adolescent females ; one who loves booze and partying, and the other who just wants to see Mamma Mia 2. The dynamic duo left the audience in stitches and brought about a sense of world domination, ultimately exposing the dark side of watching Mamma Mia 2 and the hidden agenda’s of both male performers in ABBA. The simple but effective direction didn’t deviate from the comedy script, but worked evenly alongside it.
Under The Bridge 
Written by Nick Dawkins
Performed by Nick Dawkins and Tom Claxton
Under The Bridge, depicted a high stake situation where we saw two boys, discover a body in the merky darkness to be later confronted with their fear of calling for help or losing their masculinity by being too scared to identify the body. All in all, it was a superb piece of writing, however the lack of stakes played onstage meant that the piece appeared minisucle and didn’t fully take us on a journey. We would be really excited to see how this piece would look fully developed and how direction could give the piece  less of two dimensional effect.
In Person
Written by Griffen Hoyle
Performed by Kirstie Marshall and Laura Hooper
In Person, was a humbling piece about two ladies looking for love at a lesbian speed dating event. Plagued with nerves, the ladies realise that sometimes love can still be found after first glance. An honest piece with slick movement and a believable spark. Both actresses played to their strengths and realistically replicated the dating process of the modern day and age and how that can sometimes be scary . The size of the space made the piece feel intimate and really let us in – we’d love to see it continued in that fashion when performed elsewhere.
A Hostile Environment 
Written by Alex McCarthy
Directed by Keeran Blessie
Performed by Keagan Carr Fransch
A Hostile Environment, was a pleasant release after the somewhat moving pieces before. The one person show followed Karen Priestly, the best immigration officer in the biz and how she got duped by a gentleman claiming to be from a star system called Proxima Centauri. Keagan, was a power house and brought the audience on a journey with her via comedy and her character’s plain and simple lack of modesty. It was a fun piece to watch which we must say reflects positively on the whole team that worked on this piece.
10 Steps to be Adventurous in Bed
Written by Kerry Bruce
Directed by Sarah Teale
Performed by Mia Nuttgens and Dominic Varney
10 Steps to be Adventurous in Bed was a satirical answer to the most asked question in dating, ” is it really okay to have sex after a third date  ( even if your other half is into BDSM, and you are repulsed by it)? 10 steps to be Adventurous in Bed, was a wittily written piece brought successfully to life by both actors ; there was a believable chemistry between both performers and we felt actual feelings towards their awkward situation. The plot progression was clear and there was an evident journey for the characters- even when they decided that their monstrosity of a date could be salvaged , resulting in them standing at the same spot as the start of the piece, the bus top.
The Phenomenally Exciting Tale of Jenny ‘ The Page’ Turner
Written and performed by Louise Singleton
Louise’s piece was a slot of one-woman show goodness. It followed an awkward copy-writer named, Eva who had the pleasure of meeting one of her favourite authors. The laughs were centred around the fact that Jenny (unseen to the audience) is a washed up writer who has been sabotaging the work of another author to get her name back into the publishing line with work that isn’t very good. Although this was a monologue, it didn’t have the notion of an actor standing on stage and just ‘talking to the audience’ , it was an immersive experience which was committed throughout. The stand alone piece worked well for it’s 10/15 mins slot and didn’t have any jarring holts to the end, but started and finished gracefully. Without another pair of eyes, the direction was surprisingly smart and did the job.  This would definitely be a show to watch out for, and we would be interested to see if whether adapted into a longer play if the same hilairioty can be consistently kept.
English Sausage
Written by Kyril Buhowski
Performed by Keeran Blessie and Phoebe Naughton
What happens when you have basically moved into your mother in-law’s rich family home? Choas! An interesting theme uncovered in this piece was greed; the writing really delved deep into this and explored the notion of how far one would go to protect their family fortune away from potential harm. Hester clearly didn’t like her son’s boyfriend, Boris because she believed that he was out to get her money and resulting in this, she decides to take it upon herself and encourages Boris to get a prenup.  English Sausage was a feisty piece that was human enough to relate to. Although, the end was quite abrupt and the audience were left wandering the outcome of Boris’s relationship with Hester’s son. Hesters character was naturally played and reflected Phoebe’s flexibility as an actress, however it would have been awesome to have seen Hester played by an older female. ‘
Mauricia Lewis

Central Goes South, part 1 at the Southwark Playhouse

New voices in theatre can often feel hard to find but Central Goes South at the southwark Playhouse  illustrates the variety of creative work that is ahead. The first piece Couplet took rhyming couplets and made spoken word a conversation between three well defined characters. I found myself trying to figure out the rhymes before they were spoken. It finished with me wanting to know what more the writer, Ben Fensome, could do with this form as he illustrated a great ability to use it to his full advantage in both comedic and serious moments. Following this was Know You Well. The backdrop of donating blood was so immediately captivating that it felt easy to want to know the characters. Writer, Charlotte Paradise exploration of vulnerability was unique and relatable. The third piece Serve and Protect by Lynn Evertowski again had an interesting backdrop. The piece was an exploration of good and bad illustrated through a girl meeting the real life Angel and devil that had guided her through her life. The piece was comedic but I was unsure whether something was being said about autonomy or whether this was truly just a look in at the good and bad choices our protagonist had made in her life. Henry and The Betty’s followed this, a piece with particularly good acting. The characters felt real even though the situation at hand was one of a woman who changed bodies every-time she went into the kitchen. The piece was gripping as you waited for each entrance to the kitchen to move the plot and characters along. Again though I wasn’t sure if this was just an interesting form being used or whether the piece was trying to say something about infidelity. Ms Socialshite took us to half way through the first act this piece was both commentary on the internet as well as a performance of internet performed on stage. I thought this piece held a lot of potential for theatre that performs and discusses internet culture. After this we moved into a comedic piece entitled ‘do not say what is it.’ This piece was that lovely level of comedy which hurts no one and is still funny. The audience loved this piece and laughed from start to finish. The actors were incredibly taken with it and fully committed to the ridiculous course of events taking place. Following this was the most serious piece of the first act, Compassion Fatigue by Molly Sweeny which explored the limits of care giving and empathy. I really felt with this piece that we entered into the middle of it and left in the middle of it. I wanted to know what had happened to the character before and after but left not feeling that I didn’t. Finishing the first act was Grey Widow a comedic piece about being a widow, something I questioned going in but actually worked really well. The setting of a confession box quickly changing to that of a husbands funeral and then the sudden realisation that maybe the widow had more to do with their husbands death than they were letting on kept the pace and the audience engaged. All in all the piece in the first act showed great ideas that often suffered from lack of time which only tells the theatre world that what new writers need is to be given more time, something I hope we can give them. 

Roisin Sheridan

Splinter, by Hyperdrive Theatre at the Bread and Roses, as part of Clapham Fringe

Splinter’ is a snapshot of a life when an important part of their life leaves. A patchwork of scenes in a cleverly jumbled timeline which leaves doesn’t reveal the loss until the end. Throughout, the audience know she stands to lose either her boyfriend or her best friend, and it’s only as the plot unfolds that we realise who.

All three actors were fantastic, but certainly the strongest actor was the main girl. She was passionate and angry, and displayed her fustration by taking it out on those she holds dearest (alarmingly similar to myself). The most startling moment, when she is angry she cannot find a shirt she wants. Her boyfriend is trying to help, but she just shouts and gets upset at him. He says “I’m just trying to help. How can I help? Let me help.”. It takes her a lot of bravery to allow him to help her. The internal angst was clear in the actresses face, and we never disliked the character- you could always understood her anger, even if you didn’t agree with her expression of it.
The story was about a girl (Elle) who’s relationship with her boyfriend was becoming increasingly tense as he struggled to help her cope with the death of her erratic best friend, Joules. The scenes swapped frequently between time before and after Joules’ death. These transitions we’re fluid, often a character would exit, leaving Elle alone on stage, before someone else would enter. The only signifier that time had changed was a change of lighting, sometimes to match the mood, but more often just to clarify the story’s timeline.
Leaving the theatre, I was considering who is my ‘Joules’, how have my ‘Joules” influenced my personality and world view, and how would I cope without them? Some big questions were triggered by this wonderful show, which rather than attempting to answer, the company explored by presenting one character’s experience. Running at 40 minutes even the short-attention-spanned amongst us, surely could have begged for more.
Chloe Phillips-Bartlett

Choose Your Own Adventure, by Helen Suis, at the Bread and Roses, as part of Clapham Fringe

The Clapham fringe is well underway and Choose Your Own Adventure is a fantastic illustration of what it has to offer. Helen Suis, a narrator and friend throughout the piece, takes us through an adventure that many of us have lived before- the adventure of moving house. Helen stands centre stage with a black clipboard flicking through pages that include our many options for the adventure ahead. She is quick to point out that we will need to make choices otherwise the forty minute show will quickly become an awkward twenty minute piece of her speaking to herself. The tone of the piece made me feel like I was chatting to a good friend over a milkshake and three custard creams: items that had been provided underneath each audience members chair.

As a current London renter I found myself laughing along at the sheer misery of the situation. High ceilings are traded for a cement box in the back of someone’s garden. Zoopla is filled with illusions of a better life only to enter a windowless building with a cockerel as a neighbour. Just like real life London renting our situation as adventures went from bad to worse when we found out that the cockerel next door crowed all through the day.

Despite the naturally uneven and grim climate of the London rent market the show was one filled with joy and laughter. Not only was Helen funny but she brought out any comedy that came from the audience members. Audience participation was mandatory without being filled with that uneasy level of pressure that makes you wish you’d sat at the back, instead we were a team battling through the terrain together dodging high council tax and lynx perfumed estate agents.. Helen would point out our audiences whimsical London fantasies of high ceilings and balconies bigger enough to put a plant in without making us feel silly. She laughed along with us and we with her as she shared London renting stories of her own.

The show was a fun forty minutes of silly comedy that occasional touched on the current socio ecumenic climate. It reminded me that you have to laugh at the state of things in order to not cry but that doesn’t mean that the jokes you make can’t leave you in hysterics. All in all it was defiantly the funniest discussion I’ve ever had with a group of strangers about the London rent market.

Roisin Sheridan

Bra Trek, by Charmian Hughes, at the Bread and Roses, as part of Clapham Fringe

Two boxes. One washing line. 8 paper bras. Charmian enters. Dishes out some real bras, and some real, belly laughter comedy. Reflecting on her recent experiences of travelling to New Zealand, Charmian makes well connected jokes, that all connect to the theme – bras. Now anyone who’s ever worn a bra can understand the certain level of stress involved in buying a new one. The fit, the style, the purpose – Charmian covered it all with brutal honesty and a relatable tone; poking fun at her upbringing and where she is in her life now. This may be one of the most personal shows I have seen in a while, as it unashamedly broke the fourth wall and became almost a conversation with the audience. It was wonderfully structured; understanding what it was going to say and when it was going to say it. An experienced comedienne, Charmian brought her own style of self reflective comedy to the stage at the Bread and Roses, in a one woman spectacular which was a simple pleasure to watch.

Blood, Sweat and Vaginas, from The Write Network (Paula David) at the Bread and Roses, as part of Clapham Fringe

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Our very first Clapham Fringe Show! How exciting! And we’re kicking it off with Blood, Sweat and Vaginas from The Write Network who we interviewed back in August (have a gander <here>.)

So with high expectations we sat down to see our first show of the Fringe- and did it live up to expectations? Short answer yes.

Unaware it was a solo show it came as a pleasant surprise, with brillant multi-rolling from Paula David, who also wrote the piece. She clearly and simply characterised characters younger and of the opposite gender effortlessly.

The show followed a woman as she goes through her divorce and subsequent sexual awakening which caused confusion and delight in equal amounts, as well as simultaneously dealing with a teenage daughter who is discovering herself for the first time. Most of the men in the audience tittered uncomfortably at the mention of vagina, let alone the (accurate) descriptions of what sex felt like as a woman.

I loved the inclusion of an LGBTQ+ storyline, it’s not something that is so often neglected from these stories- and even though Carol-Anne doesn’t actually come out, she has the confidence to go and explore what she couldn’t when she was her daughters age. In my head at least, she could have had a lovely conversation with her daughter about being yourself; when they were both ready, of course.

The second in a trilogy I look forward to the next installment, Paula David is a beautiful and considerate writer and she manages to encapsulates perfectly the experiences of so many women, and I hope many, many more people get to see it.   

Kimberley Turford

Much Ado About Salsa, by Summerlight Theatre, Drayton Arms Theatre, Kensington

I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 100 times, summer is over. And … theatre tried their very best to bring it back. Set in Southern Spain, a salsa-dance fuelled rendition of the Shakespeare comedy Much Ado about Nothing was presented to a room, where I appeared to be the youngest audience member by 20 years. I recognised quickly that I was not the company’s target audience, and settled into a realisation that this show just might not be my cup of tea.

There was good commitment to the characters from all actors, and particularly well choreographed slapstick comedy. It was partly reminiscent of James Corden in A Servant to Two Masters, which I did enjoy. For those of you who are familiar with the story in the original Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing, this adaptation does reflect the undeniable chaos and romanticism that there is. This is present particularly in the second act, for about 5 minutes until the plot dives into misery, anger and destruction. It became uncomfortable, when a character with a one sided view on a story became very angry for what I felt was far too long. Perhaps the playwright could have worked the modern day values more into this, to keep up with the themes in the rest of the play. When this ends, there is a touch more romanticism, which is lovely to watch, although I did feel a bit rude seeing this unfold as there was another recently heartbroken character on the stage. After another lengthy monologues, the play had a cheerful ending.

Although this show has a good energy around it, it needs a boost of freshness to energise a wider audience. It was good, just not for this reviewer.

Kirsty Doig

An interview with Hooked Theatre about their show Little Fools, playing at The Space

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

Hooked Theatre was co-founded by us (Brooke Jones and Holly Kellingray) nearly 2 years ago now. We are two Arts University Bournemouth graduates who both have passion for making new and exciting theatre. We devised our first show together last year, HUMAN, and performed in at Camden Fringe. Since then, we have been writing Little Fools together. It’s taken a mammoth load of research and development to reach the point it has. Little Fools is inspired by True Events and it was important to us to reflect these true events in the right way, being sensitive to all those involved in cases similar to those appearing in Little Fools.

Our inspiration for this play came from Rachel Carling Jenkins, an Australian MP, whose life was turned upside by her husband who was convicted of child abuse and child pornography. There are many people in positions of power in this country and others who are thought to be involved in such disgusting acts of crime and violation. Why are these cases overlooked? And, what happens to the families of people who are convicted or accused of such acts? That’s where Little Fools stemmed from. It follows two sisters, April and Harri, whose lives are tainted by the actions of their father. The forgotten victims of crime.

 

You’re using a mix of spoken word and naturalistic dialogue, what made you go for this mix?

This blend of styles was coined during our first show, HUMAN. In HUMAN we used a range of styles: Spoken Word, Naturalism and Comedy Sketches. We found that, for Little Fools, contrasting the style of Spoken Word & Rhyme against Naturalism allowed for us to connect with our audiences more when telling our stories. It gives the audience a chance to understand all of our characters on a deeper level, thus, helping the message behind Little Fools to clearly reach its potential.

What have you enjoyed the most about this project?

Working with like-minded people. The cast all trained at The Arts University Bournemouth. This means not only have we been trained in a similar way which makes rehearsals smooth and comfortable, we are all in a position where we know each other so well we are determined to push our peers to reveal their full potential.

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

The balance between light and dark. As a company we are always determined to have fun whilst creating and also performing, and we hope this is reflected to our audiences. Although we are playful at heart, we are also very passionate in showing the reality of situations. Our stories are not fairytales, they can be gritty and truthful when they need to be.

 

The show uses real events- why was that important to you when creating the piece?

This was important to us because there are so many stories out there and many of them are overlooked. The reason we found Rachel Carling-Jenkins’ story so powerful is because it looks at obscure victims. Victims many people may not think about. Little Fools focuses on the family members of criminals, victims that are often mistaken for as accomplices. We wanted to give a voice to these people.

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

Definitely. At Hooked, when we create pieces of theatre they are neverending projects. HUMAN, the show we performed last year, is still in our horizons. Although we now have a new project in Little Fools, we still have plans to take HUMAN perhaps round schools or develop it into a purely comic piece. With regards to Little Fools, we are hoping to take it to Edinburgh Fringe next year – after this preview we will develop and perfect it further and hopefully hit the ground running in Edinburgh next summer!

Favourite line from the play?

“Princess Pancake can’t have just up and left the place. Replaced herself with these? Gone without a trace.”

Three words to describe the play?

Snappy, Fun and Surprising

Tell us a funny story from rehearsals?

Our funny story happened on Opening Night – as we were about to do our final dress runs. We all got to The Space, feeling giggly and excited because it was opening night; but that very quickly changed! To cut a long story short, mid-way through our dress run, as one of our actors sat on our lovely leather sofa (our ONLY set for the show) it completely collapsed! Then as we were in a flurry to fix the sofas legs, our photographer turned up. The boys were armed with drills, nails and super glue; but they were too late and we had to start our final dress run – with a lopsided sofa. Luckily we were able to solve the solution before our evening performance, but was a very hectic day!

Anything else people should know before coming to the show?

Yes! Rather logistical, but anyone planning on coming to the show – be sure to leave time for travel. To avoid being a dreaded latecomer, aim to arrive at Canary Wharf station for 7.30pm, which means you have time to either take the 20 minute stroll to The Space or can grab a bus that should take 5-10 minutes. Hopefully see some of you there!

Little Fools is playing at The Space, Isle of Dogs until Saturday