Rift Zone at New Diorama Theatre. Night Light Theatre‘s reworking of Icelandic myth was musical, harmonic, highly visual, and touching. The story centres on a brother and sister growing up, but seems to span centuries and mythologies. Along with a simple but effective scenic design, bare lightbulbs create an atmospheric landscape, illuminating faces in caverns, swinging menacingly from the ceiling, and even becoming an infant and a sword. The company is based in Cambridge and Ipswich, but travelled to Iceland to research this project. They also regularly tour around the UK, so keep an eye out for them where you are.
April was a month of festivals and showcases…
At The Yard Theatre’s N.O.W. festival, I enjoyed Amy Draper’s new project Life on the Refrigerator Door, a wrenching mother/daughter tale told through post-it notes. XXXY? was part of that same evening; I should have known it wouldn’t be my cup of tea from the website description: “Instruments could be swapped, smashed or ignored, sexualities and genders could disintegrate and the six protagonists may eventually dissolve into a collective mess.” I was interested in the gender themes, but unfortunately, the whole thing seemed to me a collective mess, bouncing from Ted Talk to rock concert (so loud I actually thought, “I’m too old for this”).
Later in the month, Pegs Off! a debut showcase from brand new company Three Pegs Productions introduced me to The Horse Hospital, a very atmospheric performance space in Russel Square.
All the Rage Theatre put together a full day of performance for Seize the Stage at RichMix, presenting the results of six new writer/director pairings at the culmination of a collaborative workshop period. I’m excited to see what they do next, after getting to know company directors Cara Verkerk and Zoe Walshe at the GAP Salon this spring.
Finally, the new London Playwriting Lab presented a showcase of new work from their three playwright-founders at the Etcetera Theatre, to kick off their new play development initiative. (Writers, check it out, they are constantly running a series of workshops designed to support the journey from idea to full length play.)
Puffball at the Roundhouse. Professional circus artists and LGBTQ young performers created a funny, provovative, and jaw-droppingly impressive performance for Roundhouse’s CircusFest. With so much heart and skill onstage, I understand why director Mark Storor let it run nearly four hours… but two would have been enough. I loved much of the show, but the indulgent running time soured the experience as a whole.
Home at the National Theatre. I’ve been devouring as much verbatim theatre as I can, as I get started on my own interview-based performance project. Nadia Fall’s weaving together of stories from a hostel for homeless youth is a master class in how to construct a whole piece of theatre from many moving parts. And those parts move. The frenetic energy of the home makes the performance non-stop controlled chaos. Except for a few moments of choral singing, everything is in motion all the time. There’s something that feels really right, and responsible, about telling this story through so many stories – the verbatim form allows for a much wider dramatic net to be cast, capturing snapshots of dozens of lives, rather than a more traditional protagonist-led fiction. And when we’re making work about such complex social issues, it feels very important not to condense many experiences into an everyman figure. Plus, when you have dozens of characters, you get to showcase a cast of diverse, multiple-character-playing powerhouses, and end with a polyphonic cacophony of words and music. I can’t wait to unabashedly steal inspiration from Home as I’m working on my Third Culture Kids Project.
Oh My Sweet Land at the Young Vic. A step removed from verbatim theatre, playwright Amir Nizar Zuabi’s Oh My Sweet Land is an original piece based on interviews conducted in refugee camps, in collaboration with German-Syrian performer Corinne Jaber. The lyrical text brings together multiple stories within the overarching story of a woman looking for her lover after being displaced by the civil war in Syria, with Jaber cooking a traditional Syrian kibbeh onstage as she weaves all this together. The smell of the food is a constant reminder that we are all in the theatre right now listening to these stories, while the narrative wanders far and wide – sometimes a little too wide, losing the thread in the complexity of stories within stories. But the sense of desperation, horror, and hope is there throughout, as well as an unrelenting insistence that these stories, themselves refugees, get out of Syria and make themselves heard in a numbed world that has stopped listening.
27 male/37 female actors
9 male/10 female directors *6 women directors from Seize the Stage showcase; 3 of 4 full productions were directed by men.
7 male/11 female writers