Review: What I Really Wanted To Say Was

Fresh out of East 15, Lance Jeffery, Nyke Jackson and Rosie Jane burst onto the theatre scene with What I Really Wanted To Say Was at the Camden Fringe on 14-Aug. It’s presented as a social satire about prejudice in the workplace. The fourth wall is immediately broken as they introduce themselves, Nyke identifying as a mixed race male, Rosie as a mixed race female bisexual and Lance as a white male. 

They then draw us into a variety of workplace scenarios, focussing on the challenges each of them face on an every day basis; sexism, racism, ADHD and dyslexia. We are introduced to Terry Bellowman – a cocky, white male boss, symbolising all that is politically incorrect and backwards about society. Then we have Orin Sundrie, a new member of the team multi-roled by all three actors as a strong figure of diversity within the workplace.

This particular workplace is an advertising agency, attempting to present their adverts as ‘multi cultural’ and ‘diverse’ to the point where it comes full circle, prompting questions around what sells in the advertising industry: white, black, gay, hetero, gender, etc?

But the backwards culture and attitude starts within. Rosie plays a female Orin who is constantly sexualised, harassed in the office and ridiculed for her afro hairstyle. For these reasons, she struggles to make her way up the ranks in the business. She later shares the shocking statistic that 1 in 10 women are sexually harassed in the workplace.

Nyke plays an ADHD Orin who struggles to achieve in an agency that fails to understand the way he works and functions everyday and purposefully marginalise him for it.

Lance then plays a dyslexic Orin who is ridiculed for his reading difficulties, resulting in an effective physical fight to enhance the visual and physical power over Orin who relies on audio a lot to digest information.

Nyke, Lance and Rosie are very strong actors with bewitching stage presence and the content they present is engaging and relevant. You can really tell that a piece of each of them has been put into the show. However, I’m unsure of what to take away from it – after addressing such strong issues, the end is a little inconclusive. I’m aware of the difficulties faced within the workplace, but a solution or at least a stronger message at the end would have a more powerful impact.

Overall though, this is a strong piece with a lot of potential.

I wish them all the best for any future runs of the show. There’s a lot going on at the Camden Fringe, so for anyone who’s around, check out what’s onDon’t forget to like, share and tweet me @theatregirl_94

Keeping Shakespeare Fresh in 2017

How is it that plays that were written almost 400 years ago still bear relevance today? I’m aware that not everyone is a big fan of Shakespeare, namely Emma Rice, Artistic Director of The Globe who stated:

There’s a lot of theatre, some of it Shakespeare some not, which feels like medicine. You feel like if you can get through it, you’re a better person. I have no interest in that; I can’t bear to be in a theatre that feels like medicine.” (Telegraph, 2016).

If a Shakespeare play does feel like medicine, then it’s obviously not been done very well. I recall watching a production of Hamlet at the Tobacco Factory last year – not that I’m a massive fan of Hamlet as a play anyway, but this production was unbelievably dry. It went down like cod liver oil (if we’re going with the medicine simile). Kate Wyver’s review summarised that the reason for this was a lack of risk – the production was far too safe.

We’ve all studied and watched Shakespeare till we’re blue in the face. Something has to give. This is why I’m highlighting a couple of productions I have seen, and one that I have booked to see that break the mould, make us think and drag out themes and emotions that we may not have even considered before.

  • Julius Caesar, Bristol Old Vic: Starring Julian Glover from Game of Thrones, this production chose to take a contemporary route, which really accentuated the political angle of the play. The crowds shouting Caesar’s name may as well have shouted Corbyn’s – their demeanour very similar to the passionate Glastonbury attendees only a few weeks back. I had never read or watched Julius Caesar, so had no idea what to expect, but this production was fresh and defiant. The themes of treachery, political arrogance and scheming felt ever present; while Caesar is accused of being a dangerous threat to his people, Corbyn was bashed by every tabloid going leading up to the election.

    Julius-Caesar-at-Bristol-Old-Vic-Lynn-Farleigh-Calpurnia-Julian-Glover-Julius-Caesar-Photo-by-Simon-Purse
    Julian Glover as Julius Caesar (Sourced from Bristol Post)


  • Twelfth Night, The Globe: This funky, glittery 70’s inspired production was bursting with life and was simply glorious. Not only did it include the fabulous drag queen Le Gateau Chocolat, who truly encapsulated the cross-dressing theme, but Katy Owen who played Malvolio stole the show with her crazed body contortions and facial expressions. I was unfamiliar with the play before going, but the whole concept worked incredibly well. The cheesy camp-ness of the whole thing was in keeping with the cross-dressing, bi-curious elements the plot lends itself to. Luckily, you can still catch this production if you’re quick – it’s on till 5-Aug.

    big
    Le Gateau Chocolat. Sourced from The Globe website.
  • The Tempest, Tea Powered Theatre: A local Bristol theatre company, Tea Powered Theatre specialises in steam punk inspired theatre while serving cream teas with a fabulous selection of teas from Bristol Tea Company. This particular production of The Tempest is directed by Calum Anderson and is set in space where reality ceases to exist; up is down and white is black. Nothing is as it seems. A group of stranded astronauts delve their way into a world of discarded technology and madness. There are a few showings of this in September, so don’t miss out!
    5-Sep – 7-Sep: Bierkeller Theatre (Cream tea not included)
    9-Sep – 10-Sep: All Saints Church (Cream tea included) – I’ll be going to this one! 😉
    20245399_880094488807494_2891745451260021271_n

If you have seen any Shakespeare productions recently that you’d like to mention, then please comment or tweet me @theatregirl_94

Review: Licensed To Ill

You can’t deny that hip-hop has crept into every form of entertainment now – from the Netflix series The Get Down, to Lin Manuel Miranda’s award winning musical Hamilton. So it’s no surprise that Licensed to Ill, a small-scale show about the life and times of the Beastie Boys has been unbelievably popular in the theatre sphere – there’s rap, beats and bold dance moves, all with hilarious consequences. 

It all started with Adam El Hagar and Simon Maeder who concocted the idea of building a show around the surprising rise of the Beastie Boys while flyering and rapping to passers by in London. 

From there, the show was born. They fought for their right to party.
And thank goodness they did – because we get a great night out of it. 
We follow the highs and lows of Mike D (Simon Maeder), MCA (Adam El Hagar) and Ad-Rock (Daniel Foxsmith) as they accidentally trip upon hip-hop and create one of the most iconic records ever made alongside producer, Rick Rubin (Tope Mikun). 

Licensed to Ill Show
MCA (El Hagar), Mikun, Ad-Rock (Foxsmith) Mike D (Maeder) -Sourced from The Guardian.
 

The thing that stands out the most is their ability to morph into these caricatures with such ease – they’re obnoxious, fun, boisterous and unafraid. They step into a world which is predominantly black and face it with complete boldness. We learn to appreciate how they broke boundaries and adapted to their audiences; their tour with Madonna being a specific highlight. 

We’re taken swiftly through the humble beginnings of hip-hop, the boys’ transition from punk and their rise to fame – amongst other personal struggles. As they work through the story, the transitions between scenes begin a little shaky, but become much smoother and refined later on. Overall their collaboration is impeccable. I can’t pick out a weak member of the group; they’re all equally slick performers who are obviously passionate about the genre. Nevertheless, Tope Mikun in particular proves to be a truly versatile performer as he jumps from being producer Rick Rubin and puppet master, to the famous “Mix Master Mike”. I appreciate the puppet puns thrown in – something to please the nerds out there.

And of course – a show about hip-hop and the Beastie Boys would not be complete without a bit of audience interaction, right? Cue budget hand-held camera reenactment of ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)’ music video starring members of the audience dancing, rapping and partying – truly bringing the fun, freestyle vibes of the Beastie Boys to life. 
Although you could describe the Beastie Boys career as a ‘flash in the pan’, we certainly got a hell of a lot of entertainment out of them, and this show certainly proves that they left a legacy worth reflecting on. Licensed To Ill is a fitting tribute to the “three idiots” who “creat[ed] a masterpiece” – flawless rap, silly costumes, puppetry and sick beats…what’s not to love?

A rip-rapping triumph.
If you liked this, then go ahead and follow my blog or my Twitter: tesshenderson94 🙂

Review: No Man’s Land

It’s been a crazy long time since I wrote a blog post but I’ve been very busy! I went on holiday to Portugal straight after I saw No Man’s Land, but I bought a notebook and scribbled down some thoughts before I forgot – so hopefully this review won’t be too shabby. However, if you are truly unimpressed then you can jolly well move on to another corner of the internet (no, not that one).

Anyway, No Man’s Land – a play written by the mighty Harold Pinter himself in 1974 and starring two incredible legends: Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. The two men, Hirst (Stewart) and Spooner (McKellen) appear to have met in a pub and ended up at Hirst’s house to continue drinking. The set itself reflects the general mood of this play; a darkened, grand, circular room where the men bounce pointless conversation off each other and never reach a resolution. The circular room and lack of progression from the two men hint at elements of Beckett; a moment in Endgame in particular where Hamm asks Clov to push him around the room stands out:

HAMM:
Take me for a little turn.
(Clov goes behind the chair and pushes it forward.)
Not too fast!
(Clov pushes chair.)
Right round the world!
(Clov pushes chair.)
Hug the walls, then back to the centre again.
(Clov pushes chair.)
And it’s no surprise really, No Man’s Land is considered perhaps one of Pinter’s most absurdest plays – so a lot of parallels can be drawn from Beckett. In fact, Pinter himself described this play as “hauntingly weird” and that he “can never fully understand – who can? But it works on you.”
Well that sums it up really. The whole play is a slow-moving drudge through whatever these men are trying to achieve. Not going to lie, it was confusing. In act 1, Hirst is a little worse for wear and is far from impressed by Spooner’s ever more outrageous tales; Hirst eventually leaves, crawling out of the room, completely inebriated. Two younger men then enter, Foster (Damien Molony) and Briggs (Owen Teale) which shifts the whole power structure; a previously very chatty Spooner is silenced by the menacing presence of these men. From what I can gather from this scene, it is partly about the physical decline of Hirst and Spooner as they have gotten older; Hirst exits by crawling weakly on his hands and knees, while the two younger men assert their dominance over this unknown man in their house by physically threatening him.
nomansland_04
(From left to right) Ian McKellen, Damien Malony, Owen Teale, Patrick Stewart. Sourced from Delfont Mackintosh Theatre website.
The second act is a huge improvement as Hirst enters into the room the next morning as if nothing has happened; their roles switch. Hirst is now bright, refreshed and talkative. He makes up wild tales about sleeping with Spooner’s wife – a power play much favoured by Pinter; the ownership of women. Like in Pinter’s play, The Homecoming, there are a lack of female roles, so they must perform the typical ‘domestic’ roles around the home, which threatens their masculinity. There’s also an element of intellectual competition; although the two older men can no longer assert physical dominance, they are both writers, so fight it out that way. Yet, they are constantly crippled by their poor memory.
It’s terribly existentialist, which I have no problem with, but it can leave you feeling empty. There’s a reference near the end to the seasons and it remaining winter forever – unmoving from no man’s land:
No man’s land…does not move…or change…or grow old..remains…forever…icy…silent.”
This is much like how Beckett refers to the passing of time (or not as the case may be). It’s a heavy performance with a few laughs throughout, but very tough to follow. Naturally, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are excellent, but I didn’t warm to the play at all – yet again, that’s never Pinter’s intention in the first place.
Confusing man.
The tableau at the end speaks for itself; Hirst and Spooner are front and left, whereas Foster and Briggs are in the background by the bar. The older men are always at the forefront leading the way, while the younger generation can only look on and attempt to replicate.
Although well executed, the play really wasn’t for me. I mean, if Pinter himself didn’t get it, then I don’t stand a chance in hell.
So I’ll just leave it at that.
If you liked this then please follow my blog and check out my ramblings on Twitter @tesshenderson94 🙂

Review: 946 The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips

I met Michael Morpurgo when I was about twelve years old and he signed my copy of Kensuke’s Kingdom – it was the best day ever (at the time). Ever since I have been in awe of him as a writer and storyteller. He has this incredible knack of evoking every emotion in you; his books make you laugh out loud and sob uncontrollably all at the same time. For this reason, The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips is not simply a ‘kids’ book, it’s a story that uncovers some cold hard truths about World War 2. I went to see the production of it on 12 August at The Globe and thought it would be a nice one to mention in my blog, especially because it was my first time at The Globe.

The tale is based on a real life event that happened on 27 April 1944. American troops ventured over to Slapton Sands in South Devon to practice and fully prepare for Operation Overload on 6 June 1944, the D-Day landings on Utah Beach, France. However, this didn’t go quite to plan as German ships launched a torpedo attack in the Lyme Bay area, resulting in the deaths of 946 American soldiers. This mistake was kept under wraps until 40 years after the Normandy landings, thus the story of Adolphus Tips is partly a reminder of what actually went on at that time.

But this adaptation by Emma Rice and Michael Morpurgo is far from doom and gloom. Naturally, this is helped a lot by Kneehigh, who utilise their familiar tropes; live music, puppetry and physical theatre. The show opens with a live band led by Adebayo Bolaji wearing a slick black satin suit; he proves to be an excellent frontman and interacts throughout with Lily Tregenza (Katy Owen), who is the protagonist of the story. She’s a twelve year old girl brought up in Slapton around the war; we follow her throughout her life as she is constantly on the look out for her cat, Tips and eventually makes friends with the adorable evacuee, Barry (Adam Sopp).

946-adolphus-tips
Katy Owen as Lily Tregenza with Tips the Cat. (Sourced from Variety.com)

The live music aspect proves to be the highlight of the show; it ranges from folk to American inspired jazz. One of my favourite parts is when American soldiers, Adi (Ncuti Gatwa) and Harry (Nandi Bhebhe) come to visit the Tregenza’s to celebrate Thanksgiving and it turns into a lively, vibrant party with jazz music and tap dancing. It’s a all swinging, all dancing extravaganza. The actors genuinely look like they’re having a lot of fun, and so are we! The idea that a group of people from very different backgrounds can still unite in times of turmoil is an ever-present theme in this story. In fact, the famous quote by Martin Luther King is mentioned to highlight this:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

And of course, as I previously mentioned, it wouldn’t be a true Kneehigh production if puppets didn’t make an appearance somewhere. I’m always amazed at how seamlessly the cast work them into the piece; you barely notice the puppeteer at all! You end up falling head over heels for Tips the cat, which is very much down to the incredible level of puppetry from Nandi Bhebhe.

At the beginning we’re introduced to Boowie (Adam Sopp), Lily’s grandson in the present day as a miniature puppet running around the farm kicking a ball around with his sheepdog. This tiny puppet scene is transfixing and so cleverly done; it really helps set the scene as we are then introduced to the life size Boowie and puppet sheep dog. In my opinion, this technique could have been used more throughout. However, for a large space like The Globe, I can understand why they avoided doing it too often.

14087322_10208408436941559_1896123290_o
The Set (Photo taken by me)

The Globe proves to be an incredible venue for this type of production; there are propellers attached to the front of the stage which are powered by cast members and are used to dramatise the battle scenes. This and the metal baths full of cold water at the front make it an all-encompassing experience. Here’s why. Naturally, it’s difficult to portray a battleship scene on stage, but Kneehigh tackle this with ease; while Bolagi narrates the action, the other cast members dive small battleships into the tin baths, splashing water over all of us in the yard; it’s an incredibly immersive experience. We feel physically and emotionally taken over by the whole event and it’s absolutely breathtaking.

946-at-the-globe-2-1000x600
Ncuti Gatwa as Adi and Nandi Bhebhe as Harry. (Sourced from theupcoming.co.uk)

I honestly can’t imagine any other theatre company doing it better; Kneehigh add fun and energy as well as moments of thoughtfulness and peace. As always, the cast are incredibly talented in the way they multi-role, pick up instruments on the fly and burst into song. Katy Owen as young Lily is a burst of life with a touch of mischievousness about her, although she could do with a little toning down as she tends to be a distraction. Another favourite of mine is Ncuti Gatwa as young Adi; he’s instantly charming with a smile that could stop a bus. Honestly, just look (the one on the left):

birmingham rep
Sourced from birmingham-rep.co.uk

Anyway, if you do get a chance to swing by The Globe, it’s on till 11 September – so get your tickets now! It’s only a fiver to stand in the yard, and the show is so good that you don’t even notice you’re standing for that long.

Whether you’ve read the story or not, it’s an enchanting show that’s guaranteed to pull on those heart strings.

If you liked this, then follow, like and share! 🙂 Also, follow and tweet me @tesshenderson94

Review: Goldilock, Stock and Three Smoking Bears

It looks like the Wardrobe Theatre have done it again! Goldilock, Stock and Three Smoking Bears is a mismatched delight of gangsters, posh bears, Scottish porridge makers and a disillusioned Goldilocks selling her wears and tears on the mean streets of London.

After a long day at work, this show is exactly what you need. The cast burst onto the stage and pull you into their world with forceful ease. The metatheatre style is warmly received by the audience as characters are introduced by a London geezer voice-over and Goldilocks openly addresses scene changes and plot development.

You soon empathise with poor Goldilocks (Emma Keaveney) who tries her best to earn a living. However, it all starts to go a little bear shaped (…sorry) when she runs an errand for renowned gangster, Harry (Harry Humberstone) – who has an unhealthy obsession with chairs.

They cleverly weave elements of the fairytale and Guy Richie’s gangster classic Lock, Stock and Three Smoking Barrels into the narrative. Goldilocks has to deliver a third chair to the run-down flat where Winston, Rupe (Lotte Allan) and Paddy (Andrew Kingston) live; three rather posh bears who’ve no doubt

Goldilock Sourced from Lotte Allan Twitter
Winston and Rupert (Sourced from Lotte Allan’s Twitter)

just returned from their ‘gap yah’. There she finds their left over porridge – to which the mockery of the ‘too hot, too cold, just right’ ensues. Goldilocks’ song about nothing being ‘just right’ is a wonderfully melancholy parody in itself.

The physicality of the piece is incredibly inventive and effective; from an exaggerated card game ending in Goldilocks’ doom to the stereotyped Scottish witches working at Uncle Hamish’s Porridge Emporium painfully contorting their faces as they attempt to uncover Hamish’s secret ingredient (which we never find out actually – ooh, intrigue). The two Scottish witches are most definitely a highlight of the piece; they have the whole audience in stitches with their hyperbolic Scottish antics and one liners.

Goldilock. Sourced from Matthew Whittle's Twitter
The Scottish witches and Uncle Hamish. (Sourced from Matthew Whittle’s Twitter)

My friend and I make the questionable decision to sit at the front, which means we have to get very involved in pulling Goldilocks out of the clutches of the three sleepy bears. However, this fails to make us uncomfortable – partly because we’re drama students, and partly because the cast interact with the audience so naturally.

Goldilock, Stock and Three Smoking Bears is a triumphant parody that doesn’t shy away from highlighting the silly conventions of fairy tales, gangster films and theatre itself. It’s a good ol’ bubble bath!

Comment, follow my blog and check out my ramblings on my twitter: tesshenderson94

Review: Dinosaur Park

It became a roaring success at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, so naturally, Dinosaur Park by the wonderful Superbolt Theatre Company had to come to Bristol. Quickly becoming my favourite venue in Bristol for new theatre, The Wardrobe Theatre is the perfect, intimate space for such a touching, yet hilarious show. Although it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Jurassic Park, the references to the iconic 1993 blockbuster film made me howl with laughter!

We join dad Terry (Frode Gjerløw), his daughter Jade (Maria Askew) and youngest son Noah (Simon Maeder), who make us feel right at home; they chat to the audience with ease, displaying their distinctive characteristics before the show even begins. We soon learn that we are there for a showing of (you guessed it), Jurassic Park, in memory of the children’s mother who passed away a year ago. But alas – the original video tape is missing.

This is where the fun begins. There’s no Spielberg style special effects here; the three actors recreate the film by clambering upon each other, using a rucksack as a dinosaur mouth, prancing around pretending to be DNA (Gjerløw steals the show with that impression!) and effectively use an umbrella in the memorable scene where Dennis Nedry gets attacked by a Dilophosaurus. My tacky description fails to give it justice; you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

Time out
Frode Gjerlow, Maria Eskew and Simon Maeder. (Sourced from Time Out London)

It’s a hilarious, creative and wildly intelligent piece, yet isn’t afraid to approach sensitive subjects, which cushions the humour very well. I especially like the song accompanied by ukulele, where they link the moment where the triceratops dies to what happened to their mother. It’s a moment that leaves you silent for only a moment though, as it continues to move at a fast pace, with laughs at every turn.

Each character is loveable in their own way; Terry is a pityingly hopeless father with his heart in the right place, while Jade is a rebellious teenager, drawing parallels with the trapped female dinosaurs in the film as she not only tears down the fences at school, but the feminine expectations of a patriarchal society (I know, deep). And lastly, perhaps my favourite, is the excitable, wide-eyed Noah who shares a pure love for Jurassic Park and life in general.

I highly recommend that you see this play if you fancy a good laugh, although I reckon it’s a good idea to dust off your copy of Jurassic Park first as you might need a recap of the story! Regardless, I laughed the whole time, so if you don’t get time to refresh yourself, it’s not the end of the world.

Rawr.

Follow and tweet me @tesshenderson94. If you liked this and want to see more, follow my blog!

Read my previous blog about Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

Review: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Touring Production)

Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s was brought gracefully to life in Richard Greenberg’s adaptation in the touring production, starring Emily Atack as Holly Golightly and Matt Barber as Fred. This story clearly reflects Capote’s own lifestyle of gossip, glamour and cocktail parties. Not only this, but there are a lot of parallels between himself and Fred; both of them struggling writers who found trouble in their respective newspaper publishing houses. You can really sense Capote’s heart and soul within this story, which explains why it has resonated through generations.

The main thing I appreciated about this adaptation was that it didn’t shy away from the gritty and melancholy truth of the story. Although hopelessly lovable, the 1961 film sugar-coated the poverty and desperation experienced by the two protagonists, and swerved the bitter-sweet ending replacing it with the typically romanticised Hollywood kiss.

At first, Holly and Fred couldn’t be more different; Holly, the fun-loving, extroverted girl about town and Fred the brooding, introverted writer. Nevertheless, their lives are practically mirrored throughout as they are both forced to sleep and charm their way to the top. Emily Atack, best known for her role as Charlotte Hinchcliffe in The Inbetweeners played a very convincing Holly with her light and airy movements, charming smile and stunning singing voice. She sang all three songs in the show, one of them of course being the dreamy ‘Moon River’; her voice had a slight pop influence which brought it into the 21st Century, and she showed off some rather impressive vocal runs, as well as a little guitar playing. Overall, I was very impressed with her performance. The only thing I would comment on was that her accent took a little while to warm up; she sounded obviously American in the first scene, then slipped into British in the next, attempting to perfect the posh American accent that the character had been trained in. However, beyond the second scene, Atack was flying and everything about her performance was on-point.

Bath Chronicle 2
Matt Barber and Emily Atack as Fred and Holly. (Sourced from the Bath Chronicle Website)

Matt Barber, best known for his role as the dashing Atticus Aldridge in Downton Abbey played Fred. He seamlessly narrated the story; sharing his woes as a writer, his obsession with Holly and his darker moments through his quest for success. He didn’t simply stick to the introverted writer stereotype, but branched out with confidence; standing up to Holly’s selfish behaviour. Like Capote, Fred shows homosexual tendencies, which was very much hidden in the film.

Naturally, there was a real life cat that (almost) stole the show! Bob the cat was greeted to the stage with a chorus of “awws”, startling him at first; poor Fred had to try and keep him from running off stage. I honestly couldn’t tell you what conversations occurred in that scene; I was completely transfixed to the fluff ball.

On another note, thanks to designer Matthew Wright the set was simply gorgeous and truly captured the grittiness of the play. It wasn’t overly complicated and didn’t detract from the action at all; all the transitions were perfectly smooth. I also appreciated the spotlights used throughout; they had an art-deco edge around them, subtly alluding to the style and time of the play. Oh, and naturally the costumes were to die for; Holly had a different outfit for practically every scene and oozed class every time.

Bath Chronicle
Emily Atack with Bob the cat. (Sourced from the Bath Chronicle website)

Nevertheless, there were some drawbacks to the production. The play was advertised as showcasing ‘memorable songs from the era’, almost passing it off as jukebox style musical…which it obviously wasn’t (it’s a pretty dark tale). There were only three songs in the show, and although beautifully performed, I wouldn’t describe them as being ‘upbeat’. I can imagine that if you bought tickets with the intention of seeing a play with some lively songs from the era, you’d be a little disappointed, (which is what I gathered from a conversation I overheard as I left). Furthermore, on the subject of liveliness, I couldn’t help but feel that the party scenes lacked, well…life. Before the iconic party in Holly’s apartment, Fred announces that ‘the whole of Manhattan were there’, yet only a handful of people were on the stage. There wasn’t even a great deal of upbeat party music or any sort of ‘buzz’ for that matter. I understand that with a touring company, there’s only so many cast members you can afford to have, so in that case, adding some more jazzy music and a ‘bustling party’ sound effect in the background would have livened the whole scene up a bit. After all, Capote was known to be a bit of a party planner himself.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with this production. Breakfast at Tiffany’s has always been a film close to my heart, so I wasn’t sure how I would react to this adaptation. For one, I appreciated discovering more about Fred’s back story, which was practically ignored in the film. Although the ‘Hollywood’ ending was absent, I felt that the bitter-sweet tone fit in with the whole ambience of the play.

I’m writing a full length play. (And may need your help!)

So as you’re already aware, I enjoy writing – it’s one of the main reasons I write this blog.

However, I’ve never really mentioned my love for Playwrighting. It was something that developed while I was at university.  The thing is, I have always enjoyed creative writing and developing characters, but I was always too daunted to write a full-length play. Hence why I began writing 10-20 minute plays which were performed by people at uni or at new writing showcases. 

I’ve written comedic plays; one about a cat detective (oops, spoiler) and another about pigeons in WW2. My first play was quite political; I set it in the future where the government had reverted back to the Victorian workhouse system. My dissertation play also had a political edge; I took themes from The Taming of the Shrew and created a contemporary piece about women in the workplace. Most recently, I’ve written perhaps my longest play so far (40 minutes) about my interpretation of the afterlife.

Yet, I’ve never pushed myself to write a full-length play. 

After watching The BAFTAs the other night, it struck me that for such a tiny island, we have produced the best dramas in the world (and the best reality TV shows- where would we be without the GBBO?). We have such a range of actors, writers and directors constantly creating breath-taking pieces of work. Who’s to say you or I aren’t capable of doing the same? Who’s to say that that my writing can’t go anywhere?

Which is why I have made the decision to write my first full-length play. Not only that, but I’ve decided to write about and for my generation. 

Generation Y.

Each scene is going to peer into the lives of two people facing the struggles of growing up in today’s society. So far, I have written a scene about a woman coming to terms with her body image and how she works that into her relationship with her girlfriend. Another is a scene between a mother and daughter; the mother silently pressuring her daughter with her high expectations. Right now, I’m working on a scene between two 16 year old boys brought up within the Catholic Church and how that can conflict with their lifestyles and desires.

So. Here’s where I need your help (people of Gen Y!). When have you felt pressured by the society we live in? If you could change something about the world right now for future generations, what would it be?

Leave a comment or Tweet me @tesshenderson with the hashtag #GenY

Thank you!

One-Hander Shows: Yay or Nay?

It’s been a while since my last post, apologies! Life has been super busy these last few weeks; I just started my new job which is exciting and overwhelming all at the same time! I’ve just been waiting for everything to calm down a bit so I can get back to it!

Which brings me to this week’s blog: One-Hander Shows: Yay or Nay?
I have always admired people who are capable of catching an audience’s attention simply by standing alone. There is nothing quite like the intimacy of watching a solo performer.

Nonetheless, this sense of intimacy and exposure has the potential to highlight a bad one-hander show. Mark Shenton discussed this in a recent issue of The Stage, which got me thinking: How do I feel about one-hander shows?

Generally I find this medium very endearing. I enjoy hearing people’s stories, not just in shows but in real life. Due to the personal element of a solo performance, a lot more is revealed, so you tend to learn more about the intricate elements of a specific culture or economic background- or whatever. A specific production I saw recently springs to mind: A Girl Is a Half Formed Thing. Due to its Irish Catholic base, it really resonated with my Irish heritage and my feelings toward the restrictions endured by my ancestors and those who still suffer today.

I can’t help but feel how Shenton did when he discussed Ben Rimalower’s one-hander show: 

“This show was sometimes deeply uncomfortable to listen to, but there’s also something remarkably healing in the personal honesty that Rimalower brings to telling this story of his own chronic dishonesty.”

Similarly, I felt that the ‘girl’ in A Girl Is a Half Formed Thing was revealing herself after years of abuse and feeling completely worthless. At times it was uncomfortable, but it felt like a necessary journey rather than an arrogant exercise of self-indulgence.

I unfortunately missed Iphigenia in Splott when it came to Bristol, but I heard some fantastic things. Shenton described it as: 

“A short but bruising play, fired up by the piercing intensity of Sophie Melville’s performance as Effie.”

This, like A Girl is a Half Formed Thing, sounds like a one-hander play done right. On the other hand, there are plenty that can only be described as indulgent and cringe-worthy (The scene in Friends comes to mind: “Chapter One: My First Period”)

Shenton used If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me by the Young Vic as an example of a “personal vanity project”. I cannot form an opinion of this piece as I haven’t seen it, however, it is this general stigma of one-hander shows that can sometimes influence my decision to avoid them. After all, with less distractions and only one actor- the script has to be pretty damn good. 

I suppose it’s a gamble you have to take.

I enjoy watching spoken word performances, which I suppose are a similar form. If you’re more of a poetry fan, then I would recommend going to see some. You get the same honesty but in a different way; I think it’s more free and passionate than a traditional scripted monologue. Poetry can have that ‘freeing’ affect on you. 

If you’re interested in going to see some local spoken word, Fat Girls Don’t Dance is on at The Bristol Old Vic next week. Check it out!

Don’t forget to follow and tweet me @tesshenderson94