Review: Kill Climate Deniers

4*
The Pleasance Theatre
Directed by Nic Connaughton

3-D printed guns, eco-terrorists and the Australian Environment Minister on a killing spree, you’re in for a memorable evening. Kill Climate Deniers is as bonkers as the title suggests but in and amongst the brilliantly choreographed fight-dance scenes there’s a poignant message about why so many people don’t believe (or don’t want to believe) in climate change.

First shout out goes to the cast who are all hilarious. Felicity Ward as Gwen Malkin, Environment Minister, becomes the surprising heart of this show as she puts down her awful geo-engineering policies and picks up a machine gun instead, when eco-terrorists invade a Fleetwood Mac concert at Parliament House. Meanwhile, Kelly Paterniti plays Georgina Bekken, Malkin’s social media and 90s music savvy assistant, and the two have wonderful onstage chemistry and get some of the best laughs. Bec Hill and Hannah Ellis Ryan are fab in a number of rules including terrorists and a media correspondent, and Nathan Coenen plays Finig, the playwright himself. It’s when the writer starts telling us about his own play (via a character he’s written) that the drama steps away from farce and closer to its core interest in climate change denial. The fourth wall is broken and the devices of the play are humorously analysed as well as its history when it played, to much furore, in Australia. This often worked but a few times the didacticism became too much and I wanted to see the characters convey the central points rather than just be told by the writer. Also, for someone who hates bloggers so much (and really loves 90s music) Finnigan sure knows how to rant and in his intro to the script he does write: “[the play] is everything I wanted to say but bit my tongue about, year after year, until I sat down and blurted it all out in one hit.” He also calls it “panic euphoria” and I certainly panicked when a gun was turned on the audience and when grim visions of a future with climate catastrophe were prophesied.

Nic Connaughton does a great job directing, making the most of the small space, aided by Prinx Lydia’s impressive design, including a number of old TVs onstage, which were simultaneously comic and menacing. One of the funniest physical moments was when Malkin goes head to head with Catch (Bec Hill), the chief terrorist, in a fight to the death with guns, knives, dance moves, all to the tune of (you guessed it) some great 90s music. It was at moments like this that Rubyyy Jones’ movement direction really brought the world and comedy of the script to life in ways beyond the words.

All in all, it was a very fun evening. I’m still not convinced this whole climate change malarkey is an actual thing so I’ll just get back to eating loads of meat and flying short distances.

© R. Holtom

This show runs at The Pleasance Theatre, London until the 28th June 2019.  Book now.

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Photo © Ali Wright

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Review: Fatty Fat Fat Comedy Club

4*

The Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club has a history that is as fabulous as it is fascinating, and under the capable compere Matilda, it can add the Fatty Fat Fat Cabaret to it’s repertoire; these people must return.

The Fat Cabaret has it’s roots in Brighton, where fat performers of all genders have been wowing audiences with bold, courageous, witty and entertaining performances.  It was only a matter of time until other places grew hungry for their work, and, after a smasher of a show at The Vaults in January, London was lucky to get them again.

The Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club is the kind of venue that takes a place on the bill whether you like it or not, but that’s no bad thing.  A mixture of ‘shabby chic’ and looking as though 1965 never really ended, The Fatty Fat Fat Cabaret was very much at home among the mirror balls and faded glamour.  

Matilda starts by saying, very truthfully, that being a fat person on stage is within itself an act of rebellion and defiance, demanding a spotlight and attention in a way that society at large doesn’t really grant fat people, unless they’re being interrogated.  To take centre stage (quite literally in this case) on their own terms was impactful.  At one point Matilda shared a self-written poem that brought the house down.  Everyone here deserved to be on stage, many of them award winning performers in their own right.

The acts were many and varied, ‘The Night Bus’ brought bell ringing to a whole new world, and it was all the better (and sexier!) for it.  Louis F.U.C.K created a powerful piece that brought tears to the eyes and an ache to the heart as well as curative belly laughs.  Grace Shush (Miss Sink the Pink) had a verve and energy on stage that demanded attention that we were happy to give to her fierce, fat, femme pride.  She graced us with 2 of the best ‘drag reveals’ that I’ve seen in a long time.

After the interval (complete with tantalising buffet) the second half started with a glorious raffle, though sadly, dear reader, my tickets were useless. The performances were as eclectic as they were engaging.  Bae Sharam, out of drag, indulged us in some very natural storytelling, revealing that bedsits in Fairlop see more alfresco platters with hummus than you might have previously thought. Bae held attention brilliantly, and I hope I get to enjoy more of the same in the future.

Katie Greenall (the new London ‘Fatbassador’ to compliment the ones in Brighton) brought classical music and crisps to the stage, coming together in a beautifully chaotic cataclysm that filled the room with shared laughter.

As a wonderful, stylish and very sexy finish, the reigning Hamburger Queen Smashlyn Monroe (the first ever ‘Fatbassador’) swept across the room, the stage and our eyes defiantly showing her body, her beauty and herself.

The next Fat Cabaret in Brighton will be featuring fat trans artists for trans pride, hence the title ‘Trans Fats’…what else?!  (12th July in Brighton)

See it when you can, and celebrate the beautiful, the everyday, the very human Fatty Fat Fat Cabaret.

© Jezza Donovan 2019

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Image: Katie Greenall in Fatty Fat Fat, the theatre show coming to Edinburgh this August

 

Interview: Sadie Clark

Sadie Clark has written and performs in Algorithms, a new solo show which bills itself as ‘the bisexual Bridget Jones for the online generation.’ We caught up with Sadie ahead of her Edinburgh Fringe run to find out more about the development of this piece, how it is to make a solo show and why Bridget Jones holds a place in her heart.

Interview © Amie Taylor 2019

AT: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to work in theatre…

SC: I did a degree in Natural Science and whilst I was studying I joined the drama society and remembered how much I loved performing.  So once I’d got my ‘sensible’ degree I retrained as an actor with a company called Fourth Monkey. I was in the very first year of their two year training course and a lot of that course was based on making your own work. So when I graduated in 2014, I ended up making quite a lot of work. I didn’t have an agent so the phone wasn’t going to be ringing with offers of work, so I made a lot. There was a lot of trial and error in what I enjoyed doing.  The first thing I wrote was a show called orgasm, which was a show exploring the orgasms of people with vulvas. Some of it was my own experiences and some of it was verbatim, based on the experiences of others, so I dramaturged those. I didn’t perform in it, I just directed it, and for me there was something really exciting about seeing something that I’d written and compiled being performed.  So I applied to join the Soho Writer’s Lab and I thought I’d have a crack at writing a one-woman show to perform, because I wasn’t getting many acting jobs myself. I found it a really helpful course and I discovered that I loved performing what I’d written. 

AT: What is Algorithms about?

SC: It’s a bisexual Bridget Jones for the online generation. It follows Brooke, who writes the algorithms for an online dating site; the algorithms that match people on the site, as she searches to find connection and love and happiness in a world that is increasingly online.  The question it asks is, why do we feel so lonely when we live in a world where connecting with other people is meant to be easier than it’s ever been?  It’s fun, it’s silly, it has a more poignant side to it, and it has a lot of Gabrielle in it.

AT: What inspired you to write this piece?

SC: Two things. The first thing may seem a bit basic, although it doesn’t feel basic, but I realised that I was bisexual in 2016, so quite recently.  I think one of the reasons it took me so long to realise this was because I’d never seen anyone represented who fancied all genders and it wasn’t a joke or it wasn’t a confused thing and they were secretly lesbian or gay. And I felt like if I’d seen more people like me, I would have realised earlier, because I’ve always had crushes on, well mostly girls when I was younger.  But I never realised that if I also fancied men, then that meant I was bi; I thought I was a straight person who also fancied women. I wanted to put a bi character on stage, but not have the story defined by a struggle with their sexuality, that it’s a just another part of them as a well rounded person. So my first inspiration was that I wanted to write a bi character.  Then beyond that the inspiration was this very weird relationship I was having with my phone and social media, where I felt addicted to my phone; I kept getting stuck in these black holes, scrolling down Facebook and I was quite depressed at the time. I was at home a lot, I didn’t really have any work and I was looking at all of these people on holiday and having babies and getting married, or getting published and getting promotions or travelling to exciting places.  And it was making the connection, of this thing that I now know is called the ‘Compare and Despair’ phenomenon, was having a huge impact on my mental health. 

AT: Algorithms is a solo show, how do you find rehearsing a solo piece?

SC: Rehearsals are always fun, because it is a really fun show.  I get very in my head, perhaps more so than when I’ve been in shows with other people, because I have a very over-active anxiety voice, that says ‘you’re rubbish, this is shit, why are you doing this?’ Even in rehearsals sometimes.  Although the more I’ve worked with Maddy [the director] the more that voice has faded. 

AT: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

SC: I’d like to talk briefly about Bridget Jones,  I was re-watching Bridget Jones at the weekend and I looked up how much she weighed in kilos: 131 pounds equals 59 kilos so the fact that she obsessively feels she needs to lose another 20 pounds (or 9 kilos) suddenly seemed preposterous. It made me realise what unhealthy ideas I had (and still struggle with) around my weight that were actually really negatively influenced by things like Bridget Jones and diet culture. I know Helen Fielding was probably trying to say “look she doesn’t need to lose weight, she just thinks she does”, but the message I internalised as a teen/young woman was that losing weight will make you more desirable and ultimately happier (and this was not helped by the fact that Renee Zellweger had to get ‘fat’ for the movie and ‘getting fat’ meant going up to a size 12 or something which is below the UK average). I love the Bridget Jones franchise and there are so many nods to it in my show, (Gabrielle… Mark Darcy vs Daniel Cleaver… an overbearing mother) but re-watching the first film I did think how far we still have to go when it comes to diet culture and I’m glad that Algorithms has a much clearer message of self-acceptance, particularly with regards to how the protagonist Brooke feels about her weight, by the end of the play.

Algorithms will be on at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Venue 33, Pleasance Courtyard, Baby Grand at 12.45, Jul 31 Aug 1-12, 14-26.

Book Now

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Review: All I See is You

4*
Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
Until June 1st 2019

All I See Is You tells the story of Bobby, who works on a Woolies’ record counter and his romantic entanglement with Ralph, an aspiring teacher. One kiss and they’re hooked, but it’s 1967 and their love is illegal.

A captivating watch, All I See Is You takes the audience on a journey of a beautiful but forbidden love. Set in Manchester, it feels grounded in reality and paints a picture of the city that feels true to life. The opportunity to hear more of Manchester’s LGBTQ history was touching and recognising familiar landmarks launched back fifty years in time – Canal Street in particular – made me feel proud of how far we’ve come.

The acting was phenomenal, with both Bobby (Ciarán Griffiths) and Ralph (Christian Edwards) really living their roles both through the physical embodiment of their characters and powerful chemistry. They were both entirely believable and endearing, as though they could have walked straight out of 1960’s Manchester and onto the stage. This was helped in part by the writing – the play was a good balance of humour and hard-hitting reality – and in particular the opening quickly captured my attention and brought me into the world of the play.

The pace became problematic for me during the second half – the constant flicking of perspectives left me feeling divorced from the characters at times, as though there wasn’t enough time to settle with their stories before we switched again. I also felt as though the play didn’t say anything that I hadn’t seen before. These stories are so important to tell, but I’m not sure if I took anything away from it. It was very well written and formulated and tight – but I’m not sure that it will stay with me.

An emotionally captivating and well-written play with terrific performances from the cast.

This show runs until June 1st 2019 at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester.  Book Now.

Image © Ray Jefferson, Octagon Theatre 2018 Production

© M. Holland 2019

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Review: Grand Finale

4*
HOME, Manchester

Internationally-celebrated choreographer Hofesh Shechter’s Grand Finale was a whirlwind to watch: a chaotic, fast-paced, genre-hopping piece that used dance to transport the audience across a world that felt entirely anarchic. It was violent, comic and incredibly beautiful. The piece featured ten dancers and six musicians, enraptured in a battle of spectacle.

The dancers were incredibly committed to their roles: enigmatic, engaging and able to commandeer the stage in a way that was captivating. At times their movement was comic, and the next it would be intense and angry. The juxtaposition was relentless, the pace so fast that it was impressive that the dancers had so much energy – I’ve never seen a group of people able to maintain that level of energy for such a long period of time. Some of the dance involved the cast being tossed around the stage like rag dolls and I was so impressed at their ability to remain lifeless.

Having an orchestra on the stage was really striking and added real intimacy throughout Grand Finale. Their movement across the stage – at times hidden, at others in the forefront was captivating and the music was beautiful. The staging and lighting were cleverly done in a way that made the stage feel vast and endless, as though it stretched beyond the room. This was achieved through blocks constantly shifting across the stage and lighting that was transporting. It was absolutely stunning.

The story was difficult to follow, and perhaps in that sense is open to interpretation. It can’t be denied that the dance and production value were incredible, but I wasn’t always sure where the piece was taking me. It felt as though we were being shown all kinds of life, and all kinds of death. That perhaps we were being taken to places all around the world and shown that the human condition remains the same at all of them. At times, this made me feel slightly disengaged and confused. However, the visuals made up for it and overall it was a unique and interesting watch,

A stunning piece, with fantastic production values.

© M. Holland 2019

This production has now closed, but to find out more follow @HofeshCo on Twitter or visit the Hofesh Shechter Company website

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Review: Fast Love

3*
Theatre 503, London
Until 24th May

Fast Love is an exceptionally bleak but witty coming-of-age story that does half of what it says on the tin. It’s fast, really fast, as we are taken on a whistle-stop tour of Rory’s disastrous life as he tries desperately to find love. But, very sadly for Rory, it is desperate and his experiences include being raped by a student in the year above him at school as well as a number of soulless Grindr hook-ups.

Matthew Bunn is brilliant as Rory and has a lot of lines to learn as he guides us through Rory’s hectic life. Meanwhile, Sven Ironside plays ‘The Man’ which includes acting a couple of dissatisfied girlfriends and a lot of awkward dates. Together the pair own the stage and are a thrill to watch, directed brilliantly by Monty Leigh. Jack Albert Cook’s script is equal parts witty to bleak and the majority of it is monologic. There were times when I would have loved some more dialogue between the two actors and for Ironside to be allowed to develop some of the other characters. Also a few too many times the same thing happened twice – namely Bunn describing an action which Bunn/Ironside promptly enacted. At times this heightened the moment and at others I would have loved for the actions to speak in place of the words.

Story-wise, the play is a catalogue of disasters from homophobic bullying through to intense depression, a depressingly common story on and off stage. There were times when I felt like we were laughing at Rory and his suffering, and that gay male mental health was being reduced to a punch line – as gay men so often pretend ‘everything’s fine’ by laughing it off – and maybe this was the point, as the audience was rendered complicit in the trivialising of Rory’s pain. Perhaps a few slower and/or quieter moments would have allowed for the play’s significance to sink in a little more. Rory can’t tell jokes all the time can he!?

There are many stories out there about unhappy gay men and Fast Love is certainly one of them. Unlike many, it tries to go a little deeper beneath the surface and explore the mental health implications of what’s really going on. However, from one “sordid sex story” to the next I felt the one-liners had a tendency to overshadow the poignancy. Nevertheless, I applaud Stupid Love Theatre for so starkly showing that everything isn’t fine and how so much of what’s going on for gay men is awful. They make for an impressive ensemble and I think their work will keep getting better. And they’re 100% queer, what’s not to love!

Book Now

© R. Holtom 2019

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Review: One

3*
HOME, Manchester
This production has now closed.

Nasi is on a ladder. He’s not coming down any time soon.

Taking as its point of departure the polarisation of politics today, One begins amid the ruins of unresolved conflict and looks at the walls we build to protect the difference between what we say and who we really are

One was a really interesting piece of theatre that was comic, stressful and strange. Unexpectedly, that combination of elements worked. It was beautiful, but also made me feel frustrated. Even a few days later I can’t quite articulate exactly how I feel about the whole thing.

The piece begins with Bert trying to persuade Nasi to get down from a ladder and uses audience interaction in order to support this mission. It’s funny and engaging – though as the piece developed I started to find the audience participation fell a bit flat and felt forced at times.

The beginning and end of the play were particularly strong and were both engaging and emotionally striking with a strong balance between the action of the piece and the interaction with the audience. However, the middle of the piece felt erratic at times and made me feel slightly uncomfortable. I began to feel frustrated with both Bert and Nasi and wasn’t sure if that was intentional.

As a whole One is really funny. I enjoyed the contradiction between the men: Bert is loud, brash and extraverted. Nasi was quiet, reflective and thoughtful. I felt as though Nasi was very much reflective of my own emotions watching the piece and the combination made for a duo that reminded me of an old-fashioned comedy team like Laurel and Hardy. I really enjoyed that dynamic and the modern take on it.

There were some beautiful moments, and when Bert and Nasi came together their relationship really captured my attention. It’s unique seeing a relationship that’s so emotionally driven between two men – their familiarity with one another, the comfort they take in holding each other, it’s something that we don’t often see. An unexpected emotional vulnerability. The piece was endearing, even when they were at conflict with one another both Bert and Nasi were likeable.

One is a piece keeps you thinking and interpreting even after it’s over, there’s so much you can glean and understand from the act of Nasi refusing to come down from his ladder, from the polarised relationship between the two, of the way they came together. As a whole I found the piece stressful and angry and emotional, but also strangely peaceful and comforting. It was an odd combination of emotions.

A funny but poignant piece with an endearing dynamic that leaves you thinking.

© M. Holland 2019

This production has now closed, for info on future productions visit Bertrand and Nasi’s website.

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