'Our Country's Good' at Birmingham Rep Theatre - May 2018

‘Our Country’s Good’, written by Timberlake Wertenbaker, is a play that follows the colonisation of Australia in New South Wales during the 1780’s. As the prisons in London were overflowing, Britain decided to colonise Australia with convicts as punishment for their crimes. During the late 1800’s (when the play was written) funding to the arts was being cut and disregarded. Wertenbaker wrote ‘Our Country’s Good’ as a response to this in order to present theatre as a redemptive tool as (based on actual events) the convicts put on a production George Farquhar’s, ‘The Recruiting Officer’ that was performed on the King’s birthday on June 4th in 1789.
I went to see ‘Our Country’s Good’ on Thursday the 24th May at the Birmingham Rep Theatre. This performance was particularly special as it was made accessible to anyone who was deaf or blind. There were subtitles displayed either side of the stage with each line being said vocally as well as through sign language. Several of the actors had disabilities and many were deaf themselves, this emphasised the message ‘Our Country’s Good’ instills of the power of theatre and its opportunity to unify and push aside differences. Some actors would speak for others whilst some would sign for others. This element of the play was smoothly and effectively included in the performance as it became a prominent part of the play.
I was very impressed by the every performer on stage, particularly the antagonist, Major Robbie Ross, a sadistic officer who relishes in the suffering of the convicts. During his most significant scene in which he torments the convicts during a rehearsal, the performer portrayed the intensity and terror that is instilled by this character; I was on the edge of my seat! Another scene that was very emotive was the death of Harry Brewer, a Midshipman who goes mad after constructing several hangings. During his death, Duckling (a female convict who is with Harry) tells him of her love for him and begs him to stay alive. In this scene, a separate actress was speaking for Duckling as the actress playing her was deaf. I found it incredibly moving and performed amazingly.
Before going to see ‘Our Country’s Good’ I knew the play very well and was very interested to see how this company would perform it. I was very impressed and felt that all of the performers were amazing and deserve a lot of attention for the work they are doing. I felt they successfully portrayed the characters and the message the play brings about the redemptive power of theatre.

'The Story of My Life' by Spareroom Theatre at Theatre Royal in Bath - April 2018

‘The Story of my Life’  is a two-man musical that follows the story of Tom Sawyer as he struggles to write a eulogy for his late best friend. The whole play is set inside the mind of Tom as the memory of his best friend physically manifests and recreates significant events in both their lives. It was an extremely moving musical as the audience see the character’s journey from children up to adulthood.

Upon entering, the audience see the stage (on ground level) which includes a desk with two chairs and lots of shelves with books and paper littering the space. The theatre is also extremely small which supported the play’s intimate setting and emotive storyline. There were also lots of random objects like clocks and picture frames to symbolise all of the memories Sawyer has. As soon as I walked in I felt like I was entering a bookstore; the stage was amazing!

The play opens with Tom attempting to begin Alvin’s eulogy. He is then interrupted by the memory of Alvin as they both recap their first meeting in first grade. After lots of singing and crying (from both the audience and the actors!), the musical does a full loop back round to present day as Tom emotionally realises the impact his best friend has had on his life and ends with him reading the beginning line to his friends eulogy.

This musical had a set of beautiful, funny and emotional songs alongside two amazing performances. I was very moved by the storyline and admired the ability of both of the actors to perform alongside just each other; if you see this musical being advertised anywhere else, I would definitely recommend making the effort to see it (but make sure you’re prepared to have a little cry).

'Wicked' at The Bristol Hippodrome - West End Tour- February 2018

For any of my fellow musical theatre nerds, ‘Wicked’ is a soundtrack that is always playing. So when I saw the West End Tour being advertised at the Bristol Hippodrome, I didn’t hesitate! ‘Wicked’ follows the story of Elphaba, or more commonly known, the Wicked Witch of the West, and her journey to becoming the villain in the famous tale of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. ‘Wicked’ is a backstory to the true goings ons in the lands of Oz and will certainly change your opinion on who really is the evil one.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the theatre was the amazing set design. For anyone else who has seen this show, I’m sure you can agree how amazing it is; with a huge dragon overlooking the audience at the top of stage arch and a map of Oz on the curtain. There is also a theme of clockwork in the aesthetic of the set with large industrial clogs with minute and hour hands littering the wings and stage edges. This fits in with the theme of time that runs throughout the musical as the play opens with Galinda the Good Witch beginning the story about how her and Elphaba met and were, in fact, friends.
I was most impressed by the amazing chorus that made every ensemble number incredible. But it was Elphaba’s classic, ground-breaking, end of Act One solo that completely stole the show for me. ‘Defying Gravity’ is a song about breaking free from the social norm and becoming your own person, regardless of your differences or what people may think you. The actress who played Elphaba sang it beautifully and gave everyone goosebumps with her amazing voice.
This musical challenges how you feel about several characters in ‘The Wizard of Oz’; (I won’t spoil anything) but after watching this you will come away questioning whether the Wizard really is as wonderful as they say and if the Witch really is wicked. With an important message about friendship and and pursuing what you believe in, this musical certainly deserves to be a classic in the world of theatre.

'The Wedding' by Gecko Theatre Company at The Bristol Old Vic - January 2018

 ‘The Wedding’ is a physical theatre piece that follows the lives of several characters as each of them undergoes a journey to adulthood. I found the piece hugely inspiring as it used movement and dance to portray a story of the social bonds people make throughout their life. With lots of group choreography using props and beautiful costumes, this play was massively eye opening to the stresses of the modern day.
An exciting element of the performance was that nobody spoke one language, drawing the audience’s attention to the physicality of the actors rather than what they were saying. This emphasised their persistent use of symbolism as they touched on particular issues such as immigration. There was one character who lived with his family in a suitcase that was attached to one of the wings, allowing as many characters as needed to come out. This was extremely powerful and particularly inspired me as political theatre is something I am very interested in pursuing as a performer.
‘The Wedding’, fitting in with Gecko Theatre Companies individual style, avoids following one story as several characters lives are presented. One is a husband who feels under pressure at work, another is a woman getting her first job and another is a father fleeing his country to look after his family. Throughout the play, all their paths cross as they attempt to free themselves from what is troubling them.
A particular element of the play I enjoyed was the use of props and the beautiful stage design. To represent the offices, each actor had a small see-through booth on wheels with a phone and a laptop. To present the chaos of a busy work day, each actor wheeled themselves around the stage in their booth talking on the phone and typing. This was dubbed over with the sound effect of beeping and ringing, exaggerating the office setting.
‘Gecko Theatre Company’ used dance and their physical theatre skills to portray an extremely emotive and powerful performance. The use of symbolism in cooperation with modern day issues produced a beautiful piece of theatre that massively inspired me. I would definitely recommend this play and this theatre company should you notice them touring!

'Legally Blonde' at The Bristol Hippodrome - West End Tour October 2017

’Legally Blonde’ has been one of my favourite musicals ever since I listened to the soundtrack. Based off the classic film featuring my (second) favourite blonde (don’t worry, mum!), Reese Witherspoon, this story is full of girl power and lots of pink. I was lucky enough to be treated to this show by one of my best friends for my birthday whilst it was on it’s UK tour at the Bristol Hippodrome. I had a lot of expectations about my favourite show and they were certainly all fulfilled.
For those who don’t know, ‘Legally Blonde’ follows the story of sorority girl, Elle Woods, who follows her ex-boyfriend, Warner,  to Harvard Law School in pursuit of love. This musical is full of energetic numbers but also a message about the strength of women as original antagonist and Warner’s new girlfriend, Vivian Kensington, proves to be an ally against the sexist law professor, Callahan.
After getting into Harvard, Elle gains a place on an elite team of apprentice lawyers, including her close friend and budding romance, Emmett, who are working towards freeing a suspected murderess. This case eventually leads to several revelations (supported, of course, by some amazing musical numbers) including the sacking of a corrupt professor.
My favourite part of this musical had to be the incredible dance routines and vocal skills. This show is packed full of energy and I was incredibly impressed by the performance skills and talent on the stage. The main actress playing Elle portrayed my favourite protagonist perfectly and gave justice to not only the court, but also to the role she was playing. If anyone has the opportunity to see this show on tour or otherwise, it is full of talent and energy that will leave you with a skip in your step.

'Translunar Paradise' at The Tobacco Factory in Bristol -Theatre Ad Infinitum - July 2017

Before seeing this show, I had never seen something quite like this. I saw ‘Translunar Paradise’ whilst it was on tour at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol. With no speech, interval, or cast above three, this show was certainly something out of the ordinary. There were three performers on stage at all time; two actors that played husband and wife, and one accordion player who also helped handing the props during the show. I was completely taken aback by the talent of each performer as they presented a story that brought a tear to nearly everyone in the audience.
The play followed the story of a couple, from the day they meet to the day they die. The performers adopted a Commedia Dell’Arte style of performance as they communicated through noises and physicality and also used masks to emphasise their characters. This also made it accessible to all audiences as the company were touring globally. ’Translunar Paradise’ was disjointed in time as it moved backward and forwards to emphasise the development the characters undergo. The masks were used effectively to present their old age as the performers fell into them as they were breathing, presenting a natural transition between their young and old selves.
The accordion player sustained her playing throughout the whole performance, adding incredible ambiance and atmosphere to an already powerful performance. Not only was she playing consistently throughout the performance, she also multitasked, handing props and other aids to the actors.
Much of the performance was presented through memory and made even more effective by the minimalistic set design, use of props and physicality of the actors. Each of these added to the scattered structure of the play and complimented the story and the performers. This un-naturalistic layout separated this creative performance from the other classical plays I’ve seen in the past. Unfortunately, this play is not on tour anymore, but its presentation of love and marriage and growing old is something I will never forget.

'Hedda Gabler' at The National Theatre - March 2017

For many years, I have studied and performed extracts from the plays of playwright, Henrik Ibsen. I think his work in theatre is amazing and especially love ‘A Doll’s House’. However, I recently went to see ‘Hedda Gabler’ filmed live from the National Theatre which follows the story of a woman feeling trapped in her home. In contrast to the play’s original setting of the late 19th Century, this version of the play was set in a dystopian future. Despite this not massively effecting the plot, it separated it from the many other interpretations of the play as we’ll as altering the set.
The set is an extremely important part of any performance of ‘Hedda Gabler’ as the whole play takes place in one house and room. The set in ‘Hedda Gabler’ was astounding; it was a huge white room with nothing but a few pieces of furniture oddly placed around the space. An old piano sat awkwardly centre stage which is later revealed to be one of the few things that Hedda brings from her old home, this powerful piece of symbolism not only adds to an intricate stage design but also emphasises the dissonance between the protagonist and the materialism and home she is surrounded with.
After marrying the man of her dreams and convinces him to save up and buy the house she always wanted, Hedda feels unfulfilled. She also never leaves the house throughout the play, which highlighted the theme of the limitations of the domestic sphere that women are constrained to (a key theme explored in several of Ibsen’s writing). As the plot develops, Hedda’s marriage begins to fade and she feels more and more pressure to become what is expected of her (a perfect housewife).
There was one particular scene that stood out to me the most; one of which a interpretation added in by the director which summarises Hedda’s frustration; after an argument with her husband, Hedda takes some flowers from a vase and staples them randomly onto the back wall. This was extremely moving as the actress performed Hedda’s frustration wonderfully as she moved across the stage to the emotive song, ‘Blue’ by Joni Mitchell.
Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler’ was beautifully interpreted by National Theatre as they perfectly captured the anguish of the protagonist as she feels the societal pressure surrounded by her to be happy. I was incredibly moved by this powerful performance as I felt the company presented Ibsen’s work amazingly.

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