Review: The Girl in the Grate at London Irish Centre @CamdenFringe

35524644405_1bb21b8d6c_oThe Girl in the Grate is a one woman storytelling show written and performed by Cathianne Hall at the London Irish Centre as part of the Camden Fringe.

A single story, also titled The Girl in The Grate, makes up the bulk of the performance and sets the kitsch, swinging sixties tone and theme for the evening. This is the tale of Bradford lass Lucy Green who finds herself at something of an impasse in life. Lucy hires a life coach and tries speed dating, but it’s only after getting the heel of her shoe jammed in a drain cover that her life begins to change. Lucy imagines herself as the central character in a 60’s ‘Girl About Town’ sitcom and she reframes her dilemma in that light.

Midway through the story we are shown a pitch-perfect filmed title sequence for Lucy’s sitcom. filmed in Bradford by Neil McLarty, with a theme tune by Hannah Magenta, and starring Cathianne in a variety of excellent retro outfits. Rather than breaking the mood of the live storytelling, this beautiful crafted footage provides a natural break and sets the scene for the rest of the tale, which ultimately Lucy finds you have to get stuck to become unstuck.

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Following Lucy’s story there is the chance for the audience to win some genuine sixties, kitsch goodies such like Charlie perfume (just as disgusting as you remember) and huge sunglasses. This section gave the audience a chance to relax and interact and we also got to know Cathianne better, who confirms our suspicions that she been influence from a young age by the kind of sitcom Lucy imagines. Cathianne also shares some hilarious wisdom for single girls from no lesser source than some Babycham coasters.

In contrast to the bright and breezy style of the main section of the show, in the last part we treated to a short new story inspired by the venue we are sat in. Cathianne’s research has uncovered a former resident of the building on Camden Square was once the home of ‘Woman at Home’ magazine editor Annie Swann. Cleverly combining the actual words of Swann, lifted from her ‘Over the Teacups’ advice column a 1880’s set narrative is woven, which ends the evening on a poignant, downbeat note. Cathianne informs us that she only finished writing the tale the previous evening, so this is very much a work in progress, but one which is a privilege to hear in this particular space. Hopefully this story will have the chance to develop and unfold at the London Irish Centre.

This was an evening of spoken word of great charm and subtlety, exploring both actual history and an idealised vision of the more recent past.

The Girl in the Grate was performed at the London Irish Centre on the 11th to 13th of August 2017.

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Review: The Checkout at The Hen and Chickens @CamdenFringe

 

Checkout

By Carmel Shortall

As the lights lift, Emma-Jane Hinds’ expressive face peers up at us from over her rectangular ‘Nana Mouskouri’ glasses as she lies upon the stage.

“Oof! Well! I expect you’re wondering why I’m lying on the floor? In Asda?”

She tells us she is Liz Harper, a 55-year-old mum and retired receptionist from Retford but her face lights up when she describes Emma, her 16-year-old daughter who left home only four weeks ago to attend the Central School of Ballet in London.

“She’s a dancer, you know … when she dances she’s like liquid,” she beams.

Now Emma is coming home for a weekend and Liz is the first customer of the day at Asda as she loads up her trolley with the ingredients for roast beef, Yorkshires and sticky toffee pudding. But something happens and she ends up on the floor among the aisles and shelves – the fairy thicket that surrounds this Sleeping Beauty.

Liz’s mind wanders in and out of consciousness as “black smoke” claims her again and again and she relives a scene from her childhood. We learn that she too was a dancer until the age of ten. What went wrong and will she be able to awaken in the here and now? Or, as she tells everyone who tries to help, is she just “getting her ducks in a row”?

The Checkout is a modern day fairy tale devised by Tom Lewis and Emma-Jane Hinds, and performed solely by the latter. As an exploration of empty nest syndrome as well as a re-imagining of the tale of Sleeping Beauty, it is big-hearted and funny. After her daughter leaves, Liz’s life shrinks to housework, gardening and trundling up and down the aisles of her local Asda – of which she has an encyclopaedic knowledge! But now that she can no longer live life vicariously through her daughter, she must wake up and find her own inner dancing princess.

Emma-Jane Hinds gives an irresistible and endearing performance. She draws us in with her chatty enthusiasm and when she dances, she inhabits the stage.

It’s your last chance to see The Checkout today (4.30m) so get down to The Hen and Chickens  and get your clart on with Liz on the final day of The Camden Fringe

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Review: Britain’s Got Fashion at The Cockpit @CamdenFringe

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By Carmel Shortall

The ever popular Get Over It Productions return for their eleventh Camden Fringe at The Cockpit in David Bottomley’s new play Britain’s Got Fashion.

A Daytime TV reality fashion show in a shopping mall brings together our six ‘heroines’ to bitch and bicker while allowing us to explore issues around celebrity culture and its obsession with fame. Many of the now familiar tropes of the fashion and reality TV world are on hand: desperate celebrity wannabees, the ‘inadvertently’ flashed boob or “wardrobe malfunction”, models in five-inch heels going arse-over-tit on the catwalk…

Of the six women, some are on the way up; some are on the way down and hanging on for grim death but in the world of fame and useless celebrity, those who create and produce the real work are marginalised.

Fifty-something Gillian has a thirty year track record as a film and TV producer and is bitter to be reduced to working in reality TV. Olufamba has designed the African-influenced clothing range for ‘curvier’ ladies that is the subject of the catwalk show but she is only there because “she ticks all the boxes” according to Gillian.

Candy Peel, plus-size model and erstwhile burlesque star, is the only ‘performer’ who does not seem to be obsessed with her weight – although she has slimmed down since her days as Candy Floss! Gabriela, “the world’s first supermodel”, hosts the show (in a most becoming cold shoulder jumpsuit with extra wide culottes) while just clinging on to her celebrity status.

Sixteen-year-old, working class Leanne, with her budding eating disorder, at first seems like one of Gabriella’s “young girls hungry for fame and fortune, desperate to be the next big thing” but ultimately she would just like to run a florist shop named after her Nan. Last but definitely not least – posh, self-obsessed Monaco, very much the empty-headed wallet-shagger, is on the way up and not about to let anything stand in her way.

The contentious issue of how much money each of the women are being paid for their contribution exercises them throughout the first half – Leanne from Tower Hamlets is only being paid £350 for the day while Monaco, who grew up on an entirely different type of ‘estate’, cashes in at £35,000. But after an explosion hits the shopping centre, the stakes are raised even higher – Gillian, stumbling around in the dark, finds that the cameras are still rolling and the stage is set for some opportunistic career-building.

Fabulous fun!

The ensemble cast are excellent and really relish their roles – one would expect nothing less from Get Over It Productions. Co-founder, Velenzia Spearpoint makes a great job of her first outing as Director while Paula Benson (also playing tough, realistic Gillian) and writer, David Bottomley, ably assist. Sassy Clyde is larger than life as Monaco; Meryl Griffiths is waspish as Gabriella; Melanie Gayle gives a great comic turn as the side-lined Olufamba, determined to have her work recognised no matter what, while Eleanor Hurrell invests Leanne with a spiky vulnerability and Beth Johnston is down-to-earth and sympathetic as Candy Peel.

Britain’s Got Fashion is only playing for one more night (Friday 25th August, 9pm) so book a ticket and get on down to The Cockpit, Gateford Street, Marylebone NW8 8EH and have yourselves a bloody good time!

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Review: Sophie at the Lion and Unicorn @CamdenFringe

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Sophie is a one woman show exploring the incomprehensible bonds between twins – in association with MIND in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest.

Written and performed by Julia Pagett, who presents a stark but mesmerising monologue, almost hypnotic, a story that draws on the dangers of distortion, reality and deception.

“It’s funny how what people see from the outside can be completely different from what’s going on inside…”

Opening with music and a box full of memories, Sophie remembers her twin sister and the trauma she went through.

It’s very timely in an era when more an more young people are suffering from anxiety, depression and mental health issues, while worrying about people’s public personas on social media.

Julia has been involved in several short films, music videos and fringe productions. I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of her soon.

My only complaint is that it wasn’t longer. I was just becoming engrossed when it ended, just short of 20 minutes. This play shows great promise and it is a sign of a good show when you don’t want to leave. Please develop it Julia, carry on and tell us more. There is so much scope in this material to take this to the full hour.

This performance was directed by Keir Mills.

Sophie is at the Lion and Unicorn Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 5pm. For more details sophieplay.com. For tickets camdenfringe.com or pay on the door.

 

 

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Premiere: The Legend of St Julian performed naked @CamdenFringe

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Photograph by Jennifer Evans

It’s Bank Holiday weekend and there are 121 shows left to watch in just three days at Camden Fringe 2017!

New company DepthSound presents its inaugural show The Legend Of St Julian at the Hen and Chickens, 25-27 August 10.30pm, pushing the boundaries of fringe theatre by combining naked ancient Olympic-style contest with late-night literary salon.

As the audience enter, they are confronted with the sight of two naked men sprawled in an empty space. The house lights fade, the signal to begin rings out, and the two nudes proceed to vie for supremacy.

Their contest combines two elements:

1) Physical – the unclothed athletic feats of the ancient Olympics, bodily prowess and endurance stripped back to the fundamental basics of the human form with every sinew and muscle on display to the spectators;

2) Vocal – the words of Gustave Flaubert’s tale The Legend of St Julian – each bout features a short section of the story delivered by one of the combatants, the whole story having been conveyed by the end of the hour.

It will be a performance of extreme impact, transporting the audience to another plane – the naked shapes of the performers, the other-worldly text that forms the backbone of their encounter and the almost constant presence of an abstract electronic soundtrack effecting this leap from the mundane and everyday to the sublime and strange.

Ritual storytelling with a focus on the naked male form – a unique combination of flesh and fiction guaranteed as DepthSound tells this story of medieval murder as it has almost certainly never been told before!

DepthSound is based at the heart of the Camden Fringe, mid-way between the iconic Mornington Crescent and the even more iconic Camden Market. The actual Camden Fringe pigeons strut and preen outside the DepthSound front-door – local lads.

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Carmina Bernhardt presents her solo show Greenery, 25-27 August 2.30pm at the Etcetera Theatre, a comic play about getting the bus to work wearing different shoes, through the perspectives of four charcaters.

She said: “It is a kind of one-woman Sense8 (Wachowski’s groundbreaking Netflix series), where I want to challenge the audience via their connection to the lead character Viveca.”

Greenery is directed by Annemiek Van Elst, associate director at the Lyric in Hammersmith.

Seven Letters

Rian Flatley’s play Seven Letters, 25-27 August at 7.15pm at the London Irish Centre, is a poignant story of three spirited, elderly women whose circumstances have brought them together.

Their past lives are told through flashbacks, graphic monologues and song. The hope is that everyone will recognise that each old person was indeed once young and vibrant, with hopes and dreams.

There have been a few changes to the printed programme and this includes one last chance to see The Trouble With Scott Capurro at 8.30pm on Friday 25 August at the Etcetera Theatre – back by popular demand after his earlier shows sold out.

Matt Green: Lives in Camden is also back Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 August at 6.30pm at Camden Comedy Club after his three shows at the beginning of Camden Fringe sold out.

Gary G Knightly (as seen on Channel 4, BBC3 and the West End) brings back his debut solo show Twat Out Of Hell on Saturday and Sunday at 8.30pm at the Etcetera Theatre, after his earlier shows sold out.

For more details on Camden Fringe and to buy tickets visit www.camdenfringe.com.

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Review: Too Much Punch for Judy Upstairs at the Gatehouse @CamdenFringe

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Using the words of those closely involved and affected Too Much Punch For Judy by Mark Wheeller tells the powerful true story of a tragic accident that befell two sisters one night in 1983.

This play opens with a nostalgic look back at the 1983, with the introduction of  breakfast television, the pound coin and CDs. But it’s the fashion, the music, terrible dancing and reactions to the terrible chat-up lines that demonstrates the special bond between the two sisters.

There are funny moments leading up to that fatal decision when everything changes – and many people will recognise the arguments and excuses happening up and down the country after a night out, even if they have only overheard others having them.

However the horror of the crash is a sobering reminder of what can happen to anyone who drinks and drives. The crash was effectively choreographed by Jessica Ramsey, and lit by Christopher Silvester, to show one sister dying and the other regaining consciousness, relatively unharmed.

The message was driven home by the black and white photographs of the wreckage of the car projected onto the curtains.

Alice Imelda was superb as Judy (pictured above right), on her journey from brash and outspoken to confused after the crash in hospital and refusing to believe her sister Joanna was dead.

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Also putting in standout performances were Edward Mitchell as PC Caten; Richard Blackman as Duncan who is first on the scene at the crashed car; Hilary Burns as Judy’s mum Vi and Chloe Orrock as PC Abrahams and Nurse Davis.

It is not heard to see why Too Much Punch For Judy has been performed around the world for more than 25 years, and was added to the GCSE syllabus, as it raises many questions about whether we really learn from our mistakes.

This production, directed by Alexander Cobb, was particularly poignant knowing that Alana Ramsey, who plays Joanna, runs JR Theatre Company with her sister Jessica (both are pictured above). Associate producer and sound was by Fraser Stainton.

JR Theatre Company are regulars at the Camden Fringe – having staged Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens in 2015; and Godspell with a female Jesus last year.

Too Much Punch for Judy is being performed Upstairs at the Gatehouse on Thursday 24 September and Saturday 26 September at 9.15pm, Friday 25 September at 7.30pm and Sunday 27 August at 5pm. Tickets are available from camdenfringe.com.

 

 

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Review: Hot Mess at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre @CamdenFringe

Hot mess

By Carmel Shortall

Polo and Twitch are twins. Twitch is the surprise, nearly left behind and emerging “bawling and bloody” after calm Polo. But “there was only supposed to be one”, as only one heartbeat was detected in utero and, indeed, they have only one heart between them. It becomes Twitch’s as Polo symbolically pours his half-empty glass of water into her half-full one and she drinks the lot in a single gulp.

Polo, the twin with a hole (in his heart!), has returned after a year’s absence for their 25th birthday celebrations. He has no time for love but Twitch, despite limited sexual experience, has loved too much through successive kindergarten, school and college infatuations. Polo narrates as Twitch, in the first of a series of flashbacks, literally superglues her hand to little Jimmy’s when he tries to leave after playtime. By the time they are separated, Jimmy will be scarred for life. Twitch smiles: he’ll never forget her now. Teenage Nick gets an unlooked-for tattoo when Twitch somehow sticks a pen in his arm and, at University, Peter Harris scalds his foot in the bath after cheating on her. So when handsome American, Billy, whom she meets on the beach says he’s leaving the next day and Twitch proposes a midnight swim, it can’t possibly turn out well…

Jacks, their friend, is also at odds with Twitch. Sex without love is “freedom” for her. She’s disgusted by her mother who is still “blubbing” a year after Jacks’ father left. At one point Jacks and Twitch are both onstage. They take turns narrating contrasting sexual encounters – Twitch’s romantic liaison with Billy on the beach and Jack’s nameless fuck with “toilet boy” in the loo at a nightclub.

Hot Mess focuses on the dialectic between those that love and those that fuck” writes Ella Hickson in the author’s note to the text of the play. She says it was written in response to a series of interviews and conversations she had with girls and young women in 2010 and observes that, “we are more connected than ever and yet each connection means less.”

Originally designed to be performed in the round at a nightclub, the play has been adapted for a simple black box stage by Vernal Theatre Company, formed earlier this year by co-directors and producers Julian Bruton and Kieran Rogers. Able technical support is provided by Jay Rogers and Jay Patel.

The play opens as the sound of the sea is interspersed with She Said by Plan B. The stage is decorated with pebbles and as Katrina Allen playing Twitch arranges them in a straight line, she picks up the song in a clear, sweet voice. The song forms a motif throughout the play and there’s a forlorn poetry in her speeches to the audience on sex and love.

By contrast, Natalia Titcomb as Jacks is brashly extrovert as she screams onto the stage. Gareth Balai plays Billy, her erstwhile lover – and all of Twitch’s! Timothy Renouf as Polo is muted and wry: ever the observer, he encourages Jacks in her excesses and provides a commentary on Twitch. But it is his twin he loves – he has given her his heart after all – and the play ends as they hug to the eternal sound of the sea.

An ideal play for twenty-somethings, Hot Mess continues its Camden Fringe run at The Lion and Unicorn, 42-44 Gaisford Road in Kentish Town from Wednesday 23rd to Saturday 26th August at 7.45 pm. (Running time 75 minutes). Click here for tickets and more information.

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