Our favourite theatre showcased at festivals in 2015:
To Bestival, or not to Bestival, that is the question!
While walking through the rural, bunting-filled fields of the Isle of Wight’s ‘Bestival’, I stumbled across a theatre in the depths of the woods. The night before the forest had been host to booming music and a rapturous atmosphere but on this particular sunlit day it served a different purpose. Being performed at the hidden Amphitheatre was Sh*t-faced Shakespeare to a large audience on a small stage. The aptly named show intended to perform a few of Shakespeare’s greatest works while consuming copious amounts of alcohol with the result being deep insobriety and a pleased audience.
The watchers were a large aspect of the success of the performance. Although the actors did show extreme flair (when sober), the enthused audience egged on the actors and encouraged more drinking through laughter and heckles.
The mixed group of about five actors were apt in coercing the audience to laugh at inappropriate moments – particularly in the Tragedies. I joined one of the performances late and can only assume from the over-exaggerated stabbing movements and screaming from two male characters that it was Hamlet or Macbeth. This fresh take on dramatic literature with themes that are still applicable today was exciting and easy to watch. Although it lacked the original austerity of the Globe Theatre, the ambience was electric and almost replicable of four hundred years ago through the repartee and large crowds. In fact, due to it being performed two days into the festival some of the members of the audience smelt like some of the people that may have stood in the stands and thrown dried fruit.
With an entertaining environment and an informal, well-known play to watch all of the spectators were happy. It was a vast success and although I do not advise excessive drinking, it added an original feel that sobriety and perhaps Shakespeare could and did not offer.
Watch out for it at the Fringe Festival and next years’ ‘Bestival’.
By Lottie Mogridge
Kneehigh on life at Latitude
Latitude Festival has everything a culture-seeker could ever dream of; yoga classes in the woods, ballet and acapella choirs on the waterfront stage, to a comedy tent billowing with raucous laughter throughout the sunny afternoons – I was spoilt for choice wondering around the beautiful location of Hendem Park in Southwold, Suffolk. But what stood out for me was the line-up of innovative and cutting-edge theatre companies that were making an appearance in the theatre tent throughout the weekend; stuff you simply couldn’t miss. So I politely declined my fellow festival-goers offer to get horrifically drunk at Alt-j and then stay awake until DJ EZ hits the iArena – “sorry pals, I’ve got to be as alert as possible tomorrow to absorb some culture”.
The first performance I saw that weekend was Frantic Assembly Ignition’s latest endeavour, Man Up; an all-male cast tackling issues surrounding what it is to be masculine, a definition that seems to be confused in today’s society. The show consisted of Frantic’s characterising physical theatre and interpretive dance style choreographed meticulously and impressive as always. The actor’s skilled physical work creating poignant meaning is something that Frantic do so flawlessly; particularly highlighted in a scene exemplifying a mass brawl with the actors displaying amazing physicality with lifts, falls and catches causing audible gasps from the audience. As well as the remarkable fast paced sequences the show also incorporated moments of monologue directed toward to audience and also moments of humour and light-heartedness balancing out the serious undertone respectfully.
As well as Frantic I also witnessed Kneehigh’s world premiere (or “not even the dress rehearsal”) the director Rice exclaimed of the adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s book The Amazing Story of Adolfus Tips, ‘946’ contributing to the ever popular war genre. The plot follows a rural family’s perspective of the D-Day Training mission and the consequential military takeover of their hometown. Kneehigh blends seamless elements of both comedy and tragedy in a performance that integrate the use of puppetry, a live blues band, songs and dance resulting in an extremely gleeful yet sentimental way to spend one’s last morning of the festival. The outcome was heart rendering as the audience and I didn’t even get to see the ending due to strict performance scheduling, greeted from an audible gasp of disappointment; the final climax denied to us – how could they?! Kneehigh’s defining customary rough theatre razzmatazz with multi-tasking and a multi-talented cast is one worth tracking down in the future.
Finally, worth a big mention is Chef, a one-man performance piece written by Sabrina Mahfouz and performed by Jade Anouka. What impressed with this piece was the lyrical fluidity and felicitous imagery embedded in Mahfouz’s writing. Verse after verse rich in metaphor and poetic colour that Anouka relishes and delivers with great skill and finesse. The plot is structured by a menu on a white board on stage with each course a different memory and each memory more traumatic and viscerally thrilling than the last. The protagonist tells us of forging a career in the kitchen yet to end up in a prison kitchen as a consequence of being let down by the men in her life. Lit only by a harsh artificial light reflected upon a cold steel bench onstage, this piece of theatre is electrifyingly tense.
In conclusion, next time you find yourself at a festival assuming that none of the good acts come on before 7 pm leaving you plenty of time to either sleep or (if you’re lucky) sunbathe, I’d think again. At Latitude especially, there are exciting and innovating things happening under every tent, so make sure you don’t miss it.
By Zoe Head
Guild drama takes on Edinburgh Fringe
Maiden: A Recycled Fairy-tale was written and directed by fellow drama student Beatrice Updegraff for the Guild’s 3BUGS and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe this year during the month of August. Although I wasn’t fortunate enough to visit the Fringe this year and catch the performance for myself, I got the chance to interview Beatrice and hear all about her experience of directing and involvement with such an amazing festival.
The stimulus for Bea’s piece was the Portuguese fairy-tale The Maiden with the Rose on her Forehead. Bea explained that she wanted to produce a piece of theatre based on a fairy-tale that had not been “distorted by Disney”. Instead, she wanted to stay true to the original and demonstrate this tale as brutal but also as a question of morality. The story is one of extreme violence, betrayal and jealousy. It describes the life of Maiden and how the secrecy of her birth leads to her harsh mistreatment as a child. Bea revealed to me that the abuse of maiden highlighted another important angle to her. She wanted to use this piece to create awareness for child abuse so modelled the abuse scenes around real-life cases presented in the media over the past few years. These connections meant that although she set the piece in a dystopian world, the issues exhibited allow it to become both accessible and relevant to a modern day audience.
The use of an old fairy-tale story wasn’t the only aspect recycled in this piece. Bea told me that she wanted the process of creating Maiden to be “as environmentally friendly as possible” and, therefore, decided it would fall under the category of Eco-theatre. All materials used would come from a second-hand source and exclude things such as plastics with the intention of creating a minimal carbon footprint. They obtained the bath that was their main piece of the set (as shown in the image) from a second-hand furniture shop in Edinburgh. Charity shops, eBay and Gumtree also proved very helpful for the creation of their second-hand set.
Adding even more innovation and creative genius to this already exciting and intriguing piece of theatre was Autumn Evans. Alongside Bea, she worked to write and perform six original folk songs to accompany the action on stage. I have been lucky enough to hear Autumn perform in the past and her captivating voice is perfectly suited to this style of theatre. The venue for Maiden was an old converted church named Greenside in Nicholson Square in keeping with the theme of Eco-theatre. This also provided the perfect acoustics for Autumn’s mesmerising music.
During its run, the show received some fantastic reviews and was awarded five stars from Edinburgh Fringe Review. The play was described as “both gentle and menacing” and that while “the events of the play are tragic and destructive, the production itself is sustainable and hopeful”. Maiden was also shortlisted for a sustainability award and succeeded in ranking within the top twenty of the shows listed.
I am extremely envious of anyone who had the opportunity to watch this show. Congratulations to Beatrice and all cast and crew members on creating a truly original and thought provoking piece of a theatre! What an achievement!
By Mary Chafer