Thursday, 26 November 2015

This Last Tempest preview @ Contact 26-27.10.15

Contact Theatre is one of the most innovative theatres in the North West, consistently presenting creative works that are thought provoking, outspoken and daring. Productions presented at Contact often cross art forms, creating wonderful and wacky hybrids. This summer I experienced Sensored, a day of creative events that merged sound, smell, texture, music, dance and theatre; this multi-art-form approach allowed something really powerful to come through and was a fantastic insight to Contact's creative amplitude. So it's safe to say that Contact is the perfect venue to host the upcoming collaborative project This Last Tempest. 

On hearing the title, some readers may have immediately thought of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which they would be correct to do so. However This Last Tempest is a sequel and radical taken on the Shakespearean classic, that is equally accessible to audiences familiar and new to Shakespeare. Created by producing organisation Fuel and internationally acclaimed theatre company Uninvited Guests, this show fits perfectly with Contact’s innovative programming, promising an experience which is part theatre part gig. 

Beginning where Shakespeare left off, Ariel and Caliban are left alone on an enchanted island as Prospero's ship sails over the horizon and out of sight. In the hours that follow spawns a spectacle of magic where the spirit and creature weave unheard versions of the story, and conjure up what we mortals thought impossible; a world where humans are monsters and inanimate things come to life. 

With a an already stunningly visual play as its inspiration, this immersive experience is set to be like no other with an atmospheric soundscape by composer and musician Neil Johnson creating a strange but familiar world for both characters and audience. The concept of the piece is refreshingly simple, but one which removes limitations and enables the creative team to demonstrate their overwhelming creative ability.

The play has a strong key theme of freedom and questions the notion of utopia. We have all done it, where we hope for a better tomorrow or have the belief that a different time and place would bring us happiness; This Last Tempest explores what happens when one finally gets what they have been yearning for and maybe the grass isn't always greener. Although it would be easy for the audience to draw political parallels the company aim to empower their audiences to create their own meaning.  
Uninvited Guests are a company of national and international acclaim, melding the lines of theatre and social festivities to provoke and stimulate their audiences to think about the world around them and the times we live in. This Last Tempest is a brilliant example of these aims, which I urge you to take in while you have the chance.

This Last Tempest 
Thursday 26 November 8pm
Friday 27 November 8pm

Words: Kate Morris
Images: Aerial 3 is by Tom Medwell; This Last Tempest and Ariel in Flight by Ben Pacey

Monday, 16 November 2015

Ladyfest MCR @ Islington Mill 14.11.15

Last weekend saw this year’s big Ladyfest event take place at Islington Mill.  Ladyfest has been on my radar for several months  and, from what I gleaned from social media, would be a bold, informative and creative event.

Ladyfest isn’t unique to Manchester; similar festivals take place in other UK cities, and a quick Google shows festivals happening across the pond.  The common ideology is to showcase work by women and others who might experience barriers to sharing their work, from trans, non-binary and intersex artists or mothers juggling childcare, offering a supportive environment away from the generally competitive nature of the creative industries, where money and contacts can be everything.  However, Ladyfest Manchester aims to give visibility to Manchester-based creatives in particular, evidenced in the line-up of musicians and comedy performers sourced from an open call-out.

Workshops on offer included Sex Workers’ Rights, Bike Maintenance and Screen Printing.  I attended a workshop entitled The Art Of Consent, billed as ‘exploring body language, verbal communication, gender stereotyping, 'grey areas' and barriers, laws, and the value of challenging our sexual assumptions in an interactive, creative setting’ - which seemed a huge task for an hour long session.  I went on my own, feeling a little vulnerable and awkward sitting alone at a table, whilst the other table was occupied by a group of friends.  Thankfully, I was soon joined by others who had rejected the remaining empty table - unlike most other everyday situations - with another solo woman joining us minutes later.  And this was indicative of the whole workshop: friendly and open in an atmosphere where it felt ok to share.  There was no pressure, no expectation.  The workshop’s leader Chelsea Murphy - a local consent and sexual violence researcher - and her facilitators were clear that we need only talk about things with which we we felt comfortable.  We discussed and we got our thoughts and feelings down creatively through working together on a collage.  I left feeling positive, not because we’d changed the world or come up with definitive solutions - how can you with such a difficult, provocative subject? - but because I’d been in a room with people who wanted to address the subject of consent and those who wanted to support that discussion.

Of course, that particular workshop isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but the sense I got was that it was indicative of the whole day.  Speaking to Carly Lyes, one of the event’s organisers, it’s clear how central the idea of community and being supportive is to Ladyfest.  Everyone there, whether organising, running a workshop, running a stall or performing, was a volunteer.  Ladyfest Manchester is self-funded and self-organised, the only money coming in from ticket sales.  People are involved because they want to be, because there is a need for this kind of event and community and because the inclusivity it aims to create seems to be successful - the event sold out well in advance.  When asked about future events, Lyes is ready with the plans: a larger festival next year spread over a longer period of time and different venues, more participatory workshops and the possibility of branching out and having their own stage at the big festivals.  From my time there on Saturday, the Ladyfest Manchester clearly has a relevance, a community willing to put in the time and effort to make it happen and an audience who want to participate.

Words: Julie Burrow

Thursday, 12 November 2015

JB Shorts 14 @ Joshua Brooks, 5th November 2015

Although it’s not quite Christmas yet, I’m sure you have all seen the sudden mountain of milk tray so temptingly on offer, or so many chocolate oranges they surely can’t all belong to Terry. Tis the season of indulgence, (well almost) and were there are those that like to start their Christmas shopping early, I rather get a head start on my festive feasting and in this instance it’s on the theatrical buffet of JB Shorts 14. Best get my fat pants!

Andrew Lynch’s Emily is an interesting story that starts in the toilets of a horseracing event. Janice (Alexandra Jay Jones) is a rich social butterfly who belittles toilet attendant Lena (Emily Fleeshman) for “not knowing her place”. But Janice soon discovers she has more in common with Lena as she thinks. A nice piece with some good twists but slightly dampened with messy blackouts to mark the three scene changes.

All Items of Value Have Been Removed is set in the future where the world’s countries have been bought up, leaving Britain the last standing and holding back from being sold. More frightful Tony Blair is having a second round of fame! The piece evidently carries a political message and one I’m sure is rather weighty, and certainly for now too big for 15 minute window. This satirical comedy could do with a second chance to reach it’s potential if performed in a different format.

The Outing is a lovely piece of writing and one I really enjoyed. Widower Frank (Josh Moran) meets social recluse Nellie (Jeni Howarth Williams) during a coach trip. The fa├žade of this romantic comic piece is shattered with an unexpected twist, revealing how the ill doings and reputation of someone can unjustly be transferred to another.

Another favourite is found with Sugared Armour, a classic paradigm of estranged characters brought together through unfortunate circumstances. Gemma (Jo Dakin), Annie (Victoria Scowcroft) and Andy (Derek Hicks) all eagerly wait in a hospital waiting room for the fast approaching death of their mother. Memories are recalled, and wounds are opened - some of which run deeper than others, but the answers aren’t at the bottom of a pack of sausage rolls.

Heroine is the most poignant piece of the evening, bringing together two monologues performed simultaneously. Though living in two eras the female characters have the same objective; to prevent their daughter/sister from running away to fight in war. 1930s Ursula (Kerry Willison-Parry) discovers her daughter in the middle of the night about to leave to fight the Fascists in Spain, whereas in 2015 Aalia (Shila Iqbal) discovers her sister packing to fight for ISIS. By far the most thought provoking piece but I did find to be too ‘wordy’ which meant as an audience we didn’t respond as well as we should. Particularly the contemporary side of the script was in parts repetitive, but overall a piece that will be something special with a little bit of a tidy up.

Equal Shares is a play most fitting it the comic expectations of JB Shorts. Two wrong women Joanne (Rachel Logan) and Claire (Eve Burley) mutual agree on a vengeance for Richard (Marlon Solomon) after discovering he has married both of them. A vengeance of which the women get to share Richard, but not in the way he expects, a silly light-hearted piece to end another successful collection of JB Shorts.

Words: Kate Morris
Images: Courtesy of Brainne Edge