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The White Hart by Judy Upton

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 27th Jun 2020

In just under thirteen minutes Jodyanne Richardson delivers a moving and thoughtful monologue by the writer Judy Upton. Truck driver, Hannah shares her experiences of working through the coronavirus lockdown and describes an unnerving incident involving a White Hart which took place the night before while she was out on the road.

Drivers are now confined to separate areas in the loading bays and banned from using staff toilets. She feels they are being treated like ‘lepers’ tucked into these spaces eating homemade food and drinking ‘lukewarm’ coffee from flasks as the usual coffee making facilities they use are in the taped off areas they can no longer access.

Themes of loneliness and alienation run throughout this monologue. Hannah describes missing small details from her working day which for her have been changed to nights. The smiles have been replaced with face masks at her regular depots. To the point where she cannot work out whether the security guard she knows was Steve or Dave behind the mask and with social distancing, in place, her normal chats with supermarket shelf stackers are no longer allowed.

The significance of seeing The White Hart dates back to Arthurian legend. This mysterious animal rarely appears yet when it does it supposedly represents change and apparently, only appears during times of turmoil. Which Hannah finds “slightly unnerving”. It’s questionable as to whether she actually saw this creature and it hasn’t been bought on by tiredness and stress as Hannah finds no evidence on her truck that she had hit the deer as she first assumed.

Richardson’s performance has opened my eyes to how these new working conditions have changed truck drivers a day to day lives. The solo jobs they carry out have almost alienated them from society during lockdown to ensure deliveries have got through. I would think these changes have made their lives very stressful at times.

The platform scenesaver are now showing performances from Off West End Theatres and other Fringe venues from around the world. Giving these productions a virtual stage to show their work from. The scenesaver link is available below, you just need to register for free in order to enter the site. If you are in a position to donate towards any of these shows it would be really appreciated.

Caley Powell set up The Light on Showcase in May 2020 and the company in January 2018 to produce female-led new writing. The White Hart is just one of the pieces produced during the lockdown and in their press release have said: “we didn’t want the lockdown to stop us from creating and promoting new female-led work”. They have most certainly managed to achieve their aim. Please have a look piece and other work available using the links below.

Four Stars

Hannah-Jodyanne Richardson
Writer-Judy Upton
Director-Leah Townley
Producer-Caley Powell

See the full review here


Posted on 27/06/2020


The Delight of Dogs and the Problems of People by Rosalind Blessed

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 29th May 2020

Nobody ever really knows what takes place behind closed doors. Which allows domestic abuse to thrive undetected and the first signs we often hear about it is when tragedy strikes. Often followed by an outcry of why didn’t the victim speak out. Rosalind Blessed’s play The Delight of Dogs and the Problems of People gives an insight into how a victim is manipulated and “made to feel” as to why speaking out is not that straightforward.

James (Duncan Wilkins) begins their story on the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary evening as he is preparing dinner for Robin (Rosalind Blessed). The scene of domesticity appears to be completely normal. Why wouldn’t someone cook an anniversary meal to show someone how much they care?

The dense storyline is brilliantly scripted with Wilkins deadly portrayal of James bringing the twisted and calculated mind of a perpetrator uncomfortably to life. There are many keys words used and he often adds a sly laugh at the end to pretend that he was just kidding. There are so many trigger messages delivered throughout which are unnerving.

The death of their beloved dog Ben sees the couple reunite again after Robin had fled their family home. The meeting is fairly brief as the couple bury him, but as James starts to question Robin his old habits return. Questions remain unclear as to the nature of his death. Yet killing family pets has been documented as part of a perpetrators profile. They will destroy anything the victim loves to relish in causing.

This isn’t an easy play to watch. Yet, I felt it delivers an extremely important insight into how domestic abuse takes place. How it demoralises the victim and empowers the abuser. The rational thought process used by James into how “she made him do it” from an outsiders perspective as an isolated incident could easily be believed. Which is exactly what the perpetrators rely on.

The online production filmed by Aydan Wilder has captured the intense drama between Robin and James throughout the entire performance. The skill in which he focuses in at the exact time on each character during key scenes is superb. Filming live Theatre in a Fringe venue which is often small with limited flexibility is definitely not an easy task. Wilder has done this production justice with his camera skills.

This play is an eye-opening account for anyone who is unsure about how domestic abuse manifests inside a relationship and the play offers a very raw and honest answer. What makes this play harder to watch is knowing that for many thousands of people this staged version is actually their reality.

Please use the link below to see this and other productions on the online Fringe festival site. For anyone affected by any of the themes in this production please check out the websites below and please do not hesitate to ask for help.

Five Stars.

Robin-Rosalind Blessed
James-Duncan Wilkins
Director-Caroline Devlin
Filmed by-Aydan Wilder

What is domestic abuse?

See the full review here


Posted on 30/05/2020


Baaba’s Footprints by Susan Hingley

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 27th May 2020

I had been due to review Baaba’s Footprints at the Vaults Festival in March 2020, the fast spread of COVID-19 saw me cancel my review diary just before the Theatre’s all shut. For the first time, I didn’t feel safe travelling to London. Now for the new Oncomm category in the Offies franchise, I can now review this production from home. I am not sure I could ever get used to reviewing this way however, for now, it’s my only contact with the Theatre world.

Yu (Eyre Kurasawa) loses her job at 39 leaving her bereft and suffering from an identity crisis as she begins to question her life. The pressure to marry is pushing down heavily onto her shoulders yet she likes her life the way it is and enjoys being single. However, peer pressure keeps telling her it’s time to settle down and get married fulfilling the role that is expected from her. Yet rather than staying and succumbing to others expectations, she chooses to grab her passport and travel to San Francisco.

The choice of country isn’t just a random decision Yu chooses to follow in her Grandmother’s Takako (Tomoko Komura) footsteps. Takako had embarked on this journey at 16 and had been one of the “Japanese Picture Brides” who were married on paper and travelled alone to their new husbands and a new country armed only with their passport, bag of belongings and a photograph of their betrothed.

Throughout the play, there is a strong sense of identity and the inability to settle down where neither woman feels as if truly fit in. I think this story can translate across to anyone regardless of gender, race or sexuality as many people struggle with fitting into the roles that they believe they should be fulfilling.

Susan Hingley’s new play balances the generations and timelines smoothly. Although circumstances between the generations were different the feelings of loss, disappointment and not fitting in are shared across the timeline by both generations.

Hingley’s writing is superb in bringing together a strong well-balanced look at how the characters felt about themselves and their place within the world while at the same time it took account of how they perceived others possibly saw them too. After all, nobody is ever certain about how the outside actually views us.

Baaba’s Footprints is set at a fairly fast pace and watching it on the screen lost some of the Theatre magic ones gets from Fringe Theatre productions. The cameras angle was pretty good but I would have liked to have seen more of the entire stage throughout the performance. I sincerely hope they bring this back to the stage at a later date as I want to experience the whole performance.

Director Ragga Dahl Johansen overlaps scenes smoothly where the audience watch Grandmother’s role as a young wife talking about everyday life while Yu observes silently close by. The two characters never interact as they are in different time periods yet they are close enough to touch each other. A simple yet extremely effective stage direction.

There isn’t a link attached to my article for the production as it’s no longer available on the Online Fringe Festival as it finished on the 24th May 2020. I have attached a link to the Vaults festival page where this premiered in March 2020.

Four Stars.

Baaba’s Footsteps

See the full review here


Posted on 27/05/2020


The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 24th May 2020

Threedumb Theatre presents an adaptation of the short grim gothic style tale The Tell-Tale Heart by American playwright Edgar Allan Poe. Performed by Stephen Smith with Stephanie Van Den Driesen operating the lights, sound and music they bring this macabre tale to life.

The start of the production leads you into the door and under the floorboards. It feels slightly longer than it necessarily needed to be and at times disjointed but please watch beyond this as you certainly won’t be disappointed.

Smith captures the depth of the unnamed murderer in this one-man performance. His victim is targeted solely on the basis that he has a ‘vulture eye’. Definitely not a justification for murder although through the narrator’s twisted explanation it suggests otherwise.

I especially liked the way in which Smith drew you into the horror of the storyline solely by the tone of his voice. As madness takes hold of him his speech quickens and just as you expect to be struck with a ghastly ending he releases you by softening his tone and changing direction.

Throughout his performance, it’s questionable as to whether you are watching the madness unfold before you or a calculated cold-blooded killer using madness as a justification. Although the narrator does explain that his illness has “sharpened his senses”. I would suggest that is for the audience to decide as I was personally left undecided.

It is worth bearing in mind while watching this production that the entire performance was improvised during the lockdown and Smith explained to me that the entire set was staged”…with hand-made props and no budget” from his home and his brother David behind the camera. I think he has managed to capture the atmosphere of this tale brilliantly. In watching pieces like this you get a greater sense of how creative and talented performers truly are.

The entire production is just under 30-minutes long. However, Poe wrote it as a short piece and in order to deliver the shock of the horror any longer would destroy the impact. Threedumb Theatre has certainly bought it to life and created another chilling episode in the history of this 1843 tale.

To watch this production or to find out more about the work by Threedumb Theatre please use the links below. I hope you enjoy this performance.

Four Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 24/05/2020


Key Change by Open Clasp Theatre

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 22nd May 2020

Combining physical theatre and an extremely well-scripted dialogue between the cast of five. Key Change is a story of friendship, abuse, drugs and a lifetime of unfortunate circumstances in which Lucy played by Cheryl Dixon and Angie played by Jessica Johnson find themselves meeting first in a women’s refuge after different journeys of tragedy and abuse. They later find themselves inside the same women’s prison.

Personally, I found the scenes in which they had their phone calls to home very moving and the conflict often escalated quickly as they vied for pole position as to who was going to get to speak to their loved ones first. The women hang onto the phone tightly in order to get every drop out of their conversations with children, grandchildren and loved ones. Fighting to hold their positions in the queue with such passion there was no doubt that the audience could see just how important that grasp on the normality of everyday life was so important to each of the female inmates.

This project was funded in 1998 and based in Newcastle upon Tyne the play Key Change is based on stories from working with women inside the prison and their honest accounts of the circumstances in which they find themselves ending up inside the prison walls. This play was later performed in male prisons too as many perpetrators could see the effects of their actions.

Writer Catrina McHugh MBE along with director Laura Lindow brilliantly created a truthful and explosive production about the stories leading up to why women can find themselves in prison. Often we only see an unflattering picture of the person sentenced and rarely hear their voice or the true story of why they ended up in there.

The key point for many survivors of domestic abuse is that they don’t wish to be seen as victims they wish to be seen as survivors. This I can agree with on a personal level and the part in which they discuss the ladies empowering themselves by taking part in the Freedom Programme I can say from experience you learn an awful lot about understanding how different abusers use the same tactic in order to win over their victims. A link to this programme will be available at the end of this review.

The fast pace in which this 60-minute production moves at mimics the chaos in which many of these women have led their lives up to the point in which they arrive inside a prison. The frank and openness about Angie’s drug addiction was a refreshing account and it didn’t gloss over and romanticise anything which can often be the case in some productions. Her performance is a very honest and open account of how she would score and to what extent it impacted her day to day existence.

I would highly recommend that anyone who has not yet seen this production to try and do so while it’s still available on YouTube the link is available below.

Five Stars.

Writer Catrina McHugh MBE
Director Laura Lindow.

See the full review here


Posted on 23/05/2020


Drawing the Line by Howard Brenton

Reviewed by: Elaine Chapman @elainec46302904

Review date: 18th Apr 2020

Hampstead Theatre’s latest online production which is being aired this week is “Drawing the Line” by Howard Brenton which has been taken from the Theatres 2014 season.

My knowledge about the days of the British Empire is extremely limited. However, watching this production has certainly opened up my eyes to an interesting part of history and the influence the United Kingdom had over that area of the world during that period.

Judge Cyril Radcliffe played by Tom Beard has been ordered by the British government to go and map out the territories dividing up India as the empire begins to close down. A somewhat daunting prospect for somebody who had never been to India or had any previous experience in making maps or the division of territory.

The 14th August had been set as the deadline for India to be “carved up” the definition used by Jinnah ( Paul Bazely) in one of the official meetings. Radcliffe soon realises that the sub-continent is not just a single country as he had been led to believe. This division would never go to be straight forward. passions ran high between all the head of states who quite rightly wanted a say in how their future was going to be shaped. Tempers often flare as different cultures and religions clashed over the land, it’s borders and the ports. Who would have thought drawing a line could have such devastating consequences, which is exactly what Radcliffe was told to do.

References to cricket running throughout the play tend to be used for comedic effect and releasing tensions between the officials as it was one interest both countries shared. Although the subject matter is extremely serious and sensitive the audience is seeing this interpretation through the eyes of the writer, Brenton which is based on factual evidence bringing this important historical period to life through this dark comedy.

The Viceroy “Dickie” Mountbatten (Andrew Havill) and his wife Edwina (Lucy Black) along with PM Attlee(John Mackay) and the political activist Gandhi (Tanveer Ghani) all played a vital role in shaping the subcontinents history and the land division that we now see today. Their interwoven relationships and influences have left a lasting unsettled legacy behind.

For an Off West End Theatre, the staging for this play is superb. The combined sound effects and set design felt as if I was transported temporarily to India. Designer Tim Hatley has proved that the smaller Theatres time after time create some remarkable productions. Another good reason to visit them once all the Theatre’s finally reopen.

Running until Sunday 19th April 10pm it is definitely one worth trying to see before it finishes. If you are interested in watching it please use the link below or perhaps use it to see more information about their future online productions. All the production team and cast are also available there too.

Four Stars.

See the full review here


Posted on 18/04/2020


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