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Entr'acte Jac

Notes from the Auditorium

Edfest: Week Three? Four? Who Knows Anymore

Yes, that’s right it’s got to that point where the fringe has just become a big blurry smudge and time no longer has any meaning. Fringe fatigue is rife, not least because as soon as I finished at Circus Hub, I was struck down in the primbe of lime with a cold/chest infection triggering asthma symptoms. If I had been merely feeling ill, I’d have carried on regardless… The fringe martyr I am. But it’s the coughing; You can’t be coughing and spluttering in an audience of 50 people crammed into a tiny room which normally functions as a nightclub storage space. 

My plans of cramming in a whole load of shows this week has been foiled, but I tentatively went to 2 yesterday, and am feeling a little more alive again today. Yesterday I saw Yokai at Underbelly Cowgate – there are no words. Seriously. I have no words to describe what I saw. And also there aren’t many words in the show. This is physical storytelling, like some crazy, twisted dream world… Or acid trip maybe. It’s one that must be seen, rather than described. I’m not sure exactly what I was seeing, but whatever it was, it was inventive and skillful. 

I also saw The Hours Before We Wake at Underbelly Cowgate, which was totally up my street. I love a good dystopian tale. The story follows a character called Ian, who works at dream-making industry ‘cognetics’. He’s pulled unexpectedly into one girls investigation of the company, forcing him to wake up to the dark realities. 

I was so, so engrossed in this one. It was portrayed so well, with just minimal props and set, and a sprinkling of humour to keep the tone from getting too heavy and Ian was so adorably likeable. Even though the story was rounded off, it seemed to end rather quickly upon conclusion. Perhaps I was just enjoying it so much I wanted it to carry on.

Today I have two shows booked at Pleasance Courtyard – Teatro Delusio and GIANT by Human Zoo, whose show ‘The Girl Who Fell in Love With the Moon’ I saw last year and enjoyed… Reviews suggest this one is even better.

Also, I kind of skipped over it, but Circus Hub ended a week before the rest of the fringe on Monday 22nd so, consequently, I’ve finished. I opted not to take on anymore shifts at other venues, so I could see lots of shows in my last week…. And we know how that worked out.

Goodnight, Chub (as we fondly know you)


(You look like a bridge in the dark)

Edfest: Week Two

Yesterday, I finally had a day off from front of house duties; The first since we started on July 30th. Circus Hub had a “dark day” as it is known in the industry – a day where no shows run and maintenance and such-the-like happens. I had high hopes, a pocket full of dreams and a list of shows to see.  It was going to be a great day.

If only I’d had a pocket full of tickets instead.

It was not a great day.

I’d go as far as to say it was the worst day I’ve had in a while. Anxiety decided to pay me a visit.

I was going to spend a large proportion of this post explaining all the ‘bad’ things that happened to send me on this downward spiral, but I realised that that’s just feeding the beast. And there are so much worse things happening in the world than being denied entry to a bunch of sold out shows, wandering around aimlessly and losing tickets.

That said, I’ve noticed a lot of the shows running in Edinburgh are inspired by mental health problems. Has this always been such a prominent impetus for creation? It makes sense – turning dark thoughts into something tangible, something that may help unravel the mysteries within.

The day before, I’d seen two shows at Summerhall revolving around fragile mental stability – ‘Sacre Bleu’ and ‘I’m Doing This For You’. The first was a bit too much like a lesson in panic attacks and anxiety – a lesson most people attracted to this show wouldn’t need. I went to two years of CBT, I know it already. A cardinal rule of writing is to show not tell, all the more pertinent in theatre, a medium meant to be watched . The latter show was a perfect example of this.  The words ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ are never used, although reference to prescriptions are made. Instead we watch a bubbly, fun-loving character slowly disintegrate into a fragile, needy mess. It’s uncomfortable theatre, but so much more effective for it.

These shows pull me in for #hashtagrelatable reasons, but should they also come with a trigger warning? Is that the reason I felt wooly-headed and head-messy the next day?

Enough introspection. Extrospection time (is that even a word?)

I thought I’d tell you a bit about what it’s like to work Front of House at Underbelly’s Circus Hub, since that is what I’m spending most of my time doing.

There are two tents at Circus Hub – The Lafayette and The Beauty. Weird names for tents, right? Underbelly explain why here, if you care. It’s a sweetly tragic story.

My favourite of the two tents, is the Lafayette. It’s a spiegeltent, which people continuously mistake for a hall of magic mirrors…. I can’t imagine why.

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I like this one the best only partially because it shares the name with one of the characters from my current favourite musical, Hamilton. Mostly because it’s so much warmer than the other tent and there’s more to do.

The seating and staging changes for pretty much every show at this venue, where as in The Beauty, the seating is fixed.

It’s all very hands-on in The Lafayette. We have a mad hour  where we all rush around rearranging seating/ moving parts of the steel deck about, followed by an equally mad 10 minutes or so of getting people seated in a way where everyone can fit in. That means moving all the way to the ends of the rows, people. Or having the rest of the row clambering over you… usually with plastic cups of sticky drinks. Whichever you prefer.

Then there’s a much calmer hour where we stand, either inside or outside the venue and make sure everyone is behaving – i.e. not taking photos, filming, trying to sneak in the venue or using the convenient cover of darkness for other varied activities.

So far, I haven’t encountered the latter two. Thankfully. For the most part, the audience are well-behaved and we get to just stand and watch the performances.

I’ve now seen every show at Circus Hub – most of them several times. I’m okay with that – circus is the kind of thing that doesn’t get too tedious to see over and over. After watching it so much, you get to a point where you think ‘I could do that’ and then you try, and really, really can’t. The fact these guys perform feats of core strength and balance every day, and so perfectly, is amazing.

Circus Hub finishes before the end of the the festival on Monday 22nd August; Not long to go now, so if you are planning on seeing anything there – get moving.

I am here till the end of the month, however, so hope to start seeing and reviewing a LOT more from next week.

 

 

 

Edfest: Week One

This is Jaclyn reporting alive from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. No, that’s not a typo, I am literally reporting that I am alive. Just about.
Not gonna lie … it’s tough going. Even though the “official” start of the fringe was Friday, I have been going since last Sunday with Underbelly. The first few days were incredibly heavy with manual labour. I racked up nearly 30 hours of painting in 3 days. Mostly blankets of purple. Like this ramp:


The blankets of purple did have the occasional white splodge on it


And I did get given the slightly more interesting task of painting giant plywood flowers, which can now be seen dotted around Underbelly’s George Square venue (that’s the one with the giant upside-down inflatable cow for any Edinburgh noobs). Here are a selection of the flowers from me and the team… 


I am now into proper front of house work, which still involves much lifting and carrying, cleaning and mopping during the hectic turnarounds at the Lafayette venue at circus hub

This is essentially home at the moment. 

There is a second tent called ‘The Beauty’, but the seating and stage arrangement doesn’t change for that one. Things are calmer over there. All the team get moved around each venue, so we have our fare share. I’d rather be rushing around and busy though. Especially since I get so cold standing still outside. 

There have been moments where I’ve wondered if I’m too old for all this. I hate to say that. I’m a great believer in never giving up, never being too old… And it’s not like I’m ancient or anything. But I have been feeling the burn. Most of the team are in their early twenties and I attributed my aching and incredible bruising to being older than them. Then one of the twenty year olds mentioned how much her back was aching and I realised that this is damn hard work for everyone. I’d been giving myself excuses and reasons to fail. 

Today I have an 11hr shift that I really should be getting ready for…. My positive observation may seem less shiny after that. 

I haven’t seen an awful lot of shows yet, I haven’t had much of a chance. The shows that I am seeing are Underbelly shows, thanks to my free pass, but this makes it a bit tricky to discuss. The critic side of me wants to dissect and analyse the good and bad parts and obviously there are no bad parts, all the shows are awesome 🤗😜

One show I do really want to highlight is on at the Cowgate venue. Anyone who read my daily blog updates last year (or even just the final verdict) will know how much I loved the show ‘CELL’. Well, the co-creators of that show are back this year with a show called ‘In Our Hands’ which I’ve already seen and it has all the charm and sweetness of last years show, again with clever puppetry and prop use. Please, please go see it – 4pm at Underbelly Cowgate.

Review: The Spoils

 

Where? Trafalgar Studios

When? Saturday 16th July 7.30pm

Written by? Jesse Eisenberg

Directed by? Scott Elliott

Who’s in it? Jesse Eisenberg, Kunal Nayyar, Alfie Allen, Katie Brayben, Annapurna Sriram

 

We could be in a television studio watching the filming of a sitcom – the interior New York apartment setting gives off that vibe straight away, almost preparing us for something in the vein of Friends or Big Bang Theory. It’s a weird mash-up of stage and screen, especially with the cast being plucked from TV land themselves. It’s lulled us in to a false sense of security really – what follows IS a laugh-out-loud situational comedy, but with a much darker theme reserved for more serious drama. Continue reading “Review: The Spoils”

An Announcement (or two)

Just a quick post to update you on a few stagey events happening for me right now…

First, I’m excited (and slightly terrified) to announce I am through to the next round in The Stage Critic Search Competition. I’m one of 12 regional finalists, representing Wales…… on a week where the Welsh theatre scene is feeling a little 2 dimensional; there’s either huge, commercial shows like Billy Elliot and Guys and Dolls, or small, church-hall type amdram. Neither type is going to ‘give em the old razzle dazzle’. Any show suggestions that I may have missed are greatly appreciated…

Secondly, I will be returning to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this month, working with Underbelly as a Front of House Assistant. It’s going to be a more full-on schedule this year, so I’m not sure whether I will be able to do the daily blogging, but I will definitely try!

I’m thrilled to be working for Underbelly as several of my top ranking shows were at their venue last year – including my overall winner ‘Cell’ by Dogfish Theatre. I can’t wait to see what’s on offer this year and have a hand in helping the venue tick along smoothly.

 

 

Review Round-Up

A round-up of reviews I’ve written for other sources this week…

Written for the South Wales Evening Post:

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Written for Reviews Hub:

The-Reviews-Hub-Site-HeaderMediaPartners

Thriller Live – New Theatre, Cardiff

This year has sadly seen some of music’s heavyweights, such as David Bowie and Prince, pass away. Seven years before that, back in 2009, we lost the ‘King of Pop’ himself. This production lives on and helps keep his memory and the magic of his music alive.

Thriller Live has grown and transformed from ‘The Annual Michael Jackson  Celebration’, created by Adrian Grant as an excuse for fans to get together for a party and concert in appreciation of their favourite artist. Today, the celebration still thrives – it’s Monday night, and it’s a sell-out. The air is buzzing electric with anticipation.

There is no story as such, the show is presented in a timeline of Jackson’s life  (glossing over the unsavoury moments, of course) taking a tour through the high-points of his back catalogue. There’s so much to choose from but the first act is a little slow as it plods through the early years. There’s a sense that we’re all waiting for the big hits from the titular Thriller album, onwards. The songs in the second act certainly get the biggest cheers. For this reason, Act Two is better than the first, though both are enjoyable enough.

Our senses are both delighted and overwhelmed with concert-style production – the LED screens make up much of the scene setting, the music is loud and ‘blinders’ light up the audience regularly. The costumes are bright, sparkly and glorious. It’s all very Vegas. Normally technical aspects move like clockwork in the background, working their magic without anyone really noticing. In Thriller Live the lighting and effects create a huge part of capturing the vibe of a genuine Michael Jackson concert. A lot of work has gone in to creating a large, loud, explosive visual treat.

The director and choreographer, Gary Lloyd, has done a phenomenal job creating the sharp, slick and stylish dance moves which embody Michael Jackson. The pin-point synchronicity of movement reflects the precision and attention one would expect from an actual Jackson concert – he would certainly have approved.

Impersonating Jackson is no easy task – the man himself was one of a kind. In an attempt to make up for this, there isn’t one Jackson, but five. It is impossible to pick any one over the other, as they all bring something to each part of his character – Rory Taylor and Angelica Allen bring the raw emotion, Shaquille Hemmans (understudied seamlessly by Tyrone Lee in the second act due to illness) and Michael Kavuma bring light-hearted fun, getting the audience up out of their chairs for some interactivity and Sean Christopher gives us Jackson, the dancer – including the iconic moonwalking.

The live onstage band are incredible and bring such authenticity to the concert atmosphere. The power of the music reverberates through the auditorium, the music seeps in through our bones as well as our ears.

Jukebox musicals are a dime a dozen these days, often with tenuous stories linking tired hits. Thriller Live doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is – a celebration of Jackson and his music. Like a good champagne, it sparkles and fizzes with it’s unapologetic, indulgent pop. A night of pure entertainment to be enjoyed by Jackson fans, or anyone after a fun, raucous evening.

Review: Doctor Faustus

Where?  Duke of York’s Theatre

When? Weds 20th April, 7.30pm

What better way to celebrate 400 years of Shakespeare than by seeing a show by his contemporary and rival playwright, Christopher Marlowe?

I studied this play for GCSE English what feels like 400 years ago now. I distinctly remember being more taken with it than Shakespeare at the time. Shakespeare was a slow burn for me.

But Faustus struck a chord right away – despite my teachers questionable interpretations (in my view). This is certainly not the classic interpretation that she would expect. I remember her trundling in the old TV and VCR and putting on a pretty straight, safe and ultimately uninspiring production.

Straight and safe are not words that can be used in Jamie Lloyd‘s production.  He’s taken the surreal and amped it up to 11, as well as bringing the morality tale into a context relevant to a modern audience. In this production, Faustus makes his pact with the devil for fame in line with a celebrity obsessed culture, rather than the academic acclaim Faustus’s (Faustai?)of the past may have sought. Something to think about in itself – is this what we’ve actually become? I can’t help but feel a sense of irony here, in the fact that Kit Harington of Game of Thrones fame is pulling in the same celebrity obsessed clientele… For the greater good of course,  but isn’t that what Faustus believed?

The set focuses on an adaptable room. Starting off as an apartment, with a bedroom down stage and kitchen up, later transforming into backstage area and hotel rooms. This allows fluidity and unobtrusive scene changing, often combined as part of the movement.

And Mr Harington? How does he fare outside of the role of the ever serious Jon Snow? Very well, in fact. His descent into the hedonistic world of renown and fame is a fast one but Harington shows the different stages distinctly, bouncing between indulgence and despair in the moment it takes to change a lighting state.

His performance is equalled by Jenna Russell‘s Mephistopheles. She slinks around the stage seductively, temptingly offering him a world he is almost powerless to resist and she makes it easy to see how he could fall.

The cast as an entity are superb – they move as separate parts of one singular body of temptation. It cannot be easy to dive into that dark, disorientating world every night; I left with a lingering feeling of disturbance after merely watching it. To me though,  this is the sign of a good show – something that stays in my mind long after the curtain falls.

Jamie Lloyd said once in an interview with whatsonstage.com that it’s not enough for a show to be merely entertaining, that with a powerful tool such as theatre it should be used to change perspectives and make people think.

Though I don’t necessarily completely agree – one should be able to merely enjoy a vacuous, fluffy few hours of feelgood if that’s what they want – Lloyd has managed to create something both entertaining and deeply thought provoking, though at times – dare I say? – a little like something I’d expect to see at a drama school showcase – for instance, I didn’t understand the significance of the nudity (I speculated on symbolism of purity but the characters don’t seem particularly pure even at that point). It seemed like a superfluous theatrical device, for shock and spectacle, more than making a statement.

The script has been adapted by Colin Teevan but still includes chunks of the original work. It’s meshed together so you barely notice the transition between the old language and new, it feels very natural and effective, tying two very different times together.

This is the inspiring, relevant production I’d have liked to have seen all those years ago. My brain felt heavy with the weight of the dark themes as I left, yet I felt a pull to return and watch it all over again. Temptation maybe?

Show & Tell: 11 – 17th April

“Soapbox” Shame

Shame on ‘The Stage’ for publishing the damaging views from one disillusioned supply teacher earlier this week – GCSE drama supply teacher spouts elitist bile. The heading to their ‘soapbox’ feature states

Soapbox is The Stage’s platform for readers and theatremakers to air views anonymously for the greater good of the theatre industry.

For the greater good?? Who, on hearing the pitch for this nonsense, thought “yes, this is for the greater good of theatre… it’s not like there’s already an accessibility issue”

It also reminded me of a (better) article from the Guardian posted a few years ago now, looking at the issue of how acting is a rich man’s game.

Being Posh Helps Actors | The Guardian

 

Unsuccessful Success?

Wrestling with Success | Intermission Magazine

I found this article through someone else’s retweet (I forget who now, sorry). I’m glad I took the time to read it, because it’s something I have been thinking about a lot lately.

I love theatre and arts and I want – need – to be a part of it… but there’s no money in it. You do it for love but for all the outward success – acclaim, awards, magazine features – there is rarely a tangible reward. No, life isn’t about owning material things and, yes, experience is more valuable that money – except you need to have somewhere to live, you need to be able to get around you need to fulfil basic human needs… and these things all require money.

 

The Return of Kimmy Schmidt

On a much lighter note…

Hooray, Season 2 of Tina Fey’s ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ is back on Netflix.

Musical theatre references abound through Tituss Burgess’s irrepressible, selfish but completely endearing character Titus Andromedon – an aspiring Broadway star who’s talent is matched only by his, er, laid-back work ethic. One of my favourite lines from season one is where he wails “But I already did something today” #relatable  (I use this hashtag in an ironic Tina Fey sort of way, you understand)

Here’s the Season 2 trailer, and if you haven’t seen season 1 yet… GO. GO NOW AND LEAVE ME.

 

 

Show and Tell – Linking it Up

Round up, round up to what I’m hoping will be a weekly event – a show and tell of interesting links, videos or whatever other theatrical tidbits have caught my attention this week… Continue reading “Show and Tell – Linking it Up”

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