New Website!

April 7, 2010

Dear visitor,

A Younger Theatre has outgrown its home as a blog hosted on wordpress in this location. We have a new website, which is bigger, better and bursting full of young people with their views and opinions on theatre.

There are reviews, resources and above all, a platform for young people.

The new website can be found at: AYoungerTheatre.com – please update your bookmarks accordingly.

Thanks for visiting, come over to the new site, and see what we’re all about.
Jake
A Younger Theatre


Review: Your Nation Loves You

March 29, 2010


Any project taking place in the tunnels under Waterloo Station has an air of excitement and potential to be something truly spectacular. In the past year, tunnel 228, as it is officially known by Network Rail has played host to some of the most captivating performances and art work since Kevin Spacey with the Old Vic begun to weave an air of magic in this forgotten place.

When entering these tunnels, you can not in the slightest forget what you have experienced in the past. Punchdrunk’s Tunnel 228 last year was a remarkable experience for me, and it is ingrained in every wall and tunnel and even in some cases there is still evidence of the project on the ceilings. So much is this work resonant with the experience of these tunnels it takes something completely extordinary to break this – unfortantely Your Nation Loves You doesn’t do it.

A group of 12 people have been chosen by the government, plucked from the streets of London, and placed within a series of tunnels somewhere beneath the city. The reason? A threat of some description on London, that means that if we as a Nation are to survive, only the best will be selected to preserve human life. These strangers have been living for weeks – months attempting to survive with no indication if the threat to London has happened. Their only method of survival comes from the food parcels sent from above, and their own ability to adapt to this new way of life.

The problem with Your Nation Loves You is a sense that it has been developed elsewhere from the space that it now inhabits. It feels as if Delirium: have created this work and attempted to mold it around the tunnels instead of an organic combination, and sadly it doesn’t fit. Whilst the concept is brilliant, it has been poorly executed. You need more than just a great performance space to let a performance win you over.

Delirium: have missed the opportunity to embrace this creative space, instead only half reaching out to it with their storyline that fails to engage completely. The story is clunky, and feels at times as if it is being dragged out for the purpose of the last scene. There is no real progression and nothing is resolved at the end. It feels more like a work in progress than the premier of a new piece by an emerging theatre company.

Sadly the unresolved story is not the only problem with Your Nation Loves You. The elements of physical theatre/dance between some of the characters does little and if anything makes me wonder why it has even been used in the first place. The direct address to the audience, again creates confusion – why is it used? Your Nation Loves You uses far too many elements instead of keeping it simple. The music/soundscape also, whilst is nicely placed against some of the text, often stops before going on repeat again – it doesn’t flow as it should with a piece of this nature.

Your Nation Loves You does however have an unexpected twist, that works remarkably well. I won’t however give away what happens, but it does explain why the story seems to drag, why we are shuffled between certain tunnels backwards and forwards, and lastly some of the main plot holes.

Whilst this revelation made me stop and think, “Ah, yes… very clever”, it wasn’t before long that suddenly the whole experience became somewhat familiar to Shunts work. One of Shunts first pieces in their Bethnal Green railway arch used exactly the same revelation that Delirium: have used for the final scene within the tunnels… I won’t spoil this moment for anyone who is going, but the similarities as a theatrical device within the same sort of settings are questionable.

Don’t get me wrong, it is obvious I did not enjoy this piece, but there are some brilliantly young and talented actors in the cast who do make the experience enjoyable.

Delirium: is a new company, and this piece will be a huge learning curve for them. I won’t be put off by future work, because despite my dislike, they do have an exciting imagination for their work. I only hope that their next work is simpler, more precise, and that they stay away from the use of physical theatre when working in the environment they use.

My advice is to go and see Your Nation Loves You for the experience of something different. It is not the best piece to go in these tunnels, but at least they are being used for a good purpose. Wrap up warm, regardless of the weather as it is breathtakingly cold under there.

Your Nation Loves You is running until 2nd April in the tunnels under Waterloo Station. Tickets can only be brought online and not on the door. Booking in advance is essential: Book here.


If I Ruled The World… A Festival For Young People

March 26, 2010

The Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) are known for their innovative performances. Their commitment to the development of contemporary performance along with taking risks and giving opportunities to those who justly need it have earned them a reputation. This week however they stepped up their antics a little further by hosting a week long festival for young people, by young people, called ‘If I Rule The World… A Festival For Young People’.

It is daring, challenging and above all – it is needed.

The BAC’s work with young people has always been strong, evident in their thriving Young Peoples Theatre (YPT), yet by handing the reigns over to young people to dominate every inch and spare corner possible to young people is outstanding. The BAC has been turned into the place to be, a hotspot for young people to express themselves and be heard.

This festival is even more needed as it is linked directly to the up and coming election, giving young people a creative approach to what would happen if they had the chance to rule the world. There are huge scrolls of paper hanging from the ceiling within the foyer of the BAC. A scroll of thoughts and comments from the participants on the question of “If I Ruled The World I Would…” are splattered across every inch of it and offer an insight into the participants. From ‘Stop the troops in Afghanistan’ to ‘Lower the voting age’ – this scroll is clearly a form of expression, of an often unheard voice.

One of the rooms at the BAC has been turned into the prime ministers office and we are invited to enter, and write a letter to our ‘future Prime Minister’ about what we want, what we need, what we want to see from this man. By the end of the night, I had frantically written a letter declaring a need for less lies, less hiding of the truth, but above all an effort to be more transparent, and to try hard so that I might start to believe the hope that they have given us in their campaigns.

I left my letter proudly on the PM’s desk, and expect him to read it on his return. (Lucky for me, he might actually! All of the letters are to be taken to downing street and given to the new PM. Let’s hope they listen!)

My travels at the festival took me to watching two of the YPT groups perform the pieces that they have been working on with professional theatre makers. The first I bore witness to was the youngest of groups, aged 11-14 perform their piece Je’taime Performance. A look into what makes up a performer and how there are such a vast array of different performance areas that someone can take. The highlights for me had to be a performance artist whose love of eggs goes a little too far and ends cracking it over herself in joy.

The thing I loved most from this age group was a sense of imagination, an openness to the sublime and sheer ridiculous side to performing. From start to finish I had a grin on my face like the Cheshire Cat.

The latter part of my experiences were with the oldest of the YPT groups, ages 16-25. Their Scratch Performances took part in several different locations around the BAC which required walking in the dark depths of corridors and rooms beyond the normal public eye. I watched a mimed performance reministant of black and white films sitting in the foyer. Next taken into a claustrophobic room to watch a sinister and slightly over powering girl direct her fellow performers in a repeated sequence of love, and despair. Ordered to leave the room, I left feeling a slight shudder down my spine… and into another room to watch a game show of cards and distorted characters.

The final experience came in one of the corriders hidden around the back somewhere in the BAC. We were ushered into a completely dark holding bay with doors in front of us, we were instructed that the game would start, and we would watch. A long staircase behind the door with a girl running down and screaming. She throws herself at the door and bangs attempting to get through. We next watch as a figure slowly makes its way down the stairs. We are ushered next to line up against the wall of the stairwell to watch a truly remarkable continuation of the torment of a group of women by their captures.

The work of the YPT groups showed just how valuable they are to the BAC – their imagination and engagement in allowing an audience to step into childs play really put me on edge. Whilst I had full trust in the performers, there is something scary about a dark corridor in a theatre at nearly 10 at night being asked to close your eyes. – What a truly remarkable experience, and all made by young people.

The night becomes a celebration of being young and creative. It is empowering. It is exactly what we should be looking for in theatre. Their attitudes are free, open, expressive and joyful. We often think that young people are naive to the world, they just follow trends and enjoy being young and carefree. What If I Ruled The World… showed that actually young people have a voice, they have formed opinions, an understanding of the world, and a need not only in their political views, but also a need for a platform in theatre and the arts.

Watching Je’taime Performance and seeing the youngest of the Young Peoples Theatre group perform – it became suddenly clear. Their message was clearly shouted to us, repeated and we need to listen: “Who has the power? WE have the power!”

For more information on the festival, see the BAC website here.


Review: 4.48 Psychosis

March 24, 2010


I was left frozen to my chair, a few feet away from the stage, tears in my eyes and a sense of emptiness, a barren existence in my stomach, and a need to pack away my emotions, my mental state, and keep them under lock and key. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Sarah Kane’s finest play, 4.48 Psychosis in a truly harrowing production by TR Warszawa.

Kane’s work entered my reading material a few years back. I was possibly too young at the time to truly understand the true affect that Kane had with her poetic language. Whatever it was that I got from it, was a sense of freedom… a sense that Kane was writing everything I wanted to say. She uses the most vulgar language, she explodes apart linear narrative, and expects a series of numbers to form a body of dialogue/text – and I happily bathed in the words.

Then my dissertation came around, and once again Kane reared her epic plays before me, by that overused term ‘In-Yer-Face Theatre’. Yet during all of this time I had only seen student productions of the text, with little design and little outcome. Having missed Blasted when it was shown at the Barbican a few years back, it was time I settled my deal with Kane – this time, 4.48 Psychosis in a Polish version.

Everything about this production is exquisitely created, formed and unleashed upon the audience with devastating power and conviction.

Grzegorz Jarzyna has finely squeezed Kanes text through a translation by Klaudyna Rozhin, almost distilled the essence of disorder, crumbling insanity, and a desire to kill yourself and laid it upon a stage. Everything is exposed, and as an audience member you really get a feeling that Jarzyna wants the whole performance to be painfully uncomfortable.

As the centre piece to Jarzyna’s production is Magdalena Cieleka who throws herself about the stage, swallowing pill after pill, cutting her wrists and displaying extreme forms of delusion, paranoia and a lack of mental stability. She is completely engrossing to watch, yet equally disturbing. Cieleka stares out across the audience with accusing eyes, she screams at us – she pleads for freedom and acceptance – and as an audience we become voyeurs to break down.

Cieleka is without a doubt, remarkable.

There is a strong clinical affect from the stage design by Małgorzata Szczęśniak – the wipe clean floors and rows of sinks add this medical instinct. With a lighting design by Felice Ross that brutally cuts apart the stage, and at times the actors – the action is centred, trapped, imprisoned like the words that are spoken. Together they bring about the force and power that the text can justly deliver.

4.48 Psychosis is about tearing apart the mental state of a lost figure or narrator. In TR Warszawa’s version it displays fragmented moments, memories of this woman who clearly is not well. Oddly, the production does make sense in narrative form, each scene is interjected by a prolonged black out, as if we are inside this woman’s head experiencing moments of black outs of memory. The use of a projected number sequence to both countdown the performance and increase with the number of varying drugs being given as treatment escalates to a climax that sent shivers down my spine and an overwhelming desire to shout ‘stop it’. Yet I was powerless.

TR Warszawa manage to get beneath the text, draw upon the key themes and get to the heart of it’s audience. It potrays a split personality, the use of a child and older woman adds depth to the already fragmented character/voice that Cieleka plays by giving a history, a future of this person. Despite being obvious to use, they represent so much.

I could go on and list detail after detail that was executed with perfection, but that gives away the experience.

For me, this was uncateogrically the best and most haunting piece of theatre this year.

4.48 Psychosis is at the Barbican Theatre until the 27th March. More details on their website. Also see TR Warszawa’s website for more shows (the site is also in English).


Review: Hedda Gabler

March 18, 2010


Hedda Gabler at the Richmond Theatre is a poignant piece. One of Henrik Ibsen’s finest and most celebrated works, it depicts the crowded and claustrophobic life of the once Hedda Gabler, the now married Hedda Tesman.

Ibsen’s work has stood defiantly against the test of time, and in this production directed by Adrian Noble, it shows that Hedda Gabler is still standing strong. Nobel’s production is simple in it’s naturalistic form, yet the characters he has manipulated show a much more complex system at work.

Rosamund Pike takes centre stage as Hedda, who is truly fantastic. As the play draws its path through the events surrounding Hedda, Pike twists and turns the character, sparing fleeting moments on tenderness, anger, oppression and defiance. By the end of the play it is as if Pike wants to tear off her corset and break free of her restraints, to burst out of the drawing room to which she has been imprisoned. Of course anyone who knows the play will know how she finally escapes – but even this inevitable outcome left me somewhat surprised.

Whilst Nobel’s direction is naturalistic it is the subtle character traits that he has assigned to the actors that leave you with a slight edge.

Pike drifts around the stage as if automated, then suddenly she drops to a sofa, lays out, strewn in despair – in boredom, before jumping up and proceeding her solemn walking.

Robert Glenister as Tesman has a repeated hand gesture, and eludes a sense of child naivety about him, whilst Tim McInnerny as Judge Black is stern, slightly camp and a joy to watch.

Mention has to be made of Zoe Waites as Mrs Elvstead who for me, was truly remarkable. She was every bit of how I see the character, and not for a moment did she stray beyond my expectations. A fine example of acting that doesn’t become a  farce nor melodramatic, but rather blooming marvellous. (Watch out for Zoe Waites, she is certainly one to keep an eye on).

As a whole Hedda Gabler sits between being not quite spectacular, and neither  falling into average theatre. It is funny, charming, slightly shocking and works beautifully on the stage of the historic Richmond Theatre. Nobel has managed to make the most of Ibsen’s text, drawing the audience slowly in with subtle advances, whilst exploring the characters and producing a quality piece of theatre.

On a production side both Anthony Wards scenic design and Mark Hendersons lighting design are quite simply flawless. They work in completely harmony with Nobels direction working particularly well on drawing out a sense of oppression and madness of Hedda Gabler as a character through the darkened lighting of Henderson.

The only form of criticism I can give to this production is the length of the scene changes, something just didn’t quite fit right with them. I wanted the action to be worked through, instead of having to pause. Alas, a small price to pay for a brilliant night out!

Hedda Gabler is at the Richmond Theatre until 20th March. For more information on this Theatre Royal Bath Production or for it’s run at the Richmond Theatre see the theatres website here.


Review: Circa

March 10, 2010


Circus is a difficult art form when it comes to the exploration of work and in its attempts at raising the profile of this technical art. Circa’s new work of the same name, attempts to explore the boundaries of what circus can be, although somewhere along the line its artistic director Yaron Lifschitz seems to equally have gotten lost in the boundaries.

Circa is an 80 minute piece exploring the companies work into circus, acrobatic, and physical work. It shifts from subtle mini explorations of the body, to large aerial work, yet somehow I am not convinced by the outcome. The performers are impressive, their skills are above the level of standard I have seen in recent months when it comes to both ability and energy. They deliver their acts with brilliant percission and skill. They are trained to perfection.

The problem with this performance is Lifschitz attempts are breaking apart the boundaries of the performance of circus work, with the exploration of the companies work – it’s research and development. It almost feels like Circa is a showcase of the companies work, a ‘look what we can do with our bodies’ style which leaves no room for performance narrative or substance.

Of course any performance relating to circus and acrobatic work can do without a narrative nor spoken dialogue – yet Circa needs this to piece together the various ‘acts’ together. The companies explorations of their body is fascinating, with their deep understanding of small movements of hands, muscles, limps but in the greater context of the piece, much is lost and not found.

The highlight of the night has to come from a daredevil moment between a female and male performer. The female in question wears bright red high heel shoes, and proceeds to stand and balance on her partner. This act continues as she moves around his body, standing on his legs, chest, shoulders – whilst the man shifts balance with skill and sheer muscle strength. The subtle undertones of sexual relationships between them spoke volumes – this work is clearly pushing the boundaries, giving shock and delight to its audiences. It is just a shame that the rest of the piece doesn’t work in this manner.

Circa may have proved that their skills are finely trained, but their artistic approach to a performance leaves little to be desired.

Circa is part of the Bite 10 Season at the Barbican Theatre and is performing from 9th – 14th March. Tickets available through the website.


Review: Moonfleece

March 8, 2010

Philip Ridley’s new play Moonfleece, isn’t so much new but rather updated. First shown as a Connection play for young people at the National Theatre, Ridley has since worked the text and brought a new life to his East London play set in derelict council block.

Moonfleece is a play bursting with ideas, metaphors and themes that are current for a society in which we are readily facing. Dealing with fascism, murder, race, equality, sexuality – you’d think that a play so full of messages that somewhere the dramatic action would get lost. This is hardly the case. Ridley has woven this tale of deception and brotherhood with characters that come across as amazingly real.

What fascinated me about this production is the sheer number of characters who are present. An 11 strong cast – who are all new young professionals – manage to both dominate the small space of the Rich Mix studio, but still allow for the action and dialogue to interject between them without hesitation. I can’t remember the last time I saw a cast so fluid in their lines and delivery. Nor can I remember seeing a show for a long time with such a strong young ensemble that isn’t a musical.

Moonfleece covers multiple issues within the confides of Ridley’s story. It doesn’t aim to solve any of the prejudices which is raised, but certainly raises a creative frown at for example the steady increased popularity of the BNP in recent years. Ridley creates a family who see’s the local community as an all white society, spreading their fascists views in their same tailored suits and ties, with their all white slogans.

Cleverly Ridley ties the main story of a dead brother who actually turns out to have been banished from ‘the kingdom’ by the ‘step-father’ due to his sexuality with issues of acceptance of sexual orientation in societies and culture. Ridley’s message isn’t forced on the audience, but subtly revealed across two hours of the show.

There are few things to criticise about this production. The stage design is effective by William Reynolds, and whilst the sound at times slightly distracts from the action, the howling of the dogs repeated throughout create a tense atmosphere. Ridley’s text allows for a sense of humour to be evoked from some of the characters, which allows for space within this heavily loaded script.

Conclusion: A cast who are young, but there is no denying that whilst none of them stood out as leading characters nor driving the piece, together they worked brilliantly in delivering this gripping text. Covering issues that are relevant in todays society it brings a fresh approach to dealing with these issues, and is perfect for it’s current venue in the heart of East London.

Recommended for young people as well as adults. David Marcatlai direction of the piece is commendable allowing for the action to be fast paced, engaging and before we know it, 2 hours are up and the play is done. Considering Moonfleece has no interval it certainly has the ability to grab us and not let go until it is finished – something so few productions can achieve.

Moonfleece is currently showing at Rich Mix before it goes an on extensive national tour. To view dates see the official Moonfleece website here.


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