BULLISH – Camden People’s Theatre ★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Caroline Hanks-FarmerLeave a Comment

Camden People’s Theatre, London – until 30 September 2017
Guest reviewer: Laura Thomas

A trans-species individual, trapped in the labyrinth made by the tragic genius Daedalus, hunted by the warrior Theseus. A myth retold, with good and bad inverted, reimagined as an absurdist beast/beauty metaphor, and juxtaposed on a play within a play about the making of the play and the gender transition of the players.

Rich in comic one-liners, song, dance and movement, the company give a tight and entertaining performance, at times coming close to pastiche, but carrying things off with the brio of the performance.

The beast trapped in the maze, the boy flying too close to the sun; classic themes are explored, the four principals taking in Minotaur’s narrative in turn, intertwined with personal sorties into areas of individual experiences. There is humour and there is heartbreak, the well-intentioned prejudice the beasts face is wickedly observed and very funny.

Bullish as a production is well framed by imaginative use of mobile lighting towers (Joshua Pharo), sharp music arrangements (David Lewington) and designed by Emma Bailey, simple but effective props and costumes.

Propelled at a breathless pace by Skilbeck’s assured direction, the four principles, each paint a detailed and skilled picture, one sees the many patient hours of improvisation, the company developing the un-named characters within the process of devising and assembling the work. Krishna Ishtar is a gentle and flirtatious soul, resplendent with blue glitter beard. The wisecracking Amelia Stubberfield and the elegant Cairo Nevett are equally superb. But a special nod to Lucy Jayne Parkinson, who gave a performance that combined strength and an underlying vulnerability, her nicely nuanced facial expressions came across well in this intimate venue, as our quartet of Minotaurs struggle with the challenge of the labyrinth.

And then comes Adam Robertson as the darkly inverted hero, the isolated, arrogant male ego gate-crashes the party, as Theseus comes to slay the monster. Here the writing falters slightly, the feel-good ending felt slightly forced.

Part of the CPT’s Come as You Are festival, looking at the changing face of gender from trans to binary and beyond, and is part of that theatre’s ongoing mission to celebrate the bold and unconventional, particularly you and emerging artists.

Summary

This was a special night, with a palpable buzz of shared experience around the theatre and audience, a very welcoming and loving space. The play is of and by the trans community, and was well received by a packed house, but the in-jokes are carefully placed and clear in context, the play is a thoughtful rites of passage drama, well-constructed and performed with panache.

Worth seeing for the energy and brio of the performance. A wistfully funny tale of transformation
and the triumph of the human spirit.

 

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Caroline Hanks-Farmer
Having been a performer for many years, Caroline knows first hand how much the support of a good audience is valued, appreciated and needed. She is passionate about all performing art, but has a particular interest in new writing and Off-West End productions. Having reviewed for other publications, she set up her website, Carn’s Theatre Passion, to provide more exposure for these areas, as well as news, views, interviews and information on all stage-related matters.
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Caroline Hanks-Farmer
Having been a performer for many years, Caroline knows first hand how much the support of a good audience is valued, appreciated and needed. She is passionate about all performing art, but has a particular interest in new writing and Off-West End productions. Having reviewed for other publications, she set up her website, Carn’s Theatre Passion, to provide more exposure for these areas, as well as news, views, interviews and information on all stage-related matters.