This latest star-studded digital offering from Henry Filloux-Bennett and the Lawrence Batley Theatre is a pleasing comedy about the tribulations of putting on a post-pandemic production.
Mates blogger: John Chapman
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I remember a student I was once trying to get to read more saying “What’s the point, there are just too many books”. Perhaps I’m beginning to have the same reaction to digital theatre – there’s so much more of it out there than I had ever anticipated and although I think I can claim I’ve covered a fair amount of ground there is still plenty to get to grips with.
New online theatre material keeps popping up all the time – or at least it eventually comes to my attention which amounts to much the same thing; this latest one did so by a somewhat circuitous route. My Boy Danny played at this year’s recent Camden Fringe as an online stream, but I managed to muddle the dates and therefore missed it.
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed one of the many shows which youth theatre Chickenshed put out during the pandemic. In fact, their last released piece came out in May so apologies to them for getting to this so late on. As with some of their previously released pieces it’s one of their boldly reinvented Christmas shows, this time from 2012.
It is not with a little sense of surprise that I found myself yesterday experiencing my 800th online production which is the subject of this review. Back in April 2020 I, probably along with the vast majority of people, was only expecting the virus problem to last a matter of weeks and yet here we are and here I am still reviewing daily after 535 days.
One of the huge advantages of online theatre over the last eighteen months or so has been being able to catch up with plays that any self-respecting reviewer should have seen but for whatever reason hasn’t. My Night With Reg was first produced in 1994 (missed it), has been revived since (missed them) and even turned into a TV film (guess what?)
The Greek myths have endured across the centuries partly because they are timeless stories that can be endlessly updated and reinvented.
I’ve now tackled a very high percentage of shows on the regular list so I’m going to make a rather more concerted effort to engage with those on the junior version and get this up to the same level. I thought I’d start by heading for one where the title had long intrigued me.
As it’s a recorded stream, you’re at liberty to choose your own encore moments and replay any numbers which particularly take your fancy – and there are bound to be several of those.*
The twin themes of social justice and climate activism are explored in this piece from Fehinti Balogun/Complicité.
Do these two pieces push the idea of audio theatre to its limits? Probably and the results are highly pleasing
The first tranche of Young Vic Digital consists of pieces written in response to a main house production. Here they are in chronological order of the time the original plays were written.
Siobhan Bremer’s A Theatrical Life is very much a piece which will more readily appeal to members of the profession and those interested in the mechanics of the business called show.
Site specific theatre hasn’t been easy over the last eighteen months – in fact you can take out the first two words of that statement. It’s been tricky enough getting regular venues open, let alone some of the more esoteric settings which were used before you know what kicked off. A production that it would probably be almost impossible to revive now is Clare Bayley’s The Container which happened at the Young Vic in 2009. Set in an actual shipping container near to the theatre it allowed for just 28 audience members each time crammed onto uncomfortable benches around the perimeter with a narrow central strip for the 6 performers to use. 34 bodies in close proximity packed into a metal box with no sense of social distancing and not a mask to be seen; even Covid deniers might baulk.
And so, to a piece which has long been on my “to see” list but which has kept getting bumped as a whole host of other stuff claimed my attention. As Meet Me At The Edge is a filmed account of an initially intended theatrical piece there hasn’t been quite the urgency that some other titles have had. And now that summer has finally arrived (in mid-September!) it seems like an ideal time to be visiting Cornwall for this meditative and reflective piece which dwells on the twin themes of isolation and connectedness.
It was just about a month ago that I observed that considering the dominant story of all our lives for the last 18 months has been the pandemic, there haven’t really been all that many direct responses to it in the form of theatre pieces. A new addition to the Scenesaver platform looks to rectify that particular shortfall with three monologues about individual experiences and response. Called starkly The Covid-19 Trilogy it comes from Elysium Theatre Company which is based in Durham. During the pandemic they released two sets of five monologues and the three pieces in this set are taken from these. Presumably they are a “best of” collection to whet the appetite; the rest are available on the company’s You Tube channel
Although I’d still give a best company name prize to recent Edinburgh appearees (??!) Expial Atrocious, running them a close second is Smoking Apples – though I’d be hard pressed to identify why. The group have been around for about ten years and have carved out a definite niche for themselves by making use of puppetry and developing a particular visual style in order to explore issue led topics. Their 2018 show to celebrate the anniversary of women’s suffrage has continued to develop and was taken on tour backed by the Institute of Physics as a way of encouraging teenage girls to go into STEM based careers (science/technology/maths). In its latest iteration it has become a filmed record called Flux – Digital.
Around The World In 80 Days is best known for the iconic 1956 David Niven film rather than the original novel by the prolific French writer Jules Verne; this version seeks to restore the original storyline to the centre of the narrative but does so with one playful eye on the theatrical possibilities where much is left to the audience’s imagination.
Arthur Smith pays homage to his (extra) ordinary Dad in Syd which premiered at 2018’s Fringe and is now an online show recorded at Falmouth and being streamed via the Pleasance.
The real life figure of Ed Gein looms large in horror films and literature. Most famously he was the direct inspiration for Norman Bates in Psycho and his terrible influence can also be found haunting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Silence Of the Lambs. But I’m not sure his real story has been told quite so directly as it is in Under The Floorboards which played live at the Edinburgh Fringe and has now emerged as an online performance film at this year’s Festival.
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