Tag Archives: Cambridge Junction

Getting Dressed
reviewed in Ipswich on 18 March

The stage is dark. Then a bare foot intrudes through a slit in the backing curtain, followed by another at a completely different height. Then yet a third, also apparently disembodied. Hands in a similar fashion follow and finally faces peer out of the gloom at the audience. By now even the most restless child is intrigued.

Suddenly the black floor-cloth and vertical drapes vanish, to reveal a white floor and a translucent backing. Not to mention the three main performers – Ellen Slatkin, Darragh Butterworth and Keir Patrick. heaps of brightly coloured clothes materialise and the dancers strip to their underwear to grab and wear whatever takes their fancy, regardless of sex or shape.

Rosie Heafford’s choreography is athletic, not to say acrobatic at times, with hints of Asian and Middle Eastern dance forms as the costume changes dictate. Hats and headgear of various kinds make their appearance, spilt onto the stage by a quasi-puppeteer figure, as do scarves which can be a stole, a blindfold, a sarong or a veil. The performers turn and stretch, leap and pivot toJames Marples’ and Amir Shoenfeld’s pleasantly atonal score.

Subtle lighting effects by Ben Pacey keep the eye engaged and there is enough humour generated by the sequences of apparently random quick changes to keep a young audience focussed on both the action and Verity Quinn’s plethora of costumes. At just under one hour, this Second Hand Dance production is an ideal length for a show without words and its target audience.

I had the distinct impression that wardrobes would be raided, just as soon as everyone had returned home…

Four star rating.

Getting Dressed continues at the Ipswich Jerwood DanceHouse until 20 March and can also be seen at the Cambridge Junction on 6 April.

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Filed under Ballet dance & mime, Reviews 2017

Giant

&
Antarctica

(reviewed at the Cambridge Junction on 7 July)

Did you ever, a long long time ago, write your name in a book, followed by the house name, the street, the town, the county, the country and then follow that with The World and The Universe? That seems to be the starting point for The Human Zoo Theatre Company’s Giant which uses an intriguing mixture of white-face mime, music, speech an puppetry of many kins to tell its story.

We more or less begin with a conventional-looking dolls’ house. Boy meets girl, they marry, have a son an a daughter (all very nuclear family so far) grow older, watch another generation grow, decay and die. An everyday history for ordinary people but, just as in a television soap opera, no family isn’t really one homogenised whole.

By now the young bride, who may once have had her own hopes for a starry future, is a pain-ridden matriach – but she can still dream, even as she dies. Her son holds down an office job which is rapidly becoming more than he can cope with. He wants his nephew to join him, putting aside the young man’s own desire to become an architect.

it’s often said that older people live out their frustrated ambitions through the youngest generation. Giant bears this out with great skill as well as considerable sympathy – we all have to do the best under the circumstances, whatever these may be, is the underlying message. The Human Zoo Theatre Company open the cage door to let us all mingle.

Giant is one of the productions in this year’s Hotbed Festival, celebrating new performance writing. Before it artist Chris Dobrowolski took us to Antarctica – where this conceptual artist (to assign what may be a misleading label) was attached to the British scientific expedition. It uses his own and documentary film footage as toy animals are introduced to disdainful real ones.

it’s all engaging enough, though this sort of staged autobiography tends to be a fixture at fringe theatre festivals right across the country. I may be a trifle jaded but it’s all too often a case of “see one, you’ve seen them all”. Dobrowolski is at any rate prepared to laugh at himself, which must count as a bonus.

The Hotbed Theatre Festival in association with Menagerie Theatre Company continues until 10 July at the Cambridge Junction. Giant also travels to this year’s Edinburgh Festival.

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Filed under Circus & physical theatre, Reviews 2016

Snow White & Rose Red

(reviewed at the Cambridge Junction on 10 December 2015)

The fairy and folk tales collected by the brothers Grimm in the early 19th century may form the basis for many a pantomime and children’s play but they are not always as sunny – nor are the endings always happy ones – as stage and film cartoon adaptations suggest. RashDash’s riff on the story of Snow White and her sister Rose Red makes this clear.

It’s this year’s Christmas show for family audiences at the Cambridge Junction and makes the contrast between the sisters very clear. Snow White (Helen Goalen) is the gentle and loving sibling, but a girl who can dig in her moral heels when required. Rose Red (Abbi Greenland) is altogether more tomboy, not to say downright butch, itching to get out there and do something.

The trigger for their adventures is a bear (Tom Penn) who comes calling in the course of a quest and who immediately elicits Snow White’s sympathies. The sisters encounter a very small man with a very long beard (Ed Wren), who is not as nice or as helpful as he pretends.

Presiding over it all is the snow angel (Becky Wilkie all glitter and misty grey) and there’s a good use of an over-worked fairy helper cum stage manager (Laura Page). The music is by Penn, Wren and Wilkie who preside over a battery of guitars, drums and keyboard.

In the end the bear resumes his human shape as Robert and joins his soul-mate Snow White. Shorn of that straggling facial hair, the very small man turns out to be a quite personable Graham. But Rose Re makes it clear that she prefers girls. It’s all engaging enough, though it could do with considerable cutting, notably of the first half.

Snow White & Rose Red plays at the Cambridge Juntion until 31 December.

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Filed under Pantomimes & seasonal shows, Reviews 2015

Betrayal

(reviewed at the Cambridge Junction on 20 May)

Something billed as a polyphonic crime drama is bound to be somewhat out of the mainstream. if we had been back in the late 1960s or in the 70s, you might have felt tempted to classify it as a happening. There were a lot of these around then, usually in non-theatre venues, and the experience tended to be immersive.That holds true for this I Fagiolini production.

Betrayal retells the horrific climax to the murder of his faithless wife and her lover by the Prince of Venosa (Carlo Gesualdo) in 1590. Gesualdo had previously experimented with harmonies and polyphony in madrigal format; later he turned amost exclusively to religious music.

Shepherded into a dim, black-floored and -ceilinged space by quasi police officers, we are allowed to wander round the chalk outlines of the victims and examine, without touching anything, pin-boards and some artefacts. Then the a cappella singing from the six singers – who have been mingling with the audience – breaks in.

Each singer is partnered with a dancer; the soprano and two mezzos do not always enact the female roles; the same is true of the tenor, the baritone and the bass. John La Bouchardière’s choreography is expansive as it melds lyricism with violence (the actual killing seems to have been a messy, not to say downright sadistic, affair).

Those chalk outlines and artefacts now begin to make sense, even if you’re not familiar with the background story. We in the audience wander between the performing couples with increasing wonder at musical director Robert Hollingworth’s long-distance control of his singers, who at times are prone on the ground or active in the dance element.

In his 1976 play Music to Murder By, David Pownall wrote a drama about Gesualdo and his tortured, fractured personal, spiritual and creative life. If the title hadn’t already been used, I Fagiolini might have selected it, having rejected Guilt as too specific and somewhat misleading.

Anyone who has read any Italian history of the period, let alone watched Jacobean drama, will know that Gesualdo was not unique in his revenge, including the mutilation of his wife’s body. He is, however, unique in his compositions. Though we should never forget that Monteverdi was contemporarily working his own magic with harmony and structure.

Betrayal is at the Cambridge Junction as part of the Cambridge Early Music Festival until 24 May.

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Filed under Ballet & dance, Reviews 2015