Tag Archives: Pulse

I, Malvolio

(reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich on 6 June)

For a modern audience with post-Elizabethan sensibilities, Shakespeare’s treatment of Shylock in the trial scene of The Merchant of Venice and – albeit to a lesser degree – of Malvolio in Twelfth Night is uncomfortable. We find it difficult to laugh at forced conversions or at insanity.

Tim Crouch takes us into the twisted world of that admittedly overweening steward Malvolio. Crouch is dangerously intense as he manipulates his audience with a mixture of cajolery and derision. Wearing tattered and stained long-johns, yellow stockings snaking down his legs, his head covered by a lappeted cap crowned with a cuckhold’s horns and brandishing the letter which has been his downfall, he combines ridiculousness with the menacing.

Various audience members are lured into increasing his humiliation; that’s so that Crouch can turn each situation on its head to make us ashamed that we have been laughing at each predicament. When he finally resumes the clothes appropriate to his status in Olivia’s household, they are as distorted as Malvolio’s warped mind which we recognise as both inherent and provoked. it’s a disturbing piece.

Pulse 2015 ended on 6 June.

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Filed under Plays, Reviews 2015

Wot? No Fish!!

(reviewed at the New Wolsey Studio on 6 June)

Pulse 2015 ended with an exceptionally moving family story, a true one. Bread & Circuses’s Nick Philippou directs Danny Braverman’s Wot? No Fish!! with the subtlety the story demands. Braverman has the audience eating out of his hand from the very beginning as we are offered that traditional (and delicious) Jewish delicacy, fish balls. Their significance becomes apparent later.

Braverman’s great-uncle Ab Solomons drew sketches each week on the pay packet he handed to his wife Celie. They were themselves of refugee families, escaping from the late 19th century lash of pogroms which disfigured Tsarist Russia and the new German empire alike. The marriage produced two children, both boys, and both children refused to conform to the norm.

One worked in an art gallery in the West End, far from Whitechapel, Dalston or Golders Green, let alone Hampstead Garden Suburb.The other was what we would nowadays classify as autistic. In the 1920s and ’30s, such a difficult youth as Larry approaching full manhood would be sent to a lunatic asylum, which is what happened. His parents made an awkward visit each week, usually bringing food (hence the title when, on one occasion, the goodie-basket failed to reveal any fish balls and their accompanying sauce).

We see these remarkable sketches and caricatures on a screen, as Braverman recounts the family history and humanises the people they represent with selected photographs. There is a special poignancy about the later sketches showing the ageing couple performing the Friday night rituals alone, without either of their sons or even a neighbour to join them. As painless history lessons go, this is at the top of my list.

Pulse 2015 ended on 6 June.

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Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me)

(reviewed at the Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich on 1 June)

Lost Dog bills Ben Duke’s show as based on Milton’s epic poem. You can add a brisk canter through both the Old and New Testaments to that, though owing more to Monty Python than to Wycliffe or Thomas Cranmer. Duke begins with the sort of faux-naïf introduction which always sets my teeth on edge; there’s an art to pretend bumbling which he hasn’t yet quite mastered.

It all takes a long time to get going with musical snatches of everything from Handel to Philip Glass via Richard Strauss and Janis Joplin played at a near-ear splitting volume. The water deluge is effective (one feels heartily relieved not to be on the stage management team for this show) and so is some of the subversion of received texts.

Unfortunately it’s not always clear just what the individual mime sequences are meant to represent. The running time is something over an hour; someone needs to cast a cold directorial eye on the piece – and then wield a sharp pair of scissors.

Pulse continues in Ipswich at various venues until 6 June.

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Filed under Ballet & dance, Reviews 2015

Idiot-Syncrasy

(reviewed at the Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich on 1 June)

It’s all enagingly apparently so simple. Two young men, wearing tank-tops, jeans and trainers stand side by side in front of three stepped white curtains. Their eyes keep contact with those of their audience; they sing a short phrase then, after a pause, another. And another. Very very slowly a foot rhythm accompaniment develops.

This is turn enlarges itself into a toe-heel stomp; Igor Urzelai and Moreno Solinas remaining all the time side by side. The stomping continues as they begin to shift position – behind each other, behind the curtains, into the auditorium. Tops and jeans, socks and shoes are neatly discarded (the rhythm never falters) to reveal tee-shirts and beach shorts.

Finally the performers engage face to face, embrace and ride piggyback. The influences are apparently Basque and Sardinian folk traditions; I sensed also something of native Latin American and African tribal dance and can’t be the only audience members forcibly reminded of the ritual elements in Le sacré du printemps.

The show’s title – Idiot-Syncrasy – sums it up with self-deprecatingly charm.if it steps into a theatre near you, it’s worth your while to catch it.

The Pulse Festival continues in Ipswich until 6 June.

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Filed under Ballet & dance, Reviews 2015

That is All You Need to Know

(reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich on 28 May)

Bletchley Park and its wartime code-breakers is very much in the news at the moment. The oath of secrecy taken by all the young men and women who worked there – selected for the most part because they displayed extraordinary mathematical abilities – still constrains many of the survivors. Idle Motion have created a collage of a show which switches effortlessly between then and now.

On one level That is All You Need to Know is visual theatre – projections, clever lighting, furniture which serves many purposes, rapid alternation between the stylised and the naturalistic. Paul Slater and Kate Stanley are the directors and the devisers are Chris Bone and Nicholas Pitt.

There are six performers, including Luke Barton as Alan Turing – the maverick genius of the place – and Christopher Hughes as Gordon Welchman – co-ordinator and frustrated chronicler.

Grace Chapman, Sophie Cullen and Ellie Simpson play both the young women who found themselves working on equal terms with the men and the modern activists determined that the Bletchley Park legacy should not be lost. Joel Gatehouse takes similar, dual roles.

It’s all quick-fire and slick, though never merely facile. There’s a sense of commitment to the story being told, one with pain and deep frustration and, in Turing’s own case especially, tragedy.

The sparing use of sound archive material adds to the historic exactitude of the core story. Projections have been created with Tom Savage with settings by Freda Johnson and costumes by Tash Prynne.

If That is All You Need to Know appears at the theatre space near you, then see it; at the moment the Pulse performance is the only one announced for the East Anglia region.

Pulse runs at various venues in Ipswich until 6 June.

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Bromance

(reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich on 28 May)

Modern circus training enthuses its practitioners with more than acrobatic skills; it leads to new forms of theatre, integrating dance into the mix. Take Bromance, which opened this year’s Pulse Festival in Ipswich presented by the Barely Methodical Troupe under tha auspices of Crying Out Loud and Circus Evolution.

The three performers are Charlie Wheeller, who earns justified plaudits for his routines with the Cyr Wheel, shyly comic Beren D’Amico and the exceptionally tall Louis Gift, who radiates something of the menace of Frankenstein’s monster creation – you’re never quite sure how he will react to what he other two are weaving around him.

Two’s company, three’s none goes the saying. There’s an element of this built in as a disjointed, voice-synthesised soundtrack accompanies the three men’s initial groupings. This then gives way to a solo piano, by which time we are watching something approaching dance; in turn this gives way to the sequence of displays of full acrobatic skills.

It’s engaging and draws its audience very subtly into an appreciation of what is going on. There’s a bk story, if you want to dig for it, concerning male bonding and the competitiveness which seems to be inherent in it. The show is playful and promulgates its lesson – if indeed there is one – as lightly as possible. Eddie Kay is the director.

Pulse runs at various Ipswich venues until 6 June.

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Filed under Circus & physical theatre, Reviews 2015