Friday, 29 March 2013

Anyone For Vodka?

Past Half Remembered
New International Encounter
At Sherman Cymru, Theatre 2
27th March 2013

It’s safe to say that after being handed vodka shots and Russian tea at the start of the show this is going to be a great review!

Beverages aside Past Half Remembered is a gem of a show. In just over an hour the energy-pumped cast take us through the life of Maria Michailovna who lived through the Soviet Century. Starting with her charming romance with a Russian soldier Maria’s life is peppered with moments of great humour and great loss. Yet she manages to live to the ripe old age of 100 despite so much conflict including the Soviet Revolution and the Nazi occupation of Western Russia.

At its core this is a heart-warming and simple love story but by combining a variety of traditional theatre techniques the company transform it into the most engaging history lessons of all time, whilst also examining human nature and how we use language.
At moments it felt as if every member of the audience was actually part of the ensemble as the actors addressed us directly and bounced off the reactions in the room. The Brecht inspired style of narration and use of instruments and song onstage made it a completely immersive storytelling experience.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the production was the use of English, French and Czech. New International Encounter believe that actors should be able to use their own language when performing and even though it was impossible to understand the literal meaning of some of the lines and songs  the emotions still came through strong. Certain moments became more poignant due to their non-lingual truth and weight.

The ensemble clearly had a great time making and performing this piece and this is probably why it has been touring for the last 11 years. They make slight changes to each performance and adapt to every audience meaning the show is always fresh and exciting. This also meant there were occasional mishaps – such as a mistimed knock sound effect - but the cast took it into their stride and made a comedic feature out of their errors.

In a post show discussion the cast voiced their concerns that sometimes they feel the show is too funny and this means they lose the touching aspects of the tale. They really have nothing to fear – although the laughs came thick and fast the pure emotion of Maria’s struggle was truly moving. The moment when the 100 year old Maria dances in the snow is perfect and beautiful. 

Both charmingly traditional and brilliantly innovative Past Half Remembered is just so satisfying to watch – completely absorbing and affecting.

Ensemble: Kieran Edwards, Anna Healey, Aude Henrye, Rew Lowe, Iva Moberg, Robert Orr.

For more on the show and NIE :

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

'I'm Changing things. This is it.'

By Kate Tempest
At Sherman Cymru, Theatre 2
23rd March 2013

Once in a while a production will come along that creates a huge buzz. When you miss a show like that you know that there’s usually no way you’ll ever get to see it. Luckily for those who missed it first time round Wasted came back for a second nationwide tour. If you missed it this time you really have missed out!

Three friends, who are maybe more than friends and maybe less, are forced to face up to all the opportunities they wasted because they were.....well, wasted. On the tenth anniversary of their childhood friend’s death they ask what went wrong and how can I make it right. But is the middle of a rave in South London really the place for these twenty five year olds to make a change for the better?

The pace of this short play is staggering, during the twenty-four hours we follow the three disillusioned Londoners no part of their lives is left unexamined. Why doesn’t downtrodden Ted (Cary Crankson)leave his Ikea loving girlfriend and get the job of his dreams? When will Danny (Bradley Taylor) realise his band is going nowhere? And how did Charlotte (Lizzy Watts) fall out of love with her calling to be a teacher?

Written by performance poet and rapper Kate Tempest, her theatrical debut is nothing short of amazing. Tempest has a way of bending words to make them fit into her beautiful urban poetry that never once sounds forced or insincere. In fact her down to earth and rhythmic approach to word play ensures the production is hard hitting, honest and true.

Naturalistic scenes in parks, cafes and clubs are broken up by bare-all monologues and stylised choral scenes directed straight at the audience that are worthy of any music stage. The actors do an absolutely stunning job of navigating the rhythms and layers of Tempest’s words, slipping effortlessly between their characters everyday life and the choreographed group sections.

As if there wasn’t enough to be entertained by already the innovative use of multimedia added yet another level to the polished show. A large screen provided clues to the setting of each scene; a neon sign telling us the cafe is open or a beautifully shot pub interior. During the powerful monologues the screen showed close ups of the actor’s face that were cleverly matched to the onstage lighting and added yet more emotion to the already intense words.

A beautiful symphony of words, music and technology. This is the kind of theatre that gets people excited, makes them talk and inspires them to make a change. The innovative combinations of media and poetry make this rather straightforward study of modern urban life something unmissable. Let’s hope they will be back by popular demand for a third outing soon!

A Paine’s Plough, Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Roundhouse production, in association with the National Student Drama Festival and Latitude Festival.

For more about the show and producers Paine’s Plough:
For more on Kate Tempest: