‘An Exhibition of Ourselves’, ‘Teens in Town’ Review

Inside the heart of the museum, year nines from The Park Community School depicted real events from history that happened right here in Barnstaple – including an interpretation of a trial that took place in the Guildhall as a result of a young woman’s death. The performances appeared rather unrehearsed, but it’s nice to see how much they learned.

The performers then moved outside onto the square to act out scenes of youth homelessness and crime. Although it was unpolished, it was interesting to view events from past, present and future through a young generation’s eyes.

Altogether, a great opportunity for young people to get involved in theatre and engage in both historical and topical issues. Some with great acting potential also.

‘Love//Death//Other’ Review

Aptly named after a friend commented that all his poetry was about “love, death and other cr*p”, t.s idiot gives the audience the opportunity to randomly choose which poems he will perform from these categories – meaning that every performance will be different.

A comedic spoken word performance with homemade costumes, sounds and props that bumped up the entertainment value! t.s idiot’s laid back approach makes the poems even more hilarious. Particularly a beautiful rendition of his poem – ‘Ode to an estate agent’ where he plays the snooty estate agent ‘Sharon’ brought the audience to tears (of laughter!).

Overall a good watch with both light-hearted and bittersweet moments. Thoroughly recommend.

‘SESKA – Fruit Salad!!!’ Review

This performance was aptly named as like a fruit salad, there was something for everyone! There was magic, slapstick and even ‘dance’, if you can call it that…

Seska had many magic tricks up his sleeve which, whilst simple, were played out in such a way that both adults and children were entertained. I was lucky enough to be part of a lively and enthusiastic audience which helped the energy of the performance, which of course is very important in a one man show. The performance was all choreographed to a high energy soundtrack that, in part, helped to enhance the show, but at other times held up the flow.

Of course the most important judgement is that of the children watching, and they all seemed to love it!

‘The Fisher-Knight’s Tale’ Review

This was a wonderfully told story about the journey of a young, adventurous girl named Laura. It was a fun slant on the archetypal story of the Fisher King, with Laura meeting many colourful characters along her journey.

The props were beautifully crafted. This was especially true for the puppets, which required just a few simple but careful movements from the puppeteers to bring them to life.

Although the crowd I was in was small, the two performers brought much energy to the stage. There was a strong rapport between them, as the show was clearly well-rehearsed, allowing total trust between the players. I particularly appreciated the clear diction cutting through the noise coming from outside.

In all, this was a well-rounded performance able to entertain across the generations.

‘And Then They Came For Me’ Review

This show was a poignant reflection on the horrors of the treatment of the Jews, aptly performed at a time when the world seems to be divided.

The use of multimedia was very effective, as the videos that were played showed real Holocaust survivors, reminding us of the veracity of the story despite it being performed by actors.

We were definitely sucked into the story as the loud footsteps of German soldiers were heard, while the characters hid on stage. Although we could not see the soldiers, our imagination was enough, which was true for much of the performance due to the simplicity of the set.

Over the course of the show, we saw the characters break down due to the terrible treatment they underwent. An opposing perspective was also presented in the form of a member of the Hitler Youth, allowing us to see the indoctrination that the German people were subject to, as well as the normalisation of prejudice.

With an important story to tell, this is surely worth a watch!

‘Hats Off to Laurel & Hardy’ Review

The slapstick opening is suitably reminiscent of our favourite comedy duo, Laurel & Hardy, and sets the scene for a comedic, yet poignant, show.

I enjoyed the style of self-aware storytelling, as there was no separation between the characters themselves and the narrators, and it was very interesting to gain an insight into the lives of this well-known double act. Both the ups and downs of their lives were depicted, from their humble beginnings to their rise to fame to their illnesses and deaths.

The ‘behind-the-scenes’ issues were especially insightful, of course being the lesser known parts of Laurel and Hardy’s life. We learn not just of how Laurel & Hardy built up their ‘tricks of the trade’, but also of their troubles in their personal lives.

The development of their craft through the process of watching and learning interested me, despite not having grown up watching them, and has inspired me to discover more about the lives of these two entertainers.

‘Blooming Out’ Review

The brainchild of NOS three, ‘Blooming Out’ is a charming two-woman clown show which explores a variety of subjects linked with the overall theme of womanhood.

From a technical standpoint the performance was very well planned, the music choices fit the situations perfectly and added a little extra to the comedy, as well as being used to great effect with the production’s more poignant moments. The singing was also a welcome addition to the show, especially linked as it was with the theme of motherhood.

The comedy was really good, very energetic and lively (and this is coming from someone who is not a big fan of clowning, so well done!) but at the same time didn’t make the more serious moments seem out of place. This show gets a recommendation because it has it all; comedy, music and dramatic moments, all of which flows together in a seamless performance.

Wicked Old Sod – The Resurrection

Given the title of this performance I was expecting humour, a great character and possibly a little bit of singing, and Wicked Old Sod did not disappoint. I got everything I was expecting and wanted from the show, with a lot more besides.

Michelle Ridings starts off the performance by showing off her fabulous singing voice, and then gets straight into the narrative, talking about themes that range across all aspects of society. But there is more to Wicked Old Sod than just a monologue: there is audience participation – both with the performer and with other members of the audience; there’s a chance to grow and brew up some hones-tea; there’s humour sprinkled throughout, but there’s also some emotional moments in the second half.

So if you have a chance to, go watch ‘Wicked Old Sod Resurrection’ at St Anne’s, and find out for yourself just how good it is.

‘Sunked’ Review

‘Sunked’ is the poetry filled story of one man’s attempt to do on his own what everyone else says is impossible: raise the titanic from the depths. But as well as the ocean’s depths, Chris will also have to fight against a sinister conspiracy that is hell bent on keeping the titanic right where it is.

This performance is so good! It features some of the best poetry of this year’s fest, a creative and interesting premise and possibly the best ominous music of any show so far. The chemistry between the two performers was also worthy of a gold star, Chris and Hal both very funny from start to finish.

The last song especially was a wonderful choice and possibly my favourite of the show, made all the better because it incorporated audience participation to make sure that Sunked ended on a good note. I cannot recommend this show enough.

‘For Conscience Sake’ Review

‘For Conscience Sake’ is a one man show from Plain Quakers Theatre, dedicated to the conscientious objectors in WW1. It looks at both sides of the argument through the eyes of Albert, a man who discovers something that changes his perceptions, hidden away in some old war letters.

One of the reasons why this show is so captivating is the characters feel real and genuine, which in turn makes their dialogue and emotional growth a lot more powerful. The revelations and adjustments in the latter half drew me in and kept my attention because it was so easy to engage with Morris and believe what I was hearing.

The sparing use of props and accents was also expertly done, small things that aren’t always noticeable but at the same time add little details that really flesh out the performance and make it a more complete and enjoyable experience.

To sum up, this show was amazing.

‘The Elevator’ Review

What happens when 4 strangers and a ‘willing’ volunteer get trapped in an elevator?

Using only physical theatre and a few props, Pick Pocket Productions create a 15 minute scene of hilarity and confusion as they compete for space in a comically crowded elevator.

Be warned – you may be plucked out of the audience at any moment! I was picked to participate in the show, and while I was reluctant at first, it was actually great to be a part of the piece and experience the street interaction first hand; something particularly special to TheatreFest 2017.

Another brilliant aspect of TheatreFest is that is allows anyone no matter their age to be involved, and I’m glad it does. It never fails to amaze me what talent you can find when you give people the opportunity to express themselves.

Quirky and well staged, very well done to such a young cast. Recommend.

‘Collective Evolution’ Review

Beautifully written and performed. A heartfelt and passionate depiction of feelings towards our past, present and future, commenting on the state of the world. Reading out from books standing atop of the fountain, it’s hard not to picture the performers as preachers – their answer to societies problems not religion; but a message about kindness and human compassion. Perhaps slightly unrehearsed, but altogether a deep and thought provoking performance from Love Of The Game Productions. If you’re passing by, stay a while.