Almost Alice! – comment

Well done to Make the Move this Sunday afternoon for their circus school rendition of “Alice in Wonderland”, their circus school workshop at the old BHS store and for all the hard work put in by the volunteers. They are a credit to all the hard work and trying times experienced over the last couple of years. What an amazingly talented group of people they are.

Looking forward to seeing you all at your next performance.

Susan McGill

Fringe theatrefest Barnstaple. Who would have known!

Always exciting to see people ‘finding’ Fringe TheatreFest


Anyone who knows me, knows that this whole drama, singing and dancing malarkey has been forced on me by my first born. So why am I writing my blog about it? Well turns out Barnstaple theatrefest is amazing. So much variety to suit all tastes.

Now I’ve know about theatrefest for a few years now and have avoided. Nothing personal, just not my thing. But this year the first born is actually taking part with Total Theatre School.

I arrived in Barnstaple today, parked up and got the message that total theatre had to cancel today’s show, due to the lead being extremely ill (heartbreaking for the lad, and hope he is better very soon). It will have been a devastating blow for them all. I really feel for them, as I know how hard they have all worked. But I was still going to make sure my kids would…

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This one got us talking!

Melanie Branton’s My Cloth-Eared Heart, a spoken word performance about a thirty-year epic quest for love, certainly got this group of friends talking. Brilliantly honest? Uncomfortable overshare? Did you see it? What did you think?

It was a girls’ night out so we chose a female-friendly topic: a show about a singleton’s quest for love. We’re still friends, of course, but it did divide opinion…here’s what we thought:

Alisha Kaliciak: ‘Cocktailing poetry, personal narrative and a fetching red polka dot dress, the ongoing quest to find a partner now in her 50s has led Melanie to examine the reasons that might preclude her from doing so. It’s a high energy, boldly intimate piece that was sustained and seamlessly delivered. Marvel at her metaphors which move between humour and dangerous revelations.’

Anita Butler: ‘Melanie laid her soul on a slab with her one-woman spoken word show. The poetry is intimidatingly good — some of the wordplay is gorgeous, and she did have me hanging on every word. However, the performance was too tightly controlled and perfect for me, too keen to impress; raw and full-on yet curiously lacking in vulnerability. I’d have preferred her cloth-eared heart to have a few frays around the edges.’

Sophie Ellis: ‘If you’re looking for easy-going, rhyming poetry, you’re in the wrong place. The poems are very personal. It makes for uncomfortable listening, and at times you don’t know where to look, but the deep subject matter in this brilliant show needs to be recognised.’

Rosanna Rothery: ‘Melanie is amazingly talented. Her crafting of words is second to none and her delivery raw and direct. Did I find the material uncomfortable? Boy yes! Did I want to be taken to those dark places of the victim? Boy no! Did I admire her honesty. Undoubtedly. Although I was left pondering: “if her sentiments about stalking men had been expressed by a male – how would we have reacted?”‘

Catch the show at The Southgate on Sunday at 4.45pm.

Sent from Outlook

Bawdy, saucy, lecherous, lusty, lewd,…you get the picture

The Miller’s Story: Anita Butler went along in search of Mediaeval filth — and she got it!

Gather round for Chaucer’s naughty story. You know, the one that’s a bit — ahem — ‘cheeky’. Many know the notorious bit with the window, but the surprise ending is often forgotten amid the saucy bawdiness.

Which is no bad thing. I went along craving Mediaeval filth and that is what I got. The Miller’s wife, for a start — what a woman! Actor Simon Thompson was brilliant at creating her character with a simple prop and a voice. That iconic Commedia dell’arte hooked nose took us straight to Mr Punch (well, her name is Judy). The scene where he used a member of the audience to recreate the Miller’s wooing of Judy was also inspired.

Bawdy, saucy, lecherous, lusty, lewd, this is a story that taps into the familiar templates and archetypes of Olde Englande. You’ll need to lean in a bit as, in creating an intimate atmosphere, the Miller’s voice went a bit low at times and could have done with a bit more projection. Not that this prevented me from being spellbound. Who needs a mobile phone when you have storytelling like this?

More ale? We all know what the answer to that is!

The Miller’s Story by Clown Noir is at St Anne’s Arts Centre on Sunday at 4pm.

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Bridget Jones on steroids

Single 40-something ‘Cynical Sue’ posted this fabulous anonymous review of Melanie Branton’s My Cloth-Eared Heart

This lyrical masterpiece pulls no punches. Branton’s pit-of-the-stomach bile is drawn to the surface in the telling of a woman’s struggle with painful disappointments, dashed hopes and unrequieted love that repeatedly turns sour.

Her razor-sharp undertones of passive rage spill out at a lifetime of being lied to, given false hope and patronised by society who use sayings to reassure that love will miraculously appear just around the corner, such as ‘there’s a light at the end of the tunnel’.

It’s a refreshing, albeit brutal repertoire of poems and spoken word based on ‘the truth’. Finally someone has said it: ‘Cinderella may not even make it to the ball.’

As my long-suffering, single-for-many-years friend always said: ‘The light at the end of the tunnel is an on-coming train.’

Melanie touches on the whispering fears of many a single lass of a certain age and in doing so highlights we are not alone in our plight and the harsh truth sets us free. This is a must-see show.

Sent from Outlook

Need a laugh today? Try this one….

Kevin, King of Egypt is about an escaped psychiatric patient Kevin Haggerty who is not pleased about his diagnosis, even less pleased about being on a section of the Mental Health Act and distinctly upset about being told he is not the reincarnation of an Egyptian pharaoh. Seraphina Allard-Bridge saw the show and loved it

The Golden Lion Tap was packed for the King of Egypt’s show; there was a buzz of anticipation among the audience and rightly so, as Rob Gee is a fantastically talented performer, comedian and poet.

The energy levels Gee brought to stage gave life to all the characters, with a variety of voices and facial expressions to make each one unique. The script too was superb, with subtle but effective rhyme and rhythm that may not be immediately noticeable, and some inventive metaphors that I won’t mention here for fear of censorship.

Several stories ran parallel alongside each other, each with their own quirky heroes, intertwining as the show progressed. Although the specifics of the storyline may not exactly be relatable to the average audience member – do you know anyone who believes they are the reincarnation of Ramesses II? – the themes that run throughout will strike a chord with all, such as family, relationships and recovery.

If you’re in need of a laugh and an insight into the minds of these extraordinary personalities, head on down to the Golden Lion Tap to see this hilarious show! It’s on Sunday at 5pm.

Sent from Outlook

Glimpse beneath the surface of an autistic women’s world

Have you seen The Duck? Seraphina Allard-Bridge recommends catching this insightful show today

To be a duck is to appear calm to the world, a smile on your beak, while underneath the surface you are working tirelessly to keep up appearances. This is the life of Laura, a late-diagnosed autistic woman and the protagonist of this show.

It is important to know that a duck should not be feared, nor pitied. A duck has many aspects to it and like any of us, a duck has strengths as well as weaknesses. This metaphor continues throughout the play and proves to be an ingenious way of communicating about autism to an audience which could be unfamiliar with it.

Lucy’s energetic acting and Rhi’s masterful writing combine wonderfully so whether you yourself have autism, you have family members with autism or you know nothing about it, this is well worth a watch for a fun and informative experience. If you’ve already watched the show, let me know your thoughts!

Catch The Duck by Autact at the Castle Centre on Sunday at 1pm

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Broken creator

Seraphina Allard-Bridge sees ABSTRACT, a raw energetic show exploring the struggles of the creative process

Although ABSTRACT begins with an upbeat start to a funky song, this intimate insight into the life of a young designer begins to get darker as the story progresses, as more complications and difficulties build up.

The 4th wall is quickly demolished and remains so throughout, allowing the audience to make a real connection with the performer. The monologues feel very natural and open, like a stream of consciousness, so it is easy to forget you are watching a performance at all.

James Elston gives a raw, energetic performance, engaging with the audience in very creative ways, while in turn his character talks about the struggles of the creative process, something I’m sure many of us can relate to.

Mental health is a theme that has cropped up in many TheatreFest shows this year, and with good reason too, as it is something that we all face in one way or another. This show gives a fascinating but poignant look into the life of a broken creator, and shows the struggles one can face when feeling isolated from those around you.

Let me know your thoughts – how well did you feel the issues were presented? Was there anything within this performance that you could relate to? I’d love to hear what you think!

Catch ABSTRACT by James Elston at the Castle Centre on Sunday at 4pm.

Sent from Outlook

A tale of tolerance on the rooftop

This site-specific play within a play gives a poignant message about identity and breaking down barriers, finds Abi Manning

Sometimes the biggest issues can be most poignantly portrayed by young people, and Sparkleshark proved to do just that. Heads Up Youth Theatre delivered a valiant performance amidst blazing sunshine pouring upon their set at the top of Green Lanes’ multi-storey car park.

A smattering of props – a lampshade, shopping trolley and battered leather chairs to name a few – begin life as the surroundings for the rooftop refuge used by budding writer and ‘geek’, Jake. Yet as other characters invade this space, they end up as props for an internal fairytale which has the young actors performing a play within a play that draws the geek, mean girls and rugby boys together.

This they did admirably – the plot was clear and characters defined. It wasn’t without drama, though. Jake (the ‘geek’) comes heart-stoppingly close to a tumble over the car park barriers, and this is juxtaposed with the humorously acted, cocksure Russell and the mean girls who exuded feistiness.

Encompassing the themes of bullying, vulnerability and tolerance, this was an enjoyable reminder of how the power of storytelling overcomes barriers.

Head to the top of the multi-storey car park on Sunday at 3pm to watch for yourself.