Making a splash

By now, in a normal year, the North Devon Gazette will have done us proud with a great display both on-line and in the printed edition of what treats are in store for North Devon. Here’s an example from 2019.

The Voice local radio station has always been very supportive. For the last couple of years Hopps and Chapple have encouraged TheatreFest companies to drop in to the studio during their morning show in the week of Fringe. Two years ago today they were visited by three theatre-techs from Limerick who had just made the long journey to be here as part of the backstage team. Hopps and Chapple were delighted that people were travelling so far to enjoy what Barnstaple has to offer. Last year they were talking to a couple of performers from New Zealand.

The North Devon Journal has undergone some fairly radical changes over the last few years and space is more limited than it used to be. However, they make a very special effort to continue their historic support for the festival.

Shops and businesses in the Town Centre – including Green Lanes Shopping Centre – are generous with giving over space for posters.

Sam Gibbs podcast

The Fringe TheatreFest podcast, created by Liam Gifford, is up and running.

The first interview is with Sam Gibbs of Autojeu Theatre.

Sam has been part of Fringe TheatreFest since 2009 when he and Liam performed together as part of Openbatch Theatre that sprang out of Dartington College.

Sam and Liam together give us a great overview of what Fringe TheatreFest is.

Let us know what particularly strikes you from the conversation.

If it’s Tuesday it must be staging…

It has become something of a ritual on the Tuesday of Fringe week to pick up a flatbed truck, kindly loaned by St John’s Garden Centre, and start collecting the staging and chairs needed to equip the venues.

For many years, Park School lent Fringe their staging that was paid for by a grant that came with Robert Barber’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 2003. As school finished we’d be there with the flatbed and whoever else was available to help haul out the frames and the decking. And then drive them to the Baptist Hall where other members of the team would be already delivering the custom-made scaffolding framework and drapes to provide a black-box stage area.

The Park School staging is no longer available, so over the past few years Forches School and Swimbridge Jubilee Hall have leapt into the breach.

The photo shows us trying to remember the most efficient way of constructing the staging. Where’s that photo from last year?

posted by Bill

A Facebook memory

This pic popped up in my Facebook memories from exactly two years ago. The volunteer co-ordinator on his way to Barnstaple having been picked up by his big sister at Tiverton.

So by Monday normally the briefing sessions for the volunteer force would have happened over the weekend. The box-office would be open. Posters all around the town. Road signage on the outskirts of town. And equipment beginning to be gathered, ready to start kitting out the venues.

posted by Bill

Fringe TheatreFest 2020 – in lockdown

Something rather different…

We’re taking the forced opportunity to reflect on the wonderful adventure we’ve been on over the last 14 years. From 16 performances over three days in one venue in 2007 to a planned 220 performances over four days in 22 venues in 2020.

Starting on Wednesday 24th June – the day when the first ‘Taster Session’ would have happened – we will share posts of all sorts – blogs, comments, photos, graphics, videos, podcasts – to mark the period of this year’s planned TheatreFest, finishing on Sunday 28th.

Please join in as you wish. Enjoy the posts and comment if you feel so moved. If you wish to send photos, videos or whatever, email us at info@theatrefest.co.uk

Photo displays all the elements of TheatreFest

Fringe_SponsorsHeads Up Youth Theatre members with Peter Leaver (David Wilson Partnership); Rosie Bracher (Rosie Bracher Solicitors); Gill Nathanson (Fringe TheatreFest); Jamie MacDonald-Murray (Talo Homes); Bill Buffery (Fringe TheatreFest); David Wilson (David Wilson Partnership); Mark Cummings (Samuels Solicitors).
Photo by Thomas Brookes.

Heads Up Youth Theatre were in mid-rehearsal for their Fringe TheatreFest performance of Girls Out Loud when they were interrupted for a photo-call.

Joining them in Bridge Hall, the Old Magistrate’s Court located in Bridge Chambers, were some of the sponsors of this year’s Festival.

The resulting photo sums up the alliances that make Fringe TheatreFest happen – and which led to another record-breaking year for the biggest Fringe Theatre Festival in the South West.

First the building.  Fringe TheatreFest was invited to stage performances in Bridge Hall in part to bring the room to the attention of the town.  The hall has recently been inactive but is now being renovated.  In various ways, Fringe TheatreFest encourages audiences to look at Barnstaple with fresh eyes.  Many comment on the splendour of the buildings where performances take place – The Guildhall, St Anne’s Arts Centre, Queen Anne’s Café, The Baptist Hall and so on.  Bridge Hall can now be added to the list.

Next the theatre company.  Heads Up Youth Theatre are part of Make The Move, based in Ilfracombe.  Make the Move’s young stars gave 7 performances, most of them in public spaces such as The Square, Green Lanes Shopping Centre and Paternoster Row, delighting passers-by as well as audiences that had sought them out.

In the photo, they represent the 78 companies – mostly professional – who came to Barnstaple to present 240 performances in 20 different locations from the High Street to the Queen’s Theatre main stage and all points in between.  A company travelled from New Zealand – via festivals in Poland and the Czech Republic.  A number of companies and volunteers visited from the Republic of Ireland.  Other companies gathered from across the UK.  Many out-of-towners were provided with somewhere to sleep by local hosts – an offer that has meant new friendships formed.

And the Sponsors.  Without the support of sponsors and other grant-giving organisations, Fringe TheatreFest couldn’t happen.  Represented in the photo are Talo Homes, Fringe TheatreFest’s first overall Festival Sponsor.  Talo Homes also sponsored the Tent on the Strand which boasted a particularly strong programme of family shows.  The Tent is the most expensive of the venues to hire and secure, its presence made possible by the Rotary Club and Councillor Grants.

Samuels Solicitors were a venue sponsor for the third year running, sponsoring the programme of work in The Guildhall.

David Wilson Partnership sponsored the programme in St Anne’s Arts Centre for a second year.  The Guildhall is made available by the Town Council and St Anne’s by the Plough Arts Centre.  It is this coming together of different partners that brings the Festival into being.  In the same vein, Selladoor Venues made the Queen’s Theatre available – both the main stage and the café upstairs; The Golden Lion Tap, The Southgate and the Liberal Club provided space for venues; Queen Anne’s Café became the Central Box-Office as well as hosting two performances; Green Lanes Shopping Centre was buzzing with public performances; Barnstaple Library hosted an event for toddlers; Barnstaple Coffee Shop hosted a ‘taster’ session; and Cove Boutique was the venue for a film made in a day.

The box-offices ran exceptionally smoothly this year thanks to a grant from Fullabrook PLC that allowed investment in new equipment.

Also in the photo is Rosie Bracher, of Rosie Bracher Solicitors, who is not only a Gold Sponsor but also a volunteer.  As such, she represents the other indispensable element that delivers Fringe TheatreFest.  Over 80 volunteers worked tirelessly over the long weekend in box-offices, as stewards and as technical staff while a core volunteer-team work throughout the year to deliver what has become a sizable operation.

Fringe TheatreFest can confidently look forward to bringing fun and thought-provoking entertainment to Barnstaple next summer and providing another event that North Devon can be proud of.

‘Skerryvore: a tale of terror’ – a haunting tale investigating a supernatural mystery

Incredible performances bring the story to life with effective visual and audible effects taking us back to the 18th Century

‘Strange things do sometimes occur here’

Skerryvore is a haunting tale investigating the supernatural mystery of the lost lighthouse men of a small Scottish island. Set in 1876, the play is based on a true story where the audience, acting as London scholars, bear witness to a woman’s testimony surrounding the catastrophe that had occurred many year’s prior.

The performance is presented as a series of medical lectures where Mary, the lone survivor now under the care of Professor Barret, takes us on a journey through her partial consciousness as she retreads the tainted ground that had left such a scarring mark on her soul. She maneuvers through her memories with a childlike innocence, revelling in the sight of her forgotten playground, but distinctly aware that it’s all building towards something far more sinister.

The incredible performances from Bill Allender (Professor Barrett) and Rachel McCarron (Mary Campbell) bring the story to life with effective visual and audible effects taking us back to the 18th Century. One that will leave you questioning fiction and reality.

‘Skerryvore: a tale of terror’ is on at the Castle Centre on Sunday at 3pm

Age 11+

‘A Simple Story’ – beautifully and hilariously illustrates the family bond as it grows over time

Each milestone is cleverly reconstructed through dance, comedy and theatre to give viewers an insight they might not quite expect​

A Simple Story beautifully and hilariously illustrates the family bond as it grows over time. As what can be described as a visual family history, the performance captures and celebrates each member’s creative spirit whilst inviting the audience to unleash their own.

Right from the start it’s clear that is to be no ordinary show. Chloe, performing with her parents Sean and Michaela for the first time, excels in this grand experiment leading the way as we see time moving through her eyes. The family have travelled across the world, sometimes apart, and each milestone is cleverly reconstructed through dance, comedy and theatre to give viewers an insight they might not quite expect.

From Chloe’s first steps to the parental dilemma of getting their child into bed, each moment conjures the whirlwind of emotions brought about by family life. In the midst of the tears and laughter the piece also raises a poignant political message in regard to education and our creative future where independence is key.

We leave with a strange sense of belonging and, just like Chloe, feeling as if we have now truly travelled with the circus.

‘A Simple Story’ is on at the Queen Anne’s Café on Sunday at 5.30pm

Age 7+

‘Holly Kavanagh – My dad’s Mick Hucknell’ – join a room which is sure to be filled with laughter

Holly Kavanagh perfectly highlights how humour lies in even the everyday conversations and interactions that we face

Holly Kavanagh is a ray of sunshine on the Castle Centre stage, as she cheerfully and hilariously recounts scenes from childhood, believing that her dad was Mick Hucknell, up until her working life, including her endeavours to improve the customer service of London bus drivers.

Although now living in London, Holly’s roots lie in a working-class home in Cornwall and this is something that clearly shapes her routine. Much of this material is particularly pertinent to a Devon audience, such as the growing issue of second home-owners leaving houses empty for most of the year, so this performance is perfectly suited to Barnstaple Theatrefest.

Across the performance, Holly introduces us to many characters of her life, and smoothly transitions into brilliant impressions of them. In doing so, she perfectly highlights how humour lies in even the everyday conversations and interactions that we face, whether that be at work or at home.

Join a room that is sure to be filled with laughter by visiting the Castle Centre tonight at 6pm.

By Seraphina Allard-Bridge

‘Holly Kavanagh – My dad’s Mick Hucknell’ is on at the Castle Centre on Sunday at 6pm

Age 16+

‘A Voice We Follow’ – head on down for laughter, perils and entertaining exploits

Set in Yugoslavia, we are invited to journey with two brothers along their quirky adventure, as they try to return home

Royal Kung Foolery brings us a fresh and funny tale from a somewhat unexpected setting; 1974 Yugoslavia. It is here that we meet grumpy, cabbage-loving Ivan and his younger, more optimistic brother Boggy. These two brothers invite us, the audience, to journey with them along their quirky adventure, as they try to return home.

The two actors give an energetic and highly entertaining performance, creating two clearly contrasting yet allied characters. Like any pair of siblings, their relationship is somewhat unstable, but in the end, this is a heartwarming tale centring around family.

The ensemble is known for their hilarious use of physical theatre, which can be seen as they bounce playfully around the stage. The enthusiasm and glee of the younger Cetkovic brother is perfectly juxtaposed by his older brother’s begrudging movements, creating an absurd and comical dynamic between them.

We follow these two Yugoslavians as they take us through all kinds of mishaps, and along the way we meet Vasos, a slippery Greek tradesman. Even a couple of audience members join in with the story along the way, helping Vasos out in his misdeeds. At times things do not look good for our two main characters, but two blue balloons remain on stage throughout, serving as a beacon of hope for the audience.

Royal Kung Foolery has one more performance today at 5:30pm, so head on down to the Tent on the Strand for laughter, perils and entertaining exploits.

By Seraphina Allard-Bridge

‘A Voice We Follow’ is on at the Tent on the Strand on Sunday at 5.30pm

Age 14+

‘Woman Caught Unawares’ – a performance which invites us to both laugh and cry

Deborah Hadley draws the audience into the story of a professor of art history and her struggle as a photo of her in a changing room is shared online

The monologue is a powerful thing, and when done well it can be an exceptional piece of art. Fortunately, ‘Benny&Kate’ do it well. Annie Fox’s writing is full of gorgeous language, while Deborah Hadley’s performance draws the audience in, inviting us to both laugh and cry with her.

The story focuses on a professor of art history and her struggle, as a photo of her in a changing room is shared online. As the perspectives of older women are frequently ignored, this performance offers a unique insight into a voice often unheard. Nonetheless, the story can strike chords with us all, as it touches on love and loss.

References to art history are woven throughout, as the play is split into three parts, each titled with an Italian art term. This choice works particularly well when it is considered that the women featured in Renaissance paintings are so often passive, presenting the expectations for women in the real world. However, the protagonist of this performance does not remain passive, as she takes matters into her own hands.

This show is personal and yet somehow universal, as it touches on fears that we all have, of ageing and of losing those that we love.

Woman Caught Unaware has been received with open arms so far, so if you’re yet to see it, I recommend that you do.

By Seraphina Allard-Bridge

‘Woman Caught Unawares’ is on at the St Anne’s Arts Centre on Sunday at 7pm

Age 14+

Sent from Outlook

‘Revelations 11’ – five performers transport the audience into the world of ‘The Family’

Follow two brothers as they discover more of the world, themselves, and ‘The Family’ they’ve grown up in their entire life.

Revelation 11 follows a family caught up the machinations of The Family. Watch as two brothers, Mickey and Bill, start to understand the extent to which The Family has had an influence on their lives as a whole, and just what it might take to leave family behind.

We start by meeting the brothers, joking around about some terribly done handyman jobs (trying to keep a shed together with glue is the level they’re at), but we’re pretty quickly catapulted into the strange ceremony of being matched. Whoever you are matched with becomes your partner for life, as decided by Abraham, The Father; a man at once charming and quietly sinister with each well-oiled sentence that leaves his lips.

The company made clever use of audience members here, turning us not only into the congregation for The Father, but also candidates to be matched ourselves. Two audience members were called forth up to the stage by Father Abraham, asked to sign the ledger and subsequently find themselves matched.

Using the audience highlighted how the matches are made with no regard of the connection between the individuals chosen; it’s simply obeyed as Abraham’s will, and assumed things will turn out okay.

The story continues to follow Bill and Mickey, who reconcile with the events of the matching one second, and then discover their father has left the next. Abraham sends Mickey out to bring his father back into the fold, and we follow as the brothers discover more of the world, themselves, and The Family they’ve grown up in their entire life.

This piece made beautiful use of live music to underscore the scenes, with a particularly haunting folk song from the boy’s mother (Charlotte Juniper). The 5 performers transport the audience into their world within The Family, and we watch as they come to terms with exactly what happens under the ever-watchful eyes of Father Abraham.

Make sure you catch their final performance tomorrow at the Castle Centre, 7pm.

By Jess Cox

‘Revelation 11’ is on at the Castle Centre on Sunday at 7pm

Age 16+

Sent from Outlook

‘Grimm’s Fairer Tales’ – a truly wonderful experience for the whole family

‘Fairer’ tales brought to life by a master storyteller – with some help from the audience!

Everyone loves fairy tales, and now, thanks to Eden Ballantyne of Stories Alive, everyone loves ‘fairer’ tales too. Girls, boys, men and women are made to question fairy tales’ patriarchal take on society and instead consider kingdoms where a young girl can become a ‘Killer of Wolves’ and ferocious grannies carry axes in their handbags.

Younger members of the audience donned simple costumes and brought the stories to life with the help of the master storyteller. His energy never dwindled and it was obvious that he enjoyed seeing how his show would pan out as much as the audience.

Today’s highlights included the giggling wolf and the king who thought she was being proposed to by the storyteller himself (thankfully, she declined) whilst references to Modern Britain made the adults chortle: who’d have thought that Hansel and Gretel were 30-year-old graduates still living off the Bank of Mum and Dad?

Thank goodness for the Miller’s daughter who became Prime Minister to right some wrongs. This show is proof that the screen-loving younger generation are still delighted by simple pleasures such as dressing up and acting out a good old-fashioned story (with a twist!).

And remember: don’t ever marry a man you’ve never met or a man who locks you in a dungeon.

By Sara Wearne

‘Grimm’s Fairer Tales’ is on at the Tent on the Strand on Sunday at 2.30pm

Age 3-12

‘The Head of Medusa’ – classic Greek myth interweaved with a modern story line

A side of this classic story often left unheard and un-seen delivered with great energy and vigour

The tale of Perseus and Medusa is one many people know, a classic Greek myth passed down through the years, telling of the snake haired woman who turns men to stone, and the man who finally slays the monster. In Gary Cordingley’s re-telling of the tale however, we are asked to question who the real monsters are.

Interweaving a modern story line of a Miami business woman amongst the tale of Perseus’ growth from child to man, and the events that led to his encounter with Medusa, Cordingley brings to life the tale of hero and monster.

Cordingley’s tale moves between these elements, between ancient and modern, the gods and the humans who suffer by them, Perseus and Medusa, to eventually give Medusa a voice in her own story.

I’d be interested to see what would happen to the piece if performed by a woman, maybe adding to the sense that even as the story describes Perseus’ pursuits, it is Medusa who gets to tell it, Medusa who voices the story in its entirety and the beautiful monologue Cordingley has written for her is called forth in the voice of a woman.

But that would be a different show, and it’s well worth watching to see how this storyteller brings forward a side of the story often left unheard and un-seen with great energy and vigour.


By Jess Cox

‘The Head of Medusa’ is on at The Southgate on Saturday at 9.45pm and Sunday at 7pm

Adult

‘Sex, drugs and other things I never do’ – stand up comedy show which makes you laugh and think in equal measure

Caine’s humour appeals to the individual, reminding us that we’re not the only one who’s messed up somewhere

Self deprecating, observational humour, looking at the life we think we could be living verses the one we actually are. This stand up comedy show does what it sets out to do, to make you laugh and think in equal measure.

Despite the heat Caine manged to keep his cool as he worked the audience with his tales of covering everything from falling for therapists, wedding cakes minus the wedding, to duct tape in the bedroom. It’s all there.

Caine’s humour appeals to the individual, reminding us that we’re not the only one who’s messed up somewhere, who gets themselves into socially awkward situations, who has ridiculously untimely thoughts about stupid facts that nobody needs or wants to hear before sex but you’re so, so tempted to say.

There’s an authenticity to his performance that gets the audience on his side from the off, and despite some rewrites of jokes and new ordering, Caine’s set works to bring everyone together in some sense, in realising nobody has it together all the time, which is nothing but a reassurance.

(Also I’m going to go out there and say, best tag line of the festival. ‘If you like Pina Coladas, and deep emotional pain, if you’re anxious in public, come and see Michael Caine.’)

By Jess Cox

‘Sex, drugs and other things I never do’ is on at the Castle Centre on Saturday at 10pm and Sunday at 4.30pm

Age 18+

Sent from Outlook

‘Queer Monster’ – quick witted improv and bubbly enthusiasm

These performers are bound to get you laughing with the queer madness of it all

Part Cabaret, part game show, part lip sync drag dance extravaganza, come and celebrate Queer Monster’s birthday! Which birthday you might ask? Well her first, very literal birth day, as Queer tumbles out of the huge fabric vagina of Mother Glory hole that from the backdrop to the show.

But it’s not just baby Queer Monster’s birthday, no; it’s also the birthday of Heterosexual Demon. What ensues is a series of increasingly crazy scenes, games, songs and dances as the two compete to snatch the birthday crown in any way they can. The question is who will win?

With quick witted improv, and bubbly enthusiasm the two performers drive us through the evening; whether it’s a plate spinning cheese sandwich making competition, or a deceptive Cheryl Cole impression, these performers are bound to get you laughing with the queer madness of it all.

If audience participation isn’t your thing hide at the back, or else let Queer and Hetero drag you into the shenanigans taking place on stage in this battle between the two birthday queens.

By Jess Cox

‘Queer Monster’ is on at the Golden Lion Tap on Saturday at 5.45pm and Sunday at 7.15pm

Age 15+

Sent from Outlook

‘Nathan & Ida’s Hot Dog Stand’ – a real gem in this year’s Theatrefest

There’s clear chemistry in the partnership between Nathan and Ida in a heartwarming and hilarious performance

Upon entering The Baptist Hall, the audience is greeted by a bright and colourful set, as the reds and yellows of the hot dog stand presage the joyful performance that is to come.

Nathan and Ida cheerfully portray a pair of immigrants who come to New York in the hopes of a new and better life. It is a classic premise, but this performance is one of the most heartwarming and hilarious that you will see. There is a clear chemistry in the partnership, and Nathan and Ida’s winning personalities shine through as they present their passionate and hardworking characters.

It is not just Nathan and Ida that we meet, but a whole world of quirky characters. Our two actors give all of their energy to the performance, which operates like a well-oiled machine. Each movement, whether it be a tango, a tussle or a tap dance, is carefully crafted and performed. Even actions that happen off-stage are clear in the minds of the audience thanks to the expressions of the actors.

The reaction from the audience is often the best way to deduce the quality of a show, and the audience of Nathan and Ida’s Hot Dog Stand were loving it. The room was filled with laughter throughout, which is a testament to the hard work that Nathan and Ida have put in in order to entertain their audience.

This show is a real gem in this year’s Theatrefest, and it is guaranteed to brighten your day and put a smile on your face.

By Seraphina Allard-Bridge

‘Nathan & Ida’s Hot Dog Stand’ is on at The Baptist Hall on Saturday at 7.15pm

Age 12+

‘amendments: A Play on Words’ – Middle Weight Theatre Company look at the struggle between different perspectives on using language in a ‘PC’ culture

Though provoking and eloquently written – let us know your thoughts

Believe. Regulate. Excel. Aspire. Strive. Thrive.

Sounds like a pretty cool and inspiring motto, right? That is until you see the acronym that it creates. That’s the thing with language, it can often be seen in different ways from different perspectives, and often the ways it is seen in can be somewhat … offensive. On the other hand, adjusting language so that it is inoffensive or ‘PC’ can take the emotion and the meaning out of it.

This is the struggle that Middle-Weight Theatre Company deals within their latest production, and it is an issue that is very current. Yet, this issue is not as new as it may seem. Over half a century ago, Vonnegut’s short story Harrison Bergeron dealt with a similar dilemma; making the world as fair as possible for everyone seems to come at a cost, removing essential elements of humanity.

The performance follows a meeting between Kenneth, played by Matt Roberts, and John, played by Emerson Pike, who has been called in to talk about certain allegations that have been made against him. From here, a duel of language ensues, rife with interruptions and rephrasing. Roberts perfectly portrays the caricature of a boss with a penchant for over-the-top gesticulation, with Pike giving a passionate rebuttal to the criticisms that his character is faced with.

Ultimately, both characters offer valuable insights into our turbulent world. On the one hand, it is important to protect those most vulnerable in the workplace, yet at the same time, we must strive to keep our language vibrant and full of expression. I would be interested to see the conclusions that other audience members draw from this piece, and who you think makes the most sense in this at times nonsensical work.

For a thought-provoking and eloquently written performance, go to see amendments: A Play on Words and let me know your thoughts.

By Seraphina Allard-Bridge

‘amendments: A Play on Words’ is on at the St Anne’s Arts Centre on Saturday at 1.30pm and Sunday at 1.30pm

‘The Laurel and Hardy Cabaret’ – Lucky Dog Theatre Productions back with a show which will appeal to audiences of all ages

The rapport between the two performers helps the comedy to resonate across decades and across generations – well worth a watch

Lucky Dog Theatre Productions are back in Barnstaple, and this time they bring a medley of Laurel and Hardy’s best work, with something for everyone – whether it be singing, dancing or the classic Laurel and Hardy comedy that we all love.

Familiar music welcomes us into the Baptist Hall, which is home to a variety of sketches over the next hour. Although decades old, the humour never seems dated and will appeal to audiences of all ages. Much of comedy nowadays rests on politics and cultural references, so the humour of Laurel and Hardy is a refreshing departure from this, relying only on the universality of the human experience.

I think it is the rapport between these two performers above all that helps the comedy to resonate across decades and across generations; at times like parent and child, at times like squabbling siblings, the playful dynamic created on stage is a relationship that we can all relate to. Laurel’s naïve and earnest character is contrasted by Hardy’s exasperation, and Tony Carpenter and Philip Hutchinson’s carefully crafted characterisation perfectly captures this.

Over the performance, we are transported to a variety of places and situations. Carpenter and Hutchinson masterfully juggle their props and music in order to smoothly recreate the range of iconic sketches. Even the technical difficulties that were thrown their way were tackled with humour and charm, and the audience were delighted throughout.

Whether it is to relive the joy of Stan and Ollie or to discover them for the first time, The Laurel and Hardy Cabaret is well worth a watch.

by Seraphina Allard-Bridge

‘The Stan and Laurel Cabaret’ is showing at The Baptist Hall on Saturday at 8.30pm and Sunday at 2.45pm

Age 5+

‘Hamlet’ – truly experience the story of Shakespeare’s classic play

Emily Carding, who impressed audiences with her previous show Richard III, returns with another passionate performance

A one-person show is always an impressive feat, and Emily Carding goes a step further by inviting willing members of the audience to participate alongside her, as she retells the classic Shakespearean tale of Hamlet.

I was given the chance to play Ophelia and although performing on the spot may be a daunting task, it allows us as participants to garner a deeper understanding of the play and the motives of characters. That said, those that do not take part will still feel connected to the performance, as the subtle yet intimate lighting, blocking out the light from outside, transports us into Hamlet’s world.

Carding herself gives a passionate performance as Hamlet, and it is no surprise that she has received an award for doing just that. She simultaneously acts and guides the audience members through their parts, which are sure to offer something different with each performance. Even when not furthering the story, such as in giving advice at the beginning, our world is still intact through the Shakespearean language and mannerisms of Carding.

If you want to not just watch Hamlet but to truly experience the story, take a trip to The Guildhall to see Brite Theater and Sweet Productions’ take on this classic Shakespearean play.

by Seraphina Allard-Bridge

‘Hamlet’ is on Saturday at The Guildhall at 6.45pm and Sunday at 3pm

Age 12+

‘The Uses of Poetry’ – A Personal Journey

At times, intimate, at times, humorous and at times, melancholic performance by Robert Meteyard

An inspirational experience awaits all those who have a love for the spoken word, a sense of humour and an awareness of what it is like to be born into the absurd, yet wonderful world, where the mundane, sometimes, surprises us and little nuggets of fleeting moments appear amidst poignant wry humour.

Robert Meteyard immediately establishes a casual and intimate atmosphere. The simplicity of the setting upstairs at the Queen’s Theatre is a comfortable and cool space well suited to house Meteyard’s spoken word journey which seamlessly begins with a series of ‘frequently asked questions’. This immediately establishes the tone and fluctuating mood for this, at times, intimate, at times, humorous and at times, melancholic performance.

Meteyard engages the audience with questions and an opportunity to participate in bringing his Alexandrian poem ‘Secrets’ alive, thus enabling the audience to relish in the spoken word through their own experience.

I found myself enchanted by Meteyard’s infectious love of language and keen observations of human interactions with all their absurdities, needs, desires and questions. I strongly recommend this hour of poetry to all 13+ who have a love of the spoken word.

By Michele Borsten

‘The Uses of Poetry’ is on Upstairs at the Queen’s Theatre on Friday at 6.45pm and Saturday at 4.30pm

Age 13+

‘Cautionary Tales – for the World’s Worst Victorian Children’ – you’ll never splash in puddles or slam doors i n the same way again!

Captivating performances in fast-paced, cleverly crafted play full of ‘rascality’

If you think being a child in the 21st century is difficult, it seems life was much worse for Victorian children. Aside from well-documented activities such as being sent up chimneys, even mundane activities that most modern-day children would take for granted could apparently result in death; you’ll never splash in puddles or slam doors in the same way again!

We were warned at the start that this was a show filled with ‘mayhem, disobedience and death’ and they didn’t disappoint; it had an air of Horrible Histories about it which offered an intriguingly gruesome take on the Victorian era.

Written and performed entirely in verse, which in itself should be applauded, there was a somewhat Shakespearean feel to it; at times, it was hard for younger members of the audience to follow the sophisticated phrasing and vocabulary, but thankfully the actors’ captivating performances and the visual nature of the show held everyone’s attention throughout.

Every member of the company skilfully played a range of characters, with only simple costume changes and props to distinguish between them. It is a fast-paced, cleverly crafted play full of ‘rascality’ that hopefully teaches children that ‘mischief is not life’s main aim’.

By Sara Wearne

‘Cautionary Tales – for the World’s Worst Victorian Children’ is on at the Queen’s Theatre on Friday at 7pm and Saturday at 4.30pm and also at 7.30pm

Age 8+

Sent from Outlook

‘Miserus’ – ‘No one tells Greek myths quite like a Roman’

The relationship between the two characters is delightful to see … the playfulness emerges in the telling of the story

‘No one tells Greek myths quite like a Roman’

In the quiet, cool surroundings of St Anne’s chapel, Tiresius the blind seer guides us through tales from ancient Greece. Vox, his mute accomplice in this task, accompanies these stories not with words but through various musical underscores, underpinning and adding a fresh layer to these classic stories. From the start of the world to the revels of Dionysus’ and his followers to the tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice, the two performers guide us through these tales with great pace, weaving deftly through the dense tales and keeping the audience on their side throughout.

The relationship between these two characters is also delightful to see; the show starts with Tiresius eventually realising the audience are already in the room, having blindly worked his way to Vox at the front of the room. There’s only so many ways you can mutely alert your friend of this when he won’t stop talking. The moments when the characters step out of their storytelling and interact simply with each other and the audience, whether it’s to discuss the virtue of wine, or maybe to remind us that Romans really did tell the Greek myths best, puts into question how long this pair have been telling these stories, and how longsuffering they are in their friendship. As one is blind, the other mute, and they tell stories that have been told a thousand times over, playfulness emerges in the telling of the story by the deprecating pair as much as there’s delight in the stories themselves.

If you’re a fan of Greek myths this is definitely a show for you, and if you’re not sure where you stand allow Tiresius and Nox to bring you into the world of ancient Greece for a little while.

By Jess Cox

‘Miserus’ is on at St Anne’s Art Centre on Saturday at 5.50pm and Sunday at 5.35pm

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‘Everything Wrong With You is Beautiful’ – beautiful spoken word piece

Sederholm has an infectious energy in this spoken word piece speaking to your inner child.

Is there a memory you are holding onto that you keep coming back to, or maybe your family always bring it up, but it doesn’t sit right. They remember it one way, you remember it another. They laugh at what they think of as a funny anecdote, you laugh along to keep the peace. What really happened is a question that never seems quite right to ask, or as we discover, is not a thing always easily defined.

In this beautiful spoken word piece, Tina Sederholm looks at what it is to heal, to reconcile, to live surrounded by certain expectations and to break out from them. At what it is to fail. This piece works beautifully at the Southgate, the intimacy provided by the space melding with the intimacy of the work itself, as Sederholm draws us into her world of poetry, memory and humour.

The piece structures itself around the memory of being left on the beach as a child, and all the ramifications of that moment, but spirals out in a poetic memoir that covers everything from leafletting at the Edinburgh fringe to moving house and performing and writing a book all at once, to horse riding. Sederholm has an infectious energy, as she guides her audience through the evening as she appeals to our inner child through addressing her own.

By Jess Cox

Everything Wrong With You is Beautiful is on at The Southgate on Friday at 8.15pm, Saturday at 5.30pm and Sunday at 4.15pm

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’10 Days That Shook the World’ – refreshing musical adaptation of iconic account of the Russian Revolution

Strong performances and music from a young company to keep an eye on

From the company Thereby Hangs a Tale comes a musical adaptation of John Reed’s 1917 eye-witness account of the Bolshevik Revolution.

As someone with a fairly limited knowledge of the Russian Revolution I wasn’t sure how I was going to find the piece. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t necessarily follow all the ins and outs of the plot, and the intricacies of the politics at play, but it didn’t matter. The journalists Reed and Bryant guide us through the narrative, and the array of characters they come into contact with, and the performance held its own for me even without a vast knowledge on this part of history. Basically, all I’m trying to say is don’t let not knowing much about the revolution stop you from seeing the show!

There were strong performances from all the cast, who were energetic and well fused together as an ensemble. Most of the musical numbers, if not underscoring speech, worked to layer harmonies and different melodic lines together to create a satisfying whole, which was well sustained throughout by the cast. A particularly beautiful moment arose in the snow scene, a beautiful respite, and moment of still, in amongst the rapidly swirling set of scenes, meetings, rallys and conversations that sweep you up for the rest of the play.

It’s refreshing to see a new ensemble musical theatre work from a young company, and these guys are definitely one to catch and keep an eye on what they produce in the future.

By Jess Cox

‘10 Days That Shook the World’ is on at the Golden Lion Tap at 6pm and Saturday at 8.45pm

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Entree – a truly magical show!

Highly entertaining , memorable show. Bravo, Jose Pedro!

‘Entrée’ really was the ‘hottest’ show in town today as temperatures in the ‘Tent on the Strand’ must have soared above 30 degrees. Despite his formal attire and the physicality of his performance, Jose Pedro Fortuna did not let the heat get to him and he put on a charming, highly entertaining, memorable show.

From the subtle eyebrow raises to the microphone with a mind of its own, he engaged the audience from the moment he appeared on stage and we instantly fell in love with his clumsy, eccentric ways.​

The effortless slapstick humour, which made my 4-year-old giggle from start to finish, had slick magic tricks woven in that left my 7-year-old wondering ‘how did he do that?’ and as for us adults, we were simply in awe of the way he made traditional clowning techniques funny and relevant for a modern audience.

This really is a show for all ages and although you can’t help but feel sorry for this hapless Master of Ceremonies, you will secretly be willing more things to go wrong, so that the show doesn’t end. Bravo, Jose Pedro, bravo, a truly magical show.

By Sara Wearne

‘Entrée’ is showing at the Tent on the Strand on Friday at 4pm and on Saturday at 4.10pm

Ages 3-93

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Barnstaple Conversation

Me: (Handing out flyers on Boutport Street):

Please come along and see my show

You: (Looking at the flyer in disbelief):

Is it going to be all in emoji though?

Me: (Perhaps a little unhelpfully):

No.

You: (In the circs quite reasonably):

So, what’s it about?

Me: (in a friendly and not at all aggressive tone,

that makes you think that when all’s said and done

I might just be alright):

Come and find out.

You: (speaking to your friends and/or family):

Well he’s not going to sell many tickets, is he?

Your friends and/or family: (Gleefully):

It’s free

You: (Slightly annoyed at the direction this is taking)

That actually wasn’t the point I was making

Me: (Butting in quite rudely, but let’s be honest,

to put it crudely I want the best,

and you, your friends, your family, and the rest

look like the audience of my dreams):

It’s UPSTAIRS AT THE QUEENS

You: (Showing your usual discretion and taste,

your wicked sense of humour, your passion and grace,

sense of adventure, flashing eyes and modesty,

and perhaps above all, your immunity to flattery):

Let’s go see:

All: (in one voice, cheesy but laced with irony) The Uses of Poetry”

Me: (Gratuitously):

It’s free.

webpage

Fringe conversation page

Not long until the Fringe chat starts in earnest: “What did you think of that?” “What did that mean?” “Wasn’t that just great?”

Blogs from this site – spread through Facebook and Twitter – had over 3,000 views during the four days of last year’s TheatreFest. That’s a lot of sharing.

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

rosey78blog

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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