My experience of Immersive Theatre

When I was 18 I had my first experience of immersive theatre. I saw Punchdrunk’s ‘The Drowned Man’ and it was the most trippy piece of theatre I had ever experienced. The tension, apprehension but also the freedom exploring the space of your own volition is completely mind boggling. The action is literally under your nose and is therefore amplified tenfold. You are surrounded by the world rather than it being sat directly in front of you. You can chose to follow characters that interest you and ditch them if something else distracts you. The future of this strange genre excites me and it has been my honour to have a stab at it myself:

Yesterday, I’m proud to say, marked the halfway point in the run of Bacchanalia’s ‘The Bacchae’, the immersive theatre experience I am currently acting in. I am playing Teiresias the Prophet in a 90’s rave Greek Tragedy – And yes I know how it sounds and I can assure you it does what it says on the tin. It has genuinely been the strangest week of my life (in a good way.) I feel as though I could write a book of the strange interactions I have had with audience members this week. I have had fleeting, yet meaningful, connections with absolute strangers whilst remaining in character. Some peoples responses to my character and the story have been so intriguing. For many it’s been a freeing experience, doing and saying things to strangers they wouldn’t ordinarily do; investigating a story rather than simply observing; believing they have power over how the story ends. For others this level of immersion is extremely jarring, and I can totally sympathise. Having a actor touch you and get right in your face is a shock to the system when you are so used to being an invisible entity in the drama. But it has been an amazing week for me being a part of some people’s first experience of immersive theatre. And there are still kinks to work out when it comes to immersive theatre – like with any new genre of entertainment.

I am shattered but I cannot wait for the second week of the run!

Tickets are still on sale (shameless plug), ‘The Bacchae’ ends on the 3rd of December. Link is below

Theatre Reviews

Til we Meet in England

In my opinion one of the most exciting developments in modern theatre is the emergence of immersive theatre. The genre is still in it’s teething years and nobody quite knows proper way of doing it, which is amazingly exciting! Of course there are no right or wrong answers. Lost Text/Found Space’s newest contribution to this exploration is Til we Meet in England, an adaptation of The Massacre by Elizabeth Ichbald. It tells the tale of the persecution of French protestants during the St. Bartholow’s Day massacre as a scared family prepare to flee to England.

To begin we where welcomed into a derelict, Victorian semi-detached. Sparsely decorated with ancient furniture and dimly lit, it seemed like a place you would likely see a ghost. Ghosts are what the characters I encountered felt like – in fact, the playwright herself, Elizabeth Ichbald (played by Pippa Wildwood), appears ghost-like observing the story, unseen by the characters she has created. The performance is free-roaming at times allowing you to engage in conversation with individual characters, however very swiftly we where shepherded into conventional audience positions as the actors performed scenes from the text. The lighting moved from dim orange light to florescent white making these scenes appear like oil paintings. The architecture of the building was used beautifully, one of the best uses of space I have seen in a while. Although I never did get to upstairs, I could see it from downstairs and the illusion of walls where made using net curtains, giving me an abundance places to look.

I was so over-stimulated with the immersion that the parts that had narrative were often difficult to follow. I was engaged in the action rather than listening to the text – which is in no way a bad thing. Overall, A very stimulating night of tense action.

Til we Meet in England is on at Safehouse One in Peckham until 2nd December. Tickets are available from £10.

image by Ellie Kurrtz

Theatre Reviews

Of Kith and Kin

A married gay couple use an anonymous egg donor and their best-friend as a surrogate to conceive a child. One of the couple is the biological father, the biological mother is unknown, the surrogate has held the child for 9 months. Who in the picture has parental rights? Chris Thompson’s new play explores this debate and the plethora of additional factors that goes into making the heart-breaking decision for the baby.

Of Kith and Kin is full of twists leaving you constantly changing your opinion on the characters and their rights to parenthood.  It makes you reflect on the unfair scrutiny fathers often go through compared to mothers. The are plenty of shocks that leave you hanging on your seat. The characters are messy and layered. James Lance and Joshua Silver as Daniel and Oliver make a believable couple, jumping between moments of affection and moments of anger, and constantly playing a game of status. The dialogue is memorising and infuriating as they constantly talk and talk in circles never getting to an acceptable understanding. Chetna Pandya is heart-breaking as the surprisingly maternal surrogate Priya – one of the obstacles between Oliver and Daniel and the family they planned for.

The play is complex, fluid and full to the brim with issues to reflect upon. I highly recommend this fantastic new piece of writing – it will leave you feeling emotionally raw.

Plus points for the inclusion of a dance number within the first 5 minutes. Every piece of theatre should include and dance number – no exceptions.

Of Kith and Kin is on at The Bush Theatre until November 25th. Tickets are available from £10.

Theatre Reviews

Ramona tells Jim

17 year old Jim lives in the “shittiest town in Scotland” and is obsessed with crustaceans. He falls in love with Ramona an English girl on a school trip. They are both outsiders and socially awkward, and are seemingly perfect for each other. A lie told and a violent incident leads to the young lovers being separated for 15 years. A fantastic piece of new writing by actress and emerging playwright Sophie Wu (Kick-Ass, Wild Child).

Ramona tells Jim is a bittersweet tale of the obsessive, impulsive reality of first loves; and is painfully familiar to anyone who has ever been a socially inept 16 year old attempting to talk to someone of the opposite gender. Ruby Bentall and Joe Bannister bounce off each other perfectly as Ramona and Jim, both of them twisting and bouncing around the space as awkward teenagers yet moving seamlessly into the character’s adult versions. I am of the opinion and all plays should involve some element of dance and Wu does not disappoint on that front with the teenage Ramona and Jim rocking out to the legend that is Enya – Bentall and Bannister have enviable dancing skills! Amy Lennox is also excellent as adult Jim’s young lover/girlfriend/not-putting-a-label-on-it/fiancee, walking the line between childish and mentally unstable. The dialogue throughout feels natural and unfiltered, dotted with incredibly witty lines. And like in reality, the characters are eager to avoid talking about the darker subjects of the play (sexual assault, violence, acute anger problems.) Wu’s work is starting to convince me that actors make the best playwrights (call me bias!)

Ramona tells Jim is on at The Bush Theatre until October 21st. It’s also worth mentioning that The Bush Theatre is a really welcoming space and has an excellent reading area stuffed to the ceiling with plays (if you need a place to chill in London it’s definitely worth a visit.) Students can also get money off their tickets with the Bush Connect scheme as well as 10% off at the library bar.

Theatre Reviews

The Adam’s Family

In my opinion, The Adams family seems an odd choice to turn into a Broadway musical. Singing and dancing seems all too cheery for the Adams. However, the UK touring production of this new Musical comedy makes for a very enjoyable evening. The plot centres around little Wednesday Adam’s identity crisis. Wednesday, now grow into a young lady, has fallen in love and is now seeing the lighter side of life – much to her family’s dismay.

I was under the impression that The Adams Family would be a little darker and quirkier. It felt much of the time like a normal family drama. The Adams, however, are not a normal family. Samantha Womack and Carrie Hope-Fletcher are very animated as Morticia and Wednesday but lack the effort-less, elegance of their film counterparts (although being “animated” is difficult to avoid in a musical.) Cameron Blakely is bang-on as Gomez. A natural comedian with fantastic timing.

This musical I don’t think really hit the nail on the head with portraying the Adams family. The Adams are sexy, spooky and sadistic. but putting my preconceptions of The Adam’s aside I still had an enjoyable night. There are a couple of memorable songs and a sprinkling of great gags. A highly entertaining family show and one to suit my autumnal aesthetic.

The Adams Family is currently playing at New Victoria Theatre until the 30th of September. In then goes on tour around the country.

Theatre Reviews · Uncategorized

Much ado About Nothing

As the very epitome of the romantic comedy genre Much ado About Nothing contains all my very favourite tropes; the belligerent sexual tension between Beatrice and Benedict, mistaken identities, and of course the old bluff the eavesdropper stunt. I honestly forgot how funny this play and this newest version on at The Globe makes the most of every single beat and joke.

Set in Revolutionary Mexico, director Matthew Dunster brings new life into Much ado About Nothing.  The costumes and music where so vibrant and full of life. It felt like a classic RSC production but will an extra dose of festivity, lighting up our currently greyish corner of London.

There were so many fantastic comedic moments. Beatriz Romilly, and especially doe-faced Matthew Needham nailed it as Beatrice and Benedict. Both characters encumbered with crippling wit that initially cannot co-exist. Every joke, not matter how hideously punny, was not wasted.

Dog Berry and his group of comical watchmen become an American film-director and his three camera-men stodges. Every word the bumbling American says gets hysterically lost in translation – an excellent addition to the play as Dog still remains the incompetent hero of the piece.

Much ado About Nothing marks the penultimate show in Emma Rice’s final Season as The Globe’s artistic director. She quite dramatically left the post after, what seems to be, artistic differences with The Globe’s board. She is to be replaced by actress Michelle Terry. Perhaps an actor-led Globe will be good for it’s future – after all isn’t that how The Globe was run originally? Run by the people who wrote and acted in the plays? I look forward to what this different perspective will bring.

You can get £5 yardling (standing) tickets at The Globe which I highly recommend you do whilst you still have the ability to stand for 3 hours!!!

This wonderful re-imagined play is on until 15th October

Theatre Reviews

Queen Anne

Queen Anne ascended to the throne in 1702 after her brother-in-law King William died. She was not glamorous or beautiful, she failed to produce any heirs and reigned for only 12 years.

RCS’s Queen Anne, now transferred to the Westend, marks Anne’s development into a strong leader. It portrays the unhealthy relationship been Anne and the Duchess of Marlborough and it’s eventual demise.

Anne, played by Emma Cuniffe, is pathetic, obsessed with her best friend and emotionally manipulative. Marlborough, played Ramona Garai, is cunning and politically manipulative. Refreshingly, it is not a feel-good play about friendship and female loyalty as one might imagine. My heart swells to find a play of this kind on the westend with women as the focus. Anne and Malborough make and undeniably engaging pair, especially as the ‘puppet master’ gets tangled in her own strings. Garai and Cuniffe’s performances are well matched. Natalie Abrahami’s production is at times fast paced but at other times rather static, there is quite a bit of dialogue which can be difficult to wade through if you’re having trouble catching up with the political machinations. The satirical musical interludes (led by James Christie as the dapper Lord Maynwaring) are immensely entertaining and allow the peasants with short attention spans (me) to get the jist of things. Costumes are also gorgeous, elegant dresses just shy of the extravagant Georgian era.

For those not well versed about this period of time (like myself) it can be a little difficult to follow, but I am quite rewarded in what I discovered about this rarely acknowledged Queen. For example it was her reign that lead to the development of the two party system we have today. And she also solidified Protestant rule in Britain by naming her successor the German King George.

Queen Anne is running at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until September 30. Cheapest tickets are £15. There are also day tickets in person at 10 am on the day of the performance. £10 or £5 for 16-25s