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Posts Tagged ‘BAC’

Battersea Arts Centre has responded to its fire last year with enterprise and ingenuity, continuing its work and planning its future rather than mourning its loss. The latest in their exciting new adventure is a open-air theatre in a courtyard hardly anyone knew existed. It’s several stories high, all red brick and white ceramic brick with windows on all sides. They’ve added a false floor with trap doors, a metal gallery with standing places and bench seating and more standing places on the ground floor. It’s atmospheric and intimate and I can’t wait to see more here, but for now the equally enterprising and ingenious Little Bulb are inaugurating it with a delightful spoof Victorian melodrama (in what is of course a Victorian building).

Just three actors (Clare Beresford, Dominic Conway and Alexander Scott, who also devised the show) conjure up the story of a plighted bride and her evil abductor. We also meet maid Bertha and a street urchin (obviously) and his dog. The bride’s father is played by a man plucked from the audience (who moved during the interval, foolishly thinking this would thwart a second act reprise) whilst another audience member gets to bring the rat alive. They move through the space, in and out of doors and windows and trapdoors. They even perform in the window behind the ‘stage’. There’s music, of course, with piano, a trio of horns and bells, and some songs. We played along, hissed and booed and it was great fun.

This is the second small scale Little Bulb show since it’s spectacular Orpheus in the now defunct Grand Hall and I’ve loved them both. I can’t wait for more from the company and more in this terrific new space.

 

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If you bill your show as ‘the theatrical event of the year’ you are rather setting yourself up, aren’t you…..but Wildworks have form, notably the Port Talbot Passion, so off we go to a hidden (and rather lovely) Victorian park in Islington with an enormous clock tower on a damp Thursday to be amazed at the long queue to get in but a lot less amazed after we had.

Your tree-lined route to the centre of the park has people at every turn doing things like playing piano or ironing (in a tree!) with the occasional sound bite about building a new city. In the centre of the park, now resembling a muddy Glastonbury, there are small stages and tents with music, dancing & storytelling with some people building houses from bamboo in front of the tower, some knitting a city and some join-in plasticine modelling. Around 30 minutes after you’ve entered (45 minutes after the starting time on the ticket) things begin to happen.

The security guards (they are everywhere) are instructed by a man with a megaphone on scaffolding in front of the tower to clear the people and their houses. The people protest. The tower becomes illuminated, first with an eye on the clock, then with faces of the people. The people beat the state and walk through the park triumphantly holding illuminated houses on sticks.

I like the idea and I applaud the community involvement, but it’s just not substantial enough to warrant schlepping up to north London, let alone the title ‘theatrical event of the year. ‘Gossamer light’ as my companion said…..

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I’ve decided it’s time for my very own awards, but I’m going to stick to productions rather than recognise individuals and I’ve chickened out of ranking them, so here’s the best (39! )of 2010, in four categories but no particular order! A terrific year…..

BEST NEW PLAY – an impressive year, particularly for the Royal Court

Clybourne Park, Tribes, Posh & Sucker Punch – all at the Royal Court / The White Guard & Blood and Gifts – both at the National / Canary & Dunsinane – both at Hampstead / Women Power and Politics – Tricycle / The Big Fellah – Lyric Hammersmith / My Romantic History – Bush / Ruined – Almeida / The Animals and Children Took To The Streets – BAC

…..and all in subsidised theatres!

BEST NEW MUSICAL – less than a handful!

Love Story – Chichester to Duchess / Legally Blonde – Savoy / Departure Lounge -Waterloo East / Reasons to be Cheerful – Theatre Royal Stratford

BEST PLAY – REVIVAL – an embarrassment of riches; the NT shining

After the Dance , Men Should Weep, London Assurance, Hamlet, Beyond the Horizon & Spring Storm – National / Love on the Dole – Finborough / The Crucible – Open Air / Beauty Queen of Leenane – Young Vic / Broken Glass – Tricycle / Design for Living – Old Vic / All My Sons – Apollo Theatre / Measure for Measure – Almeida Theatre / Shirley Valentine – Menier Chocolate Factory

BEST MUSICAL – REVIVAL

Assassins & Bells Are Ringing – Union Theatre / Into The Woods – Open Air Theatre / Sweet Charity – Menier Chocolate Factory / Sweeney Todd – NYMT / Me & Juliet – Finborough / Pins & Needles – Cock Tavern

Not qualifying as they weren’t staged, but a special mention for the Donmar Warehouse Sondheim at 80 concert performances

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A few years ago, I took some weekend visitors to BAC to see one of those Edinburgh ‘ones that got away’. It was called ‘Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea’ and it was enthralling – big hit with us all. A combination of film / animation, performance and music, it was impossible to describe but impossible not to fall in love with it. It’s taken the young company 1927 a while to come up with their second show, but it builds on it and  moves them forward significantly.

Before it starts, you’re forced to engage with leopardskin-clad usherettes with customer service skills that can best be described as diffident, contemptuous and downright rude! Then Paul Barrit’s extraordinary film – part cartoon, part silent movie, sometimes sweet, sometimes edgy – starts to play on three screens. It continues throughout, with three actor musicians – Suzanne Andrade (also writer / director), Esme Appleton (also costumes)  & Lillian Henley (also music) – interacting with it to tell the stories of the inhabitants of a block of flats.

The virtuosity is breathtaking, the technical skills positively awesome and you are swept away with the creativity whilst being thoroughly entertained by something like nothing you’ve ever seen before. 1927 have truly created a genre all of their own and I can’t wait for their next show. The delay since the first seems to have been the result of  a world tour – I can’t think of a better advert for British creativity, innovation and ingenuity.

I can’t recommend this show enough. GO!

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