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Posts Tagged ‘Hamish Pirie’

I rather liked Thomas Eccleshare’s quirky multi-layered SciFi satire, combining the use and abuse of technology, parent / child relationships and grief. An intriguing, highly original piece.

Harry likes to tinker and considers himself a king of the flatpack. He and his wife Max start with small projects, then graduate to building themselves a replacement son, Jan. From here the story of their lost son Nick is interwoven with the development of their new one, until malfunctions begin to cause chaos and ruin relationships with neighbours Paul, Laurie and their daughter Amy. Along the way we see how parents mould their children’s attitudes and values and how helpless they can be when they grow up.

There are something like fifty scenes in 100 minutes, which is at first irritating, until you get into the rhythm of the scene changes, where props arrive and leave on conveyors, members of the cast move robotically & jumpily and the small cinema-screen-like space enlarges and opens up. I was impressed by Cai Dyfan’s design. It’s a fine ensemble, but I have to single out Brian Vernal, who plays Jan and Nick with some deft switching between and within characters.

The play got me thinking a lot about where technology and AI in particular might be taking us, but also about how we mould real human beings too and how grief can lead to desperation. A thought-provoking, well executed piece expertly staged by Hamish Pirie.

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For this show, Shon Dale-Jones has stripped it back to pure storytelling – no other characters, no props, no sound or lighting. It proves to be as captivating, but more unpredictable. That barometer of whether I’ll like something, the Standard’s Fiona Mountford, hated it, so it must be good – and it is.

He links the story of his childhood obsession with Robin Hood and his present day preoccupation with unfairness. The early story takes in under-11’s football, the relationship between his dad and grandma, 70’s politics and a bank robbery. The contemporary story takes in protest, arrest, therapy and his perilous financial state. It seems to move between the two randomly, but it’s clearly well made theatre. The big surprise is the genuine emotion, anger and passion on display, which sometimes makes you uncomfortable, whilst at the same time underlining its integrity.

This is the sixth of his shows I’ve seen. It’s just as charming, just as eccentric and as off-the-wall as the rest, but somehow more edgy. You never know how much of the story is true, but it doesn’t matter as it’s an effective combination of personal, ethical and political themes. He leaves you suggesting you donate (and top up) the difference between the actual ticket price and the normal ticket price (his profit) to Street Child United. He didn’t rob the rich, but persuaded them (us) to part with some dosh nonetheless.

A true original .

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I saw an amazing site-specific play called Roadkill by playwright Stef Smith in Edinburgh almost six years ago. Her Royal Court debut is sort of amazing, but in a different way.

Something odd is going on. Animals and birds are being culled and their habitats destroyed in the belief that they are carrying disease. Our six characters react differently – complying, exploiting, rebelling or just plain resignation. As the situation gets worse, their relationships are damaged and reactions more and more hysterical. Alex has returned from her travels to see her widowed mother Nancy and ends up chained to the railings of the park they are trying to burn. Her mother just tries to get on with life, uninvolved with the decline outside. Jamie and Lisa, deeply in love, fall apart as Lisa starts working for a man who’s benefitting from the disaster and Jamie rescues and hides animals and birds. John has a strong friendship with Nancy but is puzzled by the intentions and attention of Si, Lisa’s new boss. We get a glimpse of what’s happening in the outside world through a Perspex wall.

I’m afraid I felt very ‘so what’ about it. It seems to be showing us how society can react with hysteria and panic, happy to blame nature for anything and everything, but it didn’t really go anywhere. There are six fine performances – Natalie Dew, Ian Gelder, Stella Gonet, Lisa McGrills, Sargon Yelda & Ashley Zhangazha – luxury casting indeed, the design by Camilla Clarke keeps surprising you (and sometimes challenges your tolerance – I was too close to cockroaches for my liking!) and it’s well staged by Hamish Pirie. In the end though I thought the material wasn’t worthy of the creative and acting talent.

Disappointed at the Royal Court again.

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What I loved most about this brilliant but harrowing play was its unpredictability. And the terrific performances. Oh, and the superb design. In fact I liked just about everything about it.

When his mum dies of cancer, seventeen year old Liam has to move from the north to the South Wales valleys to live with his biological father Rick who he never knew and who doesn’t really want him. They are like chalk and cheese. Liam is intelligent, sensitive and quick-witted. Rick’s nickname is Viol, for Violence, which tells you all you need to know about him. He rules by fear and he’d like his son to be as tough as he is. Liam wants to grieve, Rick wants him to toughen up and get laid. Liam is obsessed with Dr Who. Rick is obsessed with alcohol and sex.

The action takes place in an evening and the following morning in Rick’s living room. Liam has been to a Dr Who convention with his school friend Jen, who’s now finding it impossible to get home in the rain. Rick has been in bed with his lover Suze. The play explores this father and son relationship as it takes some extraordinary turns, with Jen and Suze well and truly caught up in it. It’s a brilliant piece of writing from Gary Owen. The room is circular, wall waist high, with two gated entrances. We’re sat in grubby white plastic seats or on the usual ‘upstairs’ benches on ‘concrete’ behind. Cai Dyfan’s clever design felt like a bullring, which came to seem ever so appropriate given the amount of testosterone on display.

It’s a bit disconcerting when it seems like yesterday you first encountered Jason Hughes as the 20-something gay lawyer on TV in This Life and now he’s old enough to play a 40-something dad – and he’s terrific, cast against type, scaring the life out of me. This appears to be David Moorst’s second stage outing as Liam and it’s a stunning, delicate performance that squeezes every ounce of wit and sarcasm from his lines. Jen’s transition from innocent to a little bit predatory to aggrieved is beautifully handled by Morfydd Clark. Siwan Morris has her own journey from compliant to apologetic to outraged, also navigated brilliantly. It’s a fine set of performances indeed.

The play reminded me a bit of David Mamet’s Oleanna, where people left the theatre with different takes on it. It’s inconclusive, which means it continues to play in your head for some time. Great theatre. Go!

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