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Posts Tagged ‘The Shed’

This takes Kat Banyard’s book Equality Illusion as it’s starting point and it’s title is a swipe at Robin Thicke’s sexist, misogynistic song of the same name. I hadn’t read the book or heard the song, but I’m glad I went to see this.

Eight excellent actresses, including Clare Skinner, Ruth Sheen, Sinead Matthews & Byrony Hannah, perform on an unfeasibly steep and high white staircase. They start by listing stereotypical descriptions of woman that you often hear in the media and move on to show typical scenes of sexism, misogyny and objectification of women in film & TV, advertising, fashion, music…..well, in the modern world really. It’s a smorgasbord of scenes and soundbites which add up to a stimulating, challenging and thought-provoking 75 minutes.

You might have expected it to be preachy or heavy, but it’s entertainingly presented, which makes it all the more powerful. There are some lovely moments which use humour to make a point, and others which have you squirming in disgust. I consider myself a feminist, but even I began to question some of my attitudes. It’s a clever way to present the issues and does so with as much attitude as the attitudes it challenges.

The text is by playwright Nick Payne (a man and a feminist), the design (the scale of which surprises you as soon as you enter The Shed) by Bunny Christie and the inventive staging by Carrie Cracknell. It helps to have such a fine cast (who have also shaped the piece). In adition to the four I’ve already mentioned, there’s Susannah Wise, Lorna Brown, Michaela Coel (who adds her poetry) and Marion Bailey, who’s turn as a male theatre director brings the house down whilst underlining the point brilliantly.

It seems to me this is what The Shed set out to do – present something different and challenging – and it succeeds in doing so.

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I broke my ‘no monologues’ resolution on the first day of the New Year. This time (for it has happened before) enticed by the playwright (Tim Price, responsible for National Theatre Wales’ out-of-town 2013 highlight The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning), the actor (Rhys Ifans, not on our stages often enough) and the subject matter (Occupy London, something that captured both my imagination and my heart). As it turns out, a resolution well worth breaking.

Danny is a rough sleeper whose world is turned upside-down when Occupy turn his nighttime spot at St. Paul’s into a bloody great big protest camp. At first angry (he pisses on their tents), he eventually becomes drawn in – first taking advantage of the hospitality of their canteen, then participating in the work of the kitchen, building relationships with protestors and enjoying the company as well as the food, As the camp becomes more of a society, Danny becomes more of an outcast and his resentment rises.

Ifans prowls around the bare black space talking directly to the audience, collectively and individually. It stirs a whole host of emotions in you – sympathy, anger, repulsion, hopelessness, fear…..The mood is lightened by some of our interactions, most notably an audience rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas where the things brought by ‘the system’ include two racist policemen and a vote in a democracy, and five gold rings becomes Boris is a c*** The levity is cut off halfway through and the play turns towards it’s coup d’theatre ending.

I hope Ifans won’t mind me saying that he doesn’t have to do much to get the look of Danny, but he goes way beyond the look, inhabits this character and conveys his loss, regret, rage and disillusionment. We learn about the lives of the rough sleepers as well as the characters and motives of the protesters. The play is no homage to Occupy and your attitude to rough sleepers is more likely to change (positively) than your views of Occupy. I can’t get rid of that ‘that could be me’ feeling and the change in me was visible a matter of minutes later as I passed a rough sleeper on the way to Waterloo station.

So my theatrical 2014 starts with a broken resolution, but also with a stimulating, challenging and thought-provoking hour that I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

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I should have trusted my instincts. Five years ago, I saw a show called Architecting by ‘the TEAM’ at the Edinburgh Festival. I hated it. Lured by reviews for this, I gave them a second go. It’s hosted by the NT, after all. Well, it’s the same old tosh.

An examination of the origins of American capitalism – allegedly – it seeks to make links between the first Dutch settlers in New York, the rise and fall of Las Vegas and the fate of native Americans, amongst other things. The trouble is, it’s slow, dull, messy and rather patronising. ‘Hey, look at us, we’re clever’. In trying to examine recent events through a historical lens, it fails completely. It’s all rather dated. The Wooster Group were doing similar things (also badly) in the 70’s and 80’s. Yawn.

It’s one redeeming feature was the music – Americana performed live. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to motivate me to return after the interval. Avoid.

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