‘WE ARE’ ….at The Ugly Duck

 

After months of planning, The Kitchen Table Collective, who previously gave us 1x Tab Breakfast, poached egg, no mushroom 1x sides, sausage: New Stories from the Tabernacle, have expressed a touching and thought provoking exhibition through the eyes of immigrants.  The incredibly diverse quintet of Artists including Emma Mudgway, Claire Tipy and Alexia Villard successfully gave us a very personal look at the alien experience in the UK through their art.  ‘We Are’ can be seen today at The Ugly Duck Gallery at 47-49 Tanner Street in Tower Bridge.

We are here until the afternoon collecting great thoughts and insights to see what it feels like to be an immigrant.

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We’re going in.

 

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Claire Tipy and Sarah Tilotta’s collaboration, ‘Where Do You Think I Was Born’, seen in motion. Each actor contributed their own heartfelt monologue and drew us totally in. Continue reading

Jackson’s Way: The Christmas Top-Up Power Seminar!

BATTERSEA ARTS CENTRE

(c) Alex Brenner, no usage without credit; Jackson's Way Christmas Top-up @ BAC (_DSC4940).jpg
Photo by Alex Brenner, Jason’s Way Christmas Top-Up @ BAC

2004 Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Will Adamsdale plays spoof American life coach and motivational speaker Chris John Jackson in his offbeat and genuinely madcap show Jackson’s Way: The Christmas Top-up Power Seminar!

The show takes the form of a life coaching session which begins with a Jackson voiceover urging the audience to, Feel the energy in the room! And Harness their thoughts and feelings! As well as other assorted life-coaching bromides. Adamsdale makes good use of en vogue Mindfulness terminology about being present and litters it with the mediated language of modern warfare, Drone strike! Boots on the Ground and Tailspin are all used, to create a bizarre yet chillingly realistic motivational-speak lexicon

White trainer-wearing, chino-sporting, ear-piece donning Jackson finally emerges to the melodies of Coldplay, I forget which song, but does it really matter? He instantly starts banging on about the Jackson’s Way and Jactions, which are pointless tasks done for absolutely no reason at all, except they are pointless. E.g. picking up a discarded cup and finding another one exactly the same and swapping them over. Jackson calls this Trash Exchange. The show bounces along in Jackson’s illogical and wholly demented ‘way’, with excellent and ludicrous audience participation involving clapping, rhyming words that can’t rhyme, staring at a wall and trying to move the floor. Jackson produces nonsensical graphs and images to explain what he’s trying to achieve, which is never really clear, and the performance ends with him revealing his messiah complex as he places himself as the baby Jesus and then God in a nativity scene made out of junk that Jackson calls The Team.

(c) Alex Brenner, no usage without credit; Jackson's Way Christmas Top-up @ BAC (_D3C0187).jpg

Photo by Alex Brenner, Jason’s Way Christmas Top-Up @ BAC

Adamsdale’s frenetic energy and sharp-eyed satirical observations of the motivational speaking world keep this performance bundling along nicely. His likeable character is made more agreeable as he appears to be suffering from the delusion that his crackpot ‘way’ works, when in reality he’s actually in the grip of PTSD or other forms of mental illness shown through his irregular flashbacks and allusions to a rather painful past.

Like all good theatre, and comedy for that matter, the spotlight, although centred on the shambolic Jackson, in fact, shines a light on the audience and therefore the world we live in. Why is it that so many life coaches, motivational speakers, faith healers, psychics and televangelists become so successful? What is it about us collectively that puts some of these people on a pedestal and bows down in reverence to their way of doing things?

I suspect it has always been so. People’s lives are hard, they are unfulfilled and it’s easy to look for a ‘method’ of doing things in order to be richer, better looking, more successful, and happier. And in a culture where happiness is traded on material gain and in a system where we’re consistently told we’re free to go out and get what we want and that if we’re unhappy then it’s our own fault…and then the benchmark for ‘happy’ is set ridiculously high; big houses, expensive cars, perfect kids, fine clothes, lots of holidays, lots of parties, lots of friends, then it’s no wonder people will up look to any charlatan with any shady idea of how to help us. The con then becomes very lucrative.

Jackson’s Way is an amusing riot of a show, not to everyone’s tastes, and occasionally falling flat, it does however have more triumphs than stinkers and is well worth an hour of anyone’s time. Achieve!

 

Jackson’s Way: The Christmas Top-up Power Seminar is on at Battersea Arts Centre until the 12th December. Bookings here.

 

Bradley Russell.

Measure For Measure (In the Wake of the Paris Attacks)

YOUNG VIC

12/11/2015

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Ivanno Jeremiah & Zubin Varla in Measure for Measure at the Young Vic. Photo by Keith Pattison.

The Nineteenth Century essayist, poet and literary critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge couldn’t have been more effusive in his praise of Shakespeare. He once said of The Bard;

‘Shakespeare knew the human mind, and its most minute and intimate workings, and he never introduces a word, or a thought, in vain or out of place.’

I was reminded of Coleridge’s acclaim as I sat watching The Young Vic’s production of Measure for Measure last week. Even as Coleridge battled crippling opium addiction and debilitating episodes of self-doubt in life, he found joy and freedom in the world created by Shakespeare. He discovered a liberty from his own weak will, and a license to suspend his disbelief in order that he whole-heartedly enter into the dramatic world of the play unfolding before him. He said that incredible or fanciful work would break this spell and bring the ludic performance crashing down and that one must be able to give themselves over completely to the drama. And the writer he identified as the illusionist dramatist par excellence and most suited to this task was, of course, Shakespeare.

There were moments between Angelo and Isabella, Claudio and Isabella, The Duke Vincentio and Pompey et al, when discussions centred on the nature of human virtue, clemency and spiritual and corporal corruption, at such times it was as if I was watching and hearing a divine puppeteer interweaving all the thoughts and feelings of humanity, mixing the conflict between self-preservation and empathy, expounding the collision of desire and morality and underpinning all with a firm and sure depth psychology. Watching Shakespeare at these moments is a special kind of poetry, one that may grant the audience access to an exquisite divinity beyond their normal everyday human experience.

Joe Hill-Gibbins’ production of Measure for Measure is a rampant, cut-down, boisterous affair. The play moves along at a blazing comic pace, but as one of Shakespeare’s problem plays, it never moves too far from the darkness at its centre. Vienna is a city overflowing with brothels, pimps and scoundrels. The Duke Vincentio tells his advisors he’s leaving the city and then disguises himself as a friar and stays within the city walls. He leaves Angelo in charge, an unbending guardian of morality who instantly closes all the city’s brothels and sentences Claudio to death for the act of fornication with Juliet, whom he has made pregnant. Isabella learns of her brother Claudio’s punishment and goes to Angelo to beg for clemency. During the course of their meeting the morally incorruptible Angelo begins to feel lust and desire for Isabella and tells her he will spare Claudio’s life if she should yield to him her virginity. Isabella then goes to see Claudio, tells him of Angelo’s advances and expects that he will face death with dignity. Claudio begs his sister to give herself up to Angelo to save his life, and she refuses as she doesn’t want to sacrifice her immortality, or Claudio’s in the afterlife.

Hill-Gibbins’ and Miriam Buether’s radical exuberant production and design gives us swirling images of blow-up dolls representing the vice and corruption of Vienna, a Kardashian-style sex-tape of Claudio and Juliet, and dazzling camerawork, backgrounded behind closed doors, to show us the dark, ever existing underbelly of a city crawling with debasement and debauchery behind its moral veneer. I’m a fan of this seemingly, de rigour use of camerawork, as it compellingly captures and enhances human emotion, intensity and intimacy. The cast is uniformly strong, with Paul Ready’s cloying, convincing, bureaucratic Angelo and Tom Edden’s turn as an evasive New York Jewish gangster-pimp Pompey, complete with spectacles, suit and baseball cap, my personal favourites.

This thoroughly enjoyable and vivacious production ends with a startling image of The Duke, played by Zubin Varla, not only telling Isabella of his intentions to marry her, but lining up the entire cast of the play in couples, in a desperately awkward and dreadful tableau. This creates a striking image, although the characters may be saved from hell, are they any better off in the strange, mixed-up relationships and marriages they end up in, where they may succeed or fail, and advance through life in an utterly muddled human procession?

My initial reaction to Angelo’s lack of tolerance for the business of prostitution and sex was to think how antiquated that attitude has become in the modern world. Sitting in a diverse cosmopolitan audience in a multicultural London, it’s easy to forget the patrician attitudes and intolerance that exist in other cities and regions. However, the ingenious presence on stage of a couple of dozen male and female blow-up dolls at times piled-high, at others waded through by the cast, and then thrown in discarded fashion upstage, started to put me in mind of a slaughter, the Holocaust perhaps? But then I settled on the fanatical nature of those purporting to represent Islam and calling themselves Islamic State. Intolerance to human desire isn’t antiquated or out-dated, it is a very real and evil threat. The next night that threat would be foregrounded once again in the shocking pictures and stories pushed in a vile centrifuge from the blood-soaked streets of Paris. Intolerance of people trying to live free lives, people in bars and cafes, enjoying rock concerts, massacred by those, identified over four hundred years ago by Shakespeare, who deign to impose their dogmatic views and calcified opinions on innocent citizens. Therefore, once again Shakespeare proves his genius. This thoroughly pagan Elizabethan playwright always manages to remain relevant and timeless in all ages, and how does he manage this? Because, as Coleridge had it, he knew the minutest and most intimate workings of the human mind. And no matter how much we may progress, technologically and scientifically, no matter how much we innovate and evolve, we are still Shakespeare’s humans; coiled and contradictory, floored and mistaken, emotional and desirous.

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The Company of Measure for Measure at the Young Vic. Photo by Keith Pattison

 

By Bradley Russell for Urban Dandy

Hang – Review

The Royal Court, Jerwood Theatre Downstairs until 18th July 2015

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What is the theatre for? To entertain? To educate? To question? When these three facets align in a work, the impression left by it, can cause us to question our own perspective of a thing far more deeply than we thought previously possible.

debbie tucker green (all lower-case) has, in her latest play, hang, sought to position victimhood centre stage and write a bold and impassioned piece, reminding us of the red-hot anger, savage bitterness and unbridled hatred that can curdle in the hearts of victims of violent crime.

hang begins with three characters, all unnamed, arriving in a sterile and nondescript room. Two of the three are dressed in the ubiquitous office uniform, white shirts without ties, of some agency or other, whose job, it soon becomes clear, is to facilitate the punishment of an unnamed criminal. The third character, and centre of the play, is the victim of that criminal whose violent act has destroyed her life and the lives of her family. The victim has been called to this place so she can make a decision on a fitting punishment for the unseen perpetrator.

What ensues is a tense and strained situation, at times bleakly funny and at others, harrowingly painful, where the victim, played with great force and twitching anxiety by Marianne Jean-Baptiste, tries to disclose the effects of this violence on her life and the lives of her family. The comedy and pathos of the piece often comes from the inability of the agency employees to abandon their protocol and stifling codes, which act only to distance them from the feelings and frustrations of the victim.

Photo from thestage.co.uk

The drama of the piece simmers nicely as information is released to us in a slow and steady trickle, keeping us hooked, line by line, as to what’s coming next. Unfortunately, the iron resolve of Jean-Baptistes character as to what her decision will be leaves the play slightly underpowered and causes the all-important final dramatic-hit to be a smidge underdone. It would’ve been more compelling to see the victim struggle more with her decision, and therefore awaken those thoughts and feelings in the audience as well.

Having said that, the writing is at times tremendously skilful, tucker green has an expert’s ear for the intonations, glitches and inflections that pepper people’s speech in nervous situations, and she makes full use of stuttering unresolved sentences, repetitions and the small talk that attempts to cover that nervousness.

Jean-Baptiste’s powerful performance was matched adroitly by Claire Rushbrook and Shane Zara, in their roles as the agency employees.

By putting victimhood centre stage at The Royal Court, this thought-provoking, entertaining play also manages to leave a strong impression and opens up profound questions as to how we treat and think of what it means to be a victim.

 

Bradley Russell.