Category Archives: Reviews

Y'Man

Y’Mam

★★★★

Soho Theatre

Y'Mam

Y’MAM

Soho Theatre

Reviewed – 26th May 2022

★★★★

 

“an astonishing performance, funny and vulnerable, hard-hitting and eloquent”

 

Y’MAM (an acronym for Young Man’s Angry Movements) is in good company, another in a spate of plays about toxic masculinity and its effects on men’s mental health, among them the five-star-reviewed For Black Boys… Of course, it’s no surprise that there is so much recent discussion on the subject, given its relevance and societal urgency. But how is Y’MAM supposed to stand out from the crowd?

Writer and performer Luke Jerdy chooses humour. But it’s not just that he’s funny, rather he finds and forces humour even in the darkest moments. Sure, we’re laughing at his impression of his giddy therapist, but we’re still laughing when he’s lighting his 13-year-old classmate’s hair on fire; when, having knocked someone out cold, Jerdy’s run away from the scene, leaving a friend to take the blame. We know it’s not funny, but we’re experiencing it via his own coping mechanisms of minimising and diverting, making it impossible to stare po-faced and earnestly at the problem.

The story keeps a pace with a largely rhyming spoken-word delivery, and if it’s all about to get a bit too self-reflective, Jerdy jumps in with a song and a rap. It’s a tricky balancing act, because ultimately you don’t want to go so far into light entertainment that the point of the story is lost. But it’s this very fine balance that makes it such an effective story-telling tool. The grim details are all there for us to see, we’re just ingesting them via jokes and songs, uncomfortable as the juxtaposition sometimes is.

Projected photos and clipart-style videos are effective in keeping the audience’s eye roving just enough that Jerdy doesn’t have to take the entire 80-minute hit. They’re a bit basic, and at some points unnecessary, but they hardly take away from the power of the piece.

Wearing a light-coloured tracksuit, you can literally see how hard Jerdy is working on that stage from the sweat pouring through; running laps around the stage, jumping like a gorilla, rapping and dancing and playing every character he encounters with equal verve throughout. It’s an astonishing performance, funny and vulnerable, hard-hitting and eloquent. An excellent addition to the conversation, and, hopefully, a very liberating and cathartic story for some.

 

 

Reviewed by Soho Theatre

Photography by Brian Roberts

 

Y’MAM

Soho Theatre until 4th June

 

Show mentioned in review:
For Black Boys … | ★★★★★ | Royal Court Theatre | April 2022

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
An Evening Without Kate Bush | ★★★★ | February 2022

 

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A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

★★★

Roman Theatre of Verulamium

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

 OVO at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium

Reviewed – 26th May 2022

★★★

 

“It isn’t strictly Shakespeare but it’s a fine evening’s entertainment”

 

The English summer outdoor theatrical season is amongst us and there can be few sites more delightful for enjoying an evening’s entertainment than the Roman Theatre of Verulamium (St Albans). The stage is beautifully lit (Mattis Larsen) in reds and blues as the evening draws in, and head mics are worn by all performers (sound by Michael Bird) that removes the necessary but sometimes irritating shoutiness of outdoor projection. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is, for obvious reasons, a summer favourite and there is a huge amount of fun to be had in this production directed by Adam Nichols and Matt Strachan – including an opportunity for a legitimate stage invasion – but this is not one for a Shakespeare purist. With a large percentage of the original dialogue paraphrased into modern(-ish) language, and much of the plot condensed and developed, it is surprising that there is no ‘adapted by’ credit which is surely merited.

The action is initially set within the confines of a Blackburn working man’s club of the 1970s, with references to closing mills and striking miners, and with the locals sporting dodgy facial hair and Lancashire accents to reinforce the period feel. The style of the production is set as Lysander serenades Hermia with some verses of the Bay City Rollers’ hit Bye, Bye Baby and the audience is encouraged to join in. The dialogue, mixing the Shakespearean with the vernacular, goes along the lines of, “Stand forth Demetrius, cum ‘ere lad”.

A gender-ambiguous Puck (Guido Garcia Lueches) is barely dressed in a low-cut singlet, the shortest of shorts and the highest of platform boots (Costumes Emma Lyth) – half Eurovision, half Eurotrash. Leaving the club singing Abba’s Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man after Midnight), Puck draws the locals into an imaginary Disco Land where the fairy magic is to take place. Verses of pop song are interspersed with spoken Shakespearean text whilst the would-be young lovers show us their moves (Choreography Sundeep Saini).

Lyle Fulton plays a rather pathetic but ultimately endearing Lysander who with a guitar in hand and a song for every occasion wins us over by his appealing nature. Emilia Harrild is a feisty Hermia – little but fierce – who endures the worst insult when described as a “Yorkshire teabag”. Charlie Clee plays Demetrius inexplicably as a sullen and rather unattractive suitor; an approach which is explained by a striking late plot twist. Eloise Westwood as the naive Helena provides the performance of the evening. Even before her moving last solo song, her star quality shines out amidst the pantomime going on around her.

In the traditional manner, the roles of Theseus (Ben Whitehead) and Hippolyta (Emma Wright) are doubled with those of Oberon and Titania. Emma Wright shows her stage versatility with an impressive transformation from down-trodden housewife to spectacular dancing queen. I can’t relax into Oberon’s “luurrv” style of delivery but many around me enjoy his fairy meddling, “Get ready to party, and don’t Puck it up”.

In the most radical change of the production, the hempen homespun have ambitions to become a pop band rather than to stage a play, so Pyramus and Thisbe does not get an airing. They are transformed into disco fairies and Bottom (Daniel Hall) becomes a Saturday Night Fever dance icon (white suit, gold medallion, black quiff) rather than the traditional ass.

In the final scene, back in the club, the band The Mechanicals perform a non-stop 70s megamix medley (Musical Director Tom Cagnoni) and the full cast dance out the night. It isn’t strictly Shakespeare but it’s a fine evening’s entertainment in the open air.

 

Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Elliott Franks

 


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

 OVO at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium until 11th June

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Vinegar Tom | ★★★ | October 2021
Hedda Gabler | ★★★ | November 2021

 

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