Tag Archives: Benji Bower

TOM – 4 Stars



Lilian Baylis Studio

Reviewed – 15th November 2018


“a really exciting piece of interdisciplinary work that melds film, dance and music in a mesmeric and moving work”


Three layers of gauze split the stage, and as the music begins, so does the film. Sweeping landscapes, and gradually, a single figure. ‘TOM’ is, says its creator, about how we feel the need to project a version of ourselves to society as we grow up, and about the parts of us that we leave behind in childhood. Created by Wilkie Branson, the piece is a fusion of dance and film, a marriage that Branson feels is completely natural, given that dance is about movement, and film is about capturing the moving image.

This is an incredibly technically demanding piece. Projected across the three gauze screens, the film itself is created in layers, the result of which is a 3D effect. Branson has made 85% of the visual in the film out of models which he transfers into this space using photogrammetry, in a process that involved over 200,000 photos. The piece skates between spaces: the claustrophobia of tube carriages and the endlessness of the edge of a cliff. The figures are filmed against green screens, and inputted into this 3D space. A particular highlight is a fluorescent elevator, floating against towering city blocks, a surreal beacon of emotion in the muted grey urbanity.

Benji Bower’s compositions in tandem with Mat Clark’s sound design is truly stunning. The music moves from heavy beats to sweeping strings, instrumental then later vocal. This is a score curated with the utmost skill, and its relationship to and clear understanding of the visual element of the piece is magical to experience.

The dance when it comes, is beautiful and emotive, and it’s a context in which we do not usually see breakdance which makes for a really interesting effect. My only qualm is that I wanted more of it. Moments that felt like they might have been launchpads into longer segments of dance then peter into something else. Branson expressed a desire to add a live dance element to the piece in future iterations of it, and this is something that would really help this and I look forward to seeing it materialise.

The final section feels unnecessary and strays into a wooly sentimentality. The rest of the piece has said enough.

This is a really exciting piece of interdisciplinary work that melds film, dance and music in a mesmeric and moving work.


Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography courtesy Wilkie Branson



Lilian Baylis Studio until 17th November




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Stick Man – 3.5 Stars

Stick Man

Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed – 21st October 2018


“the whole cast consistently kept a sparky energy and played well to the audience”


Stick Man, one of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s many much-loved children stories, is now enjoying a stage adaptation by Freckle Productions, in a show that lifts the charm and appeal off the page and delivers it to families across a sizzling forty five minute romp.

The plot sees the titular Stick Man (Jack Benjamin) taken on a perilous adventure after being swept away from his stick family by a dog (Kate Malyon, also playing everything from a swan to a very aggressive schoolgirl) during a jog in the park; he keeps getting used and abused in different scenarios until he ends up in need of some serious help to be reunited with stick wife and children. Euan Wilson rounds out the cast, chiefly providing music (composed by Benji Bower) on all manner of instruments that provides a gleeful timbre to the action on stage. The interplay between Wilson on the saxophone and Malyon’s swan was particularly enjoyable, although the whole cast consistently kept a sparky energy and played well to the audience.

Stick Man employs a number of everyday objects in its design (Katie Skyes) that allows for the cast and director Mark Kane to let them ooze creativity when used in performance, such as a roll of blue wallpaper wrapped between two cast members acting as a river, or using umbrellas to depict a raging ocean. The results are visually delectable, and keep the audience constantly engaged as to what innovative use of regular paraphernalia will be utilised next.

The style of the show takes a number of cues from pantomime, featuring a chase through the audience, a game of catch with a beach ball, and – yes – even a ‘they’re behind you’ moment. This works wonders to invite the audience into the story, and it is telling that the sections which did not feature any participation are the ones where the audience grew restless, giving the feeling that Stick Man should have embraced a few more opportunities to include the audience.

The source material has some issues if you’re looking closely, such as that the entire journey Stick Man goes on doesn’t see him learn anything or change, and there’s no especially interesting lesson to take from the story. Crucially, however, by and large the children adored it, and were uncontainably engrossed by the show’s end. Parents looking for an alternative to the usual panto this Christmas will find a lot on offer here.

Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by Paul Blakemore


Leicester Theatre

Stick Man

Leicester Square Theatre until 6th January


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Murder, She Didn’t Write | ★★★ | February 2018
Sh*t-faced Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice | ★★★★ | April 2018
Sh*t-faced Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet | ★★★★ | June 2018
Murder She Didn’t Write | ★★★★ | September 2018
Sh*t-faced Showtime: Oliver With a Twist! | ★★★ | September 2018


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