Tag Archives: Emily Morris

In the Shadow of the Black Dog

★★★

Assembly Rooms

In the Shadow of the Black Dog

In the Shadow of the Black Dog

Assembly Rooms

Reviewed – 15th August 2019

★★★

 

“the authenticity of the content shines through in the script”

 

Masculinity has been under the lens more than ever in the past few years. What it is to be a man, the dangers of toxic masculinity and the male stigma of expressing emotions are all topics that are explored in Daniel Hallissey’s new show. ‘In the Shadow of the Black Dog’ is based on Hallissey’s real experiences, and the authenticity of the content shines through in the script.

The story centres around Alquist, who loses his best friend and has several near death experiences himself. After this turn of events, he is left questioning how to deal with grief and essentially what the value of his life is. The script contains several gut-punching lines such as: ‘Where do men go to grieve?’ Alquist is lost and we follow him on a journey of misjudged impulsive decisions. He speaks of his emotional illiteracy, as we see first hand his inability to deal and cope with his feelings. Whilst this all sounds fairly heavy, there are moments of dark humour that lift the piece. At moments, you felt like laughing and crying at the same time. Hallissey’s writing and performance do not shy away from the character’s faults, making audiences relate to this flawed Everyman. By far the strongest element of the piece was Hallissey’s ability to flit between past and present, as he re-enacted scenes with intensity. A particularly strong example of this was the recreation of him getting chased by a bunch of motorcyclists who were trying to kill him. Despite there only being one actor on stage, it truly felt like another might pop out and attack at any moment.

The honesty of the storytelling was helped by simplistic set and lighting design (Pete Butler). Soft lighting changes and the utilisation of the whole playing space moved along the action. The sound design (James Nicholson) was effective in displaying the play’s themes as it used text message sound effects between scenes to show Alquist’s continuing search for communication.

In the Shadow of the Black Dog had an important message and delivered it clearly. Hallissey practised what he preached: through his vulnerability we saw his strength. The directorial decision (Conor Neaves) to get the actor to talk to audience members in the pre show was strong, as it invited us to share experiences too. Ultimately, the whole show felt like an intimate chat with your best mate. It shone a light on the difficulties of navigating complex feelings when this has been conditioned out of you from a young age. There was room for development of this work as the pace dropped at times, but overall it was a thought provoking and exciting piece of theatre.

 

Reviewed by Emily Morris

Photography by Elizabeth McCafferty

 


In the Shadow of the Black Dog

Assembly Rooms until 23rd August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019

 

 

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F. Off

★★★★

Belly Button Underbelly

F. Off

Underbelly Cowgate

Reviewed – 14th August 2019

★★★★

 

“Not only does ‘F. Off’ talk about issues, it lays them out for you, right in front of your face”

 

The National Youth Theatre has been the home of the best young talent in the country, and ‘F.Off’ demonstrates this in spades. It is an interactive theatrical gem, putting Facebook’s creator Mark Zuckerberg on trial in front of the people. Well, Zuckerberg doesn’t actually make an appearance, but an excitable audience member takes his place. The play exposes the disturbing truth behind algorithms, social media and politics. Did you know that the average person shares 27,000 pieces of data on their profile? Did you know that you can be tracked even if you don’t use Facebook? All of these facts bubble to the surface through improvised interactions with audience members. Masterful directorial decisions are made in this piece, (Paul Roseby and Meghan Doyle) such as asking a viewer if they can look on their Facebook page in real time and tell the audience what information it gives away. Not only does ‘F. Off’ talk about issues, it lays them out for you, right in front of your face.

The stage design (Libby Todd) captures the central metaphor of the play, as said in one of the first lines of text: ‘Why build a net unless you want to catch something?’. The stage has a bare frame, covered in blue netting that ensnares various props as the drama progresses. Every detail, from the set to the direction, has been thoroughly thought-through and has a clear purpose.

There is potential for a show on this topic to become preachy and overly-didactic. However, the three main storylines display the effects of the internet in a variety of ways: through a political campaign, the effect the campaign has on the politician’s child, and the courtroom itself. The ensemble is strong in terms of characterisation and movement (Tim Jackson). Stylised physical theatre sections move the action along between scenes, building a sense of growing momentum. Amelia Braithwaite’s performance of the politician’s daughter is of particular note as she portrays the typical adolescent struggle of trying to fit in, with authenticity and nuance. The ensemble uses music for comedic effect, keeping in line with the tongue-in-cheek tone used throughout. A highlight of this is their adaption of Stevie Wonder’s classic anthem ‘Superstition’, with new lyrics about reading the ‘Terms and Conditions’, as a viewer signs away their freedom.

‘F. Off’ tows the line between informative content and comedic delivery, while remaining attentive to the quality of the storytelling. This piece of theatre should be viewed with no less validity and merit than the adult shows produced by the same company. I can’t wait to see what this bunch of budding actors goes on to do next.

 

Reviewed by Emily Morris

 


F. Off

Underbelly Cowgate until 25th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019

 

 

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