Tag Archives: Helen Murray

The Art of Gaman – 4 Stars

Gaman

The Art of Gaman

Theatre503

Reviewed – 8th October 2018

★★★★

“Ailin Conant’s slick direction keeps the frequent scene changes characterful, allowing the energy to consistently simmer”

 

There are some words which don’t quite fit into an English definition, like schadenfreude (pleasure from someone else’s misery) or kummerspeck (the weight you put on from stress eating). Dipika Guha’s stellar new play demonstrates how ‘gaman’, too, is a word that cannot be served by our standards, and delivers it all in a mighty allegory about fish.

The Art of Gaman follows the journey of Tomomi as a young girl arriving in New York from Hiroshima through the subsequent sixty years of her life, and explores huge and complex themes of identity, sexuality, gender roles, purpose, and unfulfilled dreams. She finds herself desperate to become an actress and share her story, but hindered by the social and cultural expectations of women, as well as the hostile attitudes towards the Japanese during and after the Second World War. Guha’s script manages to deftly navigate these lofty concepts with care and wit; it’s rich with metaphors about koi fish, radios, and sunlight, and creates a vocabulary of textual references that layer on new meanings when called back to throughout. Unfortunately, however, a few fluffed lines from the actors occasionally prevent the delivery from landing with the impact that was no doubt intended.

Additionally, the scenes often felt quite filmic in their brevity and left a lot of momentous choices that the characters make to happen off stage. Luckily, Ailin Conant’s slick direction keeps the frequent scene changes characterful, allowing the energy to consistently simmer. This is aided by Helen Coyston’s smart and purposeful design which uses translucent curtains to instantaneously convey a number of locations and atmospheres. The performances from the whole cast were tremendous, particularly from You-Ri Yamanaka who primarily plays Tomomi – in an intimate space like Theatre503, the fact that she felt continuously spontaneous and authentic is all the more commendable. The other actors were tasked with depicting a variety of characters each throughout the story; Philip Desmeules and Alice Dillon especially succeeded in imbuing each one with an identifiable history from the moment they stepped into the scene, portraying exceptionally detailed and nuanced people in an instant.

Gaman is presented in the play as something beautiful being born out of an arduous struggle, like how carbon needs to be placed under immense pressure to become a diamond. The Art of Gaman is immensely ambitious in its scope and themes but largely achieves gaman itself, and delivers on those ambitions with aplomb, and in doing so provides a platform for a story that is often ignored and marginalised.

 

Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by Helen Murray

 


The Art of Gaman

Theatre503 until 27th October

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Her Not Him | ★★★ | January 2018
Br’er Cotton | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Reared | ★★★ | April 2018
Isaac Came Home From the Mountain | ★★★★ | May 2018
Caterpillar | ★★★★ | September 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

 

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A Kettle of Fish – 3 Stars

Kettle

A Kettle of Fish

The Yard Theatre

Reviewed – 27th September 2018

★★★

“plays with how we experience theatre in a really interesting way, but doesn’t succeed in using these features to their full potential within the piece”

 

We are handed headphones as we walk into the theatre, that I test as I wait for the show to start. The music is a cheerful, nondescript jazz piano piece. The Yard’s stage has been divided into three in a box-like setting designed by Ingrid Hu. Stage right a living room, neat and clean, centre stage an airplane, and stage left a gauze box that is being projected upon.

Lisa is going on a business trip. She is leaving her house, her beautiful house, in the care of her dad who, on the morning of her departure, has managed to fill her with “active disgust”. After interactions like this she likes to imagine unscrewing her head and replacing it with a different head so that she can see through different eyes. She is on her way to a country whose habits she has studied in great depth, but suspended above the ground, she is delivered some terrible news about her life back home.

Brad Birch’s latest play examines grief, loss of control and connection, via a well-crafted descension into surrealism, though for me this could’ve begun earlier, as this is where the play really comes into its own. Too much of the piece feels like a waiting game and risks feeling one note at points.

Wendy Kweh plays Lisa in this one-woman piece. She delivers a fantastically strong performance, committed and full of mounting anxiety, creating the other characters around her with skill and precision.

The design is visually and conceptually stunning, however it is not used to its full potential. The projections feel underused, and inconsistent in their design. They lack a feeling of cohesion. The lighting design (Joshua Gadsby) feels unsubtle, the changes too obvious. Max Pappenheim’s soundscape, which accompanies the show via our headphones, works really well predominantly but the whispering vocals add an unnecessary touch of melodrama to what is otherwise a very genuine and relatable situation.

A Kettle of Fish is a brave and exciting production directed by Caitlin McLeod, that plays with how we experience theatre in a really interesting way, but doesn’t succeed in using these features to their full potential within the piece. The writing and the production are carried by a stunning performance from Wendy Kweh.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Helen Murray

 


A Kettle of Fish

The Yard Theatre until 13th October

 

Previously reviewed at The Yard Theatre:
Buggy Baby | ★★★★ | March 2018
Three Sisters by RashDash after Chekhov | ★★★★ | May 2018
A New and Better You | ★★★★ | June 2018
The Act | ★★★½ | July 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

 

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