“one of those shows that you can see time and time again and enjoy each performance with renewed pleasure and enthusiasm”
SHIFT is the latest original production from Barely Methodical Troupe (BMT). Previous shows include Bromance and Kin which have both received much acclaim internationally. The concept of the show SHIFT is from the mind of Melissa Ellberger who also directed and devised the piece alongside Ella Robson Guilfoyle and the four cast members: Beren D’Amico, Esmeralda Nikolajeff, Louis Gift and Charlie Wheeller.
Shoreditch Town Hall is really beautiful. The décor is grand, intricate and fascinating. It’s such a positive migration to have this former civic building transformed into an independent community space. You really feel as though you’re being invited to share in something quite intimate and special when you go there and on this occasion, with BMT, it was no exception.
With no distinct storyline; similar to the format of other physically demanding shows like Bianco by No Fit Safe Circus, the production of SHIFT is a series of movement based episodes, connecting together to create a holistic piece.
This is a wonderful show and so simply crafted. The raised stage was bare (design by Lucy Sierra), with the performers using minimal equipment to play and perform with. The use of light (lighting design by Elliot Griggs) and the beautiful soundtrack emphasised each moment eloquently and often created an otherworldly atmosphere which illustrated the dexterity of the acrobatics all the more.
Without a doubt D’Amico, Nikolajeff, Wheeller and Gift are all complete and utter athletes. The stamina, strength and high energy they maintained throughout the show is a performative feat. They were engaging and funny with a constant awareness of the audience; always involving us into their world. They displayed movements with delicate subtlety and would instantly contrast that with explosive gymnastics. It was an exhilarating experience to witness each jump, flip, somersault and catch achieved and with no safety net. This troupe rely on the trust and experience they share with each other and that wonderful bond radiated from them in every way. Being right there in front of the action, witnessing these amazing four throw themselves skilfully across the stage, pushing their capabilities to the limit, was really awe-inspiring and unexpectedly life affirming too.
A show for all ages and audiences. You will be stunned at the physical dynamism of this troupe. This is one of those shows that you can see time and time again and enjoy each performance with renewed pleasure and enthusiasm.
“navigates the line between what is real and what imaginary skilfully”
Chickenshed’s Rapunzel is an utter joy. Ambitious and energetic; a visual and musical beauty, with a strong take home message to celebrate the power of your imagination. I left with a warm glow in my heart and a lasting tingle down my spine. This production is a must-see.
The cast of talented and dynamic children and adults were always committed and eye-catching. At all points, the stage was active and engaging, and the team of choreographers must be commended for their innovation. From dryads, to gnomes, to spiders and traders, every cluster had a distinct way of moving and communicating. I felt the work behind every performance and every moment, and am filled with respect and awe for the creatives. Cerys Lambert, sixteen-year-old babysitter Hazel and, in her dreams (or her reality…), Rapunzel, played the nuances of her role with grace and warmth. Culminating in ‘I Want It All’, this rendition of Rapunzel focuses on finding yourself, ‘searching, falling, losing, learning’, and is a spot-on contemporary reclamation of traditional, gender-stereotypical fairy tales.
Lucy Sierra’s set, expertly lit by Andrew Caddies, was a dream to behold. Textured walls, secret cubby holes, and Rapunzel’s tower, concealed by netted leaves, all contributed to the atmosphere of discovery, excitement, and subtle darkness, which the story handles bravely. Simon Wells’ costumes were striking, novel and wonderfully varied. This production created so many exquisite pictures: perfectly-timed spotlights during songs; flying lanterns, to which the little boy next to me said ‘wow!’ under his breath; moving seamlessly between small groups of performers to a stage full to the brim; chaotic, but with intention, and always artful. At one moment, Rapunzel’s mesmerising theme, the most memorable of all the music, ‘Sweet the Dream’, washed over the auditorium, and her shape was visible in the tower, lit up behind the leaves. I was immersed in the magical world which Chickenshed concocted.
Lou Stein’s script weaves in and out of sprightly and lilting rhyming verse. The lyrics, which he wrote alongside composer Dave Carey, are occasionally excessive, and the jokes can be a little too knowing. Gemilla Shamruk had magnetic stage presence, though her sexy song was a little jarring, and somewhat disrupted the tone of her evil. But mostly, it was very refreshing to have the content of a traditional story challenged, to include far-reaching references outside of its world, and keep audiences on their toes. Rapunzel is consistently well-paced, and it navigates the line between what is real and what imaginary skilfully, originally and to spine-tingling effect, such that I was left believing in both worlds equally.
To mention the performances I was impressed by would entail listing all the names in the programme; but I particularly enjoyed Will Lawrence and Nathaniel Leigertwood’s tricksy and witty double-act; and Loren Jacobs and Belinda McGuirk’s mythical dryads and their counterparts, who sustained their eerie stature throughout, whilst taking turns to sign the show. Chickenshed created an equal stage for everyone who was on it, and for audiences alike. Though individuals shone, the fabric of the show is woven by the miraculous thing which happens when people of all shapes, sizes and forms of expression come together to make something they believe in.
The electrifying, flawless live band elevated Rapunzel yet further, and Dave Carey’s fantastic orchestration was eclectic and exciting. The audience were riveted and attention never lulled. I am still flicking through the very well assembled programme. Go and see Rapunzel today, and discover ‘what you are made of, and what you can be’!
Reviewed by Eloise Poulton
Photography by Daniel Beacock
is at the Chicken Shed Theatre until 6th January 2018