Reviewed – 2nd October 2018
“a clever play that makes us look closely at our attitudes to humanitarian aid abroad”
Imagine a United Kingdom which has become isolated from other countries. A land where violent civil unrest and ensuing poverty has created a humanitarian crisis for the population. This is the scenario that writer Glenda Cooper has taken as the backdrop to her new play “Aid Memoir”, produced by the Duckegg Theatre Company and currently running in the studio space at the Pleasance Theatre.
Set in a former funfair, now refugee camp, near Hull, Martine, played by Remi Fadare, a “UK Action” aid worker from wealthy Kenya, has befriended Chelle, a 17 year old refugee desperate to leave and make a new life. The role of Chelle is undertaken by four actresses, Lucy Blott (who I saw perform the part with both strength and emotional understanding), Ellie Kidd, Jordan Meriel and Katie Bartlett. They eagerly await the visit of a “show business” journalist and a celebrity performer “Lady J” from Kenya to help raise awareness of the need for humanitarian aid. The journalist who arrives is Taz, convincingly played by Sabrina Richmond who has “history” with Martine. Both discuss their reasons for wanting to aid the UK while Chelle plans a new future using the celebrity visitor as a means of escape.
The play runs one hour without an interval and examines the attitudes we have to humanitarian crisis and celebrity fund raisers visiting third world countries, who may be well intentioned but are perceived as patronising. It reflects on TV viewers in Kenya wanting to see doe eyed child victims as desirable aid recipients rather than the angry adults nearby.
The set is simple, a chair and a game of Trivial Pursuit against a black backdrop. Lighting is stark and simple and director Matthew Evans has focused on the clear and sometimes amusing dialogue with natural performances.
This is a clever play that makes us look closely at our attitudes to humanitarian aid abroad. It would however benefit from further development with a more consistent performance of Martine and developing the set further to encourage greater movement, particularly towards the end of the play.
Reviewed by Max Bender
Photography courtesy Duckegg Theatre Company
Pleasance Theatre until 6th October
Previously reviewed at this venue:
Jekyll & Hyde
Reviewed – 27th September 2018
“a clever interpretation of a classic story with some impressive performances from a talented diverse cast.”
The Robert Louis Stevenson story of the nature of humanity and potential for us all to choose to do both good and evil is vividly explored in a new musical opera version of “Jekyll and Hyde” by a dynamic young cast in the Studio performance space at Chickenshed Theatre. The audience enter the Studio along a Victorian street and sit on four banks of rather uncomfortable bench seats facing each other across the cobbles. Flickering street lamps and Victorian smog set the scene. A bridge and sewer below face down to Jekyll’s house and the evocative set designed by Constance Villemot is well used throughout.
The writing team (music by Dave Carey and Hannah Bohlin with lyrics by Paul Morrall) chose to use modern music and words to update the story for today. With director Jonny Morton, they also made the decision to reorder and perform the story chronologically to make it more accessible to a modern audience.
The opera requires careful concentration as it moves quickly through events with two halves of around thirty five minutes each. The music has been prerecorded but all the singing is live. There are twenty-one songs in a variety of styles and enough repetition to make the audience feel familiar with the music during the show.
Chickenshed has an inclusive ethos and the cast reflected this. The dual role of Jekyll/Hyde was performed by Nathaniel Leigertwood. He contrasted the two roles most effectively and the physicality of his transformations and violence as Hyde clearly scared two audience members opposite me. Nathaniel has long dark curly hair which he released from a ponytail as Hyde and used to disguise his face most successfully. His friend and lawyer Utterson was played by Demar Lambert and Dr Lanyon was sung confidently by Finn Kebbe. Sir Danvers Carew was performed by Ecevit Kulucan and Poole by Will Laurence. Vocal performances were generally strong although there were moments when the score was too demanding for individuals.
The chorus were both dancers and singers and their performance was pivotal to the success of the production, with dynamic choreography by Michael Bossisse. The lighting by Andrew Caddies really enhanced the opera throughout. There is a clever piece of stagecraft at the end of the opera which surprises the audience and allows them further insight into the dilemma that Jekyll has faced, forming a neat conclusion to the opera. This is a clever interpretation of a classic story with some impressive performances from a talented diverse cast.
Reviewed by Max Bender
Photography by Natalie Greco
Jekyll & Hyde
Chickenshed Theatre until 20th October
Previously reviewed at Chickenshed: