Tag Archives: Miriam Sallon

Renaissance

Renaissance

★★★★★

Stephens House and Gardens

Renaissance

Renaissance

 Stephens House and Gardens, Finchley

Reviewed – 18th September 2020

★★★★★

 

“There is so much charisma and bite on stage, it seems slightly ridiculous that we should be allowed to experience this in such an intimate setting.”

 

Twenty or so fold-out chairs, scattered two metres apart, surround a small fairy-light-canopied stage, nestled beneath a big old tree at the bottom of the garden. Not quite summer anymore, there’s a significant nip in the air as the sun sets behind us, and the select crowd snuggles in to their jumpers and coats (one couple taking a sneaky swig from a hidden flask- not a bad idea), readying for the show to begin.

It doesn’t get much more picturesque than that, really. And besides the fact the location was likely chosen due to Covid, it feels more like the perfect setting for a small Midsummer Night’s Dream production or Woolf’s pageant in Between The Acts, and the limited audience makes it feel all the more special. Maybe it’s not extra practical for the production, but I’m having a very nice time…

“Why is everything so bland?”, Cesare Borgia (James Corrigan) begins, lamenting the misery and boredom of his princely responsibilities. He yearns for a taste of freedom, and so decides to offer his position and title to a passing unemployed politician, Niccolò Machiavelli (Nicholas Limm) who jumps at the opportunity, while Borgia himself guises as a struggling artist because, as he rightly posits, “The truth is simple: Artists win at life.” Simultaneously, Leonardo da Vinci (Akshay Sharan), similarly sick of his lot, decides to seek something more grounded than the lofty arts and, also disguised, finds a job in the Borgia palace as a politician. Cue a series of hilarious misunderstandings, disguises piled on top of disguises, genders swapped, stations elevated and swiftly demoted.

Writer Charlie Ward packs a lot in: war, politics, religion, romance, gender identity, class disparity, and all in a form that sits somewhere between a bedroom farce and a Shakespearian comedy.

Everything is in rhyming couplets and iambic pentameter (I think?) and just as with a Shakespeare play it takes a little while to find the rhythm, so with Renaissance, the first few scenes of dialogue are largely lost while the audience recalibrates. But it does give the story a pace, and a certain flavour which, being that it’s set in the sixteenth century, feels apt.

Before lockdown, nearly the entire cast was committed to major theatrical projects elsewhere, and you can see why. There is so much charisma and bite on stage, it seems slightly ridiculous that we should be allowed to experience this in such an intimate setting. The physical comedy and timing displayed, combined with everyone’s extensive previous experience with Shakespearian language brings a very comfortable, natural delivery, as though they spent their lives speaking in rhyming couplets. Corrigan whips between silly and domineering with ease; Bethan Cullinane is a force, so quietly sure of herself, she hardly moves whilst somehow absolutely commanding the stage. And Haydn Gwynne is just fabulous. Considering the immediate affect her presence makes on stage, she feels slightly underused, though you might say that of the whole cast really.

Director Emma Butler’s design is massively pared down, a necessity for such a small stage, and a relief really – there’s already enough to focus on with the grandiloquent language, and striking performances: Costumes consist of a simple palette of whites, creams and dusky pinks, and the ‘disguises’ comprise skirts swapped for trousers, shirts rebuttoned disheveledly, and dodgy French accents. It works though, and adds to the comedy, that someone should merely put a hat on and say they’re someone different from the person they were two minutes prior in the same company.

As theatre slowly starts to pick itself up again, even those productions that do manage to cobble something together will likely be taking an artistic hit, having to re-mould themselves in line with government guidelines. On this occasion, though, the restrictions have only enhanced the audience’s experience. How often do we have the chance to enjoy such a concentration of talent in such an intimate setting, and with fresh, new writing? Take the opportunity while you can, before (hopefully) everything returns to some semblance of normality and such an event becomes near impossible.

 

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Charlie Ward

 


Renaissance

Stephens House and Gardens until 20th September

 

Last ten shows reviewed by Miriam:
Antigone | ★★★★★ | New Diorama Theatre | January 2020
Frankie Foxstone Aka The Profit: Walking Tour | ★★★ | The Vaults | January 2020
Rags | ★★★ | Park Theatre | January 2020
The Canary And The Crow | ★★★½ | Arcola Theatre | January 2020
Madame Ovary | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Meat | ★★★★ | Theatre503 | February 2020
Raw Transport | ★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Cracking | ★★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | March 2020
Take Care | ★★★★ | Network Theatre | March 2020
Thank You And Goodnight | ★★★★ | Camden People’s Theatre | March 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Take Care

Take Care

★★★★

VAULT Festival 2020

Take Care

Take Care

Network Theatre

Reviewed – 11th March 2020

★★★★

 

“it’s going to make you feel something, which is exactly what theatre should do”

 

Every time I see a verbatim show, I wonder why everyone isn’t doing it all the time. Beside the fact that it gives you ready-made dialogue, for some reason taking something seemingly ordinary that someone has said casually in conversation, with every mispronunciation, repetition and hesitation, and reframing it on stage immediately elevates it to excellence. This is exactly the point for Take Care, as directed by Zoe Templeman-Young, whose aim is to give a voice to those who can’t speak for themselves.

Everyone in the cast has either been a carer or a professional within the care work industry, and they have all seen first-hand the difficulty of giving someone the care they need, made all the more trying by over a decade of budget cuts and broken promises from the government.

We hear first-hand accounts from across the board: people in care, people taking care of family members, people taking care of strangers, nurses, safety training specialists, carer support charity workers, and so on, and whilst these accounts are interspersed with overhead snippets from lying politicians, for the most part the message is delivered with as much subtlety as possible, allowing people’s experiences to speak for themselves.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. We also hear about people’s love of caring, either for someone they know or someone they don’t, and we hear about the joy of it too. On being asked why she would want to take care of her elderly mother, one woman answers, “Old people can be fucking hilarious.”

With very little by way of production or design, besides a bunch of chairs and a few bits and pieces scattered about the stage (a cup of coffee, a lampshade, a Christmas tree), the script and performances speak for themselves. A cast of only four portrays a number of characters each, and with only the use of cravat or a jacket, they are completely transformed, embodying an entirely different person.

There is an idea that a strong argument must be made without emotion; must be entirely objective. Take Care takes quite the opposite tact, showing that personal experience is the argument. You can look at statistics and financial benefits, but at the end of the day, a government’s legislation affects real people, and they deserve to be heard.
Regardless of your political standing, this show will make you angry, either because old people and people in need have been seemingly cast aside by the government, or because you don’t think that’s the case and despite having watched a bunch of first-hand accounts, you have something different to say about it. Regardless, it’s going to make you feel something, which is exactly what theatre should do.

 

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

 

VAULT Festival 2020

 

 

Click here to see all our reviews from VAULT Festival 2020