“an enlightening foray into the allotment of life”
Bath based theatre company, A Word In Your Ear brings an inspired, real life look into the world of two women innocently matchmaking for their adult children. Although the writing (Clare Reddaway) was quite on the nose at times, this episodic retelling is both heartachingly moving and delightfully comic.
Michelle Wen Lee and Sarah Curwen give compassionate performances that let the audience peer into their lives in Shanghai. As both wives and mothers, their stories have been affected by China’s one child policy and so some eye-opening and heart-wrenching memories are narrated to us with seasoned storytelling.
With no set and very little use of props, both Curwen and Wen Lee transform into a number of characters that feature in each of the women’s lives, from a harsh mother-in-law to a forward-thinking “leftover” daughter. Direction from Bryn Holding is both considered and effective. Yet, similar to the way the audience is fed certain information in the writing, there were a few obvious and demonstrative moments that felt unoriginal despite perhaps having intended to shock the audience at the sheer pain of those very real memories.
What is really refreshing is to observe these women matchmaking for their children. Although to our western lifestyle that seems absurd and controlling, it is shown here as purely an act of love and protection with the intent of ensuring secure and healthy relationships for their offspring. What a pleasant contrast to our own modern, vain, ‘swipe right’ hook-up culture.
Little Potatoes is an enlightening foray into the allotment of life. The emotional events covered in this hour long piece plant the seeds of political and cultural curiosity, sprouting the questions we ask ourselves as people and as a community; what is family? What is more important than family? And how far would you go to serve your country?
Reviewed by Vivienne King
Photography courtesy A Word In Your Ear Productions
“delves into an abstracted perspective on very human issues, and is likely to be different from anything you have seen before”
The first thing you will notice about The Noises – a new play brought to The Old Red Lion Theatre by mother-daughter duo Jacqueline Saphra (writer) and Tamar Saphra (director) – is its main character, a dog named Luna. Shut inside a room by her owners her odd, defamiliarised speech is fascinating and hilarious; she calls sex “rump and grunty” and her owners “ma”, “pa” and “my Ellie girl”. She details all those strange things we know dogs do, from re-devouring a partially thrown up chicken (described in delightfully gruesome detail) to hiding one of every pair of shoes owned by various members of the house. Then there is her physicality, designed by movement director Louise Kempton and executed with impressive economical precision by Amy McAllister. The slight vibration of McAllister’s legs and bottom to suggest a wagging tail, the whine in her voice as she demands things from her owner, and an occasional growl are all particularly reminiscent to us dog owners of our own pets. Luna never delves too far into an animal reenactment – she doesn’t shuffle around on all fours as a child might – but there is just enough there to show us that she is not human.
The production begins with an audio description of the set, and special mention must be made to audio description and access consultants Jenni Elbourne and Amelia Cavallo for their work to make the show accessible for the visually impaired. The audio description itself adds to the show and experience, because so much of the play centres around Tom Parkinson’s sound design. Whilst the set is a single “room” with worn lino floor, a cracked ceiling and a single door stage-let, ‘The Noises’ themselves give a sense of the wider world beyond the door. At first these noises are familiar to Luna – a family argument, footsteps, a car outside – but as the play progresses they grow into something more frightening, until eventually they invade the set and even split the ceiling apart!
Thus we move from an amusing depiction of the inner workings of a dog’s mind to a deeper exploration of courage, fear and what it means to be ‘good’. Luna’s connection with the audience, looking us directly in the eye as she teaches us and tells her stories, means we find ourselves reconsidering our own outlooks. This play may revolve around a dog’s perspective, but it delves into an abstracted perspective on very human issues, and is likely to be different from anything you have seen before.