Reviewed – 14th August 2019
“had such potential but the jumping narrative resulted in an unclear message”
This all-female cast took us on a journey, jumping through huge swaths of history to examine the allegations of witchcraft against women. But maybe they bit off more than they could chew by switching between the historical testimonies of the victims and the story of a modern woman, dealing with the death of her mother.
Incognito Theatre Company’s production has been highly anticipated since the success of their last production ‘Tobacco Road’. However, ‘The Burning’ didn’t quite hit the mark that I expected. The ideas shown are intriguing and offer interesting new insights into a topic that can often be summarised by showing voiceless victims of extreme injustice. ‘The Burning’ also presents a novel slant on the printing press as a platform for men to create and implement legislation against women.
The ensemble (Keturah Chambers, Jennie Eggleton, Kimberley Hallam, Phoebe Parker) were skilled in their portrayal of various roles. They used quick costume changes to switch between characters. This was accompanied by slightly questionable accents, that were distracting. It would have been more effective for them to play to their strengths by marking different people by changing their physicality. The movement direction (Ingrid McKinnon and Roberta Zuric) used within the piece was strong and is something that could definitely be utilised more. The strongest moments were when the actors repeated ritualised moves, reminiscent of conjuring.
A key feature of this production was the use of live and recorded sound. Vocal looping of eerie sound effects created a thick and tense atmospheric. This was complemented by design elements (Helena Bonner) such as the repeated use of dry ice and red and blue wash lights. The set was fairly simple as the actors used three wooden blocks to create change within the scenes. In general, the handling of props was well rehearsed and slick.
Where the production fell flat was its structure. The piece went between two main story strands: that of the legacy of different witch trials and that of a modern day woman discovering these stories. The link between the two narratives became entangled in a way that felt forced and disjointed. This let the show down, as the actors were committed and clearly highly competent. This piece had such potential but the jumping narrative resulted in an unclear message. The cast forcefully delivered a final call to action at the end but, as audience members, we were left unsure as to what we were being asked to rally for or against.
Reviewed by Emily Morris
Photography by Marko Marsenic
Pleasance Courtyard until 26th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019
Reviewed – 13th February 2019
“the onstage members create five well-delineated characters and enliven a familiar genre with some fluid story-telling”
Where better to stage a tale of London’s 1920s criminal underworld than in a venue hidden behind anonymous double-doors down a service road below Waterloo Station (yards from where eight men were killed in a 1927 riot between the McDonald and Sabini gangs)? It’s here, as part of the VAULT Festival, that the suitably-named Incognito Theatre Company tell, with immense vitality, a story of two small-time East End gangs. One, all-male, is a group of pals recently demobbed and desperate for the good life; the other is an all-female team who delight in duping drink-sodden gents as they roam London’s clubland in search of a good time. Tiring of the petty rewards to be gleaned from fixing fights and picking pockets, respectively, the brawn and brains realise that they could be better together and form a powerful alliance. Led by the ambitious Felix Vance (George John) they grow into a syndicate of successful felonious enterprises, enjoying glamour and excess to the point where they feel, mistakenly, ready to take on London’s most dominant and vicious gang.
There is another gang at work here in the team of old school friends who founded this now independent theatre group. As well as exuding rambunctious esprit-de-corps, the onstage members create five well-delineated characters and enliven a familiar genre with some fluid story-telling. Angus Castle-Doughty is perfect, attacking the role of pugilist Tom Carlisle with fierce commitment while still creating empathy. Jennie Eggleton inhabits the hard-as-nails Elsie Murphy with chilling accuracy. All display impressive accents and movement, not to mention the stamina necessary when dialogue is woven into a continuous sequence of beautifully lit moments of physical theatre. The non-stop pace allows few pauses for breath with audibility suffering slightly, but even at full pelt the cast manage to invest unlikable characters with redeeming qualities.
The high point is an illegal boxing scene in which bandages are used ingeniously to evoke the ring from various angles, including the vertigo-inducing perspective of the Tom as he takes his dive. Credit goes to Director, Roberta Zuric, Choreographer, Zak Nemorin and Fight Choreographer, Lisa Connell but also to Sound and Lighting by Oscar Macguire and Freya Jefferies. The script sags when the mob reach the height of their infamy as, with nowhere to go, the characters reflect, row, dance and drink together without further exploration of their lives, relationships, or anything else. But that is a minor reduction in the voltage of this energetic display.
The company’s all-female management have clearly inspired a team ethic, as off-stage and on-stage creatives work throughout to create an hour of relentless entertainment. Their slick yet punchy show proves that gangs work well in the West End too.
Reviewed by Dominic Gettins
Photography by Tim Hall
Part of VAULT Festival 2019