Bread & Roses Theatre
Reviewed – 8th December 2018
“has a lot of potential with a strong vision and direction and an energetic cast”
Baby Blues is a children’s show, merging physical theatre with verbatim monologues in its attempt to explore post natal depression (PND).
The performance excels in its moments of physical theatre that underscore the whole show. Michael Greenwood’s direction is slick and cleverly thought out. The various movements that accompany the monologues, as well as the choreographed group dances, successfully demonstrate the overwhelming depression, anxiety and claustrophobia that comes with PND. The performers (Tabatha Gregg-Allured, James Douglas, Abi Slade, Eden Tinsey, Mohamed Bangura) really spring to life in these moments – their expressions are impassioned; Tinsey’s performance in particular gave every action a very specific feeling. Excitement is also produced by Alfie Rackley’s music and the use of torch lights, which create drama and utilise the minimalist nature of the show.
Unfortunately, where the show slacks a little is in its verbatim nature. The monologues do exactly what the show needs them to do, which is detail the experience of PND in a way that is easy to understand for its audience, and yet the speeches tend to become a little too matter-of-fact. Despite them being grounded in authenticity, allowing for us to clearly understand the message of the show, they risk becoming slightly disengaging at times, verging on being repetitive. While the stories feel important, they struggle to takes us on a real journey, which is crucial when needing to evoke empathy. As a result, moments that almost reach an emotional peak never really find it.
The show has a lot of potential with a strong vision and direction and an energetic cast. Children’s theatre definitely offers the chance to use a safe space to educate and excite audiences, but the innovative physicality of this show feels let down by the lack of a satisfying arc in the verbatim speeches. Hopefully this company can continue to develop this piece and deliver the important message that PND shouldn’t be a taboo topic, and that those who suffer from it aren’t alone.
Reviewed by Tobias Graham
Bread & Roses Theatre
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Never Swim Alone
Reviewed – 28th November 2018
“A swift and savage piece of satire”
Every so often we come across a piece of theatre that forces the audience to concentrate. Never Swim Alone, directed in this version by Alexander Hick, does just this.
A swift and savage piece of satire by award-winning Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor, Never Swim Alone pits Bill (played by Azan Ahmed) and Frank (played by Jack Dillon) against one another in a series of thirteen rounds to determine who is Top-Dog. Once childhood friends it is initially unclear why these two are at odds. Outside of a slight height difference they seem the same person, dressed in an almost identical white shirt, black suit, black socks and tie combination and carrying leather briefcases. However, as the play gathers momentum and neither man can keep the upper hand for long their competitiveness becomes steadily more visceral and disturbing.
Bill and Frank’s relationship is an absolute triumph for Ahmed and Dillon who act with their emotions tightly in check, but constantly at risk of boiling over as their conflict intensifies. The way they often speak in unison, sometimes echoing each other and at other times sharing different stories, without dropping the pace is impressive to say the least. However, the use of repetition in combination with debate style dialogue often proves difficult to follow and the audience is left guessing why a point was awarded to one man rather than the other.
Each round is refereed by a mysterious girl (played by Tabatha Gregg-Allured) who blows a whistle ahead of each round and records the points of on a whiteboard which stands in prime position for the whole audience to bear witness. It is slowly revealed that the referee is not the impartial figure she seems at first. While she does prevent things from going too far at times, she knows how to prod and manipulate their emotions. Gregg-Allured’s performance with this is subtle, sometimes depending too heavily on her whistle to portray distaste in what the men are saying. Granted, she is little more than a prop in Frank and Bill’s play, but a little more confidence would have helped her cut a more striking performance. Where she lets her emotions out, however, they work perfectly in aiding the audience in dissecting the tangle of toxic masculinity.
For the first half of the play the referee seems in control of the two men’s competition, trapped as they are in physical manifestation of their past trauma. Bill and Frank are not granted full reign of the stage but are forced to execute their ritualistic “boxing-match” in a taped-off section of the performance space. Only once the fight becomes physical is the tape removed by the referee and the skeletons of their past become visible.
What we are left with are two broken men, their longing for lost boyhood summers eclipsed by a struggle to prove themselves against their peers.
Reviewed by Alexandra Wilbraham
Photography by Harry Elletson
Never Swim Alone
Etcetera Theatre until 1st December
Previous ten shows reviewed at this venue: