“feels in a very early stage of its development and needs a lot more work”
We entered the performance space to see what seemed like bedroom furniture littered with clothes and pictures covering parts of the walls. The play then begins, and we are told by Rachel (Michelle Payne) about what feels like a stereotypical teenage view of the world, talking about local clubs, music she likes and famous people she fancied. We sit and listen to this and the show progresses, taking us deeper into her head and how she feels about the unrealistic expectations that are made of young women.
The biggest issue with Sad About the Cows was the writing (Michelle Payne), it felt stale and predictable but not relatable. Everything she said could’ve sat comfortably in any 90’s film about growing up and unfortunately a lot of the jokes simply fell flat; there really was an issue with the almost robotic nature to the script. The social agenda the performance was concerning itself with does really need to be spoken about, but in this case all it seemed to do was tell us on a very basic level about the issues of eating disorders without ever delving below the surface. When tackling such an inflammatory subject matter it is the creatives’ duty to explore the topic and help us through these issues with interesting and/or realistic content.
For one section the script moved abruptly into spoken word, giving us a different way to listen, I hoped for a second that this would be my relief and that I would find this more impactful, but I did not. The spoken word was delivered in a very similar way to the regular speech, a mistake that many fall into, spoken word can be beautiful but very hard to get right and on this occasion it did not pay off.
The set was also a large issue as it didn’t add anything to the show, it only worked against it. The sofa and the bed and the table all cluttered the space up and made it feel unrealistic, we know we are not in a bedroom, so I don’t see why you need all of those props; since many of them were never touched or referenced. For this production less really would have been more.
Overall, Sad About the Cows feels in a very early stage of its development and needs a lot more work. The subject matter has potential and I truly believe it’s about looking back over all the show’s elements and thinking what can be lost, so they can focus on less things and make them better, remembering quality not quantity.
“bristling with a rottweiler-level energy, but is matched by a tone of unfocused anger and bitterness”
Mortgage is a challenging piece of theatre – in every sense of the word. This devised piece from the minds of the renowned David Glass Ensemble and Created a Monster (with writing also credited to David Glass) is itching to provoke some deeply pressing conversations, while also being too frustrating in its design to fully wrangle with its own thesis. As such, it presents itself as something unpolished and messy, but despite this there is an urgency and forcefulness to the show that holds you in an unforgiving vice grip.
At this point in the review I’d normally provide a brief plot synopsis, but it’s difficult to know where to even start with Mortgage. The show initially consists of two doctors in drag (François Testory and Simon Gleave) attempting to treat the eponymous Mortgage (Briony O’Callaghan) through a series of vignettes incorporating various forms of movement, violence, and magic, tonally feeling like grotesque versions of Monty Python sketches. This then somewhat clunkily segues into a huge and unnecessary exposition dump as Mortgage explains her backstory, which jars with what came before, and slows the momentum to a crawl by placing the focus on what happened instead of what’s going to happen until finally, we end up in another sketch of sorts that seemingly tirades against actors, theatres, and audiences. There’s very little cohesion between these moments and it’s never quite clear why they’re being presented on stage to us.
But one can’t help but wonder – was that the point? When the creatives involved are so esteemed, when the action on stage is so visually striking, when the performances are so vocally and physically committed, it’s easy to ponder whether the disjointed nature of events is founded in an intentional desire for theatremakers to spoon-feed less to the audience, and for the audience to infer their own meanings from the art they consume. Perhaps there is actually an undercurrent of genius to the madness.
Even if there were admirable intentions behind Mortgage, though, the execution of them feels unsatisfying. It’s bristling with a rottweiler-level energy, but is matched by a tone of unfocused anger and bitterness – if David Glass and the company were trying to say something, it isn’t said with any clarity, and is instead lost behind a mire of perplexing theatrical choices. You’re never quite certain what Mortgage is, who it’s for, or why it’s been made, and yet it will still manage to keep you captivated for its runtime – it’s a case of style over substance, but the style is present in droves.