Tag Archives: Wilton’s Music Hall

Roots

★★★★★

Wilton’s Music Hall

Roots

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 7th October 2021

★★★★★

 

“As the audience, we teeter uneasily between outrage and laughter”

 

1927 is one of those rare, extraordinary, once in a generation companies that comes along to show us how theatre can be done, and how we’ve been doing it wrong all along. Their signature works such as Golem (2014) and now Roots (2019) are a seamless blend of live music and live performance stitched into fantastic animated collages projected onto a screen on an otherwise bare stage. 1927 takes the audience into the moving picture experience—and then opens doors and windows in the movie screen so that a live performer can cheekily poke through and explode the idea that watching anything on a screen is somehow real. Not content with that, 1927 also challenges our notions of what constitutes performance with this blend of live and projected action. Just as important, the narratives performed by this company give our imaginations a real workout as well.

In many ways, Wilton’s Music Hall is the perfect venue for a company like 1927, who generally need just a bare stage, a screen and a space for the performers and musicians to shimmy alongside. Anything else, even elaborate lighting, would be a distraction from the show taking place (mostly) at the back of the stage. But Wilton’s is a stained and faded beauty, with its patchwork walls and ceilings standing in mute and shabby chic testament to its long gone glory days as a Victorian music hall. It is somehow the perfect backdrop for a company that specializes in taking mythic stories from a murky past, and reanimating them, much like a latter day Frankenstein. Everything in Roots, though, is designed not to horrify, but to amuse—and to make us think. In the disturbing stories of cats that eat the world; murine husbands who fall into the stew while their ant wives are working, and ungrateful children who try to shed burdensome parents, there is a sly humour at work, present both in the images projected on the screen, and the actors in their drab but expressive costumes. As the audience, we teeter uneasily between outrage and laughter. Luckily for us, laughter usually wins out. There are faint echoes of music hall humour in all that 1927 presents. Wilton’s brings that out in sharp relief.

Unlike 1927’s Golem, which is a show with one overarching narrative, Roots is a medley of a dozen or so stories “from a simpler time” adapted from the British Library’s Aarne Index—a collection of folktales from around the world. There is no particular theme linking these stories together. 1927 have simply selected those that appealed, and adapted them to suit the instantly recognizable company style. These adaptations are set in a time that could be the 1920s—the costumes hint at that—but jump both forwards and backwards in time as well. The accompanying music is similarly hard to categorize. Clever use of conventional instruments such as violins are playfully augmented, as well as subverted, with the addition of “Peruvian prayer boxes, donkeys jaws…and musical saws.” The eerie sounds produced, once again do not frighten, but heighten, the experience of watching a 1927 show. Roots may disappoint some who go expecting a show with a more conventional approach to storytelling, but veteran viewers of the company’s work will appreciate Roots for what it is: not one mythic story, but many.

There is a consistently talented team at the core of 1927. Susanne Andrade, writer and performer, and Paul Barritt, animator and illustrator, have been working together since 2005. They’ve since been joined by performer and director Esme Appleton, when their trademark style of live performance and animation came into its own. Producer Jo Crowley keeps the company touring around the world. First produced for the Spoleto Festival USA in 2019, Roots now tours showcasing the work of costume designer Sarah Munro, and performers David
Insua-Cao, Francesca Simmons, Genevieve Dunne and Philippa Hambly. The voiceovers for each tale belong to friends and family of the company. Roots is a delicious combination of performance and animation talent working at the top of their game, all wrapped up and delivered in an unmissable show. See it at Wilton’s while you can.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Leigh Webber

 

Wilton's Music Hall thespyinthestalls

Roots

Wilton’s Music Hall until 30th October

 

Shows reviewed by Dominica this year:
Adventurous | ★★½ | Online | March 2021
Doctor Who Time Fracture | ★★★★ | Unit HQ | June 2021
Overflow | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | May 2021
L’Egisto | ★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | June 2021
Luck be a Lady | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | June 2021
In My Own Footsteps | ★★★★★ | Book Review | June 2021
Public Domain | ★★★★ | Online | January 2021
Stags | ★★★★ | Network Theatre | May 2021
The Game Of Love And Chance | ★★★★ | Arcola Theatre | July 2021
Starting Here, Starting Now | ★★★★★ | Waterloo East Theatre | July 2021
The Ladybird Heard | ★★★★ | Palace Theatre | July 2021
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice | ★★★ | Online | February 2021
Tarantula | ★★★★ | Online | April 2021
Wild Card | ★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | June 2021
Rune | ★★★ | Round Chapel | August 2021

 

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

★★★★

Wilton’s Music Hall

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 29th January 2020

★★★★

 

“keeps a smile on the face throughout, finding glorious new dimensions and unexpected joyful twists”

 

With a sprinkling of fairy dust and a liberal injection of soul, the Watermill Theatre’s enchanting version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will put a spell on you.

This Dream’s a scream – and with its Edwardian setting fits perfectly into Wilton’s Music Hall. The Shakespearian shadows at the heart of this comedy certainly don’t offend and one senses the ghosts of variety past may be smiling in approval.

It is a play performed so often it takes something special to breathe new life into it and director Paul Hart and a bright young company do the Bard proud with a simply staged version that tells the story with clarity and manages to be joyfully creative too.

There’s some terrific doubling and mirroring of roles, several different to the “normal” and sometimes it’s hard to remember there are just ten performers in the Watermill Ensemble such are the quick changes and versatility of the company.

One innovative reflection here is that balancing out the down to earth thespianism of the Rude Mechanicals the fairies are all trampish shadows of some of the great music hall clowns, such as Fred Karno and Charlie Chaplin.

The Athens set (great stripped back design throughout from Katie Lias) appears to be backstage at a Victorian/Edwardian theatre, all ladders and fly ropes, which is transformed into the magical forest by the falling and raising of a red curtain and a beautifully ornate backcloth. The question being suggested is where the melodrama of real life ends and the otherworldly theatricality begins. Tom White’s lighting adds its own ethereal depth.

We are warned in advance that Lauryn Redding, due to play Bottom, is out of action following an accident during a performance of Macbeth, which runs in repertory with this production, and the 11th hour replacement is Victoria Blunt, who has played the role with the company previously.

There is no need to make any allowance for the substitution as this must be one of the best Bottoms ever seen. In what will go down in history as one of the truly great Shakespeare performances, Blunt finds comedy in every single line and action. Her weaver is a bluff and cheerful Northerner, childlike and cheerful, foolish and charismatic. There are some lovely moments where the fellow mechanicals gaze at her in wonder, enchanted by her daft artistry.

It’s a scene-stealing performance of the highest quality, yet such is the skill of the company and the director that it never overshadows the rest. This is exceptional ensemble work with the actors also playing instruments and delivering some pitch perfect albeit wonderfully incongruous versions of songs ranging from Sam Cooke’s Cupid and Jay Hawkins’ I Put a Spell on You to Laura Mvula’s Sing to the Moon. Joey Hickman’s arrangements conjure up moments of magic themselves.

Molly Chesworth is a sprightly and less than deferential Puck, as fed up with the power games of Oberon (a haughtily smooth and sexy Jamie Satterthwaite) as queen of the fairies Titania (a sultry Emma McDonald).

McDonald doubles as Hippolyta who is equally dismissive of her imperious new husband Theseus (Tow Sowinski who, in a clever and wry touch, also plays Snout the tinker, who in turn plays the ill-treated wall in the hilarious Pyramus and Thisbe play within a play) while Peter Mooney tries to keep the amateur actors in order as an enjoyably enthusiastic Peter Quince.

Robyn Sinclair shows off a magnificent singing voice and a talent for comedy as Helena, one of the four unfortunate lovers toyed with by the playful fairies in the forest. The quartet connects exquisitely and is completed by a dashing Billy Postlethwaite (Lysander), Lucy Keirl (Hermia) and Mike Slader (Demetrius).

This reimagined vibrant version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream keeps a smile on the face throughout, finding glorious new dimensions and unexpected joyful twists to this familiar piece that never loses its lustre.

 

Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Pamela Raith

 

 


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Wilton’s Music Hall until 15th February

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Good, The Bad And The Fifty | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Pirates Of Penzance | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Shape Of the Pain | ★★★★★ | March 2019
The Talented Mr Ripley | ★★★★ | May 2019
The Sweet Science Of Bruising | ★★★★ | June 2019
Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story | ★★★★★ | September 2019
This Is Not Right | ★★★★ | October 2019
Much Ado About Nothing | ★★★★ | November 2019
Christmas Carol – A Fairy Tale | ★★★★ | December 2019
Macbeth | ★★★★ | January 2020

 

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