All posts by Robbi Lindsay

Robbi Lindsay is a Birkbeck Alumni. She holds from Birkbeck a BSc in Social Sciences with International Relations and a Masters in Journalism. Robbi has a keen interest in investigating and writing about internet security and is currently endeavouring to transition into this fast and growing field.

Review: Kill Me Now @ParkTheatre

This was my first experience of the Park Theatre, and, perhaps understandably, I was not entirely prepared for what I was about to experience. Had I checked out their website and known they “choose plays … [with] strong narrative drive and emotional content”, I may have approached Kill Me Now without expectations of conventional entertainment.

Greg Wise returns to the stage after 17 years playing Jake Sturdy, struggling father to a disabled son, Joey (Oliver Gomm). Wise is still a thoroughly able performer, unlike his character, a former writer forced to give up work to care for his son. Wise and Gomm were joined by Charlotte Harwood, Anna Wilson-Jones and Jack McMullen, all of whom gave outstanding performances in this European debut of Canadian playwright Brad Fraser’s script.

From the outset, the audience was asked to work hard. I checked the time 40 minutes in, not because I was waiting for the end; rather, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to hold back a torrent of tears that long. When the end finally came, the characters on stage were not the only ones left devastated and broken.

This is not to say there were no moments of levity. But for me, the laughter was also uncomfortable. I was still struggling with the numerous issues that Joey’s physical disability posed for those around him. Many situations were completely foreign to me, and the ways in which family, friends and institutions dealt with them were unconventional, crossing social norms and challenging many of my own moral positions.

When the performance was over, some of the hardier members of the audience gave the cast a standing ovation. I hope they did not feel slighted that I remained rooted in my seat. I could not move. My back ached, my head throbbed, and the tension in my shoulders made it difficult to raise my hands to clap – a physical testament to how affected I was by what I had seen.

Suddenly, I heard someone ask us to clear the theatre. The stage was empty. My friend nudged me and said we had to leave. I got up, still wiping the tears from my eyes. I checked that no one had seen me break down so completely; my friend smiled at me in reassurance.

As I reflect on the play I am forced to wonder how often people with disabilities, their carers and friends must feel, or even cry aloud, “kill me now.” I have to remind myself that I only saw two hours of what many people must live with every day.

While I cannot say Kill Me Now was entertaining, it was most certainly an educational and deeply emotional experience. Director Braham Murray managed to achieve a synergy among the cast that allowed for a different kind of interaction with the audience, eliciting emotions between laughter and tears. If you are looking for theatre that offers this kind of deeper involvement, then I wholeheartedly recommend you see this.

Kill Me Now is at the Park Theatre until 29 March.

Odyssey @VaultFesitval

Whether you know Homer’s poem The Odyssey or not (and I don’t), it seems implausible that in the space of seventy minutes the story of the Odyssey could be acted out by one person with any effect.  But it was.

Despite what I would describe as the most annoying sound effects, I think something akin to “beats”, the use of sounds (a different sound for each character, mainly the gods) I must begrudgingly admit were used with great effect. So despite my annoyance, the truth is that the sounds were pivotal in making the play work. Note, however, that others were amused by the sounds and enjoyed the use of the varying swooshing and other variety of sounds used to introduce each character. One can only ask if this was the way of old when oral story telling was the norm.

But enough about sound effects. The use of phrases such as “brilliant”, “magnificent”, and “genius” are so readily used in describing artistic works, sometimes being a disservice rather than a compliment. Odyssey is co-devised and co-written by Theatre Ad Infinitum’s artistic co-directors Nir Paldi and George Mann with  Paldi directing and Mann performing.  Mann as narrator assists his audience through his actions of the many different roles that he plays. With no props (unless you consider his neutral costume a prop) Mann is able to take a complex plot line and strip it back to its bare bones and make it an entertaining and enjoyable performance. Not knowing anything about The Odyssey, I left feeling I knew the essentials of this piece of Homer’s work. And, I certainly now have a desire to one day read The Odyssey. However, as I’m not convinced that there was much left out, perhaps reading this piece of work is not entirely necessary.

The play requires a great deal of energy, animation, physical stamina and humour to be a success and Mann is successful in this regard. His performance is dynamic and has both breadth and depth. The characters are brought to life, and visualising them all being on stage is not difficult to do. At no time does the stage seem empty as Mann is able to place the presence of each character on stage thereby making them colourful, interesting and engaging. They have staying power as he moves from character to character. Mann’s ability to do this can only be marvelled at.

Mann’s highly energetic performance in Odyssey is sincere, humble and worthy of praise.  So, I suppose, when people use words like: “brilliant”, “magnificent” and “genius” or some other like phrase they do so because our language has no other words to describe brilliance. Although I’m happy to use less descriptive language, Odyssey is an outstanding play that has several wonderful moments that dazzle, at least it dazzled me and I’m willing to start my journey to find words that describe artistic brilliance. In the meantime, yes, it is a “must see”.

Odyssey runs until 1 March at the Vault Festival.

 

Late start for #LieCollector @VaultFestival

Yve Blake, the performer and co-composer of Lie Collector, finally takes to the stage 15 minutes after start time. Seated in what can only be described as the most obstructed view in the theatre, I was determined that she would have to overcome mountains to get me to engage with the show.

Blake and her trusty Apple Computer were off and the audience was immediately engaged. Visual effects were a central theme to the show and I believe they were used with good effect. I say believe because no matter how much I stretched I really could not see. Nevertheless, I could hear and rather than being angry for not seeing and hating the entire performance, I was angry because I couldn’t see and was loving the performance.  So much for mountains to overcome – and we were only 10 minutes in.

Blake takes ordinary people’s stories about lies they’ve told and retells them through narration, song and a bit of dance. Her singing voice is good, although at times I had difficulty understanding exactly what she was singing – but that wasn’t anymore problematic than when I simply didn’t understand the use of regional phrases. Nevertheless, just in case you were in doubt, she has that special look that tells you it’s a funny moment or that something more profound is to be taken from the moment. And, the dance you ask? Simply put, it was entertaining.

Yve Blake in Lie Collector at VAULT Festival 2015. Credit Katie Lambert. (8)
Credit: Katie Lambert

Blake tells us it was her second time performing Lie Collector. This, quite frankly, I found hard to believe. She is not only a natural comic; she is a good storyteller. She was animated and energetic for her entire time on stage – even through the numerous costume changes. If anything, the many costume changes, some of which were not as seamless as Blake may have liked, could have been reduced and replaced, preferably, with a few more dance and song sequences.

As for the lies Blake collected from the internet and face-to-face: I’m not sure what we should have come away thinking about the lies we all tell, but I came away with a new appreciation for lies. Perhaps not solely her intent, but I certainly understood that a ‘lie’ plays different roles in different circumstances.

Blake’s story is an interesting one and told in a way that brings about reflection on how we utilise the lie in our everyday lives. In the end, a lie is a lie no matter how you dress it up. It’s a mess up, she claims (incidentally she did not say mess up; I paraphrase), sometimes a big mess up, sometimes not so much.

It is an important story that Blake tells and her friends encouraged her not to mess it up (again I paraphrase) and she most definitely did not mess it up.

Blake is easy to watch on stage. Whether she decides to stick to writing comedy or whether she decides to be front and centre on stage, if her second performance is anything to go by she is poised to bring enjoyment to audiences for a long time to come.

Blake is continually looking for new stories to add to her repertoire so do check in and tell your best story, preferably a lie, at www.WhoWereWe.com.

True Brits

True Brits is about the fleeting mixed-race relationship between Rahul and Jess.

Through this relationship Vinay Patel, billed as an outstanding young British Asian playwright and one to watch, craftily exhibits his understanding of the complexities of emotions and ideologies within the Asian community and his understanding of human relationships.

Patel masterfully yet subtly reminds us that relationships are difficult, whether between men and women, parents and children, cultures and nations. He affirms that it takes patience, understanding and love from all parties for relationships to be successful. Love, in the case of cultures and nations, means to respect humanity.

TRUE BRITS, The Vaults, Waterloo, London, UK.
Credit: Jane Hobson

Patel’s story works on stage because of David Mumeni’s skillful ability to perform this dynamic narrative – for just over an hour with no other aid than that of a couple of blocks.

Often when the story of injustices suffered by a community are told you can find yourself angry, disillusioned and without hope in humanity. Not so in True Brits. At no time does Rahul tell his story in a way to illicit such feelings. There is no squirming in your seat; you are not made to be uncomfortable. Rather, Rahul tells his story convincingly with passion, humour, dignity and self-respect, perhaps qualities that can only be attributed to his youthfulness and naivety.

Rahul’s story, assisted by the bland but effective set design, reminds us that it is ordinary people living ordinary lives with ordinary circumstances that make changes in societies. Rahul loves and lives the life of a Brit, loving his sport among other things British.

TRUE BRITS, The Vaults, Waterloo, London, UK.
Credit: Jane Hobson

Rahul is such a Brit that it appears he does not accuse or hate but rather he readily accepts the changes to the social life of young Asians post 7/7. With spirited dialogue, Rahul invites us to sit with him in the park, in the pub or in his front room as he reveals the internal struggle and the consequences he bears both inside and outside of the Asian community since the bombings.

 

For me, Mumeni’s performance is genuine. His ability to take us through complex emotions and concepts and make it look effortless does not go unnoticed. In fact, it was so effortless that at times I struggled to understand the street talk and lingo – but perhaps it was never intended for me and others outside of the Asian community to understand or maybe it is because I myself am only a pretend Brit.

In fact, I am such a pretend Brit that I almost stood up to do the “ovation thing,” a very North American way to show my appreciation for the collaboration of Patel, Mumeni and director Tanith Lindon who synthesised the script and the performance with artistic expertise. I’m happy to say I found my British composure and simply raised my hands as high as I could and applauded for as long as I was allowed, which I might add was not long enough.

True Brits is part of the Vault Festival and continues until 22 February 2015.

Now Gallery comes to Greenwich @NOWGallery

My first of what I hope will be many outings to the newly opened Now Gallery in Greenwich was on Halloween and the treat or perhaps the trick of the evening was the opening short of Disney’s 1929 Skeleton Dance Skeleton Dance was not part of the sextet of films being screened that evening but perhaps, at least for me, because I like animation the highlight of the evening.

The evening, titled Unshore: the Artists’ Thames on Film, was the second in a series focusing on different aspects of London life. The films can best be described as innovative, arty and creative. For me, they were refreshing to watch being different from we usually get to see on television or in the cinema. The six films required active engagement and perhaps to the chagrin of the filmmakers, if they were to know, what I made of the films was miles away from their intent.

Polly II: Plan for a Revolution in the Docklands by Anja Kirschner  was a full-length feature lasting 30 minutes. The film’s premise was if East London was cut off by flooding then the poorer population would be segregated from the rich who’d have no intentions of rectifying the situation. It has a bit of everything you’d expect from a disaster film and perhaps a bit more, but for me the social commentary embedded in the film could not be overlooked and forced the viewer to think about, if nothing else the north/south and east/west divide along economic and social lines that the River Thames creates.

The other films of the evening did not capture my attention as much with the exception of Colour on the Thames, which took you down the Thames in colour in the mid 1930s. Not knowing the London of old this was for me a historical gem.

Debuting that night was Tamesa, by Rosalind Fowler. It would, perhaps, have been prudent of me to read what the film was about before I drew any conclusions as to its meaning. There is a wonderful scene of the filmmaker dragging 16 mm film along the banks of the Thames. It readily put me in mind of the scene in Independence Day (where Will Smith drags the alien muttering and cursing away). Having my reference point in place, I interpreted this as our alienation from critical thinking because of how film is used to direct our moral codes and shape our views of our world. I was on a roll in my understanding this very arty, imaginative film and I was enjoying how easily I was understanding “art”. When the filmmaker lights the water on fire, I’m positive that she has done this to show the level of pollution in the Thames.

Then the screenings were followed with a Q&A session. If anyone had looked at me as the film was explained they would have seen me shrinking into an unrecognisable substance (known as embarrassment). No, the filmmaker was not talking about alienation of any sort nor was she concerned about pollution in the Thames. The film was about processing analogue film using the water from the Thames.  What was understood by some was it reflected the struggle for artists to move away from analogue film and to adopt the digital medium.

Yes, I had clearly missed the point. But despite this, I was able to take something from this film that was meaningful to me. Although, I think the filmmaker may totally disagree, I think there is room for my interpretation. Regardless of the misinterpretation this was a delightful 10 minute film.

If you are a film student here at Birkbeck the Now Gallery has a late evening (Now Late) the last Friday of every month. The opportunity to see some innovative films, to chat, ask questions with some of the best, upcoming talent and with veterans for the price of £5 in a small but comfortable theatre may prove not only to be of educational value but a nice evening out.

The Now Gallery is nestled in the Greenwich Peninsula next door to the 02 Arena. The next instalment is titled Capital: Framing London and will be held Friday, 28th November.

 

Photo credit: Peter Morgan

Fourwalls film project @fourwallslondon

The launch of the FOURWALLS film project aims to give Londoners a voice on the housing crisis. Commissioned by David Lammy MP, the project appeals to people across London to create their own three-minute videos about their experiences and perspectives on living in London for the chance to win up to £1,000.

If you are interested and would like to enter, further information can be found at www.fourwalls.london.