Exodus

Motherlode are back, following their previous success with The Good Earth, and this time, Exodus has landed at the lovely Chapter as part of it’s Welsh tour.

In the perfectly sized Seligman theatre, the audience are introduced to Mary, a manager in retail for a company that ‘used to be River Island’, and as she describes her day, we are eased in to a warm and full of heart story. Mary is soon roped in to be part of a flying adventure to Argentina, whilst on a visit to see her Mother in Aberdare, with an old friend, Ray leading the way on their big adventure.

Teamed up with Timmy, a silent immigrant who speaks only through his violin, and local boy, Gareth who has perfected the pre-flight safety demonstration to a tee to move his focus away from his brother. Gwenllian Higginson as Mary really joins the four together, and the impact of changes in their society and mental health become apparent as each steps forward, although never to dwell, just to relay.

Political without being overbearing, we learn of the last factory in the town closing and being destroyed, and of the cuts being made, and the protests in the streets to welcome all. The humour which sits deep within the Welsh valleys outshines the darkness, and this new piece of writing really works under the direction of Rachael Boulton. A few areas could be refined and tightened but overall, the movement and choreography is pitched perfectly as the plane jolts and soars, and despite their differences, the moments where the cast are in unison as an ensemble really seal the deal.

A piece full of hope and warmth, despite the underlying themes of poverty and troubles, which is relatable, funny and well worth a watch across Wales and the UK.

Exodus plays at Chapter until the 20th October before moving on on its tour. Full details via @Motherlodewales on twitter.

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This Incredible Life

As part of a tour of Wales, this week Canoe theatre are back at the lovely Chapter with their production of This Incredible Life.

We’re introduced to Mab and her nephew, Robert, who are waiting for a car to arrive to take them both to an awards ceremony in London, to celebrate Mab’s journalism achievements over the years. It soon becomes clear that the two spending time together is not a common occurrence, and as only Mab switches swiftly between Welsh and English, the audience is quick to discover that Robert has made big strides away from the place that was once home.

Despite still enjoying the power of storytelling, Mab’s memory is not what it once was and confusion has set in, and she recounts stories from the past, aided by video excerpts only visible to her. Oblivious to Robert’s inability to see her memories, the stories and truths unravel and the differences and similarities between the two soon become clear. ‘Bertie’ has his own worries, and with his Aunt as a reminder of his deceased Father, his patience soon wears thin.

The text itself, written by Alan Harris, is heart warming and the writing lends itself well to a wide audience, although the production could definitely have benefitted from being a pure two hander. The alternate actors in the videos lose the chemistry between the on-stage performers, not aided by the inevitable technical hitches, and the piece loses its heart a little via the disconnect, although the end scene is a simple but beautiful cross over to conclude.

This Incredible Life is thoughtful and heartwarming, with a script which is a great exploration of memories, story telling and what the truth is. The companies work with Dementia Friendly performances is a brilliant leap in connecting audiences to their own stories, and this is definitely worth a watch on it’s tour this autumn.

The Awkward Years

The evenings are getting darker earlier, and the beautiful heatwave has come to an end, so it’s only apt that The Other Room are back with their Autumn season at Cardiff’s wonderful pub theatre in Porters. Written by Matthew Bulgo, The Awkward Years is the latest production to take over the space and this one woman show is unassuming but fully charged from the dim of the lights.

With a jolt and a flash of light, we’re introduced to Lily, who finds herself mid-hangover after another night out and the resulting encounter with a ‘random’. She tells of how her and her housemates liken their one night stands to catchy film titles, and how she strategically manages to maintain her cool as she wipes away stray vomit, although it soon becomes clear that there is something bubbling under the surface as her Mother struggles to get a response and her best friend looks on…

Recently graduated from RWCMD, Lauren O’Leary has mastered the act of the downward spiral, and as her sentences stop and start, and her body jerks amidst the chaos and her emotions, she commands the stage brilliantly. From stumbling down Womanby Street in the early hours, to a cupboard encounter with her boss at the leisure centre, we are taken on a rollercoaster through the post college period where chaos takes over and the life you once knew lulls in limbo.

Whilst some points within the text are a little laboured and overdone, O’Leary’s performance remains undeterred and her comic timing is spot on, as she says it how it is without any thought of potential audience laughter. Brilliantly emphasised by the shakes and splashes of lighting, in tune with the soundscape, the designers need a special hats off as the stark set comes to life within the confined space at Porters.

The Awkward Years is a tale with secrets and a bit of joining the dots, pitched and performed with guts and vulnerability to the perfect length, which will stay on your mind long after the final blackout.

The Awkward Years plays at The Other Room until September 29th. Follow @TORtheatre for more info

Shift

The Circus Hub in the meadows is one of the best places to go for a little escapism of the festival, for it can be a pretty full on place to be in August. Shift was the perfect remedy for a manic day, and there was no doubt that the tent was in awe from very early on in the piece.

Following hits such as Bromance, the Barely Methodical Troupe are back as part of the Circus line up at this years festival and Shift shows their four performances display an array of skills and immense strength and they take centre stage in the tent. They take it in turns to test their abilities and their strength as they come to terms with just how much weight their bodies can withstand, with the young female performer giving the most impressive performance of the four.

  • With a huge elastic band, a large metal hoop, as well as each performers bodies moving in unbelievable ways, the audience are very much involved from the beginning, despite those in the front row start to retreat further back in their seats as objects get a little close for comfort. The soundtrack and light design work beautifully well alongside the acts, and whilst each breaks free of their confines, so too do their accompaniments.
  • With some comedic moments, as well as many moments leaving the audience open mouthed, and one gent further along the row from me repeatedly muttering wow under his breath, Shift is the perfect escape and an incredible display of circus skills mixed with theatre from a flawless ensemble.

    Shift plays at Underbelly: Circus Hub until August 26th

    Hunch

    As usual, Edinburgh is bursting with single performer productions this August and over at Assembly Roxy, Kate Kennedy has written and is performing Hunch, and her portrayal sure packs a punch.

    Decision making doesn’t come easy to everyone, and those stabbing aches you get in your gut when you don’t know what to do can happen at any moment in life’s ups and downs. It is soon established that this happens to our female character, Una, and when a gut feeling saves her life, she is called upon as a new superhero, to help others to do the same in Hum.

    Hum is a world relatable to our own, with analogies to make you chuckle, but also removed enough to evoke the imaginations of the audience. The whole piece is a whirlwind of different characters, whether Hunch, Una’s given superhero name, is saving others or coming to terms with her own thoughts and feelings in her new role. As Kennedy switched between roles, the in-sync lighting really emphasises her skills as she effortlessly changes from minister to office worker to her own Dad, amongst many others.

    As someone going in with very little prior knowledge of the script or piece, Hunch was an excellent surprise, despite taking a while to bed in in the midst of the tornado of personas, and Kennedy truly soars, captivating from her arrival on stage. A brilliant example of how one actor can bring to life a whole town.

    Hunch. Assembly Roxy until the 26th August.

    Best Life

    It’s that time of the year again, the most wonderful time of the year: it’s Edinburgh festival fringe time. And while I’m a little late to the party this year, I’m up for a flying five day visit with loads to cram in!

    Back at Underbelly again, is the lovely Tamar Broadbent with her new show: Best Life. Tucked away in Cowgate this year, the comedian and singer/songwriter has been conflicted between the instagram lives of the people she follows on social media, and her Grandma’s wise words on relationships and finding a nice man ‘who will look after her’, and her show whirls around her life, hopes and dreams in a charming and heart warming manner.

    With songs involving avocados trumping mortgages and ‘those’ boys you can probably do without, Tamar rolls through tales of her first-world problems, and her dreams for the future with ease and a knowledgable smile. The piece is highly relatable for lots of 20 something’s, and laugh out loud funny regardless, the hour flies by and you’re left wondering if Tamar could do daily podcasts to make light of the fact you’re choosing brunch over big life choices.

    Likened to Victoria Wood by another audience member on the way out, I highly recommend grabbing a ticket if you can, for a hour full of joy, belly laughs and the realisation that it’s not just you fighting the insta-life reality… as in actual fact you should really just be living your life and #doingitforGrandma.

    Tamar Broadbent: Best Life plays at Underbelly Cowgate until the 26th August

    Mydidae

    The Other Room play host to the debut production of new company, OtherLife as they take on Jack Thorne’s Mydidae this time round and as the audience takes their seats as dust bunnies on the top bathroom shelf, there’s already an air of unease within the space.

    The whole pieces takes place within the bathroom of a couples home, and we are introduced to Marian and David, as she tries to learns French and he prepares for a big pitch in work. As they come and go throughout the day, it soon becomes clear that it is not all happy families within the household and their secrets are laid out when they are at their most vulnerable, in supposedly the most private place in the home.

    As the pub theatre space has been transformed in to a fully working bathroom for this production, it is very easy to be caught up in the drama in the confined space as the story unfolds. However, despite the brave performances from the two actors, and a huge lack of physical inhibition which is taken as far as possible, the intensity is disorientating at times and it seems as though the direction struggles to fully establish the relationship and all its complexity.This is a confident debut production from OtherLife although the delivery is not quite fully formed, given the intensity of the underlying themes of Jack Thorne’s writing.

    Mydidae runs at The Other Room until June 2nd. For further updates on The Other Room, follow @TORtheatre