Escape the Scaffold

As the third and final addition to their Outliers season, The Other Room are back this week with Escape the Scaffold fresh from it’s run at co-producers, theatre 503 in London and yet again, this takes the audience on a brand new journey as soon as the doors close behind them. As we settle down for a rare two act production in the tucked away space at Porters, it’s safe to say we are soon locked down within the house the same as the characters we meet.

The plot jumps back and forth between time but revolves around three friends from university, both in their student days, pjs and tequila shots and all, and also their lives years later as they meet again under different circumstances.  As we step in to a basically furnished house, we see hints of relationships within the love triangle of Grace, Aaron and Marcus and while moments of their interaction show real glimmers of reality, there is a permanent state of unease and their political differences clash from the early on chicken dinner.  From a student lifestyle where the outside world is full of plans to move on and grow up, to what appears to be a police controlled state where the outside world is unsafe and full of fear, there are themes of love, delusion and danger throughout as the three have big choices to make. 

The set is instantly brought to life by a beautiful lighting arrangement by Katy Morrison, as the basement shines with lost hope through the floorboards and the wallpapered walls show hints of the past etched into them. However,  the transitions between scenes are sometimes disjointed and the constant switches in time are disorientating at best as the storyline proved too elusive to keep up with throughout. 

A bewildering, fast paced production which left too many questions unanswered for my liking, but theatre to make you think whilst leaving a sense of unease is no mean feat, and in Escape the Scaffold, the directors and actors collaborate to create a tense and relevant performance. 

Escape the Scaffold plays at The Other Room until the 6th May. For all TOR related updates, follow @TORtheatre on Twitter.

You’ve got Dragons

It’s the Easter holidays, so of course Chapter Arts is full of excited children and their parents downing a much welcomed cuppa, before Taking Flight’s anticipated You’ve Got Dragons takes to the stage. Taking Flight pride themselves on bringing highly accessible theatre to audiences of all ages, and this slice of children’s fun was definitely not exception.

As the lights dim and two Dragons emerge, the audience watch with anticipation, some a little nervous, as the brightly coloured set comes to life and Benjamina tells her story.  Ben has Dragons which follow her on the bus, in class and hide under her bed… but over time she manages to control her demons, taking your dragon for walks can help if you were interested! Whilst some of the anxiety symptoms may have gone over the heads of the younger ones, this doesn’t have any impact on their ability to enjoy the performance, and the music and on stage instruments keep them all involved as different characters appear and the Dragons become a challenge to overcome. 

Despite a slow start and being a little chaotic at times trying to be everything for everyone, You’ve got Dragons has something for the whole family as the parents sympathised with the universal bedtime routine and there was laughter all round as the postman swaggered crossed the set. 

With various elements performed in British sign language, captions on the stage screens and some audio description, the production is incredibly accessible and the bright colours and bouncy music is a welcome burst of sunshine from an otherwise gloomy, rainy Cardiff evening. 

Seanmhair

Not pronounced as you’d expect, Seanmhair (Shen-a-var) is next up in The Other Room’s Outliers season and once again this production is nothing like you’ve ever seen before in the tucked away gem of a black box inside Porters bar. Written by Hywel John, Seanmhair takes us back to the dingy side streets of 1950s Edinburgh and the life of Jenny, at various points in time. 

With an immediately haunting setting and opening monologue, the enclosed audience are drawn into a dark, grim alleyway with dingy lighting and flashes of strip lights and introduced to three women, all barefoot, all playing variations of the same woman.  We’re introduced to an old woman trapped by a husband’s illness, lost of all vitality and tenacity, as he now only pecks at bird type food lost of all power, and then sent straight back in time to a young girl and her enchantment with the glimmer glimmer of the elusive Tommy on her way to school. 

As their lives entwine, their naivety has disturbing and damaging consequences, and it is down to Jenny’s Seanmhair (Scotts Gaelic for Grandmother) to step in as all three actors take on multiple roles, switching effortlessly between bullying school girls, Tommy’s Mother and other members of Jenny’s family.  Each actor is captivating in their performance, and their movement and synchronicity kept the audience entranced from the dimming of the lights. A certain level of concentration is required but it is very easy to slip into Hywel John’s world in this fast paced, tornado like script, and Kate Wasserberg’s direction keeps you both on your toes and glued to the window pane into this Edinburgh tale. 

A haunting and incredibly powerful production, the three actors work seamlessly together as the tight knit script come to life in a claustrophobic and full throttle manner. 

Seanmhair plays at The Other Room until 1st April and will also feature at the Edinburgh Festival this August. Follow @TORtheatre for updates. 

Sinners Club

The Other Room are back for their 2017 season and first up is Gaggle Babble’s latest piece of gig theatre, taking the audience on a journey in to a live recording studio for an emersive and emotive 90 minutes. Written and performed by Lucy Rivers, Sinners Club is a showcase of musical talent whilst telling the story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the UK. 

As the band ‘The Bad Mothers’ enter and begin their recording session, Lucy Rivers immediately has the audience under her spell as she switches from song, to dialogue, to one instrument after the other. Her whole performance is completely entrancing as the piece becomes the soundtrack to Ellis’ life, and even when the narrative loses its way at times, you can’t help but be with her the whole time. 

The space has once again been completely transformed by a cosy, studio set which keeps surprising throughout via a stunning lighting design.  As photos of Ruth Ellis are illuminated and the message ‘an eye for an eye’ is lit and prominent, the soulful voice and accompanying band fill the room as the audience are involved in the relaxed atmosphere, by helping Rivers change and even playing a key character at one point. 

Switching between country to rock, the live music element really brings the story and it’s characters to life as Rivers keeps you on side from her first words to her band mates. An all encompassing and exciting piece of gig theatre showcasing The Other Room in yet another new light. 

Sinners Club plays at The Other Room until the 24th February before transferring to Theatr Clwyd. Follow @TORtheatre for more information. 

The Borrowers

Next up, as part of the Sherman’s double Christmas helping, is the classic children’s tale The Borrowers taking over the main stage this festive season.   Still just as relevant in today’s society, this story may focus on the small people under the floorboards or behind the clock, but they sure have a big message to get across to it’s audiences. 

Arietty has no idea what goes on above the floorboards besides the voices of the human beans and one day her dad takes her out to teach her how to be a true Borrower, kickstarting their big adventure. There were gasps of surprise as we were first introduced to a tiny puppet version of Arietty and even the adults of the audience were on the edge of their seats as the evil Mrs Driver hunted down the pocket sized family. The live music really adds to the performance and the actor musicians switch between roles and instruments seamlessly as the Clock family came across boys galore, a hilarious cricket and  a few others along the way. 

The set and design for this production is gorgeous and the size comparisons are incredibly clever, really making you believe in this magical tale. There isn’t a lot of audience interaction as per your typical children’s Christmas show, although this doesn’t stop the intrigue and interest from the young and the young at heart. 

Directed by Amy Leach, the cast are full of energy and bring Mary Norton’s classic story to life in an enjoyable fashion.  A beautiful tale full of magic, heart and messages of acceptance, letting go and above all, family: The Borrowers is well worth the trip to the Sherman this December. 

The Emperor’s New Clothes

Christmas is almost upon us, it’s a sneaky one isn’t it, where has 2016 gone?! But amongst the mince pies and the pigs in blankets, the Sherman have their double helpings of Christmas magic on offer once again and yesterday it was time for Alun Saunders’, The Emperor’s New Clothes.

The Hans Christian Anderson classic has been brought to life by the Sherman and Theatr Iolo and has taken over the studio space as clothes hang from the balcony and the stairs.  The setting is instantly very informal and interactive as the three actors encourage the children to sit on the mats near the front and talk to them as the audience enters the space.  

The story revolves around Kare and his life growing up to be an Emperor and having responsibillywhatsits and from his first yells and bursts of funny faces, the young audience members are roaring with laughter. As the three actors switch between songs, dialogue and musical instruments, the story comes to life and a little bit of imagination is in order as the minimal set design is injected with joy and new threads! 

With no pouting or pwdi’s in sight, Kare soon learns that his parents were right all along and that you must always laugh at yourself (or somebody else will do it fo you!) Ending with a lovely rendition of the title song, the young and young at heart are reminded that sometimes all it takes is a good chuckle and a bit of silliness.  The Emperors New Clothes is a wonderful delight of a Christmas show for 3-6 year olds. 

The Emperor’s New Clothes | Sherman Theatre and Theatr Iolo | At the Sherman until 31st December 

Blink

Unconventional love stories are not uncommon nowadays, and Blink consists of just that bringing a welcome change of pace and source of happiness to Cardiff’s pub theatre. Brought to The Other Room as part of its Autumn/winter season by Critical Ambition and Volcano, this is a cleverly told, endearing tale of loneliness and love in one of the world’s busiest cities. 

With the original script from Phil Porter, Blink features two young singletons living in London. Sophie, who ‘lacks visibility’ and who has a hidden love for violent video games, and Jonah, who moves in to the flat downstairs and who’s obsessive compulsive disorder gives a humorous insight into the world as he sees it. The two each talk directly to the audience for the most part, both too awkward or self concious to talk to each other, as their story begins and their paths run in parallel until they cross.

The audience is taken between silence and bursts of laughter with ease, and Tom Myles, as Jonah, especially is brilliantly expressive with impeccable comic timing, and their rightful intentions keep us on side despite their questionable actions. With a cleverly adaptable set, taking us from a hospital bed to the top of the London Eye with the spin of a bunk bed, the soundscape adds massively to the simple but sincere production.

A serious but silly, upside down but straight up love story: brilliantly performed in an endearing fashion, Blink is a wonderful escape from the outside world.

Blink plays at The Other Room until November 19th. Follow @TORtheatre for more updates and tickets.