My name is Rachel Corrie

Next up in The Other Room’s autumn season is the debut production from new company, Graphic. Directed by Chelsea Gillard, no stranger to the space, My Name is Rachel Corrie is spirited and ever important as it takes to the floor in Cardiff’s pub theatre this week.

American activist, Rachel Corrie was intentionally hit and killed by a bulldozer in Gaza when she was just 23 years old. This production is made up of diary entries and emails from her life up to this point as she leaves her teenage bedroom in Washington behind and travels to Gaza to bring that touch of humanity back to the war stricken border between Israel and Palestine. 

The soundscape is an excellent touch to the production and while Corrie rattles through conversations, nights sleeping on the floor next to the children of  her adopted family and her hunts for a ballpoint pen, the added background noise and changes in lighting really help to emphasise the timing and context of the piece 

Despite the power in the writing, the piece takes it time to get going and drama student Shannon Keogh struggles to add the needed darkness and light to the piece until the last 15 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, while the importance and truth in her words is apparent, she doesn’t quite seem to believe in her own performance and despite the brilliant stage design, her static presence unfortunately causes the mind to wander. 

Full of resistance and relevance, but with not quite enough fight or pace in its delivery, My Name is Rachel Corrie is a promising debut from Graphic. 

My name is Rachel Corrie runs at The Other Room until 21st October

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Happy 70th Ed Fringe!

So my time up in Edinburgh may have come to an end but with two weeks to go, there is so much still to see and do. The atmosphere in Edinburgh throughout August is impossible to describe and is possibly the best kind of chaos you’ll find anywhere in the world. 

From children’s shows to alcohol fuelled Shakespeare, and one man shows to stages brimming with ensemble, 30 shows filled my schedule interspersed with bacon rolls, orange juice and lemonade, Lidl bakery treats and a pint or two for good measure.

I laughed until I cried with Tamar Broadbent’s and her newly single lifestyle in her new show, Get Ugly and survived the front row as Shitfaced Shakespeare‘s production of Romeo and Juliet took a turn towards a Hebrew wedding with an inflatable dinosaur as a guest. Gecko’s The Dreamer was mesmerising to watch with stunning imagery, whilst Translunar Paradise from Ad Infinitum showed a heart string tugging story of love and loss. The Paines Plough Roundabout hosted some brilliant performances from Dirty Protest’s Sugar Baby (a fab take of Cardiff life fuelled with energy and the words of Billy the Seal), to the wonderful three hander Out of Love, exploring growing up and growing apart with an honest and heart warming script from Elinor Cook.  

How to win against History is a huge dose of fabulous over at Assembly George Square, back for another year by popular demand, and the Stiff and Kitsch duo had us cackling with laughter in their highly relatable show Adele is younger than us. 

There was a distinct whiff of alcohol based wisdom during The Thinker Drinkers (the gin was most definitely my favourite!), and there were belly laughs galore during Jenny Collier’s, Fantastic Beasts and where to find Jen. Traverse Theatre once again had a super popular and stellar line up, with an endearing script and on stage relationship during Jess and Joe forever, and an absolute powerhouse of a vocal performance from Josette Bushell-Mingo in Nina: A Story about me and Nina Simone. Secret life of Humans from New Diorama is brilliantly staged and The Nature of Forgetting is beautiful in it’s choreography and live soundtrack as it explores dementia and the memories that stick with us.

The one (wo)man shows are out in force this year, with a fast paced, hard hitting hour from Milly Thomas and Dust, a grim and dirty take of a bereaved dad in Trashed, a high five for the NHS in Gutted and the highly important journey of Seline Thompson in Salt among many others. Over at Zoo Southside, Wanna Dance with Somebody! Or a guide to managing social anxiety using theoretical physics was one of my impromptu decisions and it was a diamond of a show which was impossible not to get up and dance along to at the end. 

I managed to catch Part One of The Divide as my first experience of Edinburgh International Festival and had massively mixed feelings but would be intrigued to see Part 2 at some point in the future if it’s set to tour. Despite the length, the staging itself is brilliant and my jaw dropped multiple times during Act 2. The Conti Ensemble are ones to watch as The Laramie Project was tense viewing with strong vocals from the ensemble throughout as witness statement after witness statement was presented following the horrific events in Wyoming. 

There is a brilliant concoction of productions for children and young people across the venues, with brilliant slapstick fun from Three Half Pint’s rendition of The Three Musketeers, and a great introduction to classical music from CCC in The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck over at the Circus Hub out in the Meadows. How to be a Kid made me feel all fuzzy inside as the importance of staying young and dancing to Taylor Swift became apparent, and there were songs and rocket fuel galore with Les Petits Theatre The First Hippo on the Moon. Dr Zeiffal, Dr Zeigal and the Hippo that Can Never Be Caught! had the hippo hunters in the audience roaring with laughter and suggestions for catching a hippo, whilst Oskar’s Amazing Adventures took us to the snowy mountains for a puppies mission to make friends and explore. 

Whilst that’s my main round up out the way, there are thousands of productions at the festival which I didn’t get to and I had more than a few time clashes and ran out of hours in the day unfortunately! I’ve heard wonderful things about Jack Rooke over at Underbelly, Theatre Ad Infinitum’s other show Odyssey is sure to be brilliant, and Nassim at Traverse has had a fantastic response from audience members and critics alike. Monica Dolan has just won a Stage Award for her performance in The B*easts, and the awards will surely start to roll in across the board now as You’ve changed also picks up a gong. All we ever wanted was everything is said to be really strong gig theatre, Cosmic Scallies was on my wish list but clashed and DollyWould has had lots of recommendations from the twittersphere. Back by popular demand, Lemons, lemons, lemons… and Every Brilliant Thing are back again at the Roundabout, both excellent pieces which I have seen in previous years (take tissues for the latter!), and following its success at The Other Room, Cardiff, the incredible Seanmhair is over at Bedlam. And towards the end of the month the renown Fleabag is back again, so we’ll have to hope for a regional tour for that one! 

To everyone lucky enough to still be in Edinburgh or is heading up over the next two weeks, have an amazing time. I am back home for the first night in my own bed and despite this still have massive fear of missing out on anything and everything.

See you next year Edinburgh: Happy 70th you beauty! 

The Nature of Forgetting

There is physical theatre galore at the festival this summer and it is slowly becoming more and more common in regional theatres across the country.  Tucked away in a corner of Pleasance Courtyard, The Nature of Forgetting is a beautiful piece on living with dementia and the absent mindedness that comes hand in hand. 

A new production from Theatre Re, we meet a father on his 55th birthday and as he struggles with simple daily routine and the names of loved ones, his mind is flooded with memories and moments of importance from his past. With very little dialogue, the onstage musicians play a vital part in guiding us through the story and the choreography and movement is perfectly in sync as the ensemble unite as character after character. 

With several scenes back to Tom’s school days, as the earliest memories are now the most prominent in his mind, and one bicycle scene which is full of joy, and ear to ear grins… the memories switch between the vague and the more certain and the cast excel themselves in their movements and sheer presence in the space. 

A very powerful and mesmerising piece receiving a well deserved standing ovation: this production will make you think, feel and sit back in awe. 

The Nature of Forgetting | Pleasance Courtyard

The tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-duck

There’s something lovely and relaxing about taking an hour out of the hustle and bustle of the festival to sit in a beautiful circus tent in the cenre of the Meadows whilst an orchestra masterfully plays its way through a children’s classic. The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck has been brought to the Underbelly Circus Hub by Children’s Classic Concerts this summer and the tent was full of families excitedly scribbling on activity sheets and looking forward to the show.

The Beatrix Potter books are often a staple in a family home, and as Michelle Todd arrives to the stage in Potter style dress, the stories begin and Todd sings and narrates her way through with the accompaniment of an on stage mini orchestra.  As Jemima Puddle-duck tries to find a spot to lay her eggs away from the farmer, and Peter Rabbit loses yet another blue jacket and shoes, the stories came audibly to life as all members of the family fell in to the Beatrix Potter world.

The music itself is beautiful but there were several restless moments and something visual to entertain the younger members of the audience could be of benefit here.  However, the score soars as danger approaches from the fox or Mr McGregor, and the stories are wonderfully told via classical music. There is no doubt that Todd’s voice is a brilliant addition to the instrumental backing. 

Whilst this performance lacked visual aids and interaction with the audience, CCC have created a brilliant introduction to classical music for children and the orchestra beautiful bob along between duck footprints and the sound of the nasty Mr McGregor approaching.

The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-duck | Underbelly Circus Hub

Dr. Zeiffal, Dr. Zeigal and The Hippo That Can Never Be Caught!

Have you ever tried to catch a hippo? Didn’t think so! This show is an interactive family show slightly out of the norm from your standard children’s peformance, and despite a bold as brass and slightly restless audience, Dr Zieffal, Dr Zeigal and The Hippo that can never be caught went down a storm in the early morning slot at Assembly Roxy. 

As we are introduced to Dr Zieffal, whose assistant has gone awol, we are also introduced to her hippo hunting tactics and tool kit, all wonderfully colour coordinated in a very special area of the stage.  Imagination is key in this one, and even the adults in the audience had their hippo google goggles on ready to hunt for the escaped mammal. Members of the audience are invited on stage at various points to help in the mission, and there was a really touching moment when one young boy picked up the scientists umbrella as she attempted to stack and carry everything to no success. 

With a very relaxed feel to the whole performance, as the children shouted out suggestions and tried to help as much as possible as a brilliant chase ensued across and around the stage.  Although some longer pauses and wordy scripted moments caused several younger ones to lose focus, the overal chaotic and fun nature of the performance kept the audience hooked throughout.

Brilliant fun and a whole load of hippo hunters in the making, this is a treat for the early morning slot and one for children not afraid to get involved! 

Dr. Zeiffal, Dr. Zeigal and The Hippo That Can Never Be Caught! Mouth of Lions – Assembly Roxy

How to be a Kid

Paines Plough are back with the beloved roundabout and a stellar line up once again at the festival this year, and their early morning kids offering is a total gem. How to be a Kid is just what any one needs first thing, young or young at heart, and the messages of not growing up too quickly resonate with a lot of the audience. 

Molly does all the cooking and cleaning, and looking after of younger brother when their Nan’s passes away and their Mum is struggling to cope. But Molly is only 12, and with everyone telling her different things about whether she needs to grow up or that she’s just a kid, one day it is all just too much. This show takes us on a break out adventure to find Molly’s inner kid once more, and with some help from Vera and a well timed promo voucher.

Although the story itself could do with a little more background into the family set up, the performances and messages are insightful and heart warming to see, as the bus zooms around the space, they dive in to the pool out of hours and Joe’s diplodocus moves hijack Molly’s cool levels on the walk home making two brothers down the front roar with laughter. With no props or set, the lighting design is crucial and works brilliantly to help us set the scene, from a dark house in the middle of the day to the bright lights of the Golden Arches. 

With chocolate cake, happy meals and a large dose of Taylor Swift, How to be a Kid is a wonderful piece on upside down family life, with a whole lot of heart and the roundabout stage suits the three hander brilliantly. 
How to be a Kid | Paines Plough Roundabout @ Summerhall

A trip down Constellation Street

Like every city, Cardiff is full of characters, some loud, some maybe less charming than others and some you would never guess have such a story to tell. The next offering from The Other Room’s Insomnia season is Constellation Street written by Matthew Bulgo, and like many of the others, the ticket comes with a punch in the gut that leaves you wanting more.

After apprehensively waiting in a holding area clutching a travel card, the audience are then ushered in to The Other Room which has been transformed once again… Just when you think the space couldn’t be used any better, TOR strike again. The attention to detail is incredible and designer, Amy Jane Cook has done a brilliant job in bringing alive each element. Split into smaller spaces, each audience member takes a different path through Cardiff’s back streets and it is very easy to lose your bearings as you move between various locations, each one with a new story to tell.

Each monologue is skilfully written, lulling the audience in to the small and slightly claustrophobic spaces with many a ‘take a seat, love’ and reassuring smiles from the ushering team, before hurtling in to dark confessions and stories of deceit, heart ache and despair. The performances are all very strong and Gwenllian Higginson especially, gives a heartbreaking and solid interpretation of Alex, even contesting with a reversing bin lorry and the buzz of the nearby railway adding to life on Cardiff’s streets.

Whether you are being offered a good deed pint, or your eye contact has been locked for one of the deeper explanations, each performance seems personal and natural; allowing audience members to connect with the characters one by one.

It is the writing which really struck a chord, as each story slowly overlapped and each monologue could be seen in virtually whichever order.  Matthew Bulgo has delved deep in to the back story of each individual, and they all entwine perfectly as the puzzle becomes complete.  Each audience member see’s three out of the four, however, out of of pure curiosity, this is one production I will be returning to specifically for the play text.

This promenade piece is one not to miss as the brilliantly directed Constellation Street brings Matthew Bulgo’s writing to life perfectly.

Constellation Street plays at The Other Room until April 30th. Follow @TORtheatre for updates and news.