Flossy & Boo: The Alternativity

Christmas is all go, the shops are rammed, the decorations are up and an evening in a pub theatre is right up there on my list of festive musts this year. Flossy and Boo are The Other Room’s Christmas offering for this year and I dare you to go along and not leave with a grin on your face…

When asked to do a Christmas play, there is one main issue for the gleeful duo… they have no idea what Christmas is… or what a play is for that matter! So a period of research and development ensues, as the two have discovered that this is essential for any play, with your festive favourites and a few unexpected treats thrown in along the way in the build up to the nativity.

Flossy and Boo work incredibly well together as they rattle through their Christmas findings, reminding us of the downsides to the festive period from hangovers to commercialism to family arguments, whilst also riskily but cleverly allowing the audience to steer the order of their antics and sketches. The real gems of the piece are the musical interludes, as the talented duo switch from ukuleles to keyboards, as they sing about those round robin greeting cards which tell of boosted achievements, and lonely train journeys searching for love.

With some help from technician Bethan a long the way, everyone is welcomed in to Flossy and Boo’s version of Christmas as if they were long lost relatives, with songs, sprouts and party hats galore… what more could you wish for? A pure festive treat: this is an alternativity which will have you singing along, secretly nodding in agreement and cackling with laughter as the two prove Christmas cabaret is where it’s at.

Flossy and Boo (with a y and a double oo): The Alternativity plays at the Other Room until December 23rd.

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hang

The Other Room are back with their autumn season and to kick start proceedings, Theatr Run Amok have taken over with their brave production of hang by debbie tucker green. In it’s regional premiere, having last been performed in the U.K. at the Royal Court, this is not one for those looking for a relaxed evening out that’s for sure.

We’re introduced to One, Two and Three as hang tells of one woman’s decision two years on from a situation unknown to the audience. Showcasing Cardiff’s pub theatre in yet another new light, the scene is aptly stark and simple as the water cooler takes centre stage and case workers, One and Two, do their best to make victim, Three as comfortable as possible… despite the elephant in the room. The death penalty. And what a weight to carry on your shoulders: Could you make that call?  To decide somebodies fate as the victim of their crime? As Three twitches, and shakes, with prolonged pauses, the audience are on edge from the opening of the door, as questions swim around the space and the awkward naivety of Two provides some light hearted relief to the situation in hand with expert comic timing. 
As the case workers story becomes unraveled and lies and home truths come to light, hints of Three’s experiences leading up to this point are revealed and the options for carrying out the death penalty are given in a heartless, factual fashion.  Whilst we never find out what really happened that day, Anita Reynolds is a true force behind the character as she simmers and eventually overboils, giving grit and power to the role and the whole piece.

While the play’s title may be a slight spoiler to Three’s decision, the script allows for no time to sit easy in confidence of the outcome as the dark, yet light words come fast and fierce. A powerful trio of performances, the casting is spot on for hang and under the brilliant direction from Izzy Rabey, this is another piece in The Other Room which will leave you questioning and reeling well after you’ve emerged back in to the reality of the busy bar next door. 

Theatre RunAmok’s hang plays at The Other Room until 16th September.

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. 

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.

Blackbird

Cardiff’s The Other Room is becoming renown for punch in the gut theatre and uncomfortable viewing sessions, and their latest production in their Autumn/Winter season is definitely no different. Blackbird, written by David Harrower, has been brought to Porter’s pub theatre by The Two Imposters and will leave you reeling long after you emerge in to the crowded bar.

A difficult two hander, performed by Sophie Melville and Christian Patterson, this play touches on the duo’s past of abduction and abuse when 40 year old Ray met his neighbours, 12 year old daughter Una. Una has tracked down the man who had a disastrous effect on her life, and they both have stories to tell that the other had no idea about, even 15 years on. 
In any other situation, you could pretty much call it as to who is the victim but David Harrower’s writing is expertly performed leaving the audience questioning their own moral compass and the laws of the country, even the day after the 75 minutes of compelling theatre.

The jittery energy emitting from Melville is contagious and has the compact audience on edge from the opening of the overly littered staff room door. The contrasting hunched, static stature of Patterson creates an unbalanced vibe across the room, as the adult of the tale is flown back to years he had made every effort to erase.

An unnerving, harrowing, brilliantly cast production which leaves the audience stuck in the emotionally charged performance. 

Blackbird plays at The Other Room until November 4th.

A Sunny Disposition 

Not just any piece of theatre can make you feel guilty for clutching a half empty pint glass when the house lights come up, but Nicola Reynold’s A Sunny Disposition did just that last night. The closing production to The Other Room’s Insomnia season and yet another performance sure to leave you on the edge of your seat. 

Aptly named Charlie, wants people to like him. Perched on the edge of a table in a pub with carpet and wallpaper of the exact same pattern, the audience are drawn in to his jittery energy as he launches in to his monologue and it is soon clear that all is not peachy behind closed doors. Addiction is so often pushed under the bed or shoved to the back of a kitchen cupboard, and Nicola Reynold’s writing debut brings up the subject carefully but skilfully. 

Charlie, played by Neal McWilliams, to look at is a long way away from your stereotypical user and alcoholic, you know the ones… Park bench, string for a belt and a brown paper bag? But proving that there is no fixed stereotype, the audience are thrown up and down through the motions of the highs of Charlie’s friendship with alcohol and cocaine and left feeling almost as spat out as Charlie as events take a turn for the worst, and Charlie’s . 

With a simple set design and a slightly haunting soundscape, this performance effectively worked with stripped back, minimal staging. Despite a slow and slightly uneasy start, The Other Room is brought to life by the tale of chaotic highs at Soda bar (back when it was good) versus the wails of despair when tragedy hits. 

A whirlwind thought provoking production and a promising writing debut from Nicola Reynolds.
Keep an eye on @TORtheatre for updates from Cardiff’s first pub theatre.