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.

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. 

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.