October 2014 | Kwai Tsing Theatre, Hong Kong, New Vision Arts Festival
With Watch Me Fall, Action Hero do an excellent job of deconstructing the spectacle of risk as entertainment in a way that is playful, funny and painfully human.
James Stenhouse and Gemma Paintin are charming enough to bring us along for the improbable ride of coca cola-based daredevilry, using text that apparently comes from a mix of real interviews with daredevils, Chuck Yeager, president’s speeches, Mexican wrestling matches, drag races and so on. When we enter we’re given cans of coke and disposable cameras. The cameras are a big hit in Hong Kong, and the amateur photographers in the audience are eagerly trying to photograph the ‘big’ moments. It’s a great start and gets us involved and invested in the performance.
Amsterdam Fringe 2014 | MC Theatre, Amsterdam
It begins with Leon (‘a’leon,) a seeming roaming vagabond that charms his way into women’s beds. Played by multiple-Edinburgh Fringe Winner Rob Murray, Leon’s opening monologue reveals a crafty, carefree personality with absolutely no commitments until he discovers true love with a woman whom he plans to settle and get married. However, she abandons him at the alter with their newborn child, and from then on he returns to the road to seek her, obsessively travelling from place to place with his daughter and a trolley for a home, marking each unsuccessful town as a tattoo on his body. Fast forward 15 years and the daughter, Ginny, (Liezl de Kock) is developing notions of independence and is increasingly concerned their objective is proving detrimental to their lives. The comic, pacey dialogue is interspersed with dark and often touching moments but avoids sentimentality, leading the way nicely through this show while a mix of theatrical forms such as puppetry and choreographed set pieces contribute like skits to shake up the exposition.
October 2014 | Warwick Arts Centre / Fierce Festival
For me, one of the most anticipated pieces of theatre this year, Forced Entertainment’s newest addition to their repertoire seemed to promise something exciting, mystical, and- naturally- full of adventure. This, coupled with the fact I had a pretty tedious 5 hour round trip to Warwick Arts Centre led me to hope I wouldn’t be disappointed…
Of course, I never really imagined I’d be disappointed. True to form, this latest collaboration with Lebanese sound artist Tarek Atoui provided a lavish, indulgent visual and aural feast, as The Last Adventures ripped through the West Midlands. I was initially perplexed by the decision to leave London, and wasn’t quite sure how Warwick Arts Centre would work. For those who haven’t been, it is quite a cosy, lecture style theatre and I feared this might subdue both audience and performer. I couldn’t have been more wrong; it was great to see FE back on a big stage with room to run and roll. Atoui’s unique soundscoring breathed a pulsating energy through the space, creating undulations reflected in the changing momentum of both performers and objects.
Rust Co-operative (South Africa) | Ostade A’dam, Amsterdam (Amsterdam Fringe 2014)
Siembamba addresses the stark and uncomfortable issue and relationship between the South African Black nannies and the rich white children they’ve left their own families to look after. Interchanging between ‘lecture style’ natural history and a dialogue between a black nanny and her young white ‘child’, several themes and reflections are thrown at the audience to largely great effect, namely the dynamic of being a part of the family and simultaneously an outsider.
Lesoko Seabe personifies Mother Nature as a forgotten and broken being, quietly lamenting the way humanity has left her behind. She also voices those involved in the Black ‘nanny’ situation; mainly as the nanny, but also as the nanny’s daughter and interestingly the white mother. Nieke Lombard plays the young white girl, whose confusion and resentment at the situation gives her the fierce resolve when giving a ‘lecture’ style presentation about the creation of the world (albeit as a virtually different character.) It’s a great moment in the performance and she jumps between English and Afrikaans delivering the speech at top speed. However this and other moments risk becoming too preachy, and the otherwise great writing keeps returning to the notion that ‘the highest evolved organism has broken a law of nature by ascribing status and perpetuating racial/ethnic difference.’ After the third time it got a bit dull. This state-the-obvious debate doesn’t reflect the general allusions of the piece.
Old Sound Room (US) | MC Theatre, Amsterdam (Amsterdam Fringe 2014)
Old Sound Room from New York perform a selection of short stories by Neil Gaiman (a big factor in my choosing this show) framed by October taking the chair and delegating which month may tell a story. The setup should be clear: a campfire with various characters who then embody the roles in the tales as they’re told, simple. However, for the first fifteen minutes it was chaos. Four performers dash around supposedly becoming different personalities switching from one grotesque to another, repeatedly sawing the air with their arms like musical theatre vs Pantomime. It was noisy, messy and frankly looked amateurish. But after the first story finished it toned down and unraveled nicely. The use of props was generally good except for a prop sausage that lasted five seconds while an actor mimed a cigarette throughout (?) and they used an almost good looking puppet of a black bird that had a ridiculous and unnecessarily large base, which contrasted against a much better looking Phoenix (that was dismembered and pulled apart.)