Posts tagged ‘tony challis’

27 August, 2010

The Master and Margarita

David Ralf and Cassie Barraclough in The Master and Margarita

David Ralf and Cassie Barraclough in The Master and Margarita. Image by Amelia Peterson

C soco, 6 – 30 August 2010

Reviewed for the Oxford Times

Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is a dense and complex novel, layered with parallel interconnected plotlines and saturated with theosophical intrigue; so as Rowena Purrett acknowledged in her review earlier this month, to pare it down to 90 minutes is an achievement. Somewhere between Oxford and the Fringe, OUDS have shaved their production down to an even more festival-friendly 80 minutes.

As well as paring down the content — the specific scenes, events and plotlines — OUDS boil down the whole work to a more manageable scale, in the process intensifying some flavours and losing others almost entirely. Where Bulgakov’s novel is a sweeping satire concerned with entire classes and communities, the OUDS production focuses closely on the individual characters: a more dramatic approach, but one that reduces the scope of the themes and ideas from a communal to a capital level.

It’s a shame to dampen the story’s potential for wide-ranging social commentary, especially as Bulgakov’s criticisms of Moscow’s atheist society still apply to ever- larger portions of the Western world; but on the stage, individuals are easier to engage with emotionally than whole societies.

What the production does communicate well is the bleak, decaying atmosphere of the benighted city. The performance space is part of a half-derelict building, all exposed brickwork, cold stone and cracked plaster; a boon for set designer Jessica Edwards. It’s also spacious as festival spaces go, but director Hoehn concentrates most scenes into as small an area as possible, highlighting the isolation of characters outcast for expressing their beliefs.

The performance is an odd mixture of styles. Brecht and Commedia dell’arte are both identifiable influences, and expressionistic movement and dance intrude on relatively naturalistic dialogue; though in a story about the invasion by the supernatural of a wilfully banal society, such intrusions feel thematically appropriate enough not to jar or distract in the least.

Adapted by Raymond Blankenhorn and Max Hoehn

Crew includes Max Hoehn (director), Jessica Edwards (set design), Anouska Lester (costume design), Rachel Beaconsfield Press (make-up design), Eli Keren (lighting designer), Stephen Poole (lighting design), Rosie Hore and Harriet Randall (choreographers)

Cast includes Cassie Barraclough (Margarita), Joe Bayley (Pilate), Raymond Blankenhorn (Ivan/Matthew/Baron Maigel), Ollo Clark (The Master), Bella Hammad (Babushka/Natasya/Praskovya/Natasha/Hella), Max Hoehn (Woland), Jonnie McAloon (Yeshua/Clown), Matthew Monghan (Behemoth), David Ralf (Koroviev/Berlioz/Bengalsky)

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23 August, 2010

Stripped ****

Hannah Chalmers in Stripped

Hannah Chalmers in Stripped. Image courtesy of the Gilded Balloon Press Office

Gilded Balloon Teviot, 6 – 30 August 2010

Reviewed for The List (issue 665)

Hannah Chalmers proves herself a versatile performer in this one-woman show, dropping comfortably into an array of archetypes: the naïve first time stripper, the lecherous club manager, the nervous, kind-hearted client. Chalmers seems to acknowledge that audiences don’t shock easily; her exploration of her former profession’s institutionalised exploitation of performers and clients is insightful, not salacious.

Written by Hannah Chalmers

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7 August, 2010

Flesh and Blood and Fish and Fowl ***

Flesh and Blood and Fish and Fowl promo image

Flesh and Blood and Fish and Fowl promo image, courtesy of the EdFringe Media Office

Traverse @ St Stephen’s, 4 – 28 August 2010

Reviewed for The List (issue 663)

When the human race has all but died out, when the Earth has erased almost all evidence of our existence, the last redoubt of our once great civilisation will be … the back office of a microwave meal manufacturer.

As a premise, it sounds half-baked; but like Flesh and Blood and Fish and Fowl itself, the more you stew on it, the more sense it makes. Jerry (Geoff Sobelle) and Rhoda (Charlotte Ford) are the logical conclusion of the typical office environment, where a trip to the watercooler has more to do with marking time than with thirst: they cling to office etiquette even as creepers and critters encroach inexorably on their cubicles.

Sobelle’s considerable clowning skills get a thorough workout, parodying displacement activities from photocopying to fly-swatting. But it’s the bizarre work of the clearly unhinged Jessica Grindstaff and Erik Sanko – puppeteering and remote-controlling stuffed woodland creatures that peek from drawers or erupt from boxes of printer paper – that eventually leaves the audience as hysterical as the characters, laughing uncontrollably with next to no idea why.

Written by Geoff Sobelle and Charlotte Ford

Crew includes Jessica Grindstaff and Erik Sanko (set and puppet designers), James Clotfelter (lighting designer) and Nick Kourtides (sound designer)

Cast includes Charlotte Ford (Rhoda) and Geoff Sobelle (Jerry)

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