Flash Festival Final Thank You

A Final Big Thank You to You All.

 

What a week! Fifteen performances in six days. I can honestly say there was not one of them I would not sit through again. There were a couple that may scare me silly but I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

As you all know, I am not a theatre critic nor do I have any acting talent so do not have the right to judge you and what you have done. I am just a man who builds railway stations for a living but spends every spare weekend tucked up in my favourite seat in a darkened theatre with my lovely wife Lynne watching just about anything I can get to. I can assure you my reviews were all honest and thought out, even the misspelt ones!

Each and every one of you has an abundance of talent. Should you choose to do so, there is no doubt you will succeed in your chosen craft. Some of you are and will always be actors. Others will move on to direct and some of you may even go on to teach in a theatre programme in a university. Others are destined to run the theatres for the rest of you to play in! Whatever your chosen path will be, go at it full on. Don’t hold back and don’t listen to anyone who tells you, you cannot do it. Go out, do it and prove them wrong. If you fail at something, then get right back up and do it again just better.

Please don’t live with regrets and wishing you had done something brave. Every one of you is brave. There is no way you can go out onto stage and bare your very soul to an audience without being brave and you have done that this week and in previous performances.

Enough of my ramblings. You are an inspiration to Lynne and me and no doubt an inspiration to those who will be following in your footsteps. Thank you for taking us in this week and treating us as friends. It has been an absolute privilege.

Thank you Zoë Harbour, Katherine Hartshorne, Bridgette Wellbelove, Kathryn Belmega, Eleanor Kingsley, Bethany Ryan, Indie Young, Tré Curran, Karis Lewis, Liam Harvey, Marvin Freeman, Oliver Leonard, Danielle Gorman, Matt Thompson, George Finney, Annie Jones, David Johns, Nicola Schopp, Marcus Churchill, Ashley Sean-Cook, Joe Derrington, Sophie Murray, Harry Bradbury, Richard Harley, Steven Leonard, Kathryn Alice, Emily-Claire Potter, Lucy House, Lindsey Davis, Reanne Lawrence, Naomi Gidney, Jamie O’Grady, Sasha Watson, Theo Ramwell, Sophie Bridge, Louise Stidston, Libbie Cooper, Justyna Smugala, Shaunagh Dunlop and Bryony Denison.

My thanks also to The Looking Glass Theatre.

Martin Sutherland and Erica Mynard and of course Pinkie at The Royal and Derngate.

The Wicked Way Café for keep us fed for a week.

Dr Sally Cook and Dr Ross Prior and the other tutors and assessors.

You are all stars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Black Jack Theatre Company

Black Jack Theatre

Taciturn

 

Day six and my last of the fifteen performances of The Flash Theatre Festival 2014 was astonishing. It gave me insights into things I have never thought about as well as insights in just how hard it can be to act and never talk yet put over each and every emotion in full.

Black Jack Theatre Company is the product of the combined talents of Oliver Leonard, Danielle Gorman and Matt Thompson.

In Taciturn, we are introduced to three characters. James, a speech therapist, Sarah, a profoundly deaf girl who will not talk and Orin, himself deaf but wanting to talk and represent “his people”.

It explores the complex life of young deaf people in modern society and just how limiting and liberating being deaf can be.

Oliver Leonard as James is perfect for the part. His sense of humour leaves something to be desired and his two students are very swift to remind him. Sensitive and frustrated in equal parts.

Matt Thompson as Orin is such a well-studied and developed character. Having visited James who helped him learn to speak, we hear him talk at first with difficulty and towards the end, so much clearly as time passes and he practises more and more for making a major political speech. Matt has obviously spent time listening as he delivers the slightly distorted speech of one who has never heard words out loud.

Danielle Gorman as Sarah is truly astonishing. As a young girl who chooses not to speak, Danielle is left to portray her emotions, frustrations and fears just through her eyes and facial gestures. She does this perfectly throughout as we discover that Sarah really does not want to talk despite being able to at any time.

Mention must be made of the learning of and use of sign language. The trio have studied hard to master much of this form of communication. Often delivered with speed and vehemence at time, it was an eye opener to see it in action.

This performance was a joy to watch with some funny moments in it and some truly tear jerking moments particularly at the end. I can say that there was not a dry eye on the front row including mine!

Oliver, Danielle and Matt were each perfectly cast and their characters perfectly portrayed throughout. I have no doubt we will have the pleasure of seeing them all in starring roles in the near future.

 

Thank you for the perfect end to the perfect theatre festival.

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Dont Look Me In The Eye

Don’t Look Me In The Eye

Theo Ramwell

 

Day six of The Flash Theatre Festival began with an unexpected chance to see Don’t Look Me In The Eye, devised and starring Theo Ramwell.

I did not expect to get a chance to see this particular show but I am really pleased I did. In the intimate space of The Crown Room, we entered to find Theo already in character sitting in a chair, head down and doing his best to control a physical tic.

Our character then goes on to tell us the story of parts of his life. Describing in great and well researched detail, he tells us of his inability to socially react the way that his family and others expect him to. Often labelled as psychotic and anti-social he continued to develop. Still with no clue as to the real reason for the way he was he describes how he learned to mask his emotions while coping in the outside world.

His success in later life as an engineer and electronics expert come as a surprise to him as much as others but his ability to cope brings the joy of love into his life and he becomes a father. This really is the story of a young man who believed he could achieve anything despite what life and genetics had dealt him.

It was not until he was 39 that the doctors finally diagnosed him as a sufferer of Asperger’s Syndrome.

This performance was based upon the New York Times Best Seller of the same name by John Elder Robison. If you are going to base it on other peoples experience then a New York Times Best Seller is a great choice.

Theo showed great empathy with his character and his portrayal was never melancholy or full of self-pity. Instead, he showed the brilliance but social ineptness of a true Asperger’s sufferer fully for us to see.

All in all a first class performance that delivered a great story in an honest and open style. I am very pleased I was able to see Theo in action. Great job!

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Platinum Events

Platinum Events

Flash Theatre Festival Event Management Team

 

During this fabulous week of theatre lovers heaven I have reviewed the 13 performances I have seen so far. Just 2 to go.

I now need to tell you of my week of being welcomed, helped by and the friendship of the ladies from Platinum Events.

Sophie Bridge, Louise Stidston, Libbie Cooper, Justyna Smugala, Shaunagh Dunlop and Bryony Denison have made us so welcome to each and every show this week. We know they are tired, we know their huge schedule and we know there have been problems hidden from the viewing public but without missing a beat, they have kept smiling, stayed happy and made a great event even better.

With three venues and four different stages to manage they have kept everything running smoothly. With the timing issues, they have kept us informed of any changes and this has allowed many people to see two performances back to back without missing any of it.

As outsiders, that it to say, not students, not family and certainly not assessors, they have gone out of their way for us especially as we are a pain and like to turn up really early for everything! We are only greeted with a smile and politeness and not a scowl in sight.

I understand that as well as looking after front of house, they have kept a really effective Twitter feed going, produced the programme and set up and run the website.

On day one Lynne and I offered them one piece of advice. Pace yourself and don’t run out of energy by the end of the week. Well having seen them dashing about, elegantly of course, they have not heeded the pace yourself bit but they definitely have not run out of energy. While they will enjoy a well deserved rest after Saturday’s final performance, they have never flagged for a second.

Thank you Sophie, Louise, Libbie, Justyna, Shaunagh and Bryony. You have been a joy to spend time with and a huge credit to the university event management programme.

Just wish I was your assessor. You passed!

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Black Ink Theatre Company

Black Ink Theatre Company

The Weigh In.

 

My last show of day five of The Flash Theatre Festival was “The Weigh In”, conceived, written and performed by the founder member of Black Ink Theatre Company, Sasha Watson. What a great way to end my day!

While not open to bribery, I was very happy to go in and find an individually wrapped packet of sweets waiting for me in my seat. Thank you Sasha!

When the theoretical curtain rises Sasha enters wearing the kind of skirt that would thrill Lady Gaga. From top to toe, it was line after line of mini packs of Haribo. (Other brands of sickly sweets are available). What a delightful sight.

We are then introduced to the leader of a Weight Watchers meeting. Sickly sweet, yet with a barbed tongue, she pointed out who had lost a little weight. Asking for a round of applause for their loss, the audience was only too happy to oblige during fits of laughter.

The character I adored the most was the lady from Sutton Coldfield who was giving tips on losing weight by correct nutrition. This was a play in itself and I have no doubt she could be written up enough to have her own TV programme. The audience was rocking with laughter.

Finally Sasha debunks so many of the myths of what is the correct weight for the height of the person. I was surprised to hear BMI dated back to the 1800’s but was not in general use by doctors until 1985. She shows what her size and shape should look like according to this index and it was in itself an impossibility.

Throughout this funny thoughtful piece Sasha put herself front and centre and showed to us all that we are what we are and we should not try and conform to what magazines, diet book writers and many others say we should be.

This was a wonderful, successful and well presented show which I am very pleased to recommend to all.

On a personal note if I may, I checked my BMI. For my weight I should be 11ft 7inches tall. Maybe next time round!

Thank you Sasha.  

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For.Tune Theatre

For.Tune Theatre

The Homeless Heart

 

You know when you last walked down your local high street and you saw a homeless person sitting in a doorway? What did you do? Ignore them? Verbally abuse them? Drop a coin in their cup? Be honest now!

Naomi Gidney is the talented young actress behind For.Tune Theatre and The Homeless Heart asked all of the above questions. Once again on stage when we arrive, barely visible, our distressed heroin is wrapped up in a sleeping bag, laying on cardboard and surrounded by rubbish. The majority of the audience is seated on the floor around her as she invites us into her world.

She gives us some background on her life and how hard she has now fallen from grace. Trapped in a world where she is invisible to those who can afford to help and a target for those who care nothing for her situation and are happy to abuse her anyway they can.

While staying in character, Naomi uses her considerable guitar and singing skills to sing of her plight living in the gutter among the lost and the lonely. Begging for money but truly craving the tiniest spark of human kindness, she continues her descent into the world of alcohol and drugs.  

Naomi’s performance is powerful and at times, extremely physical and this adds to the audience’s unease as while watching, they admit to themselves just what they do when they see the unloved and unwanted on the street.

My answer to my initial question? I walk past them and ignore them. After seeing The Homeless Heart, I hope not to be so quick to judge and dismiss another human being.

Thank you Naomi.

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Thirteenth Rose Theatre

Thirteenth Rose Theatre

The Fig Tree

 

Jamie O’Grady is the founder and artistic director of Thirteenth Rose Theatre. He is also the sole performer in this difficult and complicated play.

As we take our seats, we see the character seemingly asleep in a chair on stage. As I have said before, I do love the idea that the stage is occupied before we arrive.

Behind him a screen flashes images and white noise and these I interpret as the thoughts of this man while asleep. Clutching his chest he sits up wide awake gasping for breath. During the play we find out that he has been unable to sleep for the last seven days. Unable to sleep, unable to write and unable to rest his mind we follow him to mental anguish and breakdown.

I will not pretend to know or understand every nuance in this performance but Jamie’s simulation of ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) or as it was known back in the fifties and sixties Electroshock Treatment was painful to behold. Every sinew strained as the shock tore through his head.

The Fig Tree is stimulated purely from the works of Sylvia Plath the American poet and novelist. Married to Ted Hughes, she committed suicide while suffering from depression on the 11th February 1963. The tragedy does not stop there as the women that Hughes took up with, which caused the breakdown of their marriage also, committed suicide while suffering from depression and in doing so also killed the child she had with Hughes. Still later, the son that Hughes and Plath has together also committed suicide while suffering from depression.

Jamie’s work is deep, mature and effective. His style is postmodern and abstract and there is no doubt he is a master at both.

As I said earlier, I do not pretend to understand every nuance of the play but I am very pleased that I saw it and witnessed this young mans talented performance. Well done Jamie!

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