Dream a little, Dream

Dream a little, Dream

The University of Northampton School of The Arts BA (HONS) Acting 3rd Year.

 

Directed by Jonathan Young

 

This afternoon, I entered, for the first time, The Maidwell Theatre on the Avenue Campus to see Dream a little, Dream. Until this very second I had not noticed the punctuation of the title. Suddenly it all makes so much more sense.

We were met with a white floor and way too much smoke. For me the smoke detracted from the first 30 minutes of the production as it simply made things harder to see rather than add anything to the atmosphere. The lighting however, made up for the smoke and was delightful throughout. Adding drama and effect throughout the piece it was well devised and perfectly executed.

Once our players hit the stage, the white floor revealed itself as large sheet of silk like material and this was used to great effect throughout.

I will not pretend to understand every nuance of every small set piece but the acting was superb. I did eventually understand we were being treated to peoples inner most thoughts, moreover, their worries and insecurities. Sophie Lloyd and John Shelley delighted as angels of death while Zoe Davey and Riley Stephen left me with a lump in my throat as they grieved for their mother.

Another mention must go to Jack Smith and Hannah Mitchell as the two children blocking out the arguing of their parents by retreating into their own little fantasy land complete with some of the nicest monsters ever seen. Having last seen Jack and Hannah as the porters in Macbeth, this performance was a totally different proposition. They played as children and suffered the terrors that only children’s imagination can conjure. The voices of the warring parents off stage added to the part immensely.

A huge well done for the use of silhouettes behind the sheet, the use of shadow on the rear wall and most of all the black light set with the fluorescent insects of the jungle. I must say the caterpillar working its way across the floor was my favourite.

As I have written this review I have realised that I understood so much more than I thought. All of the set pieces were acted out flawlessly, some with great humour, others with deep emotion. Thank you all, whether mentioned or not, for seventy minutes of thought provoking and very enjoyable theatre.

My thanks also to the director of Dream a little, Dream, Jonathan Young; without your willingness to pass on your knowledge and skills, the Northampton University School of The Arts would not turn out such spectacular talent as it does year after year.

 

A final harsh word for a member of the audience. To the young lady sitting in front of me with the glasses and the bobble hat, I can only hope that you are not a first year actor, as you spent most of the time texting on your phone. The cast deserve more respect!

 

 

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The Odyssey

The Odyssey

The University of Northampton School of The Arts BA(HONS) Acting 3rd Year.

 

Directed by Jo Blake Cave and Cat Gerrard

 

Last night on All Hallows Eve, I paid my entrance fee, received my piece of string and was allowed into the auditorium of the Isham Dark Theatre on the Avenue Campus. While waiting to be allowed in, there was much discussion about the relevance of the piece of string but on entering it all became evident. Long lengths of the red string hung from the lighting bar and were strewn across the front of the stage defining the area. I was to be amazed as just how they were to be used.

We were welcomed by Lydia Rose Blagg who invited us to leave our chilly, damp, firework filled night behind and join her in the sun kissed sands as we listed to the story of our hero Odysseus and his epic journey from Troy to his home in Ithaca.

From the very outset the influence and teaching of Jo Blake Cave was evident. Jo is a master storyteller and I have sat entranced many times listening and watching and she invited me to join her in some far off land. It seems that she had some very attentive students when she was passing on her knowledge.

This entire performance was a storytelling master class and with each of the twenty cast members taking a solo part they managed to weave together the tale of the journey, the perils and the adventures of Odysseus. They told of his son Telemachus as he both searched for his father and tried to protect his mother. They told of Penelope and how, after 20 years she was clinging to the vague hope that her husband might still be alive and would return to her. Of her fight to fend of the suitors who hounded her every step and made her life a misery.

I come now to the portrayal of the aforementioned suitors. It may be thought that with the Student Union building just next door, they would not have to go far to see such revelry and drunkenness. In this case the portrayal was one of the many powerfully physical set pieces in the play. Having seen many of the cast last year in the extraordinarily physical Hamlet and the slightly more genteel Richard III, I knew they had the prowess to pull it off and they did. Time after time, both as the rowdy suitors, and often as the boat crews of the ships that tried to bring Odysseus home again. The use of the chairs was faultless and if mistimed could have been a clattering mess. Used both as props and as seats they added to simplicity of the sparse set and were perfect for the part.

For me, the red string came into its own at the end when the suitors were slain, in a well choreographed fight scene. Without exception every dead body on the ground has managed to grasp a length of the string and it seemed to lance up into the sky from their still body. What a finish!

But not yet the finish; we were lead gently back to our everyday life by Jenny Styles who escorted us from two hours of exquisite storytelling to the damp and firework strewn night in Northampton.

To sum up, a rock hard physical performance with some of the best storytelling I have ever seen.

My congratulations to the cast!

My thanks also to the directors of The Odyssey, Jo Blake Cave and Cat Gerrard; without your willingness to pass on your knowledge and skills, the Northampton University School of The Arts would not turn out such spectacular talent as it does year after year.

 

A note for smartypants.

Did you know that Homer’s poem was written in dactylic hexameter? No, nor me!

 

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