Cafe Crescendo. The Late Show.

Cafe Crescendo. The Late Show

Performed by Royal and Derngate Youth Theatre

Written by Christopher Elmer-Gorry

Directed by Christopher Elmer-Gorry and Trudy A. Bell

Back for The Late Show of Cafe Crescendo and what a show it was! Gone was the ghostly trimmings and the early show and we were now seated at tables with crisp white tablecloths and candles.

This could be described as a cabaret show with a difference. The difference is that entwined throughout the performance there is a love story that tests the strength of a relationship between Jessica (Lauren Moody) and Daniel (Ryan McLean).

We are treated to some great musical numbers in this show and New World when first heard is a real west end production. With a solo by Lauren Moody, joined by the ensemble and some spectacular dancing, this is a pretty awesome start. The New World theme is sung by Lauren throughout the show and really ties it all together.

As the Cafe slips in time, we are entertained by a wonderful flapper dance. Lovely choreography and high energy performed in very close proximity to us the audience.

A real star turn was Francesca Chaisson as Annie with a ripping version of Maybe This Time. Sung with heart and passion it was superb. Judy Garland would have loved it!

As the love story developed, even more great music. This time, it was Tomorrow Is a Lovely Day sung to a much more upbeat rhythm than recorded by Vera Lynn.

A young lady by the name of Michaela Blackburn then blew the entire place up with her rendition of a song that started There’s a Light. Wow! Great voice and great production with the ensemble around her.

Our two young lovers are having a tough time as Daniel tries to persuade Jessica to come to Edinburgh with him and find a job while he studies. Jessica is treated to a song called Just a Housewife featuring Amara Browning, sung with such sincerity by her and the ensemble it undoubtedly triggers doubts in the mind of Jessica and quite right too!

Falling Slowly was sung by the ensemble and at this point I have to make an apology to the group that were standing next to me. I was unable to contain myself and joined it and I can only imagine how off putting that must have been for them. I was quickly put in my place by a dig in the ribs from my wife and allowed the real singers to finish alone and unaccompanied by me.

The audience were allowed to decide the fate of the young lover and we decided that they should go their separate ways, much to the consternation of Mr Elbourne.

Ryan as Daniel then treated us to a heart rendering song called Some Other Life. Sung with feeling and passion, I am sure there were some audience members that regretted their harsh decision.

This was a brilliant show, perfectly performed and a total joy to be part of. For me, Lauren Moody stole the show as the troubled Jessica and her singing coupled with her acting were amazing. Ryan as a leading man was the perfect complement to this role.

A great night each and every one of you. Many thanks for sharing your talents with us.

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Cafe Crescendo. The Early Show

Cafe Crescendo. The Early Show

Performed by Royal and Derngate Youth Theatre

Written by Christopher Elmer-Gorry

Directed by Christopher Elmer-Gorry and Trudy A. Bell

Welcome to Cafe Crescendo. The most haunted cafe in the land. Our intrepid group of Hannah, her brother Cameron, Mia, Lauren and their leader Shannon come to discover if the building is haunted and if so, take pictures to prove it.

Now Shannon is a nasty piece of work and gives Cameron a really hard time throughout. Until the end, it’s really hard to like her. Nicely played by Crystal Reilly!

Our ghosts appear and we are treated to a wonderful solo of This is My House by an unnamed ghost. You know who you are young spirit! This really was a highlight of the show and coupled with some delightful choreography made for a real treat.

Throughout the whole show, the musical numbers were all enhanced by the choreography some of which were really quite demanding.

Our spectral friends, demand that one of the five friends remain behind to give them the power they need to return to life. Yet again, more lovely singing and discreet choreography close to the ground or on it.

So brave young hen pecked Cameron , Alfie Sanders, volunteers to stay behind. To everyone surprise, nasty Shannon steps up and offers to take Cameron’s place. It is at this point the spooks tell Shannon that they could all leave. All they really wanted was her to change her attitude.

This entire performance was a joy to watch. The hard work and rehearsal time really showed and everyone in the entire case and crew should be very proud. The live music was fantastic and completed a great show.

Two mentions I need to make. First, Emma Cranston for a smile and a nod when needed to a couple of slightly nervous young singers. Secondly, the person who checked all the torches were working. I have seen 3 semi professional shows this week where at least one torch was either out or so dim, it was useless.

All in all I loved it! Happy to pay twice the price to see it again.

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Snuff Me performed by One ‘N’ Half Theatre Company

Snuff Me

Created and Performed by One ‘N’ Half Theatre Company

Flash Theatre Festival 2015

Its 20:30 on the last night of Flash Festival 2015 and this is the very last show of the festival. This night could only end in one of two ways. Read this review and you will find out!

One ‘N’ Half Theatre Company is the Enfant Terrible of Ben Stacey and Sam Billy Behan, two young actors who are fearless when it comes to creating original, thought provoking and often explosive theatre. Last seen wowing audiences and this critic in A Clockwork Orange and Macbeth, it was now time to use their own talents and create, direct and star in their own production.

Snuff Me is an exploration of how men and women are affected by combat, by their wounds, their memories and the ghosts of those memories both on the battlefield and at home. In the telling there is a 90% use of verbatim text but this is no bad thing. These are the real words, said in heat of battle as they struggle to save a young soldiers life. These are the worlds of real soldiers as they fight in the dust and heat of Afghanistan.

Ben’s first character is the leader of the platoon and we join him as he writes a letter home to a young soldiers mother. This is carried on throughout the play and its credit to Ben’s majestic stoicism as he continues to describe just what happened.

Sam’s early character looses a leg and we see him fit and wear his first prosthetic. Using the blackest of humour he goes on to tell us that all is not as bad as it could be. Then by the end of the short monologue it really hits home just how bad and debilitating it truly is.

Ben come on stage to a solo spot light. For the next 2 minutes he mouths his words, never uttering a sound as he is deaf. Perversely, this is so very funny to watch and we can understand every word he says. He later comes on as the same soldier but shouts every word to emphasise his deafness. He has the crowd rocking in the aisles with laughter as he describes going clubbing and trying to dance although he cannot hear the music. Ben then stops us stone dead with a change of his expressive face as he describes the things he really misses with his loss of hearing. We have no doubt at that point we are no longer laughing with him, but feeling his pain and he leaves the stage in total silence.

The mood is lightened once again with the most bizarre puppet show ever seen. The dialogue between the monkey, crocodile, giraffe and sock, yes, I said sock, was poignant yet side splittingly funny. All original script and perfectly delivered.

Sam’s original character returns now fitted with his final prosthetic leg, artfully done by blackening up the young soldiers lower limb and tearing off the bottom section of his trouser leg. Now home he is struggling with drink and we see him attached like a puppet via rods controlled by the giant frame of Ben. The size difference between the two men only enhanced the struggle until he is finally free of his bonds and the bottle.

Sam’s final monologue was seismic in its effect. It was delivered with such feeling, such passion and such truth that you could not be helped but be moved by it. For those of us lucky enough to be sitting directly in front of Ben who was on the opposite side of the stage, were able to listen to Sam’s awesome delivery but watch Ben’s face. Seeing this giant of a man listen to his friend, his comrade in arms and a soldier under his command with tears in his eyes while still standing strong and silent, containing his emotions was truly unforgettable.

You will I am sure forgive me if everything I have written about is not in strict chronological order but this is a truly overwhelming production. Sam as I have written every time in my reviews is the master of the stage. The stage does what he tells it to do. Now this very night I witnessed a truly magnificent step forward for Ben and he commanded that you looked at him, listened to him and believed him.

I do not say this lightly but tonight, this final night of Flash Theatre Festival 2015, I witnessed the complete package. Each of these young actors is awesome in his own right. Now, with just the two of them on stage, feeding from each other’s power, each others presence and each others professionalism I was shaken from head to foot by their talent. I feel very privileged to have seen this show and I will follow the fortunes of these fine actors with interest.

A word about the tech. Faultless! So surprised to see the actual footage that accompanied the text shown on the screen. It added even more depth to what had gone before.

As I said in the first paragraph, being the last show of the festival it could have only gone one of two ways. It seems we saved the best until last! Thanks Sam and Ben. It was an honour!

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STAY performed by eLLite Theatre Company

STAY

Created and Performed by eLLite Theatre Company

Flash Theatre Festival 2015

There are some performances that open with the first line of dialogue. There are some performances that begin with introduction music. This performance began with a whirlwind! Pumped up and full of energy, Lydia Rose Blagg and Leanne Dalman, the creators of eLLite, thunder on to stage to begin an outrageous introduction. With lots of well prepared cards used to illustrate what we were going to see the two young ladies thrashed around the stage using a wedding dress and two chairs. This was an exhausting way to start but somehow, they kept enough energy for the rest of the play.

STAY explores the reasons behind why so many women love men on death row. Between them Lydia and Leanne create some very believable and in one case, very disturbing characters. The truly disturbing woman portrayed by Leanne and created by slipping on a leather jacket was a self confessed Hybristophiliac. A woman who is sexually excited by violent outrages performed on others. The lascivious look on Leanne’s face as she described how she longed to be with a man who was preferable a serial killer, was both sickening and amazing at the same time. She didn’t want a nice guy but a guy with a high body count. Thank you Leanne for leaving me amazed and disturbed.

One of Lydia’s characters was a young woman from Liverpool who yearned to be with her lover and made the journey to meet him and speak with him via a telephone and glass partition. I dismissed her as a total loser with no self esteem but that would change. With Lydia’s amazing talent, she went on to describe the day she went to watch the execution. In her long red loose fitting cardigan she gave us a blow by blow of what she had seen. Her fingers never stopping knotting themselves into the sleeves of the cardigan she told of how she finally saw him pronounced dead. By this time my heart was breaking for her and I could not believe how my opinion of her had changed so much. Brilliant acting Lydia. Never any doubt!

There is a lot of choreographed movement in this play and this was really used to perfection. As one character described her yen to be with a killer, often giving excuses for his actions, the other quoted lines from Romeo and Juliet. The timing was crucial for this to work and it was spot on. The cross talking sequence with the almost self flagellant  movements was divine.

There were, amazingly with a such a subject, a lot of laughs to be had. The filmed adverts for Conjugal Connections death row dating company were hilarious. Filmed in silence with the cheesiest and sickly sweet narration they were fabulous. They were done perfectly and really added to the whole.

This was a well rehearsed show with the simplest of sets, the simplest and most effective of props and it worked really well. Lydia and Leanne are a bit of a dream team to have together and they have a connection that shows. Both of them are willing and able to put themselves in uncomfortable roles to make the play work and they did just that.

Thank you both for an outstanding performance and allowing me to share it with you.

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The Presenter performed by Stand Out Theatre Company

The Presenter

Created and Performed by Stand Out Theatre Company

Flash Theatre Festival 2015

This is a one man show played in the round in a claustrophobic space and we find our character stretched out on the floor, the table littered with detritus and the floor strewn with discarded clothes and bottles. Laying still, for some minutes after all the audience have arrived adds to the feeling of discomfort and for this piece, that is a good thing.

Ryan Manning, plays a successful TV presenter named Kieran suffering from a chronic case of Dissociative Identity Disorder. Kieran had been a wild child in his time but with a successful career head of him has changed and matured. However his life is beginning to disintegrate as his wild alter ego Aaron is let loose on the town, crashes his car, runs people over and picks up a new girlfriend.

Ryan has his hands full playing both of these characters and his stature and powerful physic really comes to the fore as Aaron. Storming round the room, inches from the audience, he radiates anger, rage, frustration and malevolence towards his better half.

This a powerful performance by Ryan and the first show we have seen played in the round. I think that this is a very brave piece to choose to perform for a dissertation. I cannot begin to imagine how you rehearse a one man, two man, play but it is obvious meticulously thought out.

The show is tech heavy and this is incredible well thought out, used and executed with the aid of a handheld voice recorder used to great effect as the means of communication between Kieran and Aaron.

This is a production for a mature audience who wants to experience close up physical theatre and that suited me very well. There were members of the audience who did not “get it” and shame on them for not paying attention and allowing themselves to get distracted. A little more respect would be good!

Great show Ryan. I really enjoyed the whole experience. Thank you.

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It’s Starting To Grow On Us performed by Duality Theatre Company

It’s Starting To Grow On Us!

Created and Performed by Duality Theatre Company

Flash Theatre Festival 2015

There is a word that is only spoken of in hushed tones in thousands of homes across the country each and every day. In some homes, the word itself is never used, just a reference to its initial letter. But the word never changes, it remains terrifyingly constant, striking terror wherever it is. That word is Cancer and this remarkable production weaves a story of Emma and her mum, from the moment that Emma is told by her mum she has cancer, through her meeting with the oncologist, the outlining of her treatment regime and through the regime itself.

Duality Theatre is the dream of Sarah Kirk and Samantha Colden and to see them interact, you would think they had known each other for ever and not just three years in Uni. The entire show looks like it is being made up minute by minute and sometimes second by second but this is a highly rehearsed, highly detailed precision performance that takes the audience on a whirlwind journey. There is still plenty of adlib when needed and this just adds to the enjoyment.

Sarah plays the ukulele expertly and uses it throughout a lot of the performance. Sometimes just to provide a tune, sometimes to raise the pace of the dialogue by the speed of her percussion on the back. It’s even used as a splendid lift announcement.

Sam and Sarah swap the narration and characters between them and there is some complicated choreography in a confined space as they guide us through the hospital door by door and turn by turn.  A true delight is when Sam picks up a new character and Sarah, with a wicked grin describes the attributes to be portrayed. From Scottish, which Sam does with great success to having thick eyebrows, a hunch back and a bad attitude. Watching Sarah’s childish delight is as funny as watching poor Sam coping with these afflictions.

The show is touching, heartfelt and often totally hilarious and a complete joy to behold. It mixes storytelling with performance art, musical theatre and mime. There is  short section where the ever wicked Sarah demands that Sam’s new character can only communicate in song. This is the first time I have heard either of these two young ladies sing and I have to say that Sam’s rich alto voice was beautiful. Sarah’s, higher and quieter was delightful too but hearing Sam made me want to hear more.

Played out in the intimate yet slightly chaotic space that is the NN Cafe, this was the perfect venue for this intimate yet slightly chaotic show. It allowed Sarah and Sam to play to, and with the audience and their raised set allowed everyone to see what was going on.

This was one of the warmest most heartfelt performances I have seen and I would jump at the chance to see it again. Sam and Sarah, you were a revelation! Thank you for sharing this performance with us.

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Black Hearts Black Truth Project performed by Black Females Theatre Company

Black Hearts Black Truth Project

Created and Performed by Black Females Theatre Company

Flash Theatre Festival 2015

After a climb up stairs of epic proportions we gasped for breath then took our seats to watch Melissa Madden, the creator of Black Females Theatre Company, tell the story that very few 60 year old white men like me are even aware of.

We meet the sweet but troubled Peace and her LOUD but wonderful mother. Peace is troubled in so many ways but mostly because of the darkness of her skin. We see her in her early years choosing a white doll because she has such pale skin pretty hair and lovely eyelashes and because her “friend” at school had one. Her mother who obviously loved her only refused to buy the doll because of the price, not the colour. Peace got her way eventually!

We meet Peace again at school where she is called such dreadful names and this time by another black girl who claims Peace is too black to be pretty. I refer again to my first paragraph as this 60 year old white man had no clue this happened. I knew kids could be cruel but this was diabolical.

Poor Peace really wanted to be a singer and with her friends advice she buys every pot of skin bleaching cream she could lay her hands on in the Indian shop.

Then once she sings she is ridiculed again for being too black, the wrong shape and too ugly to succeed. Distressing enough in itself but this was perpetrated by a black producer.

Finally poor Peace, unable to find any help, totally desperate and with a total lack of self worth we witness the distressing scene of her pouring a bottle of bleach over herself.

But wait because they say there is someone for everyone and Peace found a real man who loved her for what she was and just the way she was and they marry and have children. If only this man had entered Peace’s life earlier!

Melissa gives a heartfelt and deeply emotional performance and while keeping us in stunned silence in parts, had us rocking with laughter at the antics of some of her characters.

I am really pleased I made the long climb up those stairs as I came out shocked but with a new outlook and felt both educated and entertained. Great job Melissa!

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