Performed at Theatre on the Downs on 10th September 2021
Everyone loves a good bird metaphor. A bird metaphor that, with sublime simplicity, demonstrates how struggles with mental health can manifest and affect your daily life is even better.
Stop Trying to be Fantastic is a candid deep dive into one woman’s experience with a saviour complex, coping mechanisms, and anxiety, among other things. Molly Naylor tackles these subjects with frankness and nuance, layering in additional styles and elements that make this show distinctly her own.
It is a piece packed with sharp wit and devastating insights. Naylor’s delivery is incredibly earnest and confidently self-conscious, allowing for plenty of laughs but also plenty of poignancy. It is honest and heartfelt, sometimes brutally so, but still maintains a light, engaging and approachable atmosphere. Striking that balance correctly is the bread and butter of shows like this, and Molly Naylor has it nailed. As a performer she puts you as an audience member instantly and entirely at ease, which makes the more serious and emotional moments of her show all the more impactful.
Performed at Theatre on the Downs on 1st September 2021
They had me at “Would you like a snack?”
From that point forward this show consistently proved itself to be nothing short of an utter f**king delight. Touching, insightful, and captivatingly manic, Wild Swimming is a show it’s impossible not to be at least a little bit spellbound by.
Annabel Baldwin and Alice Lamb absolutely ooze chemistry as Oscar and Nell, creating an onstage dynamic that effortlessly carries them through the central conceit of the shifting historical setting. Despite the show’s more absurd choices and style, which I must stress I entirely adored, their relationship feels extraordinary real. Painfully so sometimes. All down to the skill of Badwin and Lamb’s acting as well the strength of Marek Horn’s writing. The actors’ immersion into the performance is such that I at times found myself a little uncertain of what was improvisation and what was script, so seamlessly were to two blended. (I’m still half convinced that a highly-trained daddy longlegs was employed at one stage).
Performed at Theatre on the Downs on 11th August 2021
If you love Theatre and hate Capitalism, you’ll probably like this show.
The boundless energy and meticulous efficiency with which The Wardrobe Ensemble perform will never cease to astound me. The attention to detail they pay to the physical presence and movement of the actors in their shows always pays off to deliver a stunning visual element to proceedings. This trend has definitely continued with Winners, only enhanced by the vibrant and appropriately garish set they have constructed for this show. Apart from anything else, Winners is certainly a feast for the eyes.
There’s a lot to be said for Wackiness, and The Wardrobe Ensemble do wackiness exceptionally well. In the past I have been used to seeing their shows build this wackiness on top of stories and characters that are more firmly rooted in reality. This show opts to make wackiness more of a foundation with a revue or showcase like structure. There’s a vague conceit of it being a performance by the staff of a fast-food restaurant, but for the most part is a just a loose fun romp through a warped version of history.
I confess myself woefully inexperienced when it comes to Chekhov, but I know enough to tell when it is done well. There is a particular jolly melancholy to a lot of classic Russian literature, and this graduating class of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School certainly had a tight grip on it. The Three Seagulls was a lovely, heartfelt, and beautiful-to-watch production, and one I was glad to make my first time sitting down in-person in Bristol Old Vic for over a year, in more or less the same seat I was in that last time.
Much praise must be afforded to director, Sally Cookson for how this production weaved together three quite distinct and often desperate interpretations and theatrical styles into such cohesive experience. The cast were cohesive too, moving and speaking together as a mechanism of efficient interlocking parts. It is always a delight when the cast of play truly are a unit, operating with elegance and mutual respect in a manner that makes the performance all that much more of a pleasure to watch. I also adore simple staging put to effective use, and this show utilises it expertly. I shall never tire of scaffolding as set, so long as productions keep using it like this.
People we knew, but don’t know anymore won’t fully dissipate without a trace but remain in our lives as echoes and monuments to worlds that don’t exist any longer and that we only half recognise as ones we used to live in.
Some played a role in our lives and in front of the eyes that we remember more or less similarly inside the half correct recollections through which we trace our history with them, and exist to our minds as reliable echoes,
but then there are inaccurate echoes, distorted by the time and distance, in which some people have come to exist a bit differently to history; more pink to their light than in life with a trace of lotus to the taste in about half
How my friend and I ebb and flow on either side of an ocean
Half the time that I’m awake is half the time that you’re asleep or at least I guess in theory that’s the case because in practice we both keep hours outside what’s healthy for the zones we roam in, frequently finding time for our tides to meet and mingle and exchange ideas, affection, and letters that we have kept afloat till the other appeared. We both romanticise the moon, and let her move us as she chooses, yet still prove rebels to our own rhythms, which lets us pass each other waving like ships in the night lit so very bright.
The giraffes know before anyone else does, because having a head in the clouds at least grants the advantage of seeing what the clouds are up to, and the skies are fond enough of surprising us these days that it’s worth being a split-second ahead of the zebra.
Rush inside my muscle with a yell that shall leave none in doubt it’s now your home where this unwelcome guest you will repel and make my tissue risky land to roam. ‘Tis worth the soreness of my upper arm to know it’s from your tireless patrol which has you on alert to raise alarm and keep my systems under safe control. Teach my cells of things they never knew or even dreamed since first they split apart so they’ll be prepped to see the good fight through as they are spread all round me by my heart. In short, my friend, I’m so glad you are here to leave my mind at ease and airways clear.