Reviews · Theatre Reviews

REVIEW: ‘Stop Trying to be Fantastic’ by Molly Naylor

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.

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Reviews · Theatre Reviews

REVIEW: ‘Wild Swimming’ by FullRogue

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).

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Reviews · Theatre Reviews

REVIEW: ‘Winners’ by The Wardrobe Ensemble

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.

And fun it definitely is.

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Reviews · Theatre Reviews

REVIEW: ‘The Three Seagulls’ by Bristol Old Vic Theatre School

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.

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Reviews · Theatre Reviews

REVIEW: ‘The Great Gatsby’ by The Wardrobe Ensemble and The Wardrobe Theatre

Any time The Wardrobe Ensemble is involved in a production, I can confidently expect to be soundly reminded of just why I love theatre so very much. This production was no exception.

A collaboration between The Wardrobe Ensemble and The Wardrobe Theatre, this two-woman show endeavoured to bring to life the story of The Great Gatsby in the simultaneously intimate and distant way that only lockdown theatre can truly achieve. And boy did it ever. Never have I felt as much like I was really back in the theatre this past year than I did watching this production. It may well be my favourite Gatsby adaptation I’ve ever witnessed and, putting source material aside for a second, is just a stunning execution of theatre all on its own. Both the performances and the stagecraft were utterly stellar and it proved to be one of those shows that left me emotional simply over how good it was.

So, let’s break down exactly why it was so good.

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5-⭐ · Fringe Reviews 2018 · Reviews · Theatre Reviews

REVIEW: ‘RENT’ by Captivate Theatre

5 Stars

(Performed in August 2018 – Review published in November 2018)

There’s a reason I left this review until last. This was one of the most special experiences of my 2018 Edinburgh Fringe. The word I’d use is the same one my friend, Nancy did; “cathartic”. Probably nothing can better encapsulate it for you than the mental image of Tom, Nancy, and Myself, all sat in the front row, holding hands and teary-eyed as we watched Roger sing ‘Your Eyes’ to Mimi. 

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5-⭐ · Fringe Reviews 2018 · Reviews · Theatre Reviews

REVIEW: ‘Cream Tea and Incest’ by Benjamin Alborough

5 Stars

(Performed in August 2018 – Review published in November 2018)

Another show I’ve seen and reviewed before. This year I think I saw it about three times. It became something of a meme amongst my cast this year, it was one of the first shows we saw at this festival, and we were still quoting it to each other up until the coach journey home at the end of the month.

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4.5-⭐ · Fringe Reviews 2018 · Reviews · Theatre Reviews

REVIEW: ‘Murder She Didn’t Write’ by Degrees of Error.

4.5 Stars

(Performed in August 2018 – Review published in November 2018)

I’ve reviewed this company and show last year. And saw them the year before that. I know they’re good. They’re never not good. And I’ve said a lot about why they’re so good, and why Murder She Didn’t Write works so well as a show. But I’ll have a brief go again for this edition.

The new twist I saw from them this year was “Mass Murder She Didn’t Write”, their new late night concept. It’s good to see them still doing things to keep it fresh (even if I did miss the drag a little). Luckily the mass murder concept increased the onstage mayhem five-fold and resulted in yet another beautifully chaotic evening.

The cast remain as strong and talented as every with some of my favourite like Caitlin Campbell, Peter Baker, Tessa Gaukroger, and Lizzy Skrzypiec still being among them. I still don’t think I’ve seen improv talents that have matched them.

For more on my opinions on this show, please see my reviews from last year: