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.
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.
My last piece of Shakespeare for the 2018 Fringe, and I ended on a pretty damn good’n. This was a wonderful rendering of one of Shakespeare’s funniest works and one that maintained all the awkward charm that play is meant to have.
The last of the three one-person shows I saw this year, Narratively Satisfying was one heck of an emotional journey. It takes a special something to make a one-person show work, and Jennifer Lack has not only that special something but liberal sprinkle of extra special somethings on top of it.
This was one of the most moving theatre experiences I had at the Fringe this year. In terms of straight drama, perhaps the most moving. I’ll have to think about that. What’s certain is that I came out of this production near the point of tears from what I’d seen and heard on that stage.
H.G. Wells’ classic novella has seen many an adaptation in the century or so since it was written, and each adaption has brought its own unique spin to re-imagining the story. Gone Rogue certainly brought their own flavour to it, while thankfully very much keeping the spirit of the original. It drew quite bit, I think, on the 2002 film adaptation for inspiration but still stood very much as its own entity and did enough to carve out its own place as an adaptation.