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).
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.
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.
You had me at “fantasy musical”. I love fantasy fiction, I love musicals, it would be difficult for me not to like this show. It helps that this eager group of performers bring all their enthusiasm to bringing that premise to life in a fun-filled loving parody of classic fantasy clichés. It’s easy to tell that the creators of The Quest genuinely love fantasy and rip the genre’s most tired tropes to shreds with nothing but the most honest affection.
It’s always lovely to encounter shows that manage to perfectly balance drama and comedy in such a way that the two compliment and further the effect of each other, rather than conflicting. Getting this right comes down, as so many things naturally do in the theatre, to the combination of writing and acting. If even one of the two is off, then the comedy and drama cannot coexist effectively. In the instance of Same Old Same Oldies, the comedy and drama smoothly orbit one other, each coming to the forefront and then retreating exactly when they should.
The premise of this piece intrigued me, and was enough to convince me to see it the day after I first heard about it. That premise, however, barely seems important after the first few minutes as the narrative gives itself over to something that could conceivably work with any back-story. That said, this is, by no stretch of the imagination, a bad play, and everyone involved has talent worthy of commendation.
I’m always a fan of original musicals at the Fringe because, more often than not, they’ll prove to be something quite special. Lucky certainly has the makings of something very special, even if it is still a work in progress with a development and growth to do.