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REVIEW: Northumbria University Students' Final Showcase at Newcastle Live Theatre

Northumbria University Students' Final Showcase

Newcastle Live Theatre

Friday 15th September 2017

This was the first of two nights showcasing the work of the MA Performing Arts students who have attended Northumbria University. Course leader Kate Craddock began proceedings, introducing the 5 pieces on show.

First up on the main stage was Jake Jarratt in Blokes, Fellas, Geezers. Jake has created a lively performance which starts by skipping whilst making some toast. After burning the toast Jake decides to watch some football and that causes him to change in character from a “bloke” to a right “geezer” in order to fit in.

This frequently physical performance was often funny in the same way as the classic Eric Sykes movie The Plank. Jake is successful in making a connection with the audience and that’s why the performance works. The performance is the first of many that could be worked up into a full one hour Ed Fringe show…however the climax is not one he’ll be able to do every night!

Creating a snapshot of teenage life in 2017 Don’t Shoot The Messenger with Ashley Fraser and Becky Morris follows 2 underage college girls on a night out. Toni and Evie are armed with £35.60, borrowed ID and a hotel room acquired cheaply on GroupOn. They simply want a good night out but it finishes too soon so they join some lads for a post club party.

The show then changes from a recognisably fun night out of illegal access to drunken fun and toilet capers to a modern hellish landscape of social media and blame. The distribution of inappropriate images is a very current problem and Ashley Fraser and Becky Morris have the potential to work this up into a longer piece whilst the topic is still hot. The post club-scenes could easily be extended to add exposition to the events. Their charm and clear onstage chemistry created an entertaining performance and the ending come too soon.

Beyond the confines of the Main Stage, Hattie Eason was entertaining individuals with her one-to-one performance in the theatre’s Undercroft. It was interesting to see audience reaction as they left the room. What could possibly be happening in there? I had to investigate.

After a choice of whether or not to stand or sit Hattie started the music and performed. On paper it seems a fairly simple idea but it was really quite intense. I’ve never held a performer’s hand whilst they look directly into my eyes before - very different from sitting in the shadows. However it was really pleasant and nice to be told I was appreciated - even if the same thing was going to happen to the next person in the queue. Hattie has a lovely singing voice and I could happily listen to it if she was to release an album.

The second act started with the Fable of the Lambton Worm which the programme notes stated the performance was inflenced by “the Japanese art forms Noh and Rakugo.” This was totally new to me and a quick Google search states “The lone storyteller (rakugoka) sits on stage. Using only a paper fan and a small cloth as props, and without standing up from the seiza sitting position, the rakugo artist depicts a long and complicated comical story. The story always involves the dialogue of two or more characters, the difference between the characters depicted only through change in pitch, tone, and a slight turn of the head.” So that’s cleared up and indeed Anthony Wilkinson used his fan, cloth and face to illustrate the tale which came out of the speakers - though he was standing and occasionally walking during some of it.

It was very different as a theatre as an art form. The very long pause in action during the battle is a massive change from the usual stage craft that I’m used to.

It was interesting to hear the tale of the Lambton Worm as it is coming to the panto stage this year and, not being local, I wasn’t as familiar with it. This version of the tale seemed to suit the style of performance.

The evening finished with Acting the Maggot presenting Keep it PG”, a tale about our neighbours performed by Irish Gary Quinn and Northern Irish Paige Hegarty. Using a combination of news clips, music and emotionally charged dialogue we were given both a history lesson and two views on the issues facing the island. Honest and energetic, it was a great way to finish the evening’s entertainment. Gary & Paige were able to be funny and controversial without going at each other’s throats. The B*Witched moment was one to cherish.

The evening was a bargain for 5 well devised pieces and it’ll be interesting to see what these performers do next. We wish them every success for the future.

It is worth noting that Saturday’s show will showcase a completely different set of performances and tickets are available from Live Theatre for £6.

Review by Stephen Oliver

Details of the show on Saturday 16th September

The 12th Man by Andrea Scrimshaw

A part-autobiographical, part-verbatim commentary on the idea of women at the match. A feminist portrayal of a ‘working-class male’ domain. An opportunity for women’s voices to be plucked from the crowd. Expect a singing, scarf-waving, pie-eating mix of ‘the beautiful game’ and the issues we face as female football fans. Andrea Scrimshaw is a live artist/theatre-maker based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Underpinned by theoretical study, her work often incorporates the themes of gender roles and autobiography to comment on wider societal issues.

Into the Garden by Alexandra de Jong

Close your eyes, count to three. Step out of the back door and feel the warm air brush past you. The sun is warm and the sky is clear and blue. You look around and begin to walk into the garden

Into the Garden is a mixture of tasked based activities and guided meditation. Inspired by her own garden at home, this piece aims to create a relaxing environment in theatre where you can feel comfortable. Everyone’s house is their castle and their garden is their refuge. This piece will recreate the sanctuary. Be prepared to get your hands dirty.

Rooted by Fleur Rozan and Becky Glendenning

We found a place. Away from everything. Under the soil. It’s dark down there but we can make it our home.

A place away from them. A place where we can remember.

Just the two of us.

They’re coming for us, Pip.

The spine is breaking.

Rooted is the first collaboration between Fleur Rozan and Becky Glendenning. This piece began as an exploration of who we wanted to be as little girls, and if womanhood has lived up to expectations. They want to ask questions about childhood, memory, and female representation on stage.

It’s a Funny Old Thing  By Hattie Eason and Cameron Sharp

Two little black dresses.

A stage.

Red roses.

Lots of red roses.

A song.

A duo.

The audience.

On repeat.

As a drag performer and a vocalist together they will entertain. They will thrive in your applause because without you they could not do… this.

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