**** (4 Stars)
Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York - 25 October, 2013
Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical is based on the “coat of many colours” story of Joseph from the Bible’s Book of Genesis. Since its release, in 1968, it has been nominated for many awards and toured all over the world.
Joseph, his father’s favourite son, is a boy blessed with prophetic dreams. When he is sold by his brothers into slavery and taken to Egypt, Joseph faces many challenges and adventures. He is bought by Potiphar and taken to his house where his flirtatious wife lands Joseph in jail. But when Pharaoh learns of Joseph’s ability to read dreams, Joseph’s luck turns and he becomes second-in-command only for his grovelling brothers to be found at the feet at their brother. After testing their honesty Joseph reveals himself leading to a reconciliation of the brothers.
Yorklight Youth definitely do a magnificent job in bringing this classic to life! The energy and spark of the cast project across the Rowntree Theatre and drive the production forward. There is never a single moment on stage where the action is still, adding huge dynamic to the musical. Even during costume or set changes there is something relevant happening on stage, stopping the piece from dragging.
A personal highlight for me was 'One More Angel/Hoedown' where the sheer energy radiating off the brothers on stage is absolutely incredible - I have never laughed so much! Throughout the entire performance the cast has incredible comic timing and really add humour to the production.
All in all, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a pleasure to go and see, with me and my friend leaving with a huge smile on our faces. The talent shines in this cast, alongside with fabulous choreography, amazing directions and fantastic live music!
These young actors are definitely going to go far!
**** (4 Stars)
Lyric, Hammersmith - October, 2013
Unlike many of the reviews relating to Secret Theatre, this review will not reveal the title of Show 2. It can be stated, however, that, even though it is an incredibly well-known piece, it has possibly never been performed like this.
Sean Holmes—artistic director of the Lyric Hammersmith—has gained a reputation for producing controversial, hard-hitting plays that spark discussion. This can be seen in the Lyric’s recent productions of Simon Stephens’ Three Kingdoms, Edward Bond’s Saved and Sarah Kane’s Blasted, which won the 2011 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre.
Secret Theatre certainly continues that trail of controversy. In June this year, Mr Holmes addressed his contemporaries and suggested that the structures of British theatre may be corrupting. Holmes’s answer to righting the wrongs of British theatre is Secret Theatre, an eight-month series of shows created by a company of 20 actors, writers, directors, and designers.
Labelled Show 1, Show 2 etc. audiences are unaware of what they are about to see or who is playing whom. By removing any preconceptions Secret Theatre hopes to open up the minds of the audience. Furthermore, this is all taking place whilst a massive renovation project is carried out at the theatre.
Before the play, the stalls were full of excited chatter and discussion and, after it became clear what we were watching (after only two or three lines), the excitement increased. It is perhaps safe to say that Show 2 is unlike any other adaptation of this classic text.
The first thing that comes to mind is the dramatic change in staging and setting. Designed by Hyemi Shin, the action is contained within three large white walls while the actors make full use of a large stepladder and a wooden box on wheels—here used mainly to represent a ‘bathroom’. The stark amendment to staging meant that there is more focus on the script and what is happening to the characters.
Nadia Albina confidently leads the ensemble of ten actors (in attempts to match the diversity of the Lyric’s audience, Holmes has chosen five women and five men of varying ethnicities). Albina is commanding as well as convincing and offers a sophisticated interpretation of this iconic role—even if at some moments she appears to channel Cruella de Vil.
The male lead is portrayed by Sergo Vares and is perhaps the highlight of Show 2. He is able to express his brutality and dominance not only with his physicality but also with a simple glance. His animalistic nature draws you to him whenever he is on stage; a class act. The ensemble is extremely competent with particularly impressive performances from Leo Bill, Adelle Leonce, Katherine Pearce and Steven Webb.
This is a thoughtful and clever interpretation, carefully constructed by Holmes and undoubtedly aided by a brilliant text. Perhaps this is the reason for its success. Holmes has taken a classic and has played with it to see how far he can stretch it.
Secret Theatre has done exactly what it has set out to do: generate discussion. What is admirable is the bravery of the company, for few theatres would take risks like this. It was a pleasure to be part of an attempt to change the way we think about theatre and I cannot wait to see what else the Lyric has in store.
** (2 Stars)
Lyric, Hammersmith - 21 October, 2013
David Harrower’s new production of Woyzeck playing at the Lyric, Hammersmith has you feeling delightfully uncomfortable from the off set. With a visceral opening representing the dog-eat-dog nature of Buchner’s social play, the company of nine quickly immerse you in the unrelenting nature of the play by viciously fighting over dog bowls! Crazy I know, however, this production certainly does not pull back its punches making a bold statement from the get go.
However, this “bold statement” seemed to be a hinderance rather than help as the production went on. Written in 1839, Woyzeck tells the tale of a soldier who works tirelessly to try and support his family whilst constantly being tormented by his superiors. Because of this, Woyzeck becomes more and more alienated as the play progresses, which leads him to destruction.
The empty nature of the minimalist set coupled with the auditorium being covered in clear plastic gives the feel of an abandoned theatre. Hyemi Shin’s stripped back set design, which uses a colour palate consisting of black and green, is cleverly juxtaposed against the grandeur of the Lyric. This reflects how Woyzeck, a lowly working class soldier, is surrounded by upper-class tormentors. This updated version of Buchner’s play used interesting sound effects throughout at main points, which were used to highlight Woyzeck's mental deterioration throughout the performance. For example, whenever Woyzeck seemed to be confused or he had reached a critical turning point in the story you would hear the faint sound of a helicopter. I felt that this became quite tedious at times as you were focussing on the mosquito like noise of the helicopter instead of the words Woyzeck was actually saying.
The play certainly pushes its actors to their limits, with stunts including aerial work and intensely physical movement scenes you can't help but appreciate the stamina of the cast as a whole. However I did find myself confused at points as I personally didn’t feel that the lead was or ever had been a soldier. Apart from the odd salute there was nothing else in his demeanor that indicated he served in the army. Furthermore, I feel as though the casting contradicted the context of the play. For example, the dynamic between the Drum Major and Woyzeck is that he makes him feel like less of a man. However, the Drum Major was played by a woman, and this was in fact highlighted as he groped her breasts which provoked laughter from the audience. As funny as this was this concept didn’t lend itself well to the clarity of the piece.
The play made some bold statements, especially from the beginning, but this didn’t seem to aid the actual storyline of the play. Woyzeck in itself is hard enough to understand without some sort of background knowledge, however at times it felt as though the production was being abstract and weird for the sake of it without aiding the development of the story - making it even harder for younger audiences to understand the characters journey.
Show 1 of Secret Theatre is showing at The Lyric, Hammersmith until 9 November 2013. Tickets available here: http://www.lyric.co.uk/whats-on/production/secret-theatre/
**** (4 Stars)
The Lowry, Manchester - 21 October, 2013
What can I say? I was blown away by the performance I received on the opening night of A Clockwork Orange at The Lowry, Manchester. Directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones, her clever ideas on her fascination with how the male species behave are incredible and this is clearly shown in her intention of using an all-male cast. We follow the journey of 15-year-old Alex played by Adam Search, who enjoys violence, rape, drugs, and Beethoven’s 9th symphony. He and his gangs of droogs cause rampage on the streets and eventually Alex is locked and is the experimental animal of Dr. Brodsky who is testing his treatment to get rid of Alex’s feelings of violence.
The piece of theatre explores many genres of music to create an intense atmosphere to engage the audience throughout the performance. The use of a minimalistic set and props interestingly works, as his performance uses a lot of dance and movement to produce the action, and the use of orange, blue and white spotlights is excellent.
Jones has male actors playing female parts, which adds a new dimension of sexuality and humour, which lightens up the piece when contrasting to the serious issues concerned with the piece which relate to the present day. The cast has a fantastic passion, buzz and vibe and audience interaction, which is definitely noticed. It is a highly stylized piece of physical theatre that is a rollercoaster for the audience, making them experience a range of emotions. I felt uneasy but intrigued when they were exploring issues of rape and violence. The piece is dramatic and there are moments where I wanted to experience more feeling and emotion. However this does not affect the piece, which is astonishing overall and I would recommend anyone who gets the chance to see it, to go!
All the elements of the piece fuse together really well and work smoothly, just like the transitions between each scene. The detail and articulation into everything has made my final conclusion a very clear one, and this is why I walked out the theatre with a smile on my face. To sum the piece up in three words it would be: dynamic, stunning, and breathtaking.
The Clockwork Orange is showing at The Lowry, Manchester until Saturday 26 October 2013 (suitable for ages 16+). Tickets available here: http://www.thelowry.com/event/a-clockwork-orange
We are extremely excited to announce our national auditions tour 2014!
We would LOVE to see many talented young performers and/or musicians aged 11-21 at one of our audition dates. Our 2014 tour will take place next January and February and our teams will travel to 22 cities across the UK. Auditions take the form workshops lasting two and a half hours and places are limited but we will be holding up to three sessions per city. So, now it’s over to you to sign up for your chance to audition for a part in a YMT production.
We will be pulling out all the stops for our 2014 programme as it shall be our 10th anniversary year! We will be presenting at least eight productions in cities from London in the south to Aberdeen in the north. Our programme of productions announced so far for 2014 include Macbeth, Miss Interpreted and Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music. Our full programme will be released within the next few months.
YMT productions are two-week residential projects that take place all around the country. There is no need to prepare anything for your workshop audition however here’s some great advice from YMT Practitioner, Yael Loewenstein (auditions panel 2013).
- Arrive prepared: dressed appropriately and a bit early to do a personal warm-up.
- Remember the panel wants to like you!
- Have a 'yes' attitude and be prepared to try new things.
- Remember everyone is in the same boat: everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Share your strengths and have the attitude of improving in weaker areas.
- Ask questions
And if you want some more tips and advice, watch our alumni talk about their experiences at YMT - singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, Channel 4's Fresh Meat actress Charlotte Ritchie and Loserville the Musical’s Richard Lowe.
Wishing you lots of luck and we look forward to seeing you at your YMT audition!