Friday, 22 May 2009

BODYWORKS Masterclasses

As part of Bodyworks, Tobacco Factory Theatre's dance and physical performance initiative, there's the opportunity to train with two of Bristol's hottest young companies - Kompany Malakhi and Precarious.

Bodyworks Masterclass


Thurs 04 June, 1.30 - 4.30pm


Kompany Malakhi's trademark synthesis of contemporary dance and street styles pushes the boundaries of physical theatre. This masterclass for professional and experienced dancers will give participants an insight into director/performer Kwesi Johnson's creative process, focusing on techniques drawn from contemporary dance, Breakin' and Capoeira, and looking at physical and Hip Hop theatre.

Kompany Malakhi's latest production, Boxin, is appearing at Bristol Old Vic on 22 & 23 May.

Bodyworks Masterclass


Fri 05 June, 1.30 - 4.30pm


Award-winning performance company Precarious have acquired a cult following for their cutting-edge productions that seamlessly fuse physical theatre and multimedia. These masterclasses are a great opportunity to meet the company for a fun, friendly, highly physical day's training and an insight into their distinctive working practice. The sessions will involve physical and vocal warm ups, improvisation (including contact work), exploratory tasks and the chance to learn some repertoire from the company's productions.

Suitable for students and professional performers (dancers, actors, circus artists).

BOX OFFICE: 0117 902 0344 /

For details of the full BODYWORKS programme,
click here

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Review of 'The Weepers'

The following is my review for Theatre Bristol.

I have a bit of an aversion to sitting in the front row. At the cinema you are too close to see the screen properly, and in the theatre there’s a high chance you may get dragged into some kind of audience participation. So, imagine my horror when I heard someone mention no latecomers would be admitted because the audience were ‘part of it’, just before I walked into the auditorium to discover the only seat visibly remaining was in the front row…

The audience are seated on the stage for this production, so as soon as everyone is in, the iron (the big metal ‘curtain’) is lowered and you are left watching a topless man sitting at a table, who has quietly watched you enter the space. It’s at this point you feel the first little bit of theatrical magic; it’s a mixture of anticipation and mild claustrophobia.

At the performance I attended, as the topless actor started to set the scene (by pretending to light a fire), I heard a voice from the audience say ‘I was just thinking you must be getting very cold’. Instead of ignoring this comment, the actor replied ‘I’m fine, no really it’s fine’.

Right from the start there is no illusion of separation between actor and audience. You are absorbed into the world of the characters with skilful storytelling and engaging performances. However, there is none of the dreaded ‘audience participation’ I had feared, just no barriers, allowing the audience to be part of the piece.

Skutr is a Czech theatre company and the play is built around traditional ‘weep-songs’, Slavic songs for the dead. You quickly establish that an old man has died and ‘The Weepers’ have come to mourn him. The old man gives us his musings on life throughout the play, while the other characters explore some of those thoughts and develop them into new ones through song, dance and physical theatre.

Running at about fifty minutes, the show is a short but sweet journey through life. That’s not to say all of the imagery is ‘sweet’; the representation of an abusive relationship, for example, is dark and uncomfortable. Other moments are hilarious (especially the representation of what it’s like to be a teenage boy), and yet more are painfully poignant, as we have all grasped at the shadows of ones we have loved and lost.

The show only runs until Saturday 16th May, but if there are any tickets left, I whole-heartedly recommend it as it’s easily the best of the shows I have seen this Mayfest and it made me glad to be sitting in the dreaded front row!

Four Stars ****

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Reviews of Kellerman and The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley

Kellerman by Imitating the Dog

Set in a psychiatric institution, the production explores the themes of time-travel, history and memory, while posing the question ‘what is reality?’

Kellerman’s mind is so confused, I don’t really know what happened in the end, or if it ever truly ‘ended’. He believes he repeatedly travels back in time, consistently altering history and thereby creating a series of alternate realities (or at least, I think that’s what they were trying to suggest – I may have misunderstood!). He is searching for the wife and child he believes have disappeared, but his therapist protests have never existed.

The whole production is visually stunning, with hints of The Matrix and The Time-Traveller’s Wife, and a lot of the animation is reminiscent of A Scanner Darkly. This all gives the piece a very gothic appearance and takes you deep into the mind of Kellerman. However, all of the dialogue is pre-recorded (for use in the animation), so the actors mime.

Personally, I thought the actors gave really good performances, but I felt they were fairly redundant and at times just a distraction from the animation. When their miming and physical actions were in sync with the animation, it gained a new dimension, but as soon as they were out of time, for me, it destroyed the magic.

Although I found the storyline confusing, I would still recommend that you see this show as it is so unusual and inventive.

The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley

Shirley is a boy with a girl’s name, who finds a friend in the unconventional superhero, Wound Man (the character in the poster with all the weapons sticking out of him!). The play tells the story of their friendship and escapades, and, according to the flyer, is about “growing up and getting braver”.

Set in Shirley’s bedroom (brilliantly designed by Janet Bird), the entire story is narrated by Chris Goode and aided by the occasional animation; it’s a bit like ‘Jackanory Live’ for adults. The script was very funny and well written, but some of the humour was lost in the performance.

I felt the production needed more animation – the ‘skylight’ was wonderful, but was not utilised anywhere near enough! I would also say that it could do with a bit of ‘tweaking’. The characters, for example, were at times, vocally confused (although Wound Man did maintain a consistent vocal identity throughout the show). The physicality of the characters was also not consistently maintained. Despite these points, I thought it was very funny, and overall I really enjoyed the show.

Both shows run until Wednesday 13th May 2009.


Mayfest Website
Bristol Old Vic
Tobacco Factory Theatre

Saturday, 9 May 2009

King Pest, and Night Flyer

Last night I reviewed King Pest and Night Flyer for Theatre Bristol. However, I'm not sure what time the review will be live on the site, so I'm posting it here as the show finishes today. There's still time to catch the matinee or the evening performance. Click here to go to the Mayfest website.

The Paper Cinema and Kora present King Pest, and Night Flyer

I walked into the Bristol Old Vic bar tonight and immediately loved the atmosphere. The plastic chairs and tables had been replaced for the festival by an eclectic mix of old wooden ones, while the walls were plastered with production posters and all around was the buzz of anticipation.

Moving into the Paintshop, the atmosphere was even more electric as this comparatively small space was full to the brim with an audience eager to find out what the night had in store. It was very intimate and I felt like part of a privileged group. Sitting down, I realised I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but having read the phrases ‘ink blotches’ and ‘fully fledged puppet actors’, I had deduced it was something I wanted to see.

I mistakenly thought that King Pest and Night Flyer was all one name, but they are actually two separate ‘paper films’. King Pest was commissioned as part of Punchdrunk’s The Masque of the Red Death and based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe. Night Flyer is an original magical creation of The Paper Cinema. Both were accompanied by live viola and guitar, played by Kora. I’m not going to give any further description as I believe part of the enjoyment lies in losing yourself in what you are watching and allowing the puppets (and puppeteers) to tell you their story.

I really enjoyed the production and loved the whole concept of a ‘paper cinema’. Probably the best way to describe it would be to call it live animation, as the static pen and ink drawings are brought to life on a giant screen while you sit with the puppeteers and watch them work their storytelling-magic before your eyes.

The music was beautiful and really complimented the animation. I could have listened to Kora all night; his playing took me on the journey of the characters and I was rather sad when it ended.
This is a gem of a show, but it is only on until Saturday 9th May, so don’t miss out, grab some tickets and allow yourself to be drawn into (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) the animated magic of The Paper Cinema.

Four Stars ****

Friday, 8 May 2009

Out and about for Mayfest

Spring has sprung and Bristol's fabulous theatre festival 'Mayfest', is in bloom.

If you have yet to discover this annual festival, now in it's sixth year, then here's what it's all about in a nutshell:

'Mayfest is an annual celebration of contemporary physical, visual and experimental theatre from Bristol, the UK and overseas'
(Mayfest Programme 2009)

Shows take place across the city from the Bristol Old Vic and the Tobacco Factory Theatre to 'A secret location in central Bristol' (the last being the setting for Duncan Speakman's My World is Empty Without You).

Producers Kate Yedigaroff and Matthew Austin have pulled out all the stops this year to create an incredibly exciting and varied festival, whilst managing to maintain low ticket prices (and keep an eye out for special offers!).

You can also get involved with numerous workshops and discussions taking place over the course of the festival, just take a look at the website or the back of the Mayfest brochure for further details.

In addition to writing about productions on Downstage Write, I will providing some reviews for the Theatre Bristol website. You can already read my review of Hard Hearted Hannah and Other Stories by clicking here. You can also keep up to date with new posts on Downstage Write by following me on Twitter.

So grab yourself some tickets and get involved in one of Bristol's most exciting events on the theatrical calendar.


Friday, 1 May 2009

Keith Reynolds Can't Make It Tonight

I attended this month's Cineformation at the Watershed last night and one of the guest speakers was Felix Massie. I do have a bit of a penchant for animation and really liked his short films, so I quickly wanted to highlight his work.

If you're interested in film but haven't yet discovered Cineformation, it's a forum for independent film and video makers. Offering an opportunity for writers, producers, directors, actors, crew and enthusiasts to meet, share ideas and screen films. The aim is to foster an active, vibrant, creative frenzy of filmmaking in the South West. The events are themed and usually take place on the last Thursday of every month and are FREE to attend.

The theme for this month was 'Comedy' and I thought Felix Massie's animated shorts Keith Reynolds Can't Make It Tonight and The Supreme Demise of Francis Cooper's Mother were absolutely hilarious! You can see preview clips of these films on his website, but I've included his showreel below, so watch and enjoy...

The next Cineformation event is about scriptwriting and will take place on Thursday 28th May 2009 at 7pm.

Don't forget Encounters Short Film Festival is now calling for submissions. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday 30th June 2009.

Follow Watershed on Twitter
Follow Encounters Short Film Festival
Felix Massie's Website