Posts Tagged ‘Drill Hall’

Reviews – One on One Forest Fringe (Exposure and Motor Vehicle Sundown) – Jo Bannon and Andy Field at Drill Hall, Edinburgh

September 19, 2013

One of the special treats of the Forest Fringe Festival was the opportunity to take part in some one on one performances. I missed out on Rosanna Cade’s Walking:Holding, but for the final Saturday and Sunday I was able to book a slot both to Jo Bannon’s Exposure and Andy Field’s Motor Vehicle Sundown (which was either a two person experience or a zero person experience depending on how you look at it). While the Fringe Festival is now long past, I’d like to document these two performances as they seem like the kind of small precious things that might be completely forgotten by the tides of time while Bremmer Duthie’s 33 (A Kabarett), which made me want to tear my eyes out, somehow gets reviews all over the place when I can only hope to some day forget it. (I’ll consider that my review of the show and hopefully finally the anger will die.)

Registering for these was a bit odd because I couldn’t figure out how to do it online; still, at about 10 minutes per slot, there were many opportunities to see Jo Bannon perform – as we were taking an hour between shows for a tea and scone break (Drill Hall is great for that), both I and Worthy Opponent were able to see it. The description was “Exposure is the beginning of an investigation into how we look, how we are looked at and if we can ever really be seen,” so I thought there was going to be a discussion of identity, how people make assumptions about you based on your appearance, maybe something where each of us were talking about our experiences.

But with a one on one performance, you can pretty much expect to leave your expectations behind, and this was decidedly the case for this tightly choreographed, jewelbox experience. I was led into a pitch black room where I was sat at a table, and a flashlight pointed at two earbuds which I put on. Then I listened to a series of recollections and meditations about Bannon’s experience of living as herself. I was unable to see her myself initially, except for a brief flash of light shone across her eye – providing me a glimpse of rather a lot of pink and tiny clouds of blue. I was reminded of a rabbit’s eye rather than a person – correctly enough as it turned out, as (as shown in a slide show) Bannon is albino. This has led to a very differently experienced life than I’ve had, and her narration of it, and how it’s affected her, was quite interesting. At the end, she paused and we looked at each other, fully lit, for a minute or so. She was all dressed in white, which enhanced her ivory hair and delicate features – it was like looking at a ghost in a movie. But I wonder – what was it like for her looking at me? What was her experience? That, however, wasn’t what Exposure was about, but I enjoyed it anyway.

The second “one on one” show I went to did actually involve two people but had no actors – rather, it was a shared experience with one other audience member in which we both put on headphones and “went for a ride” in a car situated in the Drill Hall foyer. (I hadn’t read about it beforehand – I just saw the opportunity and went for it.) Motor Vehicle Sundown had three different phases – one in which we sat in the back, one in which we sat one in the drivers seat front and one in the rear, and a third in which, er, an apocalypse happens (and we sat in the front). We occasionally received instructions, i.e. to get in the car, to look at each other, but mostly we listened to a monologue of the experience of driving, of watching a drive-in movie (with a sound track – I think it was a slasher flick), of watching the world end.

Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear

Passenger view, Motor Vehicle Sundown, Forest Fringe Festival 2013


While I found this experience very enjoyable, I kind of felt like it should have gone a little further. With two different headphones, we could easily have been having a very different experience from each other, much in the same way two people can read the same book and get different things out of it – but this could have been pushed much further. One of the people could have been a murderer, or could have been angry at the person they were driving with, and the emotional interactions between the two people could have been used as part of the artistic experience. This element was completely neglected, which is a bit of a shame – it felt so edgy having someone else there, and I thought for sure this was going to play a part in the goings-on other than just the little bit of eye contact we made.

Ah well. Perhaps that play is the one I should design. As this is my last review for the Edinburgh Fringe and my last review of the Forest Fringe, I’d like to sum up by saying what a great venue this was and how very much the Forest Fringe added to my overall Edinburgh experience. I’m sure not everything they did was great, but I saw four things there that were all recommendable and thought provoking, while of the four things I saw in the regular festival, two were utter turkeys. On top of that, it filled me with enthusiasm to create art myself. When I come back – and I am hoping to – I’m going to make even more of an effort to enjoy what’s going on at this well curated performing art event. Thanks to everyone involved for making it so great!

(This review is for two performance/experiences that took place on Sunday, August 25th, 2013, the final day of the Forest Fringe Festival.)

Review – Showstopper, The Musical – The Drill Hall

December 8, 2009

“What?” I said. “A musical that is fully improved? The lyrics, the music, everything? How does that work?” Still, that carrot was more than enough to entice me and two musicals-loving friends to London’s Drill Hall to see “Showstopper! The Improvised Musical.”

The gimmick (the night we saw it anyway) worked like this: as the lights come up, a bearded impresario is on stage, taking a call from a producer. To the far right of the stage, a pianist and clarinetist (well, multi instrumentalist) sit in front of a pair of overburdened hat racks. The impresario is taking a call about a musical he’s trying to sell – well, actually, he’s taking a rejection call … but he’s got a great new musical “in the Christmas spirit!” It’s called … (he looks at us expectantly) … “The Gift of Life” (a name we voted on) … with a soaring tune in the style of … Rogers and Hammerstein! and interludes inspired by … Gilbert and Sullivan! Set in – a postapocalyptic – Dubai – rodeo! With a touch of … Sherman and Sherman!

And then the lights came up on the stage and a bunch of actors came out, already dressed in headscarves, and started singing! You could see them kind of passing the ball to each other with the lyrics – but how had they had the time to make the costumes? It had barely started and I was already impressed.

As the night wore on, it became clear that the impresario was to serve not just as inspiration, but also as referee … and sometimes torturer. He’d stop actors when they were rambling, announce to the audience that he was going to re-write that scene “so that it shows more of the relationship between Al and Sue,” then have the actors do it again. He had a camel (for some reason played by four actors) realign itself TWICE so that its hump was more visible. He constantly provided stage directions on how they should exit the stage … “in the style of a carousel” (the actors swirl and rise up and down as they clear the stage) … “no, that’s too distracting, they exit quickly.” Every now and then he’d stop a scene and announce that someone was going to now do a solo “explaining her love for the sheik in a way that draws new insight into his character” (the suddenly front and center performer grimaces) “in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan.” And then somehow we got a song about a tap dancing sheik. It was madness.

While I was constantly on edge waiting for the actors to drop the ball (or laugh so hard they just couldn’t do a scene), in fact I found the evening just loads of fun. Highlights included a Pinter-esque negotiation scene; a horse race that ended with the horse’s head collapsed in giggles on the stage; a solo done while the lead woman’s tongue was stuck to the wall of an ice palace (she “ripped” it away in the middle so she could finish singing properly); the “palm trees” and “sacrificial fire” made of red umbrellas and feather boas; and … oh, the grand finale, when the audience was singing along to the song the cast had just made up about forty minutes before as if we’d all heard it before. How did they do it?

Pippa Evans really deserves props for both managing to understand all of the styles called for (she did a great Pinter) and also remembering to move the plot forward with her dialogue and lyrics; and Ruth Bratt gets the prize for best upstaging character actress for her hysterical impression of both Maisie and My Jihad, the horses behind the throne. It was just really fun and I’d just about go to the Leicester Square Theater to see their December 17th show and see what they come up with next. Meanwhile, lucky Brightonians can see them at the Komedia every night from 27 Dec to 30 Dec 2009. If you’re a musical theater fan … or you like improv … this is a great night out.

(This review is for a performance that took place Monday, December 8th, 2009. The musical we created, “The Gift of Life,” with its soaring, Rogers and Hammerstein like epic song, “Ride on,” will likely never be sung again … “Ride on … through the desert/Ride on … Through the fear/ Ride on … through the valley/You know that this will be our year.” So sad.)

Bitchslapped by God at the Drillhouse

December 7, 2007

Wednesday evening got off to a rather stressful start when I went to get some money for dinner and realized I’d very much like to be paid tomorrow, if not yesterday, but thankfully, Miss Booklectic repaid her theater ticket in yummy food for me (Ooze; on Goodge Street, a risotto restaurant and clearly the best named joint I’ve seen in ages) so I was covered.

Then it was off to The Drill Hall for Bitchslapped by God. Well, perhaps it might have been a good show, and I think the actor (Everett Quinton) was more than competent, but watching him play, I don’t know, some eight different characters, plus dancing puppets doing a jazz Nutcracker, animated dolls re-enacting some kind of Snidely Whiplash/Polly Pureheart drama, and a trio of cutout faces which he used to play a series of elves having a chat with Mrs. Claus was just a bit overwhelming. He went too quickly from one charactter to the next (just basically turning around and addressing the air where he was just standing) and wasn’t really capturing the differences between the “characters.” It was some kind of anti-war thing (black helicopters snatching away participants in the Million Santa March), but … well, it just wasn’t coherent. Or interesting. In fact, I was kind of dozing off. When intermission rolled around, I dashed away as quickly as I could, feeling guilty about leaving booklectic behind, but … well, closing eyes are a sure sign it’s time to call it a night.

Tonight I’ll be seeing Dick Whittington at the Hackney, and I’m very much hoping I’ll get in a much more Christmas-cheery mood.