Review: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice @ the Barn Theatre

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By Laura Clark

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Jim Cartwright's Olivier award-winning comedy, tells the tale of LV: the little voice surrounded by some big personalities. 

After the death of her father, Little Voice tries to keep the memories of him alive by clinging onto his old records, her mother attempts to do the same, by clinging to anything she can. LV's talent for impersonating the greats attracts the unwanted attention of small-time club owner Mr. Boo and her mother's part-time lover, Ray Say. Will she be drawn to the bright lights of stardom or opt for the 'fine lights' offered by heart-of-gold electrician, Billy?

The lights go up on a dingy 1980s two-up two-down, created by Christina Cammarota. The paisley-printed walls are a shade of smoke-stained salmon, off-set by a shabby red velvet sofa. In the darkness glows an orange light, which turns out to be a Spanish dancer tea cosy. Sam Rowcliffe-Tanner's lighting sets the right tone: the twinkling curtain for LV's big moment and the final spotlight on her face at the end were a nice touch. Michael England's musical choices were also aptly selected: Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Were Made for Walking was a perfect refrain for the stiletto-heeled Mari and flat-footed Ray to lambada to.

Gillian McCafferty cruised through her lines with a kind of narcissistic grace, tripping off Cartwright's comic cadences with aplomb. She masterfully captured the complex character of Mari: who sashays through life like an aged swan, paddling frantically against the tranquil waters of the Scalby Beck. McCafferty kept a firm hold on Mari's unhinged persona throughout, barely constrained by self-control or her haphazardly strewn dressing gown; ‘ankle deep in char' and half way to 'hell', McCafferty blazes.

Sarah Louise Hughes is making her professional debut in the role of LV: she shines with a 'fine light', with record quality singing and dazzlingly showmanship - less shy than Jane Horrock's original version, but still sweet, with a defiant edge. Her counterpart Hadley Brown is also treading the professional boards for the first time: he gave a strong performance as the lovable and unassuming Billy and there were some touching moments between them.

Their fate was sealed by a Romeo and Juliet style exchange, made possible by the inclusion of a cinema-esque screen to the left of LV's bedroom. The grubby windowsill in place of a Verona balcony was no obstacle to their love and LV's face said it all in a poignant moment where she appeared on the screen like a 1940s starlet: a stark contrast to the brash commercials and scenes from comedy series Rising Damp and popular gameshow The Sale of the Century broadcast earlier in the show.

The two worlds, divided by a precarious set of scaffold steps eventually collided in a spectacular scene between the leopard-clad Mari and LV. The tension mounts as a stuck record glitches like a ticking clock and Mari makes her way to confront LV. Strassen uses the motif of the record to great effect, the image of Mari clutching Ray on the velvet sofa in the underworld of the downstairs and LV tenderly embracing her records directly above them, is a striking one.

Over the furore, Sadie is the only person besides Billy who really hears LV - she is overcome with tears at her Judy Garland style rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, in a very moving scene from Larissa Hunter - who stole the show on more than one occasion as the 'straight guy'.

Gary Richards captured the darker side of Ray Say's character through a seemingly softer interpretation: his cheeky chappy ways, however, are gradually inched out by his avaricious streak. Ray Say is the unexpected villain of the piece: talking of love and bluebirds, but dreaming of fame and fortune and Richard's plays his dual betrayal of LV and Mari well. Sparks were flying between the on-stage couple, Richard's non-reactions were as amusing as his reactions during their quick-fire repartee: Ray's fixed Cheshire cat grin, despite being told he has 'Elvis breath' was comic perfection. 

 Stephen Omer played well to the audience 'off-stage' and on, in his double role as hard-nosed businessman and bubbly compere, Mr. Boo. Omer portrayed Boo's split personality with subtlety and class: he was suitably steely in his opening scene (despite cosying up with Sadie at the end) disdainfully wiping lipstick from his glass and got the audience chuckling as LV's warm up act.

Needless to say the main event, the ensemble performance of 'the artiste, the manager[s], the minder and the mother' (and Billy of course) received the biggest applause.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is currently showing at the Barn Theatre in Cirencester until Sat 11th August. Visit barntheatre.org.uk for times, tickets and further info!

Laura Clark is a freelance journalist based in Stroud. She has written for: Musical Opinion; Teaching Drama; The Kensington Magazine; the CBeebies annual; Top of the Pops and the BBC Music Magazine newsfeed.

Stroud Shakespeare Festival: Call out for theatre makers and volunteers!

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The Stroud Shakespeare Festival is a brand new open-air theatre festival for Stroud and South Gloucestershire, set in the beautiful surroundings of the Museum in the Park just outside the town centre.

Over the course of 3 days the festival will present a diverse programme of theatrical events to suit theatre goers of all ages, including headline theatre performances, workshops, live music and opportunities for all to get involved in the theatre of the great William Shakespeare.

The festival is hosted by Five Valleys Productions (5VP) who, as well as performing a double bill of Shakespeare’s plays, are looking for submissions from emerging and established theatre makers who would like to perform at the festival. This includes new writing companies, inter-disciplinary artists, dance companies and artists who make work for children and families.

Festival Director Alan Mandel Butler, explains, “We are thrilled to open submissions for Stroud’s first Shakespeare Festival. The South West is home to some of the most exciting and vibrant artists who consistently make work that thrills, excites and challenges audiences. We want to hear from a wide range of artists from across the region who would be interested in presenting their work at the Festival including professionals, amateur dramatics societies, universities, colleges, schools and youth groups.”

The Stroud Shakespeare Festival offers the chance to immerse audiences in three days of new and extraordinary theatrical experiences based on the work of William Shakespeare made by a wide range of fantastic theatre makers. As well as opportunities to perform, 5VP are offering opportunities for artists who would like to offer workshops for people of all ages and all levels of ability. This is not limited to theatre, the only requirement being that the themes link to those of Shakespeare’s work.

The festival will be hosted by 5VP, Museum in the Park and SGS College and be entirely volunteer-run. Submissions are also open for local volunteers with a variety of skills and experience to become a part of a diverse team to help bring the festival to life. Visit stroudshakespearefestival.weebly.com website for more details.

What they’re looking for:

Artists/Companies/Theatre Makers based in the South West who consider their practice and work to be in line with Stroud Shakespeare Festival’s (SSF) ambition and mission.

Companies ready to either:  Re-stage an existing production that has been presented in the past twelve months or stage a new production in development that can be performed at SSF - Productions of Shakespeare’s work (extracts, edited versions, staged readings or workshop productions accepted)  - Productions that are inspired by the work of Shakespeare - Productions that fit into one of the 4 spaces available. (details on the website)

SPACES (approx. capacity)

1. The Lawn (100 seats) | 2. The Orangery (100 seats) | 3. The Tiered Garden (50 seats) | 4. The Courtyard (30 seats)

What they’re offering:

A slot at the Stroud Shakespeare Festival - A variety of opportunities to perform, potentially more than once (dependent on final programme - 75% of the net Box Office from the performances - Marketing support: presence in all SSF print, online and social media channels - Support from members of the SSF Theatre Team.

How to apply:

Download the application form from stroudshakespearefestival.weebly.com (email your application form to stroudbardfest@gmail.com)

The SSF would also like to see examples of your work, please send whatever you think best illustrates your practice. This could be a script, photos, showreel, website, blog, videos etc.

If you are applying to present an existing show, please send as much supporting material on the production as you can! If you are applying to present a new show, please send an outline of your current thinking and ideas for the project.

The deadline for all submissions is 5pm 31st January 2018.

If you have any queries or would like to discuss the festival or the submission process further then please contact Festival Director Alan Mandel Butler at stroudbardfest@gmail.com

Review: Betwixt and Between by Helen Elliott-Boult

After meeting Alice Watson and interviewing her about CirqOn the Seam’s new performance (issue #23, Feb 2017 read it here), I was really looking forward to a night of energetic circus performance and a story told through the aerial art they perform – This was Betwixt and Between.

The theatre was the awe inspiring, spired 3 in 1 Horsley Church; it made for a wonderful host, with it’s quaint village surroundings and sweeping drive to the up lit stain glass. The inside was laid out with chairs in a semi circle and mats on the floor at the front – very informal and welcoming. They had a small bar at the back and two trapeze entwined softly in the middle of the performing space, waiting to swing into life.

We waited for a while, then Marthe (Oceane) appeared and started arranging random coats, drinks and hands on chairs around the audience, we all chuckled in bemusement and wondered if we’re allowed to move. She moves like a panther, sleek and full of energy, ready to jump; slightly fearsome.

Then, gently and softly June (Alice) appears, birdlike and sweet, looking in awe at the dangling ropes in the centre of the room, her whole attention entranced by the wondrous and alien contraption, but fearless she pulls and starts to move her body into the ropes, entangling herself with glee and childlike delight. She gets stuck, wound up tight in between the ropes and unable to move out on her own. Helpless she looks around and spies the curiously watching Marthe. And so, they meet and try to help each other, to figure out this structure, while speaking different languages (French and Spanish) and coming from very different backgrounds.

The show flows with exploration of one another and of the contraption, building on working together and on trusting the other in a world of dance and swinging. They swing on the ropes, coil themselves up and down, sit high in the air and dance in and out of each others space, both on and off the ropes.

We navigate together (the audience feels part of the show), through exuberance and strength, then sudden betrayal; the pain of communication and trying to undo a wrong, with humour and reflection, to convey sorrow. It was tender and hopeful, it absolutely reflected the world today and the mistrust of strangers, combined with the need to move forward and discover a new way together. The music was gentle and lively, meek and wild, it lead us through the emotions of the dancers and perfectly matched the story as it unfolded.

Alice and Oceane worked seamlessly together, both strong and agile, making the swinging and lifting look easy and elegant. The choreography was cleverly paced, using a space to convey physical and emotional distance and closeness. The two characters were instantly alive and real with a back-story just waiting to be revealed. The costumes were simple – alike enough to identify with each other, but with subtle detailing to show individuality. Alice wore face paint, which further added to her bird-like otherness, where Oceane was clean faced and present with it.

But what struck me, was that this wasn’t a circus show to entertain for five minutes, not a show to inspire you to dance yourself, or pick up a new hobby – the intent, I think, was to make us question our role in life, in society and in our community. When we meet a new stranger, the dubious interaction, mistrust and judgement of each other, how do we interact with others and why? The ropes - maybe a metaphor for social restrictions and barriers. What happens when we break those barriers, or more, learn to play with them and work together to re-mould that society, that interaction and that new relationship?

Betwixt and Between is a relevant piece of art and it reflects hopes and fears of all. I felt there was more story to tell, and I wanted to know what happened next and how they learned to live together and how their relationship built and how it would evolve. I wanted to know more and it left me thinking and wondering about how we treat each other. It was a visually captivating piece and left us all pondering how we, too, move and wind together in this world.  

CirqOn the Seam will be touring Betwixt and Between, so keep an eye on their facebook page here to see when you can catch their show next...

Helen Elliott-Boult is a fairly new Stroud dweller. She is an art enthusiast, short story dabbler, music and dance admirer and survivor of Media and Art school.

Butoh Dance @ Lansdown Hall Fri 6th + Sat 7th May

Dance enthusiasts are in for a rare treat this weekend with a special Butoh performance from Juju Alishina taking place this Friday at Lansdown Hall, followed by a workshop on Saturday.


Butoh was born in Japan in the 60s and influenced by the European avant-garde Created to change many aesthetic and conservative ideas, according to Juju Alishina it was not only the emergence of a new style of dance, it was life itself concentrated in a new form. The famous Butoh rituals of life: birth,flames of passion, pain, death. The 1980s witnessed the emergence of a new wave of Butoh in which dance movements are resolutely contemporary, It is to this new aesthetic that Juju Alishina can be linked.


Juju Alishina is one of the veterans of Japanese Butoh dance having had a professional career spanning 33 years and has performed on more than a thousand stages in Japan, Europe and the USA. Her work is appreciated as a fine blend of the traditional and the avant-garde. Trained in traditional Japanese dance and Butoh, she founded her own company ’NUBA’ in Tokyo. In 1998, she moved to Paris, where she developed her own teaching of traditional and contemporary dance. Her method of dance, ‘Butoh Dance Training – Secrets of Japanese Dance through the Alishina method’ was published in Japan in 2010, and is now translated and published in France, Canada, Australia, the UK and the USA.
Considered a key figure in the third generation of Butoh, Juju Alishina’s method offers a well-balanced and harmonious approach to Butoh dance movement in all its abundance. Accessible to all from beginners to experienced dancers and actors of all ages, her method provides not only a creative approach to dance movement but also an introduction to the aesthetics and the philosophy of Butoh, as a means of expression and release. 

For further information visit the Lansdown Hall website and the facebook event page here 

Fri 6th May Juju Alishina: Nuit Rouge Red Night
Butoh performance accompanied by violinist Thol Mason 8pm £12otd/£10adv available from Star Anise
Sat 7th May Butoh Dance Workshop with Juju Alishina
All ages, all levels (Beginner to Professional). Dress code : standard dance exercise wear, example: T-shirt, pants, socks. Places limited, book early to secure your place! 12am- 6pm
www.lansdownhall.org


For further details bookings and discounts (10% performance/workshop combined) contact: alanfrank14@gmail.com
 

Review: RATSociety 'Crimes of the Heart' by Leah Grant

 Photo by Jake Green

Photo by Jake Green

RATSociety: Crimes of the Heart at Lansdown Hall, Stroud Friday 12th February 2016

Across the Valentines weekend, the Lansdown Hall was transformed into the Mississippian home of Old Granddaddy Magrath as it became the backdrop for a reunion that was as explosive as it was funny. 

Performed by six members of RATSociety (Ruscombe Amateur Theatre Society) and directed by professional actor Susan Lynch, this version of Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart wasted no time in setting the scene. On arrival, music from the era catapulted the audience into 1970s Deep South America and as the lights dropped, a crescendo of radio reports cleverly established the conflicts of the period.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Crimes of the Heart focuses on Lenny, Meg and Babe Magrath, three sisters who congregate at their family home following the shooting of Babe’s husband, Zackery Botrelle. What follows is a complex study of sisterhood, one which is not only influenced by external conflicts (such as racial tension and social prejudice), but by the inner turmoil of a shared tragedy. Throughout the play, the suicide of their mother hangs over the three women, unifying and dividing them in equal measure, and the ability of the small cast – particularly the three sisters – to communicate this particular thread of the story with sensitivity and tact is credit to both the actors and to the director.

It was clear from the start that this production wasn’t just a labour of love but the result of months of hard work and collaboration; the carefully thought-out music, the elaborate set design and the newspaper/programme that ran alongside the production, were proof that the cast and crew had considered every aspect of the show from an audience’s perspective, but it was in one area in particular that RATS really excelled. To convey a Southern American accent without sounding like a poor imitation takes some serious skill and to drop it, even for a second, would instantly take the audience out of the story. But the actors seemed to pick up the rhythmical elements of the dialect with ease, each imbuing their character with a lilt that aptly reflected their on-stage persona and in doing so, created a world that was both absorbing and believable.

Producing a play as multi-layered and as relevant as Crimes of the Heart is no small feat, but in sharing the same desire, the same motivation, RATSociety have brought to the stage a production that we can all be proud of. 

Leah Grant is a writer and photographer with a keen interest in art and literature. On her blog, Bellyful of Art, you can find reviews of exhibitions, installations, dance performances and literary events as well as her own lovingly created pieces of short fiction artbellyful.wordpress.com

Pick up a copy of issue #11, February 2016 (out now) for Leah's interview with Susan Lynch