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Bath Voice Reviews

Joan of Arc played by Marienella Phillips

Bath Voice theatre review: blood, betrayals and beheadings – all in a day’s work in the court of Queen Margaret

It’s Plantagenet England but not as we know it. With cigarette in hand and weekend luggage in tow Sarah Cullyer as Queen Margaret looked more like a member of a hen party about to board an Easyjet flight than the ruler of England and France. For Downpour Theatre’s production of Jenny O’Hare’s story of the monarch largely side lined in Shakespeare’s Henry plays was staged in modern dress and directed by Andy Cullyer.

Sarah Cullyer

Set in the mid-15th century at the start of the Wars of the Roses the play depicts Margaret D’Anjou’s political battles of survival in a brutal world where treachery and treason were essential additions to the CVs of the warring factions of the time. The rise and fall of the Pont-à-Mousson born aristocrat from her marriage to Henry VI as part of a peace treaty between England and France to her eventual exile is one of the lesser-known stories of the time – one which O’Hare does her best to relate in the play. With so many characters jostling for power and double-crossing the name of the game, the narrative is at times hard to follow. Indeed, having some form of subtitles or flash cards would help the audience to keep track of the comings and goings of various Earls, Lords and Cardinals.

The cast

Kate Raw as Hume was outstanding as she tried to make sense of the proceedings and hedging her bets in the civil war by wearing a white rose for York on one lapel and a red one for Lancaster on the other. Sarah Wiggins as the usurper York gave an impassioned portrayal of the soon to be executed rebel while James Locke as Henry VI had the more difficult role of the enfeebled monarch overshadowed by his strident spouse. And there was strong support from Callum Sharp as Suffolk, Mike Harley as Gloucester, Eddy Martin as Beaufort and Ester Warren as Prince Edward. Based in Thornbury in South Gloucestershire the company included Liz Kelly as York, Hannah Galliers as Warwick, Georgie Loenard as Somerset and Alice Walton who played Joan of Arc in Gloucester.

Suffolk (Calum Sharp), Somerset (Georgie Leonard), Cardinal (Eddy Martin) and Henry (James Locke)

Brooding and surly, angry and assertive, Queen Margaret has the all the time the ghost of Joan of Arc (Marinella Phillips) hovering around her interjecting with her own story of betrayal and also inspiration. As a theatrical device this was a clever piece of theatre by O’Hare as it was a chance to dial down the rhetoric for more reflective prose. At the other end of the drama’s spectrum was the Jack Cade rebellion which came perilously close to toppling the court of Queen Margaret – or should we say Henry VI since he was technically in charge.

At times confusing, at times poetic, and always Shakespearean-esque, the play was certainly gripping with knife fights, confrontations and rebellions – keeping the audience on the edge of their seats throughout. O’Hare’s script uses much of Shakespeare’s lines and melds them successfully with her own blending the ancient and modern to create a must watch for scholars of the bard’s work.

Harry Mottram

The play is at The Mission Theatre on 9th July and continues on tour in Clifton and Cirencester

Details of the play at https://www.downpourtheatrecompany.co.uk/

Harry Mottram is the news editor of Bath Voice monthly magazine covers news, views, reviews, previews and features as well as what’s on in Bath and events for residents in Bear Flat, Widcombe and Oldfield Park and the wider Bath area. Delivered door to door in south Bath and available in shops and supermarkets. See the Facebook site for details.

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk and follow him on all social media sites.

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Malaika Kegode and Jakabol in OUTLIER. Pic by Paul Blakemore

Outlier: lively, loud and over long – a grungy story of drug abuse that destroys young lives

With a stage draped with oriental rugs, party lanterns hanging above, and a cosy Central Perk Café feel to Rebecca Wood’s set, Malaika Kegode’s Outlier couldn’t have been further from its inappropriate boho setting. A bleak and gritty coming of age morality tale with the message that drugs screw you up and kill you was at the heart of her personal story.

Set in Devon Malaika takes the audience through her journey from geeky teen to redemptive adult as she flits from party to crack house and from abusive relationship to drug induced death in a universal story of unfulfilled young lives. Her glib teenage cliché ridden put downs of Devon towns and people add to the hormonal driven anger at an adult world we are all at one time are on the cusp of and cannot yet control. No matter how loyal she remained to her lover Oscar, her friend Lewis and a circle of friends it was hard to find sympathy with a group of teens who cared nothing for their communities and families but to find oblivion in a bottle, powder or a pill.

Malaike Kegode and Jakabol in OUTLIER – IMAGES PAUL BLAKEMORE

Living up to its billing of gig-theatre the Bristol band Jakobol supported Malaika’s prose poetry with a series of heavy rock instrumentals and more evocative and spiritual pieces using the harp played beautifully by Emma Broughton. Joe Williams on guitar, Marietta Kirkbride on violin and Owen Gatley on drums completed the musical ensemble – although the musicians all briefly gave voice to Malaika’s friends.

Excellent lighting by Joe Price and animation by Christopher Harrison lifted the production in the Bristol Old Vic’s main house that had been rearranged to allow Malaika to step down into part of the pit cleared of seating in a covid secure setting.

Directed by Jenny Davies this was a lively, loud and rather over long production that lacked a more nuanced narrative thread, with too much musical padding and tiresome rock guitar riffs. The one thing missing was a vocalist to bring some of Malaika’s words to life and to add variety to what at times felt monotonous for a two-hour long show.

OUTLIER. Photo PAUL BLAKEMORE

Gig-theatre by its nature requires audiences to be up for a show – and many in the theatre were clearly fans of the poet and band – responding loudly to her asides and the music. At once artificial but also adding something of the atmosphere of a live concert – but without the concert.

Her strongest sequences of confessional story telling came as she described the death and funeral of friends, and her engaging jokey introduction to the evening. And there was humour within the bleak story as Malaika described the joy of shopping in Wilkos (Wilkinson) with its cheap household goods and also of her own back problems caused by turning around in rehearsals.

A more condensed production in an intimate venue and appropriately grungy set would better do justice to Malaika’s words and would be ideal to tour six-forms and colleges with its strong messages about addiction. At times moving, at times beautifully descriptive, at times funny, but as a piece of theatre it needed a tighter structure to keep a wider audience enthralled.

Harry Mottram

The play runs to Saturday, 26th June, 2021.

Details of the play at https://bristololdvic.org.uk/whats-on/outlier

Harry Mottram is the news editor of Bath Voice monthly magazine covers news, views, reviews, previews and features as well as what’s on in Bath and events for residents in Bear Flat, Widcombe and Oldfield Park and the wider Bath area. Delivered door to door in south Bath and available in shops and supermarkets. See the Facebook site for details.

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk and follow him on all social media sites.

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The female cast of The Memory of Water at The Mission Theatre

Bath Voice Theatre Review: a spirited production of Shelagh Stephenson’s bitter-sweet drama The Memory of Water at The Mission Theatre

Review: The Memory of Water

Bath Voice Theatre Review: a spirited production of Shelagh Stephenson’s bitter sweet drama The Memory of Water at The Mission Theatre

All memories are false except for mine – your memories are wrong. So runs one of the themes in Shelaph Stephenson’s 1996 comedy The Memory of Water. A trio of sisters go through the belongings of their dead mother Vi ahead of her funeral prompting conflicting bitter-sweet memories of their collective and individual pasts.

Directed by Ann Ellison in the round at Bath’s Mission Theatre the Next Stage company’s production is a spirited and evocative interpretation of the play first performed at the Hampstead Theatre and subsequently adapted for the screen as the movie Before You Go in 2002.

Mary is confronted by Teresa

Vi reappears periodically under a ghostly light to haunt and taunt middle daughter Mary, the brains of the family and now a doctor, revealing her troubled teenage years. As the sisters Mary, Teresa and Catherine rummage through their mother’s vanity cases, cupboards, clothing and dressing table so the secrets emerge and bickering begins. Who really does accurately remember the past or do we simply recall events to fit our own view of ourselves and those around us? To complicate matters Mary’s married TV Doctor lover Mike appears chilled to the bone through a window and Teresa’s discontented husband Frank arrives equally frozen from a long train journey as the snow falls outside Vi’s pokey flat.

Ever present (unlike Catherine’s Spanish boyfriend who never appears) is Vi played with a sneering haughtiness by Jane Lawson who seems intent on doing down her daughters from beyond the grave.

Mary takes to the bottle

Richard Matthews as testosterone-fuelled Mike injected tension and passion into his confrontations with a defensive Mary (Hayley Fitton-Cook) with some brilliant moments of home truths as she reveals she’s pregnant. And it’s their final scene where Hayley Fitton-Cook is at her best as she comes to terms with her past and her present with Mike and herself.

With her pink skirt and animal print top Georgi Bassil is every inch the angst filled youngest sister Catherine with her shopping bags and penchant for booze and joints. She does justice to her ‘I went to this counsellor’ monologue delightfully revealing she’s slept with 78 men – it’s the female friends she has a problem with she claims. Lively, attention seeking and with a character that is so see-through we can all relate to this was a highly enjoyable portrayal of the me-me-me sibling.

Mary and Mike get serious

Perhaps the hardest role was that of the middle sister Teresa played with a suitable resentment by Liz Wilson who tries to keep it all together aided by her herbal remedies and martyr complex. She’s not helped by ranting husband Frank (played with understated anger by Robert Edwards) who is intent on undoing everything she stands for. The duo represent so many middle aged married couples whose relationship has run its course with the aftermath of Vi’s death bringing their problems to the surface.

This is a gripping and enjoyable production with the socially distanced audience close to the action with the feeling that you are in the room as the bickering breaks out into blazing rows over who’s memory is true or false.

Harry Mottram

The play runs from Tuesday 25th-Thursday 27th May and Monday 7th – Wednesday 9th June.

Details at http://www.missiontheatre.co.uk/whats-on/2020/11/9/the-memory-of-water

Harry Mottram is the news editor of Bath Voice monthly magazine covers news, views, reviews, previews and features as well as what’s on in Bath and events for residents in Bear Flat, Widcombe and Oldfield Park and the wider Bath area. Delivered door to door in south Bath and available in shops and supermarkets. See the Facebook site for details.

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk and follow him on all social media sites.

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